von Hughes is a creative agency, pre-seed investment fund, and startup studio based in nyc
Jan 2113 min read
How We Hacked the Media and Landed Six-Figure Contracts in Four Days
Rumblr, the ‘Tinder for fighting,’ exposed our brand to millions and landed us six-figure contracts in just four days
1. Rumblr: The Story
Over a single weekend, 200+ news outlets produced organic content about our project, millions of people were exposed to the brand, and hundreds of thousands of people came to our website. Rumblr was featured on VICE, The Washington Post, New York Daily News, New York Magazine, BBC, Complex, Bleacher Report, Sporting News, Fox & Friends, Business Insider, ABC, CBS, and became a relevant topic of conversation on Facebook, Twitter, and the rest of the Internet. Here’s our story.
As we were beginning to develop our creative consulting agency’s portfolio, we wanted to make sure that we did something interesting enough to stand out in the sea of New York City firms. Nowadays, potential clients care more about the name on the door than the agency’s portfolio. In order to survive, new agencies need to be heavily differentiated with unique voices.
We started by creating a strong, consistent brand. After settling down on a sticky name, we designed a simple logo and design language that could be easily extended out across all our branding elements.
We then designed realistic screenshots of the fictional iOS app, making sure everything looked extremely polished and brand-consistent.
After developing the core product, we designed the website, social media accounts, and marketing assets in preparation for the big launch. To ensure maximum believability, we made sure to push not just Rumblr the product, but Rumblr the (fictional) startup.
Once everything was in place for the launch, we started submitting tips to press outlets. We debated submitting the app to communities like Reddit, Product Hunt, or Hacker News, but ultimately decided that a feature article on a tech blog would be able to frame the story better than a small product spotlight.
Immediately after submitting the first tip on a Thursday night, a few Gawker reporters signed up for our beta release. The next morning, VentureBeat published the very first article about Rumblr, taking a slightly humorous approach:
“Rumblr might be a good site for advertisements from emergency rooms, anger management therapists, or first-aid supplies.”
We saw some traffic, but nothing crazy. We immediately followed by posting the VentureBeat article itself to various tech groups on Facebook, such as Hackathon Hackers and One Sentence Startup Pitches. This brought us more unique visitors and led to some community members submitting tips to other news sources independently.
Gawker’s Jezebel followed up with the next piece. It was comedic and didn’t really spotlight Rumblr at all beyond a short introduction. It did, however, expose the story to tens of thousands more people.
At this point, we shifted all of our attention towards Twitter and started pushing the brand as hard as we could using the Rumblr account. Every tweet that mentioned Rumblr was responded to in some fashion: a like, retweet, or reply. We promoted dialogue and responded with a brand-consistent voice, often using fighting-related GIFs as a conversation starter. In total, we manually interacted with more than 2,000 tweets. We interacted with so many tweets that our Twitter account received numerous spam warnings.
Once we developed a consistent system to manage Twitter, we started to move over to Facebook. Both Facebook and Instagram blocked our domain, but that didn’t stop people from talking about us. In fact, it actually helped create new conversations.
Along with a bit more attention from the press, a local news station based in Arizona reached out to us for a TV interview. In our best startup-speak, we satirically explained the high-level vision behind Rumblr and how it was a perfectly viable, scalable business. Our blatant satire was somehow received as truth, and Tucson News Now published the interview. Here’s a real quote from the interview:
“We can’t just ignore the fact that boys, men, they all fight. We’ve always fought for the life of humanity. So why can’t we just provide them a way to do it more efficiently?”
“Think of some athletic fighting. I mean, you’re not trying to kill the other person, maybe you’re trying to have a little testosterone orchestra.”
And of course, we knew we’d pretty much made it when TomoNews dedicated an entire animated video about Rumblr, complete with a real mattyice67.
After a few more articles, Rumblr actually started to become a relevant topic in public conversations. Tweets about Rumblr started shifting from “Woah, have you heard about this crazy new app?” to “Dude, find me on Rumblr.”
At this point, Rumblr was beginning to enter the full viral loop — online celebrities started mentioning it and Facebook posts about it were shared thousands of times.
Within two days since the first VentureBeat article, what was once us reaching out to reporters became reporters knocking down our doors for interviews.
“an absolute disgrace. The fact that it’s even allowed, the people who designed it are simply cretins. Their [the designers] flippant and poor judgment is helping the erosion of society with senseless violence… in an uncontrolled environment.”
After these comments, Rumblr quickly went viral in Australia. It soon went viral in Brazil, the UK, California, and then, finally, the rest of the United States.
When we noticed an increasing amount of traffic from South Korea, we quickly targeted the Twitter accounts primarily responsible for the attention. We reached out to them in Korean (assuring them that Rumblr Korea will launch in 3 weeks), spurring Rumblr’s reach in South Korea.
We continued to push Rumblr extremely heavily on social media — liking, retweeting, and replying to as many tweets as possible. We literally didn’t sleep for the last two days of the campaign. As more major media outlets started to come to us looking for interviews, we stopped producing content on social media organically and instead just shared what they produced, focusing on spreading the word about our upcoming beta launch.
Soon enough VICE, The Washington Post, New York Daily News, New York Magazine, BBC, GQ, Complex, Bleacher Report, Sporting News, Fox & Friends, Business Insider, ABC, and CBS (to name a few) produced articles, podcasts, radio segments, and videos talking about Rumblr. We even made it to the very top of Hacker News. Our focus quickly turned from stoking the social flames to fulfilling interviews for these big outlets.
Around Saturday night when things seemed to be at its peak, we made a big decision to actually make and release a “beta” version of the app as a web-app to intensify the story, and actually announce the hoax through the app experience.
We announced Monday, November 9th at 5:00 PM EST as the hard deadline for the official Rumblr Beta launch, and submitted press releases to the top news sources we were communicating with.
This announcement inspired outlets to write about us again. “Remember that crazy app we told you about yesterday? It’s launching tomorrow.”
We spent the next 24 hours straight building the web app/reveal experience from scratch. Trying to craft the perfect storyline and flow that our users would travel through to the final reveal was by far the most time-consuming part of this process.
A dozen Red Bulls, half a gallon of coffee, and three panic attacks later, we had a fully working version of the app that guided users through the full experience of signing up, creating a username, swiping through matches, getting matched, then finally having an interactive conversation with “dudecati,” a rigged robot, who eventually explained that Rumblr was a huge hoax and redirected them to von Hughes’ (our agency’s) personal announcement page.
A few hours before our launch, some media outlets were quick to claim that Rumblr was fake. They misrepresented information and portrayed us in a pretty bad light, but it only helped us make more noise.
We barely finished and launched the web-app at the promised time of 5:00 PM EST on Monday, November 9th. At its peak, 2,000+ people were on our site at once.
At 5:00 PM, once the Internet realized that they’ve been ‘fooled,’ a mix of congratulatory and angry tweets, articles, podcasts, and videos surfaced. We got a few death threats and a few more résumés; and that’s how the Rumblr story ended.
But did it?
What followed was a large amount of ‘reflection’ pieces. “Did we actually think Rumblr was real?” “Rumblr turns out to be a massive hoax.” Most of the outlets that wrote about us previously decided to write about us yet again. Rumblr continued trending online, but this time framed as “the great hoax that tricked the Internet.” There was a bit of media backlash, but it quickly became irrelevant.
All in all, the four days of the Rumblr campaign were some of the most hectic, stressful days we’ve ever experienced; but, it paid off. Very well. Almost immediately after our ‘launch’ we started hearing from companies, apps, authors, filmmakers, and producers wanting to work with us. We started getting connected and introduced to new clients as “the guys behind Rumblr,” which ultimately netted us six-figure contracts.
The best part about this campaign is that the framework we used to make something like this happen is, although not easy, quite repeatable. We ultimately learned that creating something viral can be broken down into a rough pattern. Successful execution takes some quick thinking, discipline, and a dash of hustle.
Rumblr was not the first Rumblr in the marketplace. Unbeknownst to us, the idea had been attempted multiple times all over the world. In fact, ‘Tinder for fighting’ was an idea posted on a 4chan board a few months ago. It even had the same name. What was it that made our execution of Rumblr successful? The way we framed the story. Rumblr was not an idea. Rumblr was a venture-funded startup offering “casualty-free casual fighting for free.” If you emailed us we replied, if you tweeted us we’d tweet back; there were people behind the brand.
4. Real, Consistent Branding
Six of the ten days spent on Rumblr were focused on designing the brand, website, and marketing assets. If you put enough makeup on an idea it becomes a company. We used a consistent brand voice in all communications, often signing emails with “Knock the sh*t out of you soon, The Rumblr Team.” In our social marketing we used the fist emoji 👊 in nearly every post. We used nearly every fighting-related GIF we could find. To make the brand even more relatable, we used Fight Club as a conceptual anchor. “Fight Club, but an app.”
The bottom line is: good branding is incredibly important in gaining people’s trust, no matter what you’re selling. In Rumblr’s case, we were able to wrap a nonsense idea in very pretty packaging, helping people believe in its legitimacy.
5. Creating Press
Don’t be afraid to reach out to press outlets by yourself, you need to hustle a bit in the beginning. If people aren’t coming to you, go to them. Experiment and figure out what works the best for your situation. We sent both anonymous and personal news tips to a handful of different media outlets before anyone wrote about us.
Once you get your first reputable piece of press, be sure to use that article in your marketing efforts, instead of your website. Doing so dramatically increases the chances of the receiver clicking the link and experiencing your story.
6. Social Engagement
Leverage every single group, connection, and network you have. We told Hackathon Hackers about Rumblr on Facebook, which helped us spread the word across Product Hunt, Reddit, and Hacker News very quickly. We found conversations about Rumblr in forums and made fake accounts to inspire further discussion and keep the story alive. We brought in new twists to the story like, “Hey, we found their LinkedIn accounts. What idiots. What do you think?” Ultimately, the goal is to enter as many conversations as possible. When people talk, you want them to be talking about you.
7. The Turning Point
Eventually, things will turn in your favor. Up until this point, the media has been proactive, writing about you when they are inspired. When the marketplace realizes that you are the one writing the story, and not the media, you become the star. The media becomes reactionary, reporting on things you say and do, with a sentence or two of opinion thrown in at the end. The press will start to call and email you relentlessly, hoping that, if you do say something, you say it to them first. The more attention, news, and plot twists you give the press in this stage, the more noise you’ll create.
8. The Fruits of Your Labor
So how do you actually turn this attention into cash? Hustle. The more noise you create, the more likely you’ll land a potential client or customer’s conversation. That’s invaluable. As long as people know what you’re offering and you’ve framed the story correctly, you’ll get some interest. Give every lead attention, even if it doesn’t seem to be a perfect fit. Often, you need to introduce mass leads like these to the real context of who you are and what you do, not just your campaign. Connecting your campaign to your business is a bit tricky. Your campaign and company should be independent, but somehow cleverly intertwined. Rumblr has nothing to do with von Hughes, but “hacking the media” does.
About von Hughes:
von Hughes is a hybrid creative agency + product studio best known for the internationally viral social campaign Rumblr, ‘Tinder for fighting,’ that garnered the attention of 200+ global media outlets and exposed the von Hughes brand to tens of millions in 4 days. We manage product design, branding, advertising, and distribution for brands, and also produce products internally to hyper-target market opportunities.
Founder of WordStream. Top columnist @Inc, Search Engine Land ❤️ AdWords, Facebook Ads, Content Marketing, Entrepreneurship, Start-ups, Venture Capital.
20 hrs ago5 min read
11 Seriously Clever Tips to Up Your Instagram Game
It’s one of the most popular social networking sites on the planet, with over 200 million active monthly members sharing 60 million images and 1.6 billion likes per day.
Instagram quickly outgrew its first impression as a fun app for kids and has become a serious content marketing, networking and audience building tool for individuals and brands.
Just how awesome is it?
Engagement rates for brands on most social networks are less than 0.1%, but Instagram blows them all away. The average Instagram engagement rate for brands in a 2014 Forrester study was an epic 58 times higher than on Facebook.
You can’t argue with numbers like that. But that’s just average. And as I advocate across all manners of online marketing, you don’t want to be average!
Average isn’t something we aspire to be.
It’s not a dream, or a goal.
58 times greater engagement than something else sounds great, but you can do so much better than that on Instagram. Whether you’re a big brand or maybe just wondering how to become Instagram famous, I don’t want you to strive for average — I want you to reach for the stars and become an Instagram unicorn. A digital unicorn is that magical, rare creature that in this case outperforms all others by orders of magnitude.
And you’re going to accomplish this by working these amazing Instagram hacks into your social strategy. Check out these Instagram caption ideas and see what to post on Instagram to get way more visibility and engagement:
1. Cross-promote your dedicated hashtag. That’s nice that you created a #joesgarage hashtag for your company, but who knows to use it to share content about you? Make sure it’s in your profile, but take the game offline and have it printed on your receipts, in print ads, on signage in your store and at relevant events. If you’re on radio and TV, direct people to use your hashtag. Integrate with offline by ensuring it’s listed on your other social profiles, on your website, and in your email blasts. Don’t just hope people will find it.
2. Get creative with hashtagging. When it comes to Instagram caption ideas, you need to look beyond the one word, obvious hashtags. Sure, you want to use those, too, but mix it up and use hashtags to tell part of your story. Be funny, ironic, or outrageous — just don’t be BORING. Collaborative workspace company WeWork is great at this, and they include a fun mix of Instagram content, too.
3. Participate in massively popular conversations. For every post, use a mix of topically relevant hashtags such as #woodconstruction for a carpentry company, for example, as well as trending, super popular hashtags wherever you can. The really specific hashtags are like longtail keywords in that they show more intent and help you find the right people, but the universally trending hashtags like #instagood, #tbt, #photooftheday or even plain old #fun get you in front of more people in general. You need both to make it on a social network as big and noisy as Instagram.
4. Make the most of your bio URL. It’s prime real estate on your Instagram profile… do you really want your bio to only link to your website homepage, now and forever? Yawn. Change it up at least bi-weekly and use that clickable link in your bio to drive traffic to your newest or most popular content.
5. Get descriptive. A picture is worth a thousand words, but you can’t skip the words entirely. National Geographic is fantastic at using storytelling alongside their Instagram photos to generate engagement and sharing. While traditional media brands have dropped like flies, NatGeo has thrived across digital and become one of the top brands on Instagram, with over 50 million followers. Like the other Instagram hacks I’ve included here, this is something you’ll want to commit to working into your strategy over time, so don’t worry if it feels weird at first. Your writing will improve as you find your Instagram voice.
6. Go all in on influencer marketing. Visit the profiles of each person you’ve identified as an influencer in your space (AKA a person who influences the people you want to get in front of) and “Turn On Post Notifications” to be notified every time they share new content. You can then interact with them regularly and become one of their favorite people or brands.
7. Remove tagged photos of you from your profile. If you only want to feature the best user generated content about you or your brand on your Instagram profile, you can. Now, you can’t remove the tagged photo from the site entirely, but choosing “Edit Tags,” selecting the ones you want to remove and choosing “Hide from Profile” (you may need to confirm) does the trick.
8. Approve photo tags before the content shows on your profile. Speaking of giving you greater control over which tagged photos appear on your profile, you can change your Instagram setting so tagged photos won’t show unless you approve them first. You’ll find this under “Options,” “Photos of You,” and “Add Manually.” I’m trying to think of why any company would NOT want to do this… Nope. I’ve got nothing. You should absolutely set this up to avoid potentially embarrassing situations.
9. Develop your own Instagram style. It’s human nature to want to fit in, but on Instagram, you want to stand out. Indian beverage brand Frooti has developed such aunique visual content style, it’s instantly recognizable every time a user sees one a Frooti post in their newsfeed. Check it out:
10. Get local. See what’s going on in a specific area (say, your neighborhood, a city you’re targeting in ads, or even an event in a certain location) by going to the search page and choosing the Places tab. Then, type in the name of the place to see all geotagged posts for that location.
11. Remember your calls to action! Instagram, like other social networks, is a conversation, not a broadcasting platform. What action do you want people to take on your post? If you don’t know that, start over and figure it out. Staples is great at generating engagement by letting people know exactly what they expect them to do with their posts (bonus points if you make it sound fun). Often, that call to action cleverly gets people to share or virally spread Staples’ content.
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Contrarian Leadership Advice from “The Father of Advertising”
A true leader is one who inspires loyalty with no regard to rank or position.
David Ogilvy, the esteemed “Father of Advertising,” has surely earned the designation of leader. While his true cunning lay in the craft of copywriting, throughout his book Confessions of an Advertising Man you will find deep insights on management, candor, and company culture.
The care he put into making every word matter mirrors his obsessive attention to detail in how he ran his company. For Ogilvy, many of his finest lessons on management came from an early job working as a chef in Paris. His experiences there would later establish the principles that were embedded in the Ogilvy & Mather agency:
Thirty years ago I was a chef at the Hotel Majestic in Paris. Henri Soule of the Pavillon tells me that it was probably the best kitchen there has ever been.
Every man jack was inspired by one ambition: to cook better than any chef had ever cooked before. Our esprit de corps would have done credit to the Marines.
I have always believed that if I could understand how Monsieur Pitard, the head chef, inspired such white-hot morale, I could apply the same kind of leadership to the management of my advertising agency.
By any standard, it seems that during his tenure as “Monsieur” of an advertising agency, he succeeded. Below are some of his prudent and often contrarian takes on how an organization should be run.
On keeping praise sacred
Top-shelf words can begin to lose their meaning when applied aimlessly.
Praise, Ogilvy argued, can suffer from the same type of dilution. At the Hotel Majestic, coming across words of praise was just uncommon enough to make each instance a momentous occasion.
“Monsieur Pitard praised very seldom, but when he did, we were exalted to the skies.”
Why might this practice be ideal? Surely you want to keep morale high with words of encouragement, right?
To make his point, Ogilvy details a story of an impromptu visit from the President of France for a banquet hosted at the Majestic. A lively electricity filled the air as chefs and servers alike scrambled in hopes of leaving a lasting impression on this illustrious guest. Ogilvy, responsible for the frogs’ legs covered in a white chaud-froid sauce, describes the tension he felt once it became clear that Pitard was observing him closely:
Suddenly I became aware that M. Pitard was standing beside me, watching. I was so frightened that my knees knocked together and my hands trembled. He took the pencil from his starched toque and waved it in the air, his signal for the whole brigade to gather. Then he pointed at my frogs’ legs and said, very slowly and very quietly, “That’s how to do it.”
I was his slave for life.
As is expected for a captivating writer like Ogilvy, this tale is wrapped in suspense and delivered with gusto. One might infer, however, that this sort of tense environment is not suitable for every company culture. More important is the underlying theme: praise is more meaningful when it is kept sacred.
Share praise, own blame, and encourage comradery through mutual respect. What Pitard’s practice reminds us is that the meaning of “excellent work” can become diminished when it is doled out too liberally. It is no longer cherished, but expected.
The worst way this could settle throughout a talented team is in creating an aversion to candor; with compliments being thrown about for every small deed, people become hesitant to lay claim that something is merely okay, or that a particular piece of work isn’t up to the standards that the group has come to expect from each other.
Celebrate wins, but know that kind words can begin to fall on deaf ears when every conversation is a steady gush of applause.
Leading with a signature strength
The maker-manager transition is one that many founders know well. Progress cannot be made unless you continually fire yourself from former roles, leaving them filled with more talented replacements. Ogilvy himself disdained hiring those who he knew would never match him.
And yet, he shares a belief on leadership also held by Jason Lemkin: that you must lead by example. Lemkin, former founder of EchoSign and venture capitalist, gave this response when asked, “How does a CEO build a successful culture?”
Be better than everyone else at the company at one core function. Then, people will follow you. Maybe not everyone. But, at least some. Even if you are a horrible manager. And lack people skills. They will respect you for being the best in the company at a core function. But if you aren’t the #1 best at something, it’s hard for anyone to follow you through the Desert of Nothing to success. I don’t really see those founder-CEOs ever succeed.
For Ogilvy, this philosophy was planted thanks to Chef Pitard’s leadership. Although the operation of the restaurant fell squarely on his lap, Pitard seemingly knew the importance of taking rare steps back into the arena.
He had to spend most of his time at his desk, planning menus, scrutinizing bills, and ordering supplies, but once in a week he would emerge from his glass-walled office in the middle of the kitchen and actually cook something. A crowd of us always gathered around to watch, spellbound by his virtuosity. It was inspiring to work for a supreme master.
Following Pitard’s example, I still write occasional advertisements myself, to remind my brigade of copywriters that my hand has not lost its cunning.
It’s inspiring to be paced by a role model. They quietly remind you of what is still possible. But I would slightly contest Ogilvy’s conclusion — more than losing their touch, it is oftentimes rewarding and just as important to see that the leadership hasn’t lost touch with the ground-level work.
At Help Scout, I’m always inspired to see the founders step in and personally help a customer with a problem. There is no detachment from the customer, and it reassures me that there is no detached interest from the company’s mission at large: a modern day version of the captain who willingly slums it with the troops, so to speak. Any “brigade” will appreciate seeing that.
Ogilvy truly believed that his advertising agency most benefited when the top men and women relentlessly pursued this principle responsibility: to provide an atmosphere in which creative mavericks could do useful work. Much to his chagrin, as the company grew, he found he could no longer have one-on-ones with every single person.
“It’s not all beer and skittles,” he warns. The larger an organization gets, the more an established culture matters, as it is no longer as malleable as it was in days past.
With this in mind, Ogilvy set the tone in two consistent ways: transparency and candor. In a yearly assembly at the Museum of Modern Art, he would address every advertiser under his wing:
[I] give them a candid report on our operations, profits and all. Then I tell them what kind of behavior I admire, in these terms:
I admire people with first-class brains, because you cannot run a great advertising agency without brainy people. But brains are not enough unless they are combined with intellectual honesty.
I despise toadies who suck up to their bosses; they are generally the same people who bully their subordinates.
I admire self-confident professionals, the craftsmen who do their jobs with superlative excellence. They always respect the expertise in their colleagues. They don’t poach.
I admire people with gentle manners who treat other people as human beings. I abhor quarrelsome people. I abhor people who wage paper-warfare.
It was Ogilvy’s hope that these clear-cut standards would be held not only for his team, but for himself. Setting this precedent, he argued, created resilience among the team members, affection for one’s co-workers, and a tolerance for their foibles. In short, it created unity through clarity by laying out how the company should operate.
Gregory Ciottiis on the marketing team at Help Scout, software for delivering outstanding customer support. You’ll find him writing about clear communication and editorial strategy on the Help Scout blog.
I write on Marketing, Social Media, and Lifestyle. Co-founder of Arctiphi Marketing. Social Media Marketing Campaign Manager at Linqia. [email protected]
2 days ago4 min read
Social Media 102: After you read this article, I want you to stop learning…
Below, I’ve compiled 34 of some of the best social media resources for 8 different social channels. These resources are designed to be all you need to get started, grow your audience, and carve out a niche on your preferred social media platform.
In short, these resources contain nearly all you need to know about social media. Channel by channel.
Why? Because the rest of the information you should be learning on your own. Without action, all of the accessibility, opportunity, and resources our connected world has to offer will be nothing more than a distraction.
When it comes to social media, people learn way too much.
With an endless supply of information online, it’s easier than ever to read and consume content without making your own. This pitfall can be applied across a number of industries, but I can only speak for my own.
I’ve seen this time and time again. It bugs me. A lot.
Maybe it bugs me so much because only a year ago I was in the exact same position, doing the exact same thing. Reading every book I could get my hands on. Listening to every single podcast my smartphone could download. Taking every Udemy course my paycheck would allow me to take.
Frankly, I was doing everything except doing. It’s a problem many of us have.
When I finally decided to throw myself in with the sharks and post to Medium, start a business, etc., I quickly wondered why it had taken me so long to contribute to the conversation.
I know tons of people are in the same position. I see it all the time.
So here is a challenge that I want all of you reading to partake in…
The #StopLearning Challenge:
Read any or all of the resources listed below for your social channel of choice.
After you’re done, DO NOT consume ANY other social media marketing & marketing content for at least 7 days. Only learn through your own experience. That’s right; no Medium, no blogs, no YouTube tutorials, no ebooks.
Optional: Share the #StopLearning on social media so others can benefit!
Optional: After 7 days, shoot me an email at [email protected] with your results. I’d love to hear your experience, whether good or bad!
eCommerce, online marketing, & markets all day. VP Enterprise @addshoppers. 12x ROI - 5x ROI guaranteed
Aug 184 min read
You’ll never lift eCommerce conversions until you solve this problem
The Meeting Room
The dreaded meeting room ate five hours that week, but the numbers for back-to-school were starting to come in and the business review was a must. Erin the eCommerce Web Analyst was prepared as she identified 3 areas that could immediately change the business.
“I’ve noticed a dip in conversions on the product pages,” Erin started.
Kelly The VP of Omnichannel searched through the quarterly reports attempting to find answers. She needed to drive more sales for the rest of the campaign. Why couldn’t the customers just buy things.
“Well our product posts on Facebook have high engagement,” Chris said. Chris knew this was his time to shine. His campaign refresh was working. “We applied them to other social channels and added them to some of our display spends. The click-through is really strong.”
Feeling a sense of relief, Kelly felt they had an answer. “What are the posts about?” she asked.
“We’re using some new cityscape back drops that are pairing our products from different catalogs. People seem to love it,” Chris replied.
Kelly pulled out her mobile and immediately hit the site. “I don’t see cityscapes. I see the back-to-school. Where are the product shots you’re using on social?”
No one responded. Erin didn’t have IT rights to overhaul the site without multiple approvals. Chris didn’t have any rights to update onsite content.
Kelly stared at her team waiting for an answer. “What are we going to do about these conversions,” she demanded.
The room remained silent.
While fictional, the story above is exactly what happens in weekly, monthly, and quarterly eCommerce reviews. In most organizations Marketing and eCommerce have two distinct roles. Marketers are in charge of building personalized meaningful stories that cause consumers to fall in love with the brand. eCommerce is a technical responsibility ensuring the infrastructure stands up to millions of concurrent users browsing, searching, registering, and buying.
One is the creative storyteller that can generate emotion from a customer. The other is a rock solid technical foundation that integrates into a plethora of systems.
So even with the most best technical foundations why would an eCommerce site see diminishing returns on its conversion rates despite the countless hours of optimization?
The answer is a simple problem that just happens to be hard to solve: Your personalized marketing stories are nowhere to be found on your eCommerce site.
The agile content shifts by digital teams are absent on eCommerce. Sure there are times when marketing and eCommerce align, but it’s a massive feat. It takes meetings upon meetings. It’s A/B tested. It’s launched and the process takes about 90 days (if you’re lucky). This most commonly exists at the beginning of the campaign, never the middle. Digital doesn’t have that constraint. Marketers often figure out more interesting angles that consumers love, but the technical team is not able to update the site with that agility. Instead, they have their own projects to accomplish, new SKUs to add, new collections to organize or something else. This culminates in a resource crunch.
This problem grows worse as the law of diminishing returns begins.
Marketing results always diminish, and it’s the nature of the beast. Things get stale. Competitors get fresh. New events happen. Unless your marketing can stay fresh, it falls behind. Marketers are provided tools to update content in preparation for this cycle. Wordpress updates blogs. The social networks provide tools for scheduling. Ad Exchanges publish content prepared for specific audiences. Each tool enables the marketer to design, personalize, and target with aplomb. Where are the tools for eCommerce?
The products are out there, it’s just that leaders aren’t thinking about them the same way they think about updating other forms of digital. Your site is the ultimate digital billboard and the marketer needs tools to update it and match the other campaigns. The best solutions should integrate seamlessly with the following systems:
Email Service Providers
Customer Relationship Management
Data Management Platforms
If the above is accomplished, the marketer should be able to offer unique personalizations based on how the referring source is performing. If Pinterest is getting the most referral conversions, show reminders to share and pin back to the page. If email is getting the most direct purchases, all other offers can be suppressed. If Facebook is not getting the shares you hoped for, animate a message with an incentive. If a super influencer is coming back to your site, offer a gift in return for more sharing. If a new product is launching, everyone can be made aware of a contest. If a user comes across a 404 error, perhaps the wishlist can be embedded.
The idea is no matter where a customer came from, no matter what tool they are using, the business benefits from personalizing the experience.
But most importantly, as the campaigns start diminishing returns, the marketer is able to launch something new without IT involvement. That creates returns like what you see below:
I’ve seen this personalization accomplished beautifully and it can more than double your conversion rate and lift your average order value. It’s not just the tech that converts. It’s the blend of fast, lightweight, and rich technology + the creative emotion of the marketer that keeps the customer coming back for more.
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