The New Facebook Ads: Game Changer for B2B Marketers?

Bringing Content and Advertising Together

Facebook’s new advertising products look like they may be a game changer for B2B marketers. 

You will now have the ability to use your own Facebook Page content to make your own ads.

Here’s why should you care.

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Will Pinterest Replace Advertising?

What is Pinterest?

You may have heard of the latest social media phenomenon Pinterest.

Started in March 2010, Pinterest allows its users to create and share theme-based image collections.

According to the site, Pinterest’s mission is to “connect everyone in the world through the ‘things’ they find interesting.”

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How to Convert More of Your Blog Readers to Leads

Your Blog is Your First Meeting

These days, when someone reads your blog post, it’s like a having a first meeting with your company. People find you on search or social and read your post. You, of course, make a great first impression with an informative and professional article.

They’re impressed and feel good about receiving something of value for free.

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Demonstrate Your Expertise With Content Marketing

Forget Claims of Excellence

Demonstrate Excellence with Content Marketing

Traditional media marketing was all about making claims of excellence.

Take a look at any TV or print advertisement: 

We’re have the best product in the whole-wide world….

4 out of 5 doctors recommend….

30 day money back guarantee….

All of these messages were trying to convince people that the reward was worth the risk of buying a product they knew very little about. 

The Web is Different

It wasn’t the marketers’ fault. They were limited by the technology of the time. The medium was the message.  That’s all there was. 

But that’s changed.

The web is a new medium. It’s not TV or a brochure or a billboard. It’s new.

  • It’s a publishing platform
  • It’s a content consumption platform 
  • It’s a sharing platform 
  • It’s an interactive platform 
  • It’s extremely accessible to everyone 
  • It’s extremely affordable to everyone 

All of these unique properties of the web give you a grand opportunity to reduce the risk people feel when considering your product. 

Show Them You Know

Instead of simply claiming your expertise, you can now demonstrate it. 

You’re good at your job. You know your field like the back of your hand. You’ve got war stories and battle scars.

Why not talk about it?

Client Success Stories

Do you have some great client success stories where you went the extra mile and got extraordinary results? Write up a client profile and put it on your web site. (change the names to protect the innocent)

Client Failure Stories

Do you have some unsuccessful client war stories? Write a profile on those as well. Why? It’s authentic. People aren’t naive. They know not every client experience is a good one.

Write an Opinion Piece

Do you have an opinion on an industry development? Write about it in your blog and encourage comments. 

Show Your Niche Expertise

Do have expertise in a particular niche of your industry? Write a white paper and allow people to download it.

Become an Industry Information Source

Do you keep up on industry news? Share the links on your blog or a social network. Become a source of information for your niche.

Authenticity Works

People want authenticity. Show them that you’re good at your job. Show them your company has great experience. Show them your battle scars. Demonstrate your expertise.

Show them and they will come. Just tell them and they’ll ignore you.


Content Marketing at Spark

Are you looking to demonstrate your expertise with content marketing? Do you have questions? Spark has answers. Give us a call and we’ll talk.

Put Your Online Coupon Ducks in a Row

Sorry for that title. But you know that no online marketing campaign – of any kind – gets those terrific returns unless you plan for it. You need to know your market and what you want to communicate to it before any tactic will work, coupons included. We have explored how online coupons can be used to ignite business, and what kinds of business models there are for using coupons.  In this post, we review your planning steps to make sure the effort you put into an online coupon campaign is not wasted.

This is the fifth and final post in our online coupon series.  You can find the first four at these links:

Coupons can generate traffic and sales. Online businesses need to evaluate how using coupons fits into a strategic marketing campaign with benefits that exceed the costs of price competition.

While the strategic issues will be somewhat different for every business, the basic marketing considerations will shape how each business will implement the tactic. These factors are Marketing 101, but we too often hurry past them to launch a tactic.

Know Your Market

Enough said. But it is important to keep this front and center: the people in your market segment shape the way to make your offer, and this is nowhere more true than on the Internet.

Define the Objectives of the Online Coupon

Direct mail campaigns have been used for years to achieve a variety of marketing objectives:

  • Market share
  • Product introduction
  • Customer acquisition
  • Sales promotions
  • Inventory clearance, and more

You might have similar objectives for your online coupons, but the tracking and communication tools of the Internet can help to make the coupons even more effective. The exact content of the offer, and the timing, duration and placement of the coupon will vary depending on the objective.

Analyze the Economic Value

All online coupons have costs. There are costs in creating them, distributing them, tracking them, and especially in funding the discounts they carry. Often, using coupons will put you in a loss position on those specific items, so the offer is worthwhile only if the longer run economic returns are there. One of the most important reasons to use online coupons is to acquire a new customer, so the lifetime value of a customer is an obvious basic consideration. Do you know the lifetime value of your customer?

Choose the Timing and Duration to Achieve Your Objective

We believe coupons are most effective for short-term boosts in traffic and sales. Using a coupon as a permanent tactic is just a unilateral price cut, and that cannot be good for your business in the longer term. That said, there are businesses that continuously offer coupons, but rotate the offer among products or services. Or, you might have a variety of offers in a variety of channels to reach your market in slightly different ways, while always building the brand.

Tracking and Analysis Always Required!

If you take the trouble to launch a marketing campaign, it is essential to learn from it. Even if it fails to hit your objectives, you will know something more for the next time around.

Coupons have grown up online. Even if you have not used them in the traditional marketing channels, consider them anew as part of your internet marketing strategy. As a source of new customers and new relationships, coupons may prove to be one of your most powerful tactics.

Groupon Re-Tools Coupons for the Internet

The most basic think about Groupon is that if you are a subscriber, a deal a day comes your way via email (or maybe Twitter). Over 35 million people now subscribe to Groupon’s local area offers in over 160 cities in the U.S. and over 100 more in about a dozen other countries. Groupon recently rejected Google’s offer of $6 billion and is reportedly preparing for a $15 billion IPO during 2011. The company is a money-making machine, taking in a sizable share every time a special offer is purchased.

Is Groupon Right for You?

Groupon seems to work best with local retail businesses like hair salons, restaurants, and clothing stores, but it can be used for many other kinds of products or services. A more analytical way of putting it is that the system favors businesses that can offer a commodity on a volume basis at price points that can attract a lot of people. That said, the price points don’t eliminate the luxury or premium goods segments – if you can handle volume and have local outlets, Groupon might work for you.

Why it Works

Business owners take a steep discount to have a deal of the day available for 24 hours, but they make no upfront payment. Offers are not activated until enough people buy it, ensuring that the deep discount is partially compensated by volume. Since small businesses have been overwhelmed by responses, Groupon encourages limiting the number of coupons available (unless you happen to be a huge national chain like the GAP which could handle 445,000 redemptions). Businesses report acquiring many new customers through Groupon.

How it Works

Groupon expands city by city, starting by recruiting highly rated local businesses that it believes will be successful. It attracts local subscribers, and then pushes a daily email to them with the offer of the day. You can purchase online or on mobile device (iPhone or android app). Once enough people have purchased (the deal is ‘tipped’), you can redeem the offer. Print the coupon to present for discount, or show the vendor your coupon on a mobile device.

Relationships Build Groupon

Personalization helps target offers to you, though you can always browse your city
for more. Groupons direction of evolution is toward more and more social integration as it runs hard to stay ahead of the many competitors it has spawned (including Google).

Groupon has a lot of competitors, the largest of which is LivingSocial. But it is much larger than any competitor, and growing rapidly. If Groupon is active in your market, it is a powerful marketing tactic you should consider.

8 Good Reasons to Use Online Coupons

This is the second in our series of 5 posts about online coupons. Take a look at the introductory piece about online coupon basics and then read this one.  The next installment in about a week.

The most important, basic reason to use online coupons is to get or keep a customer. In fact, this is the basic rationale for all marketing.  Coupons can be used to get or keep customers in a number of ways that correspond to the conditions in your business.

However, coupons are often used to motivate sales through discounting. While discounts can lead to customer acquisition, you have to maintain the distinction between motivating short-term sales and building a customer base. Since low price is the lure for online shoppers in most categories, it is tempting to use coupons in price competition just to boost sales. But if you do this, you have to be very careful to make your business case for discounts with the thought in mind that you may be setting a price ceiling, not a floor.

But businesses that rely on continuous discounting create the expectation among shoppers that “full price” is for suckers only.  Why would you use a coupon campaign?

Here’s How to Use Online Coupons

We see two basic ways to use online coupons to get or keep customers.  The obvious one is to motivate purchases through discounts or other offers. The second, increasingly important in the relationship-building that online marketing promotes, is getting and keeping a customer.

Reasons to Use Price to Motivate Customers

Clear inventory: Stimulating sales in the short term to clear inventory to make room for new products or new models, or simply to boost top line revenue, is a classic use of coupons.

Increase market share: Increasing market share in a well-defined niche is where the price competition bites hard. Depending on how well differentiated your product or service can be, you will be going more or less head to head against your competitors. If discounting is easy (and your discounting is easily visible), this can be a very costly form of customer acquisition characterized by a dive to the bottom price-wise. Online coupons can still help increase market share if your markets are already highly price competitive and/or your competitors are not using them.

Counteract cyclical downturns in sales: Many businesses have predictable seasonal variations in sales. Coupons can be used to boost business in the downturns in order to maintain production capacity, cash flow, or other business requirements that can justify reducing the revenue per sale.

Get customers in the store to get additional sales: You need to have customers in the store in order to make sales, right?

Use Online Coupons to Build Relationships

Capture a new customer: The lifetime value of a repeat customer may justify deep discounts for the first sale or lead. The requirement is to have a strong customer retention program in place to extract this value. Customer retention will be the subject of other posts because building online relationships is one of the bedrock principles of online marketing. But smart marketers know that customer retention is not only key to building a brand and sales directly, but it also leads to new customer acquisition through viral distribution. Its importance cannot be overstated.

Introduce a brand or product to a new market segment or location: Breaking into a new market is hard because potential customers already have 100% of their mind share allocated. New customer acquisition in these circumstances can be spurred by offers conveyed through third party coupon networks (Groupon is the innovation leader in this category) that have their own set of loyal visitors whose eyes you can borrow – for a price.  These third party networks can help you “get found.”

Introduce a new product or service to existing customers: Online businesses have a huge advantage in their solid connections to existing customers via email, texting, Facebook and Twitter. These channels are low cost and highly targeted ways to alert your best customers about new products and services, perhaps coupled with introductory discounts or other offers. Using a coupon in this situation may be ideal if you want to require an action on the part of your customer to confirm or reinforce the relationship.

Build a brand: Coupons can help reinforce the power of a brand. Since this is always a function of placement and repetition, coupons might be one component of a brand awareness campaign taking place in multiple online channels.

Our next post on coupons will look at 5 successful coupon sites, and we’ll toss in 5 more that are not so big but illustrate ways to use coupons.  The business models vary, so you need to be aware of how they might work for your business.

The Web is Awash in Coupons – Are They Yours?

The Web is doing its usual jerky dance these days, changing on the run. The talk is swirling about Yahoo’s death spiral, while at the same time Online Media Daily is reporting that Yahoo was the #1 site for unique visitors in November 2010. But the same story includes the nugget for online marketers that “coupons were the top-gaining site category [in November], with visits surging 40% from October…”

In case you didn’t already know, coupons are big on the Internet, where price competition dominates many categories.  Businesses of all kinds, from giant Proctor & Gamble to puny ma and pa eateries on Main Street, are posting coupons to entice people in the door. After being rejected by Groupon, Google is testing its own coupon network, possibly called ‘Google Offers’. Online coupons have become a major focus of an industry trade group, the Association of Coupon Professionals.

An important emerging trend in online coupons is the integration of social media with coupon distribution and marketing. These approaches not only build direct sales but also emphasize relationships. They help companies to be found and as such can be a part of a comprehensive inbound marketing strategy.

This post is the first of 5 posts about online coupons – we will post them every Tuesday for the next 4 weeks. The next 4 topics will include:

  • 8 Good Reasons to Use Online Coupons
  • 5 Great Online Coupon Networks
  • Groupon Redefines the Coupon for the Internet
  • Planning an Online Coupon Campaign

Online Coupons Share Basic Traits with Ordinary Coupons

Coupons have been around for a long time. Online coupons are similar to these familiar offers in important ways:

  • A coupon offers a discount, a bonus, or another form of enticement that the prospect has to claim through redemption.
  • Often a coupon is a physical link to a transaction between a business and a buyer or prospect for a specific item. Therefore, coupons are usually (not always!) redeemable in a business for something tangible.
  • Because coupons are usually redeemed in person, they are a good tactic for purely local businesses as well as national or widely distributed products.

Online Coupons Offer Unique Benefits to Marketers

As we know, the Internet has a number of advantages for marketing. This holds for coupon marketing as well:

  • Coupons are a good direct mail tactic, except using email allows much better targeting and tracking.  Offer codes are a thing of the past.
  • Social media make person-to-person distribution a reality, extending the reach of coupon campaigns to people not previously known to the marketer.
  • Online coupons can be set up to help marketers capture the buyer’s contact information and sometimes even profile data.  The implications for followup marketing are obvious.
  • Personalized options, either by segmentation or at the individual level, make coupons more flexible and more appealing to customers.
  • Online “coupons” can be emails that supply coupon codes to enable customers to get discounts in online purchases.

Building Marketing Campaigns Using Coupons

Online coupons have pros and cons. They are almost always a discounted sale and that’s a problem if it’s all you have going for you. But if the numbers work, coupons can be a great way to motivate buyers and establish relationships.  Our next post will look at how to decide if online coupons are right for you.

30 Marketing Tips in 30 Days: Marketing Tip #30 – Stick to Your Marketing Resolutions

Marketing Tip #30: Stick to Your Marketing Resolutions

We all have ideas and visions, and maybe even a formal or semi-formal plan for 2011 when it comes to marketing and growing our businesses.  For most small businesses, ideas and visions aren’t the problem.  It’s finding the time and resources to execute that presents the biggest challenge.  For our final marketing tip of the year, we encourage you to take the time to put structure around your ideas and vision, and create a formalized plan.  The plan should be realistic and define the tactics and programs that will be executed throughout the year.

Once you have a plan, it’s about sticking to your resolutions. posted a great article on sticking to New Year’s resolutions.  Here’s what the article says:

  1. Set realistic goals
  2. Set milestones and reward success
  3. Write your goals
  4. Join forces with an accountability partner
  5. Create a plan for slips and setbacks

Set your marketing resolutions and THIS year – make it happen!

30 Marketing Tips in 30 Days: Tip #29 – Customize Your Facebook Page

Marketing Tip #29: Customize Your Facebook Page

It was recently announced that Facebook had more visits in 2010 than Google did.  The excuses to ignore Facebook as a viable marketing tool are really over now.  A great way to use Facebook to attract more attention to your brand is by customizing your Facebook presence.  TechCrunch recently published the 12 Best Ways to Customize Your Facebook Pages.  In this article, they described tools that can be used to overcome Facebook’s creative limitations to create a page that truly reflects the uniqueness of your brand.

Check out the TechCrunch post and checkout this gallery of customized Facebook pages.

Need help?  Request a proposal and let us customize your Facebook page for you!