No business is an island – we can all learn lessons from our fellow business owners and competitors. In the crowded and competitive world of digital marketing, it’s easy to get lost and become a drop in the ocean. Here are some businesses who used online marketing well – or differently – and saw great results because of it. If you’re headed into the wacky world of ecommerce, take heed!
Timing is everything
The best digital marketing campaigns carefully time their approach to coincide with what else is going on the world, whether it’s Christmas Day, Valentine’s Day or National Talk Like Shakespeare Day (April 23rd, if you’re interested). Jumping on the relevancy bandwagon makes it more likely that your marketing efforts will get noticed.
Charity Water is a non-profit organisation who successfully integrate relevant timing into their marketing strategy. For example, their Pledge Your Birthday campaign encourages supporters to ask for charitable donations for their birthday, instead of buying gifts. With approx. 19 million birthdays celebrated around the world every day, that’s an awful lot of people who could be getting access to clean drinking water – around 38 people per birthday campaign. So far, Charity Water has raised in excess of USD 9 million through Pledge Your Birthday.
48 Days of Blue was a similarly successful conservation movement, created by The National Aquarium in Baltimore. The campaign encouraged participants to take on challenges in the 48 days between Earth Day and World Ocean Day, with the aim of promoting conservation and saving resources. 18,532 challenges were completed, with impressive results.
Having a clear timeslot for a campaign increases the sense of urgency surrounding it, so participants are less likely to put it off until later. You can amp up the social marketing effort towards the end of the campaign, to attract new members before it closes.
Get # trending
A trending hashtag has immense social power. Of course, in the crowded world of Twitter, it is no mean feat to get a hashtag trending. The trick is to make it memorable, frequent, relatable, informative and personal. Short phrases work best, as do those that use upper case letters to break up the words for ease of reading. Good examples include:
When the Carilion Clinic in Virginia wanted to raise awareness about breast cancer with a social media campaign, they coined the hashtag #YesMaam. This started a powerful movement where women were encouraged to ask questions about breast cancer and book appointments to be checked.
One of the most successful marketing campaigns of the past few years was arguably the ‘Share a Coke With’ campaign from Coca Cola. It’s associated hashtag campaign #ShareaCoke encouraged customers to share their ‘Share a Coke With’ stories and photos on social media, spreading the campaign far and wide. The result? Half a million photos tagged with #ShareaCoke and 25 million new Facebook followers.
Always be offering something new
Imagine if you could create fresh anticipation in your customers every week? Well, that’s exactly what clothing brand Johnny Cupcakes manages to achieve. How? Through their Freshly Baked page, they continually bring out new designs. This website reels in loyal customers week after week – customers who have been trained to anticipate new releases on a regular and consistent basis. Whether they buy that week or not, Johnny Cupcakes still manages to keep its offerings at the forefronts of its customers’ minds.
Trends can be used to your advantage
Aren’t we all suckers for a good cause? The number of pets being abandoned each year is on the rise, causing many animal shelters to reach maximum capacity, with nowhere for the influx of animals to go. Pet shelters have their work cut out for them, particularly as certain breeds of pet become coveted and ‘trendy’ – leading to more unnecessary breeding.
This is why it’s inspiring to see a great marketing campaign from US animal shelter Dallas Pets Alive getting recognition and results. Instead of creating a new hashtag, this clever team jumped onto trending topics and used them to name their shelter dogs, resulting in canines with names like #KanyeMeltdown and #JustinBieberSucks. Suddenly, these pooches were internet famous. Dallas Pets Alive also coined the ‘muttbomb’ by photoshopping their dogs into pictures with celebrities.
With a plan to hit every social media outlet they could to give their shelter animals maximum publicity, the non-profit managed to capture the imagination of its public and increase the number of animal adoptions.
This creative cat shelter’s tongue-in-cheek commercial is similarly genius, and was shared all over the internet and social media.
There’s no substitute for great content
It’s no mean feat, standing out in the already overcrowded personal finance niche. That’s why Mint, a new financial tracking tool, used a different strategy to get themselves noticed. Mint committed to producing hundreds of pieces of quality digital content to establish themselves as masters in their field – including infographics such as Financing Your Furry Friend and Kids & Cash: Tips for Managing the Piggy Bank, as well as articles. Infographics are highly shareable and are a particularly good way of disseminating information easily.
Mint gained a huge online following as a result of its content marketing efforts, and shortly after was sold to Intuit for $170 million. Great quality content production takes time and is a long-term strategy – but one which pays off. Here are some genius content marketing ideas to get you started.
Word of mouth still wields power
Doesn’t it feel like Uber is a part of our lives now? The company only started up in 2009, yet now they have one of the strongest followings around. It’s the luxury of a private driver that all of us secretly want – without the price tag. It’s ease of use: from app, to payment, to splitting fares, makes it a no-brainer when you need to get somewhere. When your product is this good, the word spreads like wildfire. And even in this digital age, word of mouth remains one of the most powerful marketing tools of all.
Uber grew almost entirely out of word of mouth marketing, which is pretty incredible. And their way of working encourages this. Uber offers incentives to its users to become brand advocates with their use of referral codes, giving them free rides when their friends sign up. With a great service and a number of people promoting it to their friends and family, you have the equation for a successful digital business in a nutshell.
Transparency earns trust points
McDonald’s has a bit of a bad rep for using all sorts of dodgy ingredients in its fast food. As consumers became increasingly suspicious (and grossed out) by the likes of the What Are Chicken Nuggets Made Of video and similar social propaganda, McDonald’s decided to face the question head on, rather than avoid it. A brave choice, and an effective one.
McDonald’s Canada created the digital campaign Our Food. Your Questions that addressed over 20,000 questions from the public regarding the quality and safety of the ingredients used in its food. A video campaign was set up alongside this to film some of the Q&As.
With effective answers provided, many customers felt secure about eating at McDonald’s again, and they were able to turn their reputation around – at least to some extent. Transparency is a cornerstone of building trust in your customer relationships.
Boring product? Find a creative angle
Some products are super boring, and there’s no getting around it. So how to market them in a creative way? This was the task that befell the marketing team behind Tipp-Ex correction fluid. Sales of Tipp-Ex had been declining steadily for some time as tech became more prevalent in schools. But thanks to a brilliant YouTube marketing campaign featuring a hunter and a bear, it’s come back in quite a surprising way.
This clever video allows you to ‘rewrite’ the story of the hunter and the bear – as you might if you were using Tippex. The viewer can then input what they would like to see happen instead. This campaign just goes to show that no matter how mundane the product, there is almost always an interesting angle.
What lessons will you take away from this article today for marketing your own business online? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments.
Patrick Foster, ecommerce entrepreneur, coach & writer. I’m currently writing on EcommerceTips.org where I share engaging ecommerce content for entrepreneurs and business owners. You can follow me on Twitter here.