Digital Marketing (Some) Insights From Stephen Strong, VP of Marketing at ParkWhiz

SoMe Connect is excited to present our inaugural SoMe Insights event. We’re speaking to Stephen Strong, Vice President of Marketing at ParkWhiz. Stephen will discuss his digital marketing insights, including trends, tools, and tactics that are applicable to any business.

We’ll start at 11:30 with some informal networking at Enerspace Co-Working where you can reserve a free ticket and a free day-pass to work from after (or before) the event. Not in need of an office space for the day? Simply select the free ticket option and register. Our program will start promptly at 12:00 PM and conclude with Q&A by 1:00 PM.

We’re working on having a few food trucks stop by at our event, but, plan on bringing a brown bag lunch or stopping by at any of the nearby west loop eateries on you way!

Enerspace Co-Working is conveietly located right off the Morgan Pink/Green Line stops and ParkWhiz also has $8 parking spots available nearby on Halsted. Reserve your spot at ParkWhiz today!

Our speaker’s bio:

Stephen has 19 years of interactive marketing experience on both the advertising agency and product marketing sides. He started coding websites by hand in 1995 and survived the first Dotcom rise and crash (although his eToys stock did not). He spent 8 years as the Director of Interactive at DraftFCB, building a world-class digital organization for Chicago’s largest advertising agency. Prior to ParkWhiz, Stephen served as Global Director of Interactive at Alberto Culver and Unilever, developing interactive marketing programs for leading beauty CPG brands.

As VP of Marketing, Stephen uses his experiences (good and bad) from the original Dotcom Days – along with years of developing integrated marketing programs for big consumer brands – to continue driving ParkWhiz as the leading eParking provider.

Look forward to seeing you there!

Photo Contests: Why They are Great for Web Traffic

Photo contests run through social media can be an effective way to create social engagement and web traffic for a brand. Earlier in 2013, we worked with CMK Companies, an established real estate development company in Chicago, to implement a photo sharing contest for the residents of their Chicago loop building, 235 Van Buren. We have been working with CMK Companies since July 2012 on social media for the company as well as for each of their developments.

The goal was to create a contest that benefited both the residents of the building as well as anyone looking to purchase a condo in the downtown Chicago area. We decided on a strategy that would engage both groups of stakeholders-residents would submit pictures of their units for a chance to be named the “the coolest pad” and win an iPad, and the community at large could view and vote on the submissions to determine the winner.

It worked really well-residents were excited about the opportunity, and everyone else loved looking at beautiful Chicago condos on Facebook. We promoted online through Facebook and Twitter, and offline through signs in the buildings. During the contest we saw a large amount of sharing (Facebook), retweeting (Twitter), and web traffic. This sharing introduced entirely new audiences to the building and to CMK Companies.

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To recap, photo contests can be a powerful way to drive traffic to a brand when developed and implemented correctly. Below are 5 tips to keep in mind when designing a photo contest for your brand.

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1. When designing a contest, create a strategy that engages all important stakeholder groups.
2. Promote the contest heavily online and offline.
3. Give the power to your social media audience to decide the winner of the contest-this will encourage viral sharing of images, which is great for your brand.
4. Communicate openly with your social audience throughout the contest period to provide a transparent view of the process.
5. Last, and most important, make sure to familiarize yourself with and incorporate Facebook contest rules into your contest!

Thanks to CMK Companies for giving us the opportunity to work with you. Please share other tips for effective contests. Would love to hear your thoughts!

Customer Acquisition Cost: Is Your Business Off Balance?

Picture this: You are a start-up and have an amazing idea that is going to disrupt the way the world currently works. Maybe you are a small business, or just looking to make a quick buck. Maybe you’re a seasoned entrepreneur, a businessman or woman who worked in an industry for a decade, a developer, or maybe you are just getting out of college and looking to tackle start-up life. You assemble a great team and find the best market to create a product/market balance and then you execute on your business model.

A few months pass and you have some traction but not an extravagant amount. Your funding is running out, and you are eating ramen noodles for every meal and working a few side jobs to make ends meet. You are probably wondering what happened or maybe discovering that something feels wrong. You might ask yourself if you’re on a sinking ship. You start looking for ways to increase you conversions through marketing. “Should I create a Facebook Page? Twitter? Maybe a Linkedin Profile? Should I start cold calling, sign up for conventions, or network a crazy amount to find referrals?”

No matter what path you take, you might already have a case of the Silent Killer: Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC). David Skok explains CAC as the “second biggest cause of startup failure” preceded only by product/market fit. If you are a CMO, or an agency you should be tracking CAC for you and your clients if you want to stay afloat.

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Why?

If you are looking for what metrics to track in a campaign, don’t fool yourself into thinking that vanity metrics—such as number of likes, follows, retweets, and favorites—are the most important thing. The truth is they don’t have a great correlation with what everyone wants: a great ROI. When you focus on CAC as your main metric for marketing, it can mean a world of difference in measuring impact on your customer segments. Why? Because it gives you a holistic view of your marketing efforts in terms of cost, impact, and conversions. It dictates and forces you to think about things such as:

*Am I optimizing my sales/marketing models to meet the needs of my customer?
*Cost per lead
*Conversion rates at each stage of your sales process
*Lowest level of touch needed

CAC is the cost of your efforts in Sales and Marketing. As human touch increases, usually so will your CAC. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand that if your CAC is larger than the LTV (Lifetime value of customer) you are probably sinking.

How?

The next step is to ask yourself “How do I figure out my CAC?” The way that HubSpot suggests to calculate CAC is quite simple:

Total Sales and Marketing Cost
Number of New Customers

These costs are, but not limited to, advertising, salary/commissions/bonuses, and overhead. You might be shocked at how high your current CAC is, but that is fine because you can begin to rebuild your process to lower it. Remember that “fear makes you focus.”

What?

After doing the calculation, analyze your results, don’t ignore that number despite the thoughts that you are having (ex: “This can’t be right”). CAC is meant to be more of a “ballpark“ figure, and may vary depending on your business model. If your CAC is not lower than your LTV, here are a few tips to getting back on track:

Revisit your sales/marketing model

The crux of the matter is that you are probably not optimizing your business in sales/marketing funnels well enough. Map out the processes that your customer segments go through to purchase (or not purchase) your services/products. This means going out there and conducting interviews. “GET OUT OF THE BUILDING”

Implement some Inbound Marketing

Some of your pain points probably exist because you aren’t taking advantage of tools to increase you online presence. Establish your brand through a blog, social channels, and optimize your website to gather leads. Yes, it takes time and money to do this, but the pain and effort you put in now will create better growth for the future.

Measure

Keep track of both how and how many leads you generate , and obviously track how your new strategy is impacting your CAC.

The most important takeaway: DON’T IGNORE YOUR CAC. Hopefully through reading this post, the process of analyzing your decisions in sales/marketing will become a habit which will lead you to research better marketing practices. Now go out and build, build, build!

All Social Media Content is Not Created Equal

You’d think with all the time I spend on social media I would’ve heard this before, but I just picked up on the term “success theater”. According to brand & product strategist at DonatWald and Haque Thom Pulliam, success theater is defined as “how we present our best self in digital channels.”

It makes perfect sense. Is your life really all rainbows and sunshine, or is it just your X-Pro II filter? Our Facebook feeds have become carefully selected highlight reels of achievements, with soft edges and lens blurs in all the right places. As an article from The New York Times states, “We’ve become better at choreographing ourselves and showing our best sides to the screen, capturing the most flattering angle of our faces, our homes, our evenings out, our loved ones and our trips.”

Because social media has become such an important tool for consumers, brands and companies to interact with each other, the weight of what we post is greater than it ever was. You can never be sure who is following you or sharing what you say with others; and so as a result, we have become accustomed to cultivating a perfectly manicured, politically correct digital personality.

With the weight of the responsibility that comes with a digital image, it is understandable that so many community managers and CEOs are afraid to push the send button. However, there is a tipping point when content becomes too carefully cultivated—it loses its authenticity all together.

So how do we overcome the issue of balancing a professional image with a genuine voice? Here at SoMe Connect, we tackle the challenge by truly getting to know our clients and their audiences: what their brand stands for, the goal they are trying to achieve, how their users interact with the personality of the brand—and how to translate that into genuine, polished content that still resonates with their followers. As blogger John Lee from ClickZ writes, “we need to embrace this fundamental nature of user behavior; namely, that people act, engage, and respond not solely as professionals, but as nuanced human beings. Users are not simply – and absolutely cannot be solely treated as – potential sales.”

It’s a tough balancing act, but in order to connect with people successfully in the digital world, we must still be able to infuse our content with a level of authenticity. This means we need to be passionate about whatever we stand for and the message we are trying to convey, not just the product we are trying to sell. This process involves a lot of trial and error, but, like Lee says, “That’s why it’s an art, not a formula.” Cultivating authentic content takes time, but it will help you to create genuine relationships and a community that will stand behind your company and mission for the long haul.

Congratulations to SoMe Connect Partner, Aalap Shah!

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SoMe Connect had the good fortune to work with the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship this past year. We couldn’t have asked for a better cause to support through social media. NFTE teaches teenagers the practical problem solving skills needed to take a business idea from conception to reality. Students learn everything from how to estimate the target market of their entrepreneurial ideas to writing and pitching business plans. The organization has programs in 18 states, DC, & 9 countries. In 25 years, NFTE has reached 500,000 young people!

On Tuesday April 23, 2013 in celebration of their 25th anniversary, NFTE held a gala in New York City at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. During the gala, SoMe Connect Partner and co-founder, Aalap Shah, was honored with the Lowell B. Mason Volunteer of the Year Award for his outstanding contribution to the organization. Aalap not only works closely with the NFTE Chicago team to create more outreach and awareness of the program through social channels, but also serves on the organization’s e-council board.

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Aalap Shah at the NFTE Gala in New York City, NY

We could not be more proud of Aalap and happy to have had the SoMe Connect team contribute to NFTE Chicago’s success. We are thankful to NFTE Chicago for giving us the opportunity to work with them and are looking forward to NFTE’s continued success in the future!

SoMe Connect loves working for great causes. If you are a non-profit looking to grow your impact through social media, contact us!