Content Creation 101

Content marketing is rapidly becoming one of the most popular strategies for digital marketers today. Businesses are constantly searching for new ways to creatively reach their audience. So what exactly is content marketing? And what is all the hype about?

Inbound Vs. Outbound

First, we need to start with what we know about the difference between inbound and outbound marketing.

  • Inbound marketing is directing marketing strategies towards people that are already interested in your product.
  • Outbound marketing is trying to reach new people in order to develop more interest.

An easy way to think about this is push and pull strategies. Inbound marketing is a customer-centric strategy that allows businesses to be apart of the conversation. By attracting consumers with relevant content, we are empowering potential customers rather than pushing unwanted content onto them.

This concept is crucial for digital marketers because our data is teaching us how to effectively reach our audiences. The hard truth that we need to learn is that:

Outbound = Interruptive

Outbound marketing is not only disrupting our consumers but it is becoming less effective. With the growing use of technology, there are ways more for consumers to avoid the noise of unwanted ads.

Ad blocking, caller ID, and spam filters are forcing our promotional content to get lost. In fact, a recent study from PageFair Ad Blocking found that roughly 200 million people worldwide employ some sort of ad blocking software.

Even though these advertisements can be an efficient way to reach a mass audience, we are not reaching the people who actually give a damn. This promotional content isn’t creating value for consumers and our job as marketers is to deliver this value.

Consumers are looking for brands that offer valuable content – something that ignites a conversation.

Inbound marketing is a strategic way to target an audience of potential customers for your business. It focuses on earning a person’s attention rather than buying it.

We want to send consumers down our marketing funnel by attracting them, converting them, closing them, and delighting them. Content marketing is one of the most effective ways to successfully convert strangers into customers and eventually promoters. What’s better than organically growing your business?

Inbound and Content Marketing

Now that we know what inbound marketing is, how does content come into play?

Inbound Marketing = Content + Context

Let me break it down for you. Content marketing is essentially a piece of the inbound marketing pie. While inbound marketing is allowing the business to be a part of the conversation, content marketing is creating something for businesses and consumers to talk about.

Since inbound is marketing towards people that are already interested in your product, content marketing is simply providing these people with original content.

I’m sure you’re wondering why content marketing has become such a hot topic. It gives us the ability to utilize the inbound marketing strategy to deliver original and relevant content while engaging our audience. These engagements can be long-lasting as opposed to the inapplicable email that gets shoved in the spam folder.

The key to long-lasting engagements is that is allows your business to build relationships. A recent study from MOZ determined that even though a Facebook ad might get more impressions, a content strategy can promote longer visibility and ultimately a lasting impact.

Although Facebook might have a wider reach, the interactions are less impressionable because the content is less engaging.

Zillow is the prime example of a company that began a minimal marketing budget and successfully managed to promote a strong reach. The popular real estate site distributes a variety of content marketing through blog posts, articles, and videos.

Its YouTube channel features a variety of videos that are useful for homeowners and real estate agents. For example, this DIY video is simple and effective for reaching a targeted audience. Agents are constantly sharing and promoting Zillow’s content marketing because it’s valuable information that helps educate the consumer.

Over time, Zillow has established itself as the leading real estate market place by becoming a hub for useful information. The organic shares and increased traffic from the content marketing strategies helped develop brand awareness during the first few years of business.

Many people assume that content marketing is as easy as pie. We get to write or create whatever we want, how hard can it be? The founder of MOZ, Rand Fishkin lays out the truth about content marketing in “The Greatest Misconception in Content Marketing.”

Content marketing isn’t about getting conversions, its about building awareness. The hope is that the awareness turns into a relationship and the relationship progresses into a conversion. Fishkin emphasizes that this takes a substantial amount of time. And guess what else?

Practice, Practice, Practice.

 

It takes time to get to know your audience. So where do we start? When you’re initially beginning to create content, it’s essential that you critically think through the process. Content Harmony provides a free guide for beginners in content marketing. Here is a breakdown for those that want to get started:

Who:

Building buyer personas can help establish who you would like your content to reach. This persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer. When building your buyer personas it’s important to ask two questions:

  1. Who are our top 2-4 buyer personas that will actually purchase from us?
  2. What other audiences can help us spread and share our content?

The only way we can answer these questions is by breaking down our data. Take a look at demographics, psychographics, motivations, and behavioral patterns of your past customers.

What:

Your buyer personas will guide you to figure out what content you should actually create. The content should be something that appeals to your consumers interests and needs. Content comes in two forms: Topics and formats. It’s important to understand what kind of format your audience prefers while communicating valuable topics.

The most relevant example within this past year was Bernie Sander’s campaign for election. Whether you’re a Bernie fan or not, you have to give props to his marketing strategy. He mastered the what by understanding topics that will attract his audience by empowering them.

He created easily shareable content through YouTube videos and several social media platforms. The videos educate young voters on current political topics. These topics focused on the actual political policies that were up for discussion. Sanders understood his audience’s preferred format and took initiative to promote meaningful content.

When:

It’s also crucial that we understand what phase of the buyer’s journey that our consumer is on. If consumers are just learning about our brand, try creating free videos like Zillow’s DIY tutorials. We much have content to match each stage of the buyer’s journey in order to reach our audience at the right time.

Where:

How are your consumers going to find your content? An easy way is to distribute content through owned media. However, this doesn’t always accomplish the reach needed to be effective. It’s important to leverage your content.

Distribution makes content relevant. It gets the content to the right website and the right person at the right time.

 

After beginning to produce content, we should consistently analyze our work to see what strategies are most effective. The more we create, the more we learn, the stronger the relationships we can build with the consumer.

Remember that original content and inbound marketing can build stronger impressions than traditional tactics. I hope that this introduction to content marketing inspires you to implement it in your own business. Marketers must communicate with an inbound strategy and original content because it is the future of our digital interactions.

Until next time,

Angie

Finding Your Digital Flo

When it comes to designing website interfaces or mobile apps, strong interactions and a positive user experience is critical to building your business. Over the recent years, increased customization capability has provided businesses with the opportunity to optimize digital strategies. This capability gives companies the chance to test the strategies to see which is more effective. A/B testing, also known as split testing, is becoming more and more common for digital marketers today.

Testing takes the guesswork out of  website optimization and enables data-informed decisions that shift business conversations from “we think” to “we know.”

You may be wondering what Progressive’s iconic Flo has to do with A/B testing. Before I explain Progressive’s A/B testing success, let me explain how the tests actually work. Stay tuned..

Going with the flo in regards to digital strategies leaves uncertainty in regards to the level of success. (See what I did there?) The process of splitting your traffic between two versions of your website such as a landing page gives you the ability to compare the performance of both.

 

Small details can make all the difference when encouraging your leads to continue down your website’s funnel. Variations such as these can be easily compared with the A/B testing strategy:

  • Headlines
  • Images
  • Call to action buttons/links
  • Emails
  • Font size
  • Background color

 

Users are chosen at random to be shown one or more variation of the web page or mobile app. The interactions with the pages generated data that is used for statistical evidence of which version performs better. This allows businesses to make informed decisions when it comes to digital design and functionality.

I know what you’re thinking.. Considering building statistics back into your business plans seems to be a tedious task. The brilliance of A/B testing is that it’s much simpler than expected.

Now we can introduce our friend, Flo. Progressive has utilized A/B testing for several aspects of its Flo inspired digital media. For those that are statistically challenged such as myself, here is a simple breakdown of the steps of A/B testing with Progressive as a guide.

1. Collect Data

The first step is to take a closer look at your analytics to see which aspects of your digital strategies can be improved. Don’t have any analytics to analyze? Check out my previous post on Google Analytics.

For a business like Progressive, any website pages with particularly high drop-off rates or low lead generation metrics would be a good place to start. Progressive wanted to increase leads because the metrics for the landing page were low.

2. Identify Goals

After you find an aspect of your business you want to improve, come up with ameasurable goal that you want to strive to reach. How do these goals support your business objective? Make sure that the goals are tangible while still looking at the bigger picture. For example, Progressive shooting to increase lead generation can easily be measured while maintaining a long term vision.

3. Generate Hypothesis

The next step is to take your goals and consider what type of changes can assist you in reaching these goals. What do you think would be better than your current version? And why? These are the fundamentals that will help you build your hypothesis.

Progressive’s standard landing page was a minimalist style in order to encourage the user to continue down the sales funnel. It was a simple headline with a call to action. The hypothesis was that a page explaining how progressive works might increase the response to the call to action.

4. Create Variations

A/B testing software such as Optimizely, allows you to build variations of your mobile application or website. The majority of these softwares offer a visual tool editor that make these changes simple and hassle free.

Progressive wanted to create an alternative with three easy steps that emphasized the simplicity of its service. The landing page below was generated as the variation for the A/B test. The page still includes the call to action by guiding the user to input their zip code. By also including the arrows for the three easy steps, the users discover how easy it is to “save hundreds.”

5. Run Experiment

Now that the variations are created, it’s time to put them to the test. Once the test is initiated and users start to participate, their interaction with the site is recorded and measured. For progressive, this measurement would include the difference between the number of users inputting their zip code on the controlled landing page vs. the variation.

6. Analyze Results

Once the data is collected, your A/B software will present you with the data. It will show you whether or not there was a statistical difference between the controlled version and the variation.

Progressive saw an increase in traffic and lead generation with the variation of the landing page. The improved version of the website drastically improved the number of leads that continued down the website funnel. This resulted in a greater number of conversions. By getting the chance to test out the different options in advance, businesses can avoid the risk of implementing an unsuccessful variation.

Although Progressive had a positive result from the A/B testing, the variation is not always successful with the initial run through. Even if the controlled version has better data outputs, there is still opportunity for improvement. We can use this information to our advantage when improving hypotheses for the next round of testing.

 

Continuing to adjust variations through trial and error will promote a positive outcome. The best way to optimize your website or mobile app is to listen carefully to results and take steps to improve.

Now that we know the basics of A/B testing, it’s important to consider how we can continue to develop our testing practices in the future. A/B testing is still a relatively new concept for the digital marketing industry. Therefore, we are constantly searching for new ways to maximize our results.

A recent study from Forrester highlights a few key takeaways to help your digital strategies reach its full potential. The study found that only 30% of online interactions are currently being tested. This means that 70% of interactions aren’t being maximized. We need to expand testing in these four ways in order to reach our customers in effective and meaningful ways.

  1. Learn from every possible customer interaction
  2. Test your customers interactions across the entire customer lifecycle
  3. Deploy testing within all digital channels
  4. Leverage multiple testing techniques

By implementing A/B testing into your future digital strategies, you can better connect with your audience. Small differences in your interfaces and applications can create a more positive user experience. Interactions and connections will become stronger which will have lasting effects on your business. And remember, Flo approves.

Until next time,

Angie, Your Marketing Guru

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The Mechanics of Data

We are constantly being told that Google Analytics (GA) can do endless things to drive business. But how exactly? The topic of Google Analytics can be extremely intimidating for someone who is just trying to get their feet wet. Once you get past the complexities and strong learning curve, the key to optimizing your business is right under the surface.

The Platform Principles course that Google provides is an ideal way to hit the ground running for integrating analytics into your business. The glory of the course is that it provides you with knowledge of how the system actually runs so that you can better understand the tools it offers. Just in case you’re too busy watching binge Netflix to keep up, I created a quick shortcut guide to the behind the scenes of GA.

There are four main pieces of the pie that makeup the backend of the GA platform. These components work together to create a seamless operation to help you gather and customize your data. Bare with me folks, it’s going to be a long ride.

Collection

I’m sure you’re wondering how exactly Google Analytics can be the most intelligent technology out there. The secret is that organization is the key to analyzing data. Google has built a data model that can break data into users, sessions, and interactions. All three of these components are interconnected and build off of each other.

For instance, if I spent a sunny afternoon browsing my beloved Nordstrom.com, this would begin a new session. Google is even intelligent enough to decipher between new and existing users. Since I religiously shop for new shoes and trends, I surely already have my own distinct user ID.

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If I leave my computer and come back a few hours later, a new session begins. GA also can track my interactions with the Nordstrom website within each session. When I click on the gorgeous pair of featured Vince Camuto pumps ,it’s recorded. Once I write a review on the new pair of Zellas I purchased last week, it’s recorded. Each of these interactions is linked to a session and each session is linked to a user ID.

We have the data… so how is it transmitted back to Google? Well, it depends on which type of device is being tracked. There are a couple essential ways to make your data as accurate as possible.

  • Website: If you’re looking to track data on a website. GA provides a javascript snippet that controls when data is collected. Remember, the snippet must be placed onevery single pagethat you want tracked. It’s also crucial that the snippet is placed before the </head> tag.
  • Mobile: One of the benefits of mobile tracking is the ability to segment data based on operating system, screen views, and how often users open the app. Instead of Javascript, mobile apps can collect data with a Software Development Disk (SDK). Although this disk is different for IOS and Android, it operates very similarly.

Another differentiation between the website and mobile tracking is the time it takes to send the data. With websites, the data is sent over almost instantaneously. Mobile devices can potentially lose network connectivity which means it is safer to store the information locally until a strong connection can be made which also conserves battery life.

Google Analytics also has the capability to track other types of devices such as appliances or kiosks. That’s right, you could track a fridge if you wanted to learn about its usage. (Wow!) These types of devices use a measurement protocol and must be built into the device manually.

Configuration & Processing

Worried missing some data past data?

Guess what? You don’t have to. GA has the capability to configure to Google Adwords and other Google products. After that, it takes it a step further and configures to any none Google products that are storing your data.

The configuration and processing step go hand in hand in order to deliver accurate and meaningful data. Once the data is combined all together, it’s aggregated into tables. This step organizes the data into a meaningful way to prepare for analysis. This stage is also when each device receives its own user ID. These ID numbers can be manually modified to customize your data whichever way is easiest for your business.

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While the data is being configured, it also is taking into consideration any filters or goals that you have in place. These automatic filters can help you stay on track with your business goals and targets. Data can also be automatically included or excluded based on your settings. For example, if a company wishes to analyze data only with users that have IOS, the system can automatically exclude users with Android.

One of the suggested segmentation tactics is to divide the data into channel groups. By taking a closer look at which channels or are most effective for which user segments, you can maximize the content provided for each channel. Fairmont Hotels recently faced the challenge of having small social media metrics with minimal marketing value. It was difficult to determine which social media channels were the most effective for different locations of the chain.

Google Analytics provided the tools needed in order to uncover which social media platforms were most popular for different demographics. This allowed the chain to optimize the current strategies in place and expand its reach to build a strong social media presence. Cases like these demonstrate the possibilities for your business when you can properly utilize analytics. Similar strategies can be built into segments such as content groups, which can encourage your business to reach users based on their interests.

Reporting

The last step in processing your data is building reports to fit your business needs. The reporting is what makes analytics endlessly useful because it makes your data meaningful. It transforms raw numbers into an organized collection of data that we can utilize to draw conclusions.

Reports are built with both metric and dimensions.

  • Metrics: Quantitative measurements of your data. (i.e counts how often things happen on a page or mobile app)
  • Dimension: Describes a characteristic of the data (i.e where the traffic from your website came from)

Both metrics and dimensions are combined in order to create value in the reporting.

The reporting feature can also be used for report sampling which can generate small and customizable reports. This feature is useful for maintaining a high level of accuracy in your reports as well as condensing data.

A new feature that GA offers for more advanced firms is an Application Program Interface (API). This provides the capability to have your data that is processed through GA appear directly into your own marketing dashboard. If a firm already has their own dashboard organized and personalized the API can be built directly into your own application.

If you were not already convinced that adding Google Analytics into your business plan should be the first thing on your list, I hope you are now. This platform is one of the most effective ways to maximize your current marketing strategies as well as produce data for new ones.

Stay tuned for more updates on Google Analytics.

Until next time,

Angie

Touchdown for Google

A professor recently told me that keeping up with business is just like following your favorite sports team. As a marketing student, it’s important to always keep up to date with the strongest teams and most valuable players. While watching the Seahawks annihilate the 49ers today, I began to think about this analogy more closely.

Let me paint a picture for you. If Apple is the team that we’re rooting for, a customer clicking on an ad for the iPhone from Facebook would be a first and ten. In a perfect world, our beloved Steve Jobs would still be the equivalent of Pete Carroll. If the customer is the ball, it is Apple’s responsibility to figure out the most efficient and effective way to get the ball to the end-zone. The consumer may continue to browse the website, look up reviews, and compare options. Ultimately every interaction that the customer has with the website gets the ball further and further down the field. As soon as the customer takes the leap and buys the iPhone…

TOUCHDOWN!!

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Touchdowns look completely different for a variety of types of websites. For E-Commerce sites such as Apple, this means a sale. For lead generation sites, this may be something as simple as retaining contact information from a new lead. However you break it down, every business’s objective is to get as many touchdowns as possible.

Somewhere in the midst of rapidly growing digital trend and massive increases in consumer touch points we have uncovered the most powerful tool in the game, data. The data retrieved online allows businesses to uncover ways that it interacts with the consumer. Once businesses have started to unpack these details, digital analytics can measure the effectiveness of these interactions. From there, we can take action and improve results in the future. In other words, analytics can assist Apple in improving its plays and getting the customer to the end-zone.

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After taking a look at the analytics industry as a whole, it quickly became clear that there are five major players that are dominating the field. G2 Crowd provides business software reviews and insight based on data provided by real users. The analytics review gives us a chance to perform thorough research before making a commitment. The report from G2 Crowd summarizes surveys from hundreds of individuals that ranked software based on both user rating and market presence. As displayed below, there are several different teams assisting businesses to the end-zone but only five real MVPs.

spring-16-digital-analytics-grid

The upper right quadrant highlights the five top competitors. These platform leaders are have the strongest market presence while maintaining the highest customer satisfaction ratings. All five of these competitors offer similar packages. So how do we decide? After taking a closer look at reviews and features, here is the breakdown:

  • Adobe Analytics: This platform is generally for larger organizations with mass amounts of data. Customers say it is difficult to implement and takes about five months on average. The good news is that it offers ad hoc analysis and provides accurate data. Overall, Adobe scored 57 in customer satisfaction based on a scale of 100.
  • KISSMetrics: An event tracking and funnel measurement analytics tool. Many users were happy with the ease of use of the platform and it was highly rated in reaching conversion goals. This site is built to maximize your traffic by focusing on specific customer interactions. However, users complained that it is difficult to implement and has poor mobile reporting. It scored 83 in customer satisfaction.
  • Moz Pro: One of the benefits of this software is the SEO focus and ease of use. One of the advantages is that it goes beyond raw data and draws conclusions to build long term opportunities for your business. However, the cost was expensive for smaller and mid-size businesses. Customers noted that there are data limitations and reporting is hard to understand. Overall, it scored 87 in customer satisfaction.
  • Google Analytics Premium: The premium version includes increased data volume limits, expanded reports, and dedicated support. However, it rated low in the quality assurance category. It can be expensive for anything other than enterprise-size organizations. Some consumers also found the platform to be too complex for use to its fullest capability. The premium version scored an average of 71 in customer satisfaction.
  • Google Analytics: The platform with the largest market presence uses Javascript to collect user data. It is highly rated for the ease of use and comprehensiveness and is perfect for small or startup businesses. The dashboards and reporting are simple and concise which makes it easy to navigate. Another big perk: FREE. The disadvantages include a high learning curve and lack of support. This platform scored an average of 97 in customer satisfaction.

And the winner is….

google-analytics-logoIt’s clear that Google Analytics has consistently ranked highest amongst competitors for both business and personal use. Although the overall decision should be personalized based on the size and scale of your business, the free version of GA is the best option in terms of cost, versatility, and customer satisfaction.

Moral of the story: Google Analytics is the ultimate MVP

Now that we have determined GA is the cornerstone of web analytics, it’s time to time to dive in. In addition to a variety of free offerings, Google Analytics also provides an academy for the analytically challenged. These complimentary online tutorials can turn any future marketer into a Google Analytics expert. Since analytics is an essential component to any growing business, I highly recommend taking the GA fundamentals course.

Over the next week, I will be completing the Google Analytics certification program. Be sure to follow my journey for advice and tips of how to maximize your data.

Till we meet again,

Angie, your marketing guru

Let’s Get Digital, Digital

My inner marketing geek is thrilled to begin the digital marketing course this quarter. My name is Angie and I’m just beginning my final quarter at Western Washington University. In December I’ll graduate with a degree in marketing and a minor in communication studies. After spending the summer interning at Nordstrom, I have spent endless hours considering my next career move after graduation. Regardless of what my marketing niche becomes, it is evident that digital will be one of the core practices in my career. For that reason, I’m excited to learn what it means to be a digital marketer in our society today.

Through the evolution of AIM to Snapchat, my relationship with the digital world began at the young age of eleven. I quickly became a coding queen as I built my online persona on the unforgettable social gaming site, Neopets. Little did I know that feeding my virtual pet online would turn into everyday interactions with technology in a professional setting. My passion and desire to pursue digital marketing started a few years ago with a Marketing Coordinator position I had at RE/MAX Whatcom County Inc. I began to translate my basic HTML skills into thoughtful and visually appealing content. After taking charge of our monthly email newsletter, I started to grasp how data collected online can heavily improve your reach. I was able to see which links had the most clicks and what types of clients were reading through our content. This gave me the power to deliver truly meaningful content to our readers.

 

Since the world of digital marketing is constantly evolving, I want to develop these skills even further during this next quarter. I believe that as a young marketer, digital experience is one of the most crucial to have under your belt. Businesses are striving to hire the next generation of SEO and social media experts. These experts, are us. My role at RE/MAX taught me that in order to make a small business successful, you have to learn how to own your business. My hope is that this digital marketing course will give me the groundwork needed to take a small businesses marketing to the next level. From there, the possibilities are endless.

After taking a look at what is needed to be a successful marketer, it quickly became apparent that digital is the key. There are three main ways that the future generation of digital marketers will be successful.

1. Balance of Conceptual and Technical

There are only a few more months before my intensive job hunt begins. One of the most important ways to prepare is to understand exactly what companies are looking for in candidates. Regina Schlee and Katrin Harich, both marketing professors at prestigious universities, took a closer look at 500 marketing jobs across the U.S. The data that they collected from Monster.com provided insight on what type of knowledge was required for different positions in Seattle, Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and New York City. They quickly discovered that higher positions require more conceptual skills whereas entry level positions entail more technical skills.

This pattern presents a problem for current curriculum in universities throughout the U.S. Ideally, marketing courses would be able to focus on developing technical skills and overarching conceptual concepts at the same time. However, Schlee and Harich found that marketing curriculum is currently geared more towards philosophical teaching than specific skills. This curriculum is leaving graduates without the proper preparation needed to fulfill the job descriptions of entry level positions.

Another issue that current marketers face is that current practical skills used on a daily basis will be completely different five years from now. This means that professors need to consistently update curriculum and assignments to better prepare future generations. Both professors concluded based on the data that universities need to focus the content of courses more towards technical skills. The best way for marketing students to succeed is by building additional management information systems and computer science courses into the major. This will allow future generations of marketers to learn the newest technology trends and techniques to keep up with society.

2. Invest in Digital

Want to know how to best spend your time? Start to learn the tricks of the trade. Becoming a top notch digital marketer will give you an edge when applying for future jobs. A forecast was released of the expected digital trends for 2014-2019 by Shar VanBoskirk. The data and projected spending all point to one conclusion.. digital is what it’s all about. Here is what we know:

  • Digital marketing spending will reach $103 billion by 2019
  • Paid and organic search spending will exceed $45 billion by 2019
  • Social media will have growth of 18%, the steepest of the digital categories
  • Digital spending will finally beat television by the end of 2016

These numbers emphasize the realization that digital marketing is here to stay. We need to adapt to our new reality and learn how to best use these platforms. Since businesses are investing more and more of their budgets into digital, it makes sense for students to invest more of their time into digital as well. This will allow marketers to give businesses what they need, and for businesses to give consumers what they want.

3. Always Be One Step Ahead

With the constant transformation of the digital world, we must continually look for ways to be ahead of the trend. Consumers need fresh and innovative marketing to maintain interest in our products. This means that the best way to grow both your career and your business is to be up to date with the latest technology.

In a research study by Dave Chaffey and Robert Jones, it was found that tools to learn digital skills are becoming more and more accessible. Even though there is a substantial need for digital marketers based on the growth we expect to see over the next few years, we are lacking digital specialists. The research study by Smart Insights found that marketers find themselves to be great at planning and strategy but lack the technical skills needed for digital. The study also mentions there is a gap between the skills needed for careers in digital and the skills that have been acquired. A recent article from Hubspot found that on a scale of 1-100 (100 being best practice), the average marketer only ranked themselves at a 57 in terms of digital marketing skill.

Even with such low confidence, 32% of the marketers surveyed by Smart Insights hope to develop careers in digital marketing over the next several years. Chaffey and Jones believe that in order to make these careers possible, there are seven core skills needed.

  1. Integrated Planning
  2. Multi-Channel Analytics
  3. Email Marketing
  4. Social Media Marketing
  5. Paid Search
  6. SEO
  7. Content Marketing

We have the desire to harness these digital capabilities, so what is holding us back? Hubspot suggests that in order to raise the bar we must identify our weaknesses, learn everything we can, and practice.

Over the next several weeks, I hope to develop my technical skills as well as gain a better understanding of the future of digital marketing. The reality is that technology is shaping our society and transforming our business practices. As a young marketer, it is crucial that I invest my time and education in the current trends of our digital world.

Until next time,

Angie

Valentino, Dior, & Gucci Galore

3, 2, 1… It’s showtime.

After laying my eyes on countless coutour garments, I had to pinch myself. Could this be real? My first few weeks of the internship allowed me to begin to love management. However, the most recent week persuaded me into falling hopelessly in love with fashion. The sheer excitement revolving around the Nordstrom Designer Preview event was enough to cause an uproar during the volunteer signups. We have been hearing about the event for weeks but once we stepped backstage, our dreams became a reality.

I was lucky enough to land a spot as a dresser for the event. This gave me the opportunity to work one on one with a professional model and assist her with her outfit changes between walks. My model, Kammera, has been in the industry for several years and had worked the event last year as well. She was gracious and patient as she taught me how to work the backstage and style the pieces. We had three outfit changes during the event including a chic fall inspired look designed by Chloe and a stunning Valentino ensemble.

IMG_0518The number of moving pieces for an event of this magnitude requires an astonishing amount of legwork. The attendance goal for the event was 596 and the expected volume target was $2,374,000. The attendees range from Seattle’s elite to Nordstrom’s highest executives. The event marketing manager spent countless hours planning the event for a seamless execution. I constantly saw her running around making sure that everyone was in their places. The level of communication and leadership skills needed to manage such a wide variety of teams is astronomical. The event also wouldn’t have been nearly as successful without intensive organization, preparation, and volunteer work.

Immediately after the models left the runway, the garments were quickly transferred from backstage to the trunk shows in a separate section of the venue. Following the runway show, the attendees were invited to shop the designer clothes throughout a handful of popup boutiques. Moral of the story: high fashion = high volume purchases. I was able to take a sneak peek at the trunk shows after we had wrapped up backstage. The setup consisted of gourmet hors d’oeuvres, sophisticated displays, and endless designer inspirations. The event made me want to explore event marketing further as I navigate the waters after graduation. It was spectacular to watch all the moving pieces come together. I hope I’m lucky enough to be apart of Designer Preview again next year.

Until next time,

Angie

Midnight Merchandising

With the Anniversary Sale on the horizon, the last few weeks of the internship have consisted of intensive preparation and anticipation. The setup for the sale requires all hands on deck which gave the interns the chance to work directly underneath the corporate visual team. Visual merchandising has always been one of my favorite aspects of the retail industry because it’s a balance of organized processes while still allowing room for your creativity to flow. The Nordstrom visual teams have perfected the craft of merchandising and transformed it into a seamless operation. I had the opportunity to shadow the professional visual team from dusk until dawn for two full nights. Working alongside merchandising experts taught me the core fundamentals necessary in order to be an effective merchandiser.

1. Flexibility

Although corporate provides schematics of how the products and store should be laid out, these guidelines are generic example that doesn’t match every store. Each store has a unique layout, a variety of fixture types, and some variation in product. Merchandisers are given the task of utilizing this schematic as a baseline to create identical displays to the best of their ability. For a smaller store like Northgate, this involves a good amount of problem solving and creativity. The product and fixtures in the pictures aren’t always available to use on the floor. Teamwork and flexibility are necessities when completing these overnight store moves. For presale, Nordstrom hangs silver curtains throughout the departments to build exclusive tents for cardholders to shop early access. When we started hanging curtains on the second floor, we realized we ran out of the correct height curtains for the rest of the departments. After much contemplation, our visual manager decided to insert a bar to lower the hooks which allowed us to hang the shorter curtains while still having them hit the floor. Coming up with solutions as a team requires creativity, patience, and innovation.

2. Attention to Detail

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Me and my new friends

Merchandising is one of the most important tasks in the retail industry because it can make or break sales. If displays and marketing don’t catch the customers eye, they won’t purchase the product. This makes attention to detail extremely crucial for marketing within a store. From steaming dresses to perfecting signage, every corner of the store needs to be aesthetically pleasing while remaining convenient for shoppers. Precision is especially important in regards to following safety and accessibility regulations. If the customer can’t walk through the department, how are they going to shop it? During our overnighter, we set up cardboard cutouts featuring several looks that are on sale for anniversary. The cutout displays included yellow tags with labels that read the brand and price of each product. Even though the labels were time consuming, they added the perfect finishing touches on each display. It’s details like these that signal to the consumer that its time to stop and shop while encouraging increased traffic throughout the store.

3. Sense of Urgency

One of the challenges of visual merchandising is that you are constantly racing against the clock. During our set up nights for anniversary, we had to move as quickly and efficiently as possible in order to finish before the store opened the next day. It takes a great deal of mental and physical stamina to maintain a steady pace throughout an overnight move. It’s vital that merchandisers work quickly while still generating a clean and crisp presentation. The ideal merchandiser can remain level headed and calm throughout tedious tasks and grueling nights. Our overnighter consisted of standing on thirteen foot ladders to hang curtains, pinning displays, and placing signage throughout the departments. Working in such a large department store can make tasks such as these seem endless. Determination and endurance can ensure that the projects throughout the night get completed in an orderly and efficient manner. The Northgate team beat the clock and everyone was able to leave at about four in the morning. Our store manager, Peter, was extremely satisfied with the outcome and the departments were customer ready by the next morning.

So far, the Anniversary Sale has been very successful throughout all the Nordstrom locations. The Women’s Specialized Department at Northgate has had a large increase in sales compared to the previous year. Our department setup and store setup has played a huge role in our increases and we expect sales to remain steady throughout the month of August.

Your Aspiring Merchandiser,

Angie

 

 

A Glimpse of Nordstrom

Over the last several weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to to dive into the deep end of the fashion retail industry. My new role as a retail management intern for Nordstrom has brought endless adventures, experiences, and opportunities for growth. The beginning of the internship has provided me with an in depth introduction of the fundamentals of the Nordstrom and everything the business has to offer.

For the duration of the summer, I will be the intern for the women’s specialized department at the Northgate location in Seattle. Along with five other interns at the store, I will be attending classes, working the sales floor, and dipping our toes into the field of retail management. So far, I’ve fallen completely in love with the lingerie department. The unique FullSizeRenderexperience that lingerie offers for customers provides me with the chance to get to know them on a more personal level. These conversations and interactions have encouraged me to build lasting customer relationships over the last few weeks. The lingerie department also offers a different experience for employees. Our department is made up of some of the most relatable associates out there which creates an extremely positive and dynamic atmosphere. Managing a team of such bright individuals is going to be one of the most rewarding experiences of the internship.

One of the aspects I admire most about Nordstrom is the unique and vibrant culture that the corporation has developed over the last hundred years. The upbeat employee morale initially became apparent during the recognition meeting I attended during the first week. Nordstrom has a reputation of providing excellent customer service and the company chooses to recognize the effort of employees to deliver this service. One by one, winners of the Allstar Award in the Northwest region were given a round of applause and a bouquet of flowers to signify the utmost appreciation the company has for their outstanding efforts. This was the perfect introduction to my future with Nordstrom because it allowed me to catch a glimpse of the reason that Nordstrom careers are highly sought after. I feel extremely grateful for the chance to grow with the business.

Another fundamental piece of Nordstrom’s culture is the inverted pyramid. The idea of the inverted pyramid was developed in order to allow the customer to be the top priority in all business practices. As opportunities open up and employees move up in the company, they are simultaneously moving down in the pyramid. A manager’s duties are supporting the associates which in Nordstrom_structure_pyramidturn support the customer. This unique perspective encourages Nordstrom employees to remain humble and inspired to participate in servant leadership. Whether my future career remains with Nordstrom or another company, I hope to incorporate these leadership qualities into my everyday practices.

The next several weeks will be a whirlwind of activities as we wrap up the remainder of the program. From designer fashion shows to the anniversary sale, the second half of the internship will be full of once in a lifetime opportunities. I look forward to fully immersing myself in the Nordstrom environment in order to continue to grow as a future Nordstrom leader.

Until next time,

Angie