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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Urban Outfitters: Be Where Customers Are

Theresa Lee, Urban Outfitters

Urban Outfitters On Social Media Marketing

Be Where Your Customers Are

I admire Urban Outfitters. They create Unique, Relevant, Memorable Retail Experiences and routinely engage in Retail Innovation -- all based on knowing their customers. That knowledge of customers extends to their use of new, social and digital tools and how the organization integrates them with other marketing channels, as I learned on 1/12/10 at the Social Media Club on New Jersey meeting when Theresa Lee, director of marketing for Urban Outfitters, discussed Dynamic Retail: Urban Outfitters.

Urban Outfitters, you see, is actively engaged with social media marketing tools. Why? Because that's where their customers are. It's no different from their other marketing channels, says Lee. What does matter is that Urban Outfitters be present, speaking in an authentic voice that is appropriate to Urban Outfitters, sharing content relevant to its customers.

Urban Outfitters' Social Media Marketing Results

The results: a Facebook Fan page with close to 150k fans [as of 1/26/10], an @urbanoutfitters Twitter account with 63K followers, a visually vibrant blog, and flickr photostream - all with plenty of engagement.

You'll notice that the content Urban Outfitters shares via its social media channels is in keeping with the retailer's uniqueness: lifestyle, fashion, style, art, music, occasionally some outside content... On Twitter, you'll see humorous product callouts and free content coinciding with #musicmondays. Most recently, UO had someone blogging & tweeting from CES. None of the interaction is about selling - which is in keeping with the overall Urban Outfitters' philosophy of creating so much engagement via its store and online experiences that shoppers sell themselves.

Urban Outfitters definitely gradually immersed itself in social platforms. Theresa described the following timeline as it identified brand appropriate venues such as MySpace [Winter 2007] and YouTube [Spring 2007] where it simply adapted existing content to the channel and then started to interact on an experimental basis:

+ In Winter of 2008, the company became involved with Facebook.
+ In Spring of 2008, it launched Flickr and Ratings & Reviews.
+ In Spring of 2009, it launched a Twitter presence and Ask & Answer.

Ratings & Reviews come with guidelines and they are moderated for relevance.

What struck me during Theresa's presentation was the the common sense, practical approach that UO takes not only for its digital and social interactions, but also in integrating social into its overall marketing. It's about consistency and authenticity across channels and piggy-backing off of existing events taking place [e.g., #musicmondays on Twitter]. Customers who engage on Facebook and Twitter are passionate ones and UO will do special things for them. Given how inexpensive the channels are, it's easy to experiment.

Urban Outfitters on TwitterUrban Outfitters has one person whose job it is to accept/reject reviews. She leverages all channels, ensuring that each is populated with content and ensuring that everyone's involved depending on feedback received.

I love this statement from Theresa: customers aren't siloed and you can't operate that way either.

Learnings from Urban Outfitters:

+ Don't think you ever had total control of your brand. Rather, you just weren't having brand perceptions.

+ Not all customer reactions are positive. But, they never were to begin with. Now you can hear them.

+ Be self skeptical: experiment and learn.

By the way, Jen Mediano has a terrific overview of the event in Urban Outfitters On Social Media: 'Don't Commission An Agency To Figure This Stuff Out'.

And, from the event organizer, Michael Menche: Fa-fa-fa-fa Facebook with Urban Outfitters.

What tools do you use to be where your customers are? And, what have you learned from your customers?

Friday, January 22, 2010

Practical Social Media Perspective: Links of Note

Chain link detail by PhotoplasiaWhat are your thoughts about social media in 2010? Do you expect increased adoption? How do you see it making sense for your business? I'd love to hear your reactions. Here are a few links of note with a practical social media perspective to get you thinking...

Practical Social Media Perspective

If you haven't had a chance to review Valeria Maltoni's Marketing 2010, I suggest you do. The thesis for her ebook is "Social media becomes operational." It includes perspectives from Jason Baer, Olivier Blanchard, Danny Brown, Mark Earls, Rachel Happe, Gavin Heaton, Jackie Huba, Jonathan MacDonald, Amber Naslund, and Shannon Paul.

Joe Pulizzi offers 100 Social Media & Content marketing Predictions for 2010 - which do you find most inspiring?

I love the idea of bagging resolutions and asking customer focused questions instead: Replace those resolutions with questions. Would you add other questions?

Lee Aase is as practical as marketers come. You may remember him from Mayo Clinic's Lee Aase: Simple Marketing In Action. Well, definitely take a look through his 35 Social Media Theses. They will definitely get you thinking about how to apply social media to your marketing.

Now, I do appreciate that Scaling Social Media in 10 Steps mentions the important role that "simplify" has to offer. At the same time, I love how methodical Gahlord Dewald's approach is to making social media practical.

What do you think?

Photo credit: Chain link detail. originally uploaded by Photoplasia.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The State of Social Media Marketing 2010

The State of Social Media MarketingHave you had a chance to dive into MarketingProfs' research report on The State of Social Media Marketing?

As with most MarketingProfs content, I consider it a must read. 242 pages of charts and insights relating to social media marketing. I particularly appreciate that Tim McAtee, MarketingProfs director of research, specifically chose to examine company, individual marketer and consumer perspectives.

As Beth Harte explains in Introducing ‘The State Of Social Media Marketing’ Report, MarketingProfs "tapped into 5,140 MarketingProfs members that represent more than 40 industry verticals–from Fortune 100 companies to individual consultants–to determine, in an unbiased manner, how companies, marketers and consumers are truly and specifically engaging in and implementing social media programs."

I've poured through the data several times; each time I emerge with another Aha!

If you aren't sure about the report, then definitely listen in on Tim's recent online seminar during which he took us through research highlights in The Naked Truth: Insights from our Social Media Marketing Research. No charge.

In recommending this report to you, I confess that I am biased: I participated in the research.

Tim explains in the report introduction that "prior to writing the survey for our large quantitative study, we hand-picked 30 social media experts and asked them a battery of qualitative questions about social media. Many answers are quoted verbatim within the report. Most questions that made it into our larger quantitative survey came directly from the answers of these experts. We truly tried to make this an unbiased study of social media marketing, guided by social media marketers."

And, yes, I am quoted several times within the report!

On 1/9/10, Fast Company FC Expert Blogger Craig Pelkey-Landes described highlights and surprises from the research in State of Social Media Marketing 2010. According to Tim, he discovered that uptight overly litigious and open honest tech forward companies have seen equal success with social media marketing - contrary to his early assumptions - doing so with different tactics.

To me, that is why social media marketing is so powerful. It allows for a multitude of expressions as I am observing from monitoring the Social Flooring Index.

Craig included one of my quotes in his article to describe perspectives on how social media marketing will evolve in the next few years. My response:

It will grow. However, as more big orgs get on board, I sense conflict between the engagement aspects and the high-profile acquisition aspects. Challenge will be to preserve authenticity and transparency.” Christine B. Whittemore, Chief Simplifier, Simple Marketing Now

Thank you, Tim, for including my perspectives on social media marketing in your research on the State of Social Media Marketing.

Thank you, Craig, for your writeup on The State of Social Media Marketing.

Thank you, MarketingProfs, for sharing so many valuable insights about the state of marketing and social media marketing.

I'd love to hear your take on The State of Social Media Marketing.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Press Release: Whittemore Keynotes Big Bob's Flooring Annual Convention

For immediate release: January 14, 2010


Focuses on Delighting Women Customers with Consistent, Integrated Retail Experience

Kinnelon, NJ – Christine Whittemore, chief simplifier of Simple Marketing Now LLC, will keynote Big Bob’s Flooring Outlet Annual Convention taking place in Chattanooga, TN from January 21st through 23rd, 2010, at the Chattanoogan Hotel. The convention’s theme is “Think Pink and Best Practices” in recognition of the importance of the industry’s highly coveted female consumer.

Women make or influence over 80% of the purchase decisions,” says Whittemore. “Smart flooring retailers such as Big Bob’s recognize the importance of women consumers and offer their dealers opportunities to learn from industry experts as well as exchange best practices.

Whittemore’s presentation, titled “Flooring The Consumer: In-Store and Online” will not only address marketing to women, but also the criticality of delivering a memorable and consistent customer retail experience in-store and digitally. “Women consumers pay close attention to details. Inconsistencies between how a woman experiences a retailer online and offline will affect her willingness to do business,” adds Whittemore.

“Our members are the best, the brightest and most dedicated retailers in the industry,” says David Elyachar, aka Big Bob. “They recognize the opportunities associated with making the Big Bob’s Flooring Outlets retail experience more female focused. Christine’s knowledge and expertise are renowned in the industry. She will enhance our overall program and provide a fresh, inspiring format for all of our business owners.”

Joining Whittemore are professional flooring industry speaker and motivator Warren Tyler and Kansas City publisher Ann Butenas from ANZ Publications who will address networking, and, to discuss digital technology, Damien Patton from and Jay Flynn and Shannon Bilby from Creating Your Space.

Owners and managers from all 45 Big Bob’s Flooring Outlet franchises around the country attend the annual event.

For information about Simple Marketing Now, visit or simply contact Whittemore at

# # #

About Simple Marketing Now LLC
Simple Marketing Now is a marketing communications consultancy that provides organizations with the right combination of traditional marketing and social media marketing to improve the customer experience and build brand. Simple Marketing Now issues the Social Flooring Index - - which monitors the social state of the Flooring Industry. For more information, visit

About Big Bob’s Flooring Outlet of America, Inc.
For more information about Big Bob’s Flooring Outlet of America, Inc., please visit

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Steve Rubel On Digital Trends - BRITE 09

Steve Rubel

Digital Trends to Watch

Steve Rubel Shares Digital Insights

Steve Rubel, SVP director of insights, Edelman Digital, AdAge columnist, author of Micropersuasion and now Lifestreamer, spoke at BRITE 09. His topic was 5 Digital Trends To Watch for 2009 which I consider to be just as relevant for 2010 and beyond. What do you think?

1. Satisfaction guaranteed

This trend is about Customer service blending with PR and generally elevating the traditional customer service experience. You may have also heard the trend described as "customer service is the new marketing."

Steve made a fascinating observation: an entire generation is growing up that will never use an 800 number. Think of the implications... Not least of which is that those handling customer inquiries via social media channels need to be better prepared and more empowered than those in traditional call center roles.

The opportunities inherent to this trend come from auditing the entire online experience, building relationships with digital embassies such as Get Satisfaction and being prepared to engage and act quickly.

Be sure to understand how people search for your products and services. Realize that customers are affected by everything they encounter online. Pay attention to your online reputation. Think how Frank Eliason aka @comcastcares on Twitter has changed the customer service reputation of Comcast by being online, responding quickly and being authentically caring and human - something Comcast hadn't been.

Scalability is an issue. Reorienting culture and figuring out how to activate people to be out there calls for different approaches. Better to be focused and engage consistently.

2. Media Reforestation: State of Reinvention

This trend refers to the transition of marketing and media to the digital environment, with news and information blending together, the growing importance of search and the rise of content aggregators.

Rubel recommends taking a broad view of the media ecosystem. Realize that all media is social and connected, and some social sites may be more influential than traditional ones.

Consider creating value by becoming a curator of content in niches or around topics [e.g., Alltop aggregates and curates; Intel has created a special site for IT professionsals called Popurls Blue]. Rethink how you measure and value media.

3. Less is the New More

[You can imagine how near and dear to my heart this trend is!]

Rubel explains that overload takes its toll. As a defense mechanism, many are simplifying and cutting back. Gorging is out. Selective ignorance and friends as quality filters are in.

He recommends that you make sure to provide utility, value, and information [e.g., Brita's Filter For Good]; "sow seeds seeds with peers, grow plants with pros" to disseminate information; and then remember to shape the search shelf. Google is not just a search engine, it is also media and rewards valuable content.

4. Corporate All Stars

Personal Branding is big, says Rubel. As workers flock to social media to build their brands, some companies recognize that these individuals can become corporate All Stars [i.e., Yankee greats help fill seats]. Social media tools connect customers to All Stars and help build trust in the company [e.g., personal branding expert Dan Schawbel who works for EMC2].

Steve recommends using blogs to connect customers and All Stars; giving All Stars independence while at the same time focusing them to affiliate their brand with that of the organization; and equipping and supporting All Stars to become active listeners on behalf of the company.

5. The power of pull!

This trend addresses the fundamental shift from push to pull marketing. Where push once ruled, it's now equally important that marketers create digital content that people will discover and 'pull' through search engines and social networks.

Rubel recommends creating resources that inform the conversation; adopting rather than inventing; writing content for searchers and not just readers [do you search for aspirin or for a solution to a headache?].

As I think on these 5 digital trends, I can't help but observe that all five are closely interconnected. You need All Stars in order to deliver Satisfaction Guaranteed. Reinventing Media requires high quality content that pulls readers in and engages them. High quality engaging content is most likely to happen through thoughtful curating and simplifying of information, which requires All Stars...

Rubel's three macro takeaways are:
+ Publicly engage
+ Create content
+ Be simple and utilitarian.

Sounds mighty relevant to me. Do you agree?

Do read the full document titled Five Digital Trends To Watch in 2009. That will put you in a mindset to welcome the digital trends to watch in 2010...

Here is the video of Steve Rubel at BRITE 09.

Previous posts relating to BRITE '09:
+ BRITE 09: Innovating During Downturns & Surviving the Worst
+ Links of Note: BRITE '09 Conference

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Press Release: Whittemore Addresses Social Media Marketing At Surfaces 2010

For Immediate Release: January 5, 2010


Workshop and Seminar Offer Practical Approach to Benefit Flooring Retailers

Kinnelon, NJ – Christine B. Whittemore, chief simplifier of Simple Marketing Now LLC, will address social media marketing best practices in two educational sessions during Surfaces 2010, the annual exposition for floor covering professionals. Both the three hour workshop and the one hour seminar offer a practical approach to benefit flooring retailers; they take place at the Sands Convention Center in Las Vegas.

Marketing In a Recession 101 takes place Monday, February 1st, 2010, from 9 a.m. to noon. Christine joins Scott Perron of Big Bob's of America and Paul Friederichsen from Brand Biz, Inc. in a marketing 'how to' session during which they help a fictitious retailer solve problems and apply marketing tools. Retailers attending will learn how to make the most of available marketing dollars in a down economy, including how to use social marketing to connect with customers in new and meaningful ways.

Social Media 101 takes place Tuesday, February 2, 2010, from 12 noon to 1 p.m. The session offers an overview of social media - what it is and why it matters - how to apply social media marketing tools to better understand the marketplace, promote a retail business and connect with customers.

“Many Surfaces attendees have questions about social media marketing and how the tools are relevant for the flooring industry,” says Whittemore. “Both sessions will help answer those questions. The three-hour workshop presents social media in a real-world integrated framework whereas the one-hour seminar is hands on.”

To register for these sessions, log on to the Surfaces Registration Page.

For information about Simple Marketing Now, visit Or, simply contact Whittemore at

# # #

About Simple Marketing Now LLC
Simple Marketing Now is a marketing communications consultancy that provides organizations with the right combination of traditional marketing and social media marketing to improve the customer experience and build brand. Simple Marketing Now issues the Social Flooring Index - - which monitors the social state of the Flooring Industry.

For more information, visit

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Joe Pulizzi on Content Marketing

Content Evangelist Joe Pulizzi

Grow Your Business With Content Marketing Says Joe Pulizzi

Content evangelist Joe Pulizzi from, Z Squared Media, spoke at the MENG NJ meeting on 11/13/09 about Using Content Marketing to Grow Your Business, a strategy I believe strongly in.

[Joe is a fellow contributor to The Age of Conversation 2 - Why Don't They Get It. His chapter is titled "The "Golden Age" of Corporate Media" in which he describes how "content marketing is defining the future of marketing."]

To place content marketing into perspective, Joe reminded us that 15 years ago we made buying decisions based on at most 6 channels ranging from trade shows, TV, and radio.

Contrast that to today when the channels are too many to count and brands no longer control messages to potential buyers. Instead, buyers start at a search window [i.e., Google] to educate themselves; the sales function only plays a role in closing a sale. According to Forrester Research, the Internet plays a major role in 92% of all business decisions.

Which means that we must stop talking about ourselves in our marketing and focus instead on customers, what matters to them and how to help them make better buying decisions.

We are content marketing publishers.

Our real competitors include trade publications because that's where customers are going for information about our products, not to our websites.

Look at what P&G has done with Home Made Simple and Being Girl, two sites that offer information [i.e., content] relevant to each site's 1 million visitors. Imagine what an effective R&D resource such a site becomes. Notice how subtle the brand message is.

Approximately 30% of marketing budgets [especially in B2B] goes to content; with the balance, marketers continue to "rent" the message and interrupt, which Joe describes as the dark side of content. Interruption based messages are brand focused rather than valuable, relevant and compelling content offered to customers on a consistent basis.

Examples of compelling content:

It's much better to tell compelling stories and then use all of the available digital channels to share the message.

+ Blendtec's Will It Blend? is compelling. Launched in late 2006/early 2007, revenues increased 500% after one year; the videos have garnered over 150 million views and the company is the leader in blenders.

+ Look at Omniture vs. HubSpot, a startup. And, yet, because HubSpot is a content factory [with blogs, podcasts, videos, photos, presentations, ebooks, newsreleases, etc.] it has twice as many pages indexed compared to Omniture. That translates into twice as many opportunities to be found by potential customers.

With content, a business can benefit from SEO, attract more visitors and generate better google juice add to that Social Media for developing relationships and sharing content, and you have the opportunity to spread the word and "Be the trusted expert" everywhere customers are.

But, you need a content strategy.

Become a trusted expert with a content strategy.

1. Determine what are your goals and objectives? What will be different 1 year from now? [is it revenue, exp?]

2. What are your information needs? What do you need to know to be successful? What are your customers' pain points? Listen first via Google alerts, , tweetdeck: develop new content to address what you hear.

3. Figure out your Secret Sauce: your expertise + their information needs.

4. Where is the content? What are you doing? What's working? Find relevant content happening and publish it! video, slideshare...

5. Where are your customers? Target the top 10 to 15 blogs relevant to your customers: read them and get active. Start commenting [LinkedIn, Ning, Google groups, FB/twitter, stumble, BusinessWeek Exchange]. Which communities are you involved in?

6. Choose your tactics. Use the "3 and 3" method. For example, publish your presentation on your blog and post it on Slideshare, write about it on another blog and create a video about the presentation. If you've created a white paper, create an audio version, obtain testimonials, and share research by leveraging a news release.

7. Develop a content calendar.

8 . Execute the plan. Here's what's most important for the plan:
  • 1. consistency [content promise]
  • 2. focus on what you do well and outsource the rest [multitasking makes you stupid]
  • 3. it will never be perfect - evolve with feedback and experimentation
Determine who is your chief content officer. That individual becomes the chief storyteller. As you become a motivational source, your customers become your evangelists!

Thanks, Joe! I loved meeting you in person.

For more information, read Joe's Content Marketing Playbook [here is the Table of Contents listing 42 different ways to generate content].

What are you thoughts about content marketing? What examples have you come across where your content has generated a different type of conversation with potential customers?
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