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Retailers are constantly working to stay ahead of the social marketing curve. Whether they’re using Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram (to name a few), they are thinking of new ways for their products to get in front of a large audience. Better yet? To get in front of a large audience at minimal cost.

Over the years, Facebook has proven to be a productive way of referring customers to your website.

The formula: Interesting Images + Engaging content + Links = Increased Web Traffic

However, there is a limitation to what Facebook provides. Once the platform introduced the People Talking About This metric (PTAT), it shortly became no secret that when a brand page posts something, only a small percentage of its fans will see the post. You are required to solicit engagement from your fans, or actually pay money, to reach a more reasonable percentage of your followers.

Oh, bah humbug!

But, wait! That’s the beauty behind Pinterest. It’s a visually stimulating and free website that allows you to promote your products to thousands of people. Not to mention, that people who are using it are searching for ways to be inspired.


Don’t believe me? A recent research study conducted by BloomReach showed that Pinterest traffic spent 60% more than traffic coming from Facebook and converted to a sale 22% more than Facebook.

We recently put the numbers to the test for one of our retail clients by working with a popular fashion blogger. She simply took a picture of a cute monogrammed tumbler, posted it to her social channels, and allowed us to also use the image for promotional purposes.

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The key to success was not that we simply used Pinterest – but that we partnered with an influential women in the blogging/Pinterest space. Through this partnership, we were able to reach people who were our client’s target customers, but may have never heard of our client’s brand.

Here are some top line results from the Pinterest/Blogger partnership:

  • The image was repinned 1,100 times in a two week period
  • Referral traffic accounted for 50% of total website traffic
  • In a 30 day period, 49,940 website visits came from Pinterest
  • The product pictured above received 65,633 page views in that same 30 day period
  • The client received the highest monthly website traffic in the store’s history

Wow! Those results obviously made for a very happy client.

Curious at how Facebook compared to the Pinterest giant? Through posting the same exact image on our client’s Facebook account, we were able to garner just over 1,000 website visits. Hm, seems pretty obvious to me that Pinterest won this battle.

Game. Set. Match.

Like many of us, when I open up Facebook each morning I’ve made it a habit to check my friends’ birthdays and give them a standard shoutout. But last week when I went to wish one of my friends a splendid birthday, I saw something new:

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Send her a Starbucks birthday present? Hm.

So I clicked.

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What a brilliant idea. Gone are the days of paying $1 to gift your friend a worthless Facebook image of a cupcake. Now you can easily buy them a real gift that’s delivered real time. Because let’s face it – we don’t know it’s anyone’s birthday until we see it on Facebook anyway.

Facebook didn’t stop there. What was yesterday? Valentine’s Day. What was at the top of my news feed? The option to buy a gift.

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The gifts were sweet, fun, and funny. And incredibly affordable.

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While I do think Facebook missed an opportunity for waiting until the day-of the holiday to place the “Choose a Gift” option on the site, it’s quite fun. Have any of you received a Facebook Gift yet? How’d it go?

Guest Relations Marketing just completed a comprehensive rebranding of Juvenile Justice Foundation to…

drum roll, please…


Radically changing up a brand’s identity should never be taken lightly. Especially as it pertains to the brand name. In this case, there were several mitigating factors that ultimately led to a radical rebranding, including a new name.

youthSpark is aptly named to give voice and justice to youth. This organization is literally in the streets on a white-hot issue: underage prostitution and trafficking. Human sex trafficking is a global issue and unfortunately Atlanta is one of the leading centers for this illegal activity. youthSpark is committed to exposing this subject, promoting justice for our youth and helping them be restored to a productive future.  Join in on Facebook and Twitter to affirm your support!

Word of mouth marketing has existed since the day of the first business. Sharing opinions and experiences has always been a means of success or failure for many companies. If you have an excellent product, people will find out and, as you can imagine, this same principle applies to those products of lesser quality.

In today’s age of social media and instant sharing, companies must utilize these tools to their advantage. Not only can social media allow you to monitor what is being said or share information, it can also be used to activate those that you want to share your message.

Marketing programs should be built from a referral perspective based on those most passionate about your brand. These passionate followers, or Zealots, live the philosophy of word of mouth marketing without even knowing the true power they possess. While tapping into this resource may seem obvious to many, it also shouldn’t be the end of the road for your marketing strategy.

Case and point: a recent promotion that our client CURE Childhood Cancer was involved in: Club Diamond Nation (CDN). Launched as the first virtual baseball and softball academy, CDN provided an opportunity for fans to vote for their favorite player for a chance to win a one-on-one training session. Additionally, CDN would donate $15,000 to the charity selected by the player who received the most votes.

CURE Childhood Cancer was the selected charity of CDN athlete and former Atlanta Braves pitcher, Tom Glavine.  Immediately, we began to promote the contest to followers of CURE Childhood Cancer, via e-blasts, blogs, Twitter and Facebook. With more than 31,000 fans on Facebook and even more on our email and blog lists, we were sure that this would be enough to win. However, after a month of voting we realized that this would not suffice if we really wanted to win the $15,000.

Softball player Jennie Finch was blowing Tom Glavine out of the water when it came to votes and, with a week left, Tom trailed Jennie by more than 1,200 votes.

The major issue? Those who are Zealots for CURE Childhood Cancer are passionate about finding a cure for the disease and as a result did not feel directly passionate about this promotion, as it was very baseball-oriented. This is when we decided to take another approach and activate indirect Zealots of CURE by targeting those who are Zealots of Tom Glavine and the Atlanta Braves.

Through Twitter, CURE Childhood Cancer and Tom Glavine promoted the contest to Braves fans and asked them to vote. Tom began to interact directly with fans and reward those who were spreading the word by retweeting and replying to them directly. As a result, the dialogue exploded in frequency.

In a matter of six days Tom Glavine received more 6,000 votes, 4,500 more than Jennie Finch during that time. Additionally, direct mentions of CURE on Twitter increased 810%, resulting in an increased reach of 1,490%.

By simply asking Braves fans to support their old pitcher, Tom Glavine, CURE Childhood Cancer won the CDN contest and the $15,000.

Yes, word of mouth marketing can serve as a wondrous opportunity for organizations.  Now through social media platforms, companies can not only listen to what people are saying about their brand, but also have an simple and direct way to start the conversation.

In 2006 CURE Childhood Cancer and Guest Relations Marketing teamed up to transform the CURE brand from that of a grassroots organization to the renowned nonprofit that it is today. 

We are immensely proud of the work CURE does on a day-to-day basis and are even more proud of our own April Voris, who is currently Board President for CURE. CURE’s transformation was recently featured in the Georgia Center for Nonprofits April Newsletter, which we are pleased to share:

GCN member CURE Childhood Cancer, an Atlanta-based nonprofit cancer research foundation dedicated to finding cures for childhood cancer, knew they had to make some major changes in order to effectively carry out their mission. In a recent conversation, executive director Kristin Connor and board chair April Voris shared highlights of the organization’s “inside-out” transformation over the past three years.

“We wanted to transform CURE from more of a grassroots organization to a much more professional, sophisticated, higher-impact organization,” says Kristin Connor, Executive Director of CURE Childhood Cancer.

The process began in 2006 with a successful growth pattern that resulted from CURE’s inaugural annual campaign; but, as Connor observed, this was only a start. At a point, “we realized that we had captured the low-hanging fruit,” acknowledges Connor, who recognized the need “to dig deeper and gain a better understanding of how to really do annual fundraising right.” They made a major strategic shift, moving away from an emphasis on special events to focusing on major gifts. A development audit conducted in 2009 formed a critical step forward in clarifying direction, but left Connor and her board without the capacity to move from plan to execution. A GrantsPlus coaching grant from the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta enabled the organization to push forward.

CURE tapped GCN Consulting Services and partnered with consultant Cara Schroeder, who worked closely with the executive team and board to provide hands-on training. Connor credits the process of “literally walking us through an entire fiscal year of major gift and annual campaign fundraising, step- by-step” with providing CURE with the breakthrough it needed. Through one-on-one and group coaching, staff and board learned the “how-to’s” to systematically and strategically approach the process. Board members were trained to solicit donations through personalized appeals – which, with the help of scripts to allay intimidation, proved a successful tactic.

The results speak for themselves: In 2010-11, CURE received 69 new major gifts and 640 annual gifts to their annual campaign.

The organization then chose to hire its first-ever Director of Development, a department that has now expanded to a 3-person team.

A Brand Makeover

Another transformation instrumental in building CURE’s fundraising capacity is a rebranding, led by board president April Voris of Guest Relations Marketing. The “before” image of CURE was “a pink teddy bear, unprofessional documents printed on a home computer, and a low level of professionalism.” The “after” is a transformed brand “built from the bottom-up” that reflects CURE’s mission and vision, while resonating deeply with CURE’s core audience: families of children with cancer.

Identifying those who are passionate about CURE’s mission – our “zealots” – explains Voris, has been the key to developing effective branding and marketing strategies. An early adapter of social media, CURE recognized that a Facebook page not only offered their constituents a place to build a community of supporters, but could act as a story-telling platform. The momentum grew quickly. Voris cites CURE’s Kids Conquer Cancer, a fundraising initiative they launched during National Childhood Cancer Awareness month, with a goal of raising $30,000 online. Over 30 days, 60 families were honored and the momentum grew quickly, eventually raising $170,000.

CURE’s marketing program continues to grow from the inside-out through an overall marketing philosophy, which Voris explains is much like a “spider web approach,” each piece is interconnected and strengthening the others. “Your customers take the lead on how they want to interact with your brand,” says Voris, “so you must be prepared to engage and accept them from all points of entry.” Reflecting on the journey, Connor and Voris offer some insight to fellow nonprofits with similar challenges. The first steps toward positive change? “Really looking at ourselves”; honestly evaluating core competencies; and asking both “where are we needed?” and “what do we not need to be doing?”

CURE Childhood Cancer has been instrumental in serving the children and families that depend on timely research. Through a transformation on the inside, they have been furthered their ability to transform lives on the outside.

Ron Johnson, the CEO of JCPenney, understands branding and the value it represents. The following article is worthy on its own, but three key takeaways:

1.  Creativity – looking at the business differently – is the starting point of success.

2.  Experience is the core issue – not product.

3.  Develop a mission that you and your staff will believe in.

From The Hub magazine:

“Improvement merely lets you hit your numbers … Creativity is what transforms,” says JCPenney ceo Ron Johnson in a Fortune profile by Jennifer Reingold (3/19/12). That was the main lesson Ron says he learned while he was at Target, after gambling on introducing Michael Graves designer products in a big way. “The math was simple,” says Ron. “If I didn’t sell one piece but people looked differently at the other 96% of products we’d win. It’s always about mind share, not market share.” Ron is now bringing a similar sensibility — which of course he also brought to Apple stores — to JCPenney.

The essential vision, once again, is to create “a place where the experience (is) as important as the products themselves.” This apparently was more Ron’s vision at Apple stores than it was Steve Jobs’s. “He said it’d be a store for creative professionals,” says Ron. “I said, ‘Well, then I’m not coming. If you want it to be a store for all Americans, sign me up.” Ron also “persuaded Jobs to nix commissions for salespeople, arguing that they should give customers the best advice, not the advice that earns them the most.” Ron says, “You can motivate by a mission or motivate by money… the mission will work.”

It certainly worked at Apple stores, where sales per square foot average $6,000. But will it work at JCPenney, where sales per square foot are currently $146 and the shopping experience is a safe distance from either Apple or Target? Fitch, the ratings agency, has “downgraded the company’s debt to junk level,” based on Ron’s strategy, the core of which is a “return to the company’s original values,” espoused by founder James Cash Penney as a “morally upright place.” Ron Johnson, eternally an optimist, says his plan will work. “What you can’t do is chicken out,” he says. “If you had looked at the data on the Genius Bar after a year and a half, we should have taken it out of the store… There’s no reason to sell an idea short. The only risk would be to not fulfill the dream.”

As soon as Guest Relations Marketing heard of Pinterest, we were hooked. Not only has the majority of our office been Pinning on our personal accounts for months, but we were eager to be an early adopter with one of our clients: Swoozie’s.

The vast majority of Pinterest users are women ages 25-54. Swoozie’s target market? The same.

Perfect. We signed them up.

And while Swoozie’s Pinterest Followers were growing at a strong, steady rate, we knew these numbers could jump significantly. So we came up with a plan.

Using the promotion Pin It to Win It, for one day we focused on a single retail item: a pink, plastic tumbler. We Pinned the tumbler along with the message that one lucky Repinner would win it. The Pinning ensued. With each Repin that was made – an entirely new network of Pinners was exposed to the image.

By incorporating this promotion in Swoozie’s e-mail, Facebook, and Twitter communications, word spread fast. By the end of the day, not only had the tumbler received 143 Repins, but Swoozie’s had gained more than 100 new Followers and Pinterest was officially Swoozie’s third highest referring website.

Considering 6 months ago nobody knew what Pinterest was – these numbers are simply remarkable.

Have you joined Pinterest yet? Send me an email and I’ll gladly invite you to your new addiction.

A key component of Groupon’s business model is the use of “creative copy” in their offers. They employ a staff of creative writers whose purpose is not simply to inform readers of the offer, but entertain them. They believe this establishes brand personality and separates them from the myriad other offers out there.

But when, exactly, does clever twists of words actually hinder the reader’s effort to discern the interest and value? Groupon’s return rate and other usage numbers are not stellar. Perhaps one reason is that they have misplaced where they are in the communication spectrum.   

Coupons that work best are focused on value, not creating some derivative of brand experience. Clever copy can get in the way, especially when you have me click through to the moment of truth. The deal is promoted as $X, with a value of $Y. A click-through logically suggests an answer to the value equation of Y – X. When verbose and garrulous explanations follow, it becomes tedious for the reader.

The art of good copy, especially in the Twitter world of today, is short, to the point and plain-speaking.

After all, you have them at the cash register. What is the saying? Make the sale and shut up!

It was recently announced in the automotive trades – “Ford and GM renew a bitter rivalry.” Despite their financial issues, both companies clearly have “zealots” for both their overall company as well as specific branded vehicles. As a zealot for Mustangs, a Camaro, no matter how “transformed,” is simply second rate.

Great brands have zealots. They also have arch-rivals. One of the tenets of marketing from Steve Jobs: overtly identify and make known your enemy. It is core to great branding. If you make it clear what you stand for, you necessarily stand against something else.

Who is your brand’s enemy?

What are the great rivalries of zealotry brands? Here’s some that quickly come to mind. What is your best example?

  • Miller Lite vs. Bud Lite
  • Mercedes vs. BMW
  • Pepsi vs. Coca-Cola
  • Apple vs. Microsoft

LL Bean has about 3,600 people answering its phones, and 10 “wading boot-deep into social media,” according to the New York Times. They further report: the retailer typically fields about 100,000 phone calls a day, but records only about “50,000 social-media mentions on Twitter, blogs, Facebook and YouTube” a month.

Social Media is not easily “slotted” into existing company organizations, limiting impact and effectiveness. It is more than simply “outbound” marketing. It’s also customer service. It’s media relations. It’s a branding vehicle. In short, social media can be a tool for several departments. This cross-organizational function is the primary reason many companies are not pro-active in social media.

Guest Relations Marketing can help establish a work plan and training that allows correct implementation inside your company. We also consult on best social media practices for your business and resources. Of course, we handle social media in a turn-key manner for clients as well.

Regardless of whether you engage us or another firm, we highly recommend an internal strategic plan that identifies where and how you plan to engage in social media. As the New York Times article pointed out, “in many ways, these digital conversations are not all that different from those by phone, which can be chats about favorite Bean products, and speak to the company’s 99-year tradition of warm-and-fuzzy customer service.”

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