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As the holiday season approaches, retailers plan for one of the biggest shopping days of the year – Black Friday. Brand Zealots stake their tents and line up to experience the rush of this chaotic day of shopping. It’s not just about the deals – it’s about the experience.

However, not all Zealots are created equal. For those not cut out for braving the mall with the masses, there’s another day. A day called Cyber Monday.

For a retailer, Cyber Monday is a godsend. Advertising your business’s promotions digitally is relatively inexpensive. And oftentimes free. By integrating a cohesive marketing plan through all digital outlets – including social media – your brand Zealots help spread the word for you. With a simple click of the “share” button, your message has fallen into the laps of hundreds, if not thousands, of your Zealots’ closest friends.

According to ComScore, online sales on Cyber Monday were up 22% from last year, coming in at a record $1.25 billion. When compared to 2010, some of the largest online retailers, such as eBay, did not see as drastic of an increase in sales. However, smaller online retailers have been booming. In fact, most smaller merchants have seen better year-over-year growth on Cyber Monday, compared to Black Friday.

Swoozie’s is one of these success stories. Going in to Cyber Monday, Swoozie’s implemented a cohesive digital campaign to promote all of their online sales specials. By promoting different Cyber Monday specials throughout the day – through social media – Swoozie’s was able to keep the buzz going and encourage their Zealots to not only interact with their brand, but also share the specials with their network of friends. By the end of the day, Swoozie’s had exceeded their online sales goal by 49%.

This proves that a strong digital campaign – with a heavy emphasis on social media – works.

CURE Childhood Cancer’s Annual “CURE’s Kids Conquer Cancer One Day at a Time” campaign just completed its third year. This year was the most successful year yet, inspiring hundreds of donors to join the fight against childhood cancer.

During the month of September, CURE Childhood Cancer honored and remembered children affected by cancer; these children representing the 12,700 children diagnosed each year. The money raised from this campaign is directed towards children’s cancer research, in hopes of someday finding a cure.

This campaign, promoted through Social Media and Online, raised $263,000 this year alone, and more than $640,000 collectively in the last 3 years, while at the same time almost doubling database numbers.

Just another example of the power of tapping into the Zealots for your brand (or cause), in combination with an emotionally driven fundraising campaign.

All too often, marketing and ad agencies believe they have a monopoly on creativity and ideas for their clients. In reality, the best ideas often are “discovered” through a more collaborative process. Those in the trenches often “spark” the idea that can transform a business.

From Cool News:

More companies are creating “innovation management programs,” reports Rachel Emma Silverman in the Wall Street Journal (10/17/11). For example, Bruce Power, an Ontario nuclear-energy company, encourages employees to “submit ideas through 10 special-purpose kiosks” at its plant. The kiosks, which “look like ATMs” have been in place for three years and give the plant’s workers, many of whom don’t have desks, a way to make suggestions. Other employees then vote on the ideas.

“It’s like the American Idol of ideas,” says Duncan Hawthorne, the company’s chief executive officer. So far, about “11,000 ideas have been submitted” that Duncan says have saved “millions” of dollars. The ideas “have ranged widely from improving efficiency by increasing stocks of tools to creating a dedicated facility for forklift maintenance.” Two years ago, PricewaterhouseCoopers launched iPlace, an ideas-management website that has so far generated some 3,300 new ideas, of which 140 have been implemented. Approximately “60 percent of the firm’s 32,000 US employees have either submitted, commented or voted on ideas.

Are ideas central to your business? Do you have marketing people (and agencies) that embrace ideas or prefer to “control” the process?

With Ford Motor Company being a leader in the social media space, one local automotive dealer took this opportunity to the next level to see how social media could drive more business on the local level as well.

For Georgia dealer, Allan Vigil Ford Lincoln Mercury, we created an exclusive Facebook-only promotion for our Fans – Become a Fan of our Page and get a Free Oil Change. The promotion was simple in execution and ran for approximately 4 months, but became a highly effective marketing tool for driving tangible business for the dealership.

The results:

10x increase in Facebook Fans
One goal of our promotion was to increase the number of Facebook Fans. The point of note here was the rapid acceleration of growth, going from an average of 21 new Fans each month to 237 Fans during the promotional period. Talk about kick-starting a program that had plateaued.

Immediate 2 to 1 ROI, with long-term ROI of more than 10 to 1
The question of social media and ROI always comes into play, though the medium itself is cost-effective by nature, some retailers cringe at the thought of “free” giveaways.  This dealership took the gamble with no qualms and quickly realized the potential of the promotion with an immediate 2 to 1 ROI and nearly $8,000 generated in additional service from those who came in simply for a free oil change.

9% revenue generated from 1st time customers
Of the additional revenue generated during the promotional period, 9% came directly from 1st time customers of the dealership, setting the stage for continued, long-term growth and re-visits.

The almighty referral factor
And, as we love to state, the power of referral again comes into play here. If referral is the surest form of long-term loyalty & satisfaction, then we found a homerun with this Facebook promotion.  Targeting the local market, the spread became a powerful one with at 300% growth in unaided Interactions with viral spread, positive word-of-mouth, and a wealth of new Zealots for the brand.

Has your social media program hit a plateau?  Looking to grow more Zealots for your brand? Contact Guest Relations Marketing for information on kick-starting your marketing program.

Making social media work for you as an independent retailer, when you have just one location, don’t sell online and have the need to move inventory off your shelves – what’s the secret?

Here are a few tips we learned along the way to make your program work harder for you.

We were tasked recently on a four-month project for a local, independent retailer Rocky Mountain Ski & Board. Building and executing a Social Media program for their seasonally driven business provided a few great take-aways for similar businesses.

Give online guests the same experience as in-store guests.
Tell your story online to give the same impression of someone walking through your front door. Share pictures of your products, give people a reason to come visit you. Introduce your employees, tell their story and how it relates to your business.

Provide customer service.

Use your Social Communities to better assist your customers. Encourage them to ask questions, and when they do, respond back to them personally. When are you open? Do you have this in stock? Do you offer this service? Provide value and service to your community.

Welcome in your current customers.

While some customers will find you online, they may not necessarily think to seek you out. Notify your current customers that you are now on Facebook, Twitter and the likes via in-store signage, e-communications and by training your employees to mention it with the customers they are serving.

Leverage the Zealots for your brand.
Target the most passionate & loyal supporters of your store. Educate them, engage them in your online communities as well as in-store and encourage them to share your brand with their like-minded network of friends!

Giving your brick-and-mortar storefront an online presence instantly opens up a whole new audience, filled with both current and potential customers.

If you’re interested in learning more about a Social Media Program for your business, visit us online at

For hospitality-client Ocean Place Resort & Spa in Long Branch, New Jersey, we are tasked each year with promoting events surrounding holidays like Mother’s Day and New Year’s Eve. In the past, these events were promoted solely in local print media, with a steadily declining ROI.

The Scenario

For the first event of the new year (Valentine’s Day), we were tasked to generate more revenue with a smaller budget. We determined that online and social media should be a major part of the overall media program. While we didn’t pull completely out of local print, the online supplement allowed us the ability to narrowly define the target and customize the creative accordingly.

The Results
As a result of adding online to the promotional mix, a total of 41 packages were booked, generating over $12,000 in revenue – a 17 to 1 return on investment.

Learning, testing and adapting keeps your program successful. What insights have you found in local-market targeting?

Like many companies, gourmet food brand Bella Cucina realized the importance of Social Media within their marketing mix but felt their program wasn’t working as hard as it could for their business.

Research has shown that of all companies participating in Social Media, only 27% of brands are doing it successfully. Bella Cucina had the luxury (and sweat equity) of having a well-defined brand and content that is both well-written and engaging. Content was not the issue.

The challenge they brought to the team at Guest Relations Marketing was a very focused one – to grow their social media community numbers. Despite well-written posts and a very engaging subject (Italian cooking), Bella Cucina’s social media sites had failed to grow in Followers and Fans.

Thus, the challenge was on. The goal? To grow Facebook Fans by 50% and Twitter Followers by 70% – in one month. Take a look at how we did it.

A Snapshot

To accomplish the goals established for Bella Cucina’s Social Media Program, we wanted to not only grow the communities, but to fill the communities with a targeted consumer who could be a potential long-term customer of the brand. We defined these targets in both demographic and psychographic terms. Quality and quantity were important factors.

We implemented such tactics as online listening, targeted following and using our current community base filled with Supporters and Zealots as a base for generating more like-minded friends to join via word-of-mouth and referral.

We built two promotions that played a part in generating increased readership, participation in discussions and further referral:

The “Artful Entertainer” promotion centered around people writing on the Facebook Wall their secret to artfully entertaining their guests. Winning participants received a gourmet gift basket filled with Bella Cucina products, enabling us to showcase the product as a benefit.

The “Grazie Gifting” promotion was purposely an unpublicized tactic that interacted with one Fan or Follower each day of the month and thanked them for being a community member. Winners received a complimentary product, beautifully packaged and delivered to their home with a thank you note. This promotion led to positive word-of-mouth and referral among people who wanted to share their gift, as well as those who wanted to get in the action for a chance to be selected.

Facebook advertising was the only paid media outlet used to promote the Social Media channels and promotions.


By identifying and activating the Zealots for Bella Cucina and lifestyle interests, we were able to encourage community growth by way of targeting, engagement, word-of-mouth and referral. Engaging the existing community and giving them reason to share information with their peers was key to the success of this campaign.

The results exceeded our original goals:

Facebook Fan growth of 105% (exceeding goal of 50% growth)

Twitter Followers growth of 117% (exceeding goal of 70% growth)

Single-market  (Atlanta) Fan growth of 21%  (market of flagship retail store)

Visits to Facebook Page increased by 60%

Engagement increased by 21% within the communities

Referral on Twitter was 8.5 times greater

We know that targeting Zealots is the surest practice of marketing – whether you are trying to build your customer base or affect sales. Following this holiday promotion, Bella Cucina has committed to an ongoing social media program with Guest Relations.

Visit us online at Guest Relations Marketing to find out more about how we can build more Zealots for your brand.

Here at Guest Relations Marketing we take great pride in crafting our marketing programs around the Zealots for our clients brands. Those who are most passionate supporters – what they love, how they engage, what they share – and develop a directed program that goes beyond traditional marketing into the realms of word-0f-mouth, buzz, online & social, service & operations, direct and CRM.

Below is one such example from a recent client project, so you may see the results for yourself. We’d love to show you a more in-depth look at our Zealotry Social Media Programs.

Case Study
– Online sales on their website more than doubled year over year

– Their database tripled in size year over year

– Intimate community of Facebook Fans, more than doubling the number of Fans since the beginning of 2009, which currently ranks as the top #3 referring site driving traffic to the brand website

– An on-going branded blog which currently ranks as the #4 top referring site driving traffic to the brand website

– E-communications success with Open Rates of 20 – 25% and Click Thru Rates of 16 – 38%, well above industry standards, including continued “Forward to a Friend” referrals

– Overall Zealotry actions established to encourage word-of-mouth, referral, buzz, promotion and sales. For example, a recent online-only  on-going promotion marketed purely on Facebook involved current Fans sharing the brand with their network of friends to take action, which resulted in a self-propelling effort which generates on-going revenue with little to no on-going marketing efforts from the brand.

Of course, every reader will not read your ad.  And, its not likely any reader will respond directly to you.  Then, consider having 500,000 followers – at no media cost.  And, they can respond directly to your communications.   Check out why one company has 50o,000 followers on Twitter.   It’s not why you think it is …

Did you know that JetBlue has over 507,000 followers on Twitter? (as of 13 May, 2009). Yes, that’s more than half a million “fans” of the brand who choose to be exposed to the airline’s 140 character-long short messages. And this is almost 20 times greater than the second most followed airline, Southwest, which has just over 27,000 followers. But why? What is it that JetBlue does that makes it such a loved brand on Twitter?

Here are some stats for those of you who like numbers. Of the last 62 messages JetBlue sent out,
42 were replies to others (68%)
33 contained external links (53%)
12 were free tips, like how to overcome jetlag (20%)
10 answered customer service  queries (16%)
9 had sales offers/promotions of some sort (14%)
6 were Re-tweets (including one from SimpliFlying!) (10%)

It’s NOT just about selling on Twitter.

The numbers tell a story. Do you realize that the overwhelming majority of messages were interacting with individuals, as they were replies. And there were less than 10 messages that were trying to drive sales. The key – JetBlue adds value to their “followers” through interaction, and doesn’t only see Twitter as a medium for additional sales.

I’ve seen airlines pop-up on Twitter recently that have only been releasing deals! Well, if they really want to do that, then have they should set the expectations right, like @delloutlet, which only sends out special special offers.
From:  Shashank Nigam,  an aviation blog

Guest Relations Marketing
Transforming Prospects to Guests, and Guests to Zealots

In my experience, and from grumblings I’ve heard elsewhere, customer service is not the biggest thing Comcast has going for them from a business standpoint.

There are times when marketing is marketing, sales is sales, and operations is operations. But, from a brand standpoint – the customer experience crosses all platforms and thus businesses are forced to integrate, communicate and work together to ensure the experience is both consistent and pleasant.

There are also times when this is challenging for businesses, to instantly align all departments for a consistent brand experience. For this reason, we applaud Comcast at taking action at making the customer service experience just a little bit better and more personal for their customers.

While 800#’s are jammed with customer complaints and questions, Comcast decided to take their service arm online @ComcastCares via Twitter to, as Frank the Director of Digital Care for Comcast says, “meet Customers where they are, listen and assist when we can.”

The customer service Comcast provides through Twitter is personal, immediate, informative and credible. And, as Frank points out, it is delivered in a manner that the customer chooses, through a medium they are already using.

And most importantly, taking a chunk of the operations and service arms of their business in this manner has led to Zealotry actions amidst consumers. Word-of-mouth, people are talking about their Twitter customer service in a positive manner. Referral – people are recommending others contact them via Twitter. And Comcast is turning potentially negative customer experiences into positive ones, turning detractors into supporters, even more, into potential Zealots for the Comcast brand.

Go ahead & follow them @ComcastCares. And follow us too while you’re at it @FindingZealots.

Guest Relations Marketing
Transforming Prospects to Guests, and Guests to Zealots

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