The Wrap-Up

The time has come. The class is over. Somebody queue up the fat lady to start singing. Let’s review some of the highlights of the quarter. Things are about to get emotional.
First things first: Inbound Marketing. I think this is easily one of the best things that we learned all quarter (except for coding maybe, but that comes later). Essentially, inbound marketing is a marketing technique, where the marketers are creating content that consumers want to come see. This is a major shift in digital marketing. For one, it shifts from the traditional notion of trying to get consumers to come to your site based on referrals from your ads (banner/display for example) and instead creating content that is what consumers want to see. For example, you could be a business who sells cooking supplies. As part of your inbound marketing campaign, you could have a section on your site dedicated to recipes that consumers can access for free. It’s a simple thing, but creating something that builds your relationship with your customers can really help your business.

Second major takeaway from this class- coding is insanely important for marketers to understand. Even though marketers don’t have to code as part of their everyday job, it is still a great skill to have. This is because being able to look at a website’s design and coding and being able to make fixes without having to go through an IT department is great to have. It’s just an additional that we now have which differentiates us from every other marketing student that doesn’t know how to code. Is that a vast majority? I’m not sure. But I’m going to imagine it is, and therefore inherently better.

The final “big” takeaway was the difference between earned, owned, and paid media. Earned media is pretty much when a company creates something (which is considered to be owned media, because you own it) and “the people” take notice. Usually this is through social media sharing. At least, to me, that is the most common version of earned media. Paid media is also pretty straight forward. It consists of ads you pay to have seen. The most common version of this is the banner ad, that terribly annoying thing you see at the top of websites, and they usually look “spammy”. However, there is a form of paid media that is pretty good; native advertising. To me, native advertising is when a company creates content, and it is sponsored. By that I mean, VW might sponsor a post on Buzzfeed. While it comes across as an article, it is actually considered paid media. This is why I think of it as a combination of owned and paid media. It is definitely going to become much more prevalent in the digital marketing industry.

 

So, those are the big takeaways from the quarter. While this blog post is in no way an entire wrap up of the quarter, and all of the concepts we covered, it briefly covers the most important topics (at least, for me) that we covered in class.

A really great thing about this class is that we are able to earn certifications. One of these certifications is for the Hootsuite social media dashboard. I did finish the course, and passed the certification exam, which is something that is probably going to be pretty useful in the future.

hootsuite stuff

be proud of me

Another certification that we made the opportunity to earn was Google Analytics. The exam for it was in no way easy. The first time I took it, I missed by one question. Needless to say, I was not happy. However, when I retook it, I passed with an 85%. This was much more satisfying for me. Being certified in Google Analytics is a really good extra certification to have.

certificate

Man, if I had a dollar for every certification I got this quarter, I would have $2. Not bad.

The final topic to cover in this blog, the blog itself (so meta).

Overall, throughout all of the posts (excluding this one) I wrote a total of…… 16695 words. Not bad.

And, now for the most important part of the blog, the views.

blog traffic

 

Facebook helped me out quite a bit

Yes, as of this writing, this blog has about 1,226 views. Not bad!

So, that’s it. The blog is over. I would say to go home, but that doesn’t really work if you’re online… You’re probably already home. So, just close the window? I’m not sure what to say here…
Thanks for reading!

Facebook Is Just a Popularity Contest That Mark Cuban Just Doesn’t Understand

I knew it would be too easy. Once again, math and marketing join forces. And this time, it’s thanks to Facebook. Their algorithm (called EdgeRank) for determining what is seen by it’s users (or not seen, something that has upset a few business leaders) is pretty much based on three variables. Those are affinity, weight, and time decay.

Affinity is defined as “the relationship with the user”. This means that if users interact with your posts more often, they are more likely to see your posts in their News Feeds. There have been a few changes to this variable, but that will be discussed later.

Weight is determined by the type of post you put up. Since there is a determined hierarchy of what types of posts get more interaction, what you post actually “is” can determine what is seen. Pictures and videos have the highest weight, followed by links, and finally plain text.

But, affinity makes sure this isn’t the largest determining factor. If you put up a plain text post, and receive much more engagement than you did when you posted a photo, the plain text post is more likely to show up.

The final variable is time decay. This one is pretty straight forward. If your post is newer, it is more likely to be seen, if it is older, it is less likely to be seen. This is another variable that has recently been updated, with the addition of Story Bumping. This is where a post a user may have missed can be still be seen by being “bumped” to the top of the list. This only happens when the post is determined to be relevant to the user.

Cat Snow Jump

 

If it isn’t relevant, it’ll vanish into thin air (or snow)

So, those are the variables. But what is it that Facebook really takes a look at to take them into account? There are four main things that EdgeRank looks at:

1) user’s past interactions with the author (pretty much the affinity variable)

2)user’s past interaction with that post type (a mixture of affinity and weight, higher interaction with link posts will result in seeing those types of posts more often)

3) reactions from other users for that particular post (the more users who engage, the more likely others will see your post)

4) amount of complaints or negative feedback on that post (the more negative feedback a post receives, the less likely it is to be seen)

So, let’s say you are a business with a presence on Facebook and you want to increase your visibility. What would be a good way to get started on that?

One of the best things to do would be to create content that encourages engagement with the users. This raises helps raise your affinity (assuming it is good engagement) and shows that you are popular and that people like you.

sally-field

 

Another really good things to do is to publish content to Facebook regularly. This sort of helps curb the time decay of your posts, and will hopefully reduce that to the point where your posts will be seen by more people.  Something else that you can do is look at your feedback. Find out what kind of posts get more engagement (photos, videos, links, text) and start posting more of that. If you are submitting plain text when none of your followers want to see it, it will not be engaged with, and probably won’t have a very wide reach. Those are some really good starting points for a business who is wanting to use Facebook more to attract more potential customers.

So, that’s it. EdgeRank has been explained. Case closed. Done.

Except, Mark Cuban has a beef with Edgerank.

Beefin

Mark Cuban doesn’t really seem to understand Facebook. He seems to get that it is really good for spreading awareness, but that’s about it. So, when he found out that the posts for some of his businesses (sports teams?) weren’t reaching people who “liked” that page, he was a little peeved, and did what most rational people do: write a blog post about how they are displeased with something.

To sum up his frustration, Mark Cuban was angry that some of the people who like the Facebook page for the “Dallas Basketball Team” (as I call them) weren’t seeing postings in their news feed. Not necessarily the people who weren’t getting the posts, just Mark Cuban. So, does he have a point? If you like a page, should you see every post that comes from it?

I would say no. The EdgeRank algorithm is there to help “weed” out the bad posts. While Mark Cuban’s posts, or at least his business’ posts may not have been “bad”, they weren’t really driving engagement. As time goes on, it is less likely that people are going to see the post, especially if not a lot of people interacted with it.  It’s a slippery slope. If every post that every business put out went to the top of people’s news feeds, it would be insane to try and find what the customer would want to see. Realistically, Cuban should be thankful that EdgeRank is in place. If he were to start putting out content that everybody wanted to interact with, then more people would see it.

And if he doesn’t want to use Facebook anymore, why not try a better social media site?

Facebook is just a giant popularity contest. As the saying goes “if you can’t beat them, join them”. In this case, joining the people that make good, engaging content would probably be a good thing.

Is Product Co-Creation The Most Democratic Form of Business?

I’m not sure if it’s democracy, so much as a strange off-shoot of a socialist ideology where people create what they want, and then the masses decide what is “good” or not. It’s more of a combination of democracy and socialism? I don’t really know, honestly. I’m no political science major. I only know what the internet tells me (kidding!). To get back on subject though, product co-creation is easily one of the best systems for businesses, especially online retailers and start-ups.

Let’s start with some of the reasons why it’s amazing for business:

1) Consumers can create something that they want

2) Reduces cost for the business

3) Builds relationships with customers

Those are some pretty great reasons as to why your business should use co-creation in it’s development process. THE END </blog>

wiping hands

I’m out

Just kidding (such a jokester). I’ll go into detail as to why all of the reasons above are good for businesses, and even some techniques for getting consumers to participate more often in creating products.

So, why is the first reason (letting customers create something that they want, in case you forgot already) so important? Well for one, it is a way of knowing that what you put out as a product will more or less be positively received. Why is that? Because the people who will be buying the product, created it. So, unless they intentionally made something that they wouldn’t want to buy (which would be very strange), you know you’ll at least be able to sell to your core audience. This is also able to satisfy some of reasons as to why customers feel the need to co-create something for a company.

There are four main motivators as to why customers want to create (or at least help create) a product. These motivators are financially, socially, technologically, and psychologically based. Allowing customers to create something that they want helps fulfill the social and psychological motivations. Social motivations include being seen as a “good citizen” and being rewarded for making something that others also enjoy. A really good example of this is Threadless.com.

Artists can submit ideas for T-shirt designs, which are then voted on by the community. If the shirt receives enough votes, then it is available for purchase the next week. Each shirt has a week to be voted on, and is compared against other shirts submitted that week. If the artist “wins” they are given rights to their design, and I believe there is a monetary prize (fulfilling the financial motivations as well). But, let’s just focus on the users who only vote on the designs.

If they like a shirt, they are able to vote for it, right? As you vote on different designs, your profile is updated to reflect you average rating (it’s a 1-5 scale), and the really cool part of it is there is a section that shows how many designs you voted in actually get printed. There is also a pretty basic community function integrated with the site, so you can see what others users are voting on. You can also follow designers you like, and other users who might have similar preferences as you.

friend

And then you will be best friends forever

The more active members obviously have a greater sense of fulfillment because they are more likely to have helped get more shirts printed. This is sliding into the psychological factors. By helping designers get their name out in the public the users are helping new designers and artists get a foot-hold in a pretty tough industry. This is a very strong motivator, especially in Threadless’ target market (not to assume, but it’s mainly hipsters).

What about the second reason why co-creation is a good tool for companies (reducing costs for companies)? Well, as you can imagine, having customers generate ideas for your company is a a pretty low-cost way to come up with new ideas. This is because you are pretty much “employing” people to do some of the harder work for you.

While you may offer fiscal rewards (see above), these are generally much less than what you would normally pay an employee to come up with the same ideas. And yes, there may be sites such as InnoCentive that pay larger amount of money for solutions to problems, but again, in the long run, these costs are generally less than what the company would normally pay a team to figure out. By using an outside source (usually people with little/no experience in the field), they are able to come up with new ideas that they normally would not have thought of.

The third and final reason why having customers come up with ideas for your company is because it help build relationships. How does this happen? For one, if a company runs a forum on their site, they can engage with their customers (usually the more loyal ones participate), and they are  able to take in their ideas for new products, or how to improve existing ones. This helps satisfy the technological motivation.

Technological/knowledge motivation is derived from the customers learning about new products and giving their input about them. This is especially useful for attracting customers who have a “high need for cognition” meaning they like to learn about products and have lots of information about something before they decide to finally buy something.

Another reason why co-creation help build relationship is because it fosters a community of users who are being heard by the company. A really good example of this is MyStarbucksIdea.com (yes I know I’ve reference this website probably three other times in this blog, but hey, it’s a good idea). By having customers create ideas that can eventually be implemented by the company, users are more likely to go to the store and buy what they “made”.

The relationship that they have with the company is pretty strong because it is built on the company taking their ideas into consideration. By being a company that listens to your customers and takes their ideas into consideration, you are creating a relationship that is based on mutual respect.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some issues with co-creation, the biggest one being a reduction in control the company has. Mountain Dew found that out the hard way (language warning). However, incidents such as what Mountain Dew faced are not common enough to be a pressing issue for companies. And despite the media coverage, the company did have the final say and did not allow any of the suggested names to go on the market (I hope…). In the end, the biggest resource that will be wasted for the company is time, since they are going to have to take down the site or whatever the medium is for the contest.

curses

Curse you internet trolls!

Overall, I would say that product co-creation is a win-win for customers and companies. Customers get to see products that they want, and companies save time and money (assuming no pranksters get a hold of your project). Also, with sites like Quirky and Kickstarter gaining popularity, consumer created products will become a much more prevalent segment of the retail marketplace.

Not All BitCoin Users Are Drug Dealers, But All Drug Dealers BitCoin Users?

It was bound to happen once the first online purchase was made. It probably wasn’t Amazon, but they definitely ushered in a new digital era of online commerce. It only makes sense that we are beginning to use a digital “wallet” for purchases in real life. Some big retailers are starting to get on the bandwagon with one of the “bigger” digital wallet services, Google Wallet. However, not a lot of older phones have the capabilities to make real time purchases using Google Wallet’s technology. However, as people upgrade their phones (as they are known to do) this service can perhaps expand out and have more people using it. Yet another service that Google will dominate. (Seriously, when will THIS happen?)

In the meantime, what are some of the alternatives to Wallet? One emerging service is from a company called LevelUp. It seems like a pretty awesome service, where you link your card to a LevelUp account, and when a retailer uses that service, they scan a QR code on your phone, completing the transaction. It’s a pretty nifty service, only it seems as if not too many retailers are getting on board with it. LevelUp definitely seems like it’s really good for smaller businesses, since they don’t charge for each transaction. Also, they implement loyalty programs (such as buy 10, get 1 free), and that is the only time they actually take money from the retailer. So, they only make money once the retailers have created a brand loyal customer. That seems like a pretty solid system for small companies trying to get off the ground.

There aren’t any “major” retailers using it yet, but it can definitely reduce the transaction time at the POS, which could reduce the amount of time spent at that stage of the buying process (pretty much the wrap-up). Also, it reduces the amount of “hardware” you would need to use, such as  a cash register. Instead, you have a small scanner that is just used to scan a smartphone, so it really isn’t that large. There are currently 5000+ businesses using LevelUp’s services (according to their website), and I would like to see more companies start using a service such as this, or even Square.

Square is probably a service that you have seen in use. It was developed by Twitter founder Jeff Dorsey as a new project after Twitter. It is not as “technologically” forward as LevelUp, as in it still swipes debit cards, but similarly, it gets rid of the need for things such as cash registers, which can be large and cumbersome, as well as require a bit of maintenance. Square is pretty straight forward, at least compared to Google Wallet and LevelUp. You just swipe a card that is attached to a smart device, such as a phone or tablet. It then deposits the money into whatever bank account you determined where you wanted it to go. Pretty easy.

throwing-money

It’s so easy, a baby could do it?

The Square app also has reports and analytics built into it (which only makes sense) which can track your bestselling items and loyalty programs. Opposed to LevelUp, there is a fee for each transaction, 2.75% of the total transaction ,or $275 per month, whichever is more. So, how many businesses are using Square? According to this website, about 40,000. And that was just at the end of 2012. They brought in around $10,000,000,000 (10 billion) in profit. Needless the say, they are definitely are leading the way for mobile payment systems. Oh yeah, there are two major companies that accept Square payments, Starbucks and now Whole Foods. They are gaining traction and are leading the way for the growth of mobile payments.

Alas, it is time this post take a bit of a change. It is time we enter the deep web.

I’ll try to keep this as short as possible, but no promises, since the deep web is something that I find incredibly interesting. If you thought the things pretty much anyone with a computer can access is bad (don’t worry, it’s just a BuzzFeed article about Reddit), then you are in a treat. How I like to imagine it, is the web that the vast majority of people use is pretty much where people “talk the talk”. Yes, bad things can arise from the internet, but a lot of the time it is someone trolling on the internet just for a reaction. The deep web is more of “walking the walk” where the actual bad things happen. You know, like hiring hit men or buying drugs to smoke, or something.

tumblr_maizr4yxbs1qzewdco1_500

*lingo*

So, the deep web is where you can pretty much buy whatever you want. But, who would want to leave a paper trail? Enter BitCoins: the first all digital currency. BitCoins area  very interesting by-product of the internet, since they are not really backed by anything, nobody really knows who created them (at least, who really created them), and they can be anonymously used. So, why should we pay attention to them? For one, they are gaining traction, both in their exchange rates , and in how many companies are starting to use them in their everyday business dealings.

There are several companies accepting them in Vancouver, which makes sense since it is a pretty culturally diverse city. Also, with the United States so nearby, it makes sense that they would begin to accept a currency that will not be affected by exchange rates. In fact, it really makes sense for most major cities to start accepting BitCoins, mainly so that they can reduce the amount of money lost due to exchanges. So, are BitCoins here to stay? I think they are. Or at least, some form of online currency is. It might not necessarily be BitCoins (they could be the MySpace of digital currency), but I think that we will begin to use a digital currency, mainly for the ease of it. It would be so much easier if we could buy something across the world, and it is the same price on both ends of the transaction (hopefully that makes sense). As to whether or not we will be paid in BitCoins, I highly doubt that. I don’t think that they will be popular enough to warrant companies paying out in them. Also, that would mean that governments would have to acknowledge it as a legitimate currency. Since there is no central structure behind it, that would create chaos in the economic system.

If you want to learn more about BitCoins, I would listen to this introduction.

Until next post!

Are Apps The Cookies of Mobile Marketing?

The age of mobile media is here, and it’s here to stay. With more than half of all US adults owning smartphones, it is easy to see that this is not just a passing trend. With more than $10 billion worth of income from the App Store, and Google Play earning about $5 billion (estimated), it is easy to see that the mobile marketplace is rapidly expanding. So, why aren’t companies putting more of their money towards their mobile marketing campaigns? Apart from 100% of the population having a smartphone, I don’t really see any argument against it.

For one, mobile marketing is pretty much one of the best direct marketing channels. Why? Because everyone who has a smartphone can be reached, one way or another. A consumer could be reached via text message, but let’s be honest, who really reads those and takes them seriously? So, if SMS marketing is out the window as an effective channel, what is the best option? Utilization of apps. Apps are able to aggregate information about the people who are using their product. For example, I have a Android OS phone (because I’m just cool like that) and Androids use the Google Play store as their app store. Since I have a G+ account, Google already has a bunch of demographics on me, right? And, if they see that I download an app, and lots of other awesome people similar to myself download the same app, then that can be used to narrow down who sees what ad. And, as I’ve probably mentioned before, there is no AdBlock software for mobile devices (yet), so you have to see ads that come up on your screen.

So, if people are easily “tracked” via the mobile marketplace, why don’t more companies use it? For one, they might not know how to use it effectively. If marketers still have the notion that mobile devices are primarily used “on the go”, they need to reconsider their positions. In fact, a study found that 75% of mobile ads were seen at home. So, what does that mean? For one, marketers should start treating mobile marketing as something that is a direct offshoot of digital marketing as a whole, not just a new form of marketing in general. Mobile marketing is a direct descendant of digital marketing, in the sense that mobile pretty much has all of the good traits of digital, as well as a few new things (such as the utilization of apps). As our society grows more and more mobile, the use of mobile devices will continue to increase. I for one got a tablet thinking that I would start to use it instead of a laptop (that didn’t really work out), but it is still much easier to carry around as opposed to a laptop.

yup

Sometimes, things are just too bulky to carry around. Like popcorn…

Segmentation through the use of apps is probably one of the best routes for a mobile marketer to take. As I said before, there are some demographics stored on most app stores, making it easier to see what type of people are using what apps. For example, you probably wouldn’t see an ad for Lowe’s on the Victoria’s Secret app (that’s very common sense, but you see the point I’m trying to make, right?). And yes, I did look up the Victoria’s Secret app on the Google Play store, although I’m not too sure how many ads they actually use. Anyways, the point I am trying to make is, it is much easier for a mobile marketer to place ads on certain apps that would interest the person who is using it, as opposed to just guessing what apps their target market are using.

Even though I already said that a lot of mobile ads are seen in the home, using the smartphone’s GPS is another good idea for marketers. When the users are out and about, an app could potentially use the phone’s GPS to locate the nearest store. Maybe they haven’t made a purchase in a while and send them a notification with a discount attached. That is one of beauties of mobile marketing. It can pretty much go anywhere/everywhere. And, it isn’t like the use of GPS is an invasion of privacy. In the Android app marketplace, at least, before you download a new app, it gives you a list of what features on your phone it is going to access. It’s sort of like an End User and License Agreement, where all of the information is there, but nobody really reads it. But, you could if you really wanted to.

Mobile marketing is getting huge. And, marketers are finally starting to realize the implications of it. According to one projection, mobile marketing spending should surpass desktop marketing spending by 2017. That would be a huge milestone if that were to happen. Through the use of apps, marketers will be able to target their consumers much more directly. They will be able to show them ads that are relevant to their interests, and hopefully entice them to click (or would it be tap?) on their offering. The age of mobile marketing is upon us. And, if you don’t get on the bandwagon, you’re going to be left behind.

You Will Fail Colbert

Preach it Colbert

Database Marketing: From “Time=Money” to “Data=Success”

This is it.

The post where the more technical aspects of the digital marketing culminate into one topic. A/B testing? It’ll be covered. SQL? It’ll be covered. Databases? I’ll get to it.

So, databases, why should we, as marketers care about them, and how are they useful? For one, I would check out my previous post where I discuss the aspects of SQL and it’s advantages for marketing professionals. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. SQL is just what we use to communicate with databases. It barely discusses the importance of “big data” (buzzword that will probably reappear in this post at least 10 more times). Big data is pretty much the aggregation of all of the data company records for each individual customers. This can be used for things such as what products a customer likes to buy (such as types of coffee), what kinds of movies you’ll go see (remember John Carter?), and even if you are pregnant (something I’ve discussed before). So, why are databases so important?

It’s pretty simple. The more information you have on your customers/perspective clients, the better you can suit their needs. Time may equal money, but nowadays data equals success. We are living in the age of start ups, where you can pretty much start a business doing anything you want. If there is a market for it, then you can sell it. But, how do you know who is buying what? What if it isn’t effective. Enter databases: larger collections of data used to store whatever information you have on your customers. So, you may think that time=money, but if you have a lot of data, you don’t really need time. You have all the time in the world (so long as you don’t go out of business, you DO need to make money somehow). You start-up may take a while to get off the ground and be popular. But if you are able to collect data on who is buying your product, then you can target your audience in a much more cost effective manner, thereby reducing the need to rely on the adage of “Time=Money”. Want an example of databases in action? Well, if you have the right team, with the right data, you can help win a presidency.

Beaker

Mind blowing

So, how is that even possible? Well for one, lots and lots of A/B testing. It was disclosed after the election that the Obama campaign tested about 17-18 different emails. That’s an insane amount of data to analyze after the testing was completed. So, what were the determining factors for which email format to use? Donation amount. That was pretty much the main purpose of the email campaign. The lowest one brought in an estimated $400,600. As far as campaign money goes, that’s not that much. The winner however, brought in about $2.5 million. That’s a huge difference. “Yeah, that just proves how important A/B testing is. How does that relate to databases?”

Well, as this article says, “the days of politicians saying the same thing over and over are done. It’s all about telling the voters exactly what they want to hear: data-driven pandering”. Information is quickly becoming one of the most important parts to a campaign, even more so than money. Why? Because money comes from data. As the email testing showed, the difference between two emails can be huge (about a $2 million difference). Depending on what segment you are in can even change what email you get. Some people might not respond to a call-to-action based on Sarah Jessica Parker (notice there is no link to a Family Guy video). If data can help raise money, doesn’t that make it more important than the money itself? I think there is a pretty strong argument for that.

So, who was behind the Obama re-election campaign (at least the online portion of it)? May I present to you Harper Reed; certified cool guy/hipster (I guess hipsters ARE the definition of cool though, right?) Reed determined that one of the best things for the campaign to do was to compile a database of all of the people who had voted for Obama in the 2008 election. This was paired with the database that the DNC had, so that they might be able to reach a wider audience, and have a more complete picture as to who these voters are. This was an incredibly effective tool, because it allowed for the campaign managers to see who was probably going to vote for Obama, and how they could potentially influence them.

This is where the marketing comes in. Essentially, all of the voters can be broken down into segments based on a variety of things. There could be a mom with kids, a working professional, or someone who is a hipster. From there, marketers can figure out what the best channels to reach these segments are, when to reach them, and how to retain their interest. Pretty much, it’s a much more effective marketing technique for politicians, which previously relied on tactics such as canvasing to try and reach a wider audience. So, databases? Check. A/B testing? Check. SQL? …

60s Spiderman

I thought I could get away without mentioning it…

How does SQL fit into all of this? Well for one, it allows the marketers to search for certain criteria within the database. Say they want to look at all of the people who are on their list, and have one child. Through SQL they would be able to narrow down their data field so that it is easier to pick through exactly what those people are interested in. Then they could create a couple of emails, try both of them (A/B testing strikes again), and compare the results. I’ll go out on a limb here and say that the search criteria is far too vague, so they would then narrow down the data again (using SQL) and then start another batch of emails (more A/B testing). They would then continue this until they found the *perfect* email.

Does this sound time consuming? Most definitely. But when the campaign is pretty much to help someone who is trying to be president… You can expect a very time consuming process. In fact, Harper Reed once said that the only time he was really stressed about the work he was doing was when he was CTO for the campaign. Hipsters don’t like being stressed… Or so I’m told.

So there you have it: Databases. While maintaining databases isn’t necessarily part of a marketing job description, it goes along with coding and SQL. It definitely cannot hurt to know it. Instead of relying on an IT person, or statistician, you can analyze these databases yourself, cutting down on the time required per query. Even though the saying may be “Time=Money”, can’t that also mean that the MORE time you put into something, the more money you can get out of it? Or maybe it should be “Testing=Money”. Although, that may be true, the meaning could be lost. After all, testing does cost some money. So, therefore, I propose we enter into our society a new phrase: “Data=Success”. Time may be money, but if you don’t know your customers, then you probably won’t last as long as the company who knows their customers interests and buying patterns.

Data=Success. That has a nice ring to it.

Can Information Be A Viable Pregnancy Test? A Survey of SQL And Database Marketing

As with coding, knowing how to use and structure a database is something that marketers do not necessarily need to know, but it is a very good trait to learn. The main way that users communicate with a database is through the use of SQL (structured database language). After taking a look at a very brief overview as to how SQL works, one thing became very apparent to me- learning how to use SQL seems very similar to learning how to code. In fact, in the brief overview that I did look at, having HTML/CSS proficiency was a trait that was “required”, or at least it was advised that you know how to use it before attempting to learn SQL.

If I could put in my two cents, I would say yes. That is a very good thing to learn before learning how to use SQL. For one, it seems as if the commands are fairly similar for both SQL and HTML, in the sense that they structured in a way that will not yield any results if incorrectly entered, and it was very easy to make a HUGE mistake in both, and not even realize it until you have already made the mistake. At least, as far as editing with SQL, that is. As far as searching using SQL, that is a veryveryveryveryvery good skill to know, especially as a marketer. I say this because it is a great way to look at your entire customer database, and split them up into different groups. Also, when used with email marketing, it is very good tool. Why is that? Because with some simple-ish SQL commands, you can create “personalized” emails (pretty much put the customer’s name in the email somewhere), and send it to all of the customers who fir your criteria. For example, you can send a coupon code to a customer who hasn’t bought something from your website in the past three months, therefore enticing them to buy from you again. It’s always nice to get an email with a coupon code, right? But what can make it better? HAVING YOUR NAME IN THE EMAIL TOO.

Jamie Foxx  Sesame Street

 

It brings a smile to my face (just like Jamie Foxx)

So, what are some good examples of companies that have used SQL to their advantage? One of the best examples is Target. You know, the company that can lose your credit card info? But hey, that’s a small price to pay for being able to find you’re pregnant for free. I’m assuming you’ve heard this story before, but I’ll explain, just in case you haven’t. Also, I think it’s pretty hilarious (win-win, right?) Pretty much, Target was able to create an algorithm that was able to look at customer purchases, and determine if they are pregnant or not. How did they do this you ask?

Well, if you have ever bought something at Target, with or without a Target card, there is a record as to what you bought. You can opt-out if you want, but to find that link is rather difficult, and frankly, most people don’t really want to put forth the effort of having to opt-out of something. Anyways, Target will look at what you buy, say something like unscented lotion or a certain mix of vitamins, and then determine how likely it is that you are pregnant. If it is a high enough likelihood, then they will begin to send coupons for things such as cribs or baby clothes. How effective is this system though? Well, I can’t go off of personal experience, but the percent  of time Target is accurate is about 87% of the time.

So, what about a less invasive use of SQL? As I described before, many online retailers use databases to keep track of your purchases, including when you made your last one. So, if you haven’t made a purchase in a long enough period of time, the company can send an email out. One company that does this really well is BustedTees.com, a site I have used in the past to buy various shirts. Usually I won’t buy from them on a regular basis, but when I haven’t made a purchase in a while (4-5 months), they will send an email with a coupon code,  usually for about 15% off, or even free shipping. It’s a pretty great use of SQL, because it allows the company to see who hasn’t bought from the website in a while, and then try to entice them with an offer. It is something that is usually appreciated by the customer (at least me), and can increase sales.

One more company that uses SQL rather well is Amazon.com. One of the best ways they use SQL is by sending you emails with product recommendations based on prior purchases you have made. This is very effective from a business/marketing viewpoint. For one, it shows the customer what other people who bought similar products also bought, and it provides links directly to that product. Also, it is usually personalized, which can really go the extra mile. SQL picture

Yeah, this is a receipt. It’s the same basic idea though.

It’s also good for the customer, because it is showing them products that they would probably be interested in buying.  They can then consider buying these products, proceed to buy them (because Amazon knows what you want to buy, right?), and then send them to you. This creates a long-lasting relationship with the customer, which is a very important thing to have. The longer the relationship with your customer, the more purchases they will make.  That just makes sense.

As far as SQL goes, it is a very important skill to learn. Even  if you are in a job where you don’t necessarily need to use database functions, it can’t hurt that you know how they work, and if need be, actually use some of them.  Again, very similar to coding. You may not have a job where you directly need to use the skill, but just having a basic understanding of how it works is a a good starting point, and a great way to differentiate yourself in the job market.

 

Not that I would find that very important or anything...