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Original articles from Dana Severson.
Is JC Penney Back to Its Old Tricks?
It started with a so-called “gift.” A $10 coupon emailed to consumers in October as an incentive to come in and see JC Penney’s new stores. It continued with a three-day event in December. The 110-year-old chain invited friends and family to enjoy yet another coupon — or should we call it a “gift” — for 20% off of purchases. Now, the stores themselves are following suit. Banners have been hung to tout their clearance sales, and it hasn’t stopped there.

Yet Another 3 Social Media Mistakes to Avoid
I’m starting to feel like a broken record when it comes to social media. But it’s fast becoming the marketing method of choice for many businesses. Twitter, Facebook and all the other social channels are a quick and easy way to stay connected with an audience and help build brand awareness. Unfortunately, the casualness of being social has led many of us...

Applebee’s Social Media Snafu
Social media is a fickle, fickle friend. When you’re “besties,” she’s right there helping you get the word out, to generate leads and to develop some real loyal fans. But she can turn on a dime, and the increased exposure you once enjoyed no longer benefits you or your business. That’s what happened this past week to Applebee’s. A waitress posted an image of a receipt from a customer who declined to leave a tip beyond the 18% gratuity already included on the bill. At the bottom of the check, the customer left a note...

How Are You Doing Socially With Consumer Care?
Back in October, I talked a bit about the need for companies to go social with their customer care. Many consumers are already online, using social channels to inform their purchases. And with roughly 33% of social media users now turning to these same channels for support and service, it’s become even more important to the overall success of businesses. So how do you think you’re doing socially? A recent survey by Nielsen gives us a little insight into this question.

Is Your Brand Part of THE Conversation?
Last week, I talked about 4 Completely Avoidable Social Media Mistakes — a follow-up to my Avoiding 4 Big Social Media Mistakes. Yeah, I’ve been on quite a kick lately, but I’m not alone. In the February issue of Fast Company, they spoke about the conversation — and the conversation about the conversation — taking place on social media channels, particularly Twitter.

4 More Completely Avoidable Social Media Mistakes
Awhile back, I wrote about four of the bigger social media mistakes you can avoid. I touched on piggybacking on relevant trends, knowing why topics are trending, and not engaging on social accounts. But I’m totally obsessed with social media — almost in a creepy, stalker-ish sort of way. I get a kick out of watching corporations try to embrace social channels as a way to market their wares.

Avoiding 4 Big Social Media Mistakes
I’ve been on a big social media kick lately. Not sure why. I think a large part of it has to do with its ever-changing nature. Each day, it seems like a new channel pops up that we must be part of. First, there was Friendster, if I’m not mistaken, and then came MySpace. Within that same year, we got LinkedIn.

Businesses Go Social with Customer Service
Last week, I talked briefly about the need for businesses to be more social. Not breaking news, I know. But social media posts influence roughly 78% of consumers, and that’s just the posts coming from companies. Those from friends and family hold even more sway, influencing 81% of consumers.

Do Businesses Need to Be More Social?
You’ve no doubt heard that traditional marketing is dead. Bill Lee from the Harvard Business Review has told us: “Traditional marketing — including advertising, public relations, branding and corporate communications — is dead. Many people in traditional marketing roles and organizations may not realize they’re operating within a dead paradigm. But they are. The evidence is clear.” Now, as respected as Lee may be, I have a few qualms with this belief.

Interesting Is Tougher Than It Sounds
Interesting is tougher than it sounds. I ran across these words the other day when reading about social media, and couldn’t agree more. It’s tough to create content, and even tougher to create content that’s interesting — let alone relevant or valuable. But it’s not impossible…and here, you probably thought I was going another way with this. First, recap. Existing content is probably the easiest material to source for new content. And I’m not just talking about previous posts — something I’ve recommended in the past.

Are Traditional Marketing Practices Really Dead?
Through the whole of my career, I’ve been accused of being many things. Stubborn, bullheaded, and unpredictable are just a few. But the one that just ruffles my feathers is traditionalist. Why? Because when it comes to marketing, “traditional” often translates into antiquated, out-of-date, or even obsolete. As marketers, we’re constantly tasked with finding new channels and opportunities to reach consumers. Just look at how many of us are adopting and adapting web 2.0, social media, mobile apps, search engines, and email to get the word out.

The Persuasive Power of Postscripts
Postscripts are overlooked — it’s a simple fact of almost any direct marketing effort. Practically all attention is paid to subject lines and copy content. Both are important, yes…but maybe not as much as the postscript. Huh? Here’s the thing. Besides the first sentence, consumers tend to read the very end of an email or letter.

Cast Smaller Nets…And Many of Them
In marketing, we often cast a fairly wide net. We want to capture the broadest possible audience to generate the most buzz about whatever we’re selling. Even with the advent of inbound marketing, content marketing and all its iterations, we still insist on fishing in the densest of pools. The law of averages tells us this should work, right? But these pools are filled with diverse consumers — each curious about a given product or service for very different and distinct reasons.

Are Celebrity Endorsement Tweets Worth the Dough?
I’m obsessed with Twitter. Not because I love tweeting, but because I think it’s being oversold when it comes to marketing. I don’t think it’s as useful as many marketers claim it to be. You’ve got just 140 characters to convey a compelling message while you try to cut through all the noise on any given feed at any given time.

7 Tips for Creating Relevant Content
Content is king. As cliché as this may sound, there’s still a lot of truth in these three little words — even more so now with all the changes to Google’s algorithms. But in the rush to generate content, we often fail to question its relevancy. For today’s marketing efforts to work, content must be relevant. It must add value.

Twitter for Marketers: 8 Essential Tips
I’m not a fan of Twitter. I find it one of the noisiest platforms out there, especially when it comes to marketing. Other avenues are much more useful for getting your message out; at least, this is my experience. But Twitter’s place in the marketing landscape isn’t lost on me. It can be beneficial when used correctly.

How To Revive a Dying Blog
I get this question about once a week. Half the time, it’s coming from a company with an established blog. Why? Starting a blog is easy, keeping one going…well, that’s another story. There comes a point in the life of almost any blog where you start to think you've got nothing left to say.

Are You Using Social Media the Right Way?
Social media is relatively new, as far as marketing channels go. And we’re all pretty quick to adopt — adapt, even — any platform we can use to touch consumers. But there comes a point where we try to modify something beyond its original purpose so much that it becomes ineffectual. We miss out on opportunities and squander all of the advantages this channel has to offer.

Unconventional Pricing — A New Way to Create a Buzz?
I was recently tasked to come up with creative ways to improve the business of a hotel. All the usual suspects were discussed, especially those relying on social media platforms. QR codes to enrich the guests’ experiences were of the most interest. The retailer would simply place matrix barcodes in the lobby, gift shop, rooms, and other locales around the hotel to offer information.

Is Being 'Liked' Reason Enough for a Facebook Business Page?
Facebook for business. You’ve got a page. If you don’t, you probably plan to. Or someone in your circle is insisting you should, and offering up a whole laundry list of reasons why. It’s popular. It’s interactive. It’s searchable. It’s easy. And it’s free. But is 'popularity' or 'searchability' or 'ease' reasons enough to get your brand a Facebook page? Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying you shouldn’t. In fact, I think Facebook is a great tool to grow almost anyone’s business.

Avoid Complicating Conversion for Successful Brand Landing Pages
So much has been written on creating landing pages we should all be masters at the craft. It’s one of our best points of contact to change visitors into leads. But many of us still falter with their construction, and we inevitably hurt our conversion rate. Why? We tend to forget the one fundamental that really applies to almost any marketing effort. Simplicity. A great landing page is simplistic. It never asks or offers more than needed.

Most Influential Call-to-Action You’ll Ever Use
Calling consumers to take action is probably the single most important concept in marketing. After capturing the attention of your audience and articulating how your products or services can benefit your readers, you tell them what to do. Without this directive, the consumer is less likely to take the next step. And you fail to convert.

Don’t Count Out Direct Mail…Not Yet, At Least
After a quiet launch just over a year ago, Every Door Direct Mail is getting a massive multimedia marketing push. Part of the campaign is a series of television spots, each taking clever aim at the problems still facing businesses today. Finding an audience, driving in traffic, and just getting noticed are all fodder for these ads. And though they don’t come out and say it, it’s hard not to notice that they’re talking about the web as well. If so, do they have a point? Possibly.

Are You Over-Optimized?
If you do anything with SEO or search marketing, you’ve no doubt heard rumblings of another change in Google’s algorithm. The shift is said to reward sites with high-quality content, while penalizing those overstuffed with keywords and questionable links. Barring any glitches, it’s a good move, allowing all the cream to rise to the top — at least when it comes to page rank. But some honest, ethical businesses could still take a hit or two in their rankings. This is especially true if you’re practicing old techniques.

Is Location-Based Marketing Just Another Can of Worms?
Location-based marketing. It’s becoming a piece of many social media marketing strategies. With the help of geo-fencing, consumers get a text or offer from a local business as soon as they — or really their smartphones — enter a virtual parameter. It’s like targeted marketing, but only to people within a certain radius. Cool, right? As marketers, we’re always looking for more and more ways to interact with the public. And what’s more interactive than a smartphone? But there’s a catch.

Can Your Brand Benefit from Inconsistency?
Consistency has long been a linchpin in marketing strategies. The more consistent the message is across all points of contact, the more likely the brand becomes recognizable to the consumer. So recognizable that it almost controls the public’s perception of the product, not to mention turns consumers into customers — at least that’s our hope. But with so many ways to now reach consumers, can consistency do damage to a brand’s relevancy?

Time Is As Important As Consistency in Marketing
A lot has been written about consistency in marketing, and for good reason. When a consumer hears the same message in the same way at each point of contact, it builds brand awareness. This awareness makes your brand recognizable, differentiating you from your competitors. It also ensures that anyone talking about your brand talks about it in the way you want it to be talked about.

Inbound Marketing — A Cure-All for Business Woes?
Inbound marketing. It’s not a new concept when it comes to marketing strategies, yet it's quickly becoming “all the buzz” with marketers, not to mention those who hire them. The idea is simple enough. Create useful content that brings consumers to your site. Content that maximizes search engine rankings and social media outlets to establish relationships between you and consumers.

Brand Loyalty — A Thing of the Past?
Some marketers will tell you brand loyalty is a thing of the past, while others will argue that it only applies to niche goods. If either notion is at all true, why the change? Part of the problem is saturation. With so many products of similar quality and price on the market today, it’s quite easy for the consumer to substitute one brand for the next. There’s no real risk in switching brands. Let’s say you’re in the market for a new coffeemaker.

JC Penney's 'Fair and Square' Pricing and the Problem of Perceived Value
February marked the end of endless markdowns at JC Penney. Instead, the retailer has moved to a simpler approach to pricing. Each item now falls in one of three tiers. First, all merchandise will get a “Fair and Square” price of about 40% less than the average ticket.


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