4 Mistakes I Learned About Marketing and Data While Working at a Fortune 50 Company

For the past nearly 3 years, I’ve been in charge of Audience Development for one of the largest media companies in the US.

I learned a LOT during that time. Even more important, I learned a lot about what NOT to do.

Not all of these things were personal ‘mistakes’ per se. Some were top down decisions that were influenced by lack of foresight, knowledge or budget. Others were due to an industry that is undergoing rapid change.

As John Powell said, “The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.”

To that end, here are the top 4 mistakes I learned during my tenure. I hope sharing these and their learnings will spark some good discussion – either internally or in the comments below.

1. Not Investing in Building User Data

This one definitely took me by surprise.

When I arrived, I had big plans to leverage CRM data to build remarketing pools, lookalike audiences, email campaigns, etc.

But there was no CRM database.

One thing not often considered about media companies is the fact the consumer data is controlled by the cable provider. The cable company collects the payment and therefore have all the associated consumer data:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone
  • Email
  • Credit Card Info
  • Purchase history
  • Login Username/Password
  • Etc.

In it’s simplest form, the media company simply provides the content the cable provider sells to the consumer. For the longest period of time, the value of collecting this data had been overlooked.

Plan of Action:

To access ‘free’ content within an app from the likes of NBC, CBS, Fox and others, you must go through an authentication process. This is done using the same credentials you would login to pay your cable bill.

In one of these apps, you’ve likely come across a login page that looks like this:

This poses two challenges:

  1. Many consumers don’t know or remember this login. As a result, a lot of potential video consumption is lost.
  2. As mentioned above, this is an interstitial page that drives to the cable provider as they own the username and password information.

In collaboration with the product team, a strategy was developed to implement a ‘free trial’ in exchange for the user’s email address. This would allow the user to forego the authentication requirement.

This was the minimal piece of information required for us to begin building a CRM and the beginning of a customer match marketing program across Google, Facebook and Twitter.

It also provided us with the initial piece of consumer data that we could subsequently build on with supplemental offers in exchange for profile completion.

The overarching lesson here is – invest in CRM. Even if you have to start with just a database of email addresses. Start somewhere.

2. Not Understanding the Nuances of Mobile Tracking

As you might imagine, much of our marketing strategy and budget focused on the mobile space. Interestingly enough, this is also a space where ad-blockers are not working.

That said, with mobile advertising comes tracking nuances that I was initially unaware of.

When I joined the team, we were full-steam into launching the first ever marketing campaign. In our haste to launch, we did not take the time to fully understand the impact of not solidifying our mobile tracking solution.

Our primary mobile advertising consisted of:

Desktop & Mobile Banner and Social Ads:

The standard process for attribution is based on the use of cookies.

When a user visits a website via their desktop or mobile device, your banner displays and a cookie is dropped on the visitor’s computers  – regardless of whether or not they click through to your website.

Depending on the ad-server being used, this cookie can remain active for up to 2 years.

Eventually, if the user performs the desired action, that same cookie fires sending the proper attribution for your campaign. All is well in the world.

Apple’s Safari browser blocks 3rd party cookies by default which makes this ‘standard’ tracking more complicated. Among other things, this means your app cannot read the cookie data stored by Mobile Safari.

This presents a challenge to advertisers as Safari’s market share is around 33% globally.

In-App Advertising (sending users to our brand websites):

I’m sure you’ve noticed when you open a link in an app, it doesn’t open a new browser window. Rather, it opens an “in-app browser”.

This makes perfect sense for UX as it allows you to quickly return to the app.

The issue lies in the cookie drop on your phone. This naturally occurs with the click, however, it only drops a cookie for the in-app browser session. Unless the conversion happens immediately within that session, the attribution is lost.

In-App Advertising (sending users to our apps):

Quite simply, cookies are not used ‘in-app’. This left us with zero attribution or cross-device tracking.

The lack of attention to these details was quickly evident. At the end of the campaign, we were left pointing to engagement metrics like impressions, CTR and social shares as a measure of success.

Not at all what a consumer acquisition campaign should be reporting.

Plan of Action:

The quickest change to a leaky attribution bucket that we could make was to tackle the Safari issue. We simply updated our social and display targeting to remove Safari browsers.

While Google struggles with mobile and socially-driven demographic/interest targeting, Facebook provides the ability to target (or exclude) users by Web browser.

While not foolproof, for the likes of Twitter and Google, we targeted only older operating systems in an effort to capture users who were still using legacy browsers.

Considering our audience was US based, we estimated that we would only be missing out on approximately 15-18% of the overall market.

The other two challenges were a bit more complicated and required a mobile attribution solution that established the match between the user’s advertising ID and the publisher.

While there are many companies available for this, after evaluation, we landed on Kochava as our solution provider.

Pro tip: if you’re on a budget, Branch.io is a completely free solution that provides many of the same features.

3. Focusing on Sexy vs. Efficient

The programmatic display and mobile space is filled with shiny new tools, ad placements, and even ad units.

Combine that with the traditional types of advertising done by media companies (think big billboards, bus sides, etc) and these quickly become distractions from tactics that are proven to work.

I think it’s fair to say we spread our tactics far too wide in the early years in hopes of capitalizing on that sexy new ad-unit or the hot new ad targeting. This was, unfortunately, at the expense of tried and true tactics like traditional paid search.

A smarter approach would have been to test into these tactics rather than build a comprehensive media plan that included them.

Plan of Action:

I’m a huge fan of Steve Jobs. And Apple in general. One of my favorite quotes from him is:

Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do.”

With more data and proper attribution in place, we were more empowered to direct the media plans across the brands.

We focused on tried and true channels that significantly outperformed the “shiny objects” that had resulted in wasted spend and higher costs for creative development.

This paid off in a big way:

  • Total impressions declined significantly, however, clicks increased just as dramatically
  • Average click costs also declined
  • Cost per app install decreased nearly 200%
  • Cost per video start decreased 230%

Sometimes the ‘simple’ things just work better.

Ultimately, after seeing the data, I took away a few lessons that can be applied to almost any campaign:

Programmatic display isn’t the end all, be all. It’s an industry buzzword. I could even say ‘buzztactic’. It’s rife with click fraud and vendors with non-transparent ‘private networks’. It’s susceptible to ad blockers and comes with many privacy issues.

Don’t get me wrong. It can work.

But, test into programmatic options ONLY after you’ve exhausted the below tactics.

Focus on channels where a consumer is actively searching for you. They’re already self-qualified based on their actions. The most applicable here is paid search across Bing or Google.

Remarket your way to lower cost per acquisitions. You’ve already paid the premium CPC or CPM to get that user to your website. Typically, remarketing campaigns come with much lower costs. Why not re-engage a warm lead for less?

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#Hashtags are inherently social, but leave them out of social ad copy. Through our trimming of tactics, we also trimmed areas where consumers might be tempted to leave the topic at hand.

In this case, we removed any hashtag mentions in our ad copy so consumers would focus instead on the ‘install’. Our conversion rates improved as a result.

When pushing mobile installs, leverage a device in your creative. When you think about it, of course. It makes sense. But we proved it out via testing. Showing consumers an image of their device in the creative they’re being served improved conversion rates.

4. Not Leveraging an Always on Strategy

Consumers, myself included, are always on. Always plugged in. It’s a bad, addicting habit.

But, that also means running a campaign for a TV show only when that show is in-season leaves opportunity on the table.

There are a few challenges with being able to do this:

First, media companies are selling off the rights to their shows to the likes of Netflix and Hulu. In some cases, the ability to create a show is solely dependent on the revenue coming from these transactions.

This means an always on strategy will never be an option once the rights are sold.

Second, when we first launched our campaigns, we were spending large portions of our budget on fancy creative and higher cost CPMs trying to capture the next big thing.

This left us without budget pacing that would allow for an always on strategy.

Plan of Action:

We tackled the second issue as part of our streamlining of tactics. This enabled our budgets to stretch farther and for longer periods of time both pre-premier and post-finale.

The matter of rights was more complicated and is probably worth a completely separate post. That said, as a test, we decided to focus on a core set of shows where the rights had been retained for several years.

The hope was, if we could show a series with multiple seasons resulted in larger average views per user, we could start to build a case for investing in the rights for the more popular shows.

It worked.

We found not only were the average views per user up, but these campaigns were far outperforming pilot shows and series with limited rights.

This resulted in overall efficiencies for the campaign.

Wrapping Up

There’s no question the digital space can provide lots of opportunity for growth and learning. I have certainly learned a ton.

Hopefully sharing some of these insights will help you better streamline your digital marketing efforts, focus on what works, get your tracking in order and ultimately drive increased performance.

About the Author: Jon Clark is the founder of Fuze SEO, a boutique digital marketing company in New York. He writes regularly on SEO tactics, analytics and social media best practices. You can connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter. When not working or writing, Jon enjoys documenting his travels on Instagram.

How to Get Your Business Seen with Online Content


In a recent interview on the Thriving Launch podcast, I addressed themes that will be familiar to you if you’re a regular reader of this blog…how to get seen with your online content.

I talked about how to grow your following through adding value to your content and how having value and being clear on your message helps leverage your online presence.

I also explain how online content can be repurposed and republished to different platforms, which results in attracting more people to your business.

The interview with hosts Luis Congdon and Kamala Chambers is short and sweet, about 14 minutes.

I remember being interviewed about republishing and repurposing content back in 2008 or 2009. My message remains the same, though many of the tools have changed and evolved.

You can be organized and efficient with your content development by putting the tools to use for you in a smart way that includes some automation. 

3 Ways to Use Automation for Repurposing

For example, if you repurpose your blog posts to Medium, you can install the Medium WordPress plugin to auto-save a draft of your blog post to your account. That saves you time. No copy and pasting. Simply log into your account, review the draft, add your bio and call to action, choose the appropriate tags and publish. It takes 5-10 minutes max.

Use Lumen5 (free at the time of this post’s publication) to create a video trailer to promote your blog post.  Read my tutorial here.

Use Canva’s Magic Resize feature to quickly create a suite of images for promoting your blog post on all the social platforms.

‘Consistency is a foundational piece to attracting a following.’ ~ Denise WakemanClick To Tweet

But first, before you begin, so you avoid sporadic, random repurposing, create a checklist so you are consistent with your efforts. Here’s a sample checklist I created for going live on Facebook.

Create a checklist for consistency

Checkli.com is a simple tool for making checklists.

If you prefer reading to listening, the full transcript of the interview, along with key takeaways is here. Be sure to share your thoughts about repurposing and visibility in the comments!

Recommended Reading

Repurposing Your Content – 13 Ways to Reach More People

How to Quickly Repurpose Your Facebook Live Videos

The post How to Get Your Business Seen with Online Content appeared first on Digital Marketing Strategy for Entrepreneurs | Denise Wakeman.

How to Find Out What Keywords Are Relevant to Your Business

How to Find Out What Keywords Are Relevant to Your Business

Keyword research is everything for the average business. This article describes how to go about it.

The right keywords can bring the right people to your business—and by investing your time in keywords research, you can identify popular search terms your customers are using and learn more about what goes on in their mind. Try putting yourself in their shoes and you’re one step closer to finding terms that can get you ranked in search engines.

If you’re still in the first stages of figuring out how to get discovered in search results, this article will help you as it outlines the top ways to find relevant keywords to your business. You can then implement these keywords into your website and campaigns to attract the right kind of visitors and leads.

1. Brainstorm first

Start first by writing down the list of terms and phrases that your target customers are most likely to use.

Continue reading "How to Find Out What Keywords Are Relevant to Your Business" at Maximize Social Business by clicking here.

Review – Zarrella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness: The Science, Design, and Engineering of Contagious Ideas

Introduction: Zarrella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness: The Science, Design, and Engineering of Contagious Ideas

Zarrella's Hierarchy of Contagiousness: he Science, Design, and Engineering of Contagious IdeasZarrella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness: he Science, Design, and Engineering of Contagious Ideas

I was delighted with the information in my complimentary copy of Zarrella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness: The Science, Design, and Engineering of Contagious Ideas by Dan Zarrella. This is a short manifesto from Seth Godin’s Domino Project that is packed with a lot of punch.

Are you interested in virality? Do you ever wonder if there is a formula for your blog posts, articles, and status updates to go viral?

If you answered yes to both questions, then this book is for you. There is a science to contagiousness.

Have you read?

How to Write Viral Content: A Look at Contagious by Jonah Berger

Summary: Hooked by Nir Eyal

Non-Obvious: How to Think Different, Curate Ideas and Predict the Future by Rohit Bhargava

What is Zarrella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness About?

We’ve all seen videos, blog posts and ideas that spread like wildfire over the internet.

But what makes them spreadable? Is it because they are good?

Not necessarily, says Dan Zarrella, since some of those videos, blog posts and ideas aren’t good. They spread because they have contagiousness factors.  They spread because they are able to reproduce themselves. “In his 1976 book The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins coined the word “meme” to mean a “unit of cultural inheritance.” His point was ideas evolve like genes do, and their success is based on their ability to spread, not on their benefit to provide to their hosts,” says Zarrella.

Zarrella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness

What I liked about the manifesto is that it’s researched-based and the author loves to tests things. Before an idea is spread, there are three criteria that must be met first:

Zarrella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness: Three Criteria for Contagiousness

  1. Exposure: People have to be exposed to your content, so that means that they have to subscribe to your blog, be on your email list, or follow you on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook. To win at this you have to increase the number of people who subscribe to you blog, are on your email lists, and who connect or follow you on the various social networks.
  2. Attention: They have to be aware of the content that you want to spread, so they have to read you blog post, open your email or read you status update. To win at this, you have to write better headlines/subject lines for your blog posts and emails, as well as more engaging status updates.
  3. Motivation: They have to be motivated to share your content. Always have a call to action so people know what they are supposed to do next.

And the key to the above is really to experiment to determine what works and what doesn’t work so well.

Zarrella takes each criteria, and delves into them in their own chapter and gives deeper insight into exactly what he means. For instance, we are often told that if we have a small engaged list, our idea will spread, but the science doesn’t really support that. Yes, there are times we’ll get lucky, but for an idea to spread, it’s better if it’s exposed to a larger audience because not everyone will read it, and of those who read about your idea, even less will be motivated to share it.

In addition, certain words such as official, founder, speaker, expert and so on give us authority and increases our exposure. Another interesting piece of information is that people prefer information from you that’s positive because they are bombarded with so much negative information every day. And when you write, they want to hear your voice, your unique take, they want you to be authentic, but they do not want to hear about you. It’s what’s in it for them.

To grab attention you have to cut through all the clutter, but to do so, you have to say something new in a way that is familiar, or say something old in a new way, and one of the examples Zarrella gave was new adaptations of Romeo and Juliet. Another way is to personalize your message, or even broadcast your message at counterintuitive times such as on the weekends. Email messages that were sent between 5 and 6 am had the highest click through rates.

Zarrella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness: Certain types of information are more spreadable than others:

  1. People have to be eager for the information.
  2. Have to know what information people already have and what they lack.
  3. Have to have an understanding of what moves them – their hopes, fears, hostilities.
  4. Have an understanding of how they deal with their hopes, fears, hostilities, and so on.

Some of the reasons people are motivated to spread your ideas include: Personal relevance, humour, usefulness, shared common interest and so on. And the easier it is to read and understand your idea, the more spreadable it becomes.

3 Great Ideas from Zarrella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness

  1. Talk as yourself, not about yourself.
  2. Add to the conversation with interesting content.
  3. Scarce knowledge is power

Final Thoughts: Zarrella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness

I recommend Zarrella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness: The Science, Design, and Engineering of Contagious Ideas by Dan Zarrella because it has tips that you can readily implement to test for yourself.

 Zarrella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness: he Science, Design, and Engineering of Contagious Ideas Contagious: Why Things Catch On Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products Non-Obvious 2018 Edition: How To Think Different, Curate Ideas & Predict The Future

UPDATE: First Published November 2011

Other Resources

 How to Write Magnetic Headlines, Copyblogger.com

How to Write Headlines That Work, Copyblogger.com

102 Proven Social Media Headline Formulas, Chris Garrett

Idea Starters: 52 Headline Archetypes to Get Your Creative Juices Flowing

How to Spread Your Ideas, Leo Babauta

The post Review – Zarrella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness: The Science, Design, and Engineering of Contagious Ideas appeared first on The Invisible Mentor.

The Conversion Rate Conundrum: Common Mistakes and What to Do Instead

In real estate, the axiom is location, location, location. It’s first and foremost. The number one consideration.

For your digital efforts – email, web pages, eCommerce platforms – an argument could be made for a few different ones: search engine optimization (SEO), the user experience (UX), conversion rate optimization (CRO), or perhaps something else entirely.

Ask five experts and you’ll probably end up with five different answers. But what’s really the end goal? Why are you doing whatever it is you’re doing?

Conversion, conversion, conversion.

Whether that means signing up, downloading, opting in, subscribing, or purchasing, you want your target to do something. Ultimately, everything else should be assisting that one objective.

With apologies to Meghan Trainor, I’m going to suggest it’s all about that CRO. SEO is obviously necessary, but traffic alone is meaningless. And the UX? A happy and satisfied user is imperative, but try paying your rent with one.

So, at the risk of drawing the wrath of the SEO and UX camps, they both fall under the CRO umbrella (they’re all very, very important, though). But – and this is a big but – it’s a massive mistake to believe that SEO and/or UX alone will do much for your CVR.

Start with the end in mind. You need to focus on specific ways to improve your conversion rate.

CRO: An Uphill Battle

Consider this: a couple of years ago, 80% left a site without doing anything. No conversion. That figure is up to 96% in 2017. The global average CVR of online shoppers early this year was 2.48%. Those stats are a bit scary.

The good news? With numbers like that, things can only get better. It just takes time, effort, and a systematic, active approach.

But don’t fall victim to these traps, pitfalls, and mistakes.

Your Mistake: Focusing On the Wrong Things

Quick question: would you rather have something beautiful, or something functional? Would you rather be clever, or understood?

I’ll be blunt…beautiful things are nice, but functional things are essential. And that goes double for your email marketing, website, eCommerce portal, or app.

And clever? Don’t get me started. Clever headlines and subject lines don’t mean a thing if no one clicks or opens them. Consumers want to know what it’s about immediately. They don’t want to have to guess or click or open before finding out (and most won’t anyway).

Be functional. Be clear. Full stop.

Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a good looking website. Nor should your headline be boring and the first dull thing that pops into your head. Quite the contrary. But if you’re putting beauty over function and cleverness over clarity, you’re doing it wrong.

A breathtaking site that’s confusing and awkward to navigate but bursting with clever puns, wordplay, and double entendres may win you fans, but few or no conversions. Which do you want?

Do this instead…

Put your customers first. Consider their wants and needs. Use every available data source – analytics (Kissmetrics goes much deeper than Google…just sayin’), industry studies, surveys, polls, etc. – to identify and create detailed buyer personas. Then, create a site for them.

But don’t stop there. Once you have it where you think it should be, have others take it out for a spin. Try an impartial and third-party service like UserTesting to get invaluable video of real people using your site. Where did it fail them? Take that insight and tweak.

Next, turn to the old standby: A/B testing. You’d be surprised by the big results you can get from tiny changes. Use a testing tool like Optimizely or Visual Website Optimizer to confirm your theories about colors, placement, copy, design, images, and more.

One site saw a conversion lift of 304% simply by moving the CTA button from above-the-fold to below it.

Don’t make it look pretty. Make it practical.

Having said that, a cheap, outdated design with grainy stock photos isn’t going to cut it, either. People won’t trust it – or you – and if they don’t believe you’re trustworthy, they won’t convert. Keep your design clean and modern, and use high quality images of your products and people.

Finally, always opt for clear – Get Your Free Trial – over clever – Click or I Kill This Puppy.

Your Mistake: You’re Targeting Just One Platform

Desktop. Tablet. Mobile. Which one is most important?

It’s a trick question. You’ve no doubt heard a lot about the increasing role of mobile devices when it comes to the online world. Chances are virtually everyone around you is staring at their smartphone screen.

Google announced a change to its algorithm in mid-2015 that made mobile-readiness a ranking factor. Since then, more people access the internet on a mobile device than a desktop computer.

Like any good webmaster, you’ve dutifully checked the mobile-friendly tool and made sure your pages passed the mobile test. Kudos.

But the desktop is not dead. Far from it.

Image Source

More people shop weekly online using their desktop than a mobile phone, and the same number shop daily using both.

Traditional desktop computers still boast a higher conversion rate than both tablets and mobile phones. In fact, desktops had a CVR that was more than 3x higher than smartphones for American shoppers in 2016 (3.55% vs 1.15% respectively).

Mobile at the expense of desktop? Bad idea.

So how about desktop over mobile?

We’ve already mentioned that more people head online using a mobile device than desktop computers, so you’d be waving goodbye to a huge chunk of potential.

And when it comes to your local market, you’re missing out if your platform isn’t mobile-ready. More local searches result in a purchase when made on a smartphone than those made on a desktop (78% vs 61% respectively).

Finally, 59% of smartphone users expect a website to be mobile-friendly and feel frustrated when it’s not. They’ll leave and likely never return.

No mobile? No way.

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Do this instead…

The solution should be obvious. Desktop or mobile? You need both. And tablets, too. Create a website or portal that looks and functions equally well on all three, and you’re ahead of the curve.

In big markets like the United States, Canada, China, and the United Kingdom, the vast majority are multi-platform people.

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Try a tool like Screenfly or WhatIsMyScreenResolution to see for yourself. Is everything legible? Are the buttons and links spread out and big enough to be easily tapped on a touchscreen? Do you use more scrolling than clicking?

Google recommends you use a responsive site design rather than dynamic content or a separate mobile URL. And it’s best to follow their advice. Of course, there’s a lot more to mobile optimization, but this is enough to get you started.

The key takeaway: Don’t sacrifice one for the other. Design and optimize for desktop, tablet, and mobile, and watch that CVR head north.

Your Mistake: You Don’t Care About Speed

This can’t get any simpler: speed matters. For your customers and the search engines. So be fast.

As you beef your site up with tools, HD images, videos, and more, your speed suffers. If you believe that a practical, responsive site and good products are enough, you’re wrong. Why?

Because if your page takes too long to load, they’ll leave before even experiencing any of that.

Nearly half of web users expect a page to load in under 2 seconds, and 79% won’t return to a site with performance issues like slow load times.

As much as 83% of users expect a page to load in under 3 seconds, and a 1 second improvement in your load time can produce a 7% increase in conversions. That’s right.

The godfather of eCommerce – Amazon – experiences a 1% loss in revenue for every 100ms delay…that’s just one-tenth of a second.

Do this instead…

Care about speed and load time. A lot. Actively work to make your pages faster and more streamlined.

Google suggests that your site take no more than 2-3 seconds to load. At most. How do you measure up?

There are other mistakes that negatively affect your CVR: you give up too easily (solution: retargeting, cart abandonment emails, etc.), no social proof (solution: add social proof), weak call-to-action (solution: make it active, make it clear, test, and optimize), and more.

Check out some of the great tutorials by Neil Patel, Glide, Kissmetrics, and HubSpot if you want to dig deeper and go further. In the meantime, find and fix these three mistakes to shift your CRO into overdrive.

Because online, it’s conversion, conversion, conversion.

About the Author: Daniel Kohn is the CEO and co-founder of SmartMail, a company that helps E-commerce stores and online retailers increase sales, average order value, and lifetime customer value through email. Download SmartMail’s 4 highest converting email templates to help jumpstart your E-commerce email marketing program.

Notes on Several Short Sentences About Writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg

Introduction: Notes on Several Short Sentences About Writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg

Several Short Sentences About WritingSeveral Short Sentences About Writing

Don’t you just love a book titled, Several Short Sentences About Writing?  Well, Several Short Sentences About Writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg is unexpected. As I was reading the book, here are the words I wrote as I reacted to what I was reading. It is like a breath of fresh air. It is like a jolt of lightning. It brings you back to life.

When I say the book is unexpected, I mean it literally. When you read this book, it will make you uncomfortable because you have to unlearn many things that you learned and believe about writing.

What is Several Short Sentences About Writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg About?

According to Verlyn Klinkenborg, “Most of the received wisdom about how writing works is not only wrong but harmful.”

Several Short Sentences About Writing, Several Short Sentences About Writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg

The author says there is no such thing as writer’s block. If you are suffering from writer’s block, you haven’t done your homework. You haven’t done enough research. You haven’t prepared sufficiently. Forget about trying to be in flow. Stop being afraid of what your audience may think. Start thinking. Start reading.  Be patient with yourself. Stop being in such a hurry to get on with your writing. Do you believe there is no such thing as writer’s block?

If that slap on the wrist is not enough, Klinkenborg wants you to get rid of all transitions and connections, because if you write clearly, you don’t need them. So, there are no if, ands or buts. I can hear you saying, “Is this Verlyn Klinkenborg guy for real? Who does he think he is?”

Reading Several Short Sentences About Writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg is music to the ears. You’ll feel like you are watching a stellar performance. The imagery pulls you in. You are now part of the performance. A sentence is like a performance. It says its piece and leaves the stage. It’s like an actor in a theater performing. He says his part, then leaves the stage, so the other actor can say his piece.

Some of what Verlyn Klinkenborg says in the book may sound confusing at first. Before you discount what he has to say, reflect on his message.

Several Short Sentences About Writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg: Things to Think About

Several Short Sentences About Writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg

  1. In writing, you can get to anywhere from anywhere. You can start anywhere. You can end anywhere.

  2. The second sentence you write can actually be the 10th sentence in your piece. Let the first sentence lead you to where it wants to go.

  3. Every work of literature is the result of thousands and thousands of decisions. Intricate minute decisions – this word or that, here or where, now or later, again and again.

  4. Syntactic and grammatical accuracy is the precondition for being sure your sentences say what you think they say.

  5. People will continue to believe that writing is natural. This harms only writers who believe it themselves.

  6. What seems like common sense to you may come as a revelation to the reader.

  7. Ask yourself, “Who am I to the reader?” and “What can I expect the reader to know?”

  8. Curiosity, patience, and the ability to improvise help you to become better at revising. Remain open to the work and let it remain open to you.

  9. Write for the reader in yourself, but do not write for yourself. Imagine the readers experience.

  10. You’re a writer and a reader. You become a better writer by becoming a better reader.

  11. Writing well and reading well mean paying attention to all the subtleties – all the minute details.

  12. The purpose of a sentence is to say what it has to say, but also be itself.

  13. Good writing makes any subject interesting.

Although Several Short Sentences About Writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg departs from most books about writing, the author believes that you have to understand grammar, syntax and so on, because sentences adhere to rules – grammar, syntax, the history and customs of the language.

Several Short Sentences About Writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg: About Editing

Be clear, precise, intelligent, resourceful, poetic, and wise. Leave space for silence, for the pauses. There are no sacred cows when it comes to your sentences. Remove words instead of adding them. Use direct language, don’t be evasive in your writing. Be simple in word choice when constructing your sentences. And when you feel like things are really working in your piece, it’s time to break what already works. Keep doing this until it’s time to move on what’s next.

After reading Several Short Sentences About Writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg, you’ll never feel the same about writing. I highly recommend this book.

 Several Short Sentences About Writing Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content Hypnotic Writing: How to Seduce and Persuade Customers with Only Your Words Triggers: 30 Sales Tools you can use to Control the Mind of your Prospect to Motivate, Influence and Persuade.

This post was first published in February 2016!

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The post Notes on Several Short Sentences About Writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg appeared first on The Invisible Mentor.

Value Creation vs. Revenue Extraction: Which Kind of Business Are You?

There’s a problem in business.

Okay, fine, there are plenty of problems in the wide world of business.

Obviously, there are tons of good things in business brought about by new innovations, advances in technology, and improvements in customer engagement.

But for all the new changes, old habits sure do die hard. Specifically, there are a lot of old ideas that still have a grip on the business world.

These ideas are preventing businesses from successfully engaging present day users.

This is why so many brands are dying out; they’re failing to actually serve today’s customers. Think about your business’s focus, where you’re putting your energy.

Is your business people-first or money-first?

Because the hard truth is that a business that puts revenue first won’t be able to stay afloat in the tumultuous waters of today’s economy. It sounds counterintuitive. Doesn’t a business exist to make money?

Yes. Obviously, you need to think about profit. But when you make that your number one goal above your customers, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.

This is more than just a chicken-and-egg riddle.

This is about how and why you do business.

If you haven’t given the issue some thought, I will share a few thoughts that I think are crucial to a business’s longevity and ultimate success.

The point I’m making is simple. Businesses should work to create value not just extract profits.

Let me show you the how and why.

A Primer on Value Creation and Revenue Extraction

In terms of customer interaction, there are typically two general types of businesses: value creation and revenue extraction.

You’ve probably seen both in action before, but you might not be able to tell which one you are.

So let’s start by going over the characteristics of both types of businesses and looking at some examples.

If a business is focused on value, it will naturally put its customers above everything else. (Yes, even above revenue.)

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As the definition above notes, value creation increases your business’s worth.

Listen to that again: Value creation increases the worth of your business.

How does this happen? It happens because customers are attracted to businesses that can give them something.

The more value you provide, the more attracted your customers will be to your business.

It’s a simple (and scalable) formula, but far too few businesses actually adopt it.

Many companies still believe that a revenue extraction model is the best for doing long-term business.

What’s revenue extraction?

Revenue extraction is the idea of operating a business with the sole goal of getting money from customers. It’s the exact opposite of value creation.

This little image sums it up well:

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Where value creation is focused on serving, revenue extraction is obsessed with being served.

The type of business makes a colossal difference in how customers respond and interact.

And that’s not just theory. It’s a fact.

Quick caveat here.

Obviously, every business has to focus on profit to some degree.


It’s simple.

If a business doesn’t make a profit, it doesn’t exist. End of story.

Value creation vs. revenue extraction has more to do with motivation and priority rather than simple accounting.

As I’ll explain below, placing a higher priority on value creation will produce higher revenues.

Let’s look at an example.

UrbanBound is a company that prioritizes value extraction. They weren’t engaging their customers well enough, so they listened to customer feedback and rolled out a new marketing plan that included lots of high-value content.

The results were astounding:

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That’s what value creation can do.

Okay, that was a positive example.

Now let’s look at a negative example.

From 2000 to 2014, Steve Ballmer was the CEO of Microsoft. As CEO, Ballmer was known for focusing on sales to the exclusion of nearly everything else.

I’m smelling revenue extraction.

In an interview with Vanity Fair, Ballmer made it obvious that he was focused on revenue extraction, saying, “It’s easy to glorify the products produced and the reputations won, not the money made.”

Even his exit from the company didn’t stop him from having this mindset. In early 2017, he said of Microsoft, “I want to see more profit growth.”

Sure enough, Ballmer’s attitude contributed to Microsoft’s poor performance during his tenure. The company produced several products that flopped, share price was largely stagnant, and Forbes called him the worst CEO.

ups and downs of steve ballmer

When Ballmer announced his retirement as CEO, the stock price jumped 10%, which ironically enough, added even more to Steve Ballmer’s enormous wealth. He quits, and makes $1 billion. If only we could all be so lucky.

Interestingly, while Ballmer increased Microsoft’s revenue, his reign also saw a dip in customer satisfaction.

Some point to Ballmer as the big bad reason why Apple overtook Microsoft.

Apple, who seems to focus more on the customer, steadily grew its revenue while staying at the top of the American Customer Satisfaction Index for eleven years straight.

Today, the fact that Microsoft lost customers (and that Apple gained customers) in the long term is evident by just looking at each company’s revenue over a ten-year period.

apple revenue after iPhone

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So what’s the point of all of this?

If you rely on a revenue extraction business model, you’ll turn your customers into enemies.

Your sales might look good for a bit, but that won’t last long.

If you think about human nature, this makes a lot of sense. No one wants to feel like a company just wants to empty their wallets.

Rather, customers see themselves as part of an exchange system. They contribute money to a business. In return they get some sort of value.

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When customers receive value, they have a huge incentive to come back to your business.

And in a crowded economy, if you want to stand out, you have to win your customers over with a ton of value.

The world’s most successful businesses all think this way, and it’s proven to improve your relationship with your customers.

You might be scared right now, wondering if you’re focused on value creation or revenue extraction.

Here’s how you can tell.

Where’s your focus?

Businesses who focus on value creation and those who focus on revenue extraction look very different when you look at their priorities.

And, really, that’s all this is — a priority issue.

Pivoting from revenue extraction to value creation doesn’t require firing your employees, shuffling top management, or changing your logo.

It simply means an adjustment of priority. That can start with a simple mental shift.

I’ve identified five positive priorities of a value creation business.

1. You put the most effort into creating and refining your products or services with your customers in mind, and you continually take customer feedback into account.

2. You often ask your customers for feedback and maintain a strong online presence, answering questions and addressing complaints.

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3. You publish lots of free, value-packed content. You might publish so much free content that people tell you to charge for it. Hubspot is one company that does this often:

4. Your company ethos revolves around helping your customers achieve their goals.

5. Your marketing hinges on the benefits your customers will receive from your products or services.

difference between features and benefits

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Now, let’s go over to the dark side.

Here are five signs that you’re a revenue extraction business:

1. You put the most effort into your pricing schemes and/or create your products or services with profit in mind.

2. You rarely ask your customers for feedback and don’t prioritize your online presence or interaction with customers.

3. You don’t publish free content often, and when you do, it doesn’t provide a lot of value.

4. Your company ethos revolves around maximizing your bottom line.

5. Your marketing hinges on sensational tactics (like clickbait) to get people’s attention using hype.

Of course, it’s not always black and white. In fact, your company may have characteristics from both of those lists. Most businesses tend towards one side or the other.

What about your business?

If you’ve identified your business as the revenue extraction type, don’t panic.

This doesn’t mean you’re doomed to fail, and it doesn’t mean you have an evil company.

There are several tactical ways to shift from the revenue extraction model to the value creation model.

Value begins with great content

To provide the kind of value that your customers will love, you need to make some serious changes.

In particular, you need to know what your customers want and need and then give them what they’re looking for.

Learning who your customers are is important for every business, but if you’ve found out you only think about revenue extraction, you need to kick your customer engagement strategy into overdrive.

This is where it gets good.

The best way to do this is with a killer content strategy.

elements of content strategy

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If you don’t have one, you need to make one.

But whether you’re revamping your current strategy or creating one from scratch, the steps are more or less the same.

Here’s a good framework for what a content strategy should look like:

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Let’s break that down.

Step 1: Plan your content

What kind of high-value content are you going to produce? This is a step you should spend some time on.

You don’t want to put out a ton of content if it’s just going to be watered down. Instead, focus on quality over quantity.

There’s a lack of high quality content on the web. If you’re one of the businesses in your niche that’s creating helpful content, you’ll easily stand out.

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Your content should revolve around information that will benefit your readers in some way. Sometimes that means actionable tips, and sometimes that means in-depth explanations.

Remember, providing value needs to be your core mission.

As long as you prioritize that, you’ll be on the right track.

Step 2: Audit your existing content

Even if you don’t have much content right now, you might still be able to salvage some or all of the content you do have.

If you search “content audit,” you’ll be greeted by several articles that focus on SEO.

You don’t have to worry about that too much right now, but you should determine if any content on your site is driving large amounts of traffic.

If you find something, you’ll definitely want to update it.

For all your other content, think critically about how well the content would perform. You can use sites like Buzzsumo to see what’s trending in your niche.

If you choose to keep any content, you should update it. Your existing content is probably low-value, so increasing the amount of value will be your first priority.

Step 3: Fine-tune your content process

During this step, think about how you can make a repeatable, scalable process for content creation. This needs to be a system that you can use time and time again.

First, you need to think about how you’re going to deliver the content. Will you use longform articles? Videos? Infographics?

Second, you need to create an editorial calendar that will map out what you publish and how often you publish it.

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Basically, you should have a smooth process in place that covers all the bases.

This will take some time to fully develop, so expect to make frequent changes.

Step 4: Set up a performance tracking system

To maintain a powerful content strategy, you need to know what’s working and what’s not.

In terms of content, your success or failure will be measured by how well your content performs.

Performance is generally measured using a few key metrics: views, time on page, and conversion actions (like email signups or even sales). These are also called Key Performance Indicators or KPIs.

You can see all of these metrics in Google Analytics. Once you get familiar with the platform, you’ll be able to track each metric individually to put your strategy under the microscope.

Step 5: Share your content

This is the “marketing” part of “content marketing.” If you’re serious about your content, you want to get it in front of as many people as possible.

Social media plays a big role in this. You’ll want to have a strong presence on the big social networks and share your content on them, optimizing the content for each site.

If you optimize well enough, your content will get lots of views and shares, and your traffic will grow.

One more thing: Having a social sharing schedule will let you make the most of your content.

But none of these steps matter in the least if you’re not delivering value.

That’s where it all starts.


To put it simply, the revenue extraction business model is outdated.

Customers have more choices than at any point in history.

If you don’t like one coffee shop or grocery store, you can easily switch to one of the countless others.

In most situations, every customer has the ability to decide where they want to spend their money.

You have to convince them that your company is worth spending money on.

That’s why so many businesses are utilizing high-value content strategies. People respond to value, and they want to give back to businesses who give them value first.

How are you going to provide that kind of serious value to your customers?

About the Author: Daniel Threlfall is an Internet entrepreneur and content marketing strategist. As a writer and marketing strategist, Daniel has helped brands including Merck, Fiji Water, Little Tikes, and MGA Entertainment. Daniel is co-founding Your Success Rocket, a resource for Internet entrepreneurs. He and his wife Keren have four children, and occasionally enjoy adventures in remote corners of the globe (kids included). You can follow Daniel on Twitter or see pictures of his adventures on Instagram.

5 Best Practices to Sustain Your Employee Advocacy Program

5 Best Practices to Sustain Your Employee Advocacy Program

Brands always rely on ‘word of mouth marketing’ and customer referrals to increase their market share. With the advent of social media and digital technologies, your employees are becoming the marketing engine of your business. They hang out in different social media channels and share updates to build their personal brand. Organizations today shouldn’t miss out this incredible opportunity to transform their employees into trusted brand advocates. In today’s digital world, employee advocacy is becoming an important component of online marketing strategy. Modern marketers are embracing this new marketing communication channel to improve their earned media presence online.

Employees are the most trusted of all other key stakeholders in the company. Here are 5 best practices to nurture your employee advocacy program:

1. Make Employee Engagement a Priority

During the planning phase of implementing employee advocacy program, involve human resources professionals to devise an actionable internal communication strategy.

Continue reading "5 Best Practices to Sustain Your Employee Advocacy Program" at Maximize Social Business by clicking here.

Wait, What by James E Ryan, a Book Review

Introduction: Wait, What by James E Ryan

Wait, What?: And Life's Other Essential QuestionsWait, What?: And Life’s Other Essential Questions

I saw my friend with the book Wait, What by James E Ryan, and borrowed it from her. When I saw the book, I was thinking that it was about learning how to be patient, but it is not about that. I am glad that I read it because I learned so much. Wait, What? is about five essential questions to ask yourself and others.

James E Ryan is the Dean of Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. The Dean made the remarks at the 2016 HGSE Presentation of Diplomas and Certificates, and it went viral. A publisher asked him to turn the speech into this book which was published a couple of months ago.

James Ryan’s 2016 Commencement Speech

As a professional, if you want to become successful, it is important to spend time asking thoughtful questions, and coming up with truthful answers. The five questions that James E Ryan covers in Wait, What covers a number of questions that you could possibly ask.

Have you read?

The Right Questions: Ten Essential Questions to Guide You to an Extraordinary Life, Debbie Ford

The 3 Gaps by Hyrum Smith – My Thoughts


What is Wait, What by James E Ryan About?

wait what, Wait What by James E Ryan

Spend some time thinking about the right questions to ask. If you ask the wrong questions you will get the wrong answers. Below you will find the five essential questions to ask yourself and others.

Essential Question: Wait, What?

You ask this question as a way for someone to repeat something. It could mean, did you really say that, or are you kidding? You use this question to ask for clarification. It helps you to slow down and not jump to conclusions, or make snap judgments. This question can save you from embarrassment.

Essential Question: I Wonder?

You can pair this essential question with Why and If. I wonder ‘Why’ helps you to stay curious. I wonder ‘If’ helps you to stay engaged with the world and to try something new. The two are related. Keep asking yourself I wonder ‘Why’. This question lead to wonderful discoveries and keen insights. Messages and clues are everywhere waiting for us to discover and interpret them. After I finished reading What is Wait, What by James E Ryan, I started to play around asking myself, “I wonder why…” and “I wonder if…”

I wonder if helps you to test your limits of what you can accomplish in life. When you ask yourself, I wonder if I can do that, you will find new things you love to do. I wonder if helps you to stay engaged and to change your circumstances. If you find yourself in a difficult situation, start asking yourself, ‘I wonder if.’

Essential Question: Couldn’t We at Least?

This essential question forms the core of a series of questions. When I first read this question, “Couldn’t we at least try to get along” popped into my head. It helps you to get unstuck. So, if you find yourself feeling like you are stuck-in-a-rut, this is the question to ask yourself. You use it when you want to make progress – to move ahead. Couldn’t we at least agree also builds consensus. This helps you push back against group polarization and extremism.

Couldn’t we at least, is also a way to overcome fear when doing something new. Couldn’t we at least, starts the conversation, so you can move forward. It does not mean it will always be a success, but at least you are willing to do something different.

Essential Question: How Can I Help?

This essential question is about offering help without believing or acting like you are the saviour. Asking how you can help nudges others to face their problems. Asking how you can help is about showing sympathy and empathy. There are many times when all someone wants is to be heard, for someone to listen to what she has to say. Asking how can I help, allows that. The ball is now in the other person’s court. If she needs your help, she will ask for it.

Essential Question: What Truly Matters?

This essential question is very meaningful today because of the busyness of life. It guides you through meetings and major life decisions. It forces you to get to the ‘heart of the matter’. It helps you to distinguish between the essential and the non-essential. So many people waste time focusing on meaningless tasks that take them no closer to their goals.  Sometimes we get caught up in minutiae and lose sight of what is important. This question allows you to focus on real work and not on fluff.

It allows you to be as efficient at work as possible, so you can do all the non-work things that matter. Most people work so that they can finance their passions. When you focus on the things that really matter to you by being efficient, you have the time to spend with family and friends, pursue your hobbies, and passions that matter to you. Asking yourself what truly matters helps you to be vigilant, to figure out strategies to live a consistent life, and this allows you to live a happier, more fulfilled and rewarding life. Essentially, this question helps you to take stock of your life. Are you living your best life?

Final Thoughts: Wait, What by James E Ryan

This is a short book, but I found myself reflecting on the words between the pages. There is one final question in the book, and it is about making sure that you lived a life worth living. I recommend that you buy a copy of Wait, What by James E Ryan, a Book Review, and listen to the longer version of YouTube video if you enjoyed the shorter one.

Wait, What?: And Life's Other Essential QuestionsWait, What?: And Life’s Other Essential QuestionsThe Right Questions: Ten Essential Questions To Guide You To An Extraordinary LifeThe Right Questions: Ten Essential Questions To Guide You To An Extraordinary LifeThe 3 Gaps: Are You Making a Difference?The 3 Gaps: Are You Making a Difference?

The post Wait, What by James E Ryan, a Book Review appeared first on The Invisible Mentor.

How Push Notifications Can Increase User Engagement (With Examples)

It’s hard to imagine going anywhere without your mobile device these days. From kids tethered to their phones, to grandmas Facetiming with their grandkids, our smartphones have become as much a part of our lives as our opposing thumbs.

But just how do companies get those opposing thumbs tapping when you’re not in store, checking your email, or browsing on social media? They do it through push notifications.

Breathing New Life Into “Old” Technology

Mobile phones have been around since 1973, but shockingly, they were only used to make or take calls (and they were bulky and expensive too). It wasn’t until 2001 that Research In Motion (RIM), the company behind Blackberry, changed how we communicated on our mobile phones, paving the way for what we now know as push notifications.

Back then, if you got a new email, you’d never know it until you went to physically check your messages. This involved sending a request to the server, waiting for it to download your recent messages, and then waiting even longer for it to notify you. Because of all this traffic going to and from the server, there were limits on how many times you could do this.

With Push, RIM and Blackberry made it so that emails and updates could be received instantaneously. Blackberry devices flew off the shelves. Even the iPhone, which we typically associate with being the real game-changer on the mobile device landscape, wouldn’t be released until six years later.

But Apple was watching – and in 2009, with its iOS 3.0 update, it introduced the Apple Push Notification Service, APNS, to the world. This system was further built upon and refined in subsequent years – making it a mainstay for the way we communicate with the mobile world around us.

What Push Notifications Are and Are Not

Like a gentle tap on the shoulder from an old friend, push notifications are friendly, helpful and inviting. They are not an excuse to spam or bombard your users with irrelevant news and details. Because Push Notifications are designed to be timely, many of them revolve around actions that the consumer initiated first, such as watching a series on Netflix or booking a flight.

KAYAK notifies users if the price on a flight they’re considering has dropped. (Image Source)

Netflix sends targeted push notifications to users to entice them to watch a series, or even a trailer:

Some, like Waze, simply work as timely reminders, even if you haven’t opted in to receive notifications, but still use the app.

But how can marketers use push notifications to engage with their users in a way that’s not intrusive, but welcomed and encouraged? Below, we’ll take a look at several examples that showcase best practices for messaging — but first, you may be wondering:

Why Bother with Push Notifications At All?

New research suggests that up to 68% of users have enabled push notification for their apps, and marketers enjoy 50% higher open rates on push notifications compared to emails. If you have a mobile app, analysis from Urban Airship has shown that mobile app retention rates are up to 10 times greater the more frequently those users receive messages.

Like email, push notifications are a signal of user interest and some degree of trust, so keep the following strategies in mind when creating a push notification campaign your users will welcome.

Let Users Determine When, Where and How You’ll Contact Them

Starbucks Rewards has a preferences center where users can manage where and when they receive push notifications. (Image Source)

Giving the user a greater degree of control over where, when, and how they receive notifications demonstrates that you’re not only respective of their time, but are keenly interested in their business as well. This push notification doubles as a welcome message and a surprise coupon for users who sign up for Starbucks’ rewards program.

The customizability of notifications is so versatile, for example, that users can block out certain days when they don’t want to receive push notifications (such as weekends) as well as the days when they wouldn’t mind an extra caffeinated jolt (like Mondays).

Create a Rich Push Notification for Greater Engagement

A rich push notification is one that contains relevant calls-to-action, such as “shop now” or “browse”. Take a look at this example from Urban Airship which shows a push notification without and with rich media added in the form of shop and share buttons:

An example of a rich push notification with call to action buttons.
Learn how to create these types of notifications for Apple and Android devices.
(Image Source)

Even if you’d rather not go quite that far with your notifications, simply piquing your users’ curiosity with emojis can help your message stand out, like this example from online shopping store Wanelo:

An example of a curious push notification with an emoji for flair. (Image Source)

Go Beyond Merely “Checking In”

Most push notifications are designed to encourage you to check back in with the app and start using it again. But what if you could do more? Here’s an example from Swarm, a mobile app that lets users share their location with people on their social network. The user in this example screenshot has just checked into a sandwich shop:

The Swarm app lets users notify their social networks when checking in to different places. (Image Source)

Not only has the app bolded the friend and the location, but uses relevant icons to share where and what it is. From here, you have the opportunity to “like” their check in or comment (perhaps on a particular flavor they should try), which in turn encourages even greater engagement.

Follow-Up Based on Previous Purchase History

You’re likely using email marketing for a great deal of order follow-ups, but what about push notifications? This example, from H&M, sends notifications out to users based on what they’ve bought previously:

(Image Source)

You can also do this with abandoned cart notifications as well to encourage users to come back to your site and complete their order, or add accessories or other products based on their prior purchases – the possibilities are just about as unlimited as those offered with email — and because push notifications are always on, you’ll have a direct line to your customer’s attention, anytime and anywhere.

Now It’s Your Turn…

Have you used similar strategies in your own push notifications? Or are you just getting started and looking for a little inspiration? Share your success stories and triumphs with us in the comments below!

About the Author: Sherice Jacob helps business owners improve website design and increase conversion rates through compelling copywriting, user-friendly design and smart analytics analysis. Learn more at iElectrify.com and download your free web copy tune-up and conversion checklist today!