Archive of ‘case study’ category

Bonus use for bulk link lists

In a follow up to yesterday’s post on evaluating potential linking sites in bulk, here’s one more way to use your new lists of links

Once you’ve pulled down all of the links from a round up page like social-media.alltop.com, you’ve got a list of authoritative sources on a niche topic. If it’s a subject that you’re interested in keeping up on, you can create a Google Custom Search Engine based on your list.
Then, when you’re interested in what the social media pundits have to say about a news item, or if you’re interested in finding posts that combine a specific idea (say coffee for example) with your niche’s point of view, instead of doing a general Google search and getting all kinds of results, you can restrict your queries to your handpicked list of experts in that niche.

http://www.google.com/cse?cx=017565783639329627654%3Auqjfczpkwha&ie=UTF-8&q=coffee

And don’t forget that you can add advanced search operators such as date range to your CSE search by appending the results URL

Batch link evaluation

When link building, it’s often necessary to gather a large list of targets for a campaign. Here’s one way to quickly get some good URLs, with basic metrics attached, without pulling them one by one.

Let’s say you’ve got a new infographic about coffee and you’re trying to find a list of blogs that would potentially be interested in posting about it. The first step is to find some pages that list the kind of blogs that we’re after. Lists like these are popular on the web so we shouldn’t have too much trouble. Google is a good place to start, either by searching for round up posts or by using the SERPs themselves as a list. Also try Technorati, DMOZ and Alltop.

Once you’ve got a page with a bunch of links listed, copy the URLs. It’s often easiest to use a tool like SEO for Firefox for this. Right click the page and select SEO XRay.

The SEO for Firefox plugin overlays some data on top of the page you’re on. Select external links and export them as a CSV file.

If you need to clean up your list to filter out duplicates, ads and other irrelevant links, pull open your CSV with Excel. Then copy them to your clipboard for the next step.

To add some quick evaluation metrics, try backlinks.in. It’s a tool built on SEOMoz’s Linkscape data and allows you to evaluate up to 1000 URLs per day in bulk. You get page MozRank and the number of backlinks for each URL, which can help you prioritize your potential link targets.

Paste back into Excel and you’re set to start pitching!

*Update – see a bonus use for batch link lists here

So bad it’s good, so good it’s bad: when campaigns turn on you

The performance of a Marketing campaign is difficult to predict. There are just too many variables: vehicles used, frequency, the mindset of the recipients, unforeseeable marital scandal by celebrity pitchman, etc.
It’s no wonder that sometimes we get completely unexpected results.

The Cult Status Effect – Execution that is so bad, it becomes a meme of sorts, spreading the word much further than if it were merely mediocre. A lot like winning the lottery, these rarely happen on purpose. It worked for The Snuggie, The Doyle and Devoe Real Estate Team and the Montgomery Flea Market but pursue this strategy at your own risk. Most bad commercials or ads simply die out quickly and anonymously. Or worse, you could become…

…The Punchline – The worst kind of viral ad. This type of message gets remembered and passed on for all the wrong reasons. What seemed like a good idea on paper becomes the bane of your existence. Bad campaigns are notoriously hard to live down once they’ve picked up steam online.

Too Much of a Good Thing – Like mom said, Halloween candy is wonderful but too much will give you a stomach ache. Growing up in Minneapolis, we visited family in Chicago on a regular basis. In Chicago, I remember hearing the catchy jingle for Empire Carpet – “5-8-8; 2-3-hundred… em-PIRE!” and thinking that it was a fun ad.
Now Empire commercials are aired in the Twin Cities and I hear their ads every single day on TV and on the radio. My nostalgia-hazed memories of Empire have been replaced with an intense loathing for the cursed song. (I realize that Advertising 101 says that repetition is good and even annoying ads work if they’re memorable. There is a line though and Empire has crossed it.)
If the Empire ads are not familiar, think Presidential campaign ads or football TV commercials for men’s prescription medication. You get the idea.

Extenuating Circumstances – Some things are simply out of a marketer’s control. No matter how good an ad campaign is, it can be sabotaged. A classic example in the news today is Toyota. Their recent ad campaigns have been eye-catching and effective. (Even their Prius campaign, which is a little creepy, delivers their message well.) But all of that is undermined by safety concerns resulting from massive recalls.

It’s good to remember that while we do our best to influence our marketplaces, persuasion is an unpredictable field that sometimes yields strange results.

Domino’s Pizza Turnaround: The Missing Ingredient

By now you’ve probably seen Domino’s Pizza’s commercial where they admit that their pizza was terrible. They’ve grabbed a lot of attention with this bold tactic and I give them credit for daring to be so transparent.

For all the things they’ve done well here, the story still seems less than genuine to me. They forgot one thing: the scapegoat.
They show chefs and executives reading all the negative feedback, swallowing hard and going back at it with a new enthusiasm. After a big group clap, they unveil the new pizza recipe that tastes way better than before. Does anyone else see the problem here?
The people delivering the new pizza are the same people that made the old pizza. Why should we trust them to do any better this time?
Domino’s almost got it right. But if you’re going to admit your product stinks, heads have to roll. We need to know that the problem has been identified and eliminated. There has to be a ‘new management’ moment that makes us feel like things are truly different.
Ending the ‘pizza makeover’ that way might not have been as uplifting but it would be more believable.

The Sacred Moment of Unboxing


Shopping online is great for selection. It seems that no matter what you’re after, you can easily find multiple vendors willing to ship it to your door.
The age old knock on e-commerce is that you don’t get your hands on your product before you buy. Or even after you buy – not immediately anyway. You have to wait.

That’s why your heartbeat might speed up a bit when you spy a brown box on your front step. The virtual experience you had a few days before has now shown up in the real world. You’ve already paid and endured the waiting and now the payoff is here. Will the product be right or will you be disappointed?
There is even more anxiety if you’re trying a new vendor – are they legitimate? Or did you just get ripped off by a shady scammer?

Once the box is opened, all is revealed. It’s a make or break moment for an online business. How the customer reacts will determine whether or not they remember your name, how they’ll review you online and what they’ll tell their friends. The moment of unboxing can be great for business or it can be a lost opportunity for growth.

In Pow! Right Between the Eyes, Andy Nulman encourages marketers to use the power of surprise to make an impression. It’s relatively easy, can be extremely inexpensive and remarkably effective. So why not apply that wisdom to the critical moment of unboxing and give yourself the chance to maximize the opportunity?

That’s just what MFM Apparel does when they deliver their unique t-shirts, illustrated with quirky characters. The resident artist, Saman, draws a small cartoon and message for each order that goes out the door. It’s an unexpected, personal touch that reaches customers at that critical moment.
The rest of the process was pretty mundane when I shopped at MFM – browse for a shirt, check out online and wait for it to show up in the mail. The shirt was delivered in a boring white mailer too. But the surprise message inside was fun and memorable – surprises usually are. And during the unboxing, the fun of the unexpected extra rubs off on the product which rubs off on the vendor. And here we are.

If you’re selling online, consider carefully what your customers will experience when they open up your box. And if you’re interested in powerful word of mouth marketing, consider using the element of surprise to make sure that experience is a positive one.

Trendwatching Made Easier

Staying on top of trends is a key to serving consumer markets. Companies that can identify trends and react are at a natural advantage.
With so many potential sources for information, it can be daunting to keep an eye on the things that matter. Use a combination of Google and Firefox to make it easier.
To start, get Firefox. Then get the excellent SEO for Firefox addon installed and set up the way you like it. The plugin adds useful information and links to search engine results pages like Google’s.
Once that is ready to go, head to http://www.google.com/insights/search. There, you can get information on the topics you’re interested in. If you’re looking to sell products in the U.S., you can filter the query to only apply to product searches in your geographic area. Submit your query and you’ll get a bunch of useful tidbits. The information we’re interested in is “rising searches,” located in toward the end of the right hand column.
The rising searches section shows the queries that have recently become more popular. They aren’t the most popular over all, they’ve just been moving up lately. If the results look like the kind of thing you’re interested in, click on the icon below to add it to your iGoogle homepage.
Adding the Insights for Search gadget effectively creates a persistent search query for any term that rising up the charts. You can fill one of your tabs with a bunch of variations on your search and create a trends dashboard. Google also makes it easy to jump off of the gadget to learn more about the emerging trend. Mouse over a term, then click the g icon to go to a SERP. From there, SEO for Firefox takes over.
Instead of the regular results page, you’ll get a truck load of enhanced features that are great for research. You can see the sites that are already ranking for that term, along with their estimated traffic and number of backlinks. If the sites look weak, you could consider creating content to compete with the sites and capitalize on the emerging topic at hand.
Underneath the query box, you’ll also see other research tools. You can quickly see how much it would cost to compete with PPC ads for the term and about how often the term is searched each month.
All of these tools are already available, but the Google/Firefox combo makes the task easy enough to keep an eye on things each day.

When Going for Word of Mouth, Sweat the Small Stuff!

It’s easy to ignore an acceptable business transaction, one that fulfills all or most of a customers expectations. But if a company can deliver the must-haves first AND surprise the customer with more, it will be hard for the customer to avoid spreading the word.
I ordered some business cards from Moo the other day. They are not like other web based printing companies and that’s a good thing. The thing that made my experience really fun and memorable, and the reason I’m writing about it now, is what happened days after I left their website.
Moo.com is not for everyone. The cards are expensive compared to other vendors online and the turnaround time is an unimpressive 5 business days. The design choices are neat but have very limited options for customization and there is no phone support. From a logical, features point of view, the site really doesn’t cut it. But Marketing is not all about logic.
It was easy enough to get my cards designed and I finished my order feeling okay about the whole process. They even sent me order confirmation details from a fictional personality named Little Moo, using snarky, sarcastic language. Fun, but a lot of people are doing that these days.
My view of Moo went from ordinary to remarkable when I got my cards in the mail.

Instead of packing the cards into a big brown box, they were delivered in a sturdy, handsome desktop display. The Moo logo is subtly included on the box in silver foil and my cards look great stacked inside. True to their personality, they also included an extra business card printed with a meeting crossword game, just for fun.
The effect was that I immediately wanted to show them off. It feels good to see your name on a high quality item and I was excited about the display. It was unexpected. The carrier itself makes you want to slide out a few cards and start handing them out.
For companies producing personalized products, the moment of unboxing is critical. When I was shopping around for a business card vendor, I compared the features like a rational shopper. But when I was opening up the packaging, I was excited to see what I would receive – at a fulcrum point for potential experiences. By nailing the product packaging and including surprise extras, Moo left a great final impression.
The attention to detail may cost a little more in materials and product development time. But the differentiation created and emotions produced make it worth it.

Angry Trout and Brains on Fire

Brains on Fire is an identity company that helps companies create sustainable movements by encouraging customer enthusiasm. They’re way out in front when it comes to understanding and maximizing word of mouth. At the Brains on Fire blog, they have a recurring feature called The You Don’t Need Us Awards. In other words, companies that already get how to engage their customers. Considering how most companies operate these days, that’s high praise.
I was traveling on the North shore of Lake Superior last weekend (hearty people up there – it snowed mid-May!) and encountered a company that definitely does not need help with their identity: The Angry Trout Cafe. Here’s why

  • They believe in a cause For the Angry Trout, that cause is sustainability. A lot of companies claim to be ‘green’ because that’s what people want to hear these days. This cafe’s owners are true believers that walk the walk and don’t apologize for it. It’s impossible to miss the fact that the Angry Trout believes in the sustainability ideal and practices it despite the difficulty involved and despite unpopularity with some people.
  • They are consistent From the way the food is prepared to the way the waste is handled, this place reinforces their message at every turn. Organic food is just the start. They use stoneware that lasts forever, buy all of their furniture and art locally and use small cloth napkins to save on water. They even run the entire place on 100% wind power. An they’ve been doing it all since 1987.
  • They have a manual Going beyond simply leading by example, the Angry Trout seeks to evangelize the sustainability movement. They have recorded their story in a fun, useful book called The Angry Trout Cafe Notebook. It even includes recipes to their excellent food along with practical information on their way of doing things. A store copy is available to read while you wait for your food or you can purchase your own copy and spread the word. A written history is key to creating and sustaining culture.

Whatever you believe about sustainability and a Northern Minnesota cafe’s ability to change the world, there is no denying that sincere passion is a powerful thing. The Angry Trout doesn’t need branding workshops or an identity company’s services. They get it naturally.

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