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Archives for November 2015

Not all metrics are created equal: An argument against vanity metrics

By Kate Lee | 11/24/2015 | 3:31 AM

We all want to see the fruits of our labors. Whether launching a product or a new social media campaign, we look for instantaneous numbers that will affirm we made the right choices. But here’s the problem: not all metrics are created equal.

So-called vanity metrics are measurements that have no bearing on your bottom line but can give you an inflated sense of success. Generally, they are easy to calculate but are influenced by too many factors—and are too vulnerable to random external events—to be reliable.

Website visits and number of subscribers are two classic examples. A spike in homepage hits may be the result of your marketing efforts, or it may be because of ghost spam. (Or, both.) Regardless, more visits do not necessarily correlate to increased revenue—just more visits. In the same vein, having 100,000 email subscribers means nothing if only 1% are opening them. You actually could be losing money in terms of resources allocated if the emails aren’t helping drive sales.

That’s why it is crucial to focus on return on investment instead of vanity metrics. You could waste hours reviewing a hundred different analytics that tell you nothing about how revenue was affected by a particular effort. Or, worse, you could use vanity metrics to justify decisions that don’t achieve their ROI.

As a simplified example: say you spend $100 on a banner ad for a new product on an industry conference website, and your analytics report that 100 people clicked through. This sounds like success! But don’t celebrate just yet. When you dig past the vanity metric, you find an extremely high bounce rate. That means most of those click-throughs left your site immediately, neither engaging with your brand nor moving any closer to becoming a customer. In fact, you find that only one click-through converts. Was it worth paying $100 for this one customer? Probably not.

But say you ran another $100 banner ad on an industry publication website, one that targets a younger audience than you think your product fits. Only 20 visitors clicked-through, which sounds less successful than the other ad. But when you follow those 20 click-throughs down the sales funnel, you see that 15 ended up purchasing $1500 worth of product. Already, the ad has paid for itself 15 times over. You’ve also learned that perhaps a younger audience is more suited to this product. The ROI proves the vanity metric was quite misleading in this case.

Lean-startup pioneer Eric Reis, who coined the term vanity metrics, said, “The only metrics that entrepreneurs should invest energy in collecting are those that help them make decisions.” In other words, measure the things that will tell you if an effort was profitable so you know where to put your time and money.

While vanity metrics tell you nothing about your bottom line, ROI can help you determine whether it was worth spending your resources in a particular way. This is extremely useful on platforms like blogs and social media, where things are constantly changing. Using ROI as a litmus test, you can keep experimenting and making sure you’re using these tools effectively. Tracking a vanity metric like number of followers, which is likely to build over time regardless, gives you no indication of which experiments were successful and which weren’t.

Your resources are limited, so it’s crucial to evaluate your efforts with meaningful numbers that illustrate their effect on your bottom line. Calculating ROI might take some time—both in the few extra minutes to do the math and the amount of time that needs to pass before all the data is available—but that number will be infinitely more valuable to you than any vanity metric on your Google Analytics report.  

What metrics do you report to your team?

Social media as a growth strategy

By Kate Lee | 11/17/2015 | 6:43 AM

The logistics and supply chain industries have been slow to join the social media bandwagon, many citing time and budget constraints as prohibiting factors. Small businesses, in particular, may find it difficult to allocate very limited resources to this task. The marketing team—or, the marketing person, as the case may be—is stretched enough as it is trying to stand out among the competition, particularly the larger companies with seemingly unlimited budgets.

It’s time small businesses stop trying to keep up with the large competitors, said Rhett Rowe, president of small-business lender Capital for Merchants, in a recent interview with Forbes. “Small companies don’t have that kind of money, time, or stamina,” he explains. “Instead, they should focus on expanding brand awareness, increasing website traffic, and building a community of loyal followers.” That’s where social media comes in.

Social media is an ideal marketing platform for small businesses because it can be relatively inexpensive but have a high impact on growth. With a targeted strategy in place and a little time, your company can cultivate your brand, engage with customers, and form business relationships. And because small companies can be nimble, you can continually adjust your strategy to ensure the return on investment keeps paying off.

Coyote Logistics

You may know Coyote as the start-up that turned into a $2 billion company in less than a decade. It was just acquired by United Parcel Service in mid-August, but will operate as a separate subsidiary, “with careful attention given to supporting the unique characteristics that have enabled its success to date,” said a press release. Among those “unique characteristics” cited: “strong company culture.”

Social media has been integral in perpetuating—and drawing attention to—that culture, helping differentiate Coyote from the competition and forming relationships essential to its growth.  Plus, it just looks like a fun place to work—which was key to attracting quality talent quickly as the company grew so rapidly.

The customer-centric ethos and commitment to transparency plays out in its social networking personality. “We’re not vanilla online because that wouldn’t be the Coyote way to do things,” said Arionne Nettles, former social media lead, in a 2013 interview. “Our company has four brand characteristics. ... Social media is the perfect conduit to put these attributes into action.”

The robust social media program now includes Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram, and YouTube. Considering Coyote’s rapid, headline-making growth, these platforms have played a major role in achieving that success.

It’s a similar story with 3PL and technology player Transplace, founded in 2000.

Transplace

“Social media has become an integral part of our marketing and communications strategy and key to expanding our brand awareness and thought leadership in the logistics and transportation space,” says Kecia Gray, vice president of corporate marketing and communications.

Central to that strategy is creating original content for the company’s Logistically Speaking blog and sharing via FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn. “By distributing this content across our social channels to foster sharing, conversation and engagement, we’ve continued to gain influence with our targeted audiences,” says Gray.

The company’s LinkedIn pageFacebook page, and blog were named as “favorites” in an industry survey conducted by Fronetics. And Transplace’s reputation as an industry leader is increasing outside the social space. Recently, the company received nine awards from logistics and technology publications, including third in the “Top 10 3PL” by Inbound Logistics and “Logistics Company of the Year” by Estrategia Aduanera, Mexico’s leading international trade magazine.

What’s more, as Transplace’s reputation continues to grow, so does the business. The company recently acquired M33 Integrated, a 3PL with a particular strength in the flexible packaging sector, making its sixth acquisition in the last five years. Impressive.

Social media has been critical to the growth of Coyote Logistics and Transplace. Does your small business have a social strategy in place?

How to hire a copywriter: A guide for the supply chain

By Kate Lee | 11/09/2015 | 10:39 PM

3 things supply chain hiring managers should look for when hiring a copywriter.

Since 94% of domestic B2B buyers conduct research online to make purchase decisions, maintaining high-quality content on your company’s website is crucial for attracting new business. But who has time for web upkeep, much less for the generation of new blog posts, emails, and various other content? Enter the copywriter.  

An effective copywriter can help drive consumers to your website, convince them of the quality of your products/services, and ultimately help convert those leads into customers. A lot of writers can do one of these functions. The gold standard, of course, is a copywriter with a proven track record in all three functions.

How do you know if a copywriter will be effective for your business? Here are a few specific skills and experiences supply chain hiring managers should look for in a potential hire:

Someone who understands SEO.

An SEO-savvy copywriter can impact your business by increasing the number of visitors (i.e., potential customers) to your site. That’s because 77% of today’s buyers use Google to research information about products.

A copywriter trained in search engine optimization (SEO) knows how to write and format your site so it gets prioritized by Google in web queries for your products. Three of four people will click on the top five search results. So the closer you can be to those top five results, the better your chances at driving a buyer to your site. That’s a crucial first step in converting that lead into a new customer.

Look for SEO training or experience on a potential copywriter’s resume. And ask for any metrics illustrating how his/her search-engine-optimized content has increased organic traffic to a client’s website. A copywriter who understands SEO can help achieve the same result for you over time.

Someone who understands branding.

Sure, it’s great if you can find a copywriter with experience in the supply chain — the vocabulary and industry knowledge are already in place. But, likely, a solid writer who has developed content for a variety of industries has the technical skills and resourcefulness to get up to speed quickly.

Consider the value of a candidate who also has marketing writing and branding experience. This person has the know-how to create content driven by your business objectives and a mind for strategy that can promote your image among consumers and other businesses.

A 2015 global study on B2B branding has shown its positive impact on the perceived quality of a product and creation of new market opportunities. Branding instills confidence and trust among consumers.

The marketing copywriter can craft a consistent, compelling brand narrative across all of your digital channels. That means your website, blog posts, white papers, social media, emails, etc., will work together to solidify and enhance your business’s reputation in the marketplace, which will serve you beyond any individual campaign.  

Someone who understands user experience.

User experience plays a vital role in conversion: the more positive the customer’s interaction with your business, the more motivated s/he will be to purchase from you. AdditionallyGartner Research estimates that by 2020 customers will manage 85% of their relationship without talking to a human. That means your web content will bear most of the user-experience burden.

A copywriter who understands user experience anticipates what buyers are seeking at any given point on your website and adjusts the copy so that the answer is clear and easy to find.  Paragraphs of dense, technical copy on a product page could easily turn a buyer away, for example. A well-placed, well-written call-to-action, however, could lead to a purchase.

To find a copywriter who understands user experience, look for content that is not only polished, but also helpful, persuasive, and, above all, accessible. Writing samples should reflect where in the sales cycle a user would encounter it. That candidate could play a vital role in helping you convert leads into customers.

Hiring a copywriter represents an opportunity to bring someone on board who can do more than produce content: they can help achieve your business goals.

What do you look for when hiring copywriters?

The opinions expressed herein are those solely of the participants, and do not necessarily represent the views of Agile Business Media, LLC., its properties or its employees.

About Kate Lee

Kate Lee

Kate Lee is the senior director of research and strategy for Fronetics Strategic Advisors, a Newburyport, Mass.-based consultancy that works with clients in industries including logistics and supply chain. She has over 20 years of domestic and international experience as a writer, researcher, and strategist.



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