Browse Month

March 2016

The Secret for Hooking and Keeping Your Email Subscriber

Last year, I spent an hour clearing out my Gmail account. I realized I was subscribed to just way too many lists and it had become mind clutter.

I hate clutter.

Clutter kills creativity. Every time I’ve cleared out space in my life – either on a computer or physically, my creativity exploded with new ideas.

I un-subbed from 33 lists.

Some subscriptions were with copywriter lists, a few well-known, household-type names and others not so well-known. Also included were sales trainers, small biz marketers and an Infusionsoft guru (I won’t ever join Infusionsoft).

As I gleefully unsubbed and batch-deleted all these emails (it went from over 9K in my inbox to 4917), I was feeling better and better about life in general.

And yes, I know that’s A LOT of emails but I had to start somewhere.

Who Made the Marketing Cut?

I just have been focusing on other things (like making money) instead of doing my own admin work (which isn’t nearly as fun but necessary).

So who did I keep and why?

There is one marketer I like and whose list has my *real* address. Throughout the years, I’ve not pruned him from my life. I’m sure he’ll say it’s his dashing good looks and charm, but the real reason finally hit me this morning.

It’s because he tells stories. And they’re darn good ones.

The other copywriters and marketers usually had a formula like this: 5% – 20% of an attempt to connect with me – the subscriber – and then the rest was pure pitch.

But none of them were good story-tellers.

I’ve been tracking content marketing for over a decade. The main goal for developing content is this: tell a story and tell a good one.

However, I think many people still have no clue what that means. They don’t know how to tell a story, let alone a good one.

Instead, they focus on whatever it is they need to sell.

Learn the Fine Art of Marketing Social Graces

It’s like meeting a person at a party and the person asks what you do but you know they’re only asking to be polite. Their lack of genuine interest is obvious as they shift their eyes away from you as you’re talking.

Finally, as soon as you pause, they’ll do either one of two things: 1) Jump in and regurgitate their sales pitch to you or 2) quickly excuse themselves for a variety of reasons (bathroom, saw someone more interesting, a sudden urge to attack the food table, etc.).

That’s how I feel when I have email marketers send me an email that is focused more on them than telling a good story.

Notice I didn’t say “focused on me.”

The marketer I follow doesn’t fake a “focus on me” pose in his emails. He’s too busy telling an interesting story. And within those stories are excellent tidbits of information on how to write decent emails. How to hook your audience. How to avoid the Time Vampires. How not to care. How to care in the right way.

These emails never bore me.

Show Some Sass

The funny thing is, he talks more about unsubscribing from his list more than any other marketer I’ve known. Any.

In fact, he encourages people to unsub from his list.

All. The. Time.

Ticked off he’s sending too many emails? There’s the unsub button, cupcake. Click it and presto-chango… no more marketing magic in your inbox.

The guy loves it. In fact, he gets off on telling people to unsubscribe so much that I wonder if he just doesn’t promote tempting offers non-stop just so he can yell at a few people to get off his lawn when they complain.

I had two other well-known copywriters I used to follow religiously. Both are curmudgeonly and one can come across as downright nasty. One doesn’t have an email subscriber list but the other one does.

I unsubbed from the latter because he’s forever arguing with individuals, both on Facebook and on his list. I un-followed both on Facebook.

But my favorite marketer is also seen as a bit abrasive by some. Why doesn’t he get the same treatment?

It’s complicated. Everyone connects with people for different reasons.

It could be the person reminds you of a friend from college. Or the kid who always made you laugh in your high school chemistry class. Or the girlfriend who doesn’t take any crap from anyone and loves herself in a good way.

Your Email Subscriber Is Looking For R-E-S-P-E-C-T…

I think the reason I enjoy this marketer’s emails so much is because in a weird way, I feel respected.

Communication is a two-way street. Usually. But when you’re emailing a list daily (or weekly… or heaven forbid, monthly), you’re the one doing all the talking.

Remember that.

Think of yourself at a party. If you’re going to be doing all the talking, you better know how to draw the other person into your world.

You better know how to let them know they’re not alone in feeling a certain way or thinking certain thoughts. You connect with them by joining the conversation already going on in their head (thank you, Robert Collier).

And you respect them by not using them.

By giving them something they can take home from the party, like a recommendation for a good mechanic, a tip on the best way to snag a ticket for an upcoming golf tournament, or a lesson on how to hold the attention of an information-overloaded reader.

Finally, you thank them.

This is part of making a person feel respected.

If you sell anything, let your customer know you appreciate their business. After all, they just parted with their precious greenbacks in order to get something from you. The least you can do is thank them.

Sometimes this might mean including a surprise in your email every once in awhile. Or mailing them something unexpected.

Whenever you do this, it will pay off big.

Because so few businesses do this, it makes you stand out from the competition. It endears you to your customer. And endearing means loyalty.

So, email list owner… tell a good story.

Respect me.

And occasionally thank me. I’ll likely continue to buy from you and keep on reading.


Effective Value Creation and Value Capture Strategies

How do firms create, deliver and capture values? What is the nature and function of effective customer relationship management? What are the critical phases of the Value Chain? What are some policy implications of the Du Pont model in formulating effective pricing strategies? These policy questions relate to the optimal value chain model of a business enterprise-the appropriate mix of profitability and productivity that maximizes the return on investment and shareholders’ wealth while minimizing the cost of operations-value creation and capture, simultaneously.

Clearly, effective creation of value, delivery of value, and capture of value is critical to a sound business strategy designed to maximize the wealth producing capacity of the enterprise. In these series on effective value creation and value capture, we will focus on the pertinent strategic margin and volume questions and provide some operational guidance. The overriding purpose of this review is to highlight some basic price theory, strategic margin relationships, and industry best practices in effective value creation, value delivery and value capture. For specific financial management strategies please consult a competent professional.

A preliminary analysis of the relevant academic literature suggests that the optimal value chain process and appropriate value creation, value delivery, and value capture for each firm differs markedly based on overall industry dynamic, market structure-degree of competition, height of entry/exit barriers, market contestability, stage of industry life cycle, and its market competitive position. Indeed, as with most market performance indicators firm-specific value chain strategic posture is insightful only in reference to the industry expected value (average) and generally accepted industry benchmarks and best practices.

In practice, firms capture value through competition and persuasion. At least two strategic value propositions and pricing options based on Du Pont ROI model are available to most firms: Premium pricing (focusing on profitability) which seeks to maximize the profit margin from each sale; and High turn-over rate (focusing on productivity) which seeks to maximize number of sales and effective use of available assets instead of profit margin. There is significant empirical evidence suggesting that when the marginal revenue is negative, the firm cannot be profit maximizing. This is because loss in revenues due to price effect tends to outweigh gain in revenue due to output effect. Additionally, there is growing empirical evidence suggesting firms that opt for scale and volume tends to outperform those that opt for segment and premium, ceteris paribus.

In designing effective pricing strategies at least two critical variables must be considered: Pricing objectives and price elasticity of demand. These important variables converge to inform optimal specific product price and value propositions, in general. Customer relationship management (CRM) consists of customer data analytics, practices, strategies and technologies that firms use to analyze and manage customer interactions and data throughout the customer lifecycle, with the goal of enhancing business relationships with customers, assisting in customer retention and driving sales growth efficiently and effectively.

Additionally, firms must create and sustain effective relationship with customers. Effective customer relationship is a function of at least three critical variables: Empathy, trust and commitment. In designing effective value capture strategy, firms must maintain effective customer relationship. Carefully managing such relationship averts and or mediates the loss of sales attendant to price hikes by firms with limited market power. There is mounting empirical evidence which suggests that explaining price hikes to customers before implementing them tends to reduce the adverse impact on sales and the derivative loss of revenue.

According to relevant academic literature, firms create value through the Value Chain process: A set of activities that are performed to design, produce, market, deliver and support firm’s products. At least two critical activities are required: Primary activities which consist of inbound logistics, operations, outbound logistics, marketing and sales, and service in the core value chain directly creating value; and Support activities which consist of procurement, technology development, human resource management, firm infrastructure supporting the value creation in the core value chain. Therefore, based on this formulation and concept, a Value Chain disaggregates a firm into its strategically relevant activities in order to understand general costs patterns, the behavior of specific costs, existing and potential sources of differentiation.

Based on current industry best practices, there are at least three critical phases of the Value Chain: Phase One-Product design, research and development; Phase Two- Production; and Phase Three- Marketing, sales and service. The Value Chain is the process by which firms add economic value to the product concept. As the product idea is conceptualized and proceeds through the Value Chain process, value is created for customers. However, the product concept can fail and the value creation and capture terminated at any stage of the process. The optimal value is efficiently captured for the end-user through careful execution of effective service strategy and programs.

Some Operational Guidance:

In sum, effective value creation and value capture depend on various factors such as value proposition, pricing objectives, the price elasticity of demand, competitive position of a firm in the global marketplace and the stage of the product life cycle. Some key pricing strategies may include penetration, parity and premium.

Penetration pricing strategy is most effective when demand is elastic and involves charging below competitors’ prices to create scale economies as a key method for building a mass market or to deter potential market entry due to low price and profit margin. Parity pricing strategy is most effective when demand is unitary and the product is a commodity; and involves charging identical prices with competitors. Premium pricing strategy is most effective when demand is inelastic and involves charging above competitors’ prices to recover R&D costs quickly or to position the product as superior in the minds of the customers.

Effective value proposition derives from promising customers (expected or standard value) what a firm can deliver and delivering more than the firm promised (premium or superior value). As I have already explained, two strategic value propositions and pricing options based on Du Pont ROI model are available to most firms: Premium pricing (emphasizing high mark-ups, high profit margins and profitability); and High turn-over rate (emphasizing high productivity and effective use of available assets). There is significant empirical evidence suggesting firms that opt for scale and volume tends to outperform those that opt for segment and premium, ceteris paribus.

In the end, knowledge is a strategic weapon and source of effective value creation, value delivery and value capture. When firms apply knowledge to tasks they already know how to do, they call it, productivity. When they apply knowledge to tasks that are new and different they call it, innovation. Only knowledge allows firms to achieve these two strategic goals.

Spending Your Advertising Budget Wisely

A recent report by admanGo focuses on some recent Hong Kong advertising spending figures. Confirming everyone’s suspicions, the total ad spend in the city in January and February of this year was HK$6.01 billion – representing a 13 percent drop compared to the same period last year, and the first double-digit decrease since 2000.

Magazine advertising was particularly hard hit, falling by 28 percent, while Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB), one of Hong Kong’s major TV channels, recorded a 9 percent drop in its ad revenue.

The main reason cited for this drop is the continuing decrease in retail sales due to fewer visitors arriving from the mainland, and that is true to an extent – we have all taken a hit from that. However, the reality is that traditional media advertising has been becoming less popular for years.

The good news is that this doesn’t mean your advertising spend has to be less effective – far from it. By choosing the proper channels and targeting the right audiences, you can still ensure that your advertising budget delivers excellent value for money.

Digital brings targeted results and better returns
In Hong Kong, today’s typical consumer takes in brand information through a range of different channels. With digital becoming increasingly more dominant, particularly mobile channels, brands that apply multi-channel, multi-platform advertising are experiencing outstanding results. They are deepening engagement and increasing their interaction with their target audiences, and doing so at a reduced cost.

For years, experts have been saying that digital platforms are the future. That future has now arrived. With the incredible power and portability of today’s technology, digital advertising – especially mobile and social media ads – can send finely-tuned messages to highly-specific audiences at a very reasonable cost.

Digital can activate engagements across different touchpoints in both the digital and physical worlds, and soft selling via games, social media, or app-based promotions is helping to boost two-way communication and making messaging more personal. All this is driving customer behaviour and taking advertising in bold new directions.

Apps, with their relatively low cost and potentially huge reach, are becoming the preferred method of mobile engagement for companies. Apps using augmented reality can provide useful services like directions to preferred restaurants and instantaneous translation, or they can bring embedded digital content in static ads to life via QR codes. The best part is that when done well, these apps do not even seem like advertising.

Real-time location-based mobile ads are now becoming mainstream, allowing audiences who opt in to receive product news, deals, and discounts that are targeted specifically to them when they are nearby a particular store or branch. By filtering promotions based on location, demographics, and other available user information, this method of advertising allows companies to create highly specific promotions for precise audience segments at comparatively low cost.

Social media also provides ‘low cost, high reach’ exposure. Success stories of posts and videos ‘going viral’ on Facebook abound, while today some campaigns are run exclusively on Twitter and Instagram. Take the “1600 Pandas World Tour in Hong Kong: Creativity Meets Conservation” event as an example. The campaign brought 1,600 irresistible papier-mâché pandas to Hong Kong to raise awareness of the importance of panda conservation work.

Before the exhibition began, these small but loveable pandas began appearing at various landmarks like Victoria Park, the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, and on trams, with citizens and celebrities alike taking photos and selfies with the pandas and sharing them on Facebook. The campaign generated many shares and likes, creating a lot of excitement and awareness for comparatively little investment.

Aside from these new methods of ad delivery, we are also seeing incredible advances on the measurement side as well. Big data technology is allowing us to measure the effectiveness of ads in ways that were impossible even a few years ago.

Thanks to the proliferation of addressable media, including targeted online ads and traceable social media activity, we can now measure the return on investment of discrete digital marketing channels. We can also get a full picture of the effectiveness of a digital marketing campaign in real time, allowing for timely adjustments to an on-going campaign and recalibration for future campaigns.

Consistency is paramount
This is a pivotal development. Traditional media advertising delivered a one-way message. Today, social media ads are fully two-way – engaging with customers on a small-scale level, sometimes even one-to-one. The aim of traditional advertising campaigns was usually quite linear, designed to convert targets into customers and get them to purchase products.

Today, a campaign can have multiple aims, moving from online to offline and back again. Ads can be designed to drive traffic to a website, or attract people into physical or digital stores, or simply to get them to ‘like’ a particular social media page.

In this fast-moving and complex digital environment, it is vital that the brand promise and any associated messaging is clear, consistent, and rock solid. With ads running on multiple platforms and channels, every element, platform, and channel must be aligned with a single brand promise, and all messaging must be working in the service of that promise.

To spend your advertising budget sensibly, you must frequently review your strategy and make sure that it is relevant. Despite the downturn in the retail market, companies that embrace digital and follow a holistic, integrated strategy will continue to be successful and enjoy handsome returns on their advertising spend.

Why Your Retail Business Is Failing Without Content Marketing

Content marketing isn’t just publishing a few blog posts a week. It’s about more than just being a company-it’s about being a brand that believes in something.

Without a content marketing strategy that embodies the vision of your company and brand, your business will lose loyal customers and advocates. If your retail business is failing to build a stickiness with your customer base, here’s why and how to fix it.


The ideal customer is one that connects with your brand, and unless you have a steady stream of messaging that speaks to your customers to reinforce why you’re the go-to for the products you sell, they’ll forget. Instead of focusing solely on sales and discounts, inspire your customers with a message that resonates with them.

Fashion retailers, for example, can put together lookbooks for what style fits “you” best. Nordstrom advertises its lookbooks to several customers based on their web behavior and purchase history:


Not adding value beyond the products you sell doesn’t differentiate you from competition. Customer loyalty is built beyond being a vendor. Show your customers that you understand their needs and why they find your products valuable.

REI launched an extremely successful content marketing campaign this year when the company told shoppers REI stores would be closed on Black Friday, urging customers to spend the day outside and share their experiences using the hashtag #optoutside on social:

This campaign shows customers that REI understands them and their use of REI’s products. The company sells outdoor gear, so why not build a campaign around that and encourage customers to spend the day doing what they love – with the products they’ve purchased from REI. The added bonus beyond great press and encouraging customer loyalty? #optoutside being shared across several social platforms.


Brand awareness is always on the radar for marketing departments, but without incorporating content marketing into your digital strategy your company is missing out on massive opportunity. Brand awareness is more than pushing your name out to new audiences, it’s about showing your audience that your company is more than a store – it’s people running a business.

Content marketing helps gives brands a personality and connect customers with the people working inside of the company. Connect with your customers outside of being a brand that sells clothing they like; be a brand that believes in something. That type of messaging encourages social sharing, new followers, and a new way of reaching customers that puts you way ahead of competition.