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Launching groundbreaking campaigns on a small scale

Brands need to think globally in every facet of marketing. When creating innovative strategies, campaigns, and new brand tactics, it's tempting to test the waters on a small playing field and then decide if it's worth investing on a larger scale. While small time testing can generate valuable glimpses into the potential success (or lack thereof) of a new campaign, brands need to take bold risks and execute fresh ideas globally, or at least on a large scale within the market it's trying to engage. You'll never truly know the power of a new idea until you've boldly tested it.

Treating mistakes as failures

Innovation comes with inherent risks. Not everything you create is going to be efficient, engaging, or work right off the bat. Managers and directors need to shift their mindset about the repercussions employees receive for mistakes. Obviously, you don't want to set a precedent that failure is unaccountable, but employees who are the "boots on the ground" in innovation and brand invention should operate free of fear that inevitable missteps will be met with consequences. Employers should allow a certain level of flexibility and communicate it clearly to their team. Only then will truly good ideas arise because your employees will not second guess their instincts or be afraid to speak up. Few know more about how to cultivate, create, and execute innovative marketing strategies like Babs Rangaiah, VP of global media innovation & ventures at Unilever. He speaks to iMedia about why launching large scale innovative campaigns and allowing your team to operate free of fear are two big touchpoints of risk-taking success in marketing.

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Article written by David Zaleski, senior media producer at iMedia Connection, and video edited by Brian Waters, associate media producer at iMedia Connection.

"Closeup portrait rude difficult angry young executive businessman." image via Shutterstock.

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Fall is here and Halloween is almost upon us, and I was wondering what people are dressing up as this year. What's the latest and greatest costume? I know one costume you wouldn't catch me in, and that's the invisible woman wearing an empty suit. Usually we refer to someone who makes themselves out to be much more able or important -- someone who is not particularly good at their job -- as an empty suit.

These masterminds of getting ahead without the credentials can be found in small and large organizations throughout the world. We meet them at conferences, client meetings, interviews, and even on vacations. So who are these masked invisible people who wear empty suits? Are they incompetent, are they know-it-alls, or is he or she a relative of the CEO? Or are they people who simply can't say "no" for fear of not getting the job, landing the client, or impressing their staff? Most of us have met or know of a person who has climbed up the corporate ladder into positions of authority that they really don't deserve or aren't able to maintain effectively.

Many of these individuals are masters at the performance stage whether it's interviewing. "Oh yes, I've sold over $5 million dollars last year." Then, in fact, you find out much too late that the $5 million dollars was in the pipeline and closing the deal was another story. Many hiring managers have made this mistake and wound up saying, ''Boy, he turned out to be an empty suit.'' I wonder, could it actually be that more empty suits are walking company halls these days, or are company expectations becoming unrealistic? I don't think there is anybody who knows for sure, but if you want to do a bit of research in your own corporate hideout, here are some types that fit the generic empty suit guide: There's a core type -- call him or her the generic empty suit. And there are a few categories: high-level executive model; the rising MBA style; and the salesman suit.
 
Usually the best place to go looking for generic empty suits is in large organizations because in small entrepreneurial companies they have nowhere to hide. Harvey Hornstein, a Columbia professor, consultant, and author of "Managerial Courage" has been trying to isolate the organizational environments that lead people to be more or less self-aware. He says, "It's important because where employees go in for self-scrutiny, they tend to speak up more, even against the prevailing wisdom, and may act more creatively." Empty suits tend not to speak up and don't like to go against the tide. Watch for them then. Hornstein's research suggests that these posers tend to be "in organizations that favor hierarchy over participation, formality over warmth, and uniformity over pluralism."
 
In a setting in which rules and procedures are valued over creativity and strategic thinking, the empty suit has ample opportunity to focus on political correctness without much effort into the work. If the standard corporate drill is to have a weekly meeting, she will have that meeting devotedly every Monday morning. She'll go through the motions of what's expected, but she is not concerned with the outcome of the meeting, such as generating new ideas or strategies.

So why does the empty suit survive in spite of our cultural dislike for these enigmas? What typically saves the empty suit is the fragile relation between what he or she does and any actual business results. This may be a function of the level of job at which he or she is hired, with lots of power to dismiss others' inventiveness, but has no responsibility to create ideas or meet a sales quota. Basically he or she is above the scrutiny of direct accountability.
 
Sometimes I've met an empty suit who may have come up through a corporate system that rotates people through a new position within the company every 18 months. She hardly had time to get any training for each rotation nor did she have the opportunity to get to know her teammates and consequently may have totally screwed up the few decisions she was compelled to make. By the time fingers were pointing, the empty suit had flown the coup, and the remaining team needed to clean up the mess.

"The typical empty suit, you see, is not an idiot," says David Campbell of the Center for Creative Leadership. "He may be bright and effective, but in a very predictable, very cubby holed way. Call him 'Mr. Expedient.' As such, he can come in particularly handy at an organization still suffering the aftershocks of restructuring: Others have their heads down, desperately trying to avoid calling attention to themselves." It's not unusual during restructuring that management wants to tie up a few loose end,s such as additional cost cutting and reducing staff. For what the empty suit does best is brownnosing the brass. He's a master performer and uses his charm to seduce. He goes out of his way to position himself with just the right person.
 
If he or she is truly a master suit, they will have a succession of glamour jobs on their resume. I fell for this type of empty suit myself once. I should have looked more closely at her background; she didn't have long tenures at each position, and her career ended prematurely in the arena that she claimed to be highly networked.

Unfortunately, the higher the position, the longer it takes anybody to tell whether or not someone is doing a good job. By this time, the suit will have learned all the buzzwords of leadership: He will talk vision, maybe even values. Ah, but just let those below try to find out exactly what that vision entails or what his values are. An empty suit is the precise opposite of a true leader. They are not risk takers.

Avoid hiring an empty suit

It's important to realize that just because someone is in a leadership position doesn't necessarily mean they should be. Put another way, not all leaders are created equal. The problem many organizations are suffering from is a recognition problem -- they can't seem to recognize good leaders from bad ones. Brian Wong, CEO of Kiip, an advertising internet company that engages its audience with life moments by rewarding them with samples, special offers, etc. says that there are certain characteristics that he looks for to avoid the hiring an empty suit. "I want to understand if they are a good teacher... by nature are they patient, knowledgeable, and giving." Brian also explores people's "super power." Yes, I heard him right! He asks people, "What's your super power?" at an interview. Basically, what are you great at so that we can leverage and focus your energy on that power, therefore avoiding ramp up time?

When you interview, be sure to ask questions that ask for specific examples in their current position. In speaking with Anthony Reddish, director of digital for the hot agency, MODCo Creative, he related a story of interviewing an executive in the digital design space. In order to get to her critical and creative thinking abilities, he asked her, "What was your goal when you created that website, and why did you create something in a certain way?" When she couldn't be specific in her answers, he realized that she was not the strategic thinker she purported, and in fact, she was the junior person on the team.

The lesson Anthony states here is "honesty." I'm passionate for authenticity in a person. Do your homework, especially in digital arenas, which change constantly. Keep up on your game, read the latest blogs and articles, stay up to date, and constantly ask questions.
 
"Don't be the hamster in the wheel," states Wong, when referring to a staff member who would "shoot off 10 words to communicate complex strategies with his team." He says, "That is pure laziness, and his team had no idea what's going on."

Beware of the empty suit

We have all met, hired, and worked with a "suit." I do think that people who lack character or integrity will not endure the test of time. It doesn't matter how intelligent, affable, persuasive, or savvy a person is, if they are prone to rationalizing unethical behavior based upon current or future needs, they will eventually fall prey to their own undoing.
 
Poor communication skills is another trade mark of the empty suit. Leaders can communicate effectively across mediums, constituencies, and environments. They are active listeners, fluid thinkers.

Finally, it's important to understand that nobody is perfect and we are subject to failing; however, leaders who consistently fail are not leaders. They don't learn from their mistakes, but tend to blame others for their failures. Don't underestimate a long-term track record of success. Someone who has consistently experienced success in leadership roles has a much better chance of success than someone who has not.

Erika Weinstein is founder and CEO at eTeam Executive Search.

On Twitter? Follow Weinstein at @eTalentSeeker. Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

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Marketing technology has exploded over the past decade, with new tools for emailing, posting, measuring, generating, responding, tracking, analyzing, and everything else you can imagine. It seems like every other day, some new company or software is touted as the next big thing in marketing.

4 things to consider before adopting new technology

It's tempting to jump on these bandwagons early, in an attempt to gain an early competitive edge. Too often, however, businesses invest in these technologies because they buy into hype rather than taking the time to make a strategic evaluation of whether or not they really need what's being offered. Just because you can do something new doesn't mean you should or even need to. Even if you can in fact use the new shiny toy, do you really need it at this point in your evolution or are your strategic processes worth your attention instead?

As the saying goes, don't fix what isn't broken. That's not to say you shouldn't innovate or be on the lookout for new systems and technologies that can truly improve your business. But if you already have systems and processes in place that are working well, helping you achieve your goals, and they can be scaled for future growth, you have to seriously consider whether a new technology will make a substantial enough change to warrant buying, installing, and training employees for a new system.

Now I know some of you are simply early adopters who love trying out the latest toy, and nothing in this article will persuade you otherwise. But for the rest of you, here are some things to consider when evaluating whether or not to sign up.

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When interviewing for a job, you have to be honest. Well, mostly honest. There's no reason to disclose your Dwayne Johnson fan club status (founding member) just yet. But if you have a good interviewer across the table from you, you'll likely be asked a few questions that are designed to make you sweat just a little. If you lie, you'll be held to that lie for a long time to come. Plus, fibs create all kinds of things that you have to remember. And webs of lies are exhausting. So keep it on the up and up.

Honestly is the right move at a job interview. But I think that we can all agree that job-interview honesty is a bit more flexible than courtroom-hand-on-a-bible honesty. Let's cover some appropriate ways to steer the conversation when these common questions arise.

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It's no secret that many advertisers use the metric Cost Per Mille (CPM) at the outset of a campaign to determine the cost they're willing to pay for impressions. While impressions are one way to measure a campaign, isn't the end goal to drive conversions and increase ROI? Instead of advertisers' natural inclination to equate efficacy with the number of impressions they purchased for a limited budget, why not look instead at the overall return and conversion on the total budget?

Common misconceptions

CPM vs. efficacy
Many advertisers equate less expensive CPMs with efficacy. There is a common belief that a higher cost per impression means a higher cost per acquisition (CPA). A lower CPM means you are purchasing cheaper media. In doing so, you miss out on valuable audiences with a greater propensity to purchase. You don't need to change your overall budget to reach this audience. You just need to adjust your metrics and strategy to align more closely with overall campaign goals. Dynamic CPM (dCPM) is one way advertisers can maximize the efficacy of a campaign. Using dCPM, the algorithm will optimize ad spend, bidding higher when necessary to obtain a high value impression and lower when it can, giving the campaign both focus and reach.

Quantity vs. quality
While quantity may seem impressive, quality trumps all. As an advertiser, you should ask yourself, "Am I reaching the best possible audience and maximizing conversions?" and "What is the likelihood that these people will actually convert to buyers?" In reality, a higher CPM enables you to bid more aggressively on higher value audiences -- ones more likely to engage.

"Good value" vs. hidden costs
It is not uncommon to equate low CPM with good value, but this correlation is inaccurate. For each ad placed, there is a serving fee to consider, and on lower CPM buys, these fees comprise a greater percent of every dollar spent. Would you rather blanket a general audience, paying proportionately larger fees, or increase the CPM to enable more targeted buys, reducing the percentage of overall fees and maximizing impact? Varying CPM across a buy is an ideal way to mix the media to deliver both impressions and results.

Is your goal to complete your budget, or maximize ROI?

As an advertiser, it's simple to say you've completed a campaign upon meeting both your impressions goal and CPM. It's more difficult to commit to maximizing the return within that budget. It's up to marketers to challenge the metrics that really impact the bottom line. In the end, is it better for 10,000 consumers to see an ad that may or may not be relevant, or for 2,000 target consumers to see it and act on it? Increasing CPM is a simple way to maximize return. While you might see fewer recorded impressions for your budget, you will see a higher ROI.

Many agencies are hesitant to bring CPM discussions to the table because of the above misconceptions. This confusion often prevents agencies from being as strategic as they would like and makes it especially difficult to discuss unique, high-impact, private marketplace deals. If brands want to pursue these strategies while staying within the confines of a low CPM, then they are "forcing" their partners to counteract that with untargeted, less effective strategies. 

It can be difficult to enact the organizational shift necessary to embrace new metrics, but advertisers' measurements must evolve as the industry, technology and consumers' behaviors change. The key is to open the dialogue with partners, ask difficult questions about CPM, and press hard for answers.

Avi Spivack is senior director of product commercialization at Adroit Digital.

On Twitter? Follow Spivack at @avispiv. Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

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Digital is a core driver of the future of media, marketing, and advertising, and that future is now. For those of us who gladly toil in the industry, day in and day out, the future leaps before us on a daily basis. Yet we, as an industry, are woefully unprepared. If you are reading this, you most likely can relate to the challenge of finding the right talent and experience. It is a pervasive issue. The OMI State of Digital Marketing Talent Report reveals worrying statistics in regards to the current state of talent in digital marketing. The gap between the industry needs and available talent is significant.

With all the great advertising technology and digital marketing advancements, there remains a huge delta between talent and needs in companies of all sorts, including Fortune 500 brands. There are a number of points of failure. Industry experience, reports, and surveys continue to point to a host of core issues, not only in the workplace but also at our academic institutions.

The responsibility for preparing and developing individuals for the demands of our industry extends from the classroom to the boardroom. Corporate leadership needs to do more to provide appropriate training and education. Academic institutions need to provide more relevant coursework and concentrations in digital. Universities currently do not offer enough substantial curriculums to support the market demands awaiting them in digital marketing. There is cause of concern for current college students who plan on pursuing a career in digital marketing -- and for those of us who employ them.

What can we do to prepare and transition the next generation of leadership?

Brand leaders, along with iMedia executives and advisors, poised this question at the iMedia Marketer-Only Meeting, an intimate, closed-door town hall working session hosted by Adam Kmiec, senior director of mobile, social, and content marketing at Walgreens. This discussion led to an outpouring of ideas and a new leadership initiative pilot program, which was announced at the recent iMedia Brand Summit. "The topic of talent scarcity and lack of education at our universities has been a hot topic among the leading brands at iMedia," explains Judy Karsting, iMedia's director of community. "As a recognized industry leader, iMedia saw an opportunity to extend our leadership role and step it up with a new initiative, the iMedia MBA Showdown."

The iMedia initiative is a great example of bringing together industry leaders to activate solutions. However, we must all get involved, not only on a global and national level. but on a local level. In our communities and in our workplaces, we must come together to nurture, cultivate, and lead the next generation, our industry, our brands, and the corporations that support them, or we will falter and ultimately fail. Leadership training, mentoring, and education at our place of business, in the community, and at our academic institutions need to step it up.

Here are some practical insights and tips to become an active contributing force to prepare the next generation of leadership.

In the workplace: Support and advance "experts at learning"

Most who are established industry leaders are voracious learners. As industry leaders, we must be experts at learning, and it is critical that we cultivate, nourish, support, and activate learning environments, whether it's in the office, with supporting industry organizations, publications, or with other educational platforms. The pace of change and the impact on strategic and tactical digital practices on our business cannot be underestimated. From higher level strategic ideation and planning to tactical, pragmatic shifts, we have all had to adapt to changing platforms, evolving consumer behaviors, algorithmic updates, and so forth. No one can rest on their laurels. There are no laurels in an industry that moves and evolves as fast as ours. If you are committed to succeeding in this industry, you must have a dedicated, passionate commitment to learning.

Cultivating and activating a learning environment requires a core foundational commitment to sharing and collaboration. While individuals must be motivated, the best outcomes come from seeding and sowing a deeper and broader approach. Programs, initiatives, and attitudes across teams, departments, agencies, and clients must be imagined, planned, and executed to facilitate shared learning.

Programs can take the shape of lunch and learns, in-house team training programs, workshops, professional summits, and conference attendance. Think about how to instill a spirit and delivery construct that inspires shared discussions extending into the hallway, over coffee, and at lunch. Learning can be fun and a valued way of working together and doing business. According to the OMI report, close to 80 percent would value an on-demand library of digital marketing classes, with almost 70 percent interested in customized e-learning of digital marketing skills or in-person workshops or training. One of our clients hosts a full-day global leadership summit once a month to advance digital leadership in its corporation. The company invites a team of stakeholders, including global executives from digital folks, brand managers, and marketing VPs with a full agenda of presentations and speakers. It's a blast! It's motivating and inspiring. And it supports its goals of industry leadership in its industry.

What programs and initiatives have you seen work at your place or elsewhere to grow industry expertise and facilitate shared learning?

In the community

Go local. National and global organizations are awesome, but we have to seed and sow in our own backyards as well. Get involved in your local marketing, media, and advertising associations. There are numerous opportunities to serve as a mentor, to publish, present, and participate to extend your learnings with others in the business community. If organizations in your area don't have digital marketing programming, then help them create one.

Same is true for college and universities in your market. Most academic institutions will host expert guest speakers and invite working professionals to participate in student programs. Some will even bring the students to your workplace. So invite them in! Volunteer to speak. Get involved. Sign up for their internship programs and mentor students. Not only will you be contributing to the future of the industry,  but your own business as well.

In addition to supporting the future of the industry, there are numerous short-term benefits to activating these efforts across business, professional organizations, and in your community. For the Fortune 500 brand, it means smarter marketing and higher ROI. For the individual, it can provide satisfaction and elevate career opportunities. It helps the agency to be more competitive, elevate the work, and extend the value to their clients.

Shared learning and expertise are good business. Just ask Amy Wargin, iMedia board of advisors and engagement manager from Assurant Health, a Fortune 500 company. Wargin is the brand leader for the iMedia MBA Showdown pilot program and will be working alongside John Durham with MBA students at the University of San Francisco.

"The opportunity to provide students with a real world marketing challenge where they can apply their thinking and learn is a tremendous opportunity for them and Assurant," Wargin explains. "We hope that this can be a model for other Fortune 500 brands to follow, as well with their local universities."

While industry organizations, universities, and business leaders work to close the talent gaps, students and young professionals are not totally off the hook. Aspiring would-be marketers need to commit to teaching themselves in and out of the classroom to meet the needs of their future employers. 

Denise Zimmerman is president and CSO of NetPlus. Zimmerman is a long-standing executive contributor to iMedia and is currently an advisor on the iMedia MBA program and Commerce Summit.

On Twitter? Follow Zimmerman at @dzimmerman. Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

If you are interested in being part of the Marketer-Only Meeting and/or want to join a future iMedia Summit, please contact Judy Karsting.

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Mick Ebeling has been re-defining the boundaries of what is possible for years. When his friend -- a world renowned graffiti artist - was diagnosed and paralyzed with ALS, most believed he would never be able to draw again. Mick Ebeling and his company Not Impossible Labs thought different. Inspired by the idea to transform the limits of human capabilities, his company invented the Eyewriter -- eye glasses with open source software, which allows paralyzed individuals to draw and communicate using just their eyes. It was an unprecedented accomplishment that made Time Magazines "Top 50 Inventions of 2010."

In 2013, Mick Ebeling and Not Impossible Labs transformed the limits of human potential once again. Mick traveled to Sudan's Nuba Mountains -- a region devastated by war and poverty for decades. Many have had limbs removed by explosives or disease, especially young children. One of these kids was Daniel, a 16 -year-old who two years prior lost both arms to an explosion. Daniel thought he would never be normal again. Mick thought differently.

With the help of 3D printing technology and American doctors, Not Impossible Labs set up the first ever 3D-printing prosthetic lab and training facility in Africa. Soon after, Daniel received a new left arm and was able to feed himself for the first time in two years. The team was able to train locals to operate the printer and computers so that the project would last far beyond the team's presence in Sudan. It was a tremendous and groundbreaking accomplishment that transformed lives and the limits of what is possible.

At the iMedia Brand Summit earlier this Fall, Mick spoke about his team's amazing work and how they were able to bring life changing prosthetic technology to the third world. Watch his amazing presentation here.

Mick will also be at the iMedia Breakthrough Summit as the closing keynote speaker on October 28. Here's a quick peek at what guests have to look forward to.

Learn more about the iMedia Breakthrough Summit.

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If you're overwhelmed by the increasing number of social marketing channels necessary to reach your audience, you're not alone. And maintaining the status quo, as well as being creative with your efforts can be just as daunting -- especially for the smaller organizations. To find out more and as part of an ongoing series, iMedia asked members of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) the following question: In what new ways are you using social media to reach your audience that sets you apart from larger competitors?

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

We spread knowledge

Stanley Meytin, True Film Production

"Larger competitors tend to promote their product or service more often than not. I, on the other hand, like to spread knowledge for people to learn from instead. In many cases, I end up with people coming to me looking for business as the knowledge has asserted expertise in the field."

We react quickly

Kuba JewgieniewRealty ONE Group

"We are more nimble because our social media experts can react quickly without going through many layers of approval. Whether it's a quick ALS Ice Bucket Challenge that we post while the genre is still hot, or a great property we just listed that we want to showcase, we can be in the moment, that very moment."

We curate the best of the best

Adam Stillman, SparkReel

"We create a top-five list every month for user-generated content campaigns. This includes campaigns that weren't done by our company. It's important to think of your vertical as a community. And as a member of the community, it's your job to provide as much value as you can. Often, you are able to do that with your product or service. Other times, it's acting as an expert curator."

We offer live coaching sessions with our CEO

Steli Efti,Close.io

"We often get asked questions from our audience on Twitter and LinkedIn. When we notice an interesting question, we invite them to a free webinar coaching session, where they have the chance to ask questions and practice directly with me. There's no veiled sales pitch or pseudo-consultation, just pure value. Large competitors don't offer that kind of live access to founders and executives."

We follow interesting people in related spaces

Jessica Richman, UBiome

"Following people on Twitter really gets their attention. We follow people in big data, biology, and health to cover all of our bases."

We focus on personalized interactions with customers

Brock Stechman, DivvyHQ

"Social is a great tool for us to cultivate relationships with our customers and prospects. Instead of using social media to send out general posts to the masses, we constantly incorporate creative ways to communicate with our customers on a one-on-one basis. This simple approach is more sincere and impactful. It lets them know we are thinking about them and that they are important to us."

We engage customers across all platforms

Mark Samuel, Fitmark

"We engage heavily with our customers on all major social platforms. We believe responding to questions and acknowledging great comments creates a true relationship between our brand and customers. It also allows the customer to see the personality of our company, which is extremely important to us."

We help others through Twitter search

Syed Balkhi, OptinMonster

"For my site WPBeginner, I use Twitter's search feature to monitor the hashtag WordPress and answer any questions that come up. This helps in building great user engagement, and I've built quite a following by offering to help users."

We leverage the Venmo feed

Mark Arnoldy, Possible

"Seeing that most social media channels were saturated, we pursued a partnership with Venmo. Now when users cash out, they can choose to donate a portion of their money to provide life-changing medical treatment for one person. When they do that, a message is automatically shared to their feed encouraging others to do the same."

We use direct messaging

Carrie Rich, The Global Good Fund

"We're using the old ways in our social media approach to set ourselves apart. We leverage Twitter as a lead generation tool to take connections offline. We frequently DM (direct message) industry contacts to get their email to setup calls or coffee dates. While we understand the power of social media, we believe the most meaningful connections happen in person, and we incorporate this into our strategy."

We make sure there's engaging content behind our links

Grant GordonSolomon Consulting Group

"Sometimes companies just throw up posts on social media sites for the sake of it, without being intentional about what they're linking to. We make sure that we carefully curate the external links that we're sharing and spend time crafting engaging content, such as blog posts, that aren't thinly disguised sales pitches. That way we're offering value to anyone who engages us via social media."

We host Twitter chats

Brooke Bergman, Allied Business Network Inc.

"Hosting and being involved in Twitter chats is a great way to show personality, find out what people are looking for, and see how your business stacks up to the competition."

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

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We all know the saying, "You only have one chance at a first impression." For advertisers, that saying couldn't ring more true. If they don't catch your attention within a few seconds, they've failed. To really stand out of the crowd, advertisers need to think outside the box and create something that makes a good first impression.

We want ads that actually speak to us. Actually connect with us. To make us feel something. Whether it's sadness, fear, happiness, silliness, or just plain inspiration, ads have the opportunity to shape perception and affinity.

Today, we want advertisements to touch us in a way that inspires us to share them. And that's an advertiser's dream come true. To have your ad "go viral" is an incredible feat that 99 percent of advertisers never get to experience. But that 1 percent, however small it may be, revels in the bliss of having their advertisement spread like wildfire. These 10 companies did it right.

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ESPs are pushing marketing automation as a primary selling point, and major players like SMTP are moving fast to acquire automation solutions from promising, young enterprises.

This is because automation can reach millions of prospective leads, target them based on their preference, actions, and personal information and then automatically tailor an email's content right down to a person's interests.

Marketing automation is the future of relationship marketing because it gives customers what they want: choice.

Marketing automation leads to more and better leads, improved marketing productivity, and better conversion rates. If you're not using email marketing automation, you're not getting the most out of your resources.

But don't take my word for it -- the stats don't lie, and right now they're singing gospel!

This article will analyze some recent statistics and attempt to discover why automated email has become such a successful trend in 2014.

Triggers

Automated marketing emails are sent based on triggers. Most of these triggers are set off by customers who have interacted with an object of particular interest to the company which means one thing -- hot leads!

Hot leads refer to customers who have immediately shown interest in a product or service. Since automated marketing emails are sent automatically when action is taken by a customer, they take advantage of a small window of interest.

This means they are able to generate revenue more effectively than newsletters, which rely on generalized timing resulting in colder or even dead-end leads.

Personalization

One of the most powerful tools of automation is its ability to be personalized much more than a typical newsletter. This is because each email is sent to a different person or business based on their actions or needs.

When you're targeting businesses, relevancy is everything. Businesses looking for a service are purely objective and have only one thing on their minds: "how will this product or service help me in my specific situation right now?"

Unlike newsletters, with automated email (especially drip campaigns) you're able to give different answers to this question to different businesses -- keeping you relevant, useful, and in business!

Relevancy

If a consumer has already bought an item or displayed interest in a product, notifying them of better, similar deals while their interest is peaked is an ideal way to gain more attention and sales.

An additional advantage of using automated mail for consumers is ability to offer special birthday deals or suggestions automatically. This allows marketers to capitalize on ideal sales opportunities, like birthdays or holidays, where their product or service is fresh in a consumer's mind.

Monthly newsletters may be able to capture generalized holidays and notify consumers of deals, but are unable to specialize those offers to each consumer when they're most likely to make a purchase, like automated mail is able to, accounting for a 50 percent higher conversion rate.

Sales integration

Often, the difference between a consumer buying your product instead of your competition's product is a good salesman.

Marketing automation is often integrated with sales force automation and other CRM tools, allowing your sales team to observe how prospects engaged with specific campaigns. This allows them to better strategize their approach and have more productive conversations with prospects near the end of the buying process.

Ultimately, what this means is that automation gives you the power to change how you market and sell your product on the fly meaning more adaptability than competition who rely on rigid, unchanging newsletters.

Drip email campaigns

Automated marketing really shines in a drip email campaign.

Drip email campaigns refer to a sequence of emails that are sent to a prospect in order to keep them invested and interested -- similar to regularly watering a plant until it's ready to bloom.

By paying constant attention to prospective leads, marketers are able to keep their product and brand in the minds of their targeted audience. Sounds a lot like spam? Well, the beauty here is that each email will be specifically tailored to be relevant and offer some kind of value to each lead -- thanks to the segmentation abilities of automated marketing.

This means that marketing qualified leads are steadily nurtured until they're ready to buy or for the sales team to close the deal rather than a plain newsletter each month hoping to gain leads.

The key to marketing successfully is to make your product applicable to the circumstances that surround your target market. Automated marketing gives you the power to place your product directly at the moment in time that a need is created for a consumer, making it an instrumental tool in modern marketing.

Mark Brown is a copywriter at Graphic Mail.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

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