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Marketers are positive people, but the industry isn't all sunshine and roses. There are dark facts about the way consumers connect with brands that need to be addressed. Ignoring these unfortunate statistics will not help things improve.

Buckle in, if you dare. You're about to take a terrifying -- and adorable -- journey into the dark side of the marketing world.

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Marketers know that the online browsing and buying process significantly differs from shopping in brick-and-mortar retail stores, but in my experience working with clients at Unilever, IBM, and elsewhere, not enough marketers take that into account as they seek to engage the online shopper. Engaging the customer online requires not a brand-centric or a retailer-centric marketing plan, but rather a shopper-centric approach. This approach focuses on maximizing traffic to the many different places they're actually shopping, and then on converting these active shoppers into buyers with engaging product detail pages.

Where does the online shopper begin?

When the online shoppers browse, they look across different sites to find the product and brand that meets her needs in terms of features, functionality, and price.  Across all categories, online shoppers will look at an average of 2.7 sites, according to research from HookLogic. Someone looking for a home theater system will look for the size, display, sound system, etc. and narrow their selection to just a handful of product choices. At this point in the shopping journey, it is all about securing the best price for a particular product. Whether the system comes from Sears.com, BestBuy.com, Amazon.com, or another e-retailer is of far less importance.

Brands have their own websites of course, largely to provide detailed product information to consumers. While many brands have indeed established e-commerce capabilities on their websites, they typically have not driven significant revenue given critical challenges in competing head-on with their retail customers in terms of price. While some brand-loyal consumers might go directly to a brand's product page, all will look at product descriptions on the e-retailers' sites for detailed brand-versus-brand comparison.

Increasing visibility of your products

Brands typically develop a retail-marketing plan for specific retailers, including a budget for discounts and promotions, but they often fail to include search placement, which is essential to drive visibility of your products in the infinite environment of e-retail.

The success of ecommerce marketing depends largely on the ability to drive more traffic, which starts with search. After all, in order for people to buy your products, they have to see your products. A retailer has no chance of selling to online shopper unless she visits the product detail page. Right behind paid retail search is the importance of offering consistent, high-quality product descriptions, because the product detail page is the site of the battle for the online consumer. Very few online shoppers buy a product without examining the product detail page for product features, functions, and specs. Research from HookLogic shows that price is the top influencer for online shoppers, followed by product descriptions, which are of prime importance to the e-retail marketer because the e-retailer will set the actual price. Product descriptions are the second most important influencer -- ahead of ratings and reviews. Pictures of the product in use and assembly videos are important in this battle, too. And because this shopper is multi-tab, product descriptions need to be consistent across the web regardless of where she is researching and browsing.

Focus on driving sales, regardless of where or when

In the past, brand marketers measured success by how much product they sold at a particular retailer, rather than how competitive they were in the overall retail shopping experience. And since online browsing impacts both online and offline sales, marketers must deliver compelling product descriptions to drive immediate sales conversion as well as future purchase consideration.

Wise brand marketers will adapt to the way today's multi-tab consumer actually shops online, rather than attempting to shoehorn old methods of brand-only or retailer-only marketing to brick-and-mortar customers into this new online model.

Eric Siebert is VP of global digital marketing for Boston Scientific.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

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Ugh, another one of those ads?

We all hate those stupid Lincoln ads, right? Well whether you do or you don't, this "SNL" parody is fantastic.

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Senior-level marketers have plenty of experience promoting clients, but when it comes to showing off their own strengths, they often shy away from the spotlight. If you're a veteran marketer familiar with working behind the scenes, promoting yourself during the job search process can feel unnatural, but the truth is, you're better equipped than most to create a winning resume. Read on for seven strategic steps for honing in on the most important parts of your professional past to create a clear and concise account of your achievements so far.

Be your own client

In the world of marketing, you've learned how to promote a product or service by developing a marketing plan, positioning your client in a flattering light, and creating a powerful, unique brand message. Now, think of yourself as one of your clients. How can you make the product -- i.e., you -- irresistible to potential customers -- i.e., hiring managers? As with any client, you'll want to zero in on the most valuable aspects of the product -- again, you -- and represent that in the most flattering light possible.

Research your target market

Just as you wouldn't launch a campaign without researching your target market, you shouldn't write or distribute your resume without having some idea of where you're sending it -- and what they're looking for. What types of jobs do you plan to apply to, and what kind of candidate do they want? What do you have that they might value, and what are you lacking? By learning as much as possible about the companies you're applying to, you can create a resume that has a real impact with hiring managers.

Customize, customize, customize

Unless you're applying to only one company, or to a number of companies that are essentially identical, you'll want to customize your resume a little bit every time. Reference your target research to determine which factors are most important to which companies. Are you applying for a position where you'll be managing a large staff of marketing associates? Be sure your management experience is front and center. Does the company specialize in social media marketing? Emphasize any relevant experience and accomplishments that demonstrate that you can handle the challenge.

Show, don't tell

As with any successful marketing campaign, you want to clearly illustrate why and how you're better than the competition. Rather than wasting space with dry, generic descriptions of past positions, include colorful and specific details of your accomplishments. Use as many numbers as possible to quantify your successes, and use plenty of action verbs.

Design matters

As a marketer, you know how crucial good design is. It's no different when you're marketing yourself. And no, that doesn't mean you should create a multi-colored, glossy, illustrated version of your resume (although there is a time and a place for creative resumes). Rather, take the time to carefully consider how to reinforce your core message through your layout and design. Is it easy to navigate? Is it cluttered? Is the most pertinent information emphasized, or is it buried in an area where it's easy to miss?

Keep it conciseďż˝ and leave them wanting more

Just like an ad campaign that intrigues viewers or a press release that inspires immediate follow-up from recipients, share just enough information to leave the hiring manager wanting more. No doubt you could fill a small book with all of your accomplishments at this point in your career, but it's important to zero in on your most impressive and relevant accomplishments in order to keep your resume to an easily digestible length. And by just scratching the surface of your career, you'll hopefully inspire hiring managers to call you to schedule an interview in an effort to learn more.

Think outside the resume

In addition to sending in your application, think about other ways you can stand out from the crowd. Tap into your network to figure out if you can personally connect with employees at the companies where you're applying. Make sure that your social media accounts are clean and professional. Your public persona should positively reflect what's on that sheet of paper.

Michelle Kruse is recruitment, editor, and content manager at ResumeEdge.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

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The first thing that comes to mind when talking to a development firm about a new website or mobile application is how much is this going to cost? However, determining a fixed price is not as easy as it seems. While a firm may use similar technology and end-goals for each project, it's important to recognize that no two projects are ever the same -- there are always unexpected challenges and problems that must be taken into consideration.

That's why insisting on a fixed price right from the start usually results in defective sites or apps, as well as poor client relationships. It's for this reason that clients and their development partners need to find a happy medium -- a situation that provides company leaders a detailed enough budget to relay back to executives, and developers the liberty to implement projects in the most effective way possible.
 
Here are three mistakes to avoid when going through the web development bidding process:

Putting too much focus on the product rather than the process

What firms have created and how well they function is obviously a significant aspect, but it's more important to know how their project process works so you better understand how they'll incorporate your preferences, style, and goals. Before diving into the development process or even asking for a bid, learn how their business operates. First, look at how they prepare for a major redesign. Do they ask a few questions over email, then take some notes on the client's current site and start working? If that's the case, then stop while you're ahead. You want to partner with a firm that will take the time to really understand your business and expectations before starting the design process.

Also, be sure to ask about how they manage ongoing site maintenance -- every website experiences changes. Regardless of which system they use, minor modifications can add up quickly -- like uploading a blog post or new team member profile -- so it's better to know what you're getting into beforehand.

Overlooking important details

A business that outlines their specific needs, expectations and goals will gain a more accurate bid from numerous development vendors. As the customer, it's crucial you make your business objectives clear and directly express project goals. This information will help the targeted development firms compile a detailed proposal that meets both your objectives and budget. Excluding important details leads to more problems and wasted time. So, the development firm is left trying to figure out what you actually want and wind up presenting a proposal outside your budget and expected work scope. Remember, developers are not mind readers, so the more specific you are the better!

Ignoring the big picture

Rather than get caught up on particular features and cost, focus on what you actually want to get out of the web development project. Whether you're trying to save money, build an e-commerce platform, ease the workload for team processes, or accomplish any other important business-related goals, you need to communicate that with the vendor you've chosen to submit bids. They might come up with an unexpected solution that aligns perfectly with your business goals and budget.
 
While it's essential to alleviate any financial risk, try not to get bogged down with the idea of a fixed bid. If you dedicate only a small amount of time to building a clickable prototype and determining project goals, in the end, you'll save yourself a lot of time, money, and stress. Ultimately, the initial bid and proposal process will shape the overall project, as well as the relationship between the client and agency.
 
Roy Chomko is co-founder and president of Adage Technologies.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

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You don't need to consult a crystal ball or chief futurist to know that brands will continue to cash in on social media obsession. And opportunities abound now more than ever, as internet celebrities around the world ditch their day jobs (Did they ever have day jobs?) in favor of five-figure paychecks for producing six-second videos, striking images, and other short-form content. And who can blame them?

The beauty of social media is its democratization of not only the information we receive, but also the content we create on our own. With simply a smartphone, one is able to craft and widely distribute snackable content that is unique, stunning, frightening, hilarious, bizarre, mind-blowing, beautiful, or profitable. Yes, brands are investing a lot of money in social media stars and the agencies that represent them (i.e. InstaBrand, Niche, GrapeStory, Laundry Service, etc.). The question remains, "Are these good investments?"

Let's compare YouTube stars to their mainstream Hollywood counterparts. I've picked on this campaign before, but consider HTC's employment of megastar Robert Downey Jr. -- for a whopping $12 million. What did the company do with Iron Man? It made awkward, almost irrelevant TV spots and released the following YouTube video promoting the HTC One (M8).

Now, consider Google's work with Ryan Higa, one of YouTube's highest paid stars, reportedly charging $75,000 per appearance -- a mere fraction of Downey Jr.'s $12 million. The following video promoted Google's Nexus One smartphone and has amassed nearly 11.5 million views to date.

Clearly, this is not comparing apples to apples, given the fact that HTC's campaign included TV spots and the company's YouTube channel subscriber count is tiny compared to Higa's. However, one can't help but think that turning to major Hollywood names is very risky when extremely influential and candid internet celebs can be bought for a fraction of the price.

Furthermore, a recent survey conducted by Variety asked 1,500 U.S. teenagers (aged 13-17) a number of questions to assess the influence of 20 different celebrities from YouTube, film, TV, and music. Surprisingly, the survey found that the respondents were much more captivated by YouTube stars, as "the five most influential figures" among American teens were all homegrown YouTube celebrities. Although the study featured only a small segment of the total population, it's obvious that YouTube stars exercise wide-reaching influence.    

Though brands have tapped the talent of social media stars for years, with relatively new and user-friendly social platforms like Vine, Snapchat, and Instagram ushering in new waves of creative talent, it's time take a look at what brands are doing today to market their products, services, or increase engagement with help from the internet famous.

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Consumers are online vigilantes. The internet and the multitude of devices we use to access it have transformed the public from simple customers, to advocates, critics, and brand champions. Consumers are empowered like never before to actually cause damage to big brands. It's a perfect storm that began years ago when companies acted harsher, colder, and were more profits-focused toward the public. The 80s and 90s were great for business, but companies were not loved by consumers. Shopping was an unhappy chore, not an experience.

Competition was not as rampant as it is today, and product choice was generally limited. Millennials who were raised in this environment were witness to a world that went from limited public power, to being able to affect big change online. This generation has real morals about what companies can and cannot get away with. This extends all the way to who brands hire and the decisions its employees make on a daily basis. The pendulum has swung far in the direction of the public, and its harder for brands to operate in a shady way. Social accountability is also tied to the bottom line, as regular people are now leaders of their own online networks. If they have a problem, they are able to talk to thousands -- sometimes millions -- of people and affect purchasing behavior. It's a brand new world for business, and companies need to operate in a brand new way.

Chris Malone, co-author of "The Human Brand" speaks to iMedia about why power has shifted so dramatically and the series of events which have created this climate. Here's what he says you need to do to protect your image in the 21st century.

Learn more about Chris Malone�s book "The Human Brand".

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Article written by iMedia Connections's senior media producer, David Zaleski and associate media producer, Brian Waters.

"Furious office worker" image via Shutterstock.

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Social media is a serious business. In fact, nearly 70 percent of marketing managers planned to up their digital budget this year. Whether agency, B2B, or B2C, it's crucial that your social media managers are the best in the business. A lot of money rides on their success.

Nowhere, perhaps, is this more vital than on Twitter. With a variety of recent social media PR disasters in recent memory, finding a pro to man your handle is doubly important. You can't harness the power of Twitter's real-time and trending capabilities with the wrong person at the helm.

So, how do you choose the right person to tweet for your client or brand? Here are some insights.

A certain degree is less important than solid writing skills

Think you need someone who has a BA in communications or English? Not necessarily, though it's a good place to start. If you have a resume in front of you filled with tons of great writing experience, but a degree that isn't precisely applicable, don't pass on it. Just as the internet punishes companies for social media missteps, it rewards brands with creative and smart social copy. You want someone with an eye for content that will not only resonate with your audience, but also attract new customers.

Attention to detail is paramount

Creativity is a key component, and one that will help your community manager respond to trending topics quickly, and in a shareable way. But being naturally diligent (even militant) about spelling, grammar, tone of voice, and scheduling ensures the creativity sings. It's imperative that brand tweets be typo-free -- there are few things less professional than a grammatically incorrect post riddled with misspellings. Think no one will notice a misplaced apostrophe? You're wrong.

Check his or her Twitter-specific expertise

A good one-two punch: Ask prospective applicants to create a fresh content calendar for you and find someone internally to review the final product. If you're not sure what makes a good post or tweet, turn to a socially-savvy connection to assess whether the candidate's use of hashtags, @replies, and mention of trending topics aligns with actual expectations on the job. Nix anyone who doesn't know the basics (i.e., tweets must be under 140 characters).

Don't make assumptions

You may, for instance, have heard the advice to just "hire a millennial" to manage your social media account. While the generation does have an innate knowledge of social, it's worth bearing in mind that someone who's 35 and someone who's 25 have had the same amount of time to learn and use Twitter. Further, social media for business is vastly different than social media for personal use. Four years of posting college party pics on Facebook does not a social media expert make. (Trust me, the learning curve is steep.) Younger generations absolutely have the edge when it comes to platform utility, but with things like paid promotion and influencer identification, they're on the same level as everyone else.

Gauge the candidate's curiosity

This is one of the most essential, and most overlooked, qualities of a social media manager. Whoever you have tweeting is likely to be writing dozens of tweets per week on the same subject, for a period of months or even years. Hiring someone with a deep sense of inquiry will ensure that your Twitter content is continuously fresh.

The best social media managers are creative, organized and curious individuals with an eye for organization. Don't be the next DiGiorno's -- hire with care.

Lucia Davis is director of content at Obviously Social.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet and Lucia at @LKCDavis.

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Programmatic buying now accounts for a quarter to a third of online display advertising, and it's on its way to half. In fact, P&G projects it will buy 70 percent of its media this way by year's end. Why? Improved targeting means big advertisers like Kellogg's now pay rates 50 percent lower than five years ago.

If you're not sure what programmatic means, you're not alone. A 2014 Forrester / ANA survey suggests three-quarters of marketers don't understand it either. There are many definitions. My over-simplified one: Programmatic buys people, not places.

Clear or not, with this momentum, it's hard not to speculate about how far programmatic might go. Five years ago, I scribbled "Fly-By-Wire Marketing," a post about how it might influence marketing planning. Two weeks ago, I bloviated:

"Programmatic buying will soon spill beyond digital advertising's boundaries. But it won't just extend to other channels; it will go to the heart of how marketing is planned. Following financial markets, we should expect marketing planning -- an exercise that today happens annually with episodic refreshes -- to morph into "marketgramming."
In the future we won't plan campaigns manually, but rather write rule sets to continuously adapt pre-specified marketing efforts to changing conditions. And marketgramming's implications run not just to planning processes, such as how often we meet and adjust budgets, but also for how we think: envisioning many scenarios and understanding interactions among our response levers, even to more modular, dynamically re-combined creative."

Today this is less original. What's more interesting is how we get there.

What does "marketgramming" look like?

Traditionally, marketing plans make one assumption about upcoming market and competitive conditions. Then they lay out one set of investments, and assumption and plan are expressed annually.

A "marketgramming" approach envisions multiple market and competitive scenarios. It provides for multiple test and control options for each of these scenarios. It's scoped shorter -- maybe seasonally, for example. The payoff:  If you can manage transaction costs, there are arbitrages to be exploited through high-frequency trading of marketing investments and activities at a macro scale, just as in the markets for securities and cookies at more micro levels.

How do we make "marketgramming" happen?

The programmatic metaphor presents two challenges. One is writing and running the marketgram software. The second is re-configuring operational hardware -- budgets, people, and processes -- to execute the marketgram's instructions.

Software

The marketgram has many permutations. Just like writing software, you can reduce the necessary work through shortcuts -- plan templates, selective testing, for example.

Once you've developed your plan (a function of the scenarios, tests, and timeframes you lay out), you have to describe them. You need to analyze past market and competitive conditions and dynamics, and make your best guess about what these will look like.

Next you need to understand how your past efforts have performed under these different scenarios. You may smell a mix model coming, but it doesn't have to be that complicated to start.

From this, for each cell in the plan, you state your "if-then" plan. Voilà, there's your marketgram's "Hello World!" moment!  Next, you decide how often to run it, and who should be involved in reviewing it, based on stakes and uncertainties, before instructions get executed.

In practice: A retailer's online and store channel chiefs -- who will already have optimized their individual channels -- marketgram cross-promotion options in weekly chunks based on weather forecast scenarios, and meet every two to three days to review and approve pre-defined adjustments.

Hardware

Adjusting budgets at all, let alone quickly, is hard. Many ad buys are done in advance to save cost, or to lock down unique inventory. You may want to explore how much flexibility you can engineer into your buys, like shifting spending geographically.

Organizationally, it's tough to be nimble. Motivated folks working your channels don't want to hear, especially on short notice, that their work may be de-prioritized. Or they might find it hard to modify their lives -- childcare, vacations, etc. There are a variety of ways you can mitigate this through changes in compensation, support and structure.

You have to execute more flexibly as well. Tighten up phasing of projects, for example, to make sure you're delivering something usable each week or month, instead of each quarter. Build more modularity into your creative, and re-think how you engage with your creative agencies. Update your digital asset and content management infrastructure.

In practice: A financial services company that relies on thought leadership for marketing reconceives its digital initiatives as vessels for experiments that cycle every two weeks, responding to news cycles to reframe its relevant products.

Making "marketgramming" pay

Sounds like lots of work. Can we get there? Feel your way forward. Start simply, with a couple of scenarios for one season, each with one test. It's like starting your programmatic journey with a simple retargeting campaign.

Is it worth it? There are two ways you could answer this. One is, "How much lift over control do we see." But of course not everything is cleanly testable that way. Another is to try it for a while, and do the big math: "Are we able to get more revenue from our marketing dollars?" At the very least though, even if you do nothing more than write a marketgram, the exercise will help you spot opportunities you might exploit in the moment. And stringing together some wins will help you make the case for the necessary hardware changes when the time comes.

Cesar Brea is a partner at Force Five Partners, LLC

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

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Content marketing and search engine optimization are inextricably linked. Yet we're in a strange place at present. While search engine optimization companies rebrand themselves as "content marketing solutions," enterprises engaging in content marketing internally are engaging content producers with little or no SEO background.

As a result, search visibility, often a major criterion or benefit of content marketing, falls by the wayside. Yet nothing matters more in search engine optimization than content. Nothing.

Sure, technical aspects of a site play a large factor, as does site architecture. A few things done improperly or mismanaged -- for example, a robots.txt file that prevents a search engine from even seeing online content -- can torpedo SEO efforts. But when it comes to having a well-optimized web presence that's visible to search engines, content is the alpha and omega of those efforts -- more specifically, written content. Search engines can only crawl, index, and understand text -- not images, videos, podcasts, photos, or any other type of graphic or multimedia content.

This is not to say you can't optimize non-text content marketing elements. We'll examine how later.

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