Posted by: ashleyarmstrong1 | November 28, 2009

Online Profile Case Study: Lululemon

Company Snapshot

Lululemon Athletica Inc. is a well-known yoga-inspired, lifestyle athletic wear brand launched out of Vancouver in 1998. Lululemon now has stores across Canada, the US, Australia and a showroom in Hong Kong. In addition to retail, the company also sells via its own website and its wholesale ‘Strategic Sales’ partners. Lululemon is primarily targeted to the 32-year old professional woman, but also has offerings for men and children.

Online Marketing Strategy

The company has done a good job creating a strong, integrated online presence that is in line with its strategy and consistent with the brand. Lululemon doesn’t do traditional advertising –rather the company has a grassroots marketing strategy.  Lululemon builds relationships within its communities and with its customers and grows via word of mouth. The company is extremely customer focused – customer feedback is an important element of product development and company expansion. This strategy is well suited to online marketing with social networks.

Lululemon has an active company blog, Facebook page and Twitter account with dedicated staff online, and is also active on Flickr and Youtube. The company directly communicates with customers and uses online technology to:

  • Ask questions – about new products and designs
  • Obtain customer feedback – both + and – comments and suggestions. Lululemon staff are quick to respond and let people know they will pass feedback on to the design team.
  • Answer questions – customers regularly post questions about product availability, locations, shipping, and so on
  • See where customers are – and consider potential new markets to enter via a retail channel
  • Educate customers – on products, fabrics, locations, new lines
  • Promote events – Lululemon has used Twitter, Youtube and Flickr to promote warehouse sales, for example.
  • Increase brand awareness – the company makes it easy to share its blog posts on social networking sites like Twitter or Facebook.

Lululemon has created an online space where customer engagement is high. Key reasons for Lululemon’s online success include: it is integrated into the company’s overall strategy, is responsive, and useful to customers.

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Posted by: ashleyarmstrong1 | November 27, 2009

Twitter & Your Marketing Strategy

A year ago Twitter was still a relatively unknown technology. Now, “Twitter” has been added to the dictionary and more and more individuals and companies are joining if they haven’t already. There are now over 50 million accounts worldwide.

In fact, companies appear out of touch if they are not active on Twitter – not having a Twitter account is almost like not having a website 10 years ago. Interestingly, there are still a number of notable companies without an official online presence. Others have started accounts but haven’t yet tweeted anything.

Done well, Twitter can be an excellent marketing tool. However, many companies are still feeling their way and are unsure of how to best integrate social media with their marketing strategy.

PR firm Weber Shandwick recently did a study of Fortune 100 Companies on Twitter and concluded that many need a “Twittervetion.”  The study found that 73% of Fortune 100 companies have registered a total of 540 Twitter accounts. However, 76% of those accounts did not post tweets very often and 52% were not actively engaged or were defined as place-holder accounts. Such detachment can be degrading to your brand rather than useful.

5 Ways to use Twitter Effectively – A Starter Guide

1. Have a Purpose and Integrate Twitter with Your Marketing Strategy

In order to use Twitter effectively, consider how it can be integrated into your overall marketing communications strategy. Define what your goals are – is to increase awareness, join the conversation, listen to what your customers are saying, use as a tool for recruiting talent, etc. Don’t leave your Twitter account to flounder on its own – connect it to your website and other social media accounts.

2. Create a Professional Image Inline with Your Brand

People will judge your company based on the appearance of your Twitter page – make sure it is consistent with your company’s branding and other touch points. Create a branded background and when possible be certified as an official twitter page. Have an easy to search name – the search function on Twitter for finding accounts is limited. Act quickly – your name may already be taken

3. Select Who You Follow Carefully

While it is positive to have a high number of followers, it is not always beneficial to follow a large number of accounts. Be thoughtful about who you follow and make sure your choices are in line with your strategy. Who you’re following says a lot about you (including your interests and positioning) and is reflective of your brand – be selective.

4. Tweet Regularly and Provide Useful information

Tweet a mix of both company updates  – promotions, new products, etc –  and useful information – industry trends or reports, etc. Be relevant and current. Position yourself as a leader in your industry. Tweet often (at least daily – 1 to 4 times throughout the day is effective) to be top of mind and to be seen by your followers. You can pre-write your tweets and us a service to schedule their release.

5. Participate in Conversations

Rather than just talking to your followers, be responsive, reply to other tweets and talk with them. This is an opportunity to build valuable relationships within your market.

We have seen the news reports and read the warning articles for several years now – time and time again people are not careful about the information they post about themselves on the internet with sometimes devastating results. We’ve read about how companies and universities have been known to look up applicants’ Facebook and MySpace pages when screening potential candidates, and eliminating those with inappropriate photos or comments on their pages. However, many people still don’t follow this advice, and stories continue to be reported about applicants who are passed over or employees who are fired from a job due to incriminating photos.  For example, just today, CBC news reported that an employee lost her job when her insurer found facebook photos of her on a beach holiday while she was on sick leave. These stories go on and on.

Done correctly, however, the internet can be used effectively for career development. In recent years,  social media  has become an effective job search and networking tool. LinkedIn was designed for this purpose. More recently, Twitter has become a popular forum for job-hunting and there are numerous websites offering tips for how to find a job online. Soon we won’t remember how this was done before the advent of the internet!

The newest trend is that companies are using social media rather than traditional methods to recruit for positions. The Globe and Mail reports that many employers now  distribute job postings to “employees, who then place them on their Facebook status updates, tweet them to friends who re-tweet them, and share them through LinkedIn networks.” This method is much less costly, and because current employees are involved, can be more targeted. In tighter economic times, companies are looking for ways to reduce costs and streamline processes and this certainly fits the bill. This can be good news for people on the job hunt. Using social media to investigate job opportunities and creating a well-positioned online presence can go  a long way in finding and being offered the right job.

Posted by: ashleyarmstrong1 | November 15, 2009

An Example of “Shouting” Marketing

The purpose of marketing advertising is obvious – to increase brand awareness and encourage purchase decisions. However, when done badly it can be a turnoff and have the opposite effect. For example, a friend was recently in Venice and eager to visit the renowned Bridge of Sighs. The bridge is historical landmark built in the early 1600’s. The enclosed bridge is made of white limestone and passes over the Rio di Palazzo to connect the old prisons to the interrogation rooms in the Doge’s Palace. When convicts passed over the bridge they had their last view of the city before imprisonment and was coined the Bridge of Sighs by Lord Byron.

Expecting to see an uplifting example of architecture, my friend was taken aback when turning the corner she was faced with this:

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(“Il Cielo dei Sospiri” Translation: “Heaven of Sighs”)

A historical monument was turned into a larger-than life advertisement. The entire face of the bridge, and the facades of the two buildings along the canal were completely covered in an appalling, giant, garish Geox ad.

After doing a bit if internet research, it’s possible that this monstrosity could be due to sponsorship of reconstruction for the surrounding buildings. Does this justify the shocking,  in-your-face ad and make you want to buy a pair of Geox shoes? In ‘Groundswell” the authors call this technique “shouting” at your customers –  getting your message out as loud as you can. In this case, it may be an effective way to increase brand awareness, but does it increase positive brand equity?

Posted by: ashleyarmstrong1 | November 12, 2009

What is .TEL?

There’s been a lot of talk lately about a new online communication service called .TEL. What is it and how can it help your business?

Webnames.ca, Canada’s original domain registrar, (LINK) describes .Tel as a new domain that’s set to revolutionize the way we keep in touch. According to Webnames.ca, .TEL is an easy to remember name such as smith.tel or webnames.tel to which an individual or company can add all their contact information.

.Tel is operated by UK company Telnic.

How .TEL Works

ResellersLandingTake a look at the Telnic website for a visual of how .TEL works. The recipient simply adds the .TEL name to their cell phone, Blackberry, iPhone or address book and all the information goes with it. A .tel provides a central hub for general information such as opening times and prices, and can include links to new technologies such as, Twitter.

Who is it For?

Webnames.ca claims that .TEL is for everyone – “from people who don’t need a website but would like a web presence, to businesses who would like to leverage mobile phone technology to connect with their customers, through to individuals who would like to distill all their contact information into one place”

Reserve Your Name

Have you ever tried to get an e-mail or a Twitter account and found your name is already taken? According to DomainNameWire,  Telnic reported a total of 221,616 domains registered in July 2009. The number seems to be growing 5,000-15,000 names a month. Webnames.ca recommends reserving your name now, since .TEL names are awarded on a first come, first served basis. Once a name is gone, it’s gone. You might be able to purchase it in the aftermarket, but at a higher price. The best way to ensure you get the name you want is to register early.

coverThe Globe & Mail published an article recently citing a Citibank survey  that found three quarters of small businesses in the US say they have not found Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn helpful in generating business leads or expanding business in the past year. The survey found 42 per cent of small businesses have made greater use of their company websites to generate business leads and sales.

Is social media really not useful, or are we still figuring out how to use these tools to our advantage? Social media is still a new frontier and many small businesses are not sure how it applies to them.

There are several examples of companies that have successfully applied online strategies that support their business goals. Groundswell is an award-winning book by two Forrester Research analysts, Josh Bernoff and Cherlene Li, that takes an in-depth look at how businesses can take a strategic approach with social media to gain insights, generate revenue, save money and energize customers. The book uses a case study approach to demonstrate ways that companies such as HP, P&G, Blentec, Constant Contact and Lego have successfully used social media to their advantage.

Bernoff and Li define the groundswell as: “A social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions like corporations.” They state that people’s desire to connect, new interactive technologies and online economics have created a new era that is an important, irreversible and completely different way for people to relate to companies and each other.  In other words, if you’re not already in the game, it’s time to get your plan together and start because this trend isn’t going away, and by sitting in the sidelines you’ll miss valuable opportunities and having distinct advantages over your competitors. As Bernoff and LI state: “You cannot ignore this trend. You cannot sit this one out.”

I am intrigued by the abundance of possibilities social technologies offer companies when used effectively.  While Groundswell is written to a wide range of businesses and organizations, small businesses can hugely benefit from their strategic approach to this area. Here is a summary of how to get started:

When Create and implementing a successful social strategy, the first steps are to consider the following questions:

1) What is your goal?

Align the online community objective with the business goals, or else it’s a waste of time and resources. As Bernoff and Li state, “copying others doesn’t work because your company, your customers, and your goals are not the same as somebody else’s.” And, “If you don’t enter the groundswell with a specific goal, you will fail…Your strategy should be defined from the start to focus on a primary objective, and it is progress toward that objective that you should measure.  Then you will be able to measure the return on your groundswell objective. And that, based on our experience, is the path most likely to lead to success.“

2) Who are you customers? Who is your audience? What are my customers ready for?

There is a social network and approach for every audience. Groundswell has provided a free tool at groundswell.forrester.com to learn more about your customer’s Social Technographics profile, which will help you to create a targeted strategy.

3) Ask yourself, am I ready for the changes and impact this strategy will have on the company?

Consider how the strategy will change the company. You must assess and address the ways that social technologies change the customer relationship. Your blog, for example, could become a magnet for negative comments. Consider possible consequences ahead of time. Expect that things will go wrong. Start with a plan that starts small and has room to grow as the landscape changes. You must be willing to be flexible throughout the process, and make changes when things aren’t working.

Bernoff and Li outline 5 primary objectives companies can pursue in the groundswell. They recommend starting with one, depending on your company’s strategy and goals. They are:

  1. Listening
  2. Talking
  3. Energizing
  4. Supporting
  5. Embracing

LISTENING TO THE GROUNDSWELL

With listening you can:

  1. Find out what your brand stands for
  2. Understand how buzz is shifting
  3. Save research money; increase research responsiveness
  4. Find the sources of influence in your market. (bloggers, discussion forums, etc. Once you find the influencers you can cultivate them)
  5. Manage PR crises. You’ll hear about a PR issue earlier if you are listening.
  6. Generate new product and marketing ideas.

If you’re listening, expect to be talking soon, too.

TALKING WITH THE GROUNDSWELL

The method of talking in the groundwell depends on what your problem is and what your goal is. Examples of ways to talk include:

  • Post a viral video (While you do this keep your objective in mind. What will you do once you get attention?)
  • Engage in social networks, such as Facebook, if your customers are in this space (this isn’t for everyone). See what’s out there already. Move forward if people love your brand. Create a presence that encourages interaction and be ready to interact.
  • Join the blogosphere. Know your audience. Start by listening. Have a goal for your blog.  Be sure you are willing to really put in the effort, be interactive and be honest.
  • Create a community. Figure out if your market is a community already. Be sure you can support it for the long term before jumping in.

ENERGIZING THE GROUNDSWELL

This objective is a good fit for companies with customers who are or who could be enthusiastic about the company or products. You need to be prepared for the response, because you will hear negative thoughts as well good thoughts. Ways to find enthusiastic customers and turn them into word of mouth machines include:

  • Tap into customer’s enthusiasm with rating and reviews
  • Create an online community to energize your customers
  • Participate in and energize online communities of your brand enthusiasts

HELPING THE GROUNDSWELL SUPPORT ITSELF

It’s very expensive to support customers with traditional methods. In the groundswell, customers can support each other. Consider whether to join an existing community or create a new support community where customers can help each other. It will take awhile to drive people to the space and encourage them to participate, so be prepared to be involved for the long haul.

EMBRACING THE GROUNDSWELL

Embracing the groundswell changes the way you do business. Be willing to hear what you don’t want to hear, and be responsive. As you learn insights about your customer, you can move more quickly making changes and improvements, save money and make life difficult for competitors. As you go down this path, it’s important to tell the customers what you’ve done in response to their suggestions. To be successful here, you have to prove you’re ready to listen and to act.

Overall, if you are thinking about joining the social media world, but aren’t sure how to do it, this book is a useful resource for starting to create and implementing an online strategy for your company.

Posted by: ashleyarmstrong1 | November 12, 2009

Welcome!

About Ashley Armstrong
Ashley is a marketing and strategic management MBA student at the University of British Columbia.

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