Monday, August 31, 2009

Discussion 7

For my blog, the visitor engagement could be measured through the metrics such as their average time on the site and the number of return visits. If these viewers are truly engaged, they will return constantly to check out the new offerings of my blog. One other tool is the content overview, which was a bit disappointing because my blogs were rarely opened for comments, which I begged for. (Thanks Benay for the only comments!) By blog had a very low average time on the site, which was just under a minute. This tells me that I should have or could implement something more user friendly and attractive, unless my content was just not what they were pursuing. One of the most disappointing metrics, however, was the lack of success with my facebook. For a month and a few weeks, I promoted heavily through this social media tool but to no avail. Only one referral through Facebook occurred, although I have very few friends on there that are interested in marketing. The bounce rate was high at 80% but then again everything could be seen with a single view until the last days of the course, but the time reflected that they couldn’t have actually read much. Engines and direct traffic were tied with 38% of visits with referrals taking 23%. My map overlay was interesting and showed visits from the UK, Japan, and India, which was not expected when we started. My blog seemed effective at bringing in new visitors, however, with 2/3rds being new to the site, although sadly I only had 31 visits.
With this blog, I counted on Facebook to bring in visitors but should have kept tabs on its lack of success so I could seek out other methods sooner. My email address book has only a few people in it, so it wouldn’t have been effective but could have shared about the site with friends and family to get the viral marketing going, especially if they were to send it to their friends and family, post it on their facebook, etc. I also wish I would have continued to add the discussion questions to my blog more diligently so it could bring in visitors due to key words. For example, Frito Lay marketing was a keyword that brought a visitor to my site and other searches could have brought even more. With a small budget, I could have made simple fliers or advertisements for the different subjects/keywords that my blog focused on, although the fliers would be difficult to trace as far as success unless I implemented a survey into the blog, which could have been a unique challenge. Also, I would have delegated some time/resources into seeking out and adding other professionals, students, and respected bloggers to become friends with or follow their blog so that some of their traffic would bounce over to my blog. If I did any sort of advertisement, it would be geared toward this same demographic, although fliers would have to be more specific, such as a room full of potential marketers. Although I first thought the analytics were just a bunch of complicated code, Google actually breaks it down very well and explains everything in simple terms, especially when you click on the ? above the titles for results. They do a great job of tracking visitors and their behaviors to help marketers guide their efforts more effectively and address any irregularities. If you guys are interested, you should look over by 6th bulletin for an interesting issue referred to as click fraud. This is something that our knowledge of analytics could help us battle in the business world to preserve our resources.

Discussion Question 6

In the lectures for this course, we discussed the many opportunities that technology has made possible, especially in the world of Emarketing. In reading this article, I learned about a unique new challenge for marketers today: click fraud. The article starts out with some background on a karaoke company in Arizona that has seen a major increase in the number of clicks from paid search engine ads. This increase in clicks has been to the magnitude of four times their normal level of traffic. The twist to this company's situation, however, is that there has been no lift in sales and a loss of profit despite this skyrocket in traffic. Traditionally, they would convert 2000 dollars of expenses into 6000 of sales. In sharp contrast, the company has lost over 400,000 in 2.5 years, showing clicks are made with no intention to buy. They have traced this loss to their competitors who use strategies to force them to burn up their advertising dollars on viewers that never turn into sales. They have even used hitbot software that automatically generates clicks on their page, although some companies use small teams of workers. Although click fraud auditing tools can be used to fight this, it usually costs more to do so than just spend it on advertising. Furthermore, search engine companies are rarely willing to give up advertising activity records. These two challenges make it very difficult for any company to fight back and are forced to just factor this cost into their advertising budgets. I was very surprised that this actually happens in the real world of business and also could lead to the ineffectiveness of search engines- many engines may lose their accounts with companies if the online advertising gets too exensive due to worthless clicks and some, such as the company the article was about, actually lose money by advertising online. Hopefully some of the larger search engines can take some measures to combat these issues with search engine marketing and the auditing software and consulting becomes less expensive. In the end of the article, it said that an ex employee of the competitor emailed an anonymous tip with a video of automated fraud software making clicks on the site, burning through their advertising dollars.

Discussion Question 5

For this bulletin board assignment, I chose to cover Dillard’s. This retailer is positioned in a very unique place: it uses a differentiation strategy to offer high end products to customers who can afford it. They are in the upper end of clothing retailers and have appeared relatively flexible with their strategies over the past years.
The competition for Dillard’s is mainly the other upper end retailers consisting of Nordstrom’s, Saks 5th Avenue, JC Penny’s, Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, and other specialty, fine retailers. This retailer offers many upper end brand names that cannot be found in other stores and has built partnerships with high end companies like Coach, , Ugg, Dooney and Bourke, and various others that have distinguished their brand. One other thing that comes to mind in our geographic area is the existence of Dillard’s in a place with relatively no competition, which leaves you with no choice if you want affordable luxury goods. In the recent years, however, I believe they have differentiated themselves by creating more store-owned, high quality brands that they offer at lower prices to give an alternative to those not looking to pay quite so much. Although my first instinct would have been that this would dilute the high end name they had initially established, that seems to not be the case. They also use a pricing structure that allows for major discounts on lots of items, specifically through drastic clearance reductions. Specifically, they offer 30% off clearance prices somewhat frequently throughout the year. I believe, however, that their primary source for differentiation is the high level of service they provide for their customers. This covers everything from first impression of store layout, clothing adjacencies and display, customer interaction and knowledge, on up to return policies and other methods to enhance the experience. For example, I have been personally greeted on various occasions in different stores by the store manager, which is a rarity in the retail world of that scale. Although competitors may offer similar service levels, they also come with higher price tags or may not have as much variety in goods, such as kitchenware, appliances, and others that Dillard’s offers.
The target market for this company is generally covered by a successful, more sophisticated customer base that is looking for reasonably priced luxury goods. Traditionally, they targeted older customers with more refined tastes and were the place to go for top end women’s and men’s dress clothing. In recent years, I have seen that Dillard’s has placed its focus on catering to a younger, trendy base as well by offering a variety of brands like Ed Hardy, Sean John, RocaWear, EckoRed, Sinful, and various others, but has not compromised the sophisticated appearance of its stores to do so. They have targeted this larger market well, and I would probably recommend they simply continue to do so because pursuing a larger market may prove trying to their success since they are already after such a large base. If they were to offer any lower priced goods, it would run the risk of hurting their high end image. For the younger, trendy segment of their market, Dillard’s does a great job of getting the best brands and make them a very exclusive item. They do this through many in-store displays, as well as extensive online and TV advertising. These show exclusivity and show the biggest names modeling products. Furthermore, they tend to have a knowledgeable sales staff that matches the area in which they work. There is definitely specialization for the different departments, unlike many big box retailers that have the same person running maternity and junior section.
To improve their strategies, I would recommend they do more advertising online and also offer a bit more publicity with their brands: in larger cities I have often seen stores that will model their clothing out in the malls to build the image of the store and display all that they have. They may also reconsider their slogan, “the style of your life,” since it seems a bit out of date for this younger market. Their website, however, is easy to navigate and does display the high fashion theme well. Overall, Dillard’s is placed well in the luxurious fashion industry and has proven flexible with their strategies over the past years and are not afraid of change. They have maintained their positive brand image as well and should have no problem remaining their position in this business if they continue to harvest their relationships and industry knowledge.

Discussion Question 4

For my discussion question, I reviewed “Consumers Have Changed, So Should Advertisers” By Augustine Fou. This article addresses the ever-changing business environment and the provisions that marketers must make to their efforts and the new expectations that consumers have. In the past, marketers would just throw their marketing efforts out to the masses and hope that some target customers would take the bait and it would eventually turn into a sale. However, he comments that in this day and age, consumers to target are “harder to find, block advertising, and have new expectations paired with irreversible habits.” I find this very true and relevant, which tells me that all marketers need to severely step up their efforts in order to gain or maintain their competitiveness and stay up on the newest trends. Because the advertising dollars are a scarce resource, we as marketers must do all we can to stretch them to the fullest and as discussed in class, remain focused on ROI and focusing on conversion to actual variables(sales, visits, brand image, etc).
Consumers Search Rather Than Navigate: In this section he breaks down the demands of consumers in today’s market and discusses the importance of a properly formatted and easy to navigate webpage, paired with the ability to search for information in an efficient manner. In today’s digital age, it is a demand and expectation from consumers that information they are requesting is available aat their fingertips.
Consumers Want Information Now Rather Than Later: This section is a very relevant one to all of us I am sure. As an end user we expect at the very least information at a moment’s notice and various opportunities at our fingertips. This is tied back to the availability of technology in our world and we cannot handle a wait for anything with the expectation to have our needs met.
Consumers Want Lots of Information: This is also tied back to the availability of technology in our lives, and we all utilize it to search for more and more information. If I see an ad on TV, I am enabled to immediately search for more info on the internet and in the same sense, expect information to be effectively disclosed to me or I may not bother to investigate it further.
Consumers Seek Trusted Sources for Information: Amidst years of distrust from the government, corporate scandals, and other sellers, consumers have come to trust only people like themselves. In our class discussions, everyone trusted consumers like us and very few trusted our political leaders and similar figures. For example, Wikipedia has numerous editors who catch issues almost immediately and can often be found more credible than publications and the like.
Consumers Prefer Collaboration Over Isolation: This is very true in our world where we rely on one another through our various networks for information and use the channels for communication to facilitate those relationships. This also stretches out to things like epinions, Zagat, and the like to get credible information.
How Marketers Should Respond to the Irreversibly Changed Consumer: He gives various tips in this section for how marketers can leverage their understanding of marketing to the new consumers in this digital age and how to best overcome their challenges ahead of them. These are the following recommendations he made which are very relevant to us in this new world of marketing that I would like to share:
• Consumers won't ever stop using search to find what they want in their own terms so marketers should deploy search on-site if they don't have it and make their information findable by search.
• Consumers won't ever want less real-time information and communications so marketers should make their information easy to access and use (e.g. on mobile devices) and respond in real-time to customer complaints or compliments.
• Consumers won't ever demand less information so marketers should make lots and lots of information available and let the users judge for themselves.
• Consumers won't ever just take an advertiser's word for it so marketers should create venues and mechanisms that allow people to judge the trustworthiness of the information.
• Consumers won't ever be alone in making a purchase decision so marketers should facilitate the sharing of information and empower others to review and recommend their products.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Blog #3

In this blog, I will be covering one of my favorite topics and most relevant tools to be successful in the real world of business: Customer Relationship Management. Although this tool takes many forms, many view it as a simple program, system, or way of recording preferences. In reality, it is more like a comprehensive business strategy if it is implemented correctly and can have immeasurable benefits. CRM has many purposes and methods to reach its goals and helps considerably in building, maintaining, and improving any business. In today’s business world, relationships can be the greatest asset for an organization, although at times they can become a major liability. This makes the importance and real-life application of CRM even more important and can mean the difference between record profits or losses and success or failure.

As cited in our text, Business 2.0 calls relationship capital the most important asset a firm can have (“Relationships Rule,” 2000). In the business environment of today, I could not agree more with this statement more. In this world, the customer is in charge of the market and is now empowered to buy or not to buy, as well as communicate negatively or positively more than ever before. With the importance of feedback so much higher in today’s digital age, all organizations must provide for their customers like never before: it is now love them or lose them, along with the thousands they tell. It is overwhelming how much of a difference customer satisfaction can have for an organization which has made building and harvesting these relationships the single most important part of facilitating and ensuring future business success.

While suppliers used to simply throw out a marketing effort or good and see if some consumers would take the bait, successful marketers and businesses of today must make very calculated attempts at their targeted customer base and focus more than ever on satisfying their needs to the fullest. In the past, CRM used to mean a chalkboard of regular customers and perhaps some index cards with some information jotted down on them. However, technology has made it possible for CRM and data management systems to take a whole new form. There are now advanced software packages available that have transformed the way organizations focus on and capitalize on their greatest asset: their valued and loyal customers. One of the greatest challenges organizations of today face is the ever- changing market, which has required them to focus on what serves the customers of today and the future best, not what served them best in the past. However, as the market does change, it has been crucial to stay focused on their target market, as they are the ones with greatest buying power and brand loyalty.

Successful organizations have also realized that it is more important than ever to maintain and build upon their existing customer base and have finally recognized the value of a lifetime customer. For nearly any company, the majority of their profits come from repeat customers who are loyal to the brand. Although this is a good attribute, it also means the consumer will come to expect more and very consistent experiences each and every time. In order for these moments of success in service to occur, it is crucial to focus on their goal of meeting and exceeding their every expectation in order for them to keep coming back for more. To fulfill this perceived value, this is where the effective CRM strategies come into play.

CRM has been noted to take three primary approaches, each engineered to meet a different goal. These include sales force automation (utilized primarily in B2B efforts), marketing automation, and customer service. One organization that has implemented a truly state of the art customer service oriented CRM database is the Ritz-Carlton hotel company, which they refer to as "Mystique." I was introduced to this system in reading “The New Gold Standard,” written by Dr. Joseph A. Michelli. He introduces the reader to the many processes of CRM that this successful hotel has utilized in their resorts, which includes a variety of individualized personal attributes for the hotel staff to be informed of. By using this system, the company has found that the lifetime value of their customer has increased to over 1 million dollars (Michelli 117). It was very interesting to see the real-life application of this kind of technology, as well as the drastic benefits they have seen.

CRM has many different and lasting benefits but primarily include profitability, revenue, retention, growth, loyalty, goodwill, targeting, and most importantly, wallet share. The most important aspect of CRM is to focus on the customer base you have to get the most sales out of each customer. In this situation, the organization, their marketing efforts, and every employee down the line targets the customer on an individualized, long-term basis. By doing so, the value of that customer is stretched to the fullest and results in a greater level of profitability for the firm. On this same aspect, the customer also gains because they have all of their needs met to the fullest, including their unrequested ones if the CRM is truly working.

Although I have introduced some of the endless benefits of CRM and the ways it exists in today’s business world, the most fundamental and crucial aspect is the relationship. This is the single part of doing business that can determine if that customer base can be tuned into a lifetime customer by refining the opportunities that exist on an individual level. However, the most important and frequently overlooked aspect of CRM is the fact that all alone, the data is only a bunch of information that will not be generated into any value to the company. And if it is used, this resource should be used to allow the organization to leverage their knowledge in turning actual profits from their understanding of the relationship, the individual, and the ways to improve it.

Works Cited
Michelli, J., (2008). The New Gold Standard. New York: McGraw-Hill.
“Relationships Rule” (2000). Business 2.0 (May), pp. 303-319.
Strauss, Judy and Raymond Frost. E-Marketing. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 2008.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Blog 2

In this blog I will be addressing the importance of building an effective E-Marketing plan, as well as detailing the seven step plan. This plan acts as a comprehensive guide in formulating the strategy for E-Marketing, as well as the most effective way to implement and control all relevant marketing activities. Making this plan is crucial for any organization in the highly digital business environment of today. Although objectives are often similar with those of more traditional marketing plans, such as driving sales, the internet has posed a much more unique environment. As addressed in the previous blog, the E-World is growing at an endless rate with customers demanding immediate responsiveness. In the internet world, this requires companies to react faster than they have in the past and can single-handedly cause their failure. However, marketers can leverage and utilize their knowledge of technology and the new ways of doing business to reach their objectives and fulfill e-marketing strategies even more effectively and efficiently. The book presents the following steps in the Seven-Step E-Marketing Plan, which is a very comprehensive plan and allows the organization one more opportunity for meeting their objectives.

Situation analysis
This step brings together many different information resources, including all those in the environment inside and outside the organization, including customers, suppliers, business environment, and other variables. This can be done by using the SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) to evaluate the changing tastes of consumers, an ever-changing marketplace and business trends amidst technological advancements, changes amongst the competition, and various other steps in environmental scanning. The environment can pose legal, technological, and market-related factors that are relevant to all decision makers in the business world. The company should also look over the current marketing plan and do internal investigation to find more information about their company to give light to strengths to capitalize on or weaknesses to overcome. According to MyClicks LLC, a provider of B2B SEO solutions, “The first step towards preparing a successful e-marketing strategy is conducting a thorough analysis of the current situation and recent industry trends” (MyClicks LLC, Press Release). I cannot agree with this statement more and without the scanning completed and done correctly, all the other parts of the plan are irrelevant and will lead to misguided results. Once this scanning has been completed, the relevant decision makers can look over objectives, strategies, and performance metrics to eventually formulate into quantifiable objectives.

E-Marketing strategic planning
Once the previously completed environmental scanning is done, the organization will complete their strategic plan to establish a clear vision. The fit between their objectives, skills, and resources with the market opportunities will be measured. This will contribute greatly to the creation of e-marketing objectives that can be met by capitalizing on these discovered opportunities. These help to formulate the tier 1 Strategies for the plan and include segmentation, targeting, differentiation, and positioning. Many forms of analysis are completed at this time and include the market opportunity analysis, demand and supply analysis, and segment analysis.

The previously formulated strategies lead to the measurable objectives which are goals that the organization is pursuing. These objectives are based on task, measurable quantity, and time frame. These specifications are crucial in the E-World where results are expected to be instantaneous, extremely effective, and reached as quickly as possible. Most interactive plans incorporate many objectives, but one of the most important parts is that they are measurable. This sets a benchmark that can be used to gauge performance and can be changed from year to year to focus on what is most important or what is their greatest opportunity. The typical e-business focuses on ROI for nearly all their investments and allows it to guide nearly all their decisions in measuring objectives.

E-Marketing strategy
Product, Price, Place, and Promotion are incorporated in this tier of the strategy for E-Marketing. This tier pulls together the customer and partner relationship management strategies to fulfill the previously selected objectives, but leaves the ability to modify them as needed. The strategies for fulfilling the offer, value, distribution, communication, and relationship management are created based on the 4 P’s and the extreme importance of the customer as an end user or partner. One very important resource in this time is to utilize an objective—strategy matrix. These help to link goals and strategies and aid in the implementation of new strategies by discovering what the focus should be placed on, as well as how to reach the goal most effectively.

Implementation plan
This section is where the creative side to marketing really comes into play, as well as the importance of the previous steps in the plan. Without the previous steps being properly created, the implementation part would be a very trivial task. However, if the steps have been done well, especially the fourth, it should be relatively easy to engineer the methods for reaching the objectives. This can be done by leveraging the knowledge of the marketing mix and the relationship management tactics to reach their goals effectively and efficiently.

This portion of the plan can be a bit tricky, but with the right processes in place an appropriate budget can be put into place. This consists of forecasting revenues and evaluating costs to reach goals. As highlighted in our E-Marketing book by Strauss and Frost, as well as our lectures, the cost to reach ratio is much lower than using any other form of media to reach the target market. ROI is introduced yet again to guide the decisions among the whole process of the planning, implementation, and control, and allows the most return from any investment. With advancements that allow companies and decision makers on every level to monitor choices so well, efforts are immediately determined worthwhile or not and the plans can therefore be altered as necessary before it is too late. One tool I was introduced to was the analytics tool for a webpage, which measures many variables and would guide a marketing manager on a wide perspective of how the site and business overall is doing, as well as target efforts more effectively.
Evaluation plan
This may very well be the most important part of the plan, for it measures the effectiveness and efficiency of the plan, as well as determines if it was worth the effort. Thee metrics that were determined earlier are put up against actual performance and continue to be evaluated. This process is seemingly never-ending, and is crucial to the success of the plan for the future. The objectives aid marketers in determining what should be measured and how, but again the ROI is a leading factor. The organization could not reasonably justify having the cost placed into the marketing department if no result is gained.

Works Cited

Overall E-Marketing Concept and Implementation by My Clicks. Carson City, NV, March 13, 2008. Accessed from May 30, 2009 at

Strauss, Judy and Raymond Frost. E-Marketing. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 2008.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Discussion Question 3

In this bulletin, I studied the internet marketing strategy of NMHU and compared it with the strategy of UNLV. In comparing these two schools, I found some things that each school really had going for them, as well as some places to improve. Both of these schools are four year schools as well as offer graduate programs and would be competitors in my opinion.
NMHU’s website is very visually appealing to me, especially with the purple backgrounds that make it really stand out with the fonts and pictures. They appear to cater mostly to Northern New Mexico pursuing an affordable education for 4 year or graduate degrees in all sorts of fields. However, they have a major stake in distance education and have centers all across the state as well as a sophisticated online learning environment. There is a specific emphasis on marketing to the Hispanic population of New Mexico. I feel they cater to Hispanics because of our lectures that addressed this, as well as the pictures on their site and programs offered. I recall seeing many focuses on their international programs such as international business concentrations, studies abroad in Mexico and Spain, and also the photos of salsa dancers and students on the site. They use Facebook to reach out to their students which is a nice touch, but they could revamp their efforts to fuel the effect of “viral marketing” to get it to spread like wildfire throughout the student population. I know as an end user of Facebook, I am personally a fan of New Mexico Highlands but have not seen many of my peers who are. There is also no opportunity to place you in a group for a specific center, such as San Juan Center to improve the network and find friends with ease. In their marketing, they do a pretty poor job, however, of reflecting the life on campus and do little to keep its students informed at the start of the site. For example, many universities, such as UNLV, have a student spotlight or the like to show what students are really saying, as well as what is going on in campus news. NMHU could engage their students even more if they had something available like this and would also lure in prospective candidates. For how much NMHU supports its distance learning, it does not represent them well on the site either. It would be nice to find information about instructors, contact information, and other center-specific information. Instead, I find a map and a highlight of the center director and a couple of core instructors. I have faced difficulties in finding anything of much use on the Highlands website, including the Bookstore, degree forms, distance learning specifications (such as what courses are offered in what semesters and availability of online courses), and other important things that I have never had a hard time finding on other learning sites. Overall, I do like the NMHU site a lot but a few small additions and changes could really improve its usability, especially simple things like a quick links bar and a little more information behind the links.
For comparison to NMHU, I looked over the website of UNLV. Although they are a larger school, I still found them to be a competitor. UNLV has a less engaging homepage in the sense of color and layout, but all the important things I am looking for is there and easy to use. For example, there is a quick links bar, degree audit sheets, graduation checklists, course specifications with semesters they are offered, and a convertor for all sorts of courses from many schools to its transfer equivalent for UNLV. This tool alone would have saved me hours of agony in Dr. Rassam’s office if it were available on the Highlands site and would allow potential students to determine what they may have coming into the university. UNLV also introduces a section called “Life after UNLV” that highlights what options are available after school, such as internships, future education possibilities, and other career opportunities. They do not appear to target a particular group of student, however, but seem to reach out more in recruiting those from all over. Perhaps this is because they rely on recruiting from California and so many other neighboring areas since it is not as desolate as New Mexico. They also have more groups for UNLV, including athletics and other subgroups. Perhaps my favorite part of the site, however, is the highlighted area on the instructors for the school. It would have been nice to know a little bit about my instructors prior to the first day of class, as well as give me a background on them that can rarely be shared during crucial class time. They also highlight many activities at the school, as well as have a student life area that shows exactly how things are on campus, giving you an idea of what to expect when you are there. There have been several occasions when I have found myself curious how life is at NMHU-LV but have yet to find an effective means to do so. Overall, I think I gave UNLV an upper hand in my comparison because it had what I have been frustrated to not have on my NMHU homepage, as well as the improvements it could have had on my earlier educational planning. However, the site for UNLV was lacking a lot of appearance related benefits which are increasingly important in the digital age of today.