One of the great promises of the web was that it would revolutionize the way we bought things. In 1994, the very first Internet-driven purchase was made – a Sting album on compact audio disk (remember those?). By 2004, American were spending $74B annually on online purchases, Today, US e-commerce sales predicted to top $300B, representing over 400% growth over the last decade.

The holiday season is always a big opportunity for retailers to close business, and this season will be e-commerce’s biggest yet, with some estimates looking at a 16% growth from Q4 of last year to top $100M. What’s driving all of this change? Changing consumer behavior, to be sure, but behavior facilitated and driven primarily by technology.


Through companies like Shopify, Etsy, eBay, and Amazon anyone can start an online store. Shopify alone has over 100,000 customers selling tens of millions of items and Etsy reached well over $1B in annual sales in 2013. These platforms are designed to be incredibly easy to use and allow even non-tech savvy retailers to start selling online.


Of course, major retailers are a huge driver of e-commerce’s growth and in 2014, they’re more serious about it than ever. After years of development, fashion retailer H&M finally launched a U.S. e-commerce site last year. Meanwhile, department stores like Macy’s (a Percolate client) have been developing ever more sophisticated e-commerce offerings, investing $170M to build an order fulfillment center specifically for online shoppers.


Successful retailers are leveraging technology to not just facilitate purchases, but understand consumer behavior and develop customized strategies for increasing order size and lifetime value with in a data-driven approach. Custora is a leading e-commerce analytics platform that helps brands like Ann Taylor Loft, Guess?, and Etsy use predictive analytics to find high value customers and keep them coming back. Learn more about their approach in our special presentation on the email and social strategies of e-commerce leaders.


E-Commerce’s rise is not simply contained to the United States. China has already surpassed the U.S. as the largest e-commerce market, reaching $296B in sales in 2013, over 13% more than Americans. The growing global middle class is set to reach 5 billion by 2030 and they’re getting online quickly. With their increasingly sizable disposable income, their appetite for online shopping grows.


Finally, it is nearly impossible to overstate the impact of mobile on e-commerce. In 2014, the majority of web traffic to the top 9 US retailers comes from mobile according to comScore. Not only are mobile purchases rising faster that desktop purchases, but major social networks like Facebook and Twitter are driven by mobile usage. Both channels are experimenting with “Buy Buttons” that will make in-feed purchases frictionless and push for increased transactions and sales growth.

For retail and e-commerce brands, the future is full of exciting opportunities for growth for the teams that understand what’s happening. If you want to stay ahead of the curve, join our upcoming webinar on the social and email strategies of e-commerce leaders.

from The Percolate Blog

Today, 50% of enterprise technology investment outside of IT is estimated to come from marketing. And as marketing executives and agencies continue to adopt a “campaign plus sustain” model, marketing’s role as a technology buyer and integrator has become more important than ever. Channels are faster and more diverse, teams need to manage and respond to greater volumes of data, dialogue and documents, and customers are demanding more value for their attention. In this environment, software is no longer just the business infrastructure that stores leads or triggers emails; technology has become a driving force behind strategy, content creation, brand identity and creativity. Implementing the wrong software can compound existing problems for workflow-challenged teams, forcing economic and technical buyers to evaluate not only features, but also a vendors’s flexibility, stability, capacity to scale, and API openness.

This week’s new Forrester Research report by Ryan Skinner, “Build The Case For Content Marketing On Efficiency, Differentiation, And Granular Metrics,” makes an even stronger case for why CMOs and Digital VPs need to consolidate social, email and other channels into a “single system story” to capture operating efficiencies, brand differentiation and a better multi-touch customer experience. With a centralized marketing technology stack, executives can build roadmaps and processes that connect ideas, communications and customer experience data so each informs the other.

Overall, Forrester highlights three key business benefits from moving to a more centralized marketing architecture:

1. Better resource efficiency and team alignment

By centralizing scattered content marketing activities across different teams, marketing leaders can enforce more consistency and data integrity around a shared strategic vision and brand voice. The social media team should store their artwork and resources in the same system as the blog editorial team, just as it makes sense for creative and media agencies to collaborate in one tool with a shared calendar, asset library and analytics. This reduces duplicate work, improves knowledge and content transfer across different groups and regions, and reduces unnecessary budget spend on narrow point solutions. By transforming a marketing organization from a producer and project manager of many ad hoc projects to a single content marketing unit, marketing leaders can generate major cost savings, as our global work with Unilever has proven.

2. Systematic content marketers create better customer experiences

People look for content that appeals to them and fulfills a need. Whether that need is entertainment or education, research shows consumers evaluate content based on objective quality far more than whether or not it was created by a brand. When marketing can build a consolidated and highly personalized view of how a customer experiences its offerings across mobile, web, retail, email and social, it allows the brand to deliver that customer more relevant, helpful content day-to-day and throughout their buying journey. However, this level of unified, cross-channel customer insight isn’t possible without a central marketing system of record, where your analytics sync with your CRM, and your creatives can act on the same data as your SEO manager.

The benefits of centralized technology extend to paid media as well. As Forrester notes, “marketers who move with the trend toward pull-based experiences [also] achieve better results from their media spending.” A standardized, streamlined system for producing and planning exceptional creative is the foundation of effective advertising.

Percolate's Complete Marketing Software

3. Content marketing scale creates ROI

Content marketing is an economies of scale game where brands don’t have the luxury of short-changing quantity or quality. Whether you measure the success of your content marketing in terms of social following, shopping cart conversions, leads, app installs or another metric, a key long-term priority should be developing an audience that provides consistent distribution and commercial benefit relative to the marginal cost of supplying them new content. According to Hubspot, companies that blog 15 or more times per month get 500% more website traffic than companies that don’t blog, while best-in-class content and inbound marketing organizations save over $14 dollars on every new customer acquired. Get your audience to scale, fine tune the conversion engine and the ROI will come.

Scale is, again, a place where technology and process standardization play a key role. Centralized technology provides automation, efficiency and consistency, exactly what marketing leaders need to see efforts become more global, multi-channel and systematic. With the right technology in place, marketers and agencies can focus on their art while the system supports the science.

Recently, Julie Fleischer, Kraft’s Head of Content, Data, and Media noted her brand sees four times better return on investment from content marketing than targeted advertising at a scale of 1.1 billion annual impressions. In another example, General Electric’s social video sendup of a classic TV infommercial starring Jeff Goldblum earned over 700,000 views in its first 48 hours on YouTube, while the light bulb the video was promoting sold out on Home Depot’s site in three days. Rather than spending money on paid distribution, GE just produced a genuinely entertaining video and let viewers do the rest.

A traditional marketing organization might hope to hit that type of marketing home run once or twice. An organization like GE that systematizes its marketing efforts with centralized technology considers that level of performance the new standard.

from The Percolate Blog

Every software company relies heavily on open source software, and at Percolate, we try to give back to that community by sharing our own code with the world. This time last year we announced redset, a tool to distributed Redis work.  Today, we’re proud to announce an Android utility library called “Caffeine” that helps speed up Android development.

At Percolate, we use the programming language Java to write our Android apps. We also love our coffee — going as far as to install our very own coffee bar inside the office. After developing a series of tools that have helped us ship our apps faster with less bugs, it made perfect sense to name the library “Caffeine”.

Shrink Your Codebase

Java can be a very verbose language — it sometimes requires lots of code to do simple things.  Caffeine helps developers with this problem by providing a rich set of succinct code utilities that shorted the amount of code you have to write and maintain. Some tasks that would require multiple lines of code now only take one, or maybe two lines.  At Percolate, using this library we’ve found our code base has not only shrunk but has also removed a fair amount of code duplication.  This follows the DRY, abbreviated for Don’t Repeat Yourself), software development principal, which is a very good thing to strive for.

Greater Protection Against Buggy Code

Caffeine also makes Android code safer.  Good exception handling – where software detects when something goes wrong and deals with it safely instead of just crashing – is a tough thing to do well.  In the case of Android applications, poor exception handling can lead to buggy apps that crash, which leads to a poor user experience.  Caffeine helps solve this by providing very thorough, well reviewed, and heavily tested code that can be used in critical parts of your application, where exception handling may otherwise be forgotten.  These utilities have been used in all five of our Android applications in production for a number of months.

Part of an Open-Source Whole Family

Percolate has always strived for high quality, feature rich software that is fun to use.  Caffeine was built with those standards, as were our other open source tools: jennifer, jsonmatch, and redset.  We hope the Android community can make good use of this library to help speed up their development, make their code more maintainable, and make their applications more reliable.  Keep an eye out for future updates and new additions to Caffeine in the coming months.

If you’re an Android developer take a look at the documentation and the project page.  If you’re a really good developer, you might want to take a look at our jobs page to find a place you might fit on our amazing team.

Sound interesting? Continue reading Introducing Caffeine: an Open Source Library to Speed Up Android Development on the Percolate Blog.

from The Percolate Blog

When Brian Swichkow, a digital marketer in Burlington, Vermont, was pranked by his roommate, he came up with a creative idea to get even. Swichkow flipped to his Facebook Ads dashboard, created a custom audience with his roommate’s email address, and started serving banner ads that poked fun at his hapless friend’s personal life.

Targeted Custom Audience Advertising on Facebook

For three weeks, Swichkow targeted his one person audience with increasingly comical and invasive ads, reaching the point where his roommate confessed he thought a Facebook advertiser had wire-tapped his phone. With just $1.70, Swichkow executed one of the most uniquely targeted Facebook ad campaigns in recent memory, one that’s been re-shared on social over 30,000 times since he revealed the punchline.

Although Swichkow’s joke is an extreme and amusing edge case in social advertising, it also highlights a very real truth: we have squarely arrived in the era of person-level marketing. It’s not sci-fi, it’s a power available in your current marketing technology stack.

And with great power comes great responsibility. Facebook’s Atlas and LinkedIn’s recent acquisition of Bizo are expanding both the opportunity and the risks of hyper-targeted personalization. Atlas — for anyone interested in a short definition — is a cross-device advertising platform that targets people and their devices based on their Facebook login status, rather than cookies. “Cookies,” Facebook’s Atlas team says, “don’t work on mobile, are becoming less accurate in demographic targeting and can’t easily or accurately measure the customer purchase funnel across browsers and devices or into the offline world. People-based marketing solves these problems. Atlas can now connect online campaigns to actual offline sales, ultimately proving the real impact that digital campaigns have in driving incremental reach and new sales.”

Facebook Atlas and Custom Audiences

Since many of Facebook’s 1.3 billion users stay logged into their Facebook account — and the majority also use Facebook’s native aps on mobile — Atlas lets advertisers track user behavior across desktop and mobile far more accurately than on Google Display Network (GDN). Unsurprisingly, Twitter and LinkedIn’s respective product roadmaps are also moving in this direction.

But before you rush to re-allocate your media budget, remember these three important marketing principles:

1. Personalization must build trust. People trust people they know, not necessarily your brand. Their trust has to be earned. Align your brand voice to how your customers talk, be transparent and invite your reader or viewer to experience something that helps, educates or delights them. Marketing is becoming less and less about broadcasted media buys and more and more about casual, one-on-one conversations. Show up in your customer’s lives with a polite knock on the front door, not by barging in unexpectedly.

This philosophy has inspired Dove’s recent efforts to support women’s self-esteem on social channels like Snapchat. “Our goal was to leverage the ephemeral nature of Snapchat to establish genuine personal connections in a space that feels safe to girls and women,” Unilever Marketing Director Jennifer Bremmer told AdAge, “We want to speak to them in ways and places that are organic to them… What made [Snapchat] most appealing was the ability to engage with women and girls in a personal, one-to-one manner.”

2. Personalization takes systematic marketing. Five years ago, a digital marketing campaign might have needed six to a dozen image variations and crops, covering email, website, Facebook, Twitter and display. Today, think about the creative, delivery and asset management requirements of personalizing a campaign to a million people. Personalization and audience targeting requires technology-enabled processes and systems that can handle both the art and the science of that replication.

3. Person-level marketing starts from within. In our current phase of social and mobile-centric marketing technology, marketing departments have a direct path to engage their employees on social: their phones, where nearly every modern employee is actively building trust and sharing content for their personal brand. In such a connected era, your brand’s voice, empathy, reach and optimism start from within and extend outwards through your clients and partners. Build a culture that celebrates the individual, fights to make its clients happy and successful and consistently delivers on great content and experiences.

As marketers, it’s up to us to make person-level marketing an opportunity to build connections, extend handshakes and be relevant. The platforms are already providing us with the pipes and plumbing, we need to supply the good judgement and heart.

Sound interesting? Continue reading The Rise and Risk of Person-Level Marketing on the Percolate Blog.

from The Percolate Blog

Welcome to the 2nd post in my mini series about applying architecture principles to product design. As a Product Designer at Percolate with a background in architecture, I’ve seen many parallels between the two fields.

In the first post, we discussed the importance of circulation systems to both architecture and product design and learned to think about circulation early and often in the design process. The easier it is to navigate your product, the more likely it will be a success.

In this post, we’re going to discuss how architects get started with their design process and see how the initial steps are applied to product design at Percolate.

Design is Problem Solving

In architecture school, you’re taught that designing is problem solving. Think about architecture in your daily life: your house is designed to be a solution to the problem of needing shelter. Your office is a solution to the problem of needing a place to work. Every design is a solution to a problem.

Architects learn the best way to begin solving a design problem is to define the problem at hand. Within the architecture industry, this process of defining the design problem is known as “Programming.” In the book Problem Seeking: An Architectural Programming Primer, architects William M. Pena and Steven A. Parshall describe the role of programming in architecture:

“Good buildings don’t just happen. They are planned to look good and perform well. They come about when good architects and good clients join in thoughtful, cooperative effort. Programming the requirements of a proposed building is the architect’s first task, and often the most important…You can’t solve a problem unless you know what it is….main idea behind programming? It’s the search for sufficient information to clarify, to understand and to state the problem.”

The process of defining a design problem is similar for architects and product designers. In both industries, the design problem begins as a simple set of goals and requirements. The designer then researches the design problem and records the findings.

The research is then analyzed and organized, and presented in a written document. Architects refer to this document as the “Program” and Product teams at Percolate refer to this as the “Scope.” In both cases, this document aims to reflect a detailed definition of the design problem and serves as a scope of work for the project.

Now that we know a bit more about the idea of programming, let’s learn more about the research process of architects and product designers that helps them define the design problem.

Researching the Building Type

Architects begin research with the building type such as residential or commercial. The Client delivers the type, and the Architect studies the type to recognize it’s patterns and jargon. Imagine if Percolate were designing a new office, the Architect might study commercial design in NYC, visiting other startup offices such as Facebook or Google to understand the spaces, layouts and ambiance. They may also learn more about startup culture to understand the client’s jargon. Terms such as “product” or “client solutions” may not be as obvious at first and will be important for the development of the building.

Similarly, Product Designers at Percolate begin projects by recognizing and studying the project type. When developing the Monitoring dashboard, an aggregated view of Twitter and Facebook activity, the design team studied Twitter and Facebook to understand the native platforms. Additionally, we looked at other monitoring aggregators such as Tweetdeck, Tweetbot, and Hootsuite to become well versed on some of the design patterns for this type of experience.


Researching the Site

Architects also research the project site to record and analyze existing conditions. Some of the key site factors an Architect might review includes; climate, topography, zoning, traffic, and landscaping.


Given the new Percolate office example, the Architect might diagram nearby subways to better understand commuting patterns. The Architect might also look at the location of windows and their directionality to understand which areas receive the greatest light at various points throughout the day. During this phase, it’s about noting anything and everything about the site that might influence the new designs.

Percolate Product Designers also spend time thinking about the project’s site. Whereas a building’s site might only vary in a few ways, like the changing of the seasons, a product’s site varies quite a lot.

Product Designers must consider variances between devices such as monitors, laptops, tablets and mobile phones. The designer must also consider differences between operating systems such as Mac vs PC, or iOS vs Android, and browser types such as Firefox, Chrome or Internet Explorer. In short, it’s about understanding building an awareness of the variances, and designing something that works in different situations.

The following is an example of how Percolate Product Designers have designed the same content calendar functionality for 2 different sites: web and mobile. Whereas the core functionality is the same in both sites, the experience is slightly different based on the site’s limitations.


Research Interviews

Architects also conduct interviews to research the opinions and needs of team members related to the project. In Problem Seeking, Pena and Parshall describe the Architect’s interview process as;

“Work sessions are used to verify information and to stimulate client decisions…

Goals: What does the client want to achieve, and why?

Facts: What do we know? What is given?

Concepts: How does the client want to achieve the goals?

Needs: How much money and space? What level of quality?

Problem: What are the significant conditions affecting the design of the building? What are the general directions the design should take?”

Similarly, Product Designers at Percolate conduct client interviews to examine the needs and interests of users related to the project. Prior to the interview, the Product Designer prepares an interview script which focuses on the tasks our subjects do as part of their job. The interviews are recorded and stored on Dropbox, so other team members can easily access it later. Afterwards, the highlights are documented in a Google Doc and shared with the team. Earlier this year, the Percolate Design Director, Dom Goodrum, wrote an excellent post about the interview process.

Researching Functional Affinities

Architects also research key relationships between spaces. In Problem Seeking, Pena and Parshall note:

“…correct interrelation of spaces promotes efficiencies and effectiveness of people and their activities. This concept of functional affinities is the most common programmatic concept.”

Given the new Percolate office example, the Architect might note the Product and Client Solutions teams works closely together, and should be located near one another.

Percolate Product Designers also spend a lot of time thinking about key relationships between functionality in a given project. When thinking about our mobile experience, we set out to build a suite of iOS and Android apps, each for a specific marketing role. Whereas the Community Manager App is focused on streams of audience messages, the Photographer app is focused on uploading images to the brand’s media library. Understanding these relationships helps designers identify and develop the correct design patterns.

Researching Future Growth

Last but not least, Architects also research the the future of a building. When considering a new Percolate office, the Architect might ask Noah and James about the company’s hiring plans. There’s a big difference between a company planning to grow 2x and 10x in the next few years, and the design for the office, should fit the growth plan accordingly.

Product Designers at Percolate also consider future product growth with each project. On one hand, product growth at Percolate means constantly building towards our company’s greater mission of becoming the System of Record for Marketing: the operational layer that sits at the center of the marketing organization, coordinating communication that happens between companies, employees, suppliers, and platforms. On the other hand, product growth involves considering client feedback and requests. It’s an exciting roadmap, with lots to consider at every step along the design process.


Lesson Learned

If you take away anything from this post, I hope it’s the idea that designing is problem solving. Both Architecture and Product Designers at Percolate follow a design process, where each step grows upon the next. The first step is about defining the problem at hand. It’s about working with a diverse team and considering things such as project type, site, functional relationships, and future growth.

As noted in the chart below, this ‘programming’ phase of a design project is the best time to ask questions and make decisions because the cost of a change is at it’s lowest and the opportunity for influence is at it’s highest.


For example, Architects know it’s much easier to add a room to a “Program” than it is when the project is knee deep in design or construction. Similarly, Product teams at Percolate know it’s much easier to change requirements in a “Scope”, than it is to change in Photoshop or in development.

Once the design problem is clearly defined and documented, Architects and Product Designers can then confidently move onto the next step in the design process.

Thanks for reading! Look for more posts in this series coming soon.

You can follow me on Twitter at @lissalauren. Looking for a design job in NYC? We’re hiring! Say hello.

Sound interesting? Continue reading Applying Architecture to Product Design: Lesson 2 — Program on the Percolate Blog.

from The Percolate Blog

Today, we’re excited to introduce a major refresh to the Percolate blog. If you’re a frequent reader, you may have noticed some changes to the layout and format. Let’s take look:

What’s New

Recommended Content: See featured articles on the homepage sidebar in addition to the most recent posts. Discover additional resources like research reports, videos, webinars, and case studies towards the bottom of the home page.

Email subscription: Want to get new articles from us in your inbox? Now you’ve got a dedicated form for that

Explore categories: On our homepage, discover articles in each of our major content categories: Culture, Design, Marketing & Tech, Events, and Percolate News. At the end of each post, find more articles from that category

Focus on Visuals: Ultimately, we want our blog to be an attractive place to interact with our content. We’ve used the redesign to make our header images more powerful and relevant to the material.
Sharing buttons: next to the email subscription form at the top, we’ve also got buttons to share any post back to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+

Speed and Stability: While you can’t see it, we also put work into the backend of the blog platform, making it more powerful, more stable, and load faster.

We’re proud of the work we’ve done here, and expect a few smaller updates in the upcoming period.

Redesigning a blog is a significant project — and it’s definitely something you don’t want to jump into without some forethought. Before embarking on this project, we had to really ask ourselves if this was worth the time and effort. If your team is considering a blog redesign, these questions might help you determine if its the right move.

1) Is longform content a strategic asset for your brand?

Percolate is active on a number of channels, including LinkedIn and Twitter as well as Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. But for the most part, these are places to share lightweight content which has a relatively short half-life.From the very first days of Percolate, we’ve been intent on using longform content  to communicate our ideas, share stories about clients, and share the experience of buildinga fast growing technology company.

Our blog has been a tremendous asset to our company for building thought leadership and allowing people to express interest in our technology. We’re not alone: experienced marketers are 60% more likely to use blogging as a marketing tactic. (See more B2B marketing benchmarks in our new report). But for some brands, like consumer goods or retail brands, longform content might be lower on the priority list of marketing tactics. In this case, it might not be worth investing the time and resources in updating what might be a satisfactory platform.

2) Do you have the resources to produce high quality content on a regular basis?

Producing great longform content is a lot of work. It’s easy to stumble across a corporate blog that hasn’t been updated in weeks if not months. If your team is small or overloaded with existing campaigns, you may not be able to reap the benefits of a blog because you simply can’t support the content required. It would valuable to consider sourcing from content providers, or hiring strong content marketers to augment your efforts.

For Percolate, our marketing team has grown in the last few months (and we’re still bringing on great people) so we’re confident we can produce smart, useful content regularly. That content will come from the marketing team but the entire company: to date, over fifty people from across numerous department have authored posts for our blog.

3) Do you have business objectives identified that you want to improve?

Whenever you’re looking to invest in a channel, you have to make sure you have clear business objectives you’re looking to achieve. And you have see an opportunity to achieve greater results on those objectives.

The previous iteration of our blog looked great, but the experience wasn’t ideal for new visitors. Because we posted frequently, our best posts were typically not the most recent posts and it was not easy to find relevant or popular content on our site. Readers also expressed interest in subscribing to our content and we didn’t have an easy way to do that. We knew that by providing a better user experience on the blog, we could better share important industry trends with our audience, find articles that were addressed their interests, and ultimately help them better evaluate if Percolate is right for them.

4) Do you have design and development resources to execute on these objectives?

Ultimately, your blog redesign should have goals that are oriented around the objectives you identified earlier. Only when those business needs and project goals are established can design and development really step in. Too many people want to jump into looking at shiny new themes or making a list of specific features they want to add to their site, and without a strategy, that activity is mostly going to waste.

For our redesign, once we had established our business objectives, we worked with our communications design director, Sofia Hoflin, to put together a design brief. She helped us map out the user experience through rounds of wireframes, went into visual design, and finally brought in our marketing engineers to build the WordPress templates on the front-end and code the backend functionality.

Whether you have in-house designers and developers, or outsource these efforts, you need to have trusted professionals who understand your brand and project goals who can execute quickly and effectively if you want your blog redesign to be successful.

We’re thrilled to bring you, our readers, a better experience, and excited to see the blog expand its role in supporting our business. Have questions, thoughts, feedback? We’d love to hear from you at @percolate.

Sound interesting? Continue reading Before Embarking on a Blog Redesign, Ask These Four Questions on the Percolate Blog.

from The Percolate Blog

What does an alternative rock band, a sushi party, and a boy who communicates with solar panels all have in common? The answer might surprise you.

They are all content marketing campaigns run by some of the most iconic and interesting B2B technology companies in the world. In 2014, household names like GE and Intel, but also fast-growing tech companies like Asana and Zendesk are creating some of the most compelling and creative content the industry has ever seen.

Be Bold, Be Creative

Probably one of my favorite content marketing campaigns in the industry was run by Zendesk, a fast-growing customer relationship management software as a service (SaaS) platform. Earlier this year, the marketing team at Zendesk noticed the term “Zendesk alternative” was on the rise and search rank was dominated by competitors. Instead of going the route most companies would probably take – creating boilerplate product literature on points of differentiation – Zendesk launched a creative experiment.

Rather than boosting their SEM budget, Zendesk built a responsive website for a fictitious alternative rock band called Zendesk Alternative. They even shot a “rockumentary” of the band for their landing page that somehow perfectly captures the look and feel of an aging Seattle rock band.

Not only is Zendesk Alternative a hit within the tech community, but in my view the real kicker is that the website achieves a higher customer conversion rate that Zendesk’s actual website.

Trend: Embrace the Human Experience

The job of the marketer is to create stories that move people. B2B technology marketers are beginning to elevate their storytelling above product features by telling human stories that connects the user to the product– sometimes in unusual and surprising ways. In the fragmented tech landscape, it’s not enough to create a product that’s different.

For B2B technology companies, compelling content is an increasingly critical tool to continuously engage customers over longer buying cycles. Embracing the human experience in storytelling is just one of five benchmarks for the technology industry. Download our report, “B2B Technology Benchmarks” and learn about the rest.

The post How B2B Brands Are Taking Content Marketing to New Heights appeared first on The Percolate Blog.

from The Percolate Blog

With more than 3 billion people online, a marketer’s challenge today isn’t as much a matter of reaching audiences as it is capturing their attention.  Consumers can access media from any device in an instant so attention relies on compelling content. Thankfully, brands have more creative outlets than ever before. While traditional communication has been limited to a finite medium – the 8 3⁄8” x 10 7⁄8” spread in a magazine, or 30 second spot on radio – the digital world is boundless in terms of creative expression.

We’ve seen entirely new forms of storytelling flourish – from the GIF to short form video and virtual reality. Equally exciting is the democratization of media and production, thanks in large part to the growth of mobile. For better or sometimes for worse, everyone is a creator, armed with the ability to capture, edit, and animate with the devices in their pockets.

Simply put, there has never been a more exciting time for brands to tell their stories.

Introducing the Content Marketplace

At Percolate, we are passionate about letting brands create and market with unprecedented efficiency and scale, which is why we are excited to announce the Percolate Content Marketplace.

The Marketplace brings together a remarkable ecosystem of content providers that can generate high quality original content or license unique assets across a breadth of media types. These providers are best-in-class in terms of efficiency, quality and cost. From images and infographics to video and written content, our Certified Content Partners help the world’s greatest brands tell their stories, all accessible inside the Percolate platform.

Beyond content, we share a belief  in technology’s ability to foster collaboration. Collaboration between brands and agencies, between creatives and between consumers., for instance, brings together designers, journalists, animators and developers around the world to produce stunning visual content through cloud-based tools.

Scripted’s technology matches over 1,700 writers with brands based on subject matter expertise, covering everything from Portland’s best coffee spots to the history of Google’s search algorithm.

Tongal facilitates video content by crowdsourcing creative work through collaborative contests.

When you marry our Certified Content Partners’ capabilities to generate captivating content with Percolate’s efficiencies across planning, distribution, and campaign optimization, it creates a powerful ecosystem for marketers.  We’re proud to announce Flashstock, Getty, Scripted, Shutterstock, Tongal, Twenty20 and as our launch partners.

Visit our Content Marketplace page to learn more.

The post Storytelling At Scale: The Percolate Content Marketplace appeared first on The Percolate Blog.

from The Percolate Blog

I was looking around Percolate’s marketing team the other day and realized that many of my teammates have serious athletic experience. The sports we bring to the table range from basketball and soccer to triathlons and ballet to triathlons. I personally spent over a decade as a nationally competitive gymnast.

While you certainly don’t have to be an athlete to be a great marketer, and none of us ended up “going pro”, I couldn’t help but think about the parallels between marketing and pro sports.

Being a marketer today is hard work. It seems like every week there are new channels, new formats, and new technologies popping up that we have to identify, understand, and master. We’re always being asked to do more with less, and pushed produce new campaigns that drive bigger results.

Similarly, the life of a pro athlete is tough. Long days of training, plus strength and conditioning, ice and rehab, and thoughtful nutrition are just the beginning. Rivals are always striving to knock you down, the media constantly hounds your every move, and the televised games are the epitome of “performance under pressure”.

So while we might never get sponsored by Gatorade, I think the best marketers have a lot in common with pro athletes.

Work as a Team

The best teams aren’t just made of strong individual contributors, but a cohesive group that gels together and wins championships. In 2011, the Miami Heat boasted a star studded roster of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh, and yet struggled against the Mavericks, a huge underdog team that had never won a single championship. But the Mav’s cohesive team play ultimately defeated the Heat to win the NBA championship.

Great marketers never work alone. It takes a huge team effort, between agency partners, technology vendors, and many people in between to execute a great campaign and build a strong department. Being clear about goals and responsibilities, and establishing clear lines of communication are essential to success.

Study Your Craft and Competitors

Peyton Manning is one of the greatest quarterbacks of recent history and while he may not have the strongest arm or the biggest build, his preparation is legendary. Watching film allowed players like Manning, Steve Nash, Richard Sherman and many others to anticipate plays and plan strategies designed to strike at their opponents’ weaknesses — so they can better win games.

Great marketers study their craft. They attend conferences to learn from the best in their field. They keep track of how their competitors are doing and watch what’s working, not so they can copy the idea wholesale, but so they can better understand their target demographic and course-correct as necessary.

Maintain Flawless Fundamentals

As a gymnast, I had to develop and grow a repertoire of increasingly difficult acrobatic skills. And yet, when I would go out to train with the national team at the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado, we spent a tremendous amount of time just working the basics. Handstands. Tap swings. Circles. Form and presentation. These were foundational moves that, while sometimes boring, were critical to always review and sharpen, and made learning more difficult moves much easier.

As marketers, we have to remember the building blocks of our field. An understanding of our audience. A set of channels that reach that audience. A focused business objective. It can be easy to fall into the trap of the shiny new tool, technique, or content format that will “transform our marketing”, but we have to remember to rein ourselves in and keep the fundamentals in mind.

Keep Score and Crunch the Numbers

Great athletes keep score. They get tested every time they compete and their record is there for everyone to see. That forces them to work harder and perform better if they want to playing. Baseball has, above most mainstream sports, a history of being incredibly numbers oriented. But Billy Beane brought a whole new level of statistical analysis to the game, as documented in Michael Lewis’s bestseller-turned-movie Moneyball. The game has evolved and

Great marketers aren’t just creative, they’re analytical. They have an intuitive sense of what will perform, but they back it up with lots of data. This means marketing is much more about spreadsheets, pivot tables, SQL queries, and CSV downloads than the era of “Mad Men” but great marketers aren’t afraid to get down with the numbers if it means better performance.

Deliver Consistent Results

Cal Ripken Jr, MLB Hall of Famer and 19-time All Star was never known as a flashy player, but a remarkably consistent one who rarely made errors, and of course, showed up to 2,632 consecutive games over 17 years.

The marketers who truly master their craft are the ones who deliver consistently. Everyone appreciates a big win, whether it’s a landing page with super high conversion rate or a huge technology implementation that goes off without a hitch, but ultimately, the most valuable asset a marketer has is the endurance and strength of mind to deliver again and again and again.

What are other parallels you’ve seen between great marketers and great athletes? Tweet me at @jasonshen and let me know.

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The post Why the Best Marketers Train Like Pro Athletes appeared first on The Percolate Blog.

from The Percolate Blog

The average person now consumes twelve hours of media, checks their phone close to 110 times and sees an estimated 5,000 marketing messages each day. When most of us also regularly put in 8+ hours on the job, it’s no wonder our collective attention span is more taxed than ever.

Data overwhelmingly confirms it too. According to MailChimp 80-85% of marketing emails are never opened, and even in digital video — one of the most promising frontiers for marketers — 56% of viewers regularly skip pre-roll and vocally prefer ads that are fifteen seconds or less. The National Center for Biotechnology Information at the U.S. National Library of Medicine finds average human attention span decreased from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds in 2013, no doubt influenced by the influx of real-time content streams available to us 24/7/365 on social at a moments’ notice.

As a marketer or advertiser, all this is also a reality check and constant reminder about how precious attention has become. If you’re thinking about what this means for your marketing efforts, or you’re producing a lot of quality content but struggling to get noticed, here are four principles you can apply to win anyone’s attention.

1. Benchmark your work against the real attention winners

Marketers commonly think of share of voice as the percentage a message is heard or talked about compared to other advertisers, particularly competitors. But no media consumer thinks this way. At almost any point in the day people can check a different device, or open a different app or browser tab. After all, the human attention span is finite, singular and media agnostic. Here at Percolate our blog isn’t competing with the blogs of other software companies as much as it’s competing with publishers like BuzzFeed and AdAge, trending content on YouTube and media companies stocked with audience-building professionals. Sure you can still interrupt content consumers in all those places, but those interruptions are easier and easier to tune out. The modern marketer is an audience-builder, and that takes objectively good content relative to the publishers and media companies your customers pay attention to. Set your standards high and keep re-evaluating them.

2. Target people, not populations

Facebook and LinkedIn now offer paid targeting advanced enough that you can effectively personalize your content to the people who see it, rather than cutting broad swaths across populations. When you’re interesting, timely and visually compelling that’s a lot closer to a recommendation than an interruption, and it delivers superior campaign ROI.

On the retargeting side, technology leaders like AdRoll (who we’re co-presenting an awesome webinar with on October 21) allow an e-commerce brand to target creative at the product page visitor level, depending on whether a customer browsed for sweaters or a new pair of jeans. The key here is pairing the discipline to verticalize and personalize content with empathy for the customer journey and a system that lets your media team efficiently create, tag and manage all your ad groups and creative.

3. Make your content “snackable”

There’s no question short-form is here to say, and mobile is a big part of it. On Twitter, image posts consistently generate 500% higher engagement than text-only tweets, and this extends well beyond the major social hubs. On Medium, essays that are 3 minute reads get significantly more views, and the site very deliberately displays a time-to-read estimate below each post excerpt to help readers understand the attention investment required for a piece of content.

Average Blog Post Views Per Minute from Medium

Even more interestingly, essay attention and engagement on Medium starts to drop off for anything longer than a seven minute read, then the tune-out rate steepens beyond the ten minute mark.

Best Versus Average Medium Blog Post Length

A wealth of content options and the shift to shorter mobile browsing sessions means brand experiences needs to be succinct, punchy and eye-catching, right off the bat. Write aspirational headlines, keep copy short, pique curiosity early and make sure your content is accompanied by a compelling, relevant image or video. “We’ve seen the case where a headline made the difference between 1,000 views and 1 million views,” notes Upworthy co-founder Peter Koechley.

Top Words and Phrases in Highly-Shared Articles from BuzzFeed, ViralNova, UpWorthy and Wimp

Top Words in Viral Headlines from BuzzFeed, ViralNova, UpWorthy and Wimp

See the complete list here.

The key, ultimately, is crafting irresistible content packaging that’s consistent with the standards you set for your brand.

4. The phone home screen is the new front page of Google search

Five years ago, people discovered digital content three ways: they got search results from Google, someone emailed it to them, or they saw it on Facebook for desktop. Today, mobile has intersected all three channels — browser-based search is bypassed by content access via native apps, mobile push notifications short-cut email discovery and Facebook has over a billion native mobile users across its core app, Pages, Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp. If your average typical customer checks their phone more than 100 times daily and you’re on the home screen, that’s 36,500+ organic icon impressions a year, completely effort free. Get to the home screen (or an app on the home screen) — it’s the true successor to search engine marketing.

Above all, keep experimenting, don’t settle and keep thinking big. Your customers will notice.

Want to discuss other hacks and best practices for getting more attention for your marketing? More than happy to talk on Twitter.

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The post How to Win Anyone’s Attention appeared first on The Percolate Blog.

from The Percolate Blog