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5 Rules for Stand-Out Marketing Campaigns

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Seven years ago, in the midst of an economic recession, Boston’s Yale Appliance + Lighting was losing money. “I’d read somewhere that people will buy some things anyway during a recession — and one of those things was refrigerators,” recalls CEO Steve Sheinkopf. “So we pumped more money into radio and newspaper advertising, thinking it would help. It didn’t — it hurt.”

Sheinkopf, who had taken over the store founded by his grandfather, refocused with what was (at the time) a radical approach. He doubled down on a digital marketing strategy that included social media, blogging, reputation management and email components.

The focus on a content-based inbound marketing program allowed Sheinkopf to bring his advertising budget to near zero. (Last year, he says, he spent nothing aside from seasonal Google AdWords buys around Black Friday and a tax-free holiday weekend.)

Today Yale Appliance is profitable and growing, with 140 employees. Top-line revenue is expected to hit $80 million this year, and in June the company opened a state-of-the-art showroom in Framingham, Mass. — only its second store after 92 years in business.

So how did Sheinkopf use digital marketing to turn around his grandfather’s company? There’s no magic or special gift involved. “Obviously I’m not a genius; otherwise, I wouldn’t be in the appliance business,” he laughs.

What he does have: commitment. A content-based marketing strategy requires it. Here’s how you can get similar results.

1. Actively manage your online reputation.

When you’re a small, regional business, you compete with companies that can easily outspend you in advertising. In Sheinkopf’s case, that includes big-time players: Sears, Best Buy, Home Depot and Lowe’s.

But digital content can give small, scrappy companies a bigger footprint — if they’re willing to work it. “Google is democratic,” Sheinkopf notes. What’s more, online review sites like Yelp and Angie’s List can give a small business direct insight into its brand reputation. “Businesses may despise Yelp, but [it’s] a window on how you operate and are perceived,” he says.

So encourage social reviews, thank people who say nice things, and view negative reviews as an opportunity to fix what’s broken. “It’s painful to see a negative comment or review,” Sheinkopf admits. But take a long-term view: Use the criticism as a chance to both resolve an immediate issue for one customer and to improve a process or system for the good of future customers.

2. Know what your customers want.

In 2007, when Sheinkopf started blogging, he got some traction through organic search results. But things really ignited when he dug deeper into digital marketing basics. He credits Marcus Sheridan at thesaleslion.com with teaching him how to write a metatag, a headline and a call to action that can convert prospects into customers.

Sheinkopf also studied customer reactions to figure out what kind of posts would be most useful. It turned out that trend pieces and specific comparisons of, say, a Thermador to a Viking cooktop, got the most traffic. Recommendation posts like “The 5 best counter depth refrigerators” also did well.

Creating customer-centric content takes time. But it’s a valuable exercise, for two reasons: It helps you understand what motivates customers, and it requires you to learn everything about your stock, inside and out.

Online content has become Yale’s biggest driver of new business, Sheinkopf says. Page views were at 18,000 visitors per month in 2011; this past August, the site had 448,000 visitors. What’s more, those who visit the blog and download buyer’s guides convert into buyers at a much higher rate. That’s why Sheinkopf personally reviews all the content his blog publishes.

I told him I was surprised that the CEO manages the company blog, and he laughed: “There’s no better business-development effort. So why wouldn’t I?”

3. Make customers smarter.

Yale Appliance has more than 20 guides covering everything from how to buy under-cabinet lighting to what to look for in a dishwasher. Many of those started as internal, vendor- agnostic training resources for new employees. “We already had a 10-page guide on an induction oven,” Sheinkopf says. It wasn’t a far leap to turn it into a buying guide for customers.

Yale uses marketing-automation vendor HubSpot to nurture customers through the buying process. Anyone who downloads a guide to buying a sub-zero fridge opts-in to a series of emails designed to deliver more information about the appliances. Those emails have a high engagement rate: 35 percent, vs. 5 to 10 percent for other emails Yale sends (mainly newsletters and daily promotions).

“We focus on making our customer smarter,” Sheinkopf says. “People want to be informed; they don’t want to be sold to anymore—if they ever did.”

4. Invest in staff and other resources that touch customers.

Customer happiness is rooted in happy employees. So Yale hires carefully, finding employees with the right cultural fit and making sure they are happy and well taken care of — through profit sharing and generous benefit packages, as well as top-notch training programs.

Yale has also spent time and effort identifying and investing in improvements to customer experience, including better phone and computer systems.

5. Quit procrastinating.

Sheinkopf embraced content marketing long before a lot of other businesses caught on. So is his success linked to a first-mover advantage? “Good, original information is still good, original information,” he points out. “Good content is still good content.”

In other words, any small business can — and shouldtake advantage of these digital strategies. “I’m not an outlier,” Sheinkopf adds. “There are still millions of industries and countless opportunities in underserved markets. You just have to refuse to do business like everyone else.”

 

source: http://www.entrepreneur.com/

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THIS GOOGLE-FUNDED COMPANY USES ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE TO FIGHT AGAINST FAKE NEWS

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“Falsehood flies, and the truth comes limping after it,” wrote Jonathan Swift over 200 years ago.

If that was the case back then, before telephones and radio, let alone Twitter and Instagram, imagine how much bigger the problem is now.  In fact, it’s so big that “fake news” has become a hot topic for those on both sides of the political spectrum. Gartner has gone as far as predicting that by 2022, we will consume more lies than truth.

But if technology has exacerbated the situation, there’s hope that it may also offer remedies. In particular, artificial intelligence – in its most useful current form, machine learning – can potentially be a powerful tool for sorting truth from fiction.

Machine learning is already being used by banks and financial institutions to comb through records of financial transactions, looking for tell-tale signs of errors or fraud, and then using that data to become more efficient – effectively “learning” without human input.

In the same way, algorithms can be trained to monitor media – across both social networks and news organizations – looking for tell-tale signs that any piece of output might be out of alignment with whatever objective truths are known regarding situations or events.

One exciting application of this technology comes from Belgium-based startup VeriFlix. They have developed a method of scanning user-submitted videos – which play an increasingly significant part in the output of most media organizations – and attempting to determine whether they actually are what they purport to be.

After winning funding through Google’s Digital News Initiative, the company’s technology is now being put to use by one of that country’s largest media outlets – Rourlarta, with promising results.

Founder Donald Staar talked to me about how the platform had evolved from its initial conception as a peer-to-peer crowdsourcing app for videos. Media organizations would make a request for video footage through the app, and any user within the correct geolocation could switch on their phone and start filming.

“Once the videos get sent to the platform we add a layer which first detects the content of every stream – so we can say what we see in the video, alongside the geolocation data and time stamp,” Staar tells me.

“And once the videos are tagged we can compare them to one another, so that if for example, one request results in 1,000 videos, we can compare the content of every video and if a majority of the videos show the same content, then it can verify the authenticity of what has been shot.

“If 800 videos out of 1,000 show the same thing then the probability that the video has been faked is very low.”

Veriflix uses the YOLO (You Only Look Once) real-time object detection algorithms to classify and label contents of videos, before passing that data through to proprietary algorithms, designed in partnership with KU Leuven University. These algorithms analyze the data, alongside timestamp and geolocation information passed through the application’s secure interface.

Staar says “There are two main advantages – the first is that media companies can now make sure that videos they use are authentic and shot in the location where they say they are taken, and not modified or doctored.

“The other advantage is that they are able to bridge the gap between themselves and their audience – let their audience become a part of the story, and source exclusive and verified content very quickly. It can be for small things, too – it doesn’t have to just be big, breaking news.”

As is common with those working in today’s AI space, Staar is keen to point out that the idea isn’t to put journalists and human fact-checkers out of jobs.

“It will not replace the job of the journalist – we will always need journalists to put everything in perspective, but to get the raw data, this will be a great tool.”

Of course, as technology advances, the tools that fakers use to attempt to pull the wool over our eyes are likely to become increasingly sophisticated. It’s already possible to make highly realistic videos putting words in the mouths of people who would, in reality, be very unlikely to say such things. This doctored video of Obama being rather rude about Trump is a great example (warning, contains explicit language)

Over time it’s likely we will see a continuation of the arms race which has always existed in the technology sphere – with good guys racing against the bad guys to be the first to deploy the latest and most powerful tools.

Fake news is unlikely ever to be fully eradicated – there will always be someone willing to present a skewed version of the truth to push their own agenda. However, it could be the case that tools like VeriFlix, or whatever comes next, will raise the barrier regarding the tech and expertise needed to hoodwink us, going some way toward making the world a more truthful place.

Bernard Marr is a best-selling author & keynote speaker on business, technology and big data. His new book is Data Strategy. To read his future posts simply join his network here.

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SCAMMERS ABUSE MULTILINGUAL DOMAIN NAMES

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Cyber-criminals are abusing multilingual character sets to trick people into visiting phishing websites.

The non-English characters allow scammers to create “lookalike” sites with domain names almost indistinguishable from legitimate ones.

Farsight Security found scam sites posing as banks, loan advisers and children’s brands Lego and Haribo.

Smartphone users are at greater risk as small screens make lookalikes even harder to spot.

Targeted attack
The Farsight Security report looked at more than 100 million domain names that use non-English character sets – introduced to make the net more familiar and usable for non-English speaking nations – and found about 27% of them had been created by scammers.

It also uncovered more than 8,000 separate characters that could be abused to confuse people.

Farsight founder Paul Vixie, who wrote much of the software underpinning the net’s domain names told the BBC: “Any lower case letter can be represented by as many as 40 different variations.”

And many internationalised versions added just a tiny fleck or mark that was not easy to see.

Eldar Tuvey, founder and head of security company Wandera, said it had also seen an upsurge in phishing domains using different ways of forming characters.

In particular, it had seen an almost doubling of the number of scam domains created using an encoding system called punycode over the past few months.

And phishing gangs were using messages sent via mobile apps to tempt people into clicking on the similar-looking links.

“They are targeting specific groups,” Mr Tuvey said.

And research had established people were three times more likely to fall for a phishing scam presented on their phone.

“To phish someone, you just have to fool them once,” Mr Tuvey said. “Tricking them into installing malware is much more work.”

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GOOGLE MAKES $550M STRATEGIC INVESTMENT IN CHINESE E-COMMERCE FIRM JD.COM

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Google has been increasing its presence in China in recent times, and today it has continued that push by agreeing to a strategic partnership with e-commerce firm JD.com, which will see Google purchase $550 million worth of shares in the Chinese firm.

Google has made investments in China, released products there and opened offices that include an AI hub, but now it is working with JD.com largely outside of China. In a joint release, the companies said they would “collaborate on a range of strategic initiatives, including joint development of retail solutions” in Europe, the U.S. and Southeast Asia.

The goal here is to merge JD.com’s experience and technology in supply chain and logistics — in China, it has opened warehouses that use robots rather than workers — with Google’s customer reach, data and marketing to produce new kinds of online retail.

Initially, that will see the duo team up to offer JD.com products for sale on the Google Shopping platform across the word, but it seems clear that the companies have other collaborations in mind for the future.

JD.com is valued at around $60 billion, based on its NASDAQ share price, and the company has partnerships with the likes of Walmart and it has invested heavily in automated warehouse technology, drones and other “next-generation” retail and logistics.

The move for a distribution platform like Google to back a service provider like JD.com is interesting since the company, through search and advertising, has relationships with a range of e-commerce firms, including JD.com’s arch rival Alibaba.

But it is a sign of the times for Google, which has already developed relationships with JD.com and its biggest backer Tencent, the $500 billion Chinese internet giant. All three companies have backed Go-Jek, the ride-hailing challenger in Southeast Asia, while Tencent and Google previously inked a patent-sharing partnership and have co-invested in startups such as Chinese AI startup XtalPi.

 

 

Source: Tech Crunch.

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