Industry Specific Writing
Social Media Marketing for Newbies (written for employer's blog, July 2020)
Right here and right now is the golden opportunity to reach potential customers in ways you’d never have thought possible before. And before you ask me if it is more difficult or more work than it used to be, I’ll ask you to change that narrative in your mind because this should be FUN. It’s easy to get lost in the “work” of it all, but if you truly believe in your business and your brand, you will have a good time being your brand’s champion on social media.
I see businesses making a genuine effort on social media but getting nowhere and can’t understand why. I notice small businesses who spend hard-earned money on ads or boosted posts in an effort to circumvent Facebook’s gripping muzzle on business advertising. The algorithms are always working against business advertising – and I completely understand why that is. Facebook wants to remain a place for friends and family to connect, not a noisy field of virtual billboards.
So, what if we could change that narrative? What if we as businesses and brands became a friend to customers? What if we could become a part of their family? That requires us to rethink what people really want from us as business owners. We must become introspective and creative.
It isn’t enough to advertise the products or services your business provides. That isn’t going to build a relationship with your customers. That is like going to the next Chamber of Commerce meeting, handing out flyers for your business, and then leaving. You’re hoping the other meeting-goers are going to read your flyer and then call you when they need your product or service. Clearly, that isn’t how it works. You go to that Chamber of Commerce meeting to network and build relationships with people. They remember you long after the meeting because they liked YOU. They remember the shared interactions you had – perhaps they were stories that may not have had anything to do with business at all. As you continue to attend meetings, you build more solid relationships.
Now take that frame of mind and apply it to your social media marketing for your business. Engage with your customers just as you would at a face to face event like a Chamber of Commerce meeting or Trade Show. Build rapport and trust with them… build a relationship.
In our next blog post, I’ll share where you can find where your customers are hanging out and willing to listen to your message. Until then, welcome to the fun of social media!
Social Media Specialist, Content Creator, and Brand Interpreter
Adapting to a New Marketing Funnel Fueled by Unique Journeys (written for employer's blog, June, 2020)
The Traditional Marketing Funnel
The traditional marketing funnel dates all the way back to the late 1800’s. It was a simple explanation for a customer’s path to a purchase and how they can be reached for greater sales success. The funnel generally begins when a customer becomes aware that there is a need for something. They head on down to the store to find out what is available to them. If there are a few different types of the thing they want, they will probably take a few minutes to compare each one. Once they have settled on the item that best fits their needs, they’ll take it over to the checkout. Finally, when they are back home with the product, they will decide whether it stood up to what their intentions for it were or failed to please. A simple, clean, and predictable path.
Why It Has Changed
Now that customers have access to online purchasing and a plethora of information on any given subject, their purchasing behavior has become as unique as they are. Purchases can be made on traditional e-commerce websites created by stores, they can be made with third party sellers like Amazon or eBay, and they can also purchase in apps on mobile devices. That’s a lot of noise to cut through to reach your target customers.
So how do you know when that customer is ready to make a purchase? Or even better, how do you turn a visitor who is just browsing into a purchasing customer? Why would they want to purchase with you and not another vendor?
How Does It Work?
That linear marketing funnel has turned into a jumble – like that drawer of charging cords in your kitchen. But that doesn’t mean that you as a business owner can’t compete for business without a fancy algorithm sending customers your way.
You can make small changes to ensure that you are in the right place at the right time when a customer is ready to click the “buy now” button. There are signs that they are expressing the intent to purchase if you know what to look for. They actually have hundreds of touchpoints along their purchasing journey. Once they have reached that “ready to purchase” point, your brand must offer a frictionless way to get there.
First, you have to make sure your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is ON POINT. While it can be difficult to know just what a customer might type into the search bar, regular monitoring of keywords and key phrases and their performance will help to home in on what’s working. There are tools out there to assist with keyword/phrase popularity and relevance. Machine learning is also a great tool for helping you understand where intent is happening in ways us mere mortals can’t do. Plus, it can show where missed opportunities have occurred so you can adjust your business goals based on your customer’s habits.
Next, be the absolute authority in your industry. The place that everyone goes to for information. Have a vast library of blog posts, YouTube videos, great Instagram photos, engaging Facebook posts, and even TikTok videos if you have a young demographic to reach. The more places people can find you, the better.
How will it benefit your business?
These opportunities in reaching more customers in more places can seem overwhelming, but it is redefining how marketing and sales happen. If you want to stay relevant in an ever-changing marketplace, adapt. Complex customer journeys are the new normal and if you know how to work with that, your business will continue to thrive. The added touch points give you an opportunity to create a comprehensive brand image with customers and help you create long-lasting relationships with them.
Social Media Specialist, Content Creator, and Brand Interpreter
Economies of Asia: Current Economic Condition in China, April 8, 2018
Retail Marketing/Management: Pricing Strategy, May 25, 2019
H&M and Zara are two clothing retail stores that compete for the similar market shares. H&M focuses its efforts on low cost merchandise, while Zara focuses on in-store image and mid-priced, better quality items. This paper seeks to identify and compare the merchandising philosophies of both retailers. Their strategies are also discussed with regards to pricing and promotion.
Merchandising Philosophies: Similarities and Differences
H&M, or Hennes & Mauritz, is a Swedish fashion group that Forbes ranked as number 58 on the World’s Most Valuable Brands list (Petro, 2012). The company has 4,968 stores and employs 150 designers and 100 buyers who rely on 800 suppliers (Petro, 2012). ‘Slow sales’ (2006) describes H&M as being an instant gratification destination, not an investment clothing destination. They go on to explain that H&M’s high merchandise turnover rate can be a potentially detrimental practice, because one clothing line may be a sales hit, and the next is a dud. It simply depends on how consumers react to that short-lived trend. The retailer offers new staple clothing lines twice a year– spring and fall. A secondary set of product lines come out more frequently, featuring trendy styles. This combination requires a long lead time for the staple items and a short lead time for trendy lines (Petro, 2015).
Petro (2012) cites that H&M manages to keep top trends in its stores by keeping its production offices in close proximity to its suppliers. By being in close proximity, the supply chain can be more agile and react quickly to trends as they are identified. The IT integration that is shared between production, suppliers, and partners allows for seamless communication in real-time (Petro, 2015).
Zara, a Spain based clothing retailer, focuses on a polished store image with a moderate level pricing structure (Slow sales, 2006). It is the world’s largest clothing retailer and is stepping into the world of augmented reality to boost its sales (Danziger, 2018). Customers can have an in-store experience that is unique and engaging through utilizing new technologies. Zara targets its loyal customer base, who tend to be less price-sensitive, by giving them a frictionless experience with their technology processes (Danziger, 2018). It is indeed, not the least expensive in the fast-fashion industry, but the slight increase in price seems to be viewed as valuable in the eyes of their customers.
Pricing and Promotional Sales Strategies
H&M and Zara utilize strong market penetration pricing by setting low prices and selling high volumes (Berman & Evans, 2013). The profits can be high only if sales are high. The best way these companies have been able to offer fast fashion is to sell high quantities at very low prices. Since the fast fashion segment of the industry tends to attract negative press due to excessive waste, H&M began a campaign to promote it sustainability promise [Image 1: Go green wear blue]. Confronting this concern amongst consumers and turning it into an opportunity to sell is just one of the strategies H&M uses well. Its in-store advertisements include large posters with colorful pictures of outfits along with the price (Danziger, 2018).
Zara advertises very little in traditional channels compared to H&M. Zara’s advertising uses monochromatic color palettes and focuses on highly polished design [Image 2: Zara]. This strategy projects the image of upscale class, and these advertisements could be promoting high fashion. The projection of class and quality sells the look-alike trends to price-sensitive customers who still enjoy fine goods. Location is how Zara builds its new clientele, and once they are in, the exceptional experience creates a return shopper.
Target Market Strategy
H&M and Zara both focus on having an efficient supply chain to deliver the latest on-trend items to its customers at low prices. H&M is choosing to introduce a new, even lower priced version of its stores called Afound (Pandolph, 2018). This should result in a second opportunity for customers to buy its clothing, but at even lower cost. The company is also investing more in automating its vertical supply chain to further reduce initial costs. It suggests that H&M is still focused on price-sensitive customers and serving them to a greater degree. Zara, on the other hand, still offers somewhat competitive pricing to its customers, but is instead focusing its resources on the customer experience in stores. It has managed to exceed the average customer’s visits from three times a year to six times (Danziger, 2018). That gives the company double the amount of time facing the customer to make an impression, and thus, more sales.
While H&M and Zara both focus on the fast fashion segment of the market, the execution is vastly different. Both found ways to use new technologies to increase their profit margins while maintaining low prices for their customers. The strategy for H&M is to decrease its supply chain costs through introducing new technologies in IT and automating procedures. Zara chooses to use new technologies to enhance the customer experience in stores.
Danziger, P.N. (2018, April 23). Why Zara succeeds: It focuses on pulling people in, not pushing product out. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/pamdanziger/2018/04/23/zaras-difference-pull-people-in-not-push-product-out/#6e48da7623cb
Pandolph, S. (2018, March 28). H&M is struggling to move merchandise – here’s what they can do to change that. Business Insider. Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.com/hm-struggles-to-move-merchandise-2018-3
Petro, G. (2012, November 5). The future of fashion retailing: The H&M approach. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/gregpetro/2012/11/05/the-future-of-fashion-retailing-the-hm-approach-part-3-of-3/#24b54c494a60
Petro, G. (2015, July 29). The future of fashion retailing, revisited: Part 3- H&M. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/gregpetro/2015/07/29/the-future-of-fashion-retailing-revisited-part-3-hm/#1a230b5189fc
Slow sales. (2006). Brand Strategy, (202), 13. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.csuglobal.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=f5h&AN=21058470&site=ehost-live
Race, Gender, and Ethnic Relations in the US: Opening Dialogue Essay, May 10, 2019
Having conversations about difficult topics in the workplace is challenging, but not impossible. It is an essential component of having a positive organizational morale because it helps prevent discrimination and inequality issues. One of these concerns is equality for women in the workplace. The following examines issues surrounding women’s equality in the workplace, and how conversations can be started in those organizations.
Women’s Equality in the Workplace
The wage gap refers to the disproportionately lower amount women are paid in comparison to men. Vagins (n.d.) found that as of 2015, statistics showed that women make 80 percent of what men do when performing the same job and have the same qualifications. Hispanic women experience the largest pay gap at just 53 percent of what white men are paid. This gap is perpetuated by the belief that the work women do is less valuable than men’s work. Since child-rearing has traditionally been thought of as a woman’s role, hiring managers have steered women towards childcare and customer service jobs, where nurturing and compassion are key desired traits.
Paying women less than men can lead to apathy and less productiveness since women begin to believe their work is less valuable. If the wage gap is severe, women are more likely to leave their jobs and seek other places of employment (Méndez, 2018). This causes an increase in costs for employers who must replace that employee and train a new one. Women and their families also suffer economically from being paid less since they are not as able to provide for them. Méndez (2018) states that in 50 percent of homes with children, women are the primary breadwinners.
‘Glass Ceiling’ Barriers to Promotion
Women are still largely underrepresented in the management and upper-management tiers of the business world. Jauhar & Lau (2018) describe the ‘glass ceiling’ as an invisible barrier that blocks women from advancing in the workplace. Like the wage gap, women are not advanced beyond their position even though they are equally qualified as their male counterparts. They go on to note that this is a global issue where disproportionately few women occupy top management positions. In 2017, women held just 25 percent of senior management positions (Jauhar & Lau, 2018).
Not only is there a ‘glass ceiling,’ there are ‘glass cliffs’ where women who do reach a high level are held to a higher standard than men (Méndez, 2018). These women are equally qualified as their peers, but evaluated on a strict scale, causing them to have poor reviews and lack opportunities (Méndez, 2018). This situation also causes apathy in the workplace, as women no longer see the opportunity to advance.
Common Arguments Surrounding Equality for Women
Kreissl, et al. (2015) have found that despite 20 years of promoting gender equality practices and reforms, inequality still exists. The number of women in assistant positions doubled, however women in high-level positions only increased by 14 percent. This number was smaller in the math and science disciplines. Kreissl, et al., (2015) discovered that ambivalence to gender equality reforms is what causes stagnation, not that the reforms themselves are not working.
An organization’s culture has a large impact on behaviors and attitudes of employees. Generally, these cultures revolve around men, and a masculine culture makes it difficult for women to obtain or hold a position of power (Jauhar & Lau, 2018). A masculine culture is defined by men being expected to be aggressive, strong, and success oriented. Femininity is considered to be the opposite of masculinity with traits like caregiver, modest, and quality of life oriented. These perceptions prevent management from promoting women.
Diversity training is an empirically effective way for a corporation to change its culture. Perspective talking is one form of diversity training that has proven helpful. Perspective training is an exercise where a person mentally walks in another person’s shoes (Lindsey, et al., 2017). Another form of diversity training is goal setting. Goal setting can be adapted to set measurable and attainable goals related to diversity in the workplace (Lindsey, et al., 2017). Goal setting is intrinsically motivating, and so, gives a positive view of diversity training.
The gender wage gap, ‘glass ceiling,’ and ‘glass cliff’ are all very real issues that the modern workplace must strive to address. Some arguments stating that the reforms are ineffective have been shown to be stagnant due to ambivalence, not that they are ineffective. Therefore, companies must take the time to address these issues through empirically effective diversity training. Mental exercises that encourage empathy will encourage reforms and help to close the wage gap and shatter the ‘glass ceiling’ and ‘glass cliff.’
Jauhar, J., & Lau, V. (2018). The “Glass Ceiling” and women’s career advancement to top
management: the moderating effect of social support. Global Business & Management Research, 10(1), 163–178. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.csuglobal.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=132815459&site=ehost-live
Kreissl, K., Striedinger, A., Sauer, B., & Hofbauer, J. (2015). Will gender equality ever fit in?
Contested discursive spaces of university reform. Gender & Education, 27(3), 221–238. https://doi-org.csuglobal.idm.oclc.org/10.1080/09540253.2015.1028903
Lindsey, A., King, E., Membere, A., & Cheung, H. K. (2017, July 28). Two types of diversity
training that really work. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2017/07/two-types-of-diversity-training-that-really-work
Méndez, J. (2018). Equality in the workplace: Are women treated the same as men? INSIGHT
into Diversity, 90(7), 12–13. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.csuglobal.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=128873108&site=ehost-live
Vagins, D.J. (n.d.). The simple truth about the gender pay gap. AAUW. Retrieved from