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Platforms for racing in the 21st century.

Fame Foundry puts the racing experience in front of millions of fans, steering motorsports to the modern age.

“Fame Foundry created something never seen before, allowing members to interact in new ways and providing them a central location to call their own. It also provides more value to our sponsors than we have ever had before.”

—Ryan Newman

Technology on the track.

Providing more than just web software, our management systems enhance and reinforce a variety of services by different racing organizations which work to evolve the speed, efficiency, and safety measures, aiding their process from lab to checkered flag.

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Setting the pace across 44 states.

With over 1100 locations, thousands of products, and millions of transactions, Shoe Show creates a substantial retail footprint in shoe sales.

The sole of superior choice.

With over 1100 locations, thousands of products, and millions of transactions, Shoe Show creates a substantial retail footprint in shoe sales.

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The contemporary online pharmacy.

Medichest sets a new standard, bringing the boutique experience to the drug store.

Integrated & Automated Marketing System

All the extensive opportunities for public engagement are made easily definable and effortlessly automated.

Scheduled promotions, sales, and campaigns, all precisely targeted for specific demographics within the whole of the Medichest audience.

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Home Design & Decor Magazine offers readers superior content on designer home trends on any device.


  • By selectively curating the very best from their individual markets, each localized catalog comes to exhibit the trending, pertinent visual flavors specific to each region.


  • Beside the swaths of inspirational home photography spreads, Home Design & Decor provides exhaustive articles and advice by proven professionals in home design.


  • The art of home ingenuity always dances between the timeless and the experimental. The very best in these intersecting principles offer consistent sources of modern innovation.

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  • Post a need on behalf of yourself, a family member or your community group, whether you need volunteers or funds to support your cause.


  • Search by location, expertise and date, and connect with people in your very own community who need your time and talents.


  • Start your own Neighborhood or Group Page and create a virtual hub where you can connect and converse about the things that matter most to you.

December 2016
By Kimberly Barnes

Going the Distance: Four Ways to Build a Better Customer Loyalty Program for Your Brand

Loyalty programs are no longer a novelty. That means that yesterday’s strategies won’t work moving forward, so look for ways to rise above the noise, setting yourself apart from the cloying drone of countless other cookie-cutter programs.
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Going the Distance: Four Ways to Build a Better Customer Loyalty Program for Your Brand

article-thedistance-lg It’s easy enough for a customer to join your loyalty program, especially when you’re offering an incentive such as discounts. All your customer has to do is give out some basic information, and voila! They’re in the fold, a brand new loyalty member with your company. From there, it’s happily ever after. You offer the perks; they stand solidly by you, bringing you their continued business. Simple. Or is it? In reality, just how many of those customers are act ively participating in your loyalty program? Do you know? Sure, loyalty program memberships are on the rise according to market research company eMarketer, having jumped 25 percent in the space of just two years. However, that figure may be a bit misleading. The truth is that, while loyalty program sign-ups may be more numerous, active participation in such programs is actually in decline. At the time of the study, the average US household had memberships in 29 loyalty programs; yet consumers were only active in 12 of those. That’s just 41 percent. And even that meager figure represents a drop of 2 percentage points per year over each of the preceding four years, according to a study by loyalty-marketing research company COLLOQUY.

When discounts just aren’t enough

So what’s a brand to do? How can you make your loyalty program worth your customer’s while—as well as your own? After all, gaining a new loyalty member doesn’t mean much if your customer isn’t actively participating in your program. Consider this: Does your customer loyalty program offer members anything different from what your competitors are offering? Chances are your program includes discounts. That’s a given. And what customer doesn’t appreciate a good discount? But when every other company out there is providing this staple benefit in comparable amounts, it becomes less and less likely that customers will remain loyal to any one particular brand. Frankly, it’s all too easy for customers to get lost in a sea of loyalty member discounts. They’re everywhere. In fact, just under half of internet users perceive that all rewards programs are alike, according to a 2015 eMarketer survey. The key to success, then, is to differentiate your business from the crowd. If you can offer your customers something unique and valuable beyond the usual discount, chances are they’ll be more likely to stick with your brand. Here’s some inspiration from companies who get it.

Virgin: Reward more purchases with more benefits.

That’s not to say you need to get rid of discounts entirely. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Customers still love a good discount. The goal is to be creative in terms of the loyalty perks you offer. Take the Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, for example. As part of its loyalty program, the airline allows members to earn miles and tier points. Members are inducted at the Club Red tier, from which they can move up to Club Silver and then Club Gold. Here, it’s not just a discount. It’s status. And people respond to feeling important, elite. Still, even where the rewards themselves are concerned, Virgin is motivating loyalty customers with some pretty attractive offers. At the Club Red tier, members earn flight miles and receive discounts on rental cars, airport parking, hotels and holiday flights. But as members rise in tiers, they get even more. At the Club Silver tier, members earn 50 percent more points on flights, access to expedited check-in, and priority standby seating. And once they reach the top, Club Gold members receive double miles, priority boarding and access to exclusive clubhouses where they can get a drink or a massage before their flight. Now that’s some serious incentive to keep coming back for more. Discounts are still part of the equation – but they are designed with innovation and personal value in mind, elevating them to more than just savings.

Amazon Prime: Pay upfront and become a VIP.

What if your customers only had to pay a one-time upfront fee to get a year’s worth of substantial benefits? It may not sound like the smartest business idea at first glance. But take a closer look. Amazon Prime users pay a nominal $99 a year to gain free, two-day shipping on millions of products with no minimum purchase. And that’s just one benefit of going Prime. It’s true that Amazon loses $1-2 billion a year on Prime. This comes as no surprise given the incredible value the program offers. But get this: Amazon makes up for its losses in markedly higher transaction frequency. Specifically, Prime members spend an average of $1,500 a year on Amazon.com, compared with $625 spent by non-Prime users, a ccording to a 2015 report from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners.

Patagonia: Cater to customer values.

Sometimes, the draw for consumers isn’t saving money or getting a great deal. The eco-friendly outdoor clothing company Patagonia figured this out back in 2011, when it partnered with eBay to launch its Common Threads Initiative: a program that allows customers to resell their used Patagonia clothing via the company’s website. Why is this program important to customers? And how does it benefit Patagonia? The company’s brand embraces environmental and social responsibility, so it was only fitting that they create a platform for essentially recycling old clothing rather than merely throwing it away. The Common Threads Initiative helps Patagonia build a memorable brand and fierce loyalty by offering its customers a cause that aligns with deep personal values. OK, so their customers get to make a little money, too. Everybody wins.

American Airlines: Gamify your loyalty program.

If you’re going to offer your customers a loyalty program, why not make it f un? After all, engagement is key to building a strong relationship with your customer. And what better way to achieve that goal than making a game of it. American Airlines had this very thing in mind when it created its AAdvantage Passport Challenge following its merger with USAirways. The goal: find a new way to engage customers as big changes were underway. Using a custom Facebook application, American Airlines created a virtual passport to increase brand awareness while offering members a chance to earn bonus points. Customers earned these rewards through a variety of game-like activities, from answering trivia questions to tracking travel through a personalized dashboard. In the end, participants earned more than 70 percent more stamps than expected – and the airline saw a ROI of more than 500 percent. The takeaway: people like games.

Stand out from the crowd.

Your approach to your customer loyalty program should align with your overall marketing approach. Effective branding is about standing out, not blending it. Being memorable is key. To this end, keep in mind that loyalty programs are no longer a novelty. That means that yesterday’s strategies won’t work moving forward, so look for ways to rise above the noise, setting yourself apart from the cloying drone of countless other cookie-cutter programs.


330 Curb your creativity

When it comes to web design, creativity is nice, but usability trumps all.

June 2016
By Jeremy Girard

Small Changes, Big Impact: 5 Things You Can (and Should!) Do Today to Boost Your Website’s Performance

There’s no time like the present to implement these quick fixes and reap the rewards for months to come.
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Small Changes, Big Impact: 5 Things You Can (and Should!) Do Today to Boost Your Website’s Performance

artice-smallchanges-lg Every spring it happens like clockwork: the temperatures get warmer, the days get longer and everything in nature becomes more vibrant and colorful. Along with these changes in the great outdoors comes the irresistible urge to clean house and embrace a fresh start. Why not keep that motivational momentum going and apply it to your business – and, more specifically, to your website – as well? After all, there’s no time like the present to sweep away the old and outdated and bring in fresh new ideas and technologies. But you don’t necessarily need to dive head-first into a full redesign and all of the time and expense that entails to reap measurable results. Instead, here are five small steps you can – and should! – take today to ensure that your site is up-to-date, relevant and doing all it can to bring you new customers and grow the community around your brand:

1. Reposition your contact form.

For most website owners – especially those in service-based businesses such as law, accounting, consulting, real estate, etc. – the key “win” for their site is when it motivates a visitor to request more information or schedule a meeting. Contact forms are a ubiquitous website staple intended to provide a convenient – and highly measurable – avenue to initiate communication between an interested prospect and a company. However, perhaps because they are so commonplace, all too often these forms are given little strategic thought, resulting in a cookie-cutter name/email address/phone number format that yields more bogus spam submissions than legitimate new business opportunities. However, there is one simple change you can make that has been shown to get better results: reposition your standard “Contact us” form as an “Ask our experts” feature. By doing so, you shift the focus of the form to providing your visitors with an opportunity to submit a question that is specific to their needs and concerns. Rather than feeling like they are opening themselves up to an endless barrage of solicitation calls and emails, your visitors will sense that they are initiating a dialogue with an expert who will help them solve their particular problem. Make sure to respond to all inquiries within 24 hours, provide helpful advice that is free of charge and tailored to your prospect’s situation, and leave the door open to continue the conversation in a future meeting or phone call. By doing so, you will establish an important foundation of trust and confidence with your potential new client that will make them more inclined to engage your professional services. expert I have personally seen the submission rates on these types of forms increase dramatically. On one site where this small change was implemented, form submissions jumped from one or two per week to one or two per day – all legitimate business opportunities that were sparked simply by repositioning the focus of the form.

2. Productize your offering.

Another challenge that professional services organizations face in creating a website that works as an effective customer conversion engine is that they do not sell a specific product but rather a suite of services that can be customized to each client’s specific needs. This makes it terribly hard to market to visitors who come to their site and simply want to know “What exactly does this company sell, and how much does it cost?”. Because there are so many variables to the company’s offerings, there is not a quick and easy answer to these questions. If this challenge sounds familiar to you, one approach you can try is to “productize” what you have to offer. Create a bundle of services with a fixed price, and market that package on your site in a simple, straightforward manner that makes your offering easy to understand and helps visitors feel like doing business with your company is as simple as buying a product off the shelf at a store. package This is exactly what my company did with some of the technology consulting services that we offer. Instead of only listing the array of services we provide, we also created a product that representing a very specific offering. This made it so much easier to answer the “What do you sell?” question, and it gave us something tangible to promote in our marketing campaigns. In reality, this approach in no way limited the range of services we are able to offer our clients; rather, it merely served as a vehicle to open doors to new opportunities and made it easier to start conversations with new customers for whom we could ultimately provide a custom-tailored solution. Examine the services that you offer, and work with your marketing team to create an appealing package that you can market – understanding all the while that this “product” is really just a means for you to connect with customers and begin the sales process with something tangible that they can easily understand.

3. Lose your home page carousel.

One simple change that I have seen many websites make in the past year or so is to remove animated image carousels from their home pages. These carousels have long been a popular fixture of website design, but the reality is that they can sometimes do more harm than good. Home page carousels typically feature giant, screen-spanning images which carry with them heavy download requirements both for the images and for the scripts that power the animation sequences, thereby creating a potential stumbling block in performance for users on mobile devices or with slower connections. Additionally, studies have shown that click-through rates on animated carousels are extremely low, and they drop significantly from the first slide to the subsequent ones. This is why many companies are replacing rotating carousels with a singular static message instead. This one change can greatly reduce a page’s download size (when my company did this on our home page, its file size decreased by 75 percent) while having little to no effect on actual user engagement or click-through. In fact, because the page now loads more quickly, many sites actually see an uptick in user engagement because fewer people are abandoning a site due to poor performance. image Do you have a carousel on your website? If so, do you know whether or not it is working well for you? Your marketing team may be able to do some A/B testing between a version of your site with this animation feature and one without it to see which performs better. Since carousels do work well for some sites (like news organizations or sites with lots of frequently updated content), having this data can help you determine whether or not it’s time to ditch the carousel.

4. Update your image(s).

Stock photography is something of a necessary evil of website design, as more often than not, companies don’t have the budget to execute a full-fledged custom professional photo shoot. However, not all stock images are created equal. Stock photos that are overused or that look so obviously staged that they scream of their “stockiness” can cheapen a site’s design and leave visitors with a negative overall impression of the site. Replacing those images can make a big difference in a site’s visual appeal. If your site’s imagery is stale, you can make some simple image swaps to freshen it up. If you are going to change out old stock images for new stock images, make sure to seek out photos that feel fresh and that are not terribly overused (most stock photo sites will tell you how many times an image has been downloaded). An even better option is to try to add some unique imagery to your site. This could be photographs that you hire a professional to take or – in keeping with one of this year’s hottest trends – custom illustrations that you commission from an artist. illustration If your budget is tight, incorporating even just one or two such one-of-a-kind images in key spots on your site can really boost its visual impact. For instance, if you lose that aforementioned carousel on the home page and replace it with one truly compelling static image and message, it can make a really powerful first impression on your visitors.

5. Publish less.

Most experts agree that publishing original, value-add content on your site on a regular basis is key to optimizing its success – both from a sales and marketing standpoint and as an advantage in the never-ending battle of SEO. While I agree with this approach in principal, for many companies, the drive to publish regularly has resulted in putting out mediocre content simply to meet an inflexible standard of frequency. This is often an entirely counterproductive effort, as content that lacks in quality, original thought or value for the reader reflects poorly on the organization and its perceived level of expertise. Publishing original content to your site on a regular basis is still a best practice, but that content must offer value for it to succeed. Let’s say a visitor comes to your site and is impressed to find that you publish new articles weekly or monthly; however, once they click through the headline to see what they can glean from your writing, if what they find is mediocre at best, what motivation do they have to return to your site again in the future, let alone entrust you with their hard-earned dollars? If, on the other hand, you publish new content less frequently, but everything you produce is of the highest quality, then that same visitor will know that the time they spend on your site will always be worth their while, and they will look forward to the next time you post something new. Re-examine your current content marketing strategy, and ask yourself whether you are focused on quality or frequency. If it’s the latter, commit instead to writing less but to improving the quality of what you offer on your site. While this change may not have an immediate impact, it will absolutely yield long-term results that your visitors will appreciate and respond positively to.

In closing

Eventually, your website will need a redesign, but in the meantime you can make small, strategic, surgical changes that will pay immediate dividends in your site’s success. This approach of implementing gradual but regular modifications will also benefit you when it does come time for that full redesign. By making intelligent improvements over time, you will ultimately be closer to your end goal, leaving less to accomplish with the redesign and thereby paving the way for a smoother and less costly project.

775 Boost email open rates by 152 percent

Use your customers’ behavior to your advantage.

September 2010
By The Architect

8 Must-Haves for the Ultimate TV

Between the advancements in streaming media and the meteoric rise of mobile computing, the nature of media consumption is changing rapidly – everywhere, that is, except for the living room. Fame Foundry examines what it will take for the lowly television to reach its full potential in the Digital Age.
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8 Must-Haves for the Ultimate TV

watching-tv Leading up to Apple's Special Event in San Francisco on September 1, the media was buzzing with speculation about the new products that would be unveiled, and much of that hype centered around Apple TV.

The possibilities

All of the chess pieces were aligned for Apple to deliver a device that would forever change at-home entertainment:
  • They had established a unique leadership position in touch-based operating system usage.
  • They had asserted dominance in app development and distribution.
  • They had proven their adeptness in bringing skeptical production studios and media distributors into the Digital Age.
  • They had already introduced FaceTime and its tremendous potential to bring video communications to the masses.
  • They had built an enviable ready-made market with their existing 160 million iTunes subscribers.
  • Above all, they had an unrivaled reputation for innovation in marrying beautiful design and incredible functionality in consumer electronics. After all, this was the same company that just earlier this year changed the game for mobile computing with the introduction of the iPad.

The reality

Instead of reinventing the TV, Apple went for the easy win. With the acknowledgment that Apple TV had never been their most well-received device, they made the box smaller and more affordable but limited its primary function to streaming a la carte TV show and movie rentals from the iTunes store as well as content from a select few services such as Netflix, YouTube, MobileMe and Flickr. With its highly accessible $99 price point, Apple TV will likely be a big seller for Apple this holiday season, but it's not ultimately what the market demands.

On the brink of a revolution

AppleTV – along with Boxee, Roku and Google TV – still leaves something to be desired when it comes to maximizing the potential of the entertainment center in the Digital Age. As a result, the family living room remains the final frontier of media that has yet to be conquered. The way in which content is delivered, accessed and consumed on home televisions is primed and ready for a revolution. The way in which content is delivered, accessed and consumed on home televisions is primed and ready for a revolution. Consumers are longing to break free from the shackles of paying exorbitant monthly fees for cable packages with channels and programming they find largely irrelevant and inapplicable. They want unconstrained freedom of choice in how and when they consume content. And they want a single plug-and-play device that unlocks all forms of entertainment. So what will it take to harness the best of today’s technology and deliver a more intelligent home entertainment experience? Here are the eight absolute must-haves for the ultimate next-generation TV.

1. A computer

computer-chip In his keynote at the September 1 event, Apple CEO Steve Jobs revealed that the research performed by the company prior to developing the latest Apple TV indicated that consumers do not want another computer in the living room. However, in order for the ultimate TV to meet the needs and expectations of today's information-centric culture, it must be a computer. The secret to its success will be providing a wide range of functionality and effortless simplicity of use so that it feels nothing like a computer. The most common living room operating systems of today are Xbox, PlayStation and Wii, all of which are limited in function beyond gaming. While Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo have all dabbled in streaming media and connectivity to select web applications, not one of these devices can deliver the same foundation of information-driven utility that a true computer can provide. The living room system of the future must go beyond these gaming consoles and provide a platform for an unlimited array of applications to perform as they would on any other computing device. In the same way Apple revolutionized mobile operating systems with powerful handheld devices that allow users to take the core functions of a traditional computer with them anywhere and everywhere, the same technological leap forward must happen in the living room.

2. Touch-based interface and control

touch-interface Modern TV interfaces are ready and waiting to be re-imagined. In fact, one of the greatest obstacles impeding the evolution of TV is not the box itself but the remote control. This tired, old, button-riddled device simply isn’t cut out for the job of steering more complex functions than channel-changing. In 1996, WebTV was ahead of its time in trying to bring e-mail and web browsing to the living room. At the time, their only means of bridging the interface gap between a traditional computer and a television set was the keyboard – not the most appealing way to surf while trying to relax on the couch. Since then, other systems and devices have come and gone. All of them attempted to provide computer-like utility that could be controlled from across the room; all have failed due to the shortcomings of the on-screen interface, the input device or both. What will ultimately dethrone the remote control? Its successor will combine the ease-of-use of a basic remote with the intuitiveness of a rugged, touch-based interface much like that which drives Apple's current lineup of iOS devices. The ability to select, drag, move, rotate, scroll, swipe and even bring up soft interfaces such as a keyboard on the fly will make it possible for users to access the core functions of a traditional computer easily and effortlessly. In addition, devices with built-in displays and software like iPods and iPads offer the capability to display information from the TV on the device itself, unlocking enormous potential in interactivity and control.

3. Remote control beyond touch

voice-command While touch is unquestionably integral to the future living room OS, it isn't the final frontier. Voice control and feedback will do for the living room what touch did for mobile devices. Yes, you'll still want to manipulate the on-screen interface through touch, whether on the TV itself or from the comfort of your couch. Voice control and feedback will do for the living room what touch did for mobile devices. But just imagine having the ability to tell the OS to "show me reservation availability for the Blue Note Restaurant on Lafayette" or "Skype David Booker at his office" or "Google the best wine to serve with chicken parmesan." The OS, in turn, can also ask you questions and deliver information in a clear, natural-sounding voice. The seamless integration of touch- and voice-based control – a feat that has yet to be mastered in any existing OS to date – will be essential to creating a next-generation TV that delivers powerful computer-based utility while remaining simple and pleasurable to operate in a living room environment.

4. App-driven content delivery

apps The iPhone never fully hit its stride until Apple opened up its operating system to application developers and provided users with an easy way to purchase and run these apps within its OS. Likewise, opening the living room operating system to application development and establishing a marketplace that allows those apps to be published, bought and rated will make possible a breadth and depth of utility that far exceeds what any one software or hardware developer could provide. In addition to customizable content delivery, apps will offer a user-friendly way to engage in core computing functions such as e-mail, web browsing, contact and schedule management and document creation right from the couch. The ability to develop apps for just about any purpose imaginable combined with the power of a computer and a highly intelligent interface similar to Apple’s iOS will pave the way for the next-generation TV to be integrated into our digital lives like never before. It will easily become most comfortable, useful and entertaining device in your home.

5. Video communications

video-conference The living room is the hub of social activity in the home. The act of gathering around a TV show, movie or sporting event is as much about being together as it is entertainment. Thus, transforming the TV of the future into a video communications platform is a natural digital extension of that experience. Microsoft already has one foot in the door with Xbox LIVE, which connects people from couch to couch via camera, often while gaming. However, bridging the divide from one manufacturer’s game consoles talking to each other to making video communications accessible to the masses will require more than just an advancement in technology. The only way to conquer this gaping hole in the market will be to open up the protocol and enable hundreds of millions of different devices to be connected through a single universalized standard. So far, no one has even come close to meeting this challenge. However, the one company that is currently in the best position to make it happen is Apple. Now that their proprietary FaceTime technology has made the leap from the iPhone 4 to the fourth-generation iPod touch, they have passed the first milestone in untethering video communications from a phone network. While FaceTime isn’t ready to replace the phone just yet, it is the first and most viable contender to fast-track the evolution of mainstream real-time face-to-face communication and to unleash the power of that technology in the living room.

6. Universal compatibility

play-button When Apple first made its foray into the digital music market, it would easily have preferred the competitive advantage of forcing the masses to accept its own proprietary audio format. However, the MP3 had already established too strong a foothold in the market, so Apple caved to the wisdom of giving the consumer a familiar product they could use without any technical hassles. The same situation exists now for video, as the wide variation in standards has been one of the toughest obstacles in universalizing digital video. Knowing and understanding the compatibility of many different formats is not something that any consumer wants or should have to contend with. Instead, the next-generation TV device must incorporate a player that can do the heavy lifting in handling the full spectrum of available formats with zero hassle. Existing media operating systems – including many open-source development projects like Boxee, XBMC and Plex – already boast this type of "play anything" capability. In the same way Apple and iTunes were forced to bow to the ubiquity of the MP3, the TV of the future must be able to play anything you throw at it rather than trying to establish arbitrary constraints on acceptable digital video formats.

7. An integrated gaming console

gaming Gaming is a major slice of the living room entertainment pie. Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo have each staked their claim on an enormous slice of this market with their existing gaming platforms. However, with its triple-threat of the iPod touch, iPhone and iPad, Apple has pulled the rug out from under both Sony and Nintendo in the handheld gaming market. Portable devices that allow users to instantly purchase and play great games in addition to making calls, delivering e-mails, surfing the Web and performing thousands of other everyday tasks are inevitably going to destroy anything that offers gaming alone. With the ultimate TV on the horizon, the specter of extinction looms large for the Xbox, PlayStation and Wii.Similarly, with the next-generation TV on the horizon, the specter of extinction looms large for the Xbox, PlayStation and Wii. While these consoles have evolved to enable users to rent movies and stream content from select providers such as Netflix, it is only a matter of time until they are eaten alive by an all-in-one digital hub. This is why leading up to Apple’s latest Special Event, AppleTV held such promise to deliver this one-two punch of gaming and entertainment. With all the weapons in Apple’s arsenal, AppleTV would in theory have the capacity to combine powerful computing capabilities, an iOS-like operating system, video communications and an app platform that would allow users to purchase and play today's most advanced HD games on-demand in the living room. Along with a new way of gaming, the future all-in-one TV will bring with it a new array of options for gaming control. The ultimate TV should accept a variety of input mechanisms – from traditional-style controllers to motion-sensing interfaces to touchscreens – that allow games to be played as the games themselves dictate. For example, Apple may not release a steering wheel controller for driving games, but AppleTV should hypothetically be able to accept devices that are built for this purpose.

8. Extendability

extendable The movement of computing away from the desk has been going on for quite some time. Stodgy old desktops evolved into more portable laptops and then achieved even greater mobility with the advent of smartphones. But that’s only half the story. The other half is the migration of computing away from the home office and into the living room. The future all-in-one TV will replace the traditional computer as the home's digital media and entertainment hub. As a result, the ultimate TV system must provide a home base for all media storage and communication. For the device to be successful, its standards and protocols must interoperate flawlessly and effortlessly with other hardware devices and cloud-based systems so that family photos, home movies, music, recipes, budget spreadsheets, homework and other documents can be accessible from anywhere – not just in the home but in the world.

Why hasn't this happened?

With the iPhone, I can have one device in my pocket that not only replaces a portable computer, media player, digital and video cameras and personal gaming gadgets but also lets me customize its functionality and consume the content I choose via apps. Why can't the same happen in the living room? Why do I still need a television set, cable box, DVR and Xbox? Why I am still a slave to cable packages and TV time slots? The technical challenges of conquering the interface of an iOS-like-driven device, a couch-to-TV remote control scheme and compatibility with all possible media formats while providing an app development marketplace that will appease the media establishment pose great obstacles still. Apple has stated repeatedly that it will not attempt to play in a new medium until it can transform it. We may not be there just yet, but the ultimate TV is destined to come and to revolutionize not only the way we consume content but also how we engage with one another in the experience of home entertainment.

What does this mean for the future of marketing?

In the same way the Information Age and the era of mobile computing have rendered traditional marketing ineffectual, the living room media revolution will seal its fate forever. In the absence of a means by which to force-feed your message to the masses, trustcasting will be the only way to grow business.The ultimate TV will inevitably topple the few remaining channels for outmoded carpet-bombing marketing tactics, allowing interactivity and the power of choice to prevail. In the absence of a means by which to force-feed your message to the masses, trustcasting – the process of building and maintaining trust with customers – will be the only way to grow business. Don’t wait for the tide to turn and be forced to dig your way out. Start today. Begin engaging your marketplace now. Become a leader in your tribe. Infuse your work and your message with passion. Be authentic and make a real investment in your customers. If you do, you'll continue to grow when the last bastion of non-interactive media is conquered in the age of information, interactivity, communication and choice.
May 2014
By Carey Arvin

Tweet, Snap, Share, Post, Pin: Five Creative Ways to Get Your Customers to Do Your Marketing For You

It’s an inescapable fact of doing business in today’s culture of the Web: Nothing holds greater sway than word of mouth. If you want to grow, you need the help of your customers and fans.
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Tweet, Snap, Share, Post, Pin: Five Creative Ways to Get Your Customers to Do Your Marketing For You

tweeting

Today’s digital age is also the post-advertising era. Armed with access to nearly limitless data and information, customers have grown disengaged from commercial culture as we once knew it and disillusioned with canned corporate marketing messages.

This is especially true of the latest generation of consumers – the Millennials (aka Generation Y). Encompassing roughly 72 million young Americans, the oldest of whom are now reaching their mid-30s, the Millennials represents the most educated, diverse, technologically proficient generation ever in the U.S., with tremendous spending power that is expected to eclipse that of the Baby Boomers within the next three years.

Another hallmark of the Gen Yers is that they have a strong aversion to "push" marketing and prefer brands that are engaging and already embraced by their friends. According to Christine Hassler, author of 20 Something Manifesto, “Friends are the biggest influencers for Gen Y. If their friends have something and endorse it, that's all they need.”

All of this evidence points to an inescapable fact of doing business in today’s culture of the Web: nothing holds greater sway than word of mouth. If you want to grow – and especially if you want to capture the up-and-coming Millennial dollar – you need the help of your customers and fans.

However, these customers and fans aren’t simply sitting around, waiting at the edge of their seat for the opportunity to promote your products and services. It’s up to you to get the ball rolling by structuring campaigns that reach your customers where they live (i.e., social media platforms) and give them opportunities to share that tap into their motivations and fit naturally with their habits and lifestyle.

Here are five creative ways you can leverage social media to connect with your customers and get them to do your marketing for you:

1. Solicit their stories.

Sometimes spurring your evangelists to spring to action is as simple as asking them to. After all, who doesn’t love sharing stories about themselves?

Everyone can agree that medical supplies is hardly a highly glamorous field. However, Medtronic Diabetes, which develops and sells diabetes management products, has achieved a 2-to-1 return on investment for their entire social media program based on the success of their Share Your Story Facebook app.

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Since launching the app in June 2013, nearly 300 customers have shared stories and photos using the app, and over 80% of users have opted to allow their photos and stories to be used by Medtronic Diabetes in other ways. To maximize the mileage they get from this great user-generated content, Medtronic is also proactive about contacting those who have shared their story to participate in photo shoots, video testimonials and guest blogging.

When Steve, a Facebook community member, posted a photo from his 2012 wedding using the app, Medtronic followed up with a request to guest post on their blog, “The Loop,” which the company started as a forum to foster discussion about living with diabetes. Steve happily complied, penning the article “Getting Hitched With Diabetes: The Groom’s Perspective,” which they reposted on their Facebook page.

Medtronic-wedding

Key to Medtronic’s success is that they are very specific in the framing of their request. When the company first launched its app, the prompt asked users to share “moments in your life of living well with your insulin pump or continuous glucose monitor,” but they found that the majority of participants would write only one or two lines. In March 2014, they retooled the wording to say, “Share with us your personal story about the pivotal moment you switched to the pump and CGM, and how insulin therapy has helped you focus on the wonders of life,” and they discovered that this more specific request elicited much more rich and detailed tales from their customers.

While you might wonder why Medtronic’s customers are so eager to share their stories, Amanda Sheldon, director of digital marketing and communications, explains: “We know our customers and know that they like to support each other. Our hope that social media would bring this all together was definitely met.”

2. Share the spotlight.

As the relentless onslaught of the selfie has shown us, social media is the ultimate “Look at me!” medium. Tap into your customers’ love of all things me-centric by creating a campaign founded in giving them the opportunity to shine a spotlight on themselves – and on your products in the process.

Clothing brand Free People has come up with an ingenious way to integrate customers' Instagram shots with its website. The company has begun attaching individualized hashtag information cards to its jeans. Customers are encouraged to take pictures of themselves in the pants, tag them either with #myfpdenim or more specific tags for different jean styles (such as #fpanklecrop for the 5 Pocket Ankle Crop or #fpsorbettiedye for Sorbet Tie Dye Jeans). These photos not only appear on Instagram but also on the relevant product’s page on the company's website (after being approved by site moderators, of course) in a special section called "Free People's Style Community."

FreePeople

This brilliant campaign succeeds on two levels. First, by designing a platform that turns their customers into models, Free People has created the ultimate indulgence for the selfie-aholic. Second, they overcome an obstacle that has plagued e-tailers since the concept was invented, which is giving shoppers the confidence to make a purchase without being able to see, feel and try on the product in person. But now, through the magic of Instagram and social sharing, Free People empowers potential buyers to see how a pair of jeans looks in real life. Win-win!

3. Give to get.

Sometimes, you need to be willing to give a little bit in return for the great promotional juice your customers are providing to you. Often brands use contests as a way to motivate fans to snap, share or post in exchange for the chance to win a prize.

However, prizes certainly aren’t the only way to incentivize your followers. An even better way is to share your time and expertise. For example, Zappos – a company that has built its reputation on providing exceptional customer service – has created a forward-thinking Instagram campaign that is the perfect marriage of its trademark service and customer engagement.

Capitalizing on the popular #OOTD (“outfit of the day”) hashtag – which has more than 23 million images attached to it – the online retailer has launched a pilot program for a personalized shopping service called NextOOTD. When a customer posts a selfie with the hashtag #nextOOTD, a Zappos stylist will comb through their Instagram history and respond with personalized shopping recommendations catered to their unique style.

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This campaign is social media engagement at its very best. First, it’s easy for customers to participate in. By building on the already familiar #ootd hashtag, it’s a natural extension of a well established habit for Instagrammers. Second, it’s personalized: this concept of selfie shopping allows Zappos to interact with people like a human, not a brand, which is exactly what every company should aspire to do on social media. Finally – in perfect keeping with Zappos’ mission of delivering happiness – it’s a great way to surprise and delight their customers, especially the type of selfie-wielding fashionistas who are most apt to use the #ootd hashtag in the first place.

4. Bank on bloggers (and other influencers).

Here’s an interesting fact for you: Research has shown that one-fifth of the consumer population is composed of key influencers who impact the purchasing activities of 74 percent of the population.

Chief among these influencers are the legions of bloggers and vloggers who have masses of dedicated followers hanging on their every word. If you can put these prominent opinion-pushers in your corner, you can turn the power of word-of-mouth marketing up to 11.

Blue Apron is a new start-up subscription service that delivers meal kits – including pre-measured ingredients and recipe cards – in refrigerated boxes on a weekly basis to its members.

According to Ken Fox, one of the company’s investors, Blue Apron’s target market is comprised of “People who like to cook at home but don’t always have time for shopping,” and their hope is that these people “discover the ease of cooking with Blue Apron [then they] start to do it more often, and to get their friends and family members into it, too.”

And who could fit that profile better than mommy bloggers – specifically Katie Bower of the hugely popular blog Bower Power? Katie has nearly 15,000 followers on Facebook and more than 25,000 on Instagram, so needless to say, there is no lack of moms (and other busy women) who identify with her and look to her for great ideas and advice. And as it so happens, Katie also recently gave birth to her third son, so she has no lack of demands on her time.

For the price of a sponsored post, Blue Apron reached all of her followers in the form of a glowing review written with Katie’s trademark candor – along with a series of fun images depicting the process of receiving the box, unpacking its contents with her adorable boys, preparing the meals and enjoying the dinners together as a family.

BlueApron-boysBlueApron-prepBlueApron-dinner

The end result is a testimonial that is 100 percent authentic – and 100 percent more effective than anything the company could have said about itself in a perfectly polished ad campaign.

5. Create a marriage of mediums.

All of this talk of social media posting, hashtagging and sharing begs the question: how can you take advantage of your fans’ promotional activities to reach a broader audience that includes those who don’t follow you on these networks?

The answer: integrate your social media campaigns into your traditional marketing efforts. Case in point: Ben & Jerry’s wildly successful #CaptureEuphoria contest.

In 2012, Ben & Jerry’s tapped into its Instagram community (which at the time numbered 120,000+ strong) to cast the starts of its latest ad campaign. The company invited fans to post photos tagged #captureeuphoria that they felt depicted intense feelings of joy. From sunsets to wedding photos to cute dogs to beach scenes, these user-submitted snaps were collected into a special gallery on the company’s website.

BenJerrys

One interesting thing you’ll notice about the contest: there was no requirement to feature the company’s products in the photos. Rather the idea was to associate the emotion of euphoria with the experience of eating Ben & Jerry’s ice cream – very clever indeed.

At the conclusion of the contest, more than 25 shots were selected and featured in hyper-local media in the winners’ hometowns in ads that popped up in locales ranging from billboards to buses to neighborhood bars.