Thursday, November 12, 2015

#ItsJustACup

People on social media are going crazy over Starbucks’ holiday, or lack thereof, cups. People are boycotting, refusing to purchase the coffee chain’s beverages, and throwing a fit all over the internet.

Starbucks has removed all signs of Christmas from this season’s holiday cups. The cups are simply plain red, with the green Starbucks logo. So what’s the big deal?

Joshua Feuerstein, an Arizona-based evangelist, posted a Facebook video accusing Starbucks of removing the Christmas pattern because the company “hates Jesus.” He even went as far as to say he “tricked” Starbucks by telling the barista his name is Merry Christmas, forcing the employee to write the phrase on his cup and call it out when his order was ready. After, people began using #MerryChristmasStarbucks to slam the company on Twitter.

Starbucks said the generic red cup was created so customers could adorn them with their own drawings and holiday messages. However, people are just adding them to the list of other companies that are striking “Christmas” from the holiday season.

Some companies, such as Nordstroms, are vowing not to put up Christmas decorations until after Thanksgiving. Stating they like to celebrate one holiday at a time, the store will also be closed on Thanksgiving Day. More and more stores and businesses are staying closed on Thanksgiving Day to allow their employees to spend time with their families. Costco, Jo-Ann Fabrics, Crate & Barrel, TJ Maxx, Marshalls, American Girl, Barnes and Noble and GameStop have all refused to open their doors to early Black Friday shoppers on Thanksgiving.

The Starbucks Red Cup controversy was extended beyond the internet, when Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump got involved. He suggested that the country should boycott against Starbucks, and that if he becomes President, America will be saying “Merry Christmas” again.

Did you forget about the 30% of Americans that are NOT Christians or affiliated with any religion? The people that don’t celebrate Christmas? Didn’t think so. In rebuttal to his announcement, people began using #ItsJustACup to point out there are bigger, more pressing issues that people should be focusing on. Not a silly, disposable cup they are going to throw away in 20 minutes.

The chain’s competitor, Dunkin Donuts, is also seeing a jump in social media interaction. Dunkin also released its holiday cups for the season, but people are having a different reaction. Instead of lashing out, fans are praising the company for their holiday spirit. Though the cups don’t say Merry Christmas, the word “Joy” is featured on the side, surrounded by green and red holiday leaves.

Full House alum, Candace Cameron, said what most of us are thinking about this issue:
“It's a red cup, folks. I don’t remember Starbucks ever being a Christian company, do you? A Santa, a snowflake, some holly, a polar bear, some jingle bells or a plain red cup don’t define Christmas for me as a Christian. My relationship with Jesus does. So, I will joyfully sip on my Starbucks coffee, in a plain red cup, and instead of complaining about the lack of decorations, I will lovingly share the good news of Jesus Christ with friends and co-workers or anyone who’s willing to engage in conversation.”

Well said, grownup Dj Tanner, well said.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Importance of Search Engine Optimization & Meaningful Engagement

The Importance of Search Engine Optimization & Meaningful Engagement

Nearly half of your traffic comes from Google searches (yes, that's a real statistic), what makes that statistic even more daunting is that 75% of users never scroll past the first page of search results. If you aren't on the first page, you're irrelevant.

When you go to Google and you enter in "Tacos near me", Google runs a customized algorithm that searches the internet for "tacos" in a geographically close location. The idea behind search engine optimization is to make it so that, when your customer types in "tacos", Google selects your taco joint to put on the first page.

Search Engine Optimization

When I am done with this blog, I am putting labels on it that will be specific search terms that will bring you to this blog. SEO can be very easy, but it is of utmost importance. I am a subscriber of the "Think like a consumer" mentality. My goal is to imagine what would drive a consumer to my website. If I am a customized coffee mug salesman, I need to imagine who my consumer is and what they would Google when they are looking for my services. ie. "Customized Coffee Mug" is an easy one, but what about something more specific like, "Groomsman gifts" or "coffee lover gifts", or even "worlds greatest dad coffee mug". 

However, search engine optimization isn't just about keyword density anymore, it involves engaging content. All companies need to think about how to pull in more website visitors and keep them around long enough to trust your company. For example, PNC Bank posts a lot of stuff on their website, not just banking solutions, but today they have an article about the Gender Gap women face on financial matters.

Meaningful Engagement is the Name of the Game

The Online Consumer Sales Cycle goes something like this:
  1. Initial Engagement through shared interests or needs - This is the process by which the customer is initially interested in your website because of what you have to say, or by what you offer. Note: You have not yet earned meaningful engagement.
  2. Retention through trust - The customer is immediately making a judgement call on your website, "should I stay or should I go?" as it were. 70% of users do not trust a website that is poorly designed or is difficult to navigate.
  3. Click-Thru - This is when the consumer actually starts to peruse your website, judgement calls are continually being made, tested, and adjusted, until they finally decide that you have the right product at the right price- or not. There are two important things to remember when you are encouraging click-thru, (1) Teach your customer about your brand and about your product, (2) make it very easy to buy.
  4. Meaningful Engagement - Your customer has made a purchase, plans to make a purchase, or believes in your product. This occurs because your customer has decided that they trust you, your product, and that they are paying the right price.
Walking the customer through those steps is difficult, but each must be addressed individually.

I started thinking about meaningful engagement when I was considering The Dollar Shave Club. I was initially engaged through social media, I was retained when I saw that the website looked appealing and it spoke to the man inside of me- which caused me to stick around. Because I trusted the company and the website, I started reading about the company, the brand, and the product. After that I did not purchase the product, but I found myself recommending it. I would say, "I haven't tried it yet, but have you looked into The Dollar Shave Club?"

Bringing the Two Together


Every American downloads an estimated 34 gigabytes per day of data throughout their normal day. Further, it is estimated that Americans took in 3.6 zettabytes in 2008 (that's 3,600,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes). One more statistic says that there are over 800 million websites on the internet as of January 2014. And you wondered why you were having such a hard time getting traction on the internet.

The problem that every business encounters is the average American brain. We have become so good at downloading vast amounts of data that we are able to block out what is unimportant. In the same way that you don't have to think about taking each and every breath (because your brain itself to not think about it), you aren't aware of everything you are noticing. So when Americans go to search for something on the Web, we don't notice every little website, we only notice the important ones. How do you make your business important to Americans?

One Last Thought

I think it is important to mention- if you have not yet started to think about how the internet impacts your business, now is the time. Every person highly values every single dollar in their pocket, and as internet searches become easier and easier (heck, we are putting Google on our eyes and Apple on our wrists), people will start to consider internet presence before they consider physical presence. And if the guy down the street is engaging his customers in a meaningful way, you can be sure he is going to be stealing your market share.

"SEO is a complicated, ever-changing process. However, if you consistently provide good content to your readers and follow Google's White Hat rules, you will be in great shape for improved ranking," stated De-de Mulligan, President of Mulligan Management Group, LLC.