December 15, 2016
Case Study

B2C Marketing 2016: How marketers changed their messaging to drive conversion


Marketers this year used every weapon in their arsenal to get to know customers better and implement that knowledge into campaigns. The marketers in these seven case studies built vital customer trust, reworked entire CMS(s) and grew audiences across all channels in order to drive lasting results.

Read below to see the five tactics B2C marketers used this year to deliver relevancy for customers.

by Courtney Eckerle, Senior Managing Editor, MarketingSherpa

Tactic #1. Change your messaging to suit the customer’s agenda, not yours

B2C Marketing: Lawn care company saves more than $800,000 in direct mail postage by integrating email

TruGreen, a lawn care company spanning across the United States and Canada, sends more than 100 million pieces of direct mail annually during the spring and summer months. Reaching customers while saving resources is a key goal at this volume. 

According to Jennifer Brereton, Senior Brand Marketing Manager, TruGreen, a lot of people have seen lawn care in the past as a commodity and more of a functional need. 

"So our biggest challenge and opportunity was to take that functional need as a competitive difference and make [it] into more of an emotional need for people," she said.

Along that line, in all of TruGreen's imagery, instead of focusing on the danger of weeds with more fear-based marketing, the marketing team decided to focus on families and people enjoying life outside on their lawns.

"We basically took our campaign from 'we kill your weeds' to 'love your lawn,'" she said, explaining that they've taken the marketing message from "more from a functional need to an emotional need of why you want to have that pretty green, lush lawn that we can help you with." 

TruGreen initially reworked messaging in campaigns to reflect this more positive change and then began working toward reducing resources needed for the direct mail campaigns without reducing the volume. 

By integrating email, segmenting customers and streamlining the overall process, the marketing team managed to save more than $800,000 in postage and reduced its direct mail production time by 35%. 

Tactic #2. Don’t fall for “if you build it, they will come” logic

B2C Marketing: How Woodbury University used strategic branding to increase website traffic 4,000%

A more competitive marketplace transformed how Woodbury University, one of Southern California's oldest education institutions, approached marketing. The team developed a cohesive branding strategy, grounded in measurement and analysis, that incorporated social media, mobile and highly targeted outbound marketing. 

Since the 1950s, the marketplace for higher-education institutions has been booming because the number of high school graduates has been as well. 

However, according to Shari Gibbons, Chief Marketing Officer, Woodbury University, in the past six years, growth has leveled off and even declined in some states. 

"In an environment where higher education institutions have never had to really aggressively compete for business before, now you are seeing this very different market dynamic that's requiring us to do so," she said. 

She pointed out that most colleges believe that "if you build it they will come." 

“There was sort of this academic view that, 'Oh, we really don't need to market ourselves because that's not necessary. We're an academic institution,'" Gibbons said. But she added, "That is no longer the case. In fact, certain schools have been absolutely crushed by a lack of good marketing and sales infrastructure."

Consequently, when new leadership arrived at Woodbury, people wanted to implement more cohesive and strategic marketing.

The leadership responded by bringing Gibbons on board, and she moved forward with a five-step process grounded in measurement and analysis, which incorporated social media, mobile and highly targeted outbound marketing to attract more students to the university. 

This strategy increased website traffic 4,000%. Furthermore, the team more than doubled campus tours — which is critical because the university's research shows that 70% of people who tour ultimately end up attending. 

Tactic #3. Follow the data when targeting your audience

B2C Marketing: Video app uses behavioral data to increase message engagement 171%

10app, a video editing and sharing app, wanted a highly-targeted approach in order to get users to share videos on social platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

"So much advertising money, of course, has shifted from text and still images toward video. [Snapchat is] going public. Video is so obviously mainstream here at the end of 2015 that it's almost quaint to look back a whole year ago and talk about how a lot of the stuff that we theorized [was somewhat] controversial," Ian McCarthy, Co-Founder, Chief Operating Officer and Head of Product, 10app, said. 

Now just shy of half a million users, 10app is used heavily on the weekend, he added. It is during that optimal time that the marketing team has to engage users through incremental testing. The core of those users own GoPros and are in their 30s and 40s. 

When you're reaching accommodation of an early adopter audience and a mainstream audience, McCarthy said, it is extremely important to be able to test multiple messages simultaneously and also segment the targeted audience based on user behavior data. 

As a video editing app focused on wearables like the GoPro, the drone and "frankly even your smartphone, the number one KPI that matters to our business is getting you to share. The more liquidity of video flowing through the system, the more things we can do with it and give you more value out of it," McCarthy said. 

With customer objectives in place, and once "we got really good traction with the early adopter crowd … we started bridging to the mainstream, sharing just from the smartphones," McCarthy said.

Building that bridge to mainstream users required becoming a featured app in the Apple App Store and eventually securing a consistently high ranking spot in the store. 10app did that through collecting data based on in-app behaviors and engaging with users in a more personalized way. 

Leveraging data based on in-app behaviors, 10app has been able to engage with its users in a more personalized way. As a result, it has increased engagement on some messaging by over 170% and leveraged it into being featured in the Apple App Store. 

Inbound Marketing: How a pet portrait site grew its audience cross-channel using content and social media

After launching the company 15 months ago, David Lefkovits, Founder and CEO, My Pooch Face, has tried and tested as many tactics as he could discover. With a test, tweak and test again philosophy, the company has found its footing with a niche audience.

My Pooch Face’s style, Lefkovits said, is “a little more contemporary. It's fun. It's interesting. It's really artful. So it transcends just the pet, but it makes it also a really nice item to decorate your home.” 

The value in pet portraits begins with the design and style, so one of the things he and his team wanted was a piece of art that would help bring the personality and happiness of the pet to life.

This business started with an extremely niche audience, so Lefkovits and his team wanted to make sure that every element was tested to ensure it would resonate with customers.

“I believe in bootstrapping businesses …  so the first step was to prove the concept. Social media is a perfect way of doing it because you can easily test things out and see how much your audience reacts to it. So we put some preliminary images, pet portraits out there. We started playing around with different audiences,” he said.

People began interacting with what was put up preliminarily; however, that meant that the My Pooch Face team had their work cut out for them.

“It’s a very complex environment, very complex matrix in terms of finding the right audience, and within your audience, figuring out what's the most conducive towards conversions,” he said.  

It’s important to Lefkovits to build an ecosystem for animal lovers that transcends the product itself: “Ultimately our goal is to also transcend the art and offer many other products that are differentiated to this audience. This is a starting point. So we can build a strong brand known for quality, for innovation and then start cross-selling many other products to our audience.”

It’s important to explore the target audience at every step, he added, in order to accomplish that goal, and social media is one of the most effective channels do that testing and listening in.

B2C Marketing: How a pet portrait site increased website session duration by 37% with a customer-focused design

Putting yourself in the mind of your customer seems like it would be the result of thoughtful meditation, but in reality, it comes from constant, minute testing and open lines of customer communication.

This companion case study explores the wider testing done by Lefkovits and his team in how to convey the value and quality of the product to the customer.

“By and large the first main reason why people were not buying when responding to our abandoned cart survey … was because of price,” David Lefkovits, Founder and CEO, My Pooch Face, said. “Obviously if anybody has commissioned art before, for a 16x16 at the quality that we do, $245 is really, really cost effective, right?”

For much of the My Pooch Face audience, that is a lot of money, he added. That realization told Lefkovits and his team that they need to focus on customer value proposition.

“If somebody doesn't have the money to buy one of our portraits, that's perfectly fine. But what we don't want is people to feel that $245 is too much for a portrait. We want them to understand and feel that it's a really … good price even if they can't afford it at the moment,” he said.

When focusing on establishing the value for customers, “it's all about understanding what our audience wants and needs, not about what we want to push out,” Lefkovits said.

All of the testing, website design, developing partnerships, segmentation and customer feedback that make up this campaign, he said, is their “way of really listening.”

Read the case study to see how the My Pooch Face team utilized these tactics to influence product development, website design and email marketing, among other efforts.

Tactic. #4. Evolve alongside your customers

B2C Marketing: Automotive retailer exceeds annual car sales goal by 22% with customer-focused CMS

With seven brands to sell, Tampa-based automotive retailer Reeves Import Motorcars had to appeal to a broad base of customers, while complying with a broad base of brands during a CMS overhaul.

Reeves’ original website was running on a content management system (CMS) that provided limited functionality and was not truly responsive. To help increase conversions, they needed a more robust site that could convert to any device.

They enlisted a design firm to rework the website a few years ago — but as customers evolve the way they shop, Reeves needs to evolve alongside them.

“Now you need for people to be on your website, and you need to provide as much information as possible because if they're there, then you're becoming the trusted expert,” Rogers said.

Reeves’ website needed a lot more functionality, he said, in order to be easier to use and also to be responsive across devices, with mobile becoming more and more important to car shoppers. While a “one-size-fits-all” website was in place, it was clumsy, he said.  

Also, for Rogers and his team, having a CMS that they were able to engage with internally was extremely important.

“We had seven brands, and we had something changing every day. So we had to be able to make a lot of changes internally with our people as opposed to reaching out and having it done as an outsource because the pace of the change,” he said.

BMW, he gave as an example, could “change all their lease payments in the morning, and if they do, we've got to be able to react to that on our specials page.”

The new website leverages structured data to maximize SEO and features user interface (UI) components to set the site apart aesthetically. Read how the team drove a 300% increase in site visits with this redesign and exceeded the annual car sales goal by 22%.

B2C Marketing: Text color change in A/B test increases conversion 5% for freemium lighting app

Freemium app OnSwitch can control all your lights, but in order to monetize the free app, users must buy "premium" lighting packages.

"One challenge for us is transforming free users who can use a large portion of the app for free into paid users, meaning making them buy something. But our audience is pretty small. It's a niche of people who have these light bulbs," David Pewzner, Owner, OnSwitch, said. 

The first step, he added, is getting people to download the app. Mostly, that has happened organically as people who search for apps after buying these light bulbs see OnSwitch appear within the first few app store results. 

"What's more interesting to me right now in the marketing effort is the internal marketing, which is marketing to our existing users. How do we get people who use the app for free to buy stuff or buy more stuff?" 

In this campaign, Pewzner embarked on A/B testing that mainly affected the premium or paid portions of OnSwitch. This includes push notifications, paid content packages and copy changes. 

He and his team decided that A/B testing was needed to optimize the number of consumers buying lighting packages. Pewzner used these tests to learn about his customers — getting insight even from just a simple copy color change that increased sales 5% and from several tests that drove engagement down. 

Tactic #5. Building customer trust builds your business

B2C Marketing: Infant care startup builds up trust to drive a 12x lift in sales conversion

In the infant product industry, longstanding, well-established companies have a stronghold on the market. This means they have earned trust — the most important factor for parents when shopping for children. So, how do newer companies build that trust? 

Owlet is the creator of the smart sock OwletCare designed to alert parents if their baby stops breathing. The brand’s overall goal is for “every child born to have an Owlet in their home,” according to Ashley Walsh, Director of Marketing, Owlet. 

“Owlet is not only a new company with a new product, we’re in a completely new category. Connected nursery and infant wearable technology still require a ton of education,” she added. 

This is difficult to accomplish without a trusted source available to help the user understand the core benefits of incorporating an Owlet into their home, she added. 

“We knew we needed a non-traditional ecommerce approach,” she said. 

With a goal to increase education around safe sleep and Owlet, Walsh and her team began an effort with trusted brand advocates in December 2015. 

“We realized early on that if a person can understand the foundation of our mission and the empowering technology behind what we’re creating, the path to purchase would be that much easier,” she said. 

They enlisted advocates as vetted, passionate shopping assistants who use the products first hand — in this case, new mothers and fathers and even NICU doctors. 

“More units sold equals more parents gleaning a deeper understanding of their baby’s well-being, and that means we’re achieving our mission,” she said. 

Owlet is establishing trust with customers by connecting them with brand advocates online, which has resulted in a sales conversion lift over 12 times what the company produced prior to running this campaign. 

Creative Samples

  1. TruGreen Imagery
  2. My Pooch Face products
  3. Owlet advocate

Related Resources

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