May 04, 2017
Case Study

Sherpa Summit 2017 Takeaways: The five best B2C tactics for customer-centric marketing


MarketingSherpa Summit is all about what you’re able to take home with you and apply to your marketing to see improvements with customers.

Whether you attended Summit 2017 or not, these five takeaways from some of our B2C sessions can help you implement tactical changes on both a small and large scale.

by Courtney Eckerle, Senior Managing Editor, MarketingSherpa

We talk about customer-first marketing a lot — and never more than at MarketingSherpa Summit. That’s when it becomes real for us, too. That’s when we get to see our year-long project put in front of our readers and attendees.

It starts off with planning of the show floor, and goes all the way through each session and piece of content, where we try to imagine every attendee’s journey and how they can maximize their time with us.

For all marketers, sometimes this means taking ourselves out of the equation and figuring out how we can bring customers together.

Tactic #1. Ease of access

There are a lot of things people can buy these days in an app with a quick press of their fingertip to their phone — lunch at Panera, concert tickets on Ticketmaster or … a $20,000 private jet charter.

As a leading provider of on-demand private jet charters, Skyjet provides its customers an easier and more transparent ways to book private jets on demands. Because of that credo, the marketers at Skyjet recognized a need for a mobile app.

“In one quarter, Skyjet saw a 50% increase in mobile traffic,” said Jonathan Levey, Senior Digital Marketing Manager, Flexjet.

They also saw a 177% increase in requests for quotes on mobile devices and saw that the average mobile user was spending 29% longer on Skyjet’s website compared to a desktop user.

 “While we weren’t there yet, our customers were already on mobile,” Levey said.

After going through the process of choosing a vendor, he said it was then about getting the right features and platform.

The most important and distinguishing feature that was integrated was Apple Pay, allowing clients to securely book with the touch of a finger. Another important feature was ungated, instant price estimates so that customers could quickly book.

It was vital, to provide these services, that the app be tied into all of Skyjet’s current systems.

“Even the best user experience can still be shackled if the technology can’t deliver on promise,” Levey said.

The results Levey and his team were able to garner were more than 35,000 downloads since app release in August 2015 as well as having 24% of Skyjet’s bookings in 2016 come through the app.

Tactic #2. Perception is believing

From the first session of Summit, Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director, MECLABS Institute, is getting people working together and collaborating. Sometimes using unconventional means — like this year, where he had attendees playing with Legos as an exercise in understanding how small our range of perception can be.

Last year, McGlaughlin spoke in his keynote presentation about the marketer’s blind spot. This year, he inverted that concept by focusing on the challenge marketer’s face with a prospect's perception gap.

What that means, he said, is that “we presume value, but we have to help them see it.”

Marketers know their own brand and product so well that the value is easy to see. Customers, however, are starting from the beginning. Being strategic with the first touchpoint they see can have a tremendous impact on how they react to the second.

“To win a customer, we must carefully guide the prospect’s perception process,” McGlaughlin said. 

We can do that by understanding three concepts, he said:

  1. Observations: Reality is not directly or fully apprehended; it is approximated in a perception process. Value is derived from a limited view of reality, and thus it is often appraised differently.
  2. Implications: If we just presume value, the prospect may undervalue our offering. We must carefully guide their perception.
  3. Applications: Stop making claims of value and start fostering conclusions of value. Stop relying on a brand promise and start creating a brand expectation.

Tactic #3. Continually A/B test to improve SEO strategy  

Sparefoot is the largest online marketplace for finding self-storage — an industry that relies heavily on SEO.

Brett Billick, Chief Marketing Officer, SpareFoot, and his team developed a strategy to improve search rank through testing and optimizing for clickthrough rates.

After working several of these tests, the team saw the brand keyword ranking at 43.59% — with the only other competition coming close at 21.99%. Overall, traffic grew 42% by applying this A/B testing framework.

One of the key insights Billick and his team learned from this testing is that “what works in PPC does not always work in organic,” he said.

Tactic #4. Navigate Snapchat like a local

Our Best Practices sessions at MarketingSherpa Summit 2017 paired our brand-side speakers with industry thought leaders.

One of these sessions featured Frank Danna, Content Director, Softway and Stef Brower, Global Social Marketing, HP, discussing “Navigating the Complex (and Weird) Landscape of Snapchat: An inside look at HP’s Snapchat journey.”

Anyone who has used Snapchat knows that it’s a notoriously difficult nut for marketers to crack. Discoverability is a maze; growth is an uphill battle; and the casual and irreverent nature of the platform runs counter to the marketing strategies of many brands.

Danna and Brower walked the audience through HP’s Snapchat journey, from initial research, to securing buy-in, to testing their way into an authentic brand voice, to efficient content production, up to the recent evolution of HP’s Snapchat approach.

Targeting generation z, millennial students and the technologically savvy, Snapchat seemed like a space where HP could make an impact — precisely because most brands haven’t ventured into it yet.

The goal was to find topics that HP could own and become a voice of added value in users’ everyday lives. Snapchat is particularly ripe to do this because, unlike many other social media platforms where people can passively scroll through, Snapchat is 100% active.

“Ultimately, the goal is to be authentic. Use Snapchat like a real user. And do your best you can to engage with Snapchat users on their level,” Danna said.

Grow your audience with authentic, regular content

By partnering with people with a large following on the platform, HP was able to expose the brand to a new audience. However, Danna and Brower warned, it is very expensive, and it’s difficult to maintain the followers gained.

That’s when the team realized the importance of keeping an authentic brand voice and only leveraging influencers when they fit into that — instead of trying to fit the brand into an influencers voice.

“You have to be careful that your content isn’t ultra-salesy or pushy. It needs to bring people value. Not just value about your brand or the actual item you’re promoting or produce, but wisdom and experience you can apply to what you’re creating to actually add value for users,” Danna said.

Through testing, the team launched “What the Tech Wednesdays,” where the team and followers both knew they would have consistent content going up that would cover something HP could be considered a leader in.

“Inconsistent and sporadic posting is an issue. You should post regularly — maybe once a week, once a month, twice a month — and make sure it happens on a consistent basis so people know when to expect it,” Danna said.

Work hard to make it look easy

Although it’s important to keep a casual, fun tone on Snapchat that feels spontaneous, the team would plan topics in advance and even storyboard each of the two minute long snaps that were going out.

Test snaps would be reviewed each Tuesday, before being sent out on Wednesday.

However, the most important aspect is to embrace the spontaneous nature of the platform — or what most marketers would refer to as limitations — and don’t overthink or overproduce it.

“To those of us who always have our buttons buttoned all the way up, on Snapchat, we need to unbutton one, maybe two, buttons,” Danna said. “I’ve worked with a couple of different brands who actually produced everything outside of Snapchat and then just took a phone, held it up to a 4K monitor and recorded snaps off the monitor. It didn’t work. It looked completely fake, and the audience didn’t engage with it.”

Tactic #5. Grow other channels using social media tactics

As the world’s fastest-growing watch brand and a bootstrapped start-up, MVMT had done most of its early growth on social media.

“If something happens to Facebook or Instagram, we want to make sure our business doesn’t die,” said Blake Pinsker, Marketing and Brand Director, MVMT.

Pinsker had actually participated in the live optimization session at the previous year’s MarketingSherpa Summit — he had his email critiqued by the audience out of a desire to focus the team’s effort on email growth.

They decided to work from their strength and take a social media approach to the email sphere. Starting out, the team decided to grow the list with a social media contest that required people to give their email address as a requirement for entry.

“Everyone was sent a coupon code for entering,” Pinsker said, adding that the contest collected 6,000 email addresses, and 3% of participants were converted.

From there, the team focused on driving email channel growth through announcing a new product on social media.

“[We] told followers if they wanted first access to the collection, they could click through on the post and provide their email address,” Pinsker said.

The team collected 4,933 email addresses and saw a 55% open rate on the subsequent email about the product launch.

The important aspect of scaling as quickly as they did, Pinsker said, was to use email to deliver value.

The MVMT demographic is younger and “doesn’t want to be sold to,” he said.

They diversified campaigns being sent out into product focused, versus content focused, and, currently, the “content-focused emails now sell just as well as the product-focused ones,” he said.

User-generated content versus staged photo shoots

Working between the two styles of email marketing led to testing over the most effective style of imagery to include in emails.

“User-generated content vastly outperformed expensive model shoots,” Pinsker said.

By giving MVMT content a user-generated content feel, or at times using social media to turn customers from around the world into content creators, the team created an endless content arsenal.

As a result, the team saw an 88% decrease in cost per order and a 461% relative increase in engagements.

Tactic #6. There are no boring subjects, only boring marketing

Simple is an online banking company that distinguishes itself with a customer-first approach where it “[doesn't] profit from customer confusion,” said Sarah Esterman, Lifecycle Marketing Manager, Simple.

The bank wants customers to feel confident about their financial decisions. This means relying on email as a means for education and communication to eliminate any customer anxiety.

For example, because the entire support team is in-house, marketers can rely on that team to learn more about the customer. This led to sending confirmation emails to eliminate commonly asked questions such as “did you receive my information?” or “is my account all set up?”

Sending a confirmation email resulted in a 36% decrease in related support cases.

Like any bank, Simple is legally required to follow certain rules and regulations with customers. One of those is the “Regulation E” email send. Regulation E covers electronic fund transfers, and Simple is required to send the exact wording of it to customers yearly.

Obviously, there isn’t a lot of wiggle room in that. Esterman and her team could just send the document, fulfilling the legal requirement, and wash their hands of it.

However, they decided that that approach wasn’t customer centric, and it didn’t fit within the brand goals. After all, how are customers supposed to feel financially empowered with heavy legalese to trudge through?

The team did, in fact, send the “Legally Required Annual Celebration of Privacy Policy Updates and Disclosure of Regulation Guidelines for Electronic Fund Transfers!” email.

They just decided to provide translations for each of the sections — a “No Fear Shakespeare”-inspired move that lead to nearly 200 replies to an email that otherwise would have passed by unnoticed and unread by customers.

The email also had a 55% open rate, and customer contact via customer support increased by 70%; engagement on Twitter skyrocketed, and the team received more than eight handwritten letter responses to it.


MarketingSherpa Summit – May 8-9, 2018 at the ARIA Las Vegas

MECLABS Institute (MarketingSherpa’s parent company)




Softway – HP’s Snapchat vendor


Mr. Lube


Related Resources

Apply to speak at MarketingSherpa Summit 2018

To read about our award-winning Summit campaigns, download the MarketingSherpa Awards Book

Missed out on Summit? Get the presentation slides from each session

Mobile Marketing: How a private jet charter provider’s app averages 500 downloads a week using customer-centric booking experience

Social Media Marketing: HP finds its voice on Snapchat and sees a story retention rate of 68%

Live from MarketingSherpa Summit 2017: Making your customer the hero of your campaign

Live from MarketingSherpa Summit 2017: Jeff Ma on harnessing the power of analytics to better understand customers

Email Marketing: How MVMT Watches increased holiday revenue gains 262% with optimized content

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