Anne Holland launched MarketingSherpa from a bedroom in her home in 2000.
Seven years and 700 case studies later, MarketingSherpa is regarded as a leading source for marketing research. The company researches and publishes real-life case studies, practical marketing tips and benchmark data on what works in marketing today and boasts 237,000 weekly newsletter readers. The company’s goal is simple — to give the marketers of the world the stats, inspiration and instructions they need to improve their results.
During her 20 years as a direct-response marketer, Holland realized few companies provided quality marketing research and information to help practitioners put that raw data into action.
“When I started Sherpa, the concept was to talk to the best marketers in the world and ask them what they test, what works, what doesn’t and then share it with everybody else,” Holland said.
The term “Sherpa” refers to the Sherpas of Nepal who lead climbers up Mount Everest. In this one-on-one interview, Holland guides Practical eCommerce readers past some of the marketing mistakes companies make and offers practical marketing tips every ecommerce site could deploy.
PeC: What’s an average week like at MarketingSherpa?
Holland: Every week we call about five marketers at different companies — from Procter & Gamble to Amazon, right down to very small companies. We ask, “What are you testing? What is working? What does not work? What is the data?” Then we just write it up, often quoting them in their own words. We give readers the creative samples because they will want to see that creativity and maybe imitate something. Many will want a sample to show the company’s art department.
PeC: What can most sites could do to improve their marketing efforts?
Holland: Aside from improving copywriting vastly and improving search engine optimization, I would also take a look at the email [marketing] program. We found that most ecommerce sites are pretty good at asking a customer for an email address, but not always so good at using the email address afterward. When someone opts into your list on your site for the first time, that person’s interest in you is at its peak. He/she is feeling something like, “Ooh! I’m so excited I found this new thing.” You want to take advantage of that excitement. I think Dutch Bulbs is very good at that; when you opt in the first time, I believe, they send you a coupon for 25 percent off the next order. A lot of people just click right through that first welcome mail and order right away.
Recent Changes With MarketingSherpa
MarketingSherpa was acquired by MEC Labs Group late in 2006. Anne Holland remains president of MarketingSherpa and the organization continues to conduct research about what marketing strategies really work. It publishes those findings in case studies and benchmark guides. The efforts at MarketingSherpa are supplemented by the team at MEC Labs Group, which runs a laboratory facility in Atlantic Beach, Fla. MEC Lab Groups conducts live campaign experiments in partnership with entities such as The New York Times and Reuters.
PeC: Is blogging an effective marketing tool?
Holland: If you want to build a brand name and a relationship with the customer and you have a strong personality, I think a blog would fit in with that brand strategy and do extremely well. If you are going to start, you really need to have the dedication to make it go on for years. It is hard to blog for years. It is really hard.
PeC: What is the No. 1 question you get from ecommerce owners?
Holland: A lot of them invest in paid search, but don’t track it very well. Make sure you have a good back-end system first so you know where the sales come from before you spend money on opt-ins, paid search or anything like that.
PeC: If you were an ecommerce owner, where would you focus your early marketing efforts?
Holland: The one thing I would spend money on right now would be co-registration. Co-registration occurs when one organization, on its own email sign-up forms or “thank you” pages, offers other companies’ sign-ups as additional options. I would see if I could barter for the arrangement first. It’s a very, very effective thing to do. I have heard [this] from tiny companies and from some of the largest consumer package goods firms in the world. They are all co-registering like crazy, and the neat thing is, the people who tested it are investing everything they can. I have talked to marketers who said they canceled other programs — other major programs — to be able to take every penny they could and put that money into co-registration.