Build-A-Bear is remaking itself for the 25th anniversary of its founding this year. This means using its experience and its data to appeal to older customers and create stronger online connections.
“The goal that was stated for us was to diversify our brand, evolve our retail portfolio and build stronger relationships with our consumers,” said Ed Poppe, Build-A-Bear’s vice president, loyalty and performance marketing for Build-A-Bear, in a presentation at The MarTech Conference.
That’s why they launched HeartBox, an e-commerce play which the company says will let it move into “the adult-to-adult gift-giving and gift box market which has been meaningfully expanding over the past few years.” This goes along with its new Bear Cave line of “adult” bears (in this case adult means they have alcohol in hand). The brand has also expanded through partnerships with film, entertainment and streaming TV properties like Harry Potter, Pokémon, The Matrix and the Marvel series WandaVision.
These efforts are designed to give more options to customers who buy online, and increase options for engagement. This has required integrating new teams and new sources of data.
Connecting customer data and teams
“Over half of businesses now say that they expect the majority of their revenue to come from digital channels,” said Loretta Shen, senior director, product marketing, marketing cloud intelligence for Salesforce. “To meet changing consumer behavior, marketers are adopting digital channels like video, social media and digital ads across search and paid media. But it’s not just adopting these channels, but how you use them, and in particular how you use them in tandem.”
Build-A-Bear adapted to customers’ increased digital use by adding new digital experiences while also reorganizing customer data to better understand what customers want.
“We have to understand our guests at Build-A-Bear,” said Bryce Ahrens, Build-A-Bear’s senior analyst, CRM, loyalty and performance marketing. “How do they engage with our email, our websites, our advertising and, of course, how do they engage and experience our in-store environment?”
They keep a large CRM database made up of loyalty program members, website customers, retail customers and sales prospects. Additionally, through access to the CRM, the organization is pulling together different teams: web development, analytics, marketing and also data privacy people.
These teams have to remain connected because data is coming through different systems. Build-A-Bear has a first-party data warehouse, a commerce cloud storefront, an order management system, marketing cloud, an email platform and different analytics solutions, not to mention ad platforms for campaigns.
“We need to be able to bring this information together, prioritize what we look at, and identify strategies to move quickly,” said Ahrens.
Data and digital experience come together in an ongoing Build-A-Bear effort called “Count Your Candles.”
The promotion is a special offer for customers to order a discounted bear (regularly priced at $14) that costs a dollar amount that matches their age.
The dedicated webpage for this promotion also allows customers and gift-givers to buy gift cards and become loyalty members. Additionally, there are a number of other ways that customers can celebrate birthdays, including in-store birthday parties and special birthday gift boxes that can be ordered and delivered.
These strategies came from marketers looking at the data and seeing what sparked their customers’ interests. In this case, it was birthdays.
“We’re lucky to have a team up here who wants to jump in and help drive our business forward,” said Poppe. “But it also brings us back to where it’s important to aggregate data, identify patterns, see your opportunities, and pick your path forward.”
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Chris Wood draws on over 15 years of reporting experience as a B2B editor and journalist. At DMN, he served as associate editor, offering original analysis on the evolving marketing tech landscape. He has interviewed leaders in tech and policy, from Canva CEO Melanie Perkins, to former Cisco CEO John Chambers, and Vivek Kundra, appointed by Barack Obama as the country’s first federal CIO. He is especially interested in how new technologies, including voice and blockchain, are disrupting the marketing world as we know it. In 2019, he moderated a panel on “innovation theater” at Fintech Inn, in Vilnius. In addition to his marketing-focused reporting in industry trades like Robotics Trends, Modern Brewery Age and AdNation News, Wood has also written for KIRKUS, and contributes fiction, criticism and poetry to several leading book blogs. He studied English at Fairfield University, and was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. He lives in New York.
You learn about a C-suite decision that will have a transformative impact on your content marketing team. Perhaps, the announcement included one or more of these directives:
“We must produce more content and manage multi-platform distribution with greater agility. We plan to add ChatGPT to our editorial capabilities and implement a headless CMS.”
“We’re updating our three-year business strategy and need all teams to align their operations around achieving a new set of goals.”
“We’ve been acquired. We will be merging many of our business units and will need to relaunch our website so we can tell a more unified story.”
Or maybe it’s another substantive shift in strategy or operations. As a content team leader, whether excited or terrified, you must get your team on board and ensure the initiative succeeds.
Transformational changes are nearly impossible to implement without a clear plan that communicates the desired destination, the motivation to pursue it, and the path to reach it.
Jenny Magic, marketing strategist and professional coach, shares how to do that in a Content Marketing World presentation she co-developed with Melissa Breker.
You can watch the conversation (beginning at 2:30-minute mark) or scroll down to read her recommendations to gather support, clear obstacles, and keep efforts moving in the right direction.
5 sabotages that disrupt transformational changes
Every organization has unique conditions and challenges, but Jenny points out five common barriers that prevent the successful adoption of new priorities and practices:
Forced change. When workers don’t understand or agree with the change, they won’t invest in the process, especially if it requires a lot of effort or a long-term investment.
Misaligned goals. You can’t sell a change that benefits the company if employees don’t see how it helps them reach their personal or professional goals.
Group-speak. Your team may nod in agreement when the CEO says, “We’re all going to do this together, right?” But that enthusiasm might not hold when the boss’ eyes are no longer on them.
Rushed process. Team members already overwhelmed with responsibilities don’t give new tasks top priority. Jenny says if you can’t take something off their plate, communicate they won’t be pressured to rush it through.
Lack of team alignment. Everyone must be on the same page regarding the direction, intention, and actions required. Without this alignment, tasks fall through the cracks, and all the hard work may not lead to achieving the goal.
For your change mission to succeed, your communications plan should account for how you’ll address (or avoid) these obstacles. These details will minimize the friction, lack of participation, and flagging enthusiasm you could have experienced during implementation.
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Plan for the transformation journey
Jenny shares a three-part approach she uses to help her consultancy clients get big ideas off the drawing board, onto team members’ priority lists, and into the marketplace.
1. Establish the destination: What’s changing, why, and what’s involved
To get your team to join the journey of change, they need to know where they’re going. Create a change summary to help with that. The simple map summarizes the relevant details about the change, the phases of implementation, and the benefits gained when the goal is reached.
First, identify the most critical details to communicate. Answer these questions:
What’s the nature of the change? What is being done differently, and what does that mean for the business and team? What isn’t changing that might be the stability anchor?
Why is it happening? Why does the organization think this change is critical? Why is now the right time to do this?
Who’s involved? Who will the change affect? What will they be expected to do? What about their roles, processes, and priorities? Why would they want to participate, and why might they be reluctant?
When will it happen? Will the change occur all at once or gradually? What happens at each stage, and which ones will require the content marketing team’s involvement?
What are the expected results? What is the organization looking to achieve? What benefits or advantages will it bring? What will the company and team see when the goal is reached?
With these answers, you can build a change summary to share in stakeholder and team member conversations. Any spreadsheet or presentation tool will do, though you can create a template based on the document Jenny uses for her client engagements (below).
The summary of what’s changing appears at the top of the page and details of the most critical elements appear below it. Bulleted notes detail what to expect with each element and the benefits for the business and your team. Lastly, a general timeline outlines each project phase.
2. Load up the crew: Gather support and communicate benefits
To achieve the change goal, all players must agree to travel together and move in the same direction. “If our team is not aligned on where the heck we’re going, there’s literally no chance we’re going to get there,” Jenny says.
Team members who immediately see the value in the initiative might follow your lead without question. But some key players may need a little more convincing. Jenny offers a few ideas to get them on board.
Enlist the support of an active, visible sponsor: Social media shows putting the right influencer behind your pitch can move minds. The same goes for pushing through a big change within an organization. Research from Prosci finds projects with an extremely effective sponsor met or exceeded objectives more than twice as often as those with a very ineffective sponsor.
If you have the support of senior team leaders and high-profile company personnel, ask for their help socializing the change to others. They might seed relevant information in their newsletters and other content they share internally or help shape your change activities and messaging to improve their appeal.
Translate organizational goals into personal motivations: Some team members may reluctantly participate because they perceive an impact on their role. For example, workers may think the added work will strain their already demanding schedules. Others may be skeptical because of negative experiences with similar changes in the past or disbelief that the change might benefit them.
A series of stakeholder conversations can help identify the significant concerns and disconnects that might prevent them from engaging. They also can reveal specific challenges and motivations that you can address with more resonant and appealing messaging.
Some marketing tools you use to influence an audience can help you facilitate those conversations. For example, Jenny says, personas can surface critical insights about who may be impacted by the change and what it might take to nurture them onto the path.
Her personas checklist includes these questions:
Who’s leading the change? Do any key sponsors directly relate to the persona’s role?
Will this persona be impacted more or less than others?
Will they need information more frequently or in greater detail?
What reactions will they have?
How will you approach training for this persona? What support will be provided?
At what phase of the change will they be most affected?
Jenny also recommends using your marketing communication and engagement tools. For example, the simple tracking sheet she developed (below) can help visualize the audience, delivery formats and channels, optimal messages, and approval and final sign-off requirements to mention in your stakeholder discussions.
Choose the right messenger – and a customized message: Sometimes, a disconnect occurs not because of the message but because of the message’s deliverer. For example, employees expect to hear about significant corporate initiatives from executives and senior leaders. But for changes impacting their day-to-day responsibilities, they may prefer to hear from a manager or supervisor who understands their role.
Other times, preventing a disconnect could require tailoring the message to the team’s needs. Jenny suggests focusing on the direct benefits once the initiative is activated. “Consider how it might help them further their career, address something they’re struggling with, or offer an opportunity to explore an area they’re passionate about,” Jenny says.
Surface hidden issues with confidential interviews: Valid concerns can remain hidden, especially for team members who are reluctant to voice their objections in team meetings. Working one-on-one with a neutral or external moderator – someone with no stake in the decision for change – might help them open up.
Ensure they know the confidential interview results will be aggregated so no individual responses will be identified. “It’s really helpful to get that confessional energy,” Jenny says. “It can help you surface individual reservations, causes of their reluctance, and personal motivations. “
Jenny shares in her checklist (below) some preliminary questions for a moderator to assess during a confidential interview:
How does the individual feel about the change?
Is it the right change?
Is it the right time?
Is it supported enough to succeed?
What risks do they predict?
Do they have ideas about how we could reduce obstacles and challenges?
What lessons from past change efforts can they share with us?
Could they become a change champion?
The process can fuel opportunities to shift messaging, positioning, or delivery approach to help the outliers see how the change can benefit them and get them more excited about participating. Jenny says it can also reveal valid concerns that need to be solved so they don’t hinder progress.
3. Hit the road: Position and prepare your team for success
Big changes are always risky. They disrupt the status quo, and if they involve multiple teams and business functions, some changes may feel like a win for some at the expense of others.
Taking a few extra steps before executing your plans can keep those issues from diverting the goal or leaving any team members stranded along the way. “This is where we establish commitment and accountability and think about what could go wrong and how we’re going to deal with it,” Jenny says.
Own up to what you do and don’t know: Ultimately, you can’t plan for every contingency. “You’ll lose trust rapidly if you pretend you do,” Jenny says. She offers a few communication tips to set the right expectations from the start:
Be clear and candid: Directly address what you do know, don’t know, and what is and isn’t possible with this change. Outline how you will communicate status updates and new information as they arise.
Be receptive: Don’t take resistance personally. Listen to your team’s questions and respond to their feedback with an open mind.
Be visible: Socialize progress across your team’s preferred communication channels, and make sure everyone knows how to reach you if they encounter a problem. You can regularly host town hall meetings, road-show presentations, or open forums to ensure everyone stays informed and has a chance to share their thoughts.
Position project requirements as opportunities and advantages: Jenny suggests exercising creative thinking to help concerned team members see the new responsibilities as a chance to benefit personally.
For example, if they need to learn additional skills to accomplish their tasks, provide in-house training or access to third-party educational tools. Position the opportunity as a chance to expand their capabilities to help them be more prepared for this change and to advance their careers in the long run.
You can also use the big change to rethink your org chart and rebalance team member responsibilities. “Every single person has work that they hate on their to-do list. I’ve found folks become more open if they’re offered an opportunity to do a task trade-off,” Jenny says.
Incentivize the journey – not just the destination: A lengthy and gradual implementation process should include incentives at regular intervals to motivate team members to stay the course.
Rewards can be specific and tangible, such as bonuses or loyalty program points. Or they can be intangible, such as shoutouts during monthly meetings or in internal newsletters. Arrange team happy hours or give comp time for extra hours worked. These appreciation efforts can make the added burden feel worthwhile.
Overcome obstacles in predictive planning: An element of science exists in the journey of change. You can’t reach your destination if the forces of resistance are stronger than the forces propelling you forward.
Jenny shares an innovation tool from a company called Gamestorming that can help quantify the balance of those forces at each phase. By working through this force-field analysis, you can take steps to ensure the winds of change will be in your favor.
An example of how it works is shown below. In the center, an illustration represents the change you want to implement – transitioning from hierarchical to more transparent hubs.
On one side, the forces of change – all the elements of the vision that characterize the importance of the change and how it works in your favor – are listed. In this example, those forces are:
Improve long-term revenue
Help meet market demand
Satisfies customer expectations
Addresses current unsustainable costs
Give a competitive advantage in the marketplace
On the other side, the forces of resistance – conditions and constraints that may prevent realizing the vision – are listed. In the example, these forces include:
Viability of new tech
Rank each element’s impact on the project’s success on a scale of one to five. Then add the rankings on each side and compare the scores to see whether you have a stronger chance of success than failure and identify where efforts should be made to overcome obstacles.
Plan the journey for a smoother arrival
Convincing your team to jump aboard the organizational-change train is rarely easy. But with a clear operational plan, aligned support, and open communication, you’ll help them see the benefits of participating and get them excited to reach their destination.
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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute
These are the engines you want to give extra consideration if you intend to expand internationally. They all have their own unique search algorithms that are in many ways as complex and developed as Google’s.
Why they matter and how to rank on them
If you’re like me a few years ago, a die-hard Apple fan remarkably repulsed by Microsoft’s products (I’ve now converted to the seamless team of PC), you might think prioritizing resources to optimize content for Bing or other engines is a waste of time. What I failed to consider then, and what you might be overlooking, is geographic segmentation.
Do you want to reach the American audience using voice search? Consider Bing.
Are you expanding into China? Check out Baidu.
Each search engine matters because of its unique user types. Regardless of how small that market share might look on a global scale, if there’s regional search volume from your target audience, it’s worth the optimization.
Bing Search, in combination with Yahoo, is without a doubt the strongest player after Google. Together, they have more than 10% of the global market share for desktop.
Now, some say that Bing’s market share will increase due to mergers and acquisitions, while others argue for its decline due to the death of Internet Explorer.
Still, all Microsoft browsers, such as Microsoft Edge Legacy and Chromium-based Microsoft Edge, have Bing as the default search engine, making Bing Search the natural choice for Microsoft product users. Yahoo, which is powered by Bing Search, is the default search engine for Mozilla’s browser Firefox, adding billions of impressions to Bing’s search results each year.
Although the algorithms differ, optimizing for Bing search results is not much different than optimizing for Google. With a bit of fine tuning, it’s more than possible to come up with a strategy that allows for high rankings on both.
To rank on Bing, and thus Yahoo, make sure to do the following:
1. List your business on Bing Places
Bing Places is the equivalent of Google My Business and is the fastest way to get your business ranking for local seo. Many even consider Bing Places to favor small business owners as Bing puts their information more prominently on display.
2. Upload an XML Sitemap using Bing’s Webmaster Tools
While the debate on how much sitemaps really do matter for Google SEO continues, uploading one with Bing’s Webmaster Tool for XML Sitemaps allows the algorithm to better categorize and manage your content, making it more visible and relevant to the search audience.
3. Match keywords in your content
Check that the exact keyword match can be found in your page titles, meta descriptions and overall content. It’s known that the impact of on-page tactics as a ranking factor is much greater in Bing than Google.
4. Keep your social media profiles up to date
Go social! Bing considers your social media presence more than any other search engine. The Webmaster Guidelines specifically states that Bing considers social signals from third-party platforms to rank your content. Bing might even extract certain information directly from your Facebook company page to your Bing Places display.
5. Use high-quality images to enhance your content
Bing’s image search is much more advanced than Google’s. If you want your landing page to rank, add high-quality design assets to showcase your offerings. If you want your blog to rank, attach too-long-to-read infographics to highlight your points. Like the one above.
While it looks a lot like Google, its algorithm is different in many ways. Most prominent is the way Yandex indexes pages. Unlike Google’s almost continuous indexation, Yandex indexes pages sporadically. That means that you might have to wait around for a while before your site shows up on Yandex.
Despite this, it is still possible to rank on Yandex. You just need to have a bit more patience.
While waiting for your site to be indexed, take a look at the following:
1. Focus on tags over internal site structure
According to The Ultimate Guide to Yandex SEO, your header tag, title tag and slug are way more important than your internal site structure. In fact, it was only recently that Yandex started to support hreflang tags. Before that, Yandex only allowed the <head> hreflang implementation.
2. Consider search intent to rank
Some argue that Yandex meets search intent better than Google. The modern ICS score, which replaced the Thematic Index Citation, is determined by how relevant a site is to the query. Yandex uses its own version of expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness (E-A-T) test to determine relevance.
3. Eliminate toxic links
Many do not know this, but Yandex was actually the first search engine to roll out a link-based algorithm. Already in 2005, 7 years before Google’s Penguin algorithm, Yandex introduced the Nepot filter, which specifically looked at the impact of toxic link exchanges and spam links.
While the site is available worldwide, the site predominantly favors simplified Chinese. So before taking any other steps, hire a native speaker to help you along the way. To win at global, you have to ditch translations.
Here’s a few steps to get your content ranking.
1. Localize your keywords and content appropriately
As with all multilingual SEO, you need to work with a native language expert to ensure proper keyword localization and content optimization. If your site experiences high bounce rates, Baidu will tank your rankings immediately. As with any search experience, localization matters.
2. Position relevant content and keywords to the top of the page
Baidu favors a completely opposite layout than the Westernized one. The sooner you get to the point the better. Therefore, it is important to position your keywords as early as possible in the text and introduce all relevant content already in the top of the page to rank.
3. Obtain a verification level and get certified
By registering and paying a small fee you can obtain a verification level to improve your domain authority and rankings on Baidu. If you want to secure top ratings, you can get certified and obtain an ICP license, which is much more difficult than getting verified.
Top alternative search engines by data privacy
While most of the search engines mentioned above are tied to big corporations or political forces, global initiatives are setting the stage for more privacy-focused search engines. Among these is DuckDuckGo, the forefront runner with over 130 billion searches processed since launch.
Why they matter and how to rank on them
In many ways, the movement is a response to Google’s invasiveness on privacy. Many are fed up with how they are capitalizing on personal data and controlling the narrative with targeted search.
Consequently, this attracts tech-savvy experts with a lower bounce rate. Once they commit to a search, they stay.
Here’s how to optimize for it:
1. Sharpen Your User Experience
UX continues to make an impact on SEO, not to mention for DuckDuckGo. Make your content easily scannable and stay away from intrusive pop ups that harm your users’ experience and ease of navigation.
2. Focus on High-Quality Backlinks
As with any SEO, high-quality backlinks play a huge role for ranking. If you already have a solid backlink profile from your Google strategy, you should be good to go. If your backlink profile has a high level of toxicity, do some cleansing.
3. Rethink Local SEO
Since there’s no location tracking available for searches, location-specific searches such as “services near me” don’t work. If you like to rank for these types of searches, include a specific location in your keyword strategy. Otherwise, you won’t be able to optimize for local seo.
Startpage could be my personal favorite among the alternative search engines. It basically is Google without the tracking.
And while many consider DuckDuckGo to be the forefront runner of the privacy-focused search movement, many forget how Startpage ‘blazed the trail in 2006’. Offering a search experience without IP recording or tracking back when it was more or less unheard of. Now, it is the common denominator among all privacy-safe search engines.
So, how do you rank in Startpage? Simple. You rank in Google.
There are many more privacy-safe alternatives to search engines than the two mentioned above. Perhaps one without equal is SwissCows – a search engine that prides itself on being the only family-friendly, privacy-safe semantic search engine available on the web.
This means that any intrusive search results, like adult entertainment or offensive content, is naturally censored from the search results. At the same time, they never store any data nor track user specific information.
SwissCows SERPs bring up organic results and paid ads directly from Bing so in order to rank in SwissCows, you need to rank in Bing. Just make sure to omit any content that’s not PG-13.
What do they all have in common?
In the end, none of these alternative search engines can replace Google. As an SEO, I’ll never advise starting out with anything other than a Google strategy.
But when you are ready to branch out and extend your reach, give these alternatives a try. Analyze where your target audience hangs out and optimize thereafter.
Many of the privacy-focused search engines require little optimization as they pull their search results directly from other sources anyways. Simply do a quick check to see how you rank on each one.
And who knows, perhaps Microsoft will continue to steal more of the global search landscape. If that happens, you’ll be there — ranking in first position, ready to reap the rewards of your diversified efforts in an ever-changing search landscape.
For your team, screen recorders can be used for several reasons — from creating tutorials for your website to recording a recurring tech issue to sending your marketing team a quick note instead of an email.