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2014 has been a wonderful ride for all of us at ReferralCandy, and for us in the content team in particular, too.

But most importantly, I think, we’ve put together content that’s actually resonated with people.

We have lots of exciting plans for what we’re going to do in 2015. But in the meantime, here are the best content pieces we put together in 2014.

1: What 33 Successful Entrepreneurs Learned From Failure [SlideShare]

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I’m especially proud of the storytelling arc in this one, with amazing artwork courtesy of Jon.

This was how we got on Brian’s radar. He had interviewed these entrepreneurs for Huffington Post. We enjoyed the interviews so much we decided to try and communicate the insights in a story. This got us featured on Business Insider. At the time of writing, it has tens of thousands of views on Slideshare.

Read the full post here.

2: 24 Ecommerce Website Designs To Inspire You

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This post is simple and unassuming, but it gets the most search traffic of all of the posts we’ve written this year.

Read the full post here.

3: Dr. Robert Cialdini’s 6 Principles Of Persuasion (Over 50 Examples Inside!)

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Somebody on GrowthHackers.com described Dr. Robert Cialdini as the Chuck Norris of marketing. His 6 Principles of Persuasion are everywhere!

But while people often discuss the abstract principles, we’ve often found ourselves grasping for good examples. So we decided to hunt down all the examples we could find. We isolated each principle and sought out 7-15 examples of each of them in action.

Here are the 6 principles, with loads of examples to demonstrate them:

  1. Giving Before You Get: 10 Examples of Reciprocity in Marketing
  2. A Foot in the Door: 7 Examples of Commitment and Consistency in Marketing
  3. I’ll Have What She’s Having: 15 Examples of Social Proof Used in Marketing
  4. Laws of Attraction: 7 Examples of the Liking Principle Used in Marketing
  5.  Trust Me, I’m a Doctor: 7 Examples of the Authority Principle Used In Marketing
  6. Hurry, While Stocks Last: 13 Examples of the Scarcity Principle Used in Marketing

Read the overall summary here. Also check out the discussions on Reddit and GrowthHackers.

4: How 13 Successful Companies Fought For Their First Customers 

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How do you learn customer acquisition? You study the examples set by those who have done it successfully, of course!

This post was the first one on our blog to cross 2,000 tweets, so we did a followup: How 8 (More) Successful Companies Fought For Their First Customers: ASOS, Uber, Yelp and more.

Summary of lessons learnt:

  1. Physically travel to your target user base [Tinder, Alibaba]
  2. Populate your site with your own content to get other users on board [Quora, Reddit]
  3. Design your campaign to encourage word-of-mouth [Dropbox, Threadless]
  4. Facebook can be a great product feedback loop – and marketing tool [Lolly Wolly Doodle]
  5. Delighting fandoms yields high returns [Black Milk]
  6. Freemium isn’t for everyone, but it’s cheap and powerful [Evernote, Yammer]
  7. Write legendary, jaw-dropping content [OKCupid]
  8. Harvest interest from target communities before launching [Etsy]
  9. Guest blog like crazy [Buffer]

Read the full post here.

5: 6 Tips To Acquire Customers With Your About Page

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Based on Jennifer Havice’s post “How To Use Your ‘About Us’ Page To Acquire Customers” for Unbounce.

We were researching improvements to make for our own About page, and thought we oughta share our findings with everyone else.

In short:

  1. Make it about them, not you.
  2. Make your headline your value proposition.
  3. Tell a story.
  4. Shuttle people to the next step.
  5. Avoid overstuffing.
  6. Test, test, test.

Read the full post here.

6: How Mellow Made $200,000+ In Preorder Sales In Less Than A Month

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We love it when we have cool clients. Mellow is one of them. Here’s an interview with co-founder Zé Pinto Ferreira.

Here’s an oversimplified summary:

  1. Assets First, Ideas Second: start with deep background knowledge and expertise.
  2. Take as much advice from veterans as possible. Do the reading.
  3. Look for disproportionate interest from friends. If they’re not impressed, start over.
  4. Reaching out to 100+ reporters personally. Do things that don’t scale.

Read the full post here.

7: How Opena Case Hit 189% Of Their $15,000 Kickstarter Target And Built A Million Dollar Business

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We interviewed Chris Peters, co-founder of Opena Case (Annex Products) to ask him about his customer acquisition insights.

In a nutshell:

  1. Start by building deep expertise.
  2. Iterate until you get great feedback.
  3. Build a community of early adopters.
  4. Study Kickstarter successes.
  5. Be prepared for preorders and traffic surges.
  6. “If there is any ambiguity about us seeing any returns, we just won’t run it.”

Read the full post here.

8: How a Small Menswear Brand Utilized Word-of-Mouth to Get Over $420,000 On Kickstarter

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Our takeaways:

  1. “I’ve been waiting all my life for this.” First of all, build an awesome product that directly solves people’s problems.
  2. “The best story is not told by you, but by someone else.” Win the little guys to get the big people’s attention.
  3. “Coffee socks”. Pay attention to what works and what doesn’t, and adapt immediately.

Read the full post here.

9: The Mother Of All Lists Of Ecommerce Mistakes

The Ultimate Guide to Ecommerce Mistakes - Part 1 of 6

Early in the year, we decided that we had had enough of lists of “are you making these ecommerce mistakes?” posts, and that we wanted to get a sense of the full spectrum of mistakes that retailers make.

There are broadly 6 classes of ecommerce mistakes:

1: Critical Business Mistakes. We’re looking at your fundamental business model here. If you screw this up, even the best website and marketing won’t save you, because nobody’s interested in buying your stuff.
2: Marketing Mistakes. You have a valid solution, but your customers don’t even know about it. How do you find your first customer? This is about lead generation.
3: Common Website MistakesYou have customers who want to buy your wonderful products, but your site is broken.
4: Customer Experience Mistakes. Your site works, but it’s hard to use, hard to navigate, slow to load… just frustrating. Your customer lands, but leaves.
5: Closing Sale Mistakes. Suppose your store is an absolute breeze to navigate. Despite this, some customers stay away- because of shipping costs, or missing information about return policies, etc.
6: Post-Purchase Mistakes. Do you follow up? Do you measure what works? Do you work towards a community for your customers? This stuff is icing on the cake for smaller companies, but it could also be their competitive advantage.

Read the introductory post (which details our process) here.

10: 10 Ecommerce Founders, 21 Great Interviews, A Whole Lotta Wisdom

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How do you figure out how to do ecommerce well? You learn from the people who’ve already succeeded at doing it.

Featuring our favorite excerpts from stellar interviews with:

  1. Andy Dunn, Bonobos
  2. Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com
  3. Sophia Amoruso, Nasty Gal
  4. Jake Nickell, Threadless
  5. Marc Lore, Diapers.com
  6. Susan and Eric Koger, ModCloth
  7. Katia Beauchamp, Birchbox
  8. Michael Dubin, The Dollar Shave Club
  9. Eric Bandholz, Beardbrand
  10. Ryan Babenzien, GREATS

Read the full post here.

11: The Biggest Opportunities In Ecommerce Right Now, As Revealed By Retail Experts [Infographic]

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This was based on a post series by Drew Sanocki.

There are over 30 answers, and we’ve categorized them into the following:

  1. Changing Ecommerce Landscape
  2. Customer Relationship Management
  3. Conversion Rate Optimization
  4. Evolving Digital Landscape
  5. Improving Customer Experience
  6. Inbound Marketing

Read the full post here.

12: Thousands of Shopify Stores Later, Here’s What Top Shopify Experts Learned From The Most Successful Stores

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We interviewed 4 of the top-rated Shopify Experts to get a better sense of the challenges our retailers face.

Here’s a checklist for all retailers to run through:

  1. Ensure all SKUs have high-quality product photos
  2. Refine your narrative by asking “why”
  3. Block out time to understand your shopping platform’s features
  4. Stop spending time obsessing on activities that don’t generate revenue
  5. When hiring external agencies, complete the checklist above before asking for quotes

Read the full post here.

13: 24 Juicy Tips For Ecommerce Content Marketing From Inbound Marketing Pros

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We grouped the tips into  7 main phases:

  1. Purpose: Why are you doing this? You need a reason.
  2. Persona: Who are you writing for, exactly? You have to be super specific.
  3. Process: You can start anywhere, but you gotta figure out your process as you go.
  4. Content Standards: There are standards of excellence you should aim for.
  5. Distribution: People are busy, you gotta reach out to them.
  6. Measurement: You need to measure the effects of your work, else you’re fooling yourself.
  7. Refinement: The best part of all of this is that you get to get better at this.

Read the full post here. Especially proud of how we communicated the concepts visually.

14: Minimum Viable Content: Real Talk About Content Marketing (And The 4 Mistakes You’ll Make)

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We learned this the hard way. The most critical thing about content marketing is managing your resources effectively. You have to get reader X from point A to point B as quickly as possible.

The four mistakes you’ll make as a content marketer:

  1. Not writing for a specific reader (If it’s not for me, why should I read it?)
  2. Not writing about a specific problem (If it’s not a problem, why should I care?)
  3. Writing something that’s already been written before (If I’ve read about it before, why should I read about it again?)
  4. Spending too much time doing research (Research is good, spending all your time on it- at the expense of writing- is bad)

The post further explores each of these details with more nuance, examples, etc.

15: How To Write Good (Nice + Tidy For The Interwebs – ReferralCandy’s Internal Copyediting Guidelines

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The main draw of this Slideshare is witnessing the process of transformation, slide-by-slide.

But in a nutshell, you want to eliminate:

  1. Redundant words
  2. Commas and long sentences
  3. Repeated points
  4. Unnecessary complexity
  5. Negatives

Enjoy the full process (and learn more about intention and purpose in writing) here

16: 4 Word-of-Mouth Tactics Every Retailer Should Know

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Based on a post by Paul Jankowski for Forbes. The 4 tactics are:

  1. Target Influencers
  2. Build A Close Knit Community
  3. Be A Thought Leader
  4. Always Be Honest

As always, the devil is in the details. Check out the discussion on GrowthHackers to get into the nitty gritty of things.

Read the full post here.

17: 14 Marketing Tactics To Drive Online Sales and Apps to Execute them [Infographic]

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Based on a blogpost by Dan Wang for Shopify.

  1. Improve store design with Shopify, which has over 100+ customizable free and premium themes
  2. Make an exit offer with… Exit Offers, which allows you to track success rates and A/B test different messages
  3. Conduct targeted email campaigns with Emma, which lets you segment your customers according to purchase history
  4. Encourage users to subscribe to your mailing list with Email Pirate, which creates a fully-customizable opt-in window and allows you to track user behavior
  5. Optimize Facebook ad-spend with PropelAd, which targets prospective leads who are similar to your past customers
  6. Leverage Social Proof with Product Reviews, which is fully-customizable and includes theme-adaptive design. (Also check out Yotpo!)
  7. Anticipate and prepare for future sales with Out Of Stock, which allows you to take orders in advance (and sneakily test demand for product ideas, too!)
  8. Up-sell Products with… Product Up-Sell, which allows you to offer different products depending on the contents of the shopping cart of your customers
  9. Reduce Cart Abandonment (2 in 3 get abandoned!) with Abandon Aid, which automatically reminds your customers of their incomplete orders
  10. Remind your customers about the products they’d like to buy with Wishlist + Reminder. (LOVE this. So clever!)
  11. Encourage gifting with Gift Reggie, which adapts completely to your store design. I might not be into your products, but a friend of mine might be.
  12. Launch a Facebook store with… Facebook Store. (Customers can share their favorite products with their friends)
  13. Leverage Instagram with Instagration– lots of fashion brands especially benefit from the social proof. People like buying things that look good on their friends.
  14. Promote Word-of-Mouth with ReferralCandy (disclosure: that’s us!). Most happy customers say they’d refer products to their friends, but few actually do. They get distracted, they forget, etc. We help you remind them, and make the deal a little sweeter.

Read the full post here

18: The Original #GrowthHackers: How PayPal Achieved 7-10% Daily Growth In The Early 2000s

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We hunted down every last piece of research we could find about PayPal. We looked up questions on Quora answered by actual PayPal founders and early employees, and we hunted down old news articles. I’m very proud of this piece.

If it worked so well, why did they remove it? It’s probably because their customer acquisition costs (CAC) began to exceed their customer lifetime value (LTV) at that sort of staggering, massive scale. (Also, network effects- once so many people are using the service, it makes sense for other people to join- or even pay to join!)

 Read the full post here.

19: How Referrals Built The $10 Billion Dropbox Empire

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If you ask people about referral programs, Dropbox is probably the most famous, canonical example that everybody cites. So we thought it would make a lot of sense to really dig deep into the details of how it functioned. Here’s an excerpt from the post:

The Finer Details of Dropbox’s Referral Program:

  • Bake it in! The referral process was built right into the setup/onboarding process.  The signup was 6 steps, the last being “Invite some friends to join Dropbox”
  • Sell the sizzle, not the steak. It wasn’t positioned as “Invite friends” but “Get more free space”.
  • Make it easy for your customers to help you help them. Multiple ways to easily share: Via email, email address book importing, post link to Facebook, Twitter.
  • First things first. The Social sharing was prioritized as the first option (above email in the UI).
  • Everybody’s a sucker for progress bars. User dashboard allowed users track the status of their referrals, which makes it fun rather than tedious.
  • Did you mean recursion? Email confirmation of new free space when successful referrals were made had a call to invite more friends in the email.  Keep the viral loop going strong!
  • Appeal to influencers. Power users loved publishing their invites to their online followers- it made them look benevolent and cool. Always have a clear answer to “What’s in it for ME?”

Read the full post here.

20: Lessons From Amazon Prime’s Referral Program

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One of the largest ecommerce sites in the world launches a referral program. You know we gotta do some analysis!

The Good:

  1. Amazon uses an evocative header image to draw you in.
  2. Effective use of social proof entices potential customers to give Prime a try.
  3. Clear Calls-To-Action on every page encourage visitors to move quickly to the next step.
  4. Wide reach – Referral program accessible even to Amazon.com users who don’t use Prime

 The Not-So-Good:

  1. The Value Proposition is unclear – who stands to benefit, exactly?
  2. One-sidedness – No Friend Offer, only the advocate gets rewarded!
  3. A glaring red $0 is demoralizing for new advocates.
  4. Wasted opportunity to put the advocate’s name in the ‘from’ field

Read the full post here.

Bonus: The Definitive Guide To Referral Marketing

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This is our magnum opus.

We’re taking everything we know, everything we’ve learnt, and we’re channeling all of this into this mega-work: The Referral Guide. We’ve released Chapter 1: Why Do People Share? and Chapter 2: How Powerful Is Word-of-Mouth Exactly?, and they’re both by far the most thoroughly researched, extensive things we’ve written. We’re going to be releasing Chapter 3: The Path To Maximizing Word-of-Mouth For Your Business next.

It’s been an awesome 2014 for us so far, and we look forward to making 2015 even better.

Stay tuned for some exciting updates about our nefarious schemes. 😉