The Mini-Guide to Marketing with Images

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by Rishi Shah on September 25, 2013

This is a guest post by John Boudreau, COO and Co-Founder of Astonish, a digital marketing company for Insurance companies.

Pinterest-screen shot-1

“Trouble Keeping up with Social”

Let’s be honest: Many small businesses have enough trouble keeping up with the fierce foursome (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+) but Pinterest and Instagram? At times, it may be a struggle to keep up with the social media world! However, it is critical to have a presence on the major platform. Instead of shying away from the up and coming image sharing platforms, it is time to learn about useful strategies that can be incorporated into your business. Here are a few effective marketing tactics that you can implement.

An Image Speaks Volumes

Memes, infographics, e-cards… they all make their rounds around the web! One of the many reasons why they are so popular is the simple fact that they are based on images. In fact, articles with images receive 94% more total views than those without. Jumping on the image-marketing bandwagon may not only allow your business to appeal to a whole new market, but may inspire you to create and share your own personal images.

Now that you are onboard with image marketing, let’s take a look at the two most popular social platforms: Instagram and Pinterest.

Instagram-ing Your Way to Marketing Success

“You MUST post that picture on Instagram!” Have you heard this phrase often? It is no secret that Instagram has climbed up the social sharing pyramid quite quickly. In fact, Instagram has over 100 million monthly active users, 40 million photos posted per day, and 1,000 comments per second. As you can see, there is a lot going on! It’s time to join in on and action.

One of the best features of Instagram is the ability to link the app to your Facebook AND Twitter accounts. This makes it easy to share your posts across all three platforms. You can use #hashtags to organize your posts and you may even receive a new follower who has found you through the use of hashtags. What else can you do the make the Instagram experience effective for your clients? Here are three tips:

#1: Share “sneak peaks”. This is a great way to capture company culture. Take photos of employees, new goods and services, office celebrations, big wins, and everything in between. Take your fans inside of your business and show them what makes your company unique. If there is a new product launching, why not make it fun for your fans by taking pictures of “clues” and counting down? There are a number of ways that you can keep clients on their toes while humanizing your business. This is also great for recruiting top talent.

#2: Connect with clients easily. Always answer your followers’ questions/concerns. If you have posted a photo of a new product and there are comments about it, do not hold back! This is the most opportune time to interact and engage with your market. Brand your business as an expert, and a friend.

#3: Reward your followers. Post about company sales, promotions, and even discounts. This is a great way to keep your customers in the know, and possibly allow you to win over a few more.

Changing Your Marketing Strategy, One Pin at a Time

On the other side of the spectrum is Pinterest. Pinterest is a social network that utilizes photo sharing tools. It enables engagement with various audiences through likes, shares, and re-pins. This social platform is on the rise and is one of the fastest growing social media platforms out there. Whether your business decides to post original company photos (for instance, pictures from Instagram) or simply re-pin others, pinning is a great way to connect with clients.

Here are three tips that may help business owners when it comes to building a Pinterest strategy:

#1: Create an infographic. What is important to your clients in your industry? Whether it is saving money or simply hearing tips and tricks, leverage these important points. Create an infographic which is both visually appealing and informative. If you give your clients the answers and information that they want, they are sure to “like” it or possibly “re-pin” to their fans and followers.

#2: Drive traffic back to your website. Have you been taking original photos on Instagram? Perhaps you took our advice in the first point and created an original infographic. Whatever image you choose to post, always include a link back to your website. This is a sure way to receive traffic and you may start to notice the change right away.

#3: Promotion. Create a board specifically meant for saving money. You could name is “Deals and Steals!” and be sure to upload any videos, images or flyers that are promoting upcoming sales and events. This is a quick and easy way for followers to find exactly what they are looking for. This “perk” may also draw clients to follow your brand in the first place.

Start Sharing Images, Today


As you can see, there are a number of tactics that can be implemented to both strengthen and improve your marketing strategy. Being active on the fierce foursome is a start, but it adding both Instagram and Pinterest will take your presence a step further.

John Boudreau, COO and Co-Founder of Astonish, has been in the insurance marketing and technology business for nearly 10 years. He works closely with local insurance agencies across the country to understand what works and what doesn’t in an attempt to increase their share of the digital landscape through online marketing tactics and a robust customer relationship marketing tool. To find customer reviews of Astonish a, visit Astonish’s list of business profile sites. Before Astonish, Boudreau honed his problem-solving abilities while working as an environmental analytical chemist. He also founded Ion Marketing Group, a digital marketing company focused on the real estate industry. An avid musician, John plays the drums, the bass and the guitar.

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LastPass is my favorite browser extension

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by Rishi Shah on September 11, 2013

LastPass Logo

I spend about 92% of my waking day on the web and as I use more services, I tend to create a lot of accounts. The other 8% is when I’m on a plane, but hopefully that will change soon.

My good friend Robert recommended LastPass to me about a year ago. I tried it out and didn’t think it was for me, mainly because I used the same password for everything and just saw LastPass as something I would have to spend time setting up.

Twitter Account Got Hacked

Then, about 2 months ago my Twitter account got hacked and stolen. Luckily, the good guys at Twitter support, worked with me and got my account back. This is when I decided that I needed one of those super cyrpto passwords, one with 9 spots, not found in urban dictionary, and looks like a swear word (!@#$*). I also needed to change my passwords for other web services that had a similar password. This is when I started using LastPass.

Free Version Rocks

I signed up for the free version and it was great. I didn’t have to remember any passwords and best of all each password is unique to the service. I currently have 115 saved accounts in it! Can you imagine, trying to remember 115 account passwords?

Share Passwords without Revealing Your Passwords

Recently, I actually signed up for the paid version ($12/year – pretty cheap). I work on a small team and we all share accounts for certain websites. The coolest feature of all is having the ability to share you login and password with other people and not having to actually share the actual password. This also gives you the ability to easily reject access later down the line.

What do you use manage your passwords? I wonder if Google Chrome/FireFox should bake LastPass into their service by default – what do you think of that idea?


IKEA uses Augmented Reality – See how Furniture Looks in Your Home Instantly

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by Rishi Shah on August 21, 2013


Whenever I get a new Ikea catalog, I flip through it and always think “sure it looks amazing in these pictures, but how will it look in my dull house?”


Well, the marketing masters at Ikea have finally figured out how to get around my doubts. You can scan an item from the the Ikea catalog, let’s say a green couch and then hold up your phone where you would want the green couch to go, let’s say next to your yellow wall. Then look through your phone and you will see the green couch virtually up against the yellow wall. You will now have realized that it probably isn’t a good idea to buy the green couch.

This was a pretty sweet use of direct mail marketing combined with augmented reality technology! The next step would be to allow you to instantly buy it in the app and then use a 3D printer to deliver the furniture item right into your home.

Checkout the Ikea trailer for this on youtube. What do you think of this strategy, will it work on you to buy more stuff from Ikea? Let me know in the comments.

Special thanks to Eric Lovett for telling me about this!

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The Problems with Everyone AB Testing Everything

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by Rishi Shah on July 18, 2013

Does AB Testing work? Yes, absolutely. It is awesome and can help you increase conversions.

BUT!!!! In order for your AB Split Tests to actually give you any decision making results you need a ton of traffic and conversions. The rule of thumb is for your AB tests to reach any sort statistical significance you need at least 100 conversions per variation on your website. (Statistical significance is a fancy way of saying “ability to make any real decisions based on a test”).

So, for a website to really learn anything from an AB test you need at least 200 conversions. Most websites get 200 conversions after a few months!

Yes it is cool to say that you are running an AB test for 2 button colors, but chances are really low that you will actually be able to determine which one works for you unless you have serious traffic or are willing to run that test for a few months. If your website has low traffic and you want to be more data driven here are some testing pointers:

Make Major Changes in Your Tests

Here are some major changes you can try:

  1. Offer a Free Plan Vs. No Free Plan, Pay us $100/mo now
  2. Landing Page with 1 Form Vs Regular Website (that includes a list of all your features, service offering, about us section, etc)
  3. Major price differences $3/mo Vs. $30/mo

Try Sequential Testing

Sequential testing is when you test each variation in a given time period. Since you don’t have that much traffic you can try a different variation every 2 weeks. Just make sure you record all your data like total amount of traffic, paid conversions, and what you changed.

The biggest problem with sequential testing is that sometimes it can give you bad data because both variations are not running at the same time. For example towards the end of the month you may have a bunch of conversions vs. the start of the month.

Increase Conversions by Eliminating Barriers

If you need more conversions to run an AB Test, get more conversions!

Here are a few tips on increasing conversions:

  1. Add a “Free Whitepaper” resource or Lightbox pop-up that requires the end user to enter in their contact information.
  2. Remove any barriers like a “Credit Card Required” or a CAPTCHA field
  3. Use multi-step forms. The first step should just be an email address, the second step can be everything else


Square Cash: Movie Background Trailer

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by Rishi Shah on July 8, 2013

Square Cash

Square recently announced Square Cash. A way to “Email Money to anyone’s Debit Card”.

What I found really fascinating was instead of having a video on their homepage, they have a movie-like rotating background image that shows you all the different things you can do with it. Like splitting meals or a cab with friends.

Here is what one of the backgrounds looks like:

Square Cash GIF

This is taking background images and GIFs to the next level. I like this more than a video, because often times I don’t click the play button because I’m at work or on the go.

Check it out, and let me know what you think of it in the comments.


Published in “Managing Startups”

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by Rishi Shah on June 17, 2013

My blog post on SaaS pricing has been published in a book by O’Reilly called Managing Startups.

Managing Startups


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How Netflix Uses Your Data to Create Hit TV Shows

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by Rishi Shah on May 30, 2013

With free tools like Google Analytics everyone with a website is collecting “Big Data”. However, I’m amazed when companies use data to their advantage. The next few blog posts will be about how companies are leveraging data to dominate.

Netflix Website

Netflix is a company I’ve admired for years. Here are two ways they use data to their advantage:

#1 Create a HIT new TV Show

How Netflix created a HIT TV SHOW image

They knew their customers liked the actor Kevin Spacey, the director David Fincher, and a 1990 BBC mini series called “House of Cards. So, when Netflix wanted to launch a brand new show for their own audience they decided to do a remake of “House of Cards” staring Kevin Spacey and directed by David Fincher.

Salon has a great write up about this called “How Netflix is Turning Viewers Into Puppets”

#2 Make Streaming Speeds Faster

Battlestar Galactica Meetup Groups - Battlestar Galactica Meetups

Everyday Netflix analyzes and predicts which shows will be popular and in what location. For example if Netflix knows that the show Battlestar Galactica will be popular in Madison, WI they will load up that show on the high-speed flash storage drives near their servers in Madison, WI.

What companies do you know that are leveraging data? Please me know in the comments.


Is this the Future of Customer Service?

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by Rishi Shah on May 20, 2013


Renting my Car in Phoenix from Someone in Omaha

I just experienced the future of virtual customer support in retail stores. I landed in Phoenix and saw a massive line at Hertz. I thought I would be there for at least 2 hours. Then BAM! The line started moving a lot faster, after 4 machines fired up with real (but virtual) customer support reps from Omaha, I was in my Hertz rental car just 25 minutes later. The company behind the technology is ClairVista.

Ghost Town turns into Rihanna Concert

Back in Highschool when I worked in the TV department at Sears, I would remember hours where not a single person would walk in. (I killed time by playing snake on my Nokia phone) Then around the 6pm rush-hour 10 people would show up. I would be out numbered and lose customers. I wish I had some virtual assistance that could answer questions and then help me close more deals!

Is this the future?

What do you think of a future with virtual reps in physical stores? There were a few people in front of me in the Hertz line that said no to using the virtual machines and let me cut in front of them.

What do you think of a future with virtual reps in physical stores? Would you talk to one at a Best Buy or Macy’s? Let me know in the comments below!

PS Pro Travel Tip: Go with the no-named local car rental company over Hertz. They are cheaper and have flexible with drop off times.


I like TurboTax’s Speech Bubbles

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by Rishi Shah on April 16, 2013

TurboTax LogoNobody likes Tax day…. except probably the people over at TurboTax. Their service is now the default way of filing taxes.

I really like how on their pricing page they have speech bubbles so you can easily self-identify with a the best TurboTax plan for your needs. It is really hard to cater to the masses.. but TurboTax does it extremely well, they are able to cater to low AND high income earners as well as students, military personnel, and business owners.

Self Identifying Speech Bubbles on TurboTax

When I was on this page, my eyes went right to the speech bubbles. I remember even saying, “Yes” a few times in my head as I was scanning which package I should get.

What is interesting is that it isn’t just the simple short text, it is also the design. The speech bubbles make it look like you just said it.

What do you think of the speech bubbles – did they work on you?


Shopping Carts Go Mobile

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by Rishi Shah on April 2, 2013

This is a guest blog post by Erin Schwartz, the lead marketing specialist behind 123Print. 123Print offers customizable print products for business and individuals, including the ability to make your own business cards and design other promotional items. 

Young girl with phone

How easy is it to shop online with your mobile device? A couple days ago I was reading an online article on my phone about the favorite authors of several New Yorker writers. One author struck me as particularly interesting and I hopped on Amazon to see if I could buy one of his books, used. Less than a minute later I had received an email with a confirmation number and a “thank you” for my purchase.

When it’s that easy to purchase items on your mobile device, why wait to get home and log on to your computer to make a purchase? In fact, why wait at all? By making online purchases from mobile devices on your website quick, easy and worry free, you can greatly increase your sales potential. And if the growth in use of retailer apps is any indication — growing almost 600 percent over the past year — mobile sales should be the main focus for retailers in the future.

Mobile and Mortar Shopping

Facebook jumped onto the mobile gifting wagon in limited areas this past September 2012 with the reincarnation of Karma, a gift app that the social media giant purchased in May. The feature became available to all Facebook users in December 2012 and functions on the basis of gift recommendations based on your friends’ preferences.

Facebook Credits at Walmart

As of 2013, Facebook is taking this gifting feature a step further with the Facebook reusable gift card. Essentially, Facebook users can purchase a gift card for a certain amount from places such as Target or Olive Garden and the recipient is notified immediately of the gift. The gift card is sent through the mail and as the recipient uses it, he or she can keep track of the amount left through the account settings tab on Facebook. The card can be recharged and reused and it can even hold multiple gift amounts such as $10 at Starbucks, $25 at Barnes & Noble and $50 at Olive Garden.

The Rise of the App & Mortar Economy

It’s a growing field of commerce that has tentatively been dubbed “Mobile and Mortar”: consumers using mobile devices to send real gifts from online retailers, as well as using their mobile devices to price compare, check reviews and look up item information while in-store. In fact, according to Flurry Analytics, between December 2011 and December 2012, the use of mobile devices for price comparisons went up 247 percent and the use of all shopping apps went up 274 percent. But what many retailers are discovering is that the key to increasing mobile sales is to make it easier to purchase from mobile websites instead of through individuals apps.

Mobile websites more important than ever

More often than not, if you’re looking up an item online, you’re using a search engine to browse the web as opposed to using a particular retailers’ app. Why? Not only is a search engine an automatic go-to for most mobile device owners but using a search engine, as opposed to a retailer app, typically allows you to price compare and find reviews instead of committing to just one store. In fact, 36 percent of smart phone users use them to read product reviews on retail sites while 47 percent use them to learn more about a product ( If your website isn’t mobile-friendly, you could potentially be missing out on a good percentage of your customers.

Keeping customers on your site

Once consumers find your site, the last major hurdle is getting them to follow through with purchases. One of the biggest complaints of online retailers over the past year has been shopping cart abandonment rates. About 67 percent of all shopping carts are abandoned at some point in the shopping process.

To cut down on this, online stores have employed several different strategies with varying degrees of success. Some of the main solutions have been consistently assuring customers not only that the purchasing process is secure, but that returns and exchanges are easy and welcome. Many online marketing firms also stress the importance of including privacy and trust information next to personal information fields. Even if it’s just a click-through to legal information, reminding potential clients that their personal information will not be shared or sold is very encouraging and can easily make the difference in a sale.

Lastly, employing little reminders when clients leave your site before making a purchase could help bring them back at a later date. Brief emails such as “Just a reminder that you still have [blank] items in your cart” or even “How might we have made your shopping experience better?” might help to encourage the completed sale of an abandoned shopping cart.

Online retail is a constantly changing landscape and a major challenge for business owners and marketers alike. The best thing you can do to improve sales is to look for overall trends and try to keep up with the curve.

What ways have you found to encourage potential customers to stay on your website? Have any marketing plans worked well for you or failed unexpectedly? What seems to be the number one issue for you regarding shopping cart abandonment? Let me know in the comments below.

PS If you need business cards checkout my website:

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