We've all seen the statistics—B2B sales and marketing professionals are at a greater disadvantage today than they've ever been at any other time in history. Their buyers make purchasing decisions before they even have a chance to call, they spend far too much time researching accounts, and traditional channels like email and phone get less attention than the Yellow Pages.
So it comes as no surprise that the concept of social selling has created quite a buzz as the potential savior of sales and marketing pros everywhere. But while social media should certainly play a key role in the modern B2B sales process, social alone won't solve all the woes of today's sellers.
Smart sellers understand that social channels are ideal outlets for building credibility in their industries. They can share articles relevant to their solution, join special interest groups, and attract followers and connections through that process. In the old days, sellers would bring their Rolodex from company to company—now they bring their LinkedIn network.
Engage in relevant conversations
Social channels are also great for monitoring key trends, announcements, and conversations that a seller knows are relevant to the solutions he or she pitches. And LinkedIn groups are constantly connecting like-minded buyers around roles or business problems that sellers can tap into. Once established as a trusted member in a group, a seller can engage in highly relevant social conversations with top prospects, helping to influence their purchasing decisions.
Enter Big Data
But social selling also comes with its own set of challenges. LinkedIn, a favorite network of business professionals, now has over 200 million users—and hundreds of millions of Tweets cross the Web every day. These volumes make it extremely difficult to sift through all the noise to find relevant conversations. Additionally, social users often blend their personal and professional personas, making it even more difficult to determine their actual needs. Lastly, social selling usually relies on a “snapshot” in time, meaning only the most recent posts, tweets, or comments bubble to the top.
Despite all of its promise, social selling can actually feel a lot like hunting for a needle in a haystack. The reality is that social media is only one piece of a much larger puzzle. A company or a prospective buyer might give subtle hints that they are in the market for a solution, but when combined with other information such as public records, announcements, or trends, social data can offer a far more complete picture. A prospect that seemed vaguely interested at first glance might emerge as a really hot buyer with an immediate need.
Secondly, social needs to be tracked within the context of time. Seeing that a company posted several new job listings for a key role might be interesting, but knowing the hiring rate has tripled in the past month offers real insight. Or the fact that a company's posts about a given topic have doubled in the past month might reveal a lot more than a single relevant nugget.
Social selling is part of the modern sales process, and successful sales organizations are much more likely to adopt tools and best practices that include social. But to mine the true value of social data, it must be combined with all the other information you can assemble about a prospective buyer, tracked over time to identify key trends and buying signals that paint a complete picture. New Big Data tools can do just that.
Rob Bois is the director of product marketing at Lattice Engines where he is responsible for strategy and positioning for the company's Big Data sales and marketing platform. Prior to Lattice, Rob held product marketing roles at Eloqua and IBM and also served as a research director for the CRM practice at AMR Research (now Gartner Research).
Customer satisfaction is a key component of a successful business, whether that enterprise is brick-and-mortar or online. A brick-and-mortar retailer can see the problems that cause customers to leave the store, but online businesses have to rely on what they can see on their networks, which, often, is simply that customers are exiting the site. Brick-and-mortar retailers can move quickly to resolve problems that cause customers to park their shopping carts and exit, but etailers often are hindered by limited visibility into why customers abandon their virtual carts.
They can see what is happening on the site—how many customers are leaving and what they were doing when they left—but they can't see why this is happening. There can be many reasons for slowed website performance, but it's a fact that online businesses lose revenue when performance problems cause customers to abandon their transactions. Reduced sales means business goals are not being met, and, with e-commerce now a major source of sales for retail companies—the only source for many—it's critical for them to pay very close attention to customer experience.
To deliver the excellent shopping experience so critical to sales, online retailers need deep visibility into all aspects of what happens when customers are online in order to speed problem resolution and keep said customers happy and shopping. A user experience monitoring solution can provide the essential visibility an etailer needs to see everything the customer does on the site, as well as the way the system responds to every mouse click.
Global travel service Thomas Cook provides a great example of the benefits gained by leveraging customer experience monitoring. The agency's UK website, which accounts for more than 40% of its total UK business, had a high volume of traffic with the potential for significant sales, but all that traffic slowed the speed of the website. The existing monitoring system could not identify and resolve website performance issues fast enough, and IT didn't have the visibility needed to understand why customers were departing the site.
Using a customer experience monitoring solution, Thomas Cook gained understanding into how applications, databases, and infrastructure impact customer experience, as well as the way the system responds to customer mouse clicks. With a clear view of the entire infrastructure, plus automatic real-time alerts, the agency's IT team could see and address problems immediately, and keep the website operating at peak performance. The result was a 30% increase in bookings, and a reduction in the time spent problem solving from 48 hours down to two hours—a whopping 97%.
Here are four tips for employing customer experience monitoring solutions to improve your own e-commerce website performance and increase revenue in support business goals:
A solution that can capture 100% of customer interactions, provide real-time monitoring and alerting of negative trends and behavior patterns, and search across those users for patterns that might indicate why there are problems, will help you understand the true customer experience your website provides.
Application performance and availability has never been more important, especially when those applications serve to generate revenue. Pick monitoring solutions that can link customer transactions to application transactions so IT can prioritize which issues to work on first based on user impact. Solutions that organize disparate performance monitoring metrics from supporting systems—like hypervisors, network, and storage—around those application transactions will help you collaborate better with IT to meet business goals.
Evidence shows that the speed of a website is directly related to the conversion rate. With the understanding that peak performance drives revenue, Thomas Cook selected a customer experience monitoring solution that alerts IT to emerging issues in real time, so problems can be addressed before they affect customers. Now operating at peak performance, the company's website has seen a 30% increase in bookings, along with increases in the number of hits and the average transactional value. There has also been a 50% decrease in the volume of online customer service calls.
Take customer experience monitoring a step further by recapturing the revenue lost when customers abandoned their shopping cars on your site. Thomas Cook recovered more than $180,000 in lost business in three months with a solution that automatically sent the shopping details of customers who dropped off the website to retention teams who were then able to follow up with emails to those potential customers and facilitate new bookings.
So, the bottom line—for your bottom line—is that it's just not necessary to lose online customers and revenue due to a poorly performing website. When you proactively deploy a solid customer experience monitoring solution, you can keep your customers shopping. Even if they do abandon a half-filled cart for some reason, the details you glean from monitoring their experience on your site will give you what you need to bring them back again.
John Newsom is executive director for application performance monitoring at Dell Software. He has global responsibility for driving both the vision/roadmap for the company's APM products, as well as the execution toward that vision for Dell's application performance monitoring solutions.
The continuing rise in worldwide mobile device usage has pushed mobile SEO to the forefront of marketers' attention. This is especially true for local businesses, which benefit greatly from search results on smartphones due to the location influence of local search results. Nearly half of mobile phone owners use their device to look for local information, according to a new report from the Local Search Association.
Traditional and mobile SEO can't continue to work as separate marketing initiatives. They must become synonymous.
According to the venture capital firm KPCB, there are more than 244 million Internet users in the United States and 358 million mobile device subscribers, 48% of which have smartphones. ComScore reports that 52.1% of U.S. mobile phone users access a browser on their device. This equates to 187 million U.S. mobile browser users.
Does this mean marketers need to shift all of their attention to mobile search? Not yet. But the trend indicates a definite shift in the devices people use for search. And that will have a significant impact on how digital marketers engage, acquire, and retain customers for years to come.
The rate of increase of mobile Internet users illustrates the need for marketers to stop thinking about traditional and mobile SEO as two distinct programs. Marketers need to start developing strategies to merge traditional and mobile SEO into a single multichannel marketing process that is device and platform agnostic.
The merger: Traditional SEO meets mobile
The rapid rise in consumer mobile phone use for local search and e-commerce necessitates an equally robust shift in a brand's search strategy. Marketers need to cater their search and SEO campaigns to consumer interests and habits, regardless of the device used.Mobile can no longer be thought of as a separate search component. Running a comprehensive search and SEO strategy that targets users on all devices opens up many customer acquisition opportunities for brands. Here's a look at three such opportunities worth considering:
1. Ranking for mobile-specific searches. As more consumers switch from desktop browsing to local mobile search, there is a big opportunity for brands to launch paid and organic search campaigns aimed at mobile devices. Digital marketing on mobile devices remains less competitive than traditional desktop marketing, which makes mobile SEO-specific campaigns a low-hanging fruit.
2. Use Google's mobile-specific search content index. Google has a separate index of content for mobile search than it does for its traditional search product. The results on a mobile device can be much different than those on a desktop for a given search query. One of the key differences in how Google selects its results on mobile is whether a webpage is user-friendly on a mobile device. A website that is not optimized for mobile will often provide a poor user experience on mobile devices. In those cases, Google will likely rank a more mobile-friendly page higher on the list of results.
3. Tap into local. Search results on a mobile device are more geocentric than desktop-based search results. Google recognizes that mobile users are on the go and are often searching for something close to them. Local businesses should have a mobile-friendly website, as well as optimized pages in each of the major local search engines, such as Google+ (formerly Google Places), Yahoo! Local, Bing Local, etc.
The Web is becoming more mobile. Marketers must realize and embrace blended desktop and mobile search and SEO campaigns to remain competitive. The mobile SEO era is now upon us.
How is your brand adapting its search strategy to take advantage of mobile-specific SEO opportunities?
To be competitive in the big leagues, today's sales and marketing professionals need to become data scientists. Savvy salespeople and marketers can turn smart data analytics into great business strategies by taking a page from the ‘Moneyball' playbook.
Oakland A's General Manager Billy Beane bucked the traditional approach to building a winning team with an injection of well-analyzed data. Shaking up the status quo and setting a new standard in data-driven decision-making, Beane pioneered ideas now adopted across the MLB. Marketing and sales professionals have the opportunity to do the same.
In today's competitive environment, getting insights from sales and marketing data can mean the difference between being on a winning team by exceeding quotas, maximizing ROI on expenditures, increasing lead generation numbers, and gaining business momentum—or losing out to the competition.
The good news is that there's a variety of new tactics and tools—a playbook—that can help sales professionals and marketers stay on top of data management, tease out the most important information, and present it in a compelling way.
Here are four key steps that can turn sales and marketing data into competitive advantage:
The democratization of information is flattening old hierarchies. New tools offer the ability to collect, analyze, and communicate information more quickly and easily than ever before. Data, used beyond the executive team and the boardroom, helps inform a sales and marketing workforce and drives knowledge gathering and better decision-making based on true metrics versus gut feeling. This investment will lead to successful organizational outcomes for the whole team.Integrate data sources to level the playing field
Data volume is exploding and data sources are becoming more disparate. This deluge of information can be hard to manage when data is spread out across multiple systems. Sales data, for example, might be held in sources as varied as an Excel spreadsheet, a cloud CRM system like Salesforce, or an on-premise database.
These data repositories house a wide array of sales information—everything from individual sales performance rankings to lead generation and opportunity conversion metrics.
With the right tools to unify data from multiple sources and better measure key metrics, sales professionals can organize and analyze the different layers. Deep dives might reveal why one sales person outperforms coworkers by showing that they return calls faster, are a good time manager, prepare well for meetings, or close leads faster.
For marketing departments, capturing information from various sources such as HubSpot, Google Analytics, and Hadoop and transforming it into easy-to-understand visuals means being able to assess the ROI of integrated marketing efforts immediately instead of trying to decode reports from multiple systems.
Find your data fastball
`Moneyball'-style thinking means breaking the traditional mold of assessing data on a monthly, quarterly, or, in some cases, second-by-second basis.
The days of long lead times and slow decision-making are over. Now, unfettered access to extracting data means the opportunity to act on it instantly. That timeliness can give a competitive edge to sales and marketing professionals, so that the best, most informed decisions are made quickly.
Sales professionals can track product sales, sales performance, trends in sales timing, and trends in product demand moment-by-moment. Marketing teams can assess activity-based metrics and monitor new product adoptions in real time.
This immediate access to data is best effective if sales and marketing professionals make a habit of incorporating it into their daily schedules.
Design a data playbook that wins at home and on the road
Design is an often overlooked but essential element in transforming data into meaningful insights. Critical information can easily get lost or misunderstood in static, boring charts and reports.
The best tools will quickly input data into visually stimulating, highly readable, and understandable graphics, reports, and visuals. By making the data “designed to sell” marketers have a better chance of grabbing the attention of over-taxed professionals.
Pairing great design with effective data mobility platforms can help transform business strategies and chalk up more wins on the road and at home. The number of mobile workers across the globe is expected to reach 1.3 billion by 2015, with sales and marketing professionals accounting for much of this growth. Flexibility offered by mobility in the form of smartphones and tablets is essential for a growing mobile workforce.
Stay ahead of the curve
Uncovering and sharing business insights in a fast, efficient, and engaging way will give any company a competitive advantage. However, keeping that advantage means staying ahead of the curve.
The good news is that new mobile tools and technology can help sales and marketing professionals hit home runs by unlocking data and utilizing the information extracted in meaningful ways anytime, anywhere.
The data opportunity is immense—even overwhelming. But with the right approach and systems in place, savvy salespeople and marketers can add “data scientist” and “MVP” to their job descriptions.
Freddy Mangum is CMO of Roambi.
As consumers, we have multiple purchasing opportunities through a variety of channels at any time of the day or night. We can buy online, track shipping, or make subsequent orders via mobile. We can exchange in-store or review our order via tablet.
And at every touchpoint, we're giving up information about ourselves.
Whether it's our zip code at in-store checkout, our credit card, billing and shipping information online, or purchase history in an app store, we're leaving a robust breadcrumb trail for marketers.
Particularly with the rise in digital commerce, retailers now have access to more data than ever. Instead of a POS transaction, they now have information about which products the consumer looked at and didn't buy, when a customer was scared off by a price or abandoned a cart, and even what type of mobile device or browser was used. The task then becomes to use all this data to increase productivity and, ultimately, return on marketing investments. Here are some things to keep in mind while laying out your plan:
Happy customers are repeat customers
Better data management has the potential to mean better customer service—but ultimately that depends on how well the retailer integrates all this information and how it's leveraged to drive consumer behavior. Using data to drive campaign messaging will streamline your A/B testing and lead you to more accurate, timely results. Understanding customer data and disseminating that information throughout the organization will lead to better customer service and, you guessed it, customers who come back.
Use data drive decisions
For example, why aren't retailers using browsing and other “non-purchase” information to drive response or to upsell or cross-sell offers in the call center? There's an, often missed, opportunity whenever a customer calls, emails, or visits a retailer's website to check the status of, or change, an order. In the channel chosen by the consumer, the retailer has an option to provide an intelligent offer based not only on that consumer's preferences but also call on the vast amount of data it has about consumer behavior in general.
Optimize across channels
The strategy to accomplish this is simple: Provide all your channels (including customer care) with more intelligence to support each customer contact. Give customers access to more reliable, easier to use caller information and equip them with offers and messaging that's more likely to close a sale. But make sure to do this using advanced analytics and optimization—not the frustrating market basket approach pioneered by consumer goods firms in '70s. Instead of simple correlations, we now have the data and the technology to create a more sophisticated portrait of a persona. Because you purchased gluten free bread you might also want to buy non-toxic detergent. Because you buy organic food, you're likely more open to a yoga class.
Big Data is getting a lot of press and 2013 is all about getting organized, making solid plans, and executing and analyzing results. It's also about staffing a team that knows how to handle cross-channel optimization using all this data.
Mike Caccavale is CEO of Pluris Marketing and an expert in cross-channel offer optimization.
With apologies to Mark Twain, the reports of the death of the traditional brick-and-mortar retail store have been greatly exaggerated.
The perceived threat is that online competition, such as Amazon, is moving into physical stores by way of shoppers' smartphones, forcing retailers to compete mainly on price. But that's a shortsighted and defensive perspective that doesn't look at the opportunities. By combining the benefits of mobile digital marketing with their brick-and-mortar assets, traditional retailers can completely transform the in-store shopping experience and take advantage of customer data.
E-commerce retailers have long had the ability to understand each customer through personal online searches, browsed products, and past purchase histories. This data is then used to target individual customers with personalized product suggestions and offers. E-commerce retailers have successfully leveraged these technologies to help reduce costs and lower prices.
In much the same way, smartphones present similar opportunities for retailers to take many, if not all, of the advantages enjoyed by e-commerce sites and apply them in-store. Through the use of branded mobile apps, brick-and-mortar retailers can now take advantage of that same kind of information to understand their customers better and then deliver a highly personalized shopping experience. Physical retail stores can take advantage of the benefits of in-store shopping, including the immersive and tactile experience of picking up items off a shelf, the convenience of immediate delivery, and personal, in-person customer service.
By knowing what each shopper wants to buy, what they look at, where they spend time in the store, what messages they respond to, and what they actually purchase, the retailer can accurately map the entire path to purchase.
An important side note: This is not about optimizing the traditional e-commerce site for a smaller smartphone screen. That does nothing to connect the shopper with the physical store. In fact, that approach takes shoppers out of the store and puts them one click away from the competition.
As a retailer, or a brand working with a retailer, imagine being able to establish a personalized relationship with each customer by making individualized recommendations that match personal preferences and purchase histories. That's all possible with connected, smartphone-enabled shoppers.
How each store connects with its customers will depend on what the stores is selling, how its customers behave, what its customers respond to, and which aspects of its brands it want to promote.
Some retail categories, such as grocery stores, will be able to take advantage of shopping lists to show customers where the products are located in the store, as well as the most efficient route. Grocers will also make suggestions and offers on behalf of the brands they carry. By accurately understanding each customer's purchase intent, these become highly targeted communications that brands will pay for, generating a new retailer revenue stream.
Others, such as apparel stores, may benefit more from making personalized product suggestions that match what a customer browsed and then offering personalized discounts. Integrations with social networks will allow customer to influence their friends and followers.
On a larger scale, smartphones are also helping retailers learn more about what happens in their stores, including where shoppers spend time, which messages have impact, and how they can be more effectively influenced. This allows physical stores to become more competitive as they're able determine the best places to invest to increases sales, improve customer satisfaction and loyalty, extend their brand, and take advantage of Big Data related to the physical store.
By combining the best of digital marketing with the power of the physical store, expect traditional retailers to not only survive, but to thrive. With physical stores still responsible for more than 90% of all retail sales, it's a huge opportunity.
Todd Sherman is CMO of Point Inside, a provider of mobile in-store shopper engagement capabilities for retailers to incorporate into their own branded apps.
There's no debating that we live in an exciting, dynamic, and innovative time for marketers.
Connected consumers have access to detailed information about our brands and products before they ever directly engage with us. We're able to connect to them through “androids” and in the “cloud.” We can make thousands of virtual brand friends via Facebook and integrate GPS into our experiences. If we get lucky, a video we produce will go viral on YouTube and other social media platforms where millions of people will see it around the world in a matter of days (unless a video of a cat playing the piano captures consumer attention first). We even get to mine Big Data so we can deliver personalization that drives deeper engagement with our most valuable consumers.
It's innovative and heady stuff.
But are we getting ahead of ourselves?
All too often digital advertising initiatives fall short of delivering on initial business objectives or fail to build on the success of prior initiatives. Successful senior leaders in the digital marketing environment need to be more than just innovative—we need to be seasoned evangelists for change.
Without leading broader change, progressive marketers risk not having the proven track record of results that justifies further digital investment, even if all the trends point in that direction.
Driving change means going beyond the traditional mandate for marketing and creating consumer-centric organizational conditions, capabilities, and culture that will enable us to deliver profitable growth in the evolving and increasingly complex world of the connected consumer.
Check yourself: While change is never easy, there are some basic elements that organizations need to understand and embrace in order to truly be consumers-centric and see the full impact from efforts in the new marketing environment.
1. Do you have a multi-year vision and plan that defines the road-map and business case for taking advantage of this new environment? In order to improve the likelihood of success in an ever more complex environment, it's important that management clearly understands both the opportunity and investment required—not just in terms of marketing dollars, but also in technology and infrastructure, in changes to process and workflow, and in the type of people required to drive impact.
2. Do you activate marketing based on a full understanding of your consumer's “DNA?” While Big Data means access to a wealth of rich data, effective organizations need to be able to digest the data so they have a clear understanding of the code that defines how customers choose and use brands. The code needs to reflect customers' beliefs (needs and attitudes), behaviors (channel preference, product usage, interaction with marketing), and the context (LTV, demographics, life stage).
3. Is your marketing organization aligned and rewarded around the consumer, not the channel? As consumers become increasingly multichannel, we need to develop integrated marketing objectives and KPIs that measure and reward organizations based on shared success with the customer as opposed to channel-specific metrics. Ideally, the KPIs reflect the “return on the customer relationship” using composite metrics that reflect both customer engagement and direct business impact.
4. Is your marketing platform agile and performance-based? The discipline of marketing in the new reality requires a marketing process and capability that is operating at the same pace as the customers. Team members, process, and workflows all need to be agile in the way they execute with the emphasis shifting from planning to dynamic execution and optimization. In doing so, the organization can realize the benefit of the increasing complexity of the marketing environment and get more from more.
5. Has the culture of the entire organization been engaged to understand the new reality? Ultimately, impact relies on the whole organization understanding and embracing the new approach to marketing. An organization bound together by a singular culture is one with less internal frictions and barriers to change.
With these basic fundamentals in place, progressive marketers have the conditions for success that drive consistent impact and sustained change. We can focus on engaging the customer across the breadth of new touchpoints and driving impact from the innovation that makes the job of the marketer more dynamic and exciting than ever before.
Ned Elton is managing partner, financial services, at Rosetta, a customer engagement agency.
In a world where offline and online channels meld in a single marketing mix and every dollar of media spend needs to be maximized, measurement has had to evolve—and fast. Enter marketing attribution, a modern-day approach to marketing measurement that illuminates how prospects and customers engage with a brand—across all channels—from the top of the funnel to conversion. It enables marketers to understand how the different elements of the marketing mix work together, unveiling exactly what is working (and what's not) so marketers can create and execute marketing strategies that more closely resemble the reality of how customers engage with the brand.
Making the move from traditional “last click” measurement to attribution is not as technically or tactically challenging as often assumed. Although each situation is unique, there are four basic steps to bring attribution from concept to reality.
Discovery and research
Begin with a careful, customized exploration of the organization and its marketing DNA. Areas to consider include:
The aim of this step is to configure an attribution solution that is viable in the context of an organization's day-to-day reality. The output is an initial sense of how and where to start to implement attribution into campaign planning and optimization strategies.
With marketing attribution, a phased implementation approach is typically best, as it allows the marketing organization to see initial results that demonstrate the system's performance and builds momentum for expansion. The “initial” phase can be defined by a specific pair of channels, business units or product lines, or a precise time period.
At this point, the technical audit is conducted, which includes determining the method for collecting, aggregating, and normalizing all relevant data. For example, which data needs to be pulled, where it will be sourced (ad servers, search tools, proprietary databases, etc.), and how it will be imported into the attribution software. A universal taxonomy will also need to be applied across all inputs. Fortunately, most attribution vendors will do the heavy lifting on this part of the process, working in collaboration with in-house technical teams and third-party providers of the data. The role of marketers here is often simply to provide insight into the ideal output they would prefer to see on the other end of the system.
In conjunction, operational issues like team structure, workflows, performance and compensation, and goal setting needs to be addressed, as well as training. Topics to cover include the attribution mindset, software use, approach to analysis, and putting optimization strategies in market.
After the initial data has been run through the attribution software, the first set of results will be generated. These will be displayed in the format defined during the technical audit and the attributed results will appear side by side with the last click performance metrics most teams are used to seeing. In addition to displaying results using the attributed metrics, the attribution software will generate a series of recommendations based on the influences and synergies between all the components in the marketing ecosystem.
Next, the software will measure the attribution model's performance by comparing the actual performance to the initial predictions. The system now begins to self-perpetuate as the cycle of measuring, analyzing, and optimizing continues. With each cycle, new performance data is automatically fed into the system and adjustments to the attribution model are made, creating ever-more accurate predictions of the results the recommendations will produce.
Optimization and expansion
By the time initial initiatives have proven the efficiency and budgetary benefits of attribution's depth and accuracy, it's easy to expand the implementation across additional channels, business units, product lines, geographic areas, and more. In addition to tactical expansion, marketing attribution can be leveraged for strategic optimization. With better and more holistic data, organizations have a clear picture of where marketing wins come from, how to allocate budgets more effectively, and what may be possible for new testing opportunities.
From day-to-day media buying to big picture planning, attribution provides marketers with the analysis and recommendations they need to continuously improve marketing results and ROI.
Manu Mathew is cofounder and CEO of Visual IQ. This article is based on Visual IQ's recent eBook, Exploring the Art and Science of Marketing Attribution.
Search advertising is overrated. I realize this is a heretical statement in an environment where search is king. Just about every advertiser talks about the ways in which search is producing new and better leads and how it's played a crucial role in their brand strategy.
Yet search creates an illusion that it is more effective than it is in reality. This doesn't mean it shouldn't be part of the advertising process; search is very important. But when it becomes the main area of focus, advertisers rely on it too heavily and discount other advertising tactics—many times to their chagrin in the long run.
Consider why people lionize search. An individual goes to Google or another search engine and types in a brand name. The searcher ends up at the brand's website, where he or she becomes a qualified prospect or a new, paying customer.
In either case, the search professionals can demonstrate that it was search that hooked and landed the fish. In reality, however, they may have just pulled up the line that was baited by others.
In marketing, last click attribution is common. In other words, the sale goes to the last touchpoint before the customer converted. But what's often unseen by the advertiser is the winding path that led to that last click. A click and a purchase result from cumulative exposure to an advertised product or service. Prospective customers are exposed to a print or broadcast ad, often more than once; they see banner ads online for the product or service; they do research about competing products or services, triggering additional exposures to a site. The last click may be the result of paid search, but advertisers should recognize how people reached that buying point.
In the direct response television advertising business, we are well aware of the correlation between DRTV spending levels and branded search traffic. Time and again, we have documented higher levels resulting in more traffic (and lowered levels resulting in less traffic). Just as tellingly, our research shows that a significant percentage of viewers buy later rather than sooner. They don't call an 800 number or click on a website immediately after watching a spot but wait until they have more time to shop and buy. They may wait an hour, a day, or a week until they search for the advertised product (using Google to search for the product's brand name), arrive at the website in question, and make a purchase—but the impulse to do so was sown during the viewer's exposure to the television commercial. From a direct response perspective, Google is the new 800 number.
From any advertising perspective, however, it would be wise to be wary of depending too heavily on search alone, despite its enticing promise of generating high website traffic and increased business at a low cost. It used to be that advertisers bragged at cocktail parties about their brand-building advertising or their results-producing sales promotions. Now they boast about their search optimization strategies.
Again, we're not suggesting that search is bad—we integrate search into everything we do—but that it's being asked to do too much. Instead of focusing most of their energy and budget on search, advertisers would be better served by combining traditional ad media and search analytics.
There are a number of variables that should be measured: the advertising media used, the ad spending, the search strategy, and the website ordering process, to name just a few. How many times does a given viewer need to see a commercial before he or she does a search and ends up on the advertiser's website? What is the percentage increase of clicks that occur because this viewer also saw a banner ad for the product? What creative content is most likely to motivate the viewer to buy and not just visit the site?
These are crucial questions in the age of search. If we are not able to answer them correctly, it may be we haven't yet reached the golden age of advertising the industry claims.
Bill McCabe is president and CEO of A. Eicoff & Company.
If the daily Amazon Deals emails I receive are any indication, geographic targeting is obviously the hot trend. There's no doubt that the ability to use online or email advertising to reach only people within a specific geography is of huge benefit to a brick-and-mortar business.
What saddens me is the eagerness that most advertisers (and presumably their clients) seem to have to use this technology to devalue their business. Yep, I said “devalue.”
Take the ad I received this morning. An eye exam package worth $285 for the amazing price of $49.00! I immediately wanted to know if it came with a set steak knives, but the idea of offering sharp knives to prospects with vision problems is probably an approach of questionable wisdom.
Here's the problem. If you're selling a package of services for $49, it's no longer worth $285—it's worth $49. What's worse, the business proffering this special has just told me (and 200,000 other prospective clients) that it values its ability to impress me with such a lower offer as to practically give its services away. It also suggests to me that it'll gouge me on the frames.
If you tell your clients and prospects that you don't value your services, than why should they?
Of course you need to have a sexy offer, but price is not the only option—in fact it's a terrible option.
A far better approach—and one that protects the value of your product or services—is to find something of limited cost to you that is of value to your prospects. Maybe it's a free upgrade to transitional bifocals, which after you ask your vendor to kick in, may not cost anything at all, or a free scalp massage. Whatever it is, make it's something that is in addition to your fee, not a discount of it.
But, and here's the but, this approach carries a pretty big obligation—the obligation to provide a service that actually wows your clients. Why? Because then they'll post on Yelp how awesome you are. They'll tell their friends about how you listened to their concerns, and took extra time to teach them how to use contact lenses. Do that and you'll have people lining up at your door to pay full-price for your eye exams, or whatever product or service you offer. Because as the smart folks at Porsche know, there is no substitute for quality, and you don't see Porsche offering 80% off.
Market a quality experience, not discounts, and then live up to your promise. The rest is inevitable.
I have to admit: I have not read the book...yet. But as a working mom of Sandberg's age (and growing up professionally in the male-dominated advertising industry complete with butt grabs and demeaning office work), I find what she touts in her interviews and speech transcripts fascinating. What I also find fascinating is the tsunami of op-eds, posts, comments, and rebuttals harshly criticizing her. As always, the national conversation around women's career choices is met with harsh rhetoric. And do you know who the strongest critics are? Women.
Meanwhile, amid all the criticism, some key points aren't being heard. Sandberg's call for better public policies, her call to find the right life partner to lend support throughout one's career choices, and her call to stop being afraid resonated with me. She talks about fear in her book and writes, “What I would do if I wasn't afraid is, I would speak out more on behalf of women.” It takes a lot of bravery to affect social consciousness. Many women before us were brave, too: Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Emmeline Pankhurst to name a few. Thankfully, Sandberg won't be thrown in jail or stoned for her views like those before her. But harsh, critical words from the female community can be just as damaging. In many ways, Sandberg needs to be applauded for her courage. Her book has caused a national discussion on women's roles in the workplace—loudly and virally. I cheer that conversation. I would just ask that my fellow females respond with less vilification.
What's funny is that Sandberg is, in part, responsible for the negativity. She gives women some sharp criticism, too. In many of her interviews she states that women aren't confident enough and “hold [themselves] back in ways, both big and small.” She suggests that women everywhere sabotage their own success and power—that women should be more ambitious.
This of course elicited a barrage of defensive volleys. For example, on the Harvard Business Review blog, Avivah Wittenberg wrote that Sandberg “does what too many successful women before her have done; [blame] other women for not trying hard enough.” And the very public criticism from Anne-Marie Slaughter, a renowned feminist, claimed that Sandberg was “holding women to unattainable standards for personal and professional success.” In her piece, Why I'd Rather Stand Up Straight Than Lean In, Kristen van Ogtrop says outright: “[Sandberg's] message should inspire me, and instead it makes me want to unfriend her.” Unfriend her? It was a well-written piece but the pettiness diminishes it.
With all the negative criticism flying around, the empowering message that Sandebrg tries to convey is getting missed: Women want balance in their lives and respect for their choices to achieve that balance. We do what we can with what we are given, sacrifice when we need to, work our tails off when we must—and we do all this based on our own personal and professional growth goals.
Lean in. Lean back. Sit down. Stand up straight. Do the hokey-pokey. Whatever works for you. We've banded together in pursuit of equality. Why can't we support each other's choices and talk about our collective future with a level of respect?
In today's Facebook and Google Ad Sense generation, where many a content experience is dictated by what you like, search for and click on, brands that aren't completely optimized at every touchpoint are now in perilous danger of becoming the dumb bouncer in a movie, blocking a consumer from a desired experience.
“Don't you know who I am?” says consumer. “You're not on the list,” says the dumb, bouncer-like brand. “Get in line like everyone else.”
So, how do brands avoid pushing people back and leaving consumers out in the cold? And better yet, how can they utilize the velvet rope to their advantage?
Remove barriers with smart data
We all want to be treated differently. We all want access past the velvet rope and no one wants to get in the back of the line—especially when the wallet is out or about to be. That's common sense. Yet so many programs still have gatekeepers on the phones that, instead of using data from recent transactions, zip codes, a pre-created “decision tree,” or a sales funnel script, just hold the company line. When a consumer calls a brand, it's an opportunity to engage, or enrage, and the difference between effecting one or the other isn't massive if companies are optimized. The data is at your fingertips and can be used to optimize every consumer touchpoint.
Use the velvet rope to your advantage
Your customer is telling you what he or she wants with every purchase and every email clickthrough—and every message that goes unopened or brand action that gets no reaction. Are you listening enough to turn that behavior into a velvet rope moment? That's a lot more effective than guessing what the market wants and it's the essence of loyalty, whether in a formal program or not.
It's no surprise, for instance, that a recent survey of retail marketers shows a majority expecting “substantial growth” of revenues from loyalty programs in the next three years, while 32% plan to implement a new program. (Edgell Knowledge Network (EKN)'s State of the Industry Research Series: Customer Loyalty in Retail) Listening and responding are the fundamentals of making customers feel special.
Consistency is crucial to a VIP experience
While offers should vary across touchpoints based on both consumer-initiated and other factors, each of those touchpoints may require a different approach to communications. The VIP experience breaks down if one consumer doorway feels completely different than the rest. Firms in our space are typically single channel-based, whether it's the email ISP or the Web analytics firm, and that marketing silo model ultimately works against the loyalty promise.
If I'm shopping at a big retailer, I expect the brand to know me, regardless if I'm checking out a Web deal or if I'm in the store purchasing something because I want to kick the tires first.
In order to hit their projected growth, loyalty marketers need to sync up their channels, mend the gaps in the consumer journey, and make sure their staffs are fully capable of executing in their respective channels—and communicating with each other.
Mike Caccavale is CEO of Pluris Marketing and an expert in cross-channel offer optimization.
As the online advertising industry continues to grow, one crucial growth sector is often ignored: performance marketing. Comprising nearly 70% of the online advertising industry's estimated $35 billion in annual advertiser spend, performance marketing is perhaps the most underrated and misunderstood media channel in all of advertising.
After more than a decade in existence, it suffers from a variety of misconceptions among senior marketing executives. These perception issues hold the industry back, just at a time when its prospects for growth couldn't be greater.
It's time for that to change. It's time for digital marketers to understand the role of performance marketing and appreciate the value it can offer their brands.
As someone who has worked as an advertiser, affiliate, and network operator for more than 13 years, I bring to this discussion a realistic viewpoint of how performance marketing can benefit almost any advertiser.
Performance marketing basics
Performance marketing is the smartest online advertising investment. It's no longer a “nice-to-have;” rather, it's an essential part of any brand's overall marketing strategy. Advertisers pay for performance, while affiliates, who are paid to deliver a specific action, promote the advertiser through various channels (for example, email, display, PPC, social media, etc.). Networks sit between the two sides, providing value in the form of tracking and technology, media planning, client support, and compliance.
Benefits of performance marketing
Performance marketing is entirely ROI-focused and results are 100% measurable. As such, the industry is incredibly lucrative and offers big gains for small investments. An initial investment of only $10,000 can deliver a strong performance marketing campaign in just one or two channels. Advertisers have access to multiple online marketing channels that provide a real return on investment. There's also the opportunity to push campaigns to market faster than other types of offline or online marketing, and to the right price by media source or by source within each media channel.
Like all types of marketing, there are potential pitfalls to initiating a performance marketing campaign. These include compromises to brand integrity, compliance-related issues (especially with media and regulatory rules), fraud, and placement transparency.
These problems are easy to avoid, however. There are dozens of tools available to help marketers thwart these problems, including ones that help monitor lead quality and compliance. Companies such as CPA Detective, LeadiD and LashBack offer a variety of compliance tools that any reputable performance marketing agency should use to protect its brand's integrity.
Steps to success
Success for any marketer launching his or her first performance marketing campaign boils down to a five-step process:
Step 1: Define the goal. The desired outcome should either be a lead or a sale, which narrows the field of available and effective performance marketing channels.
Step 2: Choose the right affiliate network. Conduct due diligence before engaging an affiliate network by comparing areas such as tenure, financials, staffing, media channel, vertical expertise, technology, and services.
Step 3: Plan the media mix. Share budget, KPIs, demographic, and geolocation information with your performance marketing agency and/or affiliate network so they can provide a comprehensive online media plan for your campaigns with equal transparency.
Step 4: Monitor the campaign(s). Once launched, ensure the budget is being spent accordingly, brand guidelines are adhered to, and performance is tracked against plan.
Step 5: Optimize. ROI goals are achieved by optimizing each campaign source ROI by paying more for profitable sources to scale volume or paying less and/or cutting off unprofitable sources.
Testing a small performance marketing budget for immediate and measurable results, and on the agency's own marketing spend, will ensure your first performance marketing campaign is both efficient and profitable. None of this is possible in traditional marketing campaigns.
There are over seven billion people in the world today, and more than 315 million of those are in America alone. Chances are they aren't all interested in the exact same thing.
Enter demographics, target audiences, really expensive database memberships—and tailored experiential promotions.
The time for standard product-based rewards is nearing an end as more humanized, emotionally connected incentives and consumer engagement rises to the fore. Through careful market research and an understanding of specific demographics, brands now have the ability to truly get to know their consumers; what they like, what they do, what they want—and act accordingly. It opens the door for brands to connect on the emotional level humans crave so much. Now it's just a matter of who actually walks in that open door.
Although I was thrilled to receive another plastic keychain when I signed up for a new checking account recently, it made me realize that we as consumers are demanding more from the brands we love and trust and, even more so now, the ones we don't know yet. When Edelman Berland surveyed some 4,000 people, it found that 75% said they want brands to “provide them with the opportunity for more life experiences.”
Now here's where it gets a little tricky. Consumers want new experiences, just like brands and experience providers want new consumers. Right about now you're probably expecting me to quote the party line and say that we can't all win. And this is where you'll be wrong.
It takes lots of blood, lots of sweat, and years, but creating a business model in which everyone gets what they want is possible, and quite easy at that. It all boils down to a simple equation: partnering up with all of the experience providers like paintball venues, independent beauty salons, golf courses, and dance studios that adore the free traffic, and connecting them with the brands looking to captivate the same audience. A match made in marketing heaven.
Then it's up to the brands and their teams of market research analysts to understand their consumers, to get to know them on a first name basis, find out exactly what they like to do, and serve it up to them on a silver platter, or POS leaflet, dedicated micro site, shelf talker, or on-pack sticker—whatever the case may be.
After more than 100 years of couponing, slapping 27-step mail-in rebates on box tops, and handing out complimentary pens to get attention, its time brands started to change it up.
So, do the research, get your hands dirty, and ask your consumers a few questions.
I'll leave you with a question of my own: Have you gotten to know your consumers today?
Molly Schlinger is a strategic planner at TRCo Marketing.
Predictive analytics gives retail marketers the power to see into the future and know with almost complete certainty exactly what products shoppers will purchase, where they will make those purchases, and how their preferences will change in the short- and long-term.
Of course, all of this can be done simply by clicking a button—or at least that's what many of us are being led to believe. While this is a profound exaggeration, marketers can leverage the knowledge of analytical experts to use data from traditional point-of-sake systems, shopper loyalty cards, social media, online shopping behavior, mobile devices, and a myriad of other sources to gain insight into how shoppers will likely make certain purchasing decisions, how they will respond to specific events (such as weather, holidays, sporting events, etc.), and when and where those decisions will occur.
If used effectively, progressive retailers and CPGs can leverage this ability to better serve their customers, improve ROI from marketing initiatives and outperform their competitors. So what's stopping each of us from launching a predictive analytics team and getting this data right now?
First things first. Several questions must be addressed before companies move forward with a successful plan, including: How does predictive analytics work? What's different about it versus the analytics that most industry professionals are doing today? What is necessary to make use of this competency? How can this ability optimize and improve overall bottom-line results?
In its simplest terms, predictive analytics uses a combination of datasets and mathematical formulas to predict the likelihood of some future event or action. In the case of retail, it can help predict how a shopper will likely act or react in the future. For example, by comparing the behavior of an individual shopper with the behaviors of statistically similar shoppers, a marketer can “predict” what the future behaviors of the individual shopper might be. The accuracy of these predictions is in direct correlation to the amount of data available (both on the individual and the larger group), the quality of that data, and the expertise to know what information to mine for with the available resources. With the right data, technology, and knowledge experts, predictive analytics can be—and in many instances already is—the single largest contributor to the growing gap between industry leaders and everyone else.
While virtually every retailer and CPG is already using data analytics in some form, the vast majority have the opportunity to raise the bar on how they make the best use of the available data. For example, it's common practice to look at past purchase behavior and target shoppers with marketing materials for products similar to those items purchased in the past (or commonly related items, like milk and cereal). However, with predictive analytics, it's possible to send customized communications for seemingly unrelated items based on behavioral patterns that indicate what future purchases will likely be, even if on the surface those items appear to be completely unrelated.
A real game-changer in this realm is predictive modeling, which applies logic to the data by integrating historical patterns and external data to predict the future, improve decision-making, optimize business performance, and improve ROI. This is where the art of predictive analytics comes in. To craft models that can accurately forecast future behaviors and events, data scientists must first determine which combinations of attributes and variables are the most predictive of certain behaviors. Once these are identified, they can then be overlapped and applied to larger sets of data to anticipate everything from when a shopper is most likely to buy a particular product, to what brand he or she is most likely to favor, to whether a special offer will influence his or her decision.
One challenge for progressive retailers is determining how to develop the resources necessary to take advantage of this proverbial goldmine. Just as retailers don't raise their own cows in order to sell milk in their stores or develop POS software systems to manage the sale of every item, high-level analytics is a competency they can't expect to develop entirely own their own. Instead, they should look to develop a partnership with experts who specialize in consumer data and mathematical modeling.
As many retailers know, the cost to collect and warehouse consumer data can be significant. Now imagine obtaining the resources (human, technological, and intellectual) to effectively optimize the use of that data and incurring the costs associated with staying up-to-date on improvements in technology and information.
To provide for this need, retailers have two possible solutions. The first, and most cost-effective, is to make use of the investment that many of their partners have already made. The second option is to contract with a company that sells software and modeling services. This option allows retailers to bring the resources and competencies in-house and to manage the details of their analytics centrally. The decision of which approach to take is most often dictated by a combination of factors, including available investment capital, internal human resources, marketing and IT department synergies, and overall corporate strategy.
Once the right resources are in place, predictive analytics can help retailers and CPGs more effectively market to shoppers and manage backend operations. For example, it can help retailers manage inventory by more accurately forecasting demand, thereby avoiding out-of-stocks and reducing shrink by minimizing product spoilage. It can also help with promotional bundling and time-of-day optimization by determining what products should be sold together and at what time of the day and day of the week products sell best. This type of information can be leveraged to help customize in-store product sampling events for the exact days and times shoppers are looking for those items—going beyond the industry norm of simply scheduling events at the same time everyday, regardless of the item or target consumer.
Predictive analytics can also help optimize trade dollars by providing information based on customers' behaviors, not just on total sales. For example, if a CPG wanted to do a wine sampling event at a retailer, it wouldn't necessarily benefit from having the event at the top five locations with the highest overall sales. It would be better served by analyzing available data to determine which locations have the customers most likely to purchase wine and possibly even which varietals will appeal to shoppers at each location.
The bottom line is that predictive analytics enable retailers to truly “know their customer”—down to individual wants, needs, and preferences. Gone are the days of being able to stay competitive using the backward-looking, intuition-based decision-making that has been the mainstay for decades.
Future sales depend on knowing what your shoppers want—without even asking them. To succeed in today's marketplace, retailers and CPGs need to fully embrace—and trust—the new data-driven analytics that are the undeniable future of retail.
A February Ad Age article unearthed an old statistic that 80% of purchasers are women, yet only 3% of all creative directors are women. Many think this contributes to the seemingly huge gap in marketing relevance and effectiveness today.
The truly compelling part of the article centered on the role of the oft-ignored male purchaser. Consumers' lifestyles are always evolving, and as marketers our strategies to connect with them should too. Women balance work and home; it makes sense that men do the same. I've seen this shift in my own circle: Many husbands are either stay-at-home dads or incredibly active in helping at home. Whether it's shopping, diaper duty, or cleaning, they play an integral role in household operations.
Outside my experience, statistics show a larger sea change. This may be economically driven (more men than women are unemployed at 8.9% versus 8%, according to IDDBA, What's in Store 2012), but dads are playing stronger roles at home. With celebrity guys hosting popular cooking, DIY, decorating, and landscaping shows, perhaps the stigma around “male domesticity” is changing. And millennial men, a growing purchasing group, are especially comfortable shopping. Millennials are all about self-expression, and 38% of millennial men see fashion and grooming as a means to self-express, versus 16% of boomer men, according to the Ad Age piece.
So I must ask, how accurate is the statistic that women control 80% of purchasing power today, especially if 52% of dads now say they're the primary grocery shopper in their household? More than one-third of moms admit that their male counterparts have more influence on grocery store purchases, according to Cone Communications' Year of the Dad, 2012.
I can't help but wonder why stereotypes, particularly ones pitted against men, continue to permeate campaigns. Six out of 10 fathers say that although they make household purchasing decisions, only 22 to 24% felt the advertising in those categories spoke to them, says IDDBA. In fact, when it comes to the in-store experience, 40% of men feel unwelcome. Evidently advertisers (and their agencies) are missing the mark when it comes to men.
A couple examples come to mind. A recent Clorox Disinfecting Wipes spot features a bumbling dad amid dinner chaos, changing his baby's diaper on the kitchen counter. Mom walks in and she does not approve. Wipes save the day. This not only feeds the misconception that dads are inadequate caregivers, it portrays mom as a belittling matriarch.
In another example, a 2007 Sony Cyber-Shot ad has the subtlety of a sledgehammer. The spot features a family interacting with a real horse's butt as their “dad.” The horse's rear can't cook, ignores a request to go outside and play ball, and starts an argument with his wife at bedtime. But hey, your dad can get his face in focus thanks to this camera!
The moral of the story? Despite shifts in culture, tradition and, responsibilities, certain advertising truisms remain. First and foremost, know your target. Marketers may need to dig a little deeper and be open-minded about who's buying their products. It might surprise you. Let those discoveries lend truth and authenticity to the work. Let's not continue to fuel stereotypes. It comes off as disingenuous and sexist, and consumers can tell. The best way to make a connection and build trust with your consumer is to be real, no matter what gender you're targeting.
Banner ads are an ineffective way to drive traffic or boost online PR for a brand. Even Digiday Editor-in-Chief Brian Morrissey said banner ads are so unappealing they've “become a symbol of all that's wrong with online advertising.
The biggest complaints lodged against banner ads are that they are intrusive and lack creativity—and worst of all are ignored by the overwhelming majority of Web users.
But despite the banner ad's major drawbacks, it remains a mainstay of the Internet, although many publishers are keen for the online marketing world to move away from it toward more fruitful and engaging options.
And those calling for its demise have quite a lot of data to back them up.
While comScore found that 5.3 trillion display ads were served to U.S. Web users last year—an increase of one trillion from 2009—research from DoubleClick indicates that click-through rates for banner ads are a paltry 0.1%.
ComScore even estimates that around one in three (31%) ad impressions cannot be viewed by users.
And the aforementioned clickthrough rates don't get any more impressive when viewed in the context of ComScore data suggesting 8% of Internet users are responsible for 85% of clicks.
Solve Media even goes as far as to say an individual is more likely to survive a plane crash than click on a banner ad!
Add to all that recent research from eMarketer into the general perception of banner ads, which found that only 15% of people trust banner ads. The equivalent figure for TV ads is 29%. The same research suggests that around one in three people (34%) don't trust banner ads at all or very much, compared to one in four (26%) for magazine ads.
But banner ads continue to be popular with a number of brands—according to comScore 445 different advertisers delivered more than a billion banner ads in 2012.
Last year, Gawker, the media news and gossip blog, made a significant move away from traditional display ads and said it would work with its advertisers directly to create new content avenues. In an email to staff, Gawker Chief Executive Nick Denton said: “We all know the conventional wisdom: The days of the banner advertisement are numbered. In two years, our primary offering to marketers will be our discussion platform.”
You heard it here first: It's deeper engagement in the form of content marketing and social media outreach that will attract online consumers of the future.
Content is an essential component of your marketing strategy, and how you choose to integrate it into your overall plan depends largely on how you define your target market. Your target market is not the same as any customer that could conceivably buy your product; it is deliberately designed to be exclusive. Creating such focus grounds your message so you can tell your story in a manner that allows your audience to identify with your brand and allows you to speak to them clearly, directly, and with the sole intent to engage.
To ensure that your content is effective in driving engagement and generating sales, you'll be hard-pressed to find any marketing team that is focused on a singular strategy that doesn't include a multi-platform approach given that your target audience has a variety of avenues to choose from when accessing your brand. This means you need to ensure you're agile enough to meet your audience at key points by providing content in numerous formats and platforms to help reinforce your message and continue the conversation whenever and wherever you engage.
In this age, content marketing extends beyond the simplicity of creating, publishing, and publicizing content. Your content has to be dynamic. Therefore, your plan needs to consider content and how it elevates your brand from multiple strategic perspectives, of which there are eight: brand, online/offline, research, governance, email, social, mobile and campaign strategies.
Consider your own content marketing strategy. Does it account for the eight strategic pillars of a sound content strategy? No? Well, I'm going to cover the essentials of the first four strategies, which I consider to be the starting point in your efforts whether you are evaluating current or prior initiatives or are just getting started in building a sound content marketing strategy.
1. Brand strategy
Perception and trust is the name of the game, so start by putting yourself in the shoes of your target audience to continuously evaluate whether your brand provides content that your audience identifies with and finds valuable. Now mix in trust by ensuring that you're creating customer-centric content which will develop trust and deepen credibility with your consumers. Bake in these two aspects to your brand strategy and you'll find that affinity will increase and relationships will become stronger over time when the foundational elements of your brand are layered with benefits to your buyer.
2. Online and offline strategies
Do you have a cohesive online strategy? Can you effectively connect the dots of how you're telling your story online and where your content intersects into offline avenues of storytelling? Clinton Florry put it nicely in a prior blog post when he said, “When companies present anything less than a complete and unified presence online and offline, people notice. Really, they do. Those people may shrug their shoulders and carry on with their tasks on your site (albeit with less satisfaction and ease.) Or, in the absence of any info online, they may give up and go to a competitor.” So think about how you engage, both online and offline so as not to leave your audience hanging.
3. Research strategy
Is your story (the content, the message, the overall design) making the grade? Evaluate it and don't forget to ask those that matter to you the most by performing periodic assessments. Don't be afraid to ask your audience. They'll tell you what's up.
4. Governance strategy
Consider the SAS model as a guiding principle for developing and driving good governance practices. Have the leaders from each relevant business unit meet weekly to discuss and coordinate content activities and prioritize future initiatives.
Just like baking a good cake, the top four strategies are the essential ingredients to your cake batter. What can make a great cake exceptional is the layering of flavors, frosting, decoration, and good plating. That's where the remaining four pillars (email, social, mobile, and campaign strategies) add the additional depth and character to your content marketing efforts that will take your brand presence and storytelling to the next level. So, what are you waiting for? Get cooking. A thoughtful holistic strategy may take you some time to design but will be devoured by all.
Najwa Smith is the director of content strategy at Rosetta.
Imagine this scenario: A “freemium” dating site with millions of members and a mobile app is offering 15% off on an upgrade to a premium membership. The company identifies two segments of customers it believes are likely to upgrade—very frequent site users and those who report a high income or list a high-paying job on their profile.
The site then deploys two variants of the same marketing push notification to some members of these two segments in order to see which version results in more upgrades:
A.“Big Special! 15% off on Ultra Membership!”
Message A had a 40% open rate and a 20% conversion rate. For every 100,000 messages sent, 8,000 were clicked and resulted in an upgrade.
B. “Ultra Membership 15% off! Hurry, Deal Ends Soon!”
Message B had 30% open rate and a 30% conversion rate. For every 100,000 messages sent, 9,000 were clicked and resulted in an upgrade.
Though it had a lower open rate, message B yielded better ROI because it had a higher coupon redemption, or conversion rate (9% versus 8%). The service deploys this message to all members in both of the selected segments, resulting in hundreds of thousands of new Ultra memberships—and a hefty chunk of profit—for the site.
This is A/B split testing, which marketers have been using for decades to measure the effectiveness of their print, television, and desktop-based Web campaigns. That's because it produces concrete, actionable evidence of what works, so marketers don't have to rely on educated guesses that may or may not produce desired business results.
This analytics tool is starting to make its mark on mobile—and just in time.
Around the world, there are more than 1.2 billion mobile subscriptions in use, with that number expected to grow to 9.3 billion by 2018. That's 2.3 billion more than the whole world's current population. In response to this boom, most marketers are planning to increase their mobile budgets this year. Not only that, but mobile marketing budgets are expected to reach a yearly $4.4 billion by 2015—and that's just in the U.S. alone.
But if marketers don't measure the effectiveness of their mobile messaging, that extra spend—and any potential ROI—is likely to evaporate.
For maximum effectiveness of any mobile campaigns, messages need to be both timely and relevant. Messages that are too frequent or don't bring any added value simply turn most consumers off, leading them to unsubscribe from marketing updates.
A/B split testing of push notifications, SMS, and mobile email messages can be one of the most powerful tools of engagement in any marketer's kit as they look for data beyond standard metrics (for example, open rates), such as organic versus prompted opens, time since last open, app session times, redemption rates, and other mobile-specific conversions focused on engagement and ROI.
Marketers who split-test their mobile messages often follow up by using collected response data to retarget customers who either ignored the message altogether or opened it without taking further action. Retargeting helps marketers significantly maximize the value of their audiences, boosting customer retention and sales in the process.
Every time mobile marketers A/B test and retarget, they gather information that allows them to paint an increasingly detailed and accurate snapshot of each user or customer and his or her preferences. The better marketers get to know their individual users, the more relevant and enticing their offers will be.
Even when marketers believe their push, SMS, or mobile email campaigns are doing well—and they may even be doing even better than well—there is always room for improvement. A/B split testing for mobile messaging campaigns ensures that every message a marketer sends is more powerful, engaging, and personalized—in other words more effective—than the last.
Brendan O'Kane is CEO of OtherLevels.
More and more, consumers are bombarded with messages—from advertisements under the ice at a hockey game to mobile phone apps, or one of the thousands of other places ads are placed in today's media-rich environment. What stands out is how marketers are slowly taking up the concepts of offer optimization:
1. Consider the entire offer. No longer is an offer just a reduced price, buy one get one free, or even a “come back for extra loyalty points” deal. Better marketers are considering other elements of the offer, including the messaging and tone as part of the “offer mix” to help the offer stand out in the crowd.
Now, the same offer can be made using more masculine or feminine tones or can be tailored with unique messaging that resonates with the target consumer persona or customer segment. We see many of our clients now making the same offer construct with several different messages and seeing significant differences in response—for example, when a retailer shows an item with a “you deserve the best” versus a “latest in fashion” tagline.
2. Expand your concept of the offer. The offer is no longer a discount or some special deal. Better marketers have a communication stream with prospects and current consumers that include brand reinforcement offers and even customer service offers. These offers don't provide a deal or discount, but they do achieve other objectives that in the end drive customer behaviors in alignment with a brand's consumer acquisition and growth goals.
3. Consider measurement of the offer. Leading marketers are not just measuring campaigns or click-throughs, but instead are joining together all the aforementioned elements of an offer and measuring the effectiveness of these “offers” across all dimensions. And they are building and licensing platforms that support this goal instead of merely looking at response rates or other broad economics associated with acceptance of the offer.
If marketers are going to adapt to the new impression-rich world we live in, they will have to modify their thinking on consumer engagement to ensure a focus on offer optimization that will help their targeting communications stand out above the fray.
Mike Caccavale is CEO of Pluris Marketing and an expert in cross-channel offer optimization.
Just recently, I was scrolling through my smartphone phonebook and accidentally dialed my mother-in-law instead of my mechanic. As happy as she was to see my call “attempt,” it was—secretly—attributable to nothing more than a finger fail. This is a technology growing pain, but as highlighted by a study from mobile app marketing platform Trademob, the “fat fingers” phenomenon is adding up to more than just a lot of redials.
The research found that 22% of clicks on mobile ads are accidental. The numbers were even higher a year ago when a Harris Interactive survey reported 47% of app users said they were more likely to tap a mobile ad inadvertently than intentionally. Trademob also discovered that 18% of clicks are fraudulent. By the study's calculations, that means two out of every five mobile ad clicks are useless. With this level of uncertainty, marketers may not want to devote their limited dollars to mobile, just like grocery shoppers wouldn't want to buy a carton of a dozen eggs with a disclaimer saying four or five might be cracked.
But more than 110 million people in the United States own smartphones, according to comScore—and Ericsson ConsumerLab found that more than one-third of smartphone users get online before they even get out of bed. June 2012 data from UK mobile operator O2 indicates people spend about two hours a day on average using their smartphones. These drugs of the digital age are almost always within arm's reach; people are addicted to their iPhones and Androids. With the facts as they are, is ignoring perhaps the most powerful marketing channel there is—the smartphone—a smart move?
Consider that the first wheel wasn't used for transportation. Even though owning a smartphone is life-changing, not all things in life translate to a 3.5 inch touchscreen without being changed. Capitalizing on the strengths of these anytime/anywhere devices to target consumers is already possible and can become more effective with a collective focus from the advertising and technology industries. Mobile can do more than get by as an advertising platform with a little help from our friends innovation, anticipation, and design.
Innovation: Mobile banner ads are far from the only option. For example, Audingo delivers voice and video messages, accompanied by an ad, from subscribers' favorite organizations and personalities via phone calls, texts, and emails. The format differentiates them from traditional on-screen ads by offering subscribers a new way to consume mobile ads—and a human voice—rather than just text and images, and issues a direct call-to-action.
We don't have to settle for “the way it is.” Introduce something new to overcome current deterrents; make tweaks to the many amazing technologies and methods that already exist. Innovation can overcome the drawbacks of mobile advertising.
Anticipation: With mobile advertising, the fewer clicks the better. You don't want a valuable ad click to simply take someone to your mobile website; you want to set up a truly quick and easy sale, sign-up, or download. So think three steps ahead—unlike traditional advertising, consumers should be able to react instantly to a call-to-action, such as by entering their email address to immediately receive an email or text message with an associated offer code or by choosing to be transferred to speak with a customer service representative.
Not only will this lead to a higher conversion rate, but with the measurable results of on-the-spot, actionable mobile advertising, one's strategy can be honed based on a consumer's interaction with the ad.
Design: All screens are not created equal. Clearly the rules change when designing an ad to be viewed on a mobile phone versus a big screen laptop. With mobile ads, make the call-to-action buttons larger to reduce accidental taps. Most people's index fingers are at least 1.6 cm wide, and most users are navigating quickly, which makes them less able to be precise with every touch. Also take advantage of the entire screen, if possible, particularly if there is more than one clickable call-to-action. Allowing users adequate space between these buttons is also important.
The mobile platform offers unique advantages for grabbing a user's attention with the flexibility for more advanced designs, but don't totally disregard what you've learned in the print world. Overcomplicating the ad can dilute its effectiveness by drawing attention away from the call-to-action.
The numbers on the effectiveness of mobile marketing shouldn't scare you. The creativity of the industry will overcome the challenges of today, unlocking endless possibilities for tomorrow.
Matt Merritt is cofounder and president of Audingo.
I was fortunate enough to attend this year's SXSW Interactive Festival as a moderator on a panel about crowd-funding and entrepreneurship. Considering every one of the more than 25,000 people at the festival had their eyes fixed on their phones, there's plenty of content and conversations surrounding the show available in the social sphere at #sxsw, so I won't try and out “Grumpy Cat” the crowds. But here are a few observations:
The uniform last week in Austin was plaid shirts, big glasses, tattoos, and beards among the digerati. However, there was also a lot of talk among these elites about “The Crowd.” There were at least a dozen different talks on the power of accessing this crowd, which could refer to either one's own social network or a larger community, to hack a system. In my case, the system was financing. Platforms like Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Kiva, and Neighbor.ly connect entrepreneurial ideas to capital by disrupting the more traditional means of banks, community-based economic development, and venture capital firms.
These crowd-funding platforms have democratized access to capital. While crowd-funding business ventures are currently limited by regulatory and fraud concerns, there's strong support for it at many levels. Many made the case for the transformational power crowd-funding has to unleash a huge swath of entrepreneurial activity among business owners and start ups everywhere. It's about making the process to raise money virtually frictionless for entrepreneurs by pointing towards a way to monetize our social networks. Our understanding of what it means to be an “investor,” an “owner”—even the market itself—will surely change as this emergent behavior expands. Just a few days ago an avid group of fans helped bankroll two million dollars for their dream project, a Veronica Mars movie—$10,000 got you a walk-on part—and saved the studio hundreds of thousands of dollars in financing and marketing costs. It's a win-win situation.
Industries and institutions are ripe for this kind of democratizing disruption. The questions now are: How can we shed light on new opportunities for brands that act generously and openly with valuable customer advocates, and what can we glean about emergent trends and tastes from crowd-funded projects?
Everyone is selling something
SXSW is a festival by design, not a conference. As a result there is lots of schmoozing and socializing. Startups are selling their ideas to potential users, agencies, and clients, and agencies are selling their coolness and insider insights to their clients. The “pitch” is just part of the culture at South By. Social media and digital media on the whole create an always-on and ready-to-respond environment for brands that is hectic and unrelenting. The speed of change, demand for response, and an abundance of options make selling a strategic priority.
So, how can we simultaneously strengthen our relationships with clients and customers while opening doors for opportunities that add value (technology, media, and production partners)—even if they also compete for attention and resources?
Makers, hackers & storytellers
There is a distinct melting pot feeling at SXSW: Makers with their pride in craftsmanship; hackers with their disruptive tendencies; and storytellers who can capture and sell the optimism. This trio can make quite a marketing stew of innovative solutions and valuable relationships.
Kraft made a big investment at SXSW with program sponsorship and various activation points throughout the festival, and Oreo was also a standout example of the marketer embracing the maker and hacker mindsets within a branded story. Oreo has made a big investment in social media in an attempt to connect to a new generation of Oreo customers. Some of activation ideas were fun (green screen Austin), while others were more traditional advertising activations, such as T-shirts on pedicab drivers—but overall it was clear Oreo is willing to hack its own brand in order to reinvent itself within the burgeoning SXSW community.
The ability to create a product people want to use, and a willingness to innovate within an emotionally resonant context, can both change behaviors and impact the trajectory of entire industries. Doing it well takes care, courage, and creativity. Do you have what it takes?
Seth Friedman is managing partner of Tribal Worldwide.
Third-party web components add valuable functions to your site. But if anything goes wrong, only one party will get the blame: you, as the owner/operator of your organization's website. Your site, however, isn't entirely your own. To deliver the functions and features visitors expect, your site is actually a composite of your own resources plus numerous third-party web components, like content delivery networks (CDNs), site search functions, shopping cart and payment processing functions, ad networks, multiple social network connections, ratings and reviews for gathering feedback, and web analytics.
Today, the average website includes components from eight or more different hosts. While these components help drive traffic, increase conversions, and improve customer satisfaction, they also make pages significantly heavier, which can slow websites down. As response times increase, interactions begin to slow and dissatisfaction rises, resulting in a staggering business impact. Amazon has calculated that a page load slowdown of just one second could cost it $1.6 billion in sales each year.
Super Bowl 2013: An example of the perils of third-party services: For many major companies, the Super Bowl represents the top advertising and marketing event of the year. Millions of dollars are spent in the creation of ads, as well as for 30-second and one-minute ad blocks. Most companies try to link their TV ads to their online properties to create a “second screen” correlation, relying on consumers to simultaneously use online media on tablets and smartphones to augment the traditional TV brand interaction.
Now, imagine spending all that money to drive traffic to your site, only to have your website response time throughout the six hours of the Super Bowl spike to ten seconds on average, with periods where it is even higher than that. This is exactly what happened to marquee brand Coca-Cola. In an age where impatient visitors expect sites to download with Google-like speed, you can bet many visitors didn't stick around on Coca-Cola's site. They may have even migrated over to top competitor Pepsi, who also advertised during the game.
While many advertisers' sites were unaffected by Super Bowl-driven traffic surge, others were seriously impacted. Not surprisingly, Compuware data showed that two of the three slowest advertisers' sites were very complex, drawing content from more than 20 distinct hosts. These companies may have done all the right things to ensure preparedness, such as enlisting the services of CDNs, but what they may not have accounted for is the reality that they wouldn't be alone—and that other advertisers would be leveraging the same resources, stressing CDN capabilities at this critical time.
Mitigating the Risk: When optimizing website performance under both normal and peak traffic loads, it's not enough to examine just the factors within one's own firewall. You also have to mitigate the risks imposed by third-party partners. There are several key success factors for using third-parties effectively:
Once you have a sense of the features and functions you'd like to add to your site—for example, videos, social networking connections, and shopping carts—you should do some homework to put your site on a more secure foundation. Specifically you should baseline your site's performance to get a sense of the performance of your site as it exists on its own, and understand the discrepancy that a third-party service may introduce. You should also weigh the upside advantages of new functions against the downside of possible performance degradations. Finally, you must look “under the hood” of third-party service-level agreements (SLAs) and ask tough questions such as: Can you handle a peak load coming from two, three, or more customers simultaneously?
You should test components before launch and under various traffic volumes. You should also consider devising fast-fail programs that ensure the functioning of your overall site, even if one particular component should fail. Consider, as well, redundant services for the most critical features of your site, like the shopping cart.
To get an accurate sense of performance, you need a testing strategy that adopts the customer point-of-view and reveals what they experience at the browser-level. A meaningful program targets key transactions across multiple geographies and across the most popular browser and device types.
The speed and bandwidth limitations of most mobile carrier connections mean that when the performance of a third-party service does go awry on a mobile site the impact can be even more detrimental than with traditional sites. The very same feature-richness that enhances a traditional website can be a hindrance on a mobile site, so consider creating a mobile-optimized version of your site that cuts down on third-party services, especially those that customers aren't apt to use on-the-go,” such as ratings and reviews.
Once you've selected and pre-tested third-party services for your website, the real work begins. Even though vendors may be contracted to meet certain standards, it's ultimately your vigilance that will ensure these standards are met. You must set measurable SLAs containing data that all parties clearly agree to and understand. You should measure, and keep measuring, all the time; the occasional snapshot of data won't do it. Also remember to share the wealth of data with your vendors. This will allow you to work together more amicably and solve problems more effectively.
Every website is an invitation to prospective customers. The right third-parties can add valuable functions and features to your site, but they can also introduce more complexity, and it's up to you to manage performance across this complexity. A new generation of application performance management, focused on the end-user experience, can help significantly. This approach allows businesses to be more proactive by detecting end-user performance degradations and combining this information with deep-dive diagnostics to rapidly identify and fix the source of problems.
This can make the difference in third-party services being a true asset—or liability—to your online presence.
Stephen Pierzchala is a technology strategist at Compuware APM's business unit.
Whether it's a blog, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram—your prospects are online and they're social. Potential buyers and customers are sharing content, opinions, and experiences publicly on the Web.
It's obvious that social media has changed the game for lead generation and it's important for marketers to get involved in those online conversations as early as possible. That being said, lead management is evolving and marketers are figuring out how to integrate social media throughout their campaigns from first touch to close of business.
So, how can social drive lead management? Below is a four step framework to help B2B demand generation marketers get started in the social world.
1. Awareness. Before engaging potential buyers through social, it's important to find out what these potential buyers— specifically your target buyers—are talking about in various social channels. Figure out who the influencers are and where the relevant conversations are taking place. It's pointless to have a huge presence on Facebook, for example, if your buyers simply aren't there.
Similarly, there's no point in talking just to talk. Produce content that your target audience will be excited to share.
2. Engage. Once you know where your target buyers are and what they're saying, it's time to start engaging. When you're on social channels such as Twitter and Facebook, be sure to start a conversation as opposed to broadcasting a message. In other words talk “with” your audience, not “to” it.
Embedding social sharing tools within your content will help prospects and current customers serve in an ambassador role. If these targets feel engaged, they may start sharing your messages virally to new contacts. Remember that it's important to not only attract leads, but to engage with people who might influence the buying decision. Also, endorsements from influencers can result in faster conversions.
3. Enrich. Social channels provide unique data around stated preferences and specific behavior. This kind of data is gold for sales and prospecting. Capture data by analyzing what social channels are driving traffic to your existing marketing assets and then capture the additional actions that those leads take from there.
Tools like social sign-on are really catching on. Social sign-on gives a marketer permission-based access to social data, which you can then append to your database. This data will then be massively helpful when it comes to segmentation and lead scoring.
4. Measure. It should go without saying, but measurement is crucial to determine what's working and what's not regarding your social efforts. Be sure to measure what social channels drive traffic to your pages and what campaigns drive the most conversions.
There are lots of new tools that can help close the loop on social campaigns and from there, you can determine how your social campaigns are stacking up against your more traditional marketing campaigns.
Rob Bois is product marketing manager at Eloqua, where he is responsible for strategy and positioning for the Eloqua Social Suite, as well as the overall enterprise market segment. For additional information on integrating social into lead generation, download Eloqua's free eBook, the Grande Guide to Social Demand Generation.
Recently, I had a revealing conversation with someone who is a true expert in B2C marketing. Interestingly, the story she shared with me came out of her experience as a consumer, not a marketer.
She's a Mustang driver, a loyal customer for years. I could tell how much she loves to drive Mustangs, as her enthusiasm heated up our conversation in a cold New York City café. She often visits the carmaker's website to check out the new Mustang models, even taking the time to configure her dream Mustang. She regularly visits the Mustang Facebook page, too, and has, of course, liked it. With all this activity, you'd think the carmaker might have picked up the hint about her interest level, right? Instead, Ford sent her campaign promotions for a mid-price SUV suitable for families. Why? Our expert in B2C marketing fell into a particular demographic segment—married mother of a certain age and income.
Why is this story so meaningful? I see it as a parable about customer relevance and marketing analytics. Our Mustang loyalist sent unmistakable signals about her preferences. Her configuration of the car at Ford's website offered further clues about what might prompt her to buy. But the marketing team at Ford failed to see the signals clearly evident in this data and sent her an irrelevant offer.
Consumers leave behind them a trail of data “breadcrumbs” with every online click or in-store interaction, which clearly shows what they want, how they want it, and when they are most likely to buy—which is why it's up to you, the marketer, to use those breadcrumbs to synchronize your selling cycle with the consumer's buying cycle, delivering the relevance today's consumers demand. Our Mustang driver is a case in point.
Customer segmentation, of course, is fundamental to achieving relevance. In fact, it has been part of the marketing “bible” for many decades. You might actually see Henry Ford's production of the first affordable car for the middle class as an exercise in segmentation long before it became a marketing watchword. The Model-T fulfilled Ford's vow to build a car “so low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one…” (My Life and Work, Henry Ford, 1922)
Given the rapid proliferation of marketing channels and digital media, today's marketers have even more options available to them to develop buyer personas for their products. We are in an era of micro-segmentation and micro-targeting based on the wealth of customer data generated across the complex customer journey with its broad array of touchpoints. Marketers have access to data on consumer search and engagement patterns, demographics, social and interest graphs, campaign responses, and even geo-location data. This data becomes a listening post that yields tremendous insight into buyers when combined with the power of analytics. Yet the volume and diversity of this data makes this a daunting task for most.
Demographic segmentation told marketers that our Mustang enthusiast should statistically have been interested in an SUV. But that's still not the data that reveals what, when, and how she will buy. Behavioral data often trumps demographic data in predicting purchase patterns. What's needed is to discover what motivates a consumer to buy, including product qualities, offers, or other factors that cause specific individuals to respond. To fully understand consumers and achieve relevance, marketers need to connect, integrate, and analyze data generated in a variety of ways—demographic and psychographic characteristics, but also behavioral, social, and geo-location information.
The data produced as buyers visit stores and browse across websites, social platforms, and mobile media, for example, make it possible to identify consumers that are more likely to buy than others. These types of purchase predictors can be further segmented by geographic location and seasonal elements to create profiles of potentially high-value consumers which can then be matched to offers relevant to them.
Achieving relevance also involves another critical element: timing. Technologists like to talk about the real-time speed of analytics platforms. And it's true that analytics today make it possible to track marketing campaigns in real time, allowing rapid course corrections that were impossible just a few years ago. Marketers, however, also need to focus on “right time” marketing. That's how you synchronize your selling cycles with the consumer buying cycle.
“Right time” is about understanding when a buyer is likely to make a purchase decision. Behavioral, social, and mobile data are much more time-oriented and can provide predictors to enable the marketer to send the right offers at the right time, in contrast to demographic segmentation, which provides no clues at all to timing.
It's your choice as a marketer. Customers today have heightened knowledge of brands. Irrelevant offers are blindingly obvious to them. You need to deliver the right message to the right person at the right time in the right channels—or watch them defect to other brands. The data breadcrumb trail tells you how to achieve the relevance your buyers demand—and deserve.
As humans, we have an innate need to see, hear, smell, feel, and manipulate objects in our physical world. Being able to see the brightness of the screen and listen to the sound quality of a TV, smelling the fragrance and feeling the creaminess of a face lotion, or testing the softness of a sweater against one's skin—that's what drives shoppers into a physical store.
What then drives the more than 40% of shoppers reported to engage in showrooming away from the store and onto the virtual sales floor? According to recent studies by Aprimo and Northwestern University, many leave because of poor customer service, lack of personalization, and higher cost—and lower value—items. However, retailers and CPGs have an opportunity to overcome all three of these by rethinking and reinventing the in-store experience.
Improving customer service
Retail is above all a service industry and every associate—from the stock clerk to the cashier to the store manager—has a critical role to play in satisfying shoppers' needs and expectations. Creating a culture centered on customer service is more than just implementing a policy. The first step comes in hiring associates who love what they do and who enjoy working with the public. With the right people in place, activities like welcoming shoppers into the store, asking if they need help, and offering to walk them to the aisle that contains the item they're trying to find will come naturally. Ongoing training and incentives (be they tangible or intangible) are often the key to creating this culture of service—and a worthwhile investment given that good service is often rewarded with sales.
Personalizing the shopping experience
Though good service is an important factor, it's not all that's required. Associates also need robust training on the products they sell. Unlike online reviews or static product descriptions, a well-trained associate can talk with shoppers one-on-one, answering questions and providing in-depth insight that directly combats the lack of information many have cited as a reason for turning to the web, as well as the one-size-fits-all approach served up by many online retailers.
By adding a retailer-branded in-store sampling and demonstration event program to the mix, retailers can further the positive, personalized shopping experience, while also playing to shoppers' tactile instincts. These events actively encourage shoppers to get hands-on with a product by engaging all five senses, as well as shoppers' emotions. They also give associates the opportunity to demonstrate how the product can serve each shopper's unique needs. When a shopper shows interest, associates can use the relationship they've begun to establish to directly ask for the sale, handing over a package or personally guiding the shopper to the shelf where the product can be found. All of these techniques deliver a shopping experience that makes the customer feel valued, which can be the difference between a finalized sale and yet another opportunity lost to the virtual retail world.
Addressing customer service and personalization issues by elevating the in-store experience is a natural fit. But what about cost concerns? Here a lesson can be learned from retailers like Costco and Target. These industry leaders are beginning to work with vendors and CPGs to change the in-store/online value dynamic by offering exclusive, upgraded versions of products, such as a coffee maker bundled with a reusable filter that would normally cost double the difference in price between the base models available online and this exclusive in-store-only bundle.
But it's not enough to simply put these products on the shelf—you also have to get customers to buy into the value-add concept. Associates or dedicated brand ambassadors (think a “KitchenAid Specialist” or “Kellogg's Guru”) can be the answer. These product experts highlight product attributes, making the differences and added value clear to shoppers, while at the same time appealing to shoppers' emotions by making them feel like they're getting something truly special and unique that's only available in-store and not online.
The bottom line is that retailers and CPGs need to vary the lens through which they view their marketing efforts. In the past, getting shoppers in-store was often the primary focus. But the fact that showroomers are going to brick-and-mortar stores first and still leaving empty handed is evidence that simply getting shoppers in the door isn't enough. It's also proof that virtual retailers can't satisfy a shopper's every need.
To overcome the showrooming phenomenon, retailers and CPGs must work to fill in the gaps left by online shopping and provide an in-store truly valuable shopping experience—both emotionally and financially.
Do you know what an Internet “meme” is? Have you done the “Harlem Shake?” Do you understand the phrase “Do you even lift?” If your answer is “yes,” there's a very good chance you value the nature of inclusivity that comes with online communities like Reddit, and respect the nature of phenomena that, although on a much larger scale, can still feel like an inside joke.
In an era of extreme connectivity, trends literally move at the speed of light, and brands often feel the need to capitalize on this “cool.” For example, I recently read an article that spoke of the “Harlem Shake” craze and how Pepsi was quick to act on the viral sensation.
Another example of jumping on the meme bandwagon is Brisk Iced Tea (interestingly, owned by Pepsi), and its adaptation of adapted the “Scumbag Steve” meme for what ultimately became a humorous advertisement for the brand's product. Brisk even used the Internet slang “UR” in the ad.
My point in bringing up these seemingly meaningless nuggets of information is to beg the question, “When does trying to be cool become uncool?”
I would argue that brands might be doing more harm than good by trying to keep up with the speed of the Internet and attempting capitalize on cool. In the example of the “Harlem Shake” other bloggers suggest that this trend has already “jumped the shark,” and that the short half-life of the fad can be linked directly to its corporate adoption. Often, once a brand tries too hard to fit in, it ends up skewing its brand image, in effect alienating fans who feel like the brand's trying too hard to connect with users. A message that feels forced will only define your image as “uncool”—a fate every brand fears.
So what does this mean for marketers?
Timeliness and messaging that resonates with your target audience is more important than ever. Social media has allowed marketers a chance to develop a symbiotic relationship with their customers, while responding to and sharing content in real time. The caveat to all of this is that brands must respect their role as a brand, as opposed to acting like a customer's peer. Mailings, social communities, videos, mobile content, and real-time interactions through SMS campaigns and geolocation give plenty of avenues to reach your audience—via the medium of their choice—when and how they choose to be reached.
Campaigns that focus on capitalizing on the latest trends may be perceived as passé by the time their audience views them. Take the slew of Gangnam Style parodies last year. By the time many marketers created their own company take on the trend, Gangnam Style had already become uncool, and the brands that were late to the party became uncool by association…kind of like the middle-aged guy who still says “for shizzle.”
Consider the “Harlem Shake” as a cautionary tale and learn from it. Rather than trying to capitalize on the “hip factor,” consider other more effective ways to reach your audience using technology. Brands that create shareable material and make their own “memes” will see their content organically shared. Those will the brands that triumph. Just look at Old Spice.
I leave you with one of my favorite examples of a brand missing the mark in trying to keep up with the times. I give you RAProductions Pier 1 training video from 2001.
Matt Haskell is social media marketing manager at SourceLink, a marketing services provider focused on direct marketing utilizing customer intelligence, database marketing, and modeling and analytics. Follow the company on Twitter @SourceLink and find it on Facebook.
There's an app for that, and that, and that. Even before mobile phones could connect to the Internet, they came with apps. Only back then they were “features,” like calendars, calculators, and contact lists. Today, apps have become an intrinsic part of daily life, tackling everything from healthcare and finances to shopping and dating. The average smartphone has 41 apps installed, a 21% increase from 2011.
In November 2012, Google announced Google Play had tied Apple's App Store at 700,000 apps—and Apple recently reported that it has added about 75,000 new apps since. And that's not even counting BlackBerry's, Amazon's, or Windows' stores.
With such rapid growth of apps on consumers' mobile devices, remaining relevant has become synonymous with push notifications for developers.
Over 1.5 trillion push notifications have been sent through iOS alone—but are those pushes truly keeping mobile users engaged with the apps? I would argue that they're not, as message overload and irrelevance causes as many as 69% of consumers to abandon updates from brands sending pushes, SMS, or mobile email messages. While we don't want to call it spam, consumers may see it that way.
So, if the ultimate goal is to drive engagement, then it's necessary to do more than publish an app and start sending out a volley of pushes that haven't been tested—or at least distributed in a way that can tell mobile marketers which messages resonate with consumers, or not.
Coming back to apps, depending on complexity, development can get expensive. Developers creating apps for Android have spent as little as $600 and as much as $150,000. For iOS, the cost can be as much as $4,000 for a simple app; $50,000 for native database apps; and even $250,000 for the most complex games.
Despite these costs, IT spending on mobile app development is projected to jump 50% this year. Investment in mobile app marketing is also expected to rise by 39%. And for companies who plan to market on those apps this means giving serious consideration to where to focus resources once they start their push notification campaigns.
That's because customer acquisition is also expensive. The cost of attracting a new customer has gone “through the roof,” as Andrew Green, head of business development at game company TinyCo, recently told All Things Digital.
So, it's clear that for mobile apps to make sense, the focus after acquisition needs to be on user retention. It's critical for developers and brands to utilize every chance they have to bring users back to their apps. But with more than a quarter of app users only opening an app once after download, retention can seem like more of a challenge than developing the app in the first place.
It's time for apps to start measuring the content in their push notifications and tailoring the message to suit the preferences of the user. Alternating tonality, calls-to-action, and word count in various tests can link particular message elements to specific user outcomes and goals, telling brands and developers what their users and customers really want.
And that's the key to customer retention.
The base of potential app customers is set to boom in the coming years. Swedish telecom giant Ericsson is predicting that by 2018 there will be 9.3 billion mobile data plans in use. That's 2.3 billion more than the whole world's current population.
Today, users' love affairs with individual apps can be brief. An app that's retained by just 30% of those who downloaded it is considered to have “sticking power.” Making sure they know their customers' preferences, and then tailoring pushes accordingly, will help brands marketing through apps to better engage and retain those customers—and help ensure their app doesn't end up in a virtual trashcan.
Relevance is the key to driving marketing campaign performance: getting the right message to the right audience at the right time. But how do you make that happen? By leveraging what you already know about a prospect or customer and using the data you've collected to make the message you deliver important and topical to your audience.
Get the data together
Data-driven marketing requires marketing teams to collect, organize, and analyze data from various sources. Internal data can be sourced from disparate systems: identify where the data is, integrate and organize it into a useful database, and analyze it meaningfully.
Internal data can be made richer in content via progressive profiling. For instance, acquiring data over time, bit by bit, and teasing out additional, implicit information from your audience via short forms, surveys, polling, etcetera, can round out your profiles, allowing you to deepen your segmentation and targeting.
But even if your internal data is minimal, it can be greatly enhanced via external sources. Competitive intelligence reports, global market research, firmographics, cluster data, regulatory filings, credit ratings, off-site customer activities, and social interactions can be integrated into your existing data to create a much richer data set.
Segment the data
Next, divide your data into meaningful audience segments. There are myriad ways to divide your data, and your type of business will obviously drive those decisions. Segmentation can be very straightforward—for example, size of company, revenue, title, industry, locations for B2B, or gender, age, ZIP code, or income for B2C.
Layering on performance-based criteria will enrich your segments. Consider information such as size of purchase, frequency of activity, types of products purchased, average purchase amount, and profitability of transaction and factor it in to your analyses.
Behavioral criteria can be introduced as well. Note audience members who interact with your website or engage with your marketing efforts, those who shop via mobile, are active social media influencers and advocates, or are frequent cart abandoners, and leverage such behaviors for your segmentation.
Deeper modeling and segmentation through clustering can provide greater insight as well. Static clustering collects multiple characteristics observed to fit within one predefined group within a physical neighborhood. External sources, like Nielsen PRIZM, can provide static clusters grouped together under names such as “Movers and Shakers” or “Young Digerati.” The underlying assumption is that those customers are similar to everyone else in that cluster location.
Dynamic clusters, developed through data analysis, assemble customers based on their specific demographic, lifestyle, and psychographic characteristics at a household level. Dynamic clusters can translate into fewer segments than static clusters since the criteria are not location-specific, which simplifies the job of selecting the right marketing channel and the proper message and offer for that particular marketing goal.
Data-driven marketing campaigns
Now that you've captured and segmented your data, leverage it for targeting, for example, by industry, product interest, title, recent purchasers, cluster, etcetera. Data can also identify the best delivery mechanism—desktop, mobile, or location-based. More relevant, more compelling, and more convenient communications lead to better responses.
Persona-based communication is an excellent method for using segmented data in marketing campaigns. Personas are fictional characters created to represent the different user types of each targeted segment. For instance, a Baby Boomer email looks and sounds different than an email targeted to Gen X.
Data can also drive the “next best offer.” Offer management and lead nurturing efforts can vary by segment, allowing the marketer to develop cohesive strategies for telling a story appropriate for and relevant to that audience.
Like any marketing program, capturing metrics for your campaigns by data types and segments is crucial to analyzing and improving them. Use A/B and multivariate testing by segment to help optimize your campaign's performance.
People change, companies change, data changes. It's important to continually refresh your data, updating based on both internal behavior and activity and external sources. Keep it fresh and relevant.
Capturing and expanding data to drive relevant, high-performing campaigns results in improved results and ROI. It's an effort, yes, but one well worth it.
Joel Lockwood is president and partner of Ozone.
Try leaving home without your mobile phone. Odds are it feels uncomfortable. These little computers haven't just edged their way into our daily routines; they've become our tether to the outside world. And marketers, well aware of the value of literally reaching people in their pockets, have been responding with a resounding strategy to move the sales needle—one offs.
In a world where consumers are bombarded with messages on the train, on their coffee cups, in a car's navigation system, and in bathroom stalls, the phone is also a deeply personal space for consumers where “interruption marketing” can backfire with more vengeance than in the expected places, so the stakes are even higher for breaking through the clutter and delivering relevant, timely, and appropriate offers in an engaging way. Mobile marketing is now about more than just knowing your audience and can be increasingly complex on the front- and backend.
Take for example contests, where consumer access points must be transparent and broad—not just because of sweepstakes laws, but also based on smartphone user stats, in-store/retail partnership opportunities, and an overall competition for share of voice—and registrants need to be aggregated into a single funnel.
Marketers are becoming more creative, finding new apps, creating new incentives, and providing new abilities in the touchiest of touchpoints—and through all of it they're getting a reeducation in how important and tricky the offer, timing, targeting, and frequency of consumer engagement is. While we have a long way to go until brands by and large obtain what Forrester recently dubbed “mobile maturity”—keep in mind that the interactive marketing is estimated to be $77 billion or 26% of all advertising by 2016—the experimentation phase is slowly moving in the right direction and brands are aching to move past the expense and headaches of one-offs.
When we speak to our clients in retail or telecom, they are all increasingly asking for capabilities that support all channels with a single messaging platform so that cross-channel efforts can be designed and delivered quickly, automatically, and progressively smarter. While such omni-channel offer optimization platforms exist (forgoing a shameless plug here), we have seen mobile and social act as an even bigger impetus for brands to implement and rethink how the system of matching offers with opportunities can be improved and underline just how important a real-time system is.
And since marketers aren't soon letting go of television, direct marketing, search, display advertising, email, or social media, it's imperative that systems are in place for these channels to work together to avoid the resource intensive “one-off” marketing campaign concept.
Mike Caccavale is CEO of Pluris Marketing and an expert in cross-channel offer optimization.
The U.S. population of Hispanic consumers wields a formidable combination of fiscal optimism and buying power in excess of $1 trillion—a number expected to increase to nearly $1.5 trillion by 2015, according to the Selig Center for Economic Growth. This means that today's more acculturated Latino demographic accounts for nearly 11% of the nation's total buying power—a group capable of shaping the nation's future economic and marketing trajectory.
As such, the Spanish language market is potentially the next big trend in DRTV advertising. Consider some simple facts that indicate why this market is ripe with opportunity:
Why then is this growing market only “potentially” the next big trend in DRTV? Because many advertisers have not yet determined a way to overcome the obstacles keeping them from launching successful Spanish language DRTV campaigns.
First, there's the combination of cost and time requirements. Yes, advertisers must direct dollars to Spanish language stations and either modify existing commercials or create new ones in order to address the needs of the Hispanic market—but despite the added effort, the cost is often much lower than most marketers think. Prevailing rates on many Spanish language stations are relatively low, and when created with the Hispanic market in mind, the majority of general market commercials “translate” easily from English to Spanish.
Second, and perhaps more problematic, is that advertisers often fail to understand the Hispanic audience. The misconception still exists that Hispanics prefer to buy in stores rather than through direct response because they prefer to pay in cash or don't own a computer or smartphone. In fact, 84% of Hispanic consumers have a credit or debit card, 93% own a mobile device, and 89% have Internet access. If anything, this audience is at least as willing to buy via DRTV as other segments of the population. Many of our clients have had great success with Spanish language DRTV spots, including Winn-Dixie, Ultimate Fighting Championship, and others.
Third, many marketers assume they will reach the Spanish language market through traditional buys. While they will no doubt reach some of this coveted market using the same channels they know, what they may not realize is Spanish language stations have changed. The quality of programming is much higher, the number of stations has multiplied, and a significant percentage of viewers are more comfortable making purchases on these channels, rather than English language stations.
Finally, and maybe most importantly, advertisers must understand that the Spanish-speaking population is not only growing rapidly, but is skewed much younger than its English-speaking counterparts. In fact, the average direct response buyer is nearly ten years younger. As a result, DRTV advertisements should be developed with these younger consumers in mind.
For too long direct response advertisers have failed to target this market effectively, both on Spanish language stations as well as in traditional DRTV media. Yet looking at the ongoing growth of the Hispanic market, as well as its spending power and influence, this is a group that cannot be underestimated and should not be ignored.
Reaching out to the U.S. Hispanic market may take a little more effort and a slightly different approach than many DRTV advertisers are accustomed to. But for those that take the time to understand Spanish-speaking market trends and opportunities—and are willing to address the audience with ocho ciento numeros (800 numbers) and other tailored response vehicles—the extra effort will be well worth it.
Steve Miller is SVP of A. Eicoff & Co.
Leads, leads, and more leads—it's a refrain we hear daily from our existing and prospective national brand clients: “We need to deliver leads to our affiliates (distributors, dealers, agents, reps, franchisees) in order to deliver value.” When done properly, this refrain does indeed deliver value, but it ignores one simple fact:
Lead generation sits at the top of the marketing hierarchy and without creating a stable foundation the brand is actually ignoring a far more powerful approach to delivering value.
Many national brands jump directly to demand generation activities when engaging in local marketing, in particular to capture new audiences. However, lack of demand is typically not the issue—the issue is capturing the customers who are already looking for the brand's products in the local marketplace but are instead buying from a competitor. National brands should first help their affiliates capture current demand and nurture existing customers. Simultaneously, they should build the infrastructure needed to scale local efforts across multiple markets and give them access to aggregated tracking.
Only then should investments be made for capturing new audience demand.
Effective local marketing consists of a hierarchy of strategic initiatives that all result in either driving or retaining revenue at the local and the national level. These four initiatives can be illustrated as a pyramid with a strong foundation being critical to the success of any of the initiatives above. Here is a simple diagram of this methodology:
As you can see, leads are—and should be—at the top of the pyramid. This is because in today's socially connected, digitally informed, highly fragmented marketing landscape brands can no longer abdicate the blocking and tackling elements of local marketing to their affiliates.
In the past, brands could provide assets to their affiliates (yellow page templates, newspaper ads, brochures, etc.) and have confidence that their affiliates would responsibly and reliably utilize those templates to capture existing demand in the marketplace. The concentrated nature of the consumer marketplace made this assumption both valid and profitable.
Fast forward to today's environment
Today, simply being found by a potential customer looking for your service or product presents a significant challenge for the local marketer. Even aside from a search engine-optimized local website, just trying to get a Google+ page listing optimized to show up above a competitor (this is basic blocking and tackling) requires much more time than placing an ad in the yellow pages ever did. Now, factor in the aforementioned SEO, a mobile-enabled website with full analytics and phone tracking, plus a well-run SEM campaign and you can quickly see that an unsophisticated local marketer is going to struggle to simply make it to the second level of the pyramid.
Once the consumer (or business) searching for your affiliate becomes a customer, retention or upselling is now equally difficult. The availability of reviews and the continual bombardment of rival solutions have resulted in a lack of loyalty and an increasingly competitive landscape.
Finally, once the affiliate has built a strong foundation for being found and is effectively retaining and upselling its existing customer base, then and only then should the brands be facilitating demand generation activities. Unfortunately, far too many brands are focused on driving demand into an unstable foundation, resulting in both customer and affiliate frustration and a massively expensive program destined to fail.
Now, for the good news
Marketing channels exist today that are highly scalable and, with the right technology, they can be automated. This presents brands with the capability to not only assist their affiliates in a way that is desperately needed, but to also provide national brand level strategy and execution to their local affiliates. In doing this the brand can not only get the affiliate on the pyramid, but can also ensure their affiliates are executing at a high level.
If you are responsible for a brand that relies on local affiliates for marketing, sales, or delivery of your product or service, make this the year you resolve to stop chasing leads and start building a stable pyramid.
Pete Gombert is CEO of Balihoo, a provider of local marketing automation technology and solutions for national brands.
Over the past 22 years as a B2B technology marketer, I've developed a specialty in “marketing marketing to marketing,” that is, promoting solutions that help marketing professionals do their jobs better. Having marketers as your audience is a challenge because they're smart and know all the tricks. To get their attention and be memorable, you need to combine logic and magic. The logic comes from developing highly relevant content that's useful to marketers. The magic comes from creating campaigns with visually striking look and feel. Combining the two can spell success for marketing anything to anyone, but it's essential when you're marketing to marketers.
Below I'll dive into a multifaceted, integrated campaign that tries to follow that formula. NetBase is a social intelligence company that serves digital marketers, corporate communications, and market researchers at brands and agencies. The goal of this campaign was to get their attention with helpful and meaningful stats, establish NetBase as a thought leader in emerging social media issues, and—most importantly—generate high quality leads.
About the campaign
We joined forces with our partner J.D. Power and Associates (JDPA) for a consumer survey. Being in the social intelligence market, we knew that there's always a looming concern about social listening and privacy, which is tied to the threat of “Big Brother”—so we surveyed consumers to find out if they know brands and agencies are listening and measured how they feel about it.
The key elements of the campaign that grew out of the survey are:
They're talking about companies to their friends, which makes their feedback is 100% pure. The other 68%, who know companies are listening, have a tendency to go to their Facebook page or Twitter account and talk to a company, which gives us the chance to service them. This is a helpful data point that can tell marketers about the mindset of consumers.
Fifty-one percent of consumers want to be able to talk about companies without their listening; and 43% say they think listening intrudes on privacy. On the flip side, 48% say companies should listen only to improve products and services. Customers are essentially saying, “Don't listen to me in social but service me in social.” In addition, 58% have a double standard—an expectation that companies should only respond to complaints. This means that if I'm a marketer mapping out my social media strategy, I should speak only when spoken to—a very important insight.
If I'm saying something nice, join my conversation. But 64% still say companies should respond only if they're being directly addressed on their channel.
Promoting campaign elements
We used the infographic to pitch the press on a story (successfully, in the case of this article here in Direct Marketing News, as well as others), and we used the eBook in both social and email marketing campaigns. The webinar is advertised via PPC, on the NetBase blog, via direct email, and through social media. We also promoted the SlideShare presentation and we issued a news release.
The entire integrated campaign targets marketers with useful information, and its whole look and feel is designed to high-impact and memorable. The infographic, for example, is a custom design job, not generated from infographic templates, and it's a little on the risky side with the Big Brother theme. Does it work? Well, the initial email blast for the webinar generated 350 registrations within the first hour.
The combination of logic—marketers love their stats—and magic—our striking graphics—are the foundation for the kind of multifaceted, integrated campaign we like to use when we're targeting marketers—a tough audience to impress, but one you can take some chances and have fun with.
Lisa Joy Rosner is CMO of NetBase.
As a direct marketing executive, identifying the influencers that can—and are—driving public opinion on your latest direct marketing campaign can be a daunting task. An expanding universe of bloggers, online authors, and prominent (as well as not so prominent) social media contributors actively produce posts around the clock. Last month's advocates languish; yesterday's detractors loom large. These are the very people that can determine whether you hit your target performance on that latest outbound campaign…or help to sink it. Regardless of whether you target consumers or business professionals, the “influencers” will have more of an impact on your direct marketing campaign than your quirky creative or audacious offer—or even your convincing content.
Cutting through the clutter to find the key influencers of your latest DM campaign is mandatory. Ignoring the influencers is lunacy. So what do you do?
Here are five easy steps to make outside influencer identification and engagement accurate and easy, and DM campaign metrics soar.
1. Focus the topics tracked for DM campaign influencers to ONLY one or two message points. Keep it narrow. If your campaign focused on your new tablet computers, don't look for influencers on “electronics” but instead on “handheld, tablet, or portable computers.” If it was about “perfume” don't focus on “beauty products.” This first step filters out authors that are only tangentially related to your industry and much less focused on the specific product highlighted in your campaign. It also saves considerable analysis effort as well as valuable time.
2. Focus monitoring on the regularly publishing outlets and authors for that specific topic. Quickly converge on a list of outlets covering the key topics of your specific DM campaign with some frequency and authority. Again, ensure writers and outlets are focused. For example, “consumer packaged goods” will be much broader, and perhaps less relevant, than “beauty products.” Take an honest look at what you're really marketing in that campaign, and concentrate analysis efforts on that. Those publications will most likely have the most relevant impact and reach, so concentrating efforts there will maximize results.
3. Develop an “influencer score” to rank the filtered set of authors. A simple, weighted score can help narrow your set of influencers to a top hit list. Based on factors that matter to your organization—such as the number of relevant articles written pertaining to the products in your latest campaign, potential reach, topical importance, past articles on your competitors' products, or past articles on your own, etc.—develop a simple framework for separating the top influencers from the rest. If your campaign promotes your company's new LED lights, Pool & Spa News may not be the place to spend time. A proliferation of magazines, newsletters, and online news sites dedicated to all things “LED” will likely yield better results. This approach to ranking maximizes the ROI of your outreach and relationship building efforts by ensuring that you engage the authors who matter most to that specific campaign.
4. Research what your top influencers have been writing about. Before reaching out to your top list, take the time to learn more about the backgrounds and article histories of the “influencers.” What did they write during the past few months? If your campaign discusses the merits of your new diet aid, research whether they've written about weight loss strategies lately.
5. Track your efforts to see big wins and concentrate on the remaining hit list. Track your results so that you can identify who positively responded to your engagement—and make sure to show the results to management. For example, did that blogger do a follow-up piece from a new angle? And, don't forget to keep your eye on the remaining key influencers who have yet to cover you.
As you effectively engage influencers, you may want, or need, high-quality data through which to measure and analyze your efforts. Several new technology tools can actually automate this process for you.
|Eric Koefoot (left) and Chris Bolster are managing partners at PublicRelay.|
As a marketer, I am rooting for marketers of all stripes to “get it right” at every channel. When a timely and relevant offer comes in I give quiet praise for the marketing machine that made that stroke of genius happen—and I reward the company with my dollars. It's a graceful exchange between consumer and brand when done right and a clunky, embarrassing gesture when it misses the mark.
Luckily, there are more tools and techniques for nailing the mark through data-driven omnichannel optimization. Today, more than ever, consumers are getting offers at or near the bulls-eye, and while marketing automaton is surely a great thing—millions of those persona-driven targeted emails, texts, and direct mail pieces sent before the first sip of morning coffee—it can also be a double-edged sword if not architected correctly.
What happens when a super storm sweeps the East Coast or a government official steals the public's attention in such as way as to make your brand seem insensitive? That email offer suddenly has a tone of incompetence and a “they just don't get it” aura.
Many marketers have deployed automation systems that are channel-specific and require wholesale efforts to “stop the machine,” to adapt the message or even turn off messaging for certain areas. Others have deployed offer and message optimization platforms that cross channels in which it takes less than an hour to change the messaging on all communications, both inbound and outbound, to reflect impending disasters or simply current events (for example, “help celebrate the Yankees record…”).
While the machine is a convenience during so-called normal times, the efforts required to change a campaign midstream will ultimately cannibalize the very tasks it was set up to enable. Among here-and-now consumers, missing the jump by even half a day can be too little, too late. It breaks down efficiency and throws valuable engagement strategies out the window. In short, everyone gets to see (the lack of humans) behind the curtain.
The current environment requires a more nimble approach. Marketing needs to move from machine-like automation to complete integration and control and start managing all channels as customer dialog portals—and key assets of the enterprise.
And as someone who works with massive companies on aligning databases, analytics, and omnichannel offer optimization in an automated fashion, I know the challenges of hitting every touchpoint with the right sentiment and the right offer at the right time—but I also know it's possible.
Mike Caccavale is CEO of Pluris Marketing and an expert in cross-channel offer optimization.
In the unfolding history of the art of persuasion, we're in the midst of one of those all-encompassing seismic shifts with considerable implications for sales and marketing efforts: a growing trend back to the written word.
The verbal versus written dynamic has been a story rich in cyclical communication cycles ever since Moses first came off the mountain with those famous rules etched in stone. Later, the Middle Ages saw minstrels and peddlers wandering around conducting commerce with the spoken word. Enter Guttenberg and the first mass market, written word epoch came into dominance. Alexander Graham Bell swung the trend back again to talk with reinforcements from radio, and later TV came with its visual twist.
The age of the computer with its byproducts of email, social media, and online chat has ushered in another written word cycle, one that began reversing or at least competing with the verbal/visual age while also introducing the era of immediacy. And most recently, smartphones brought us large-scale texting—two-thirds of all Americans text per a recent Pew study—and that, ironically, sealed the deal for a full migration back to the written word. A smartphone may be smart but it is hardly a phone or at least just a phone. Try finding someone under 30 who'd rather talk than text. And while the more mature population might be late adopters to texting, they are getting there, make no mistake. Texting, the written word writ large, is here to stay—at last until the next big shift.
While the supremacy of the most effective channel for commerce has yet to be settled and likely never will be, these recent trends in the way we communicate are ones marketers are compelled to deal with. While “marketing” and “sales” continue to sort all this out and sometimes fight it out, smart marketers are doing their best to adapt to the changes this era provides. The goal, according to John Adams, chairman and CEO of The Martin Agency (and my former boss), is not integrated communications, but unified communications.
And that brings us to websites today.
All too often, the complaint heard is that sales sees marketing's nice looking websites as merely colorful and occasionally dynamic brochures. Dynamic, yes—but interactive, no. Social media options are fine if you want to commune, kvetch, and converse but they don't close deals. Emails are a plodding way to transact. Face-to-face? Expensive and time consuming. Inquiry forms? So yesterday.
That leaves live chat, the seamless website unifier of marketing and sales. It's human, it's interactive, it's online texting, it's immediate, it's probing, it's solving, it's transacting—and it's working. It's the final spoke in the sales and marketing wheel.
A website is marketing. A website with live chat is marketing and sales.
Companies will spend hundreds or even thousands a month to drive traffic to a site, but then won't expend more than a hundred a month inviting that traffic in for a chat, a.k.a. a sales discussion. Without live chat, one hears crickets chirping, akin to a retail store without a clerk. It's estimated that 50% of web visitors—your best prospects—abandon a website without live chat, and for good reason. When arriving at a site consumers are faced with four choices:
Adding live chat transforms a website into a two-way conversation, one well-suited to meet and greet web visitors, answer FAQs, help the visitor better navigate the site, build good rapport, and encourage the next step toward buying—all the while collecting the prospect contact and content information so crucial to conducing commerce. This powerful unification of the written word and immediacy makes live chat no longer just ‘a nice to have' feature, but a must have if companies are to effectively compete in the 21st-century.
Paul Glancy is sales manager at WebsiteAlive.
[See all commercials on Hulu.]
Well, another Super Bowl has come and gone and tens of millions of dollars have been spent to capture our attention and wallets. But in this customer-first world, how did the advertising stack up? At $4 million for just 30 seconds of time, who took advantage to extend the experience beyond the big game? Did anyone take advantage of the second screen? Who missed the mark? Let's take a look.
As Nielsen reported, 91 percent of consumers planning to watch this Sunday's game are also looking forward to watching the commercials. That's a huge audience (2012 saw 111 million viewers) with full attention on your 30 seconds. With most viewers watching with a tablet within reach and a mobile phone in their pocket, how did this year's ads do at using that attention to start building a relationship and further the conversation through the digital channels (mobile, social, email, web, and display).
First, CBS was the biggest advertiser, with more than 32% of commercials dedicated to CBS shows, sports, or local news. That's either a sign of desperation to get people to watch your shows, or a sign that they didn't sell as much advertising to fill the time. Either way, I'll be happy not to see another CBS show ad about them being #1. OK, on to the good stuff.
The biggest loser this year over last was Shazam. Last year several advertisers used its listening technology to extend their 30 seconds. This year only one advertiser used this method. This implies that listening tech was not successful at bringing the customer online as some assumed it would be last year, otherwise we surely would have seen more advertisers using it again.
Websites were back this year. This was the most common tactic used to get people to continue the conversation. Some used custom domains like CokeChase.com or SteerTheScript.com, while others promoted their actual site (or page on their site like Blackberry.com/z10). I'm glad to see this coming back as it's a great place to capture email addresses, mobile numbers, fans, etc. Each advertiser did not leverage the quick sign-up method, but a most had some way for visitors to stay in touch.
Hashtags were also a big win with 19% of ads using a custom hashtag to promote their message. About 10% used Facebook or Twitter as the call-to-action. We also saw Oreo promote Instagram as a place to follow along.
Both Coke and Axe body spray had the most urgent call-to-action of any ads. Coke was asking people to vote before the end of the game to determine which of their characters would win (no spoilers, but visit CokeChase.com to see it all). Axe was asking people to enter before midnigh to win a trip to spacet.
The biggest moment in my opinion wasn't the advertising that was on the TV, but Oreo's quick thinking to create the graphic related to the power outage. This was retweeted and shared by many. Tide also promoted the outage online with a clever graphic, as well. This was a fantastic way for brands to inject themselves into the conversations around the game using social to power their efforts.
I'm looking forward to the analysis on chatter around all the hash tags, as they seemed to be one of the biggest calls-to-action this year. With so many, it will be interesting to see what (if any) were used. Until next time!
David Hibbs is a senior strategic consultant at Responsys.
While questions remain about whether flash sales can be both a successful business model and an effective marketing strategy, investors seem optimistic. In December 2012 alone, flash sale companies received more than $170 million in funding from investors. It's no secret why the industry has become so popular—a slow economy created a class of deal-hungry consumers seeking to “win” by snatching up discounts and limited-time offers on high-end goods. Consumers and aspirational shoppers are rewarded with quality products by highly regarded labels, while companies create buzz and excitement around their brands.
But flash sale sites face a number of challenges in the year ahead as competition increases. IBISWorld expects the number of flash sale sites to reach 150 in the next four years, up from around the 90 that currently exist. As the market approaches saturation, consumers feel less urgency—a key emotion for flash sale success—and believe that if they miss this particular sale, there will be similar ones elsewhere. And they may be right. Product suppliers have more choices on who to work with as well as on what terms, and are often spreading their offerings over multiple sites.
Traditional brick-and-mortar retailers are also encroaching. Many are developing and promoting their own flash sale sites or moving to acquire existing ones. These retailers bring instant credibility, supplier relationships, and a built-in customer base that flash sale sites must work hard to develop.
With these obstacles in mind, here are a few ways flash sale sites can best position themselves for success in 2013:
Build customer loyalty. In a crowded marketplace price matters, but customer service can be a game-changer. Focus on exceeding consumer expectations, providing top-tier service, and creating loyalty to maintain relevance and first position in your customer's inbox.
Focus on exclusivity. The best way for flash sale sites to differentiate themselves is by exclusively offering top products. Flash sites should work to identify hot products and consumer trends early and capitalize on that intelligence by seeking exclusive deals early. Also consider new services like curators (celebrities, designers, influencers) to provide customers with exclusive consulting and advice on products.
Enhance your customer experience. New technologies and capabilities are constantly impacting the industry. Consider changes and updates to make the shopping experience easy, efficient, and fun. Look for opportunities to improve and integrate your operations, shipping, website, and mobile platform to keep your shoppers happy and coming back.
Remember your bread and butter. While it's important to adapt to maintain a competitive edge, don't lose sight of what made your company successful in the first place: Deals. Some flash sites have tried to integrate a full-price component into their business model with the assumption that their shoppers would be willing to pay full-price for unique offerings. So far, it hasn't seen much success, as it appears that getting a great deal on a good product takes precedence over getting a unique or exclusive product at full-price.
Stephen Wyss is a partner in the retail and consumer products practice at BDO USA, LLP.
The most successful online commerce businesses are those that can evolve their marketing and monetization systems quickly enough to make the most of every marketing channel and user click. For most businesses, however, keeping up with the pace of innovation in marketing and monetization can be daunting.
Change is expensive, risky, time consuming, resource intensive, and cumbersome. In fact, the very marketing automation and commerce technologies that businesses deploy in order to keep up often end up locking them in, making it difficult for them to quickly respond to new opportunities. I'm talking about ad programs, retargeting partners, social ecosystems, mobile—not to mention making better use of user data to optimize campaigns, landing pages, content, and personalization.
To stay nimble, many business leaders are drawing inspiration from the Lean Startup movement. It offers a disciplined approach to rapid and continuous build-test-learn iterations in order to discover what will work best for customers and generate incremental value with minimal investment along the way.
Companies can apply these lean principles to grow their business, foster a more agile company culture, and get results.
Most e-commerce businesses today implement some of these techniques to a certain degree—but rarely to the extent they'd like because of obstacles to change. To move quickly and run lean what commerce site operators and marketers need is a cheap, easy, and low-risk way of experimenting without disrupting their current business.
Enter the sandbox
With that in mind, what if you had a copy of your commerce site that you could play around with, tweak, and test on users without touching your main site and without requiring a lengthy development process? What if you could instantly try out that new marketing channel, retargeting partner, or SEM program without disrupting your current campaigns?
A sandbox is a place where you have the power and control to quickly iterate and gather feedback that you can use to grow your established business. A familiar concept to software developers, it's an isolated environment that you can update quickly without worrying about breaking anything. Way beyond a mere test framework on top of your existing site, this is a completely separate space that might share content and functionality with your main site but which can be experimented with and run independently from your main site, with you and your marketing team in charge.
In practice, few commerce sites have serious sandboxes for their marketing and monetization teams. A complete sandbox is complex to manage and there's been a lack of available technology solutions to make it easy. We see this as a big opportunity for innovation.
Among its advantages, this solution allows you to run a fully hosted, streamlined replica of a portion of your commerce site, such as the search landing pages, in parallel with your normal site, and to use this replica as a sandbox for growing revenue.
More importantly, adopting a sandbox will offset most of the challenges, risks, and costs associated with change—thus making change a much easier pill to swallow.
Erik Weiner is a senior vice president of Wize Commerce.
What is Graph search? Facebook Graph search is a social search feature the social company announced in mid-January. The feature is currently in private beta with a waitlist for individuals and businesses. You can join the waitlist here (scroll down to the bottom).
Facebook's announced plan is to roll it out gradually to hundreds of thousands of individuals first (English only), then more broadly for PC-based users, followed by non-English languages, and finally mobile. It's not clear how quickly this expansion will occur, but several Facebook product people are on record saying they still have work to do to figure out how to scale the computationally intensive searches across millions of concurrent users. (Think of crawling a user's social and open graph connections across hundreds of thousands, or potentially millions, of nodes for every search.) Non-trivial engineering challenges stand in the way of mass availability of this feature set.
What does it do? It really is a very cool feature. When I type in a query, such as “friends who have been to Rome, Italy,” Graph search traverses all of my relationships and those of my friends to find people who have visited Rome. It then pulls back these people and displays them alongside relevant content. This is a simple example that illustrates the difference between the kinds of results Graph search returns and how search results from Google or Bing would appear.
Another key aspect of this feature is how it appears to include implicit affinities and experiences, in addition to explicit likes and shares via Facebook. When you think about the significance of that, it's pretty impressive. Based on the content I've shared, as well as the check-ins, posts, and comments I've made, plus the images I've tagged, etc., Graph search can infer what I like, where I've travelled to, and a myriad other things about me. The inclusion of implicit affinities is only possible due to Facebook's massive scale and could ultimately be the component of Graph search that makes the results valuable enough to get people to use the feature.
What is it good for?
Will consumers use it? At the end of the day, this is the most important question. If consumers embrace it, Graph search has the potential to transform search signals and lead to the dawn of discovery marketing. But that's a big “if.” Historically, consumers have been trained to turn to the search engines for this. Changing consumer behavior is notoriously difficult to do.
Where I think this is possible is on mobile devices. Industry research suggests that many consumers turn to specific mobile apps to conduct vertical searches. For example, I use Yelp to find restaurants, the Weather Channel app for local weather, and Google Maps for directions. It's in the app environment on mobile devices where I think Graph search has the greatest potential to reach critical mass and experience rapid adoption. It's unclear when that will happen, but it's doubtful it will be available for mobile devices in 2013.
How will Facebook monetize it? Facebook hasn't yet announced how it will monetize the feature. The obvious opportunity is to charge for sponsored listings, much like AdWords. There are also a few other options, including:
What does it mean for brands and publishers? It's going to take some time (several months at the least) for the feature to achieve critical mass. I don't anticipate Graph search will be something brands or publishers will be investing in directly in the first half of this year if for no other reason than monetization of the feature is one of the things still being figuring out.
What should digital marketers and publishers do about it now? The potential for the feature is huge. Brands and publishers can and should be doing a number of things right now to benefit from it as it reaches critical mass. A simple rule of thumb is that the more content that gets shared, liked, or commented on through Facebook, the greater the chances of discovery of that content through Graph search.
Actionable insights. Here are three things brands and publishers can do right now, which are in accordance with best practices:
1. Enable and encourage social signals (shares, comments, and likes) within your content. Shares, likes, and comments appear to be significant drivers of Graph search results.
2. For certain brands and publishers, it's important to enable and encourage image sharing. Images are the single most popular type of content to be shared on Facebook. It stands to reason that images are something people will search for a lot through the Graph.
3. Deploy Open Graph tags within content. These will ensure consistent “merchandising” of brand/publisher content that gets discovered through Graph search.
More background and reviews. All of the reviews I've read range from lukewarm to effusive. It really does seem like Facebook is onto something big with Graph search:
In a world increasingly dominated by social media and mobile communication, today's consumer is hyper-connected to personal networks and can instantly access content and information that is relevant to his or her interests. Not surprisingly, shopping behavior has evolved in this landscape. Consumers are seeking more than just inventory and competitive prices. They want personalized and relevant brand experiences—whether it's in-store or online.
How can online businesses provide the personalized and dynamic experience that consumers expect? By treating each site visitor like the unique individuals they are.
Below are three steps for engaging with customers in real-time to provide a personalized experience, as well as an example of how Maverick Aviation Group, a leading helicopter excursion company in Las Vegas, successfully implemented each of these steps.
Step 1. Leverage data. Through cloud-based intelligent engagement solutions that are available today, marketers and businesses of all sizes can provide a real-time, personalized experience. Data-driven targeting solutions provide all the tools to seamlessly implement and deploy sophisticated personalization campaigns on any website, and even on social media platforms and mobile devices.
Maverick Aviation Group implemented a data-driven targeting solution to run a holiday-specific wedding promotion for higher-value packages. Maverick offered the package to customers who seemed the most interested.
Step 2. Segment visitors. Through data-driven technology, marketers can intelligently segment and target visitors to drive any number of desired business outcomes. Visitors can be segmented by keywords searched, pages viewed, mouse behavior, geo-location, cart value, customer history, and much more.
Maverick Aviation Group identified interested visitors by a number of variables, including time spent on a page, click patterns, and shopping cart content. By leveraging a data-driven targeting solution, the company was able to identify and segment these visitors.
Step 3. Offer customized, relevant content. After visitors are segmented, companies can offer consumers content that is not just useful, but fully customized to be relevant to their online movement. For instance, a customer who searched certain keywords could be offered a promotion code for those specific products; visitors with a high-value item in their cart can receive an offer for a free complementary product. Customized, relevant content should be deployed virtually anywhere on a website, at any point during the visitor's experience.
Maverick Aviation Group delivered a coupon in real-time to segmented visitors and also used this technology to offer a special free upgrade for customers who spent a defined length of time on a specific tour page. This special offer would appear as a sales incentive, minimizing the chances of them abandoning the page and Maverick losing the sale.
So, what do these three steps lead to? A better website for your business and a better experience for your visitors.
By implementing online personalization technology, businesses can increase conversions and overall customer experience by creating a more relevant and compelling site experience. In fact, Maverick Aviation Group has boosted sales and customer satisfaction since deploying a data-driven targeting solution.
As consumers become even more hyper-connected, businesses will need to continue to proactively implement online engagement solutions to keep visitors on their site and, most importantly, to keep visitors satisfied.
Damien Acheson is director of product marketing at LivePerson.
In B2B marketing, changing trends often refer to the comings and goings of “ages”—the digital age; the social age; the mobile age. Marketers now have a lot more to consider than they did 20 years ago. There was a time when simply having a website meant you were heading in the right direction. Now, not just any old website will do. A successful site must have a design that makes it appealing, optimization for search, a content and social presence to support it, and plenty of conversion opportunities to drive new business.
As the buying process has moved from a company-driven sales cycle to a consumer-driven one, website conversions have become a key part of lead generation. While marketers used to focus simply on driving traffic, they now have plenty of other factors to consider when it comes to improving conversion rates: Which browser visitors are using; where they're coming from; what content they're downloading; which forms they're filling out; what images and copy are on the page—not to mention the added complications of social and mobile.
With social and mobile continuing to grow at astounding rates, marketers can't afford to ignore either of the two giants any longer—especially when it comes to conversion rates. Here are a few reasons why:
The implications of growing social and mobile use among consumers that means there are several key elements to consider if you're trying to fuel conversion rates:
1. Take advantage of customer reviews and testimonials. More and more consumers are taking the time to research products before alerting companies that they're interested. One of the first pieces of content they look for are customer reviews, a form of social proof that's free from the influence of marketers. They want to find out what experiences others have had with the product or service before they invest their time or money. Companies should cater to this trend by including customer testimonials on both the desktop and mobile versions of their website. It's also important to be aware of what clients are saying about you across various social channels and to quickly reach out to try and resolve any unhappy customers.
2. Ask only for what you need. The more steps you put between a lead and the conversion point, the higher the likelihood they'll fall out of the funnel. This is especially true when people are using a mobile device, where small screens can make it difficult to navigate a lengthy form. If you're trying to capture lead information in a form, don't ask for anything you don't need. We recommend keeping forms to four fields maximum (the three most common form fields being first name, last name, and email address). Beyond that consider using progressive profiling or a tool that pulls in social data, like Jigsaw, to gather the remaining information for your database.
3. Keep copy short. People love to scan. If you have a page full of detailed, informative copy, a consumer rarely takes the time to read it word for word. Instead, they pick out bolded words, bulleted text, and maybe the first sentence of every paragraph. That's why it's important to keep the copy pages short and focused—especially on pages with a call-to-action. Paragraphs should be limited to three sentences, and copy should be broken into bullets as often as possible. This is even more important on mobile devices, since consumers will be scanning through your copy on much smaller screens. Make it as easy as possible for them to find the information they need.
4. Have content worth promoting. The rise of social media has been accompanied by the rise of content marketing. If your goal is to have leads convert via white papers, webinars, buyers guides, blog articles, or other long-form content, those pieces of content need to be worth promoting. A recent study by B2B Marketing Insider found that vendors who produce low-value content are 27% less likely to be considered in the decision process, and 40% less likely to win the business. Just producing any content isn't enough. It needs to be great content in order for it to bring in leads with the potential to convert.
5. Emphasize positive user experience and intuitive design. Conversion should be easy. Consumers shouldn't have to wait more than a few seconds for a page to load, and their next steps should always be straightforward and easy to find. On mobile, this means making buttons big enough to be pressed by a thumb or finger, and obvious enough so that they stand out from the rest of the design. As often as possible, use radio buttons or checkboxes to minimize the amount of typing. The conversion process should be fluid and speedy, with minimal distractions. Be sure to preview your page designs and email templates in a mobile layout (on various platforms if possible) so that you understand how users will experience your design.
6. Get your top execs involved on social media. An eMarketer study found that 77% of buyers are more likely to buy from a company if its CEO uses social media, while 94% said that c-suite social media participation enhances a brand's image. While it's important to have a company account on popular social media channels, don't underestimate the importance of involving your top level executives. Getting them involved in your company's social media efforts is an often-overlooked step when it comes to increasing conversion rates.
7. Use analytics. With the addition of mobile and social, there is (hopefully!) traffic coming to your site from all over the web. You can use an analytics service to evaluate which outlets are driving the most conversions and which will help you identify the campaigns and channels where you should focus your time and money. Tracking pages with high bounce rates can help diagnose problem areas that are causing consumers to leave your site. Analytics can even reveal which keywords have the highest conversion rates, so you know where to target your ad and landing page copy.
The main thing to take away from all of this is that the “Field of Dreams” mentality (“If you build it, they will come”) doesn't work in marketing. If you want consumers to visit your site and convert, you not only need to build a website, but take the necessary steps to optimize it across devices, support it with strong content, and promote it through the appropriate channels.
The goal of every direct mail marketing campaign is to generate leads and then convert as many of those leads as possible. In order to do that you need to construct a complete marketing system that leaves no lead behind. You also have to integrate print and online resources in order to convert the most leads. There are four essential components you must include in your marketing strategy if you want to construct a complete direct mail marketing system.
Let's take a look at each one:
Component 1: Direct mail postcards cast your marketing net
Postcard marketing is a proven marketing method that consistently brings in results for those who use it. The key is to take advantage of targeted mailing lists in order to generate quality leads. These are prospects that already need your product or service, but just don't know your company exists yet. For example, a pediatric dentist might get a targeted mailing list of households containing children of an appropriate age (say 2 to 17).
You shouldn't only mail to raw prospects—those who haven't contacted you—though. It's important to also build your customer loyalty by marketing to your current customer base. The only way to build consistent and sustainable growth is by attracting new customers while at the same time strengthening the loyalty of every customer you bring into the fold.
Component 2: Mail tracking prepares you for impending success
Once your postcards are designed and mailed, you'll need to stay on top of your mailing campaign and be prepared for the success it brings. The USPS offers a service that uses barcode technology to track your postcards all the way to your prospects' mailboxes. This allows you to prepare your company in a cost-effective manner.
When your responses start pouring in, you may need an extra employee to help field calls or help out in your operations. However, it won't be cost-effective to bring people in unless you know your cards have arrived in your prospects' hands. With mail tracking you can make informed business decisions regarding your marketing.
Component 3: Online follow-up to build an integrated marketing system
The phone response your cards generate is just the beginning of your true marketing results. These days, 90% of your prospects will visit your website before they call your office. This means your online presence is critical to converting the most potential leads. Fortunately there are some great online resources at your disposal as a small business. The best of these, in my experience, is Google Remarketing.
Google can give you a web code to include in your website that tracks the activity of your website visitors. It can tell what your visitors do while on your site. Did they fill out a contact form? Did they complete a transaction? If they don't interact with your site or give you any contact information, Google shows them targeted ads on any of the thousands of websites included in the Google Display Network. This includes high traffic sites like Dictionary.com, HGTV.com, and CNN.com. Google Remarketing then shows these ads until your online prospect returns to your site and becomes a customer. The great thing about it is it's free unless a prospect clicks on your ad.
Component 4: Call tracking to enable continual improvement of your results
Now that your online prospects are being given automatic targeted follow-up, you need a way to make the most of your phone responses. Luckily, there's a great resource at your disposal for this as well—call tracking, which allows you to use a unique phone number for each of your postcard campaigns. This number routes your call responses to your office while tracking how many responses each campaign is generating. This information allows you to experiment with design tweaks or different marketing messages in order to get the absolute best results possible. This technology also records these responses so you can analyze the quality of your reception process or sales tactics. Call tracking gives you the power to improve your results with every campaign you mail.
These are the four components that are essential for a complete direct mail marketing system. Implement all four and just watch how your lead generation and lead conversions soar.
Advanced technology has provided many businesses with great opportunities to spread their messages. Through social media platforms, designer blogs, attractive websites, and email marketing campaigns, businesses are seeing multiple returns from the online marketing industry. One technique that's gaining popularity both on the Internet and in the marketing industry nowadays is video email marketing. With its versatility and user-friendly features, this marketing technique has the potential to drive website traffic and dramatically increase returns.
By utilizing digital video technology, businesses are able to embed a short video message into an email. This presents an incredible opportunity for branding, personalizing, and engaging the customer base. Businesses large and small can utilize this cutting-edge marketing strategy at a variety of available costs. However, just as the old, old saying goes, every coin has two sides and you may need to have a look at both sides of video email before actually including it into your marketing plan.
Using video email to your advantage
As mentioned above, video email clearly has its advantages.
First, video emails allow for a personal touch where regular text does not. Viewers are able to put a face or voice to the company and associate the business with real people. Allowing the viewer to hear the voice or see the people involved with the company or product creates a true personal connection that helps to inspire brand loyalty. Spokespeople are also able to add an element of passion and use animated expressions to engage the viewer.
Second, video email can greatly help with viewer comprehension. For some products or services, the idea may not be simple enough to convey through text content. In these instances, having a visual and verbal depiction of the product may allow email recipients to have a better understanding of the concept or product. Additionally, some users may find it easier to simply click “play” and watch a video about a product than to read about it.
Finally, when designed correctly, video emails can be easily shared through a variety of platforms. For small businesses, this free marketing and advertising is an incredible benefit. After all, this is what marketing is all about. Many social media sites allow for easy sharing. Businesses should invest in video email solutions that offer easy and accessible consumer sharing options to maximize this benefit. In many cases, the sharing capabilities will be noted with a small social media icon. Readers need only click the icon to have the video broadcast through their social media account.
Disadvantages of video email
Video email marketing also has its disadvantages. For some recipients, their Internet capabilities may not support video viewing. For others, video email marketing may be seen as a nuisance when they would rather just read the information. Similarly, some businesses may face limitations such as bandwidth, video length restrictions, and the inability to provide additional attachments. Some consumer complaints also indicate that certain video email marketing systems incorporate additional ads, may be too costly, or may be too complicated. For these email recipients and small businesses, video emails may not be the most effective marketing solution.
As with any marketing product or online marketing strategy, businesses should thoroughly research their needs and compare the results with the marketing method. While video email marketing may not be the solution of choice for one company, another business may find that it successfully bridges its marketing gap and provides the return on investment the company needs.
Sophia Myles is a product specialist with Comm100 email marketing team.
Infographics have become an immensely popular way to convey stats, data, and other useful information. More than just a graph or chart, an infographic combines knowledge with crisp design, making it not only a means for conveying data, but also visually appealing and entertaining. You'll find a wide variety of infographics across most social media platforms. While many businesses have come to understand the importance of social media in a business plan, an infographic can also be a useful tool in drawing potential customers to the company website—and increased brand awareness often leads to more sales.
Ideation. The ideation and creation of the infographic is just as important as the ways you share it. In order for the content to be relevant and useful for garnering brand awareness, it has to align with both current online trends and with topics that you have knowledge about. Know and understand the topics that your audience will find interesting and they will want to share with their friends and followers. No matter your knowledge on the topic already, research it further. Obtain and evaluate other opinions and analyze specific trends regarding your topic. If a topic is already declining in popularity, any money and effort put toward an infographic could be wasted.
Creation. Do not scrimp on the creation of your infographic. With so many infographics currently circulating, it's important that yours looks original and well-done. I generally follow three rules when creating an infographic:
1) Outline your infographic in sections. Think of it like a play that has been broken into acts. Each act tells a specific section of the story, but the sum of each act brings the story together.
2) Invest in good design. A good design will not only find an original way of telling the story you want to tell, it will also do so in a way relevant to the data you are sharing.
3) Edit your infographic ruthlessly. You should scrutinize every piece of content both graphic and written. Make certain the data reflects true numbers and that the design work is flawless. If there is anything amiss in your infographic after it is released to the public, someone will undoubtedly find it and call it into question. This has happened to me in the past and it can be very difficult to explain to your stakeholders.
Also, do not neglect to put your company name and web information on the infographic. While your company name should not take precedence over the information you are sharing, it's important that readers and viewers know the company that's responsible for sharing this information with them.
Release. Releasing your infographic is a vital part of drawing potential customers to your website. The release is not as simple as posting your infographic to Facebook and waiting for it to go viral. Before release, you want to engage influencers—those who are considered experts in a particular topic and have influence over their followers—and leverage their large following to further your reach. Find the influencers that are specifically connected to the topic you are promoting. If they find your content interesting, they will usually be happy to share it with their followers. Push the infographic everywhere. If the infographic is optimized for a certain social network, take special care to promote it there. Once that is done, don't neglect other networks.
If the content you created is relevant and of high quality, the infographic will receive organic shares. As more people view your content they'll become more interested in the other information you and your company has to offer. This will lead them directly to your website, where they will find more information pertaining to their interests, as well as the products and services that cater specifically to them. You should not be intimidated by infographics.
They're a great tool, and above all, a lot of fun to create and share.
Muhammad Yasin is director of Marketing for HCC Medical Insurance Services. In his role, he is responsible for the brand building and lead generation strategy of several dozen social media accounts with over a quarter of a million followers.
We've all had it happen: Email design by committee. You send out an email and a coworker suggests going with the green background, not the blue to improve open or response rates. Then your spouse sees your layout on the kitchen table and says the font you've chosen might not be right. Then someone else at the office says the logo should pop more. It's this reaction—this diversity in audience and the triggers they respond to—that compels marketers to attempt implementing A/B testing. But what we're finding is that traditional A/B testing needs an upgrade in order to deliver relevant results in a so-five-minutes-ago marketing environment.
There are two major issues our clients face with A/B testing: Tackling the art of pre-testing and the speed at which marketers are able to access results.
In A/B testing, you have to have some indication of what the B is. Why are you testing between a green and a blue background color? Why aren't red or yellow in the running? And most importantly, what is the basis for making these selections?
Aside from the time it takes to hypothesize your Bs and plot your attack, the turnaround time on results has to be quick. Taking your Bs to market, waiting for a response, and doing the analysis is the marketing equivalent of dialup internet: Slow, painful and not at all competitive in today's fast-paced marketing environment.
Enter messaging optimization. In short, with optimization we let the statistics drive to rank the B options, and get better results more quickly. It's like A/B testing on steroids and best of all you can take the findings from the dynamic testing and reflect your key learnings with changes in other channels. Suddenly, just by buttoning up your testing strategy, you've landed the opportunity to step up your overall game. This requires real integration among your platforms—as well as good teamwork among the staff driving all the customer-facing platforms—but is certainly more efficient and drives you more quickly toward optimizing your findings.
Stop guessing at what the next B test should look like and instead use the data and analytics you have already at your fingertips—and accelerate results, time to market, and more relevant messaging.
Mike Caccavale is CEO of Pluris Marketing and an expert in cross-channel offer optimization.
In today's world, consumers are bombarded with choices and advertisements intended to influence their decisions. Despite all the advances in technology, advertisements tend to be “one size fits all” in major channels. You would think by now marketers and targeting would have evolved past the days of offering vegetarians ninety-nine cent cheeseburgers.
The sad news is we aren't seeing that kind of relevant targeting yet; the good news is that there are capabilities and processes available to resolve this issue while still staying clear of any privacy concerns.
So why are marketing messages so easily ignored and rarely relevant? The answer is, at least in part, because marketers are so focused on what product to market, they're overlooking how to optimize the marketing message that goes with the product.
For large retailers, hitting the perfect product to market, especially with a larger number of SKUs, can be a real needle in the haystack challenge. Yet you see it every day. Take the Sunday papers as example, when the price of new bicycles for boys is jammed between offers on honey hams and used cars. It's a spam and a volume and percentage game, not smart or particularly effective marketing—because it's still focused on a one-to-many message.
For marketers that use data and intelligence about consumer behaviors and factors such as weather and location, the offer itself stands out as the least utilized, least quantified and least analyzed area of consumer-brand engagement. And yet, it is by far the most fertile ground for moving the sales needle. Enticement, or moving someone from the passive receiver of a message to a willing participant in the sales funnel, is influenced by the product, the message, and the channel chosen, not just the product itself.
Consumers all have different triggers, from discounting/savings messaging and free shipping to return policies and the tone of the offer. With the data and processing powers now in the hands of marketers and a bank of creative content that can be aligned with each consumer profile, the creative around an offer can now be tailored to the audience to get them to open the email, the app notification, click on an area of the website, or engage in whatever the desired action may be.
With all the emphasis on getting consumers and brands into a dialogue and the explosion of places and ways a consumer can now come into contact with a brand, optimizing the message isn't just a good idea—it's crucial to moving the bottom line and edging the competition.
After all, if the consumer never gets past the offer, they never even see the product.
Mike Caccavale is CEO of Pluris Marketing and an expert in cross-channel offer optimization.
There's going to be an impending explosion of mobile marketing—it's going to blow up. This is a widely accepted fact. Google says mobile search will surpass desktop search by the end of 2013 or possibly 2014. BIA/Kelsey says mobile marketing will account for a massive increase in phone calls to businesses within the next 14 months (roughly double). Mobile marketing spend will increase by five to six times in the next six years.
That said, mobile marketing is still relatively nascent and mobile marketers are making mistakes. Here are the 3 biggest:
1. Wrong metrics. By now it's accepted fact and very old news that mobile marketing produces phone calls. Google and xAd both say that more than 50% of mobile searches result in phone calls. BIA/Kelsey says that by 2016 mobile marketing will account for 70 billion phone calls (20 billion today). There will be a massive increase in phone calls to every business in America.
In short: Mobile marketing produces a veritable deluge of phone calls.
So why do mobile marketers insist upon measuring click-through-rate, abandon rate, web leads, and time-on-site?
They should be tracking metrics surrounding phone calls. There is rich, rich data in phone calls that is being unused by marketers.
2. Bad mobile pages. A mobile landing page is very different than a regular landing page. There shouldn't be a ton of form fields or content on a mobile landing page. Rather, there should be a 'Call Now' button, a tap-able phone number, maybe a map lookup feature and—if you're feeling lucky—one form field to fill out. Mobile landing pages should be simple, simple, simple. Less is better. Less is more. Brevity is king.
3. Take Google's word on measurement. Google charges mobile click-to-call advertisers for every call their ads generate. The problem is this: Not all “taps” from a mobile device result in phone calls and not all phone calls are real calls. Some are junk calls. Some are accidental clicks. Some are not qualified leads. Our research shows that only about 50% of the calls Google says are calls are actually calls. Wow. And less than 15% are good, qualified leads.
The bottom line: If you're conducting a mobile click-to-call campaign (and you should) don't rely on Google to tell you how well it's working. You're going to need a tool that can decipher good calls from bad calls for you.
Jason Wells is CEO of ContactPoint.
I used to complain about the word “partnership” all the time. It seemed like such a buzzword, especially when the relationship between customer and vendor was really something different than “partners.” Truth be told, in many cases the word is not just overused, it's plain untrue. So when do you know if you're partners with your customer or vendor? The answer is not revealed when things are going well—it's when they're not that you'll discover what your relationship really is. My theory is that a partnership is all about an honest discussion regarding faults, without fear of retribution.
Let me start with a counterexample. We did a wonderful marketing piece for a customer and then made the unfortunate error of putting the wrong title for the recipients on the mailing label. It was our error, no excuse. The piece itself was beautifully produced and everyone who was supposed to get the piece got it. Although it was irritating for some, most of the recipients got a laugh out of the wrong title (mainly because most got an increase of stature in the mistake). We then had what I thought was a great meeting with our client. We got to the root cause, guaranteeing that it wouldn't recur. We apologized sincerely and offered a discount as a show of good faith. The customer even admitted that it didn't have that big of an impact on their business. Then they fired us! Partnership? I don't think so.
It's clear when something isn't a partnership, but how can you tell when it really is? Certainly it's a feeling, but I think there are three things that speak volumes on the true nature of partnership. While there are probably others, here are the top three that I think make a partnership real:
1. Take ownership of your mistakes. Unlike in Love Story, this means having to say you're sorry and admitting it's you who made the mistake. It also means being clear that you're doing something about it. There's nothing like avoiding blame to let your customer know you don't take responsibility for your own actions. You certainly need to know your audience and present your failure appropriately, but the truth really does mean being willing to admit your own failings and being prepared to face the music.
2. Tell customers when they make a mistake. No one likes to poke a customer in the eye and I'm not saying that's how you do it, but you do need to be able to tell them when an error is their fault. If you can and they accept responsibility—and will also do what they can to fix it—it shows they're willing to act as you do in the interest of success, not in the interest of blame. It also maintains an even playing field between the companies. Yes, the customer is always right, but partnership means that when they're not, they accept it, do what they can to fix it, and move on.
3. Connection at many levels. Even with the best intentions and the admission of guilt, you still have people working together and potentially getting on each other's nerves. With connections at many levels, there's a safety valve. If those in the thick of it can't see beyond the trees, there's nothing like management having the type of relationship where a different level of conversation can help keep the view of the forest. We all want everyone to get along, but we also know disputes happen. The more connections there are, the more the partnership works.
This all sounds simple, but anyone involved in a partnership will tell you it's not. As marketers, we appreciate the value of a true partnership. We also appreciate the work it takes to make one.
Big Data: Is it good or is it bad? Should it be used by vendors or consumers? These questions have been debated a lot recently in the media. The answer is, Big Data can be very good and yes, it should be used.
In the media, Big Data is usually portrayed as something harmful to consumers; as something that will violate their privacy and if used by companies will cause problems and intrusions into their personal lives.
This is the wrong way of looking at Big Data. A more accurate way would be to look at how businesses have always used customer information. A hundred years ago, owners of Main Street general stores in small towns all across America encouraged their customers to gather together in the store and talk; about themselves, what they were doing, what they wanted, and what they liked. They also kept track of what customers bought and what they didn't. They used this information to stock their shelves and make suggestions about what their customers might want to buy. This level of attention and personal service was only available because of the small number of customers.
A continent away in London at the Claridge Hotel, the concierge kept track of what the hotel's best customers preferred in amazing detail by watching and listening. It wasn't unusual for the concierge to know a customer preference's better than the customer himself. The concierge then combined this knowledge with information about products and services available at the hotel or in London and advice how to get them. This level of service was only available to the very rich.
Using customer information to offer personalized offerings, whether in a Main Street general store or in a luxury hotel, was only available at a small scale or at high cost. Today, businesses and consumers are trying to provide and receive that level of attention to service on a much larger scale while keeping costs low. How? By using Big Data.
Business use Big Data to understand customer behavior on macro and micro levels, targeting products appropriately and creating personalized experiences. Having worked as a web analytics consultant at several large companies, I've seen that Big Data can yield tremendous value not only to the business but also to the customers.
Big Data allows companies to tailor their offerings to what a customer really wants. Walking into a clothing store, Big Data could provide details on every piece of clothing you already own while also allowing the merchant to create recommendations that match your style regardless of whether you had ever shopped at that store before.
Even more exciting is when Big Data is shared between vendors and customers. Think about a replacement for services that provides online restaurant reviews. Currently, it's all the rage to read everyone's reviews of a restaurant. However, many of the reviews are worthless. One reviewer loved the restaurant because her husband proposed to her there. Blinded by love, everything tasted good. At the same restaurant, a man took his mother-in-law to dinner. With his mother-in-law's voice droning on and on, nothing tasted good, and every waiter was rude.
How could Big Data improve restaurant reviews? Instead of offering opinions, it can offer facts. Not just how many people say they liked the restaurant but how many people returned, including how often, as well as how many did not return. Even better, Big Data could alert you to other restaurants that these same people frequent. Using Big Data with established statistical tools such as segmentation and market basket analysis, customers would have much better information to make decisions on their restaurant choices.
We can outlaw Big Data because of its potential to be misused—but then we don't get to profit from its advantages. The best course of action is to design and use Big Data with checks and balances so customers can benefit from the information while their privacy remains protected. I see a future in which vendors and consumers work together to create Big Data apps that benefit consumers and vendors alike.
As we learned on Main Street a hundred years ago and at the Claridge Hotel, paying attention to what your customers do so you can offer them better products and services does not have to be an invasion of privacy.
Jon Entwistle is senior consultant, digital analytics at web analytics firm Semphonic.
We all make stuff.
Creativity is often considered a magical talent, possessed only by those “creative types.” But we all have a right side of the brain, the side that processes emotion, music, color, intuition and creativity—marketers, too. Everyone can be innovative, solve problems, and be inspired. Tapping into your right brain is the key. But between technology overload, compressed timelines, meetings, emails, colorless excel spreadsheets, and cubed-out, grey work spaces, it's becoming more and more difficult to think creatively.
In defiance of Excel, grey walls, and email alerts, I urge you to give your right brain a boost. Here are some very simple ways you can take back your time, feed your right brain, and watch the results roll in.
Kick the habits. The brain is an interesting organ. Though it exists in a constantly changing world, it prefers the habitual because it's safe. But doing the same thing repeatedly means your brain is not making new connections. Forcing yourself to do something different creates new neural pathways. That's where new ideas come from. Something as simple as putting your watch on the opposite wrist triggers the brain into making a new connection. Think about how you can do one different thing every day. Take a different route to work. Sit somewhere else while checking email. Try a new spot for lunch. Change. It. Up.
Keep the noise and fray away. This is difficult because in our business email pings, phone calls, and meeting requests are constant. This fray demands your attention and interrupts thought processes. To take back some time for your right brain, turn off email for a while. Better yet, batch-respond to email twice a day with an auto responder. Walk away from your computer and think somewhere quiet. Use your lunch break to take a walk. It makes a big difference.
Look at the brain scan above. It shows the impact of a short walk on brain activity. Increased mental stimulation is indicated by the presence of green, yellow, and red areas in the scan on the right. If you're stuck on something at work, get away for a while to stimulate your creativity and solve the problem.
Feed your right brain with tranquility. Block out “think time” on your calendar and be disciplined in honoring it.
No negativity. This is hard for left brainers, because that side will rationalize the right brain's ideas away. Positive language helps ideas flourish. It's like idea volleyball. You can keep an idea alive by asking questions like “What if?” “What else?” and “Why not?” Another approach is to ask yourself what interests you about that idea and then ask more questions to help refine it. Sure, this takes more effort than simply abandoning the idea. Statistically, an idea will get four negative responses before one positive one. But staying positive will help your left brain play along.
Laugh more. Children laugh 150 times a day. For adults, it's closer to 15. Laughter keeps things open and light. It also releases endorphins in the brain, keeping you positive—and positivity is fertile ground for ideas.
Color your world. Color is a powerful stimulus. Look around. Is your environment grey and beige? Even the simplest splash of color can stimulate the right brain. Tack up colorful paper or pictures. Write notes or jot ideas down on bright sticky notes. Visit sites like Pinterest or www.colourlovers.com for ideas. Use a colored notebook, calendar, or pens. Small colorful changes have a big impact. This idea sums it up: We all went to kindergarten with a magical box of crayons and graduate high school with a disposable ball point pen.
No matter which side of the brain dominates you, today's business is driven by innovative ideas—and those ideas come from the right side. Give your right brain room, color, quiet, and positivity and abandon repetition. This will pay you back ten-fold.
Try this offline experiment this holiday season: Walk into Tiffany with a bag from JC Penney and see if anyone will talk to you. Next, go to JC Penney with a bag from Tiffany and watch the staff fawn all over you.
Online personalization is an evolving and very dynamic space. The algorithms behind personalization sift through reams of data and supply us with tailored recommendations, advertisements, and the most personally relevant and appealing results.
Because online personalization is on the cutting edge, we sometimes forget we've been targeted for decades while shopping in brick and mortar stores. Old-school targeting faces a similar set of problems because it's about visually sizing up customers. Take Vivian, the character played by Julia Roberts in the movie “Pretty Woman,” who reenters the posh shop on Rodeo Drive where a day earlier, dressed in her “working girl” clothes, she was snubbed by the shop assistant. Now, wearing an expensive dress, black hat , and white gloves—the very image of elegance—she's loaded with shopping bags. The shop assistant smiles and asks if she needs help.
Vivian: “I was in here yesterday, you wouldn't wait on me.”
Shop assistant: “Oh. ”
Vivian: “You people work on commission, right? ”
Shop assistant: “Yeah. ”
Vivian: “Big mistake. Big. Huge. I have to go shopping now.”
The shopkeeper's targeting mistake was fictional, but every day millions of dollars hang on sellers properly sizing up their prospects.
Never in my life have I been referred to the women's department when entering a clothing store because employees quickly surmise that I'm probably not looking for a dress—but they might be wrong. I could like wearing dresses, or, maybe I'm buying a gift for my wife, mother, or daughter. But they play the odds and refer me to the men's section. Additionally, because I'll never be confused with a fashionista, they're also likely to recommend a new pair of khakis rather than the luxury cashmere hoodie made from the soft wool of Mongolian goats.
Online personalization is similar. When you visit that same clothing retailer's online site, the algorithms attempt to determine something about you and customize the content to fit. It's all about probabilities—the better the data and the better the algorithm, the better the chance they'll hit the mark and show you something you like.
Of course, just as I can cloak my identity online using a cookie blocker, I can also cloak my identity offline. If I don't want a store clerk to know I 'm a man, I could wear a large parka and mask (though they might call security to escort me out). If I cloak my identity online, I'll get a less interesting experience or just be ignored.
Old-school targeting happens everywhere. I know a single woman who wears a wedding ring when she travels because she gets better service from the airline and the hotel. Sadly, society still discriminates based on appearance. In old-school targeting we sometimes receive wonderfully customized service, but are also vulnerable to unpleasant experiences due to our looks, what we wear, our gender, or the color of our skin.
Humans naturally react to others based on many factors—some legitimate and some not. Store clerks need a filter to triage purchase intent because they can't spend equal time with everyone who walks into the store. They need to allocate time to people they believe are going to buy, so they develop heuristics, based on their own biases, to help them interact with customers. If you walk into Tiffany with a JC Penney bag, you might be a billionaire, but my guess is that the store clerk isn't going to take the time to find out—unless it's a really great sales clerk who notices your brand of shoes or the wristwatch you're wearing.
Old-school personalization is supposition based on our five senses. When practiced well, it can be very accurate. Online personalization lacks many of the cues one gets in the offline world, and, like store clerks, there are good and bad online systems. Good systems unify online and offline data and work on enhancing the experience of the customer.
Computers, like humans, have the same potential to do great good or cause harm. But unlike humans, computers can quickly digest millions of different interactions to make decisions. For instance, BestBuy.com can query its database to check if you're an existing customer and what you purchased during your last visit. It would be impossible for a store clerk to remember the faces and purchases of millions of customers.
Stores, both brick-and-mortar and online, want our money and try to seduce us for it—except now, in the age of Big Data, it's easier for the ones online to be masters of seduction. One hundred years ago, John Henry beat the machine at a severely high cost. Today, he wouldn't even stand a chance.
Vivian tells Edward, “The stores are not nice to people — I don't like it.” This is after she was snubbed. Edward responds, “Stores are never nice to people. They're nice to credit cards."
Auren Hoffman is CEO of CRM retargeting and data onboarding company LiveRamp.
Social media has evolved past marketing novelty and is now a mainstay in consumer branding strategies. While this concept has certainly established a solid foothold with brand managers and in the advertising world, the challenge for the modern marketer is to find that so-called sweet spot—the perfect mix between time-tested one-to-many media and new, engagement-driving one-to-few or one-to-one social strategies.
In an era in which experimentation has become a requisite and risk is absolute, how does a brand effectively utilize social marketing to amplify its core message and maximize campaign effectiveness?
Although there is no exact science behind a successful hybrid of traditional and social media, the concept of a holistic, blended marketing approach is one that permits more meaningful brand interactions and deeper relationships with target consumers.
It's in this quest for a winning combination of media that the notions of effectiveness, relevancy, and scalability become key, while the pressure for sustainability and growth mounts. Today, campaigns need to be as elastic as they are genuine and ingenious.
The result is a fluid process in which reliable platforms are paired with new technologies and active listening and flexibility are pivotal to effective brand management. While many of the same metrics—reach, influence, conversion—still hold relevance, social brings forth a new lens through which to view these criteria, as well as a new game plan to follow.
When social is layered onto traditional and multichannel mixes the possible impact for a marketing message extends well beyond brand influence and perception, pacing into a realm of direct engagement and social shareability. Consumers are no longer passive viewers; they now have the option to tangibly interact, share with their network, and influence opinions far beyond their direct personal relationships.
Thus, brands must consider the depth of social experiences they create for consumers and what entices engagement and creates evangelists. Is it simply direct to product information, or do users desire a unique brand experience? What is the threshold to incentivize a consumer to take action—an opt-in for money saving coupons, sneak preview content, or the ability to influence a product's development?
A blended traditional and social mix sets the stage for that positive engagement—traditional informs and provides compelling reasons to act; social provides the payoff. The net effect is the brand's reward of an ongoing interaction with consumers, a greater understanding of their preferences, and integration into their lives.
Today's menu of ways to reach consumers is vast and quickly morphing. A holistic marketer will harness that opportunity by strategically combining delivery platforms, content, timing, and placement with social strategies.
Take for example IZ-ON Media's Dining TV Network, which serves up video content to patrons dining at major quick service restaurant establishments such as Carl's Jr. and Wendy's. According to Nielsen data, this platform sees high engagement with young urban males who are likely to utilize a mobile device, tablet, or laptop while dining, thereby providing the opportunity for highly targeted social engagement. Marketers can now leverage a logical bridge between off- and online media by embedding compelling social calls-to-action within engaging sight, such as sound and motion content airing to a targeted demographic dwelling in strategic locations. By blending brand messaging with entertaining and relevant elements—current music videos and popular culture references—and incorporating hashtags, promotions, and other incentivizing social payoffs, brands can create more authentic connections and organically integrate into consumers' lives.
By actively listening and dialoguing with consumers, marketers can build synergistic campaigns and dynamically shape success. The beauty of leveraging these new strategies is that unlike traditional advertising, where mid-campaign nimbleness is limited, social elements enable flexibility and automated, cost-effective real-time tracking.
The most successful marketing initiatives leverage mediums that strategically engage target audiences at the right place and in the right mindset while simultaneously delivering relevant, compelling messages and payoffs at the right moment. By integrating social media into the mix, the door is open for honest, effective conversations between consumers and brands. This dialogue results in meaningful insights and measurable, long-lasting interactions leading to brand loyalty.
Tracy Boyd is VP of product marketing and management at IZ-ON Media.
Back in 2006, as the FTC was assembling the criteria that went into what became the “OBA Principles”—the foundation for our industry's self-regulatory program—the watchdog chose its words very carefully. One word that appeared far less in the criteria than one would have guessed is “privacy.” Another word that appeared all over the documents—and has remained top of mind since—is “transparency.”
Six years later, the AdChoices Program run by the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA) has retained that focus on transparency, bringing to light data practices online and helping consumers separate the benign data transactions that go into behavioral targeting from other, more invasive data practices, such as malware and identity theft.
Publicly, legislators and regulators have kept the pressure on our industry as the program continues to build momentum. Privately, individuals from both groups appear more bullish on self-regulation, especially as pertains to how technology can enable transparency.
So, which industry segment can expect to see this kind of transparency enabling measure enacted?
The obvious choice is lead-generation, which is a subset of what performance marketers call CPA—cost per action campaigns. We've all heard the rumors of click fraud that have pervaded our industry for years, with allegations that bots, and not actual consumers, keep the price of keywords—and Google stock—high. There have been enough lawsuits on and around this topic to keep this on the radar of FTC attorneys, and with billions of dollars being spent by marketers to buy the fruits of these clicks, the traffic and personally identifiable information (PII) that consumers provide after visiting sites and either making a purchase or requesting more information, there is plenty at stake.
One segment of our industry can't wait for any program, and it convened in November to create a standard for transparency in the lead gen space. We all know how much online universities have depended on CPA campaigns to fill their classes. After all, it's only been a few years since Apollo Online—the University of Phoenix—was the largest single online advertiser. On November 12 and 13, senior executives from most of the major online colleges and universities gathered at the Comcast Center in Philadelphia to finish what they'd begun.
Their corollary to the AdChoices program is called LeadiD, which they're expected to adopt as a standard within the educational sector's lead gen space. They've made lots of progress together to drive this standard of transparency, and I expect them to adopt it and move it through the entire CPA segment, much like an ongoing verification program that works within campaigns, not forensically.
Imagine being able to know that any click or data that had been derived from a click was accurate before making a decision about it. The kind of certification that people expect when they buy a car has to become the standard for lead generation. And like car certification, systems like the one utilized by LeadiD use a kind of VIN code taxonomy. The same one-way hashing that creates an abstraction layer between users' PII and their browser information for targeting purposes can be utilized in lead generation too. Done properly, one-way hashing is more secure than most encryption and can provide security and confidence. Here, however, it also can provide certification that a lead or other action is precisely what its sellers claim it to be.
If you're a lead buyer for an online university—or an insurance company or financial institution for that matter—the ability to know in advance that what you're buying is what it claims to be is paramount. Forensic verification solutions won't cut it. Imagine knowing before you spend your thousands—or millions of dollars—that you're getting precisely what you're paying for. That's where this industry has to go—and thanks to technologies like that provided by LeadiD, it's where it is heading.
David Herscott is managing partner at NetX.
When the holiday shopping season comes around each year, nostalgia-associated memories of a favorite brand or group of brands pull at our heartstrings. One brand that resonates most strongly with me is Lincoln Logs, created by the son of iconic architect Frank Lloyd Wright in 1916. John Lloyd Wright was incredibly successful with his new educational toy initially marketed to affluent parents interested in childhood development. I unwrapped my first set of Lincoln Logs during the Christmas of 1966, at a time when the Wild West, adventurous cowboys, and wagon trains permeated primetime television and the imaginations of children and parents alike.
Fast forward to December 2012 when I sadly discover that Lincoln Logs appears to have remained stuck in the past, without much evolution in product features or brand relationship with advocates and customers—which is supremely important. The Lincoln Logs digital brand ecosystem overall is anemic and therefore invisible. I believe that strategically targeted efforts in the digital brand experience would help grow the brand in awareness, affinity and ultimately, in sales.
First, I would recommend that Lincoln Logs take a deep dive into its positioning and messaging, recognizing that limitations exist with the narrow-focused, “old-timey” cabins and ranches that dominate its brand story. Most advocates and fans would be intrigued to discover that the original mold for the toy was based on the architecture of The Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. This amazing architectural story needs to be woven into its greater brand story and messaging—not as passive brochure nomenclature but as an active, engaging, integral piece of it. This enhanced brand story could also serve as the platform for product development and expansion which moves beyond the simple cabin “log” into ever-expanding possibilities as Lego did in evolving its structural “brick.” On a larger scale, perhaps Lincoln Logs could provide a series of digitally printable building facades that can be trimmed and applied to log structures to give them different characteristics and themes. The possibilities are endless.
Second, I would engage advocates in the social media space as well as initiate messaging and conversations around the expanded brand positioning to test the water in order to gain greater insight into the brand, which would help map where it could go in the future. Currently the Lincoln Log-associated Pinterest activity is based solely on memories and nostalgia, which attests to the positive brand equity and opportunity for greater engagement that exist. These need to be leveraged with contextual linkage to enhanced online properties and experiences, such as Facebook, which for Lincoln Logs, is disappointingly flat, providing no opportunities for fans and advocates to engage. Toy truck brand Tonka provides an excellent go-to-market example for Lincoln Logs. Tonka leverages the past, evolving the future of the brand with colorful product posts, contests, community outreach and facilitation of relevant conversations. (Two thumbs up, Tonka!)
Last, to leverage the existing brand association with the holidays, product photos shared via Instagram could encourage deeper introspection and conversations, which would inevitably drive sales. Images of Lincoln Logs used with collectables or other holiday associated brands such as Lionel Trains, could assist in reaching a far wider audience, while gaining deeper emotional equity with existing advocates.
A brand's ability to utilize nostalgia in the social media space can assist in maintaining continuity of its evolution over time—if used properly.
Roy DeYoung, Jr. is senior vice president of creative strategy at Paradysz.
The 2012 holiday season delivers an ongoing challenge for retailers. How can they bring a little cheer to the unpredictable and somewhat dismal results we've become accustomed to over the past four years? It's a tall order for brands and marketers to successfully usher consumers into the holiday spirit and then also get the cash register to sing—but there are indeed ways to combat the holiday retail blues. Here are three simple tips to making your brand's in-store experience a holiday hit:
1. Harness the power of play. As shoppers search for markdowns, discounts, and sales, a great experience can be the added value that gives your brand a competitive advantage. JWT says: "no longer regarded as a time waster, play will find more support among adults who recognize that unstructured play balances out today's plethora of organized and tech-based activities." As consumers cut back on costly holiday trips, dinners, and parties they'll look to the annual shopping trip to provide those experiences. Make shopping a celebration of the season and your brand stands to win big. Otherwise consumers will wisely save on gas money and shop online.
2. Nostalgia is better than new. As brands continually innovate in order to stay ahead, some brands are looking back at their growth strategy. 2012 saw a resurgence of classic toys from previous generations. The Easy Bake Oven, My Little Pony, and Mr. Potato Head all got a second shot as brands that produce felt it safer to provide extensions of proven winners than risk launching a new product in uncertain economic times. The experiences that retailers offer this time of year should follow suit. Instead of focusing solely on hands-free shopping and the latest advances in touch screens, rather allow consumers to enjoy a moment to reminisce with products with which they already have an emotional attachment. Their preexisting memories make these brands more valuable, so providing in-store experiences that highlight those positive emotions will prove successful.
3. Gratitude is the new greed. With less focus on flashy must-haves, consumers are using the holidays to concentrate on meaningful gifts that express thanks for the positives they have in their life, like friends and family. Smart retailers will provide easy ways for consumers to add a personal message or detail to their gift, thereby bolstering less expensive presents with a valuable commemorative element.
Ben Roth is senior vice president of creative services at MKTG INC, New York.
A Forrester Research study released in late September showed that less than one percent of online purchases could be traced back to social networks like Facebook or Pinterest. Despite attracting one billion users and thousands of brands and retailers, Facebook did not appear to be the online shopping hub some had anticipated. Rather, Forrester concluded, retailers and other online sellers seeking higher sales conversions would be better off concentrating on the vehicles that had long performed well for them, like search and email marketing.
Let's not be so quick to assume Facebook is overrated for e-commerce. Forrester itself pointed out that its study did not consider data from small and mid-sized online retailers (SMBs), but included only large sellers with tens of millions of dollars in transactions and the marketing heft that could skew their results.
As the maker of a Facebook shopping cart application, we at Ecwid have seen a steady, quarter-to-quarter rise in f-commerce revenues among our customer base, which consists mostly of small and mid-sized retailers. In the third quarter of 2012, for example, total sales from all Ecwid-powered Facebook stores grew 36% from the previous quarter, while the cumulative number of individual Facebook store orders rose by 39%.
Ecwid data from the last two years also found that merchants that maintain both a traditional web store and a Facebook storefront generate between 9 and 22% of their overall online revenue from Facebook. Clearly, while some big name sellers haven't yet fully leveraged the f-commerce opportunity, we see a markedly different story for small businesses.
One would assume that larger retailers and sellers would experience more success with f-commerce, given their extensive marketing dollars. So, why the disconnect? First, large sellers often sell through many more channels—consider, for example, an international luxury clothing line that sells through many retailers, versus a small boutique—and may have more marketing vehicles at their disposal (like email lists) which could skew the results. Another point to consider is that small retailers and sellers are simply better at engaging customers directly via a platform like Facebook. These personal engagements could be leading to a higher sales conversion rate and represent a more significant percentage of their total online revenue.
Like in the earliest days of blogging, it is the SMBs that seem to be leading the f-commerce charge. We recently compiled the attributes of our most successful Facebook storefronts and found the following:
According to Shop.org's recent eHoliday survey, more than half (57.5%) of retailers interviewed said they planned to increase their use of Facebook over last year—the biggest change cited in terms of marketing or retail tactics for this holiday season. While larger retailers with deep marketing pockets consider options like Facebook Offers and Facebook Gifts, they should also keep an eye on their smaller industry counterparts for some valuable lessons.
Jim O'Hara is president of e-commerce solution provider Ecwid.
Today's wired world requires many businesses and organizations to have an online presence. That's a great thing for consumers like me—I personally love to read about new products or news about a company if it's something I'm interested in.
However, when organizations start experimenting with social media they often use these emerging tools with a glance to the past—like it's still 1999. Their blog posts and status updates are written like stale press releases and brochures, and the photos look like they were purchased from stock photo sites.
What's the problem? Dry, tidy, “professional sounding” articles, videos, and photos don't connect with your customers anymore. Today's web-savvy consumers are looking for connections and conversations around the products and services they use.
Thankfully, there are some easy ways to ditch that last-century, old media tone that's coming through in your organization's online presence. Some of these are simple tweaks; some might take a bit more time to master. But if your organization can improve online customer engagement and interaction you will start to create stronger connections and conversations with customers.
Here are five tips to help your organization be more human online:
1. Casual Fridays—every day. Organizations can come across as either formal or casual in their communications to customers. Formality is a quick way to kill any hint of a personal touch in corporate communications to customers. Your customers want to connect with your organization, and being a little more organizationally casual in interactions on the web can help.
A suggestion to make your online communications sound more casual: Unlearn many of the rules of formal writing that you learned from your high school English teacher. They work in an executive summary, but not in a Facebook post.
Online writing that connects to readers tends to use informal, conversational language, short sentences, short paragraphs (maybe even less than three sentence paragraphs), and…a friendly voice.
2. Write like you talk. So, your writing style still has that “I'm writing a history paper” voice…here's how to cure that. Write down what you want to say, and then read what you wrote. Out loud. Does it sound like something you'd actually say to another person? If it doesn't, rewrite it. You can also say what you want to communicate out loud first, and write down what you say.
Why do this? It helps your corporate communications, which includes blog posts, comments, and status updates, sound like they're coming from an actual human, rather than from “an organization.”
3. Share photos of “business as usual.” You probably have a camera in your pocket right now. Guess what that smartphone camera is good for? Sharing photos of business as usual.
I know of a local coffee shop that shares photos online. The owners buy and roast their own beans, so they sometimes travel to places like Antigua in search of yummy coffee beans. During their “business transactions,” they share photos of new products, coffee tastings, and even people they meet on the trip.
The trick is to find something interesting to share. If you travel to fun locations for your organization, by all means take photos. If there's a busy time at your store or organization, that's also a great time to take a photo or two and share online. Customers using your product also make great photo opportunities.
Photos can be a great way to connect with customers, because people are used to connecting through photos. We already use that tool personally, so using the same type of tool organizationally naturally works for many people.
4. Short helpful videos. Short videos have the potential to create strong connections between your organization and your customers, if done with a conversational tone. On the other hand, a poorly read video script can quickly ruin any connection you hoped to gain.
The easiest way to fix that? Don't use a script. Instead of scripting out the dialogue for a video, simply think about what you want to say, and maybe figure out a short introduction and conclusion. Then go shoot that video!
If you need to use notes or some type of video script, use an outline format. Instead of memorizing lines, just make notes about the points you want to make, and then ad lib those points. It's your business, so you probably know the product pretty well. The beauty of video is that you can reshoot many times, and then edit down to just the good parts. Keep that video at two minutes or under, do some simple, make clean edits, and you will end up with a great video that connects with customers.
5. Be yourself. This last tip sums up the other four. Just be yourself. Communicate like yourself, take photos of what you find interesting at work, shoot casual videos of you sharing news about your organization or a cool new product or service, and steer away from uptight “press release style” blog posts. The more informal and human-sounding you can be, the easier it will be for your organization to make those needed customer connections.
David Lee King is the digital services director at Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library, where he plans, implements, and experiments with emerging technology trends.
This is a question that has created a great deal of discussion—as well as a lot of confusion—among direct response agencies and advertisers. Some believe that the URL offers tremendous advantages over 800 numbers—lower cost, website resources, flexibility—not to mention that it represents the converging technology future. Some argue that 800 numbers are far superior because more people are comfortable responding through phone calls than via websites and that conversion rates are higher using phone than URLs.
In fact, both sides have valid positions, but this isn't an either/or question. DRTV advertisers should capitalize on both phone and web as response tools, but they should do so knowing the best ways to use both in a given spot and for a given offer. To that end, here are five principles that we've found beneficial when considering the 800 number/URL issue:
Finally, keep in mind that new technologies will keep producing new response options. In a few cases, we've included text response tools as an option in spots. Admittedly, this is still a small slice of the pie, but invariably, it will be a growing slice. The key is to keep an open mind about all new response options and recognize the continued viability of the traditional one.
Mike Powell is senior vice president/executive creative director at A. Eicoff & Company.
In “B.S. Detector,” a :60 spot for the Adobe Marketing Cloud suite of online measurement tools created by Goodby Silverstein & Partners, an assortment of young execs are asked how their firm measures the results of its digital marketing efforts. Each marketer responds by tossing out such gibberish as “ripple effects,” “key influencers,” “cross-segment synergies,” and “360 views of the customer.” As they do so, they receive a shock from a machine that's calibrated to penalize the usage of marketing speak—language that sounds intelligent, but means absolutely nothing.
While the spot's humor is based on its exaggeration of reality, I think it reveals a troubling truth: Too many marketing pros are steeped in the argot of their discipline, and are literally unable to explain how their work can deliver the results their clients need in order to thrive in the marketplace.
According to author and corporate sales trainer Lee Boyan, there are three ways in which sales reps can close B2B sales: 1) They need to be able to explain how their product or service can make their clients money; 2) They have to save their clients money; or 3) They should help improve a client's image in the marketplace. These are the essential “big three” achievement areas in which all companies must gain traction, and the “big three” results—revenue generation, cost savings, image improvement—that business owners and C-suite executives are focused upon.
Unfortunately, while many marketing pros can effortlessly sprinkle dazzling (and dizzying) buzzwords into their pitches and presentations, many are at a loss when it comes to concisely delineating how their offerings can deliver one or more of the three key results that will keep their clients operating in the black.
I'd say the reason for this disconnect is because most agency marketers have never owned or operated their own businesses. If they did, they'd realize that their clients need tools to help them make money, save money, and improve their image in the marketplace. If a marketer can't plainly explain how a particular tool can help a client meet those needs, then it's worthless to the client—irrespective of how successfully the tool can stimulate ripple effects, key influencers, cross segment synergies, or 360 views of the customer.
To help marketers communicate more effectively, they need to first realize that their primary function is to support their company's sales team. Marketers must strategically identify the target buyers for their products or services, create the multimedia collateral that succinctly explains their offerings, and enunciate crystal clear value propositions that capture the deliverable benefits most appealing to potential customers—and are helpful to their company's sales pros. If five different marketers working for the same company give five different answers about why their customers should buy their product or service—and they do so using the same kind of inane yang that's featured in the Adobe spot—then those marketers are failing their department, their sales force, and their company overall.
To remedy this situation, marketers should spend more time learning about the unique needs, goals, and challenges of their customers and less time inhaling the sweet smoke of their own overcooked, overdone marketing slang. By putting themselves into a buyer's mindset, they'd realize that a simply stated description of the specific “big three” benefits that a product or service can deliver is much more convincing than a string of moist, meaningless marketing mush that's so devoid of substance, it could be used to describe just about anything.
Another option would be for all agency and in-house marketing directors to borrow Adobe's B.S. detector and hook up each member of his/her team to it. After a few painful rounds of responding to the question “What are the benefits that our product/service delivers to our customers?” staffers would eventually figure out how to provide the correct answer. The result would be a reduction in the cliché quotient, an increase in brevity and clarity, and a much more effective—and profitable - way of communicating.
It doesn't take an advanced degree in economics to crunch the numbers currently plaguing the magazine industry. According to the Audit Bureau of Circulation, subscribers are down, as are ad sales and impulse buys at the register. And all of this is happening at the same time publishers are trying to make the switch to digital and mobile platforms, hoping to connect with a younger, tech-savvy readership base.
When my two cofounders and I started HerCampus.com in late 2009, we were faced with this quandary. We knew that free online content meant readership, which led to publicity and an opportunity to generate income through partnership advertising. Though we weren't sure if those financial opportunities would be enough to sustain a media business, we made the decision to turn down full-time employment with a more established company to start one of our own.
The importance of partnership marketing cannot be stated enough, especially for up-and-coming entrepreneurs who want to keep ownership of the company they started without giving up the keys to an outside investor. For HerCampus.com, it meant that instead of selling content-based subscriptions to consumers, the company would have brands subscribe to its audience. This move gave the likes of Victoria's Secret PINK, Bing, Intel, and Contiki the opportunity to connect with a coveted readership base through a bevy of activation options, including on-campus events, sponsored content, and social media campaigns.
The concept of subscribers isn't unique to our business, or even to the magazine industry. Cable subscribers, the majority of who pay on a monthly basis, can add or subtract channels with one 15-minute phone call. Fans of sports teams can subscribe to a team's season ticket package, which gives them access to a select group of games. Ditto with wireless providers, satellite radio, and fitness clubs.
Most client/subscriber relationships are of the public-facing B2C variety, but B2B opportunities can prove just as beneficial, provided they offer value in these four areas:
Planning: For a brand like OCM (Our Campus Market) which specializes in all-things dorm, the moment the previous back to school season ends, the next one begins. In a client-subscriber relationship, the ability for both parties to understand key periods of activation allows for the proper allocation of assets and resources. It's why a health club will target New Year's Day with a barrage of advertising, knowing that potential new customers have just committed to getting in shape.
Innovation: Without innovation, subscriptions don't last long. Clients and subscribers must constantly adapt to an ever-changing audience—something that couldn't be more true with our college-aged demographic. Innovation means understanding the latest trends in pop culture, technology, lifestyle and audience activation, and not only utilizing them but also educating the subscriber on the best methods of doing so.
Relationship building: This is vital, not just in a client/subscriber sense, but also as an opportunity to build relationships with your consumer audience. Contiki, a leading travel company for 18- to 35-year-olds, utilized Her Campus to become our official travel sponsor, establishing themselves as a go-to brand for college students. Men's clothing company Miltons uses Barstool Sports, a leading sports website for 18- to 35-year-old men, to “pimp” a reader's look each month. Each effectively creates a relationship with the reader, even though the partnership between the two companies is essentially B2B.
Flexibility: The more flexible your business is, the easier it is to connect with a potential B2B subscriber. While a traditional ad may land a company on TV for 30 seconds, it won't create that first-person interaction that yields a unique consumer experience. Whether it's bar nights with Bing, or Mobile Manners classes with Intel (two recent Her Campus campaigns), the opportunity to engage a subscriber in an innovative fashion are as limitless as one's imagination.
Windsor Hanger is cofounder, publisher, and president of Her Campus Media.
Email marketing and B2B marketing are meant for each other. But while everybody buys toothpaste and ketchup, finding people who are about to buy an accounting software, for example, requires laser sharp targeting. Email is the perfect vehicle for targeted one-to-one communications with a relevant audience.
Nevertheless, with email marketers, what separates the best from the rest is the ability to leverage data in order to generate a highly personalized experience and content that matches people's interests and stage in the buying cycle, while at the same time speaking to their most pressing problems.
Are you getting more opt-outs than clicks or do you send emails that don't generate results? Here are eight tips that can help you craft an email that engages users, gets more clicks, and generates meetings with decision makers.
1. Segmentation. Emails that are tailored to your buyer persona are more relevant and can address the specific problems that you can solve for your prospect. One size fits all is not likely to work. Make sure that the email is actually directed to the right segment.
For example, when we do our own email marketing at Mintigo, we one email for companies that spend a lot on search advertising and a totally different email for companies that are implementing a marketing automation system. This way, our emails are always relevant and we keep our response rate far above industry benchmarks.
2. Personalization. It's not just about using a first name when greeting a prospect. A good personalized mass email uses variable fields in the email program in order to create the feeling of a hand written note. The more personal and tailored the email, the higher the likelihood that the recipient responds.
3. The subject line. It may be slightly misleading, but the aim of the subject line in email marketing is not to describe the subject of the email. Rather, it's to make people open the email and engage with your content further. Aggressive sell in the subject line is the best way to end up in the junk mail folder. If your title starts with “Get a free one month of…” you need to think about your subject line again.
The subject line is the make-or-break of every email campaign, so think very carefully about how you phrase it and make sure to test it. Our experience shows that simple and personalized subject lines work best.
4. Call-to-action. Why are you actually writing this email—do you want people to click on your email, call you, or email you back? If your email does not spell out a clear call-to-action, people are more likely to ignore it.
At Mintigo, we experimented with many calls-to-action. When one of our reps contacts a new prospect with the aim to get a short meeting to demo our product, our call-to-action is loud and clear: “I would like to schedule a 15 minute call to show you our latest technology, please let me know when and what time works for you this week.”
Sounds simple, but this boosts the response rate of both those who would like to hear what we have to say and those who politely decline. In short, if you don't have a clear call-to-action, expect a lot less action.
5. Credibility. Have you won any awards? Do you have any famous clients or exciting testimonials? No matter if you are writing an introduction email or inviting prospects to download content from your site, don't forget to cleverly weave these in to boost your credibility. This is particularly important if your prospects are still being educated on your brand and product.
6. Quantify. “Numerical facts boost email performance by 60%.” I don't know if that's really true about your company, but at least now I got your attention. Get ahead of the marketing and sales crowd by showing that you really add value. Numbers tend to draw people's attention and increase engagement.
7. Signature. At the end of the day, people buy from other people, not emails. Don't send your email just from “Marketing.” Make sure to include your contact information at the bottom of the email so that people know how to reach you or look you up on social networks.
Emails coming from real people also increase credibility and create a relationship between you and your prospect. If you send high-quality engaging emails that benefit your prospects, they'll remember your name and will open your next email as well.
8. Opt-out. With every email you send, make sure to include an opt-out link. You only want to send email to prospects who are interested in receiving communications from you. It's not only a courtesy—it's the law.
Email marketing is a powerful tool, but in the hands of the wrong marketer it can actually have an adverse effect on your relationship with your prospects. Use the eight best practices above, and email marketing is a great way for B2B marketers to engage and nurture their prospective customers. The key is to have both quality data for segmenting and personalizing your emails and quality content to keep users engaged.
Now your next sale is just an email away.
Ariel Geifman is the director of marketing at Mintigo, a customer targeting solutions provider.
Since the 1960s, the smartest of marketers have developed an offer taxonomy based on the four Ps—product, price, place, and promotion. For years these four Ps have helped us marketers measure, classify, and optimize different offers against one another based largely on these trigger points, allowing for an organized and optimized marketing mix that drives revenue with the most efficiency. And that taxonomy—or process of determining how all the offers from brands should be broken down into distinguishable pieces—has held its grip on the marketing industry.
The marketing mix was comprised of the four Ps—the age old decision-points in that taxonomy and the levers that each marketer must use to optimize sales when taking a specific product to market.
These offers (let's say within an email or banner ad) generally communicate parts of the various elements of the four Ps. What is it about the product and its features that make it of interest to me? What is its price, be it a retail price or a sales price. And does the specific pricing strategy include additional incentives like free shipping? Where can I get it, and at what times? And finally, how are the other elements of the four Ps being communicated, and perhaps more importantly, messaged to the desired customer through paid, earned or owned media? Over the years, many academics have attempted to expand on, modify, or completely change the marketing mix beyond the four Ps. A good overview on these efforts is outside the scope of this post, but can be found here. Until now, those simple Ps have reigned supreme—but should that change?
Recently, Ron Shevlin of the Aite Group, a respected colleague of mine, postulated in his great series of blogs, correctly entitled “Snarketing 2.0”, the need to add “payment” to the marketing mix. He argues that there is “growing evidence that the choice of payment methods available for a particular product can influence a customer's choice of product—regardless of the price. This would qualify payments as a lever—or fifth P—that marketers can manage.”
After thinking on this long and hard, I'd have to say that I generally agree with this, but for perhaps different reasons. Ron further states that “when the four Ps of marketing were conceived in the early 1960s, the choice of payment methods boiled down to cash, check, and credit card (and I'm not even sure how many people had a credit card back then).” The ever increasing number of payment options, like prepaid and gift cards, he says, is the actual revolution in payments.
The real revolution is happening not only in our payment options, but in how payments are made. In the early 60s, while people could use cash, check, or credit, they could really only pay using one method—a fixed point-of-sale terminal manned by a cashier. Now, not only do we have a choice of method of payment, but also how we pay. For example, when people pay a merchant that has Square attached to an iPad, they are still paying with a credit card. Yet they must also determine whether they trust that the Square-enabled transaction will be as secure as the “old” register method or whether they will still get their points, etcetera. So we have to look at payments as not only what method we pay with, but how that payment is being made.
We have many abilities to pay today with more on the way. Square and its competing devices from PayPal and Intuit, among others, are one type. The coming promise of Near Field Communications (NFC) is another. If our smart device is enabled with NFC, then the number of “devices” that will accept payment increase almost infinitely. NFC can be on another smart device, embedded in a poster to deliver movie tickets for example, built into the product itself, or even the uniform of the “cashier” accepting payment. Or, QR codes can be scanned with backend payment capabilities so that any QR code can actually complete the transaction.
Of course, the big iron cash register companies won't give up this “last mile” without a fight.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there is the looming battle to control the digital wallet—to be the one place where anything can be paid for, all loyalty programs can be tracked and managed, money can be gifted or loaned to a friend or family member, and banks deposits can be made using a picture of a check. Major players are forming to fight this battle. Obviously Google Wallet and Apple's Passbook immediately come to mind (both NFC-based). But wireless providers like AT&T are also banding together with credit card issuers under the Pay with This umbrella. Bay and PayPal have announced their digital wallet initiative, and Walmart has teamed with other major retailers to announce their own wallet, dubbing it the Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX).
Any marketer working on the marketing mix for his or her product line has to recognize that choosing among these several options will mean that many potential customers, who have opted into competing options, simply won't buy that particular product because of the chosen payments strategy.
That's why I believe the fifth P, payment, has enough complexity, variety, and risk to be considered a fundamental element of the marketing mix. Just as mistakes in product or price can kill a marketing effort, so now will be making those mistakes in payments as well.
Bob Fetter is senior vice president of Pluris Marketing.
With the influx of OTT messaging services like WhatsApp, GroupMe, and iMessaging it might seem like SMS is nearing the end of its lifecycle. But for the marketing community, SMS could be the key to unlocking success by prompting downloads from websites and encouraging users to spend more time engaging with applications. Although the majority of time and resources are spent driving downloads, marketers must also think about the integrated effort that goes into driving loyalty for their apps.
While it's imperative for marketers to allocate resources toward customer acquisition, every brand knows that it's more cost effective to manage and maintain relationships with existing customers. But the road can be challenging for marketers who choose to nurture those relationships through apps. Industry data shows a staggering 80 to 90% of downloaded apps are eventually deleted, and less than 5% of the respondents who download an app are actively using it 20 days after purchase. This rapid attrition rate demonstrates the importance of creating lasting customer engagements rather than simply targeting downloads.
To remedy this fragmentation, marketers are turning to SMS as a strategy to not only drive downloads, but to inspire ongoing interaction and engagement with users. SMS works as a call-to-action for customers, encouraging them to make a publisher's app part of their regular routine, post-download.
While there are many channels open to app marketers ranging from push notifications and display banners to mobile video and 2D barcodes, research shows 59% of people respond to SMS messages within the first hour of receiving them; 41% respond within the first ten minutes. SMS is also extremely ubiquitous. Text messaging is universal and widely regarded as the native language of mobile that allows marketers to get closer to their customer, more than any other communication channel invented.
From an implementation standpoint, SMS complements other marketing mechanisms, including push notifications, where an app notifies the user of new messages or events—even when the app is closed on the device. It can also be used to reach all mobile devices globally and even reconnect with users who have already deleted an app.
A recent white paper released by tyntec and authored by mobile analyst, Peggy Ann Salz, discusses how SMS can drive positive results in a variety of app marketing scenarios referred to in the paper as “the 3 R's”:
Using SMS to engage with app users can help marketers reinvigorate usage among existing customers and reactivate users who have previously deleted their app—all the while, driving revenue and breathing new life into the app. For app marketers looking to improve performance, text messaging can be the key to supercharging any app marketing strategy.
Thorsten Trapp is cofounder and CTO of tyntec.
If your mobile site is not ready for Cyber Monday, don't worry—there are things you can do any time to get started on the road to optimization success. Even with the different technical requirements of mobile devices, it is possible to easily and effectively increase mobile engagement through multivariate testing. In fact, mobile optimization using A/B and multivariate testing and targeting has been proven as one of the most effective and immediate methods to increase visitor engagement, mobile application adoption, and content consumption. Here are a couple of tips to get you started:
1. Test your mobile campaigns. With relatively little in the way of best practices for the mobile channel, it can be difficult to know beforehand which content, user interface element, or aesthetic will be most effective with your audience. Make sure you test your mobile offerings before launching them so you can discover which content your users prefer on their mobile devices.
Discover what works by testing elements such as image size, image choice, specific words or phrases, placement, design, graphical elements, headlines, colors, variations in functionality, and dynamic content.
Use mobile multivariate testing as a marketing strategy to learn how to better influence and persuade visitors to:
2. Continuously improve. Use mobile multivariate testing as a platform for continuous improvement. The testing process reveals not only what works and should be implemented, but also what doesn't work and should be avoided.
Every new mobile idea, whether content, functionality or campaign related, should be put to the test to determine if it helps or hurts the visitor experience.
While some new ideas encourage engagement, others fail—sometimes significantly. But even with these failures, there is definable knowledge gained about what to avoid the next time. The ability to test a new idea and “look before you leap” is an unmistakable advantage that breaks the constraints on mobile marketing innovation.
What's important to understand about mobile multivariate testing is that it not only shows you which combination of elements your visitors prefer, but it reveals which individual elements influence visitor behavior versus those that do not. For example, did variations in product image influence visitor behavior more, less, or the same as the copy?
Understanding how each mobile site element influences the visitor experience is the essence of a “test-learn-repeat” process that marketers can use to prove (or disprove) the effectiveness of new ideas and continually improve their mobile site's ability to achieve—and exceed—their marketing goals.
It's only when a solid testing capability is in place and the impact of any change is able to be quantified, that can marketers truly optimize their mobile site's effectiveness.
Armed with these tips about mobile optimization, and the concept of the “test-learn-repeat” process, marketers can use, or disprove, the effectiveness of new ideas and continually improve the ability of mobile sites and campaigns to achieve and exceed marketing goals—all while saving precious time, money, and resources.
Kim Ann King is CMO of SiteSpect.
Social platforms have become strategic marketing avenues for organizations of all shapes and sizes to engage customers and establish a brand. For digital coupons there may be no more perfect platform than Pinterest—particularly in the coveted demographic of decision-making moms.
According to comScore, unique visits to social networking sites have increased by 6% year-over-year, and Pinterest remains the fastest-growing social network as of Q1 2012—the fourth largest traffic driver worldwide, according to Shareholic.
A side-by-side comparison shows how Pinterest provides a more streamlined effort to sharing digital coupons.
On Facebook, in order for a coupon to go viral and become a driver for company growth, individuals have to continuously interact with the coupon by “liking” it, leaving a comment, or sharing it to gain external traction. There is not a way for someone to get an updated list of the latest digital coupons shared on Facebook by searching the site, and Twitter faces some of the same navigation issues. A tweet may have a promo code and a link, but it's also relying on retweets, hashtag uses and searches to be found.
For the tech savvy, Pinterest may not seem more streamlined than Facebook or Twitter, but the platform's one-click sharing is certainly more instinctive and intuitive for the casual user, and its clean layout and nonintrusive graphics give it great aesthetic appeal.
At Grocery Coupon Network, our internal tracking of social media activity produced some surprising results: Our Pinterest followers represent 0.01% of our Facebook audience, however, in one 30 day period, Pinterest followers accounted for 42.15% of our social shares.
That means our Pinterest followers are 81 times more active than our Facebook audience.
Fifteen percent of Pinterest users surveyed by Compete in June said that they do not use any other social media sites, and a breakdown of Pinterest's demographics as of August shows that:
When usability and aesthetics are factored in, it's clear why Pinterest has made such a dent in a demographic known for sharing tips and savings: Moms. With an economy causing a cultural shift towards frugality, that opens the door for Pinterest to drive digital coupon conversion.
It's difficult to say whether Pinterest's surge in the social media marketplace will continue. New competitors are always coming to the forefront, though only a few have managed to sustain their viability over the long-term. In the meantime, new Pinterest integration possibilities and content management systems allow marketers to harness the strong conversion and word-of-mouth factor of the platform, and Pinterest's conversion statistics and demographics create an extremely strong case for business focus when it comes to digital distribution.
A recent New York Times piece took a look at how L.L. Bean has integrated social media into its customer care operations. Yes, the venerable Maine retailer's call center still handles tens of thousands of calls daily. But now the customer care team also interacts with consumers on Facebook and Twitter where the company has some 50,000 monthly mentions—both positive and negative.
L.L. Bean joins a relatively small group of companies known for integrating social media into their CRM strategy. A small number because many businesses still silo social media in their marketing or e-commerce department to push out promotional messages, track brand insights, and augment the online experience with new features.
A recent MarketTools survey of businesses with annual revenue greater than $10 million showed nearly half of the respondents don't think their customers comment or complain about their products and services online, while almost a quarter said they have no idea if they do.
As published by Marketing.com, the survey concluded that a whopping 66% of respondents are under-leveraging social media even though it can provide a wealth of valuable insights into customer preferences. Not only does the social analytics firm Bazaarvoice collect and track millions of product reviews across large retailers' sites, many millions more appear in blogs and other social media platforms. Disconnecting those insights from CRM is a loss of touch that few companies can afford.
A social CRM approach
Social CRM incorporates customer and visitor engagement on social media platforms or websites within the larger processes of marketing, sales, and customer service. The goal is twofold: to interact with customers and potential customers on these platforms to improve their experience with the company, and to generate data that will improve the business and its processes.
Developing a social CRM approach starts with defining a customer engagement strategy in which social media is a foundation for future customer experiences. In this way social media becomes an enabler—another customer touch point as well as a gateway to gain deeper customer preference insights.
Ultimately this means assessing your business processes, technology, and work environment to determine how to integrate social media. This can be accomplished in stages using CRM tools in technology platforms that you may already have. But the key here is not the tools—it's your strategy.
A high-tech manufacturer of consumer electronics we recently worked with has employed social media in its multichannel e-commerce operations to bring its products to market. The company also has an integrated multichannel contact center to support sales and service—but it lacked an integrated social CRM strategy.
We evaluated the company's approach and assessed its CRM strategy against its goal of enabling anytime, anywhere customer interactions. Then we evaluated how social media could serve its sales and service goals, what tools the company needed to accomplish this, and how to measure success.
Not surprisingly, the company was using Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to market its products and broadcast sales messages. But, with a social CRM strategy, it could do more—say, provide a targeted link to product information specific to the profile of the prospect or customer or provide specific customer services.
But, in the course of broadening its social media activities in this context, the company, had to identify potential challenges like answering service questions or responding to complaints in a public forum. This led to guidelines that enabled the online customer care team to identify opportunities and problems, and how to manage both.
In the final step of the planning process, we helped the company assess its current technology against what was needed to support the social CRM plan, which led to a roadmap for integration and deployment.
Most companies will find a stepwise approach using a controlled pilot can prove a social CRM plan's value while limiting risk. Here are some simple steps to take:
1. Identify a specific, controllable marketing and/or customer care objective that social media can leverage. This could be providing independent product referrals while prospects are evaluating product information online, or offering a channel for answering product questions or concerns.
2. Based on your objective, develop a business case model to evaluate success. Structure the pilot with a clear baseline and control group against which to measure success, such as reducing the service calls to the contact center.
3. Be targeted and specific with your social media deployment. Identify social media outlets, internal participants, desired interactions, training, monitoring, and management.
4. Embrace social media internally to educate your teams. Select team members to drive the project and increase visibility. Establish collaboration through wikis and other sharing mechanisms. Embrace the spirit of social media—encourage new ideas from team members.
5. Manage change. Let resistant employees know social media has the power to make their jobs more interesting and varied.
While you can do a lot yourself, consider engaging a third-party partner to help create, execute, and expedite your strategy. A partner will provide expertise in processes, manpower planning, and analyzing the CRM-generated data that will enable you to assess an ROI for your efforts and continuously improve customer experience.
With consumers in control of communication, it's up to businesses to harness social media and initiate new sales and service models. A thoughtfully developed and executed social media program integrated with your CRM strategy can help you reach new markets and customers while increasing loyalty and mitigating risk. It's time more companies got on board.
Atanas Popov is a consulting partner for Wipro's media and telecom practice.
David Volpe is partner and CRM practice head at Wipro Consulting Services in Boston.
As they say, “There's no place like home for holidays.” Travel is major part of holiday plans for many Americans and as the seasons gets into full swing planning travel does as well. Coordinating details can be challenging, but travel plans shouldn't put a damper on the excitement of gathering with family and friends.
While it can be a time-consuming and taxing process for consumers planning holiday travel, mobile and Web platform technologies are making the experience more enjoyable and simpler than ever. And while we've made major strides with tech and tools to help ease the pain, the travel industry can continue to improve on the customer experience. According to a survey conducted by FlightView, travelers identified better Wi-Fi as a major need in airports and in-flight, as well as updates on their flight statuses while waiting to board and after the first leg of a connecting flight.
Improving this customer experience requires attention to detail and focus on ease-of-use from start to finish. From the moment consumers search for a flight to the moment they receive follow-up information and deals after they return home, travel companies are tasked with quickly delivering information and tools that are relevant to customers, their location, travel preferences, and history. To keep up with user trends, travel companies should focus on approaching the process by mobilizing, socializing, and personalizing the travel journey for the convenience of consumers.
Based on a recent Trip Advisor survey more than half of all travelers book their plans online using a mobile device, and given the widespread use of smartphones, this number is only expected to increase. In an age when consumers grow more tech hungry and savvy by the day, immediacy is king, and customization is critical to engaging and keeping users. Travel companies must focus on and dedicate resources to the areas consumers care about and the tools they use most often, engaging them on mobile and social platforms to improve the user experience. This focus on user experience has proven to build differentiation and competitive advantage.
Knowing the consumer—not just the market—will spell success for existing and emerging travel companies. Consumers want individualized and localized information quickly. As a result, individualism and curated content are fueling purchasing behaviors, generating business recommendations and creating loyal customers. Collecting past travel and purchasing preferences about a specific user forms the basis of a personalized experience. Leveraging that data to inform about relevant holiday travel recommendations and deals targeted toward that user delivers opportunities to their fingertips that don't require time-consuming searches. This can create an ease-of-use that busy consumers appreciate.
Whether it's for holiday travel or dining recommendations, the customer experience ultimately comes down to reaching the right customers at the right time with the right information. Taking cues from consumers' use patterns will better inform what channels and strategies are best suited for reaching them. Today, mobilizing, socializing, and personalizing content have become essential elements in any strategic online initiative.
Bob Egner is VP of product development & global marketing at EPiServer.
On October 16 I got to witness a great speech at the DMA conference. This wasn't a presentation about a product or even instruction in direct marketing, but it was nevertheless an amazing presentation. The speaker, Hal Brierly, was being inducted into the DMA Hall of Fame. I don't know Hal, who was listed as a pioneer in developing customer loyalty campaigns, but I certainly understand why he was inducted. He spoke for more than 20 minutes, but all he really said throughout the whole acceptance speech was “thank you.”
This wasn't the Oscar acceptance where “thank you” seems to come from a list, where there are too many people to thank, and where we're all thankful when the music starts because you know the winner will soon be ushered from the stage. In a word, it was not boring. It was certainly what he said, but also how he said it that stuck with me. I learned three things from his speech about thank you.
1. It's not about you. You really need to know your audience, whether its customers, employees, vendors or even just attendees at DMA. When you know something about them, actually place yourself in their shoes, “thank you” can mean so much more. Knowledge of your audience is what separates you from those who give meaningless thanks; it shows that you're someone who actually cares.
2. Be specific. If you know your audience, you don't have to be general and vague in your thank you. When you thank them for something specific, it gets remembered. For instance, not just “thanks for helping”, but “thanks for working through the weekend to make sure we delivered on our promise to the customer.” That ties your gratitude to something the employee did.
3. Go retro. Social media is fantastic for many things. But Facebook, Twitter, and even emails and texts are not as effective as writing a handwritten note or speaking to someone in person. In today's world there's something special about a handwritten note. I bought some earrings for my Mom once and received a hand written note from the sales person. I make it a point of going back to that store for jewelry purchases. Yes, it works.
What does this have to do with direct marketing? Clearly, a lot. Studies reveal that when you say "thank you" to your customers, they will spend more money and tell their friends about the great service and products you deliver. Thanking employees boosts productivity and even thanking vendors yields the benefit of having them go the extra mile for you.
We're busy. We live in a world that puts constant demands on us all. There are many reasons why we don't do it as often as we should. All these reasons mean we should actually be saying thank you more than we do. I want to thank Hal for reminding me of that and for the lessons learned. And I want to thank you for reading.
There has never been a better time to be a CMO. You're finally in the driver's seat with the tools to prove ROI, but now you need a plan to get to your destination without too many detours along the way. You want to deliver on digital's promise of anytime, anywhere engagement, but also tie your investments to business results. Here are 5 keys to doing that:
Get back to basics
As you integrate digital with traditional, the swiftest path to success begins with the basics: who is your audience, where are they finding you, and where are you finding them, and what do they want?
Develop your personas, content strategy, and tool selection based on the answers. For example, if your customers are heavy mobile users, take a “mobile first” approach to content and to the design of your digital properties.
Simplify your toolkit
Speaking of marketing tools, marketers are tool-heavy. The variety of great tools available makes it doubly hard to choose the right ones for your toolkit. When choosing a tool, ask how it integrates with your current marketing solutions. Today you probably have separate tools for email, Web, analytics, social media, mobile, etc. Simplify to reduce adoption hurdles and speed implementation. The fewer tools you use, the easier it will be to measure your investments and communicate the results.
Balance your team
According to an article in Forbes, in five years the CMO will have a bigger technology budget than the CIO. This means you need to build your own technology muscles and find the right technical people who can help execute your plans.
To understand what you need from your technical team members, it sometimes pays to think like a technologist: baseline, analyze, and evolve, in that order. The more data-focused you can be, the better you'll be able to communicate with the technologists on your team.
Process is not a four-letter word
Technologists rely on processes to get things done with a predictable level of reliability and maintainability. Marketers have to execute quickly, which sometimes leads to shortcuts. The more standardized process you can introduce to your marketing organization, the more efficient your operations and more predictable your outcomes.
Balance your bias for action with an equal bias for planning
Marketers rarely have the luxury of time. To deliver sustainable results, balance your bias for action with an equal bias for planning. You'll find your organization will be far less reactive and that you'll be able to build programs that create long-term, sustainable relationships with your customers and prospects.
Tim McLaughlin is president of Siteworx.
Not long ago, media companies and publishers were in the business of creating and delivering content, imparting news and analysis, and delivering value by offering something consumers and B2B customers couldn't get elsewhere. The idea was if you delivered content of unique value and marketed it with reasonable effectiveness, you would draw an audience. Keep it up and you'd retain that audience. Building a loyal and lasting base of registered users wasn't something that happened overnight, but for several years, the calculus was straightforward enough.
Well, it's no longer straightforward. Today, the first order of online business for any direct marketing, media, or publishing company is to chase eyeballs. And eyeballs, it turns out, are an increasingly moving target.
Consider the fact that your site or brand is vying for the increasingly fragmented attention of more than a billion Internet users who have access to, according to Netcraft, nearly 600 million websites—with nearly a million new sites launched every day. More than 800 million people now spend roughly four hours a day sharing, posting, tweeting, and commenting on Facebook and other social networks. More than 30 billion apps have been installed on mobile devices, where people are spending 94 minutes a day—even more than they're spending on the Web.
Talk about distraction. And in this environment, you're still responsible for scaling revenue and growing registrations by increasing unique visitors, driving up average pages per visit and time spent on site, and boosting conversion rates. Today more than ever the art and science of direct marketing boil down to knowing what to do to get those numbers up.
Look beyond acquisition
Drawing users to your site is a crucial first step, and you've got plenty of tools for that—SEO, SEM, social networks, blogs, email, PR, and advertising. But the majority of success metrics are driven not by luring one-time visitors, but by retaining them. Retention costs less than acquisition (six times less, in fact), and Forbes reports that 52% of CMOs say retention is now their top priority.
But the toolbox isn't nearly as deep for retention. There is your content, of course, and emails, social sharing, and contests. Many of these are all well-known and, to a large extent, have reached the point of commoditization. In other words, they do little to distinguish your destination from others, and for this reason, they do little to engage users and keep them engaged.
The play's the thing
But as Facebook and app developers have discovered, the experience of game play has created user experiences that capture well more than just eyeballs. Angry Birds, Farmville, and other smartphone and Facebook games have defined a new category that, for a staggering 500 million people, consumes an hour out of every day. That's engagement.
The good news for media and publishing companies—and for direct marketers in any industry—is that the same dynamics that drive people to play games or engage with entertainment can be used in a contextually relevant way to create a compelling user experience and drive business value on your site. It's called gamification—applying game mechanics to non-game situations—and it has taken hold as one of the most exciting ways to drive user engagement online.
Gamification works because gamified sites leverage the innate drive every person has for goal-setting, competition, real time feedback, recognition, community, achievement, and rewards. A gamified online experience not only draws users in, but it keeps them engaged by motivating them to complete missions, achieve new levels, and strive for meaningful rewards.
Get personal, stay social, and make it rewarding
Facebook and smartphone games rely on three fundamental game mechanics to drive massive levels of sustained engagement and retention:
After deploying game mechanics to improve user retention online, media companies such as Comcast/NBCU, ABC, CBS, Scripps, MTV, and Warner Brothers have seen impressive results:
When it comes to determining where your resources should go—acquisition or retention—you might consider which of these delivers the greatest long-term value. Then budget accordingly.
Chris Sullivan is regional VP of sales for Bunchball.
In support of the launch of new Perrier slim cans, Nestlé Waters challenged Hyper Marketing Inc.'s Ryan Partnership with the development of breakthrough point-of-sale materials to create consumer interest and build brand equity. The goal was to develop provocative creative to not only entice trial, but also reassure loyal Perrier shoppers that this sleek, sexy, and convenient new can contained the same “refreshingly unique” taste they know and love.
With no established look and feel for this new brand initiative, the creative team was able to push the envelope design-wise. The only remit was to stay true to Perrier's brand personality—refreshing, premium, modern, and clean—and to keep the copy fun, daring, and with a hint of humor.
Nestlé Waters also revealed that there was a genuine concern among consumers that the new can format would taste very different than the bottle. As such, the creative needed to reaffirm to consumers that the new can did not alter in any way the Perrier taste profile that millions have loved for 150 years.
Ultimately, the materials that were developed not only addressed this concern and delivered on brief, but also were a departure from the point-of-sale work that is typically seen at retail. The creative boasts bright colors in an eye-grabbing layout, with a smart, sassy and slightly naughty headline “Nice Cans!”
The result gives a modern edge to a classic brand. Click on the three images below to enlarge.
Joanna Lehnert is an account supervisor at HMI's Ryan Partnership.
As the online marketing industry evolves, more money is entering the space, leading to greater regulatory and consumer scrutiny. Digital marketing agencies and brand marketers need to be aware of the various legal and regulatory restrictions explicit in the industry, as well as those implicit guidelines that ensure online marketing's integrity and value.
Three of the most important considerations are detailed below.
Privacy and piracy issues. Online privacy and piracy have become perhaps the greatest issues affecting digital marketing. Last year witnessed a tense battle between major media companies and consumers over the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act. Even Microsoft has gotten into the act. Its forthcoming Windows 8 Operating System and Internet Explorer 10 browser will include default “Do Not Track” settings.
Agencies and marketers need to have a compliance team in place that monitors the usage of their brand's proprietary content, particularly from foreign-owned websites. Furthermore, marketers must be prepared to update their online tracking systems or use platforms that can support “cookie-less” tracking down to granular levels. While some of these items may not come to fruition, they are a sign of deeper measures to come.
FTC and FDA regulations on testimonials. The FTC held a workshop in late-May that examined proposed revisions to its Dot Com Disclosure guidelines, which illustrate how to provide clear and conspicuous disclosures in the online and mobile advertising environment. From the longstanding days of infomercials to modern online advertising, dubious claims about product results are ubiquitous. The FTC is cracking down on deceptive online ads and websites, levying heavy penalties, as evidenced by billions of dollars in judgments in the last year.
Agencies and advertisers need to ensure they can substantiate all product claims with research and written approval from the individual providing a testimonial. Additionally, if there is any money or other tangible benefit exchanged for such testimonials, a clear disclaimer is necessary on the website landing page to let consumers know it is a paid endorsement.
Affiliate nexus tax laws (a.k.a. the “Amazon tax”). An increasing number of states are passing and proposing “nexus tax” laws. These laws create a pseudo-sales tax that must be collected for affiliate sales on products purchased online. These laws will have a significant impact on agencies that operate within the affiliate network space. They will mean the loss for agencies of millions of dollars each year in products being sold on a revenue-sharing basis.
Digital agencies and brand marketers need to ensure their legal team understands these laws by state before conducting any online affiliate marketing efforts. This is a highly effective brand-marketing channel and will impact marketers' and agencies' spending and budgets drastically if implemented nationwide.
Peter Klein is senior vice president of media services at MediaWhiz.
People are drawn to visual content. This fact likely hasn't escaped you—or most content marketing folks. The meteoric rise in popularity of Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr is evidence enough of the power of the visual Web.
In addition, many studies show that translating messages into photos, videos, and infographics pays off because it's less work for the human brain to browse and make sense of images than text. It is also much easier for people to remember your message when they have an image to anchor it in their brain. Add to the equation the ease of using smartphones to take and share photos as a communication shortcut and it's easy to see why the Web has exploded in the past few years with beautiful image-laden social media sites.
Why is it, though, when we connect directly with our most valued customers, few of us leverage these same less-text-more-images engagement principles? Instead, we continue to send links and big files as email attachments in our requisite email follow-ups after meetings, or use file sharing services like Dropbox, Box.com wetransfer, or yousendit.
Is it due to a lack of good alternative communication tools? One might draw that conclusion, but I don't think we have a tool problem. Person-to-person customer communications remain mostly text-based emails because today, private visual sharing is still a latent need.
Just as broadcasting 140 character personal updates was initially viewed as narcissistic—or instantly snapping, editing and sharing photos frivolous—customer-facing professionals haven't quite grasped what they're missing by not sharing content more visually.
Consequently, there's a huge opportunity right now to stand out from your competition. Take a cue from Pinterest and tell your story at a glance by adding cover images to content items, along with brief descriptor text sharing your insights and perspective. Bring the expert to the customer by videotaping and sharing a whiteboard session. Organize information in a way that puts it in context and present it visually so that your customer can more easily and quickly make an informed buying decision; you'll win the customer's respect and the deal.
As we all become more and more accustomed to rich media experiences on the public Web, the latent need for private visual sharing will fast become a burning need. Why? Because our customers will demand more visual ways of communicating privately that are comparable to their public Web experiences.
And, customer experience matters. It really does. Soon how you share insights with customers will be as important as what you share.
Cliff Pollan is cofounder and CEO of VisibleGains, creators of Postwire.
We've spent a lot of time thinking about a design agency's culture and how to foster an environment that is a catalyst for creativity, not a killer of it.
We've considered new seating arrangements. We've thought about decoration. About catchy names and titles for our employees—or no titles at all. A pledge of allegiance? A drop of blood? Mustache Wednesdays? Get the Led out Fridays? More parties?
If you're reading this, you're probably sitting somewhere that's trying to establish, maintain or change a culture. Maybe you're at a startup in a shared workspace with conversations fluttering around you—lots of little cultures. Or, perhaps you're a lifer at a Fortune 500 company where culture is a heavy word, with lots of history to contend with. Culture can be visualized as your surroundings, but it's not dependent upon them. For a creative company, the signature icons of dogs and bikes, music and tattoos, IdeaPaint and beer, are not an answer, but rather a result of a thriving culture.
Every day, we ask ourselves what inspires our people and how we can manifest that all around us.
When we started our design agency, HUSH, in 2006, our intentions were pretty focused—and in retrospect, maybe a little naive. We simply wanted to plant our own flag, grab the wheel, and steer our creative lives in the direction we wanted. Culture was something to think about later, once you had one to think about. But in more than five years, we've done some tacking, and have come a long way—and as it turns out the process of starting and growing a design agency can be as creative as the work itself. Who knew?
But when you get busy, as we all are, it's easy to forget culture. The culture of a company is like its soil; if arid and dry, nothing can grow no matter how promising. Even the best minds and most powerful of talents can wilt, or die, without culture—and before that there'll be a lot of frustration, internal chaos, and misdirection.
At a boutique creative shop, culture is defined one person at a time—everyone matters, whatever his or her level, age, or experience. They count. One for one.
In order to define culture, you have to say it out loud. If your coworkers don't know it, word for word, they won't believe it, nor will they be able to express it to others. You can write it in a manifesto—that's a good start—but you need to speak about it openly and often. People need to know why they're doing what they're doing—and reminding them is a daily task. You also need to listen, because culture is plastic; it ebbs and flows. It's like that scene in Ghost—just you and Demi Moore, working the clay, molding the culture together. Messy. Good messy.
Creative culture is also fragile because creativity itself is fragile and fleeting. People talk of the “gift” of creativity. But if you think about it, it's less like a gift, and more like a muscle. Tapping into your team's creative strength requires the backing of your peers and a support mechanism that assures no idea is too small, that great things can come from the oddest of places, and that not knowing something is actually just an opportunity to learn—not a sign of failure.
In fact, when we were hiring our creative director, we expressed that one of the best parts about HUSH is that nearly every project requires solutions that are at least 50% unknown. The unknown could be technical, talent, scale, materials, support, bandwidth, or all of the above. But we assured him that, as designers and conceptual thinkers, we adapt and excel and deliver. We're not making widgets. We're reinventing ourselves every day into new creative forms with new languages, technologies, inspirations, and processes.
So as we reinvent ourselves and our ideas, our desire for a culture of growth, experimentation, and risk remains steadfast. It wasn't always so but it's front and center now—and will remain so. We continue to think above the project level, and up to the human level—which is everything.
A positive, supportive creative culture is a sine wave, and will ebb and flow over time. But given some care and attention, and a team whose members know they are the shepherds of culture creation too, the result is magnificent: Work just isn't work anymore.
David Schwarz is creative partner at HUSH.
We could throw the numbers around some more, but it's safe to say that video is king when it comes to online advertising right now. There's exponential growth in online video content, which means more in-stream ad space opening up all the time. We hear from lots of advertisers who are familiar with rich media ads and want to get into the in-stream ad market, but aren't quite sure where to begin.
Let's start by demystifying some of the terminology around in-stream video advertising.
The actual term “in-stream” is pretty simple: It's an ad served somewhere in a video stream. VAST & VPAID in-stream formats have come on the scene recently, and there's been some confusion around what they mean. VAST is a type of tag, just like iframe or script. VPAID is an API that acts as a “translator” between the ad and the video player. The goal of both standards is to make it easier for you to serve your in-stream ad across as many players as possible. Doesn't sound too bad, does it?
Now that you know the lingo, here are a few suggestions to ease into in-stream:
1. Start with a TV commercial. If you've run an ad campaign that has a TV component, chances are you have a 15- or 30-second video on hand somewhere. You can use that video as a starting point and run it alone as a pre-, mid-, or post-roll (just like you would in a normal TV program). Sounds easy, right?
2. Encode your video to the proper specs. Each publisher has a recommended spec for videos, but in most cases, if you have a 640x360 (widescreen) and a 640x480 (standard), that should cover a lot of cases right off the bat.
3. Build content around video. Sure, you can serve a simple video as an In-Stream ad and have that be that. But if you really want the campaign to perform at its highest potential, make that video interactive; add some content around it that complements the video and brings its message to life. Video performs better than rich media in several ways, but if you make that video into an interactive experience, your interaction rates should on average be around 10%.
In-stream may feel like a bit of a mystery, but advertisers are finally ready to dive in and try it. They've seen the numbers and they know that taking their campaigns to the next level means dipping their collective toe in the in-stream pool.
Andrea Bridges-Smith is a sales engineer at MediaMind.
Just because no one said “let them eat cake” doesn't mean there isn't a revolution. There is. Like most revolutions, it's been an evolution that all of a sudden seems to have taken off. Nevertheless, ‘why' has been unleashed…
I'm not talking about the multiple questions you get from a child at some point in his or her development, where the whys are string together ad nauseam. What usually begins with “why is the sky blue”—which is of course because a clear cloudless daytime sky is blue due to molecules in the air that scatter blue light from the sun more than they scatter red light—just turns into another why, often regardless of the answer given. These whys inevitably end with “Because I said so."
The marketing world of why is completely different. Don't get me wrong, having asked why on many occasions, “because I said so” is a completely legitimate answer, but let's consider the why revolution before just dismissing it because the customer is always right (which they are by the way).
It's certainly still acceptable to only understand the what. The customer has a marketing campaign that needs to be executed. We can just care about what it is and how we get it done. By no means would I ever suggest poking the customer in the eye with “Why are you doing this?” and then huffing like Al Gore at a debate if you don't like the answer. But here's where the revolution part comes in.
It could be the campaign will be even more successful if the whys take over and collaboration between customer—and not just vendor, but partner—develops.
So, what are some whys?
Why this audience? Why now? Why this design? Why this channel? Why not consider other channels? Why this paper? Why this fold? Why this envelope? Is there a split? Why?
Stop it! You're making me crazy. This isn't a game show and there really may not be a need to ask all this, but why could turn into a different ‘what' and that could be more cost-effective, more timely, more engaging, achieve a better return, evoke a better reaction, and ultimately achieve better results.
If the customer wants to do a marketing campaign and no one asks why, then maybe that customer hasn't had the benefit of expert outside advice. Or maybe that customer doesn't need the advice—but does it hurt to ask why? Wouldn't it be better to collaborate and make whatever the objectives are easier to obtain? I think so.
Asking ‘what' is perfectly acceptable. But the truth be told, marketing is an industry of thinkers and if you really want to help your customers, not only do you have to think yourself—you have to make them think too. Why does that.
Remember, if you're not part of the revolution, it usually means you miss the challenges, but you most certainly miss the opportunities. Why not try why and see what happens.
Companies teaming up for mutually funded and mutually beneficial marketing campaigns isn't a new trend—it's the whole idea behind the “solution sell.” Market development funds (MDF) are the conduit by which these programs are implemented. Each partner gives a little, in terms of money, time, and “real estate” for the other's branding and both partners reap the benefits.
In e-commerce, this partnership is typically comprised of the manufacturers that produce the product and the retailer who ultimately sells it online. Retailers have this so called real estate to facilitate the purchase, while manufacturers often have the funds, brand affinity, and customer loyalty to drive significant interest.
So, the question on the minds of both retailers and manufacturers is not if they should embark on an MDF investment, but how it should be done to capture the greatest ROI.
Innovative companies are turning toward “guided selling” to accomplish these goals.
What's guided selling?
Guided selling is an engaging method for recommending products to customers. Retailers have long recognized the value of engaging shoppers in-store with educated and enthusiastic sales consultants. After all, shoppers are likely to check out with more in their carts—and leave more satisfied—when their questions have been answered and products have been recommended by knowledgeable associates.
Guided selling creates this experience online. It's the philosophy of asking customers to provide insight into their wants, needs, lifestyles, or preferences and then recommending products based on those answers.
Guided selling tools—the actual applications that put guided selling principles into action—come in a variety of shapes and sizes
Interactive consulting tools truly emulate an experienced sales person. They focus on lifestyle and usage questions in order to recommend products.
Real-world example: Server manufacturers joined forces with one of the largest online technology distributors to developer a server finder on the distributors' sites. Customers are asked questions about usage, volume of traffic, and location to determine the necessary specifications for that customer's needs. The customer can then use the specifications to shop on a distributor's site for the right server.
Mobile-guided selling apps allow brands to capitalize on the trend of mobile research by gleaning customer information in an interactive way and delivering product recommendations or personalized content based on the answers.
Real-world example: A popular beauty brand worked with a cosmetics site to develop a skin care consultation mobile app. Customers are asked questions about their skin types, skin issues, and desired outcomes of a skincare regime. Products are then recommended from the brand's catalog to match those needs.
Product advisors help shoppers who know what they are looking for narrow down the choices using questions or filters.
Real-world example: A large online office supply retailer garnered MDF from printer manufacturers to develop an ink and toner finder customers could use to enter the make and model number of their printer. The tool recommends ink and toner to fit the customer's specifications.
What kind of ROI can partners expect from investing MDF in guided selling?
In a time when traditional advertising and marketing strategies are losing effectiveness, guided selling gives partner marketing teams a more effective way to utilize MDF to educate consumers, increase conversions, and drive lifetime value.
Eric Tobias is founder and president of iGoDigital.
Over the past couple of years, we've beaten email with the ugly stick. The blame rests with faceless botnets, best practices ignoring batch and blasters, and the ever-innovative marketers proselytizing the death of email and the rise of social media. Collectively, these misanthropes made it easy ignore, or doubt, email's place in the well-rounded marketing mix.
By now, we all know that email is here to stay. It's the backbone of digital marketing, and easily integrated with other channels—namely social media, which I do believe in as a viable marketing channel. But content delivery is really where email excels. It's the perfect—or near perfect—tool for delivering the content that creates the lasting value that converts leads into loyal customers.
Email is personal
Handing over an email address is a very personal act. Think about it. Through that same address the lead or customer communicates with family, friends, and colleagues. It's a sign of trust to gift that address to a brand. It means they're interested enough to receive more content and offers from your organization.
Social media gurus can make the same argument. But it's easy to ignore a post on your Wall. It's not so easy to overlook an email. This means that marketers have a responsibility to embrace that act of trust and deliver only relevant communications that impart true value to their leads and customers. If they do just that, ROI is sure to follow.
Database segmentation is the primary reason that email is so well suited for content delivery. Marketers can slice and dice their lists into segments based on buyer personas and then deliver tailored communications to those personas. This strategy is vital to ongoing marketing success. It drives engagement and ROI arguably better than any other email-related tactic.
If marketers can merge these segments with personalization tactics and behavioral data, then they have an incredibly powerful content delivery mechanism at their disposal.
Subscription type and sending frequency
Sophisticated email marketers know that handing the reins over to their subscribers ultimately creates a healthier relationship. With email, it's easy to give that level of control to subscribers.
Just let the subscriber pick the kind of content they're interested in, as well as the frequency at which they receive it. This type of choice creates an individually tailored channel that leads to loyalty and engagement.
A proven channel
Email is the perfect channel to accompany the rise of content marketing. With an unbeatable ability to deliver targeted content, integrate with other channels, and hand true choice to the customer, email ensures its continued place in the modern marketing mix.
Dave Scott, founder and CEO of list marketing and lead generation firm Marketfish.
It's important to contextualize brands in the countries in which they were born—at least until they are truly accepted as global brands. Brand India, a trust established by the Ministry of Commerce with the Confederation of Indian Industry, today provides an enormous platform for creating new consumer brands. Over the years, Brand India has evolved from selling our rich heritage and exotic to tourists —like yoga, Ayurveda (Hindu medicine) and the Kamasutra—into a growing market for consumer goods and services.
In 1946, the country's national carrier Air India succeeded in creating the first consumer services brand out of India. The Maharaja, Air India's official mascot, became a global icon for high service standards. This was many years before the ‘Incredible India' tourism push with its aggressive cross-media campaign that aimed to seduce global consumers. More recently, other consumer brands from India have also displayed their global ambition.
Over the years, as India has gained greater global visibility through Indian acquisitions of foreign companies, such as Tata's acquisition of Jaguar, Land Rover, and Tetley Tea, and companies like Infosys and Wipro have become synonymous with the Indian IT industry abroad. So, whether it's tractor company Mahindra exporting SUVs to Europe or Jet Airways selling new routes to discerning customers, the obvious way to reach new consumer markets is by creating or marketing brands that are recognized for innovation and service excellence to a global audience.
New generations of brands are now emerging from India—which makes reaching out to new global markets the obvious evolution.
For example, in the past ten years, India slowly established itself as the back office of the world. Though this has led to a constant din regarding outsourcing in the IT sector, there have been companies that have successfully managed to set themselves apart from the rest by offering global quality standards and are today rapidly establishing themselves as global services brands out of India.
In today's globalized world, it is imperative for any business with global ambitions—especially those from emerging economies like India—to understand that to be successful, quality, reliability, consistency, and emotional connections are critical. These are the fundamental tenets followed by the most recognizable global brands.
With India's integration into the global supply chain, especially in IT services, we will see more and more direct-to consumer brands emerge from India.
Vishal Dhar is cofounder and president of iYogi, a direct-to-consumer global tech support service based in India.
As with everything, there are best practices when it comes to optimizing online marketing spend for highest customer lifetime value, revenue, or profit.
It's a three-step process.
First, know your lifetime customer value (LTV) by source, by individual affiliate, ad variation, keyword, and whatever other level of granularity will enable you to best optimize ROI on marketing spend.
Second, have LTV data by source handy when you're making marketing spend decisions or optimizing campaigns.
Third, make sure to have an LTV online marketing optimization strategy. This step is a little more involved:
To some degree, online marketers are limited in their performance by their access to data and the sophistication of their company's data. At the same time, the more online marketer, can paint the vision for their company of what success looks like, the more likely they are to be able to work successfully in that environment.
In any online marketing role you often have performance targets set both in terms of volume and cost-per-action (CPA). However, for Internet retail subscription and other businesses where customer value—or revenue—grows after the initial acquisition and can therefore vary dramatically over time, many online marketers struggle with how to measure lifetime customer value (LTV) by acquisition source and how to use that information when making spend and customer acquisition decisions.
I've worked with some highly advanced online marketers, so I had the opportunity to ask them how they addressed this issue and what the optimal solution would be for them:
Get accurate customer profitability data by source
An all too common frustration of online marketers is not having the data or visibility into data they need to make decisions on how to allocate paid acquisition budget. In order to optimize online marketing acquisition spend to what will deliver the highest ROI in terms of LTV, online marketers have access to that data in both the format and detail they need. In high performance companies online marketers are the “client” in instances where another team maintains customer profitability data or data warehouses.
Validate hypothesis on customer acquisition channels performance over time
Many online marketers have hunches on lifetime values of customers produced through coupon sites, affiliates, paid search, unpaid search, and social media. For example, some e-commerce companies I've spoken with suspect that some acquisition channels produce much lower LTVs than others, but do not have data to validate their assumptions—so they keep funding what they think are less profitable channels.
When online marketers have actionable LTV data
Having actionable lifetime customer data is only as effective for online marketing, SEM and, email marketing professionals as marketers' ability to use the data in their day-to-day customer acquisition, database, and email marketing activities. Some bid management tools and email service provider interfaces let online marketers override CPA targets with LTV metrics to optimize for LTV.
Having this data handy when online marketers are optimizing their search, affiliate, digital display, remarketing, and other spend is the best way to ensure that online marketing spend distribution and campaign mix is optimized to deliver the highest LTV and not just the highest CPA, as the two figures may differ dramatically. LTV is more important to the profitable growth and sustainability of a company.
Types of businesses where optimizing for LTV is vital
Optimizing customer acquisition for LTV is particularly important for business models where repeat business from the same customers is factored into other financial metrics of the business. In these businesses the assumption is once a customer is acquired he or she will return again through non-paid channels. This means customers become much more profitable to the business on repeat visits, as there is no acquisition cost for those repeat purchases.
These types of businesses include:
Many of our customers have shared their customer or purchase attribution models with us. Other online marketers capable of building sophisticated sales attribution models do not do so, because while they know what to build but do not have access to the data.
More from Ted Bockius next week in Direct by Design with information on best practices to optimize online marketing spend for the highest CLV, revenue, or profit. Bockius is director of marketing at RJMetrics.
Social media is a young media. It's an ever-growing piece of marketing budgets everywhere. It's also a medium that takes a lot of resources to support. Many marketers first engage in social thinking it's inexpensive—only to discover that the cost of entry doesn't take into account the constant monitoring and engagement needed to truly do social right.
(Click on the infographic below to enlarge.)
Once down the path, marketers often scramble for resources to accommodate the demands of social. The trend we've been seeing lately is the turn to inexpensive college kids, recent grads and interns to oversee a company's social media strategy as well as its execution. After all, young kids today know more about this “social stuff” than the older crowd, right? They're the ones tied to their smart phones every waking moment, posting what cereal they had for breakfast. Many marketers think, “I'll just let them do it!”
While the younger generation is definitely more comfortable with technology, especially new technology, don't mistake young people's energy and zeal in this arena for marketing savvy. At the end of the day, they can be great at monitoring and executing social, but the strategy behind social media still needs to come from a seasoned marketer.
Like any marketing communications undertaking, marketers need to have a firm understanding of their business objectives. Only by recognizing objectives can marketers comprehend how a social media strategy feeds into the bigger scheme of things for their brand. The only person who has that high-level vision is the marketer and only marketers can determine where their “social home base” is, and start developing the plan. From there, marketers can use research and listening tools to figure out who their target audience is, where that audience is, what content resonates with it, and when the audience wants that content. The good news is there are many social media tools available to the seasoned marketer that can help with management to ensure the correct and efficient implementation of social media.
Only after a strategic social media plan has been established should marketers put a college kid or recent grad to the task of managing social media for a brand. It's also critical to ensure that young social media managers have an understanding of the brand, the content that resonates with its target audience, how often the brand should be posting, as well as when to post, how to monitor and engage in the conversation, and on which platforms to focus time. Senior marketers can make this easy by providing a daily “to do” list based on the social media strategy. This is the only way marketers can rest assured that social media in the hands of a rookie is not running off the reservation, but working in tandem with their overall objectives.
Social media has the potential to drain your resources, so it's crucial to ensure that your resources are providing a return. Leverage the energy and fresh thinking of the younger generation, but make sure the people you tap are on board with your thoughtful, smart strategy. Young professionals have a lot of potential and value to offer. Take this opportunity to mentor college-age interns or recent grads and you will likely help shape an emerging professional, as well as the success of your social media program.
Flora Caputo is executive creative director at Jacobs Agency.
More from Flora Caputo in Direct by Design:
Despite the heat wave and drought that's gripped the majority of the country, retailers have marked down summer-related goods to make room for pens, pencils and backpacks—indicating that it's time to start the school year and kick-start back-to-school shopping.
Today's back-to-school shoppers are highly connected and empowered customers. Online searches, including the term “back-to-school,” increased 75% for the week ending July 28, 2012, versus the same time period in 2011. Additionally, searches are up 13% total for the month over July 2011, indicating that people are preparing for the fall.
Doing your homework
While the majority of marketers start their back-to-school campaigns in July—with 27% starting in May, no doubt looking to catch the early-bird shoppers and get a gold star)—marketers report that back-to-school-related email volume and revenue peak at 42% in the first half of August.
Email campaigns with offers in the subject line have a 21% higher transaction rate than those without, further indicating that recipients and shoppers are looking to find a deal and get the most out of their back-to-school dollar. It's important to integrate campaign efforts to help ensure you're reaching the right customer with the right message at the right time while also empowering meaningful connections.
(Click to enlarge the infographic at left)
So, who is doing the back-to-school searching? For the most part, searchers tend to be females between the ages of 25 and 44. Ages 18 to 24 do 15% of the searching; ages 25 to 34 do 37%; ages 35 to 44 represent 25%; and ages 55 and up account for only 6%.
But what exactly are people searching for? Back-to-school search terms include “back-to-school outfits,” “back-to-school clothes,” “back-to-school fashion,” “back-to-school deals,” and “back-to-school coupons.”
While the majority of searching and shopping takes place in July and August, it's important for marketers to note that 35% of moms admit to giving in to requests for nonessentials during the second half of September. This is a great opportunity for marketers to give one last back-to-school push.
Going away to school?
The majority of variations for “dorm” searches are focused on decorating ideas and how to spruce up those cinder-block walls so popular in university housing. Of the 20 search terms containing “dorm” and related words, nine focused on “decorating, “ideas” and “stuff,” indicating we may need to work on expanding vocabulary among our nation's college students.
Of the 20 search terms containing “laptop” or “computer” and “college,” or “student,” 11 included inquiries for “best” and “top,” highlighting that content around the best laptops and computers for college students will resonate with consumers seeking advice and will help capture the search activity. Additionally, four search terms focused on “cheap,” “discount,” “deals,” and “offers,” reinforcing the importance of promotions, while three included “free.”
With the back-to-school shopping season well under way, marketers who put their customers at the center of their marketing efforts will encourage customer-centric campaigns and provide solutions for their customers' needs, earning an A+ for this year's back-to-school efforts.
Heather Dougherty is the director of research at Experian Marketing Services' Hitwise.
In just a few short years, women in social media—and mom bloggers in particular—have emerged as major influencers for their audiences. Though marketers have started to leverage the clout of mom bloggers, these women have the untapped potential to act as substantial brand advocates for their communities.
Years ago, Hillary Clinton wrote a book titled, It Takes a Village, which commented on the process of raising children in the 1990s. Her premise is that it not only takes a strong family to raise a child, but a strong community as well. Community has always been part of our cultural fabric.
For much of the last century women were entrenched in their communities. Families stayed closer together and neighbors knew everybody on the block. Stay-at-home mothers created prayer groups, quilting circles, bridge groups, and coupon swaps to not only socialize but also to get support and advice for how to handle the trials of motherhood. Back then women had easy access to a trusted neighbor or family member to cry it out with, babysit, share recipes, ask for opinions, or borrow a cup of sugar.
The fact is that the village has changed a lot through the years, particularly for women. And it's the advancement of technology (a savior as well as a curse) that has been the impetus behind many of these changes. Families now relocate to follow their livelihood. Often a family's respective destiny takes it out-of-state and far from immediate family. Seniors are living longer and staying more active. They move to warmer climates and away from grandchildren—and away from their children—young mothers who would ordinarily look to them for help. Workloads allow less time to visit with neighbors and friends. We get our outdoor chores done and run back inside to check our emails and answer phone calls. There's little to no time for chitchat over the fence.
Even with the explosion of social media, our physical communities are smaller, more disparate, and ironically, less social. But at the same time, the job of mothering is still just as hard—if not harder—than ever. So where do today's moms, social creatures at heart, get that needed support?
Enter the mom blogging community. Mom bloggers make up a very large percentage of the entire blogosphere. In fact, one in three bloggers are moms. (Click on the infographic at left to enlarge.) It's an ever-growing, powerful online community created by moms to supplement the lack of help, support, and validation we now get less of from our physical communities. It's a haven, full of trusted advisors and friends that enriches a mother's social life. It's a place she can instantly get help and tips in what little time she has for herself.
Trust is an important component in this community. Moms trust other moms a lot more than they trust messages that come from a brand, a large company, or a publication. In fact, a study of moms from 2011 found that 63% said blog reviews influence their decision to buy a product. No one can understand what it's like to be up at 3 a.m. with a feverish baby better than another mom—and this makes the mom blogger a powerful influencer within her community.
The mom blogger community has assumed its place as the aforementioned village. Coupon swaps are now replaced with valued coupon mom blogs. Recipes and meal ideas can be shared among mom food bloggers and found in massive food blog aggregators like CookEatShare and Foodbuzz. Parenting advice is available from countless mom bloggers who have been there and can tell it like it is. Product reviews are everywhere. The cornerstones of this community are transparency and honesty; mom bloggers who stay true to the credo are the most highly trusted and valued in the community.
For marketers, these sages are an incredible resource. What better brand advocate could there be than one of these powerful mom influencers? The key is to engage with that influencer in a positive and transparent way and show how your brand understands and fits into their world. Once you establish relevancy and trust, your brand can be welcomed into the community as well.
Flora Caputo is executive creative director at Jacobs Agency.
More from Flora Caputo in Direct by Design:
Everyone is talking about Big Data—and judging from my social streams and much of the media coverage, I'm afraid many don't seem to have a clear understanding about what it is, or even if Big Data is in fact what they are dealing with.
The explosion of data has everyone thinking, “This must be a Big Data problem,” but sadly, a few million emails, a couple thousand social messages and a customer database isn't Big Data. It may be a lot of data to manage and a headache, but how does the average CMO or chief technology officer build a strategy around handling their data if they're prescribing it inaccurately?
Big Data is best defined by three dimensions: volume, velocity, and variety. It's data in high volume that is continually generated with great speed and has lots of different types of datapoints within, be they structured, semi-structured, or unstructured. It's generated out of sensors, games, mobile devices, set top boxes, social media sites, video players, and many other places.
The question for marketers is: What do you need to know and what can you do about it right now?
Identify, hypothesize, and analyze
First off, you have to understand if you even have a Big Data problem. If you don't think you do, then you likely don't. Big Data is visceral; it flows all around your business in ways that you can feel. A client recently told me he couldn't get on top of his data because conversely it was on top of him—and this was after opening a relatively simplistic new source of approximately 600 million well-structured data records per month. Is there data around you that you intuitively feel you can use, but can't get a handle on? If this is the case, you likely have a Big Data opportunity.
Once you've identified the opportunity, develop one or more hypotheses around the use and value of data. For example, I am continually amazed that marketers do not typically have access to the complete digital view of their customers. They are sending customers emails and posting on Facebook with links back to their core digital content—so why can't we understand the complete path from the act of opening an email, to following links on a website, to an actual purchase, be it in-store or on the Web? It involves Big Data, generated out of the raw Web logs of your digital content.
Suppose you are a retailer that has 100,000 SKUs within your inventory at any point in time. What SKUs were in the email that caused the open and click behavior? Once on the website, where did that shopper go next and what other products or product class areas did they look at? What are the price points of the products viewed? Did that visit result in a conversion, and did it somehow relate to the initial SKU contained within the email? Or, was it the promotion (for example, free shipping) that caused the observed behavior? By collecting and analyzing this behavior across all of your emails, all of your subscribers, and all website visits, look to see if patterns of behavior emerge that you can leverage to drive new marketing and engagement tactics.
Keep ‘projects' at bay
Now that you have one or more hypotheses to test, it's time to take advantage of the rapidly emerging technologies that are out there. Just don't turn it into a “project.” If you use your traditional go-to resources (see: internal IT), it's likely that they will have neither the time nor expertise to test your hypothesis appropriately. In addition, traditional development cycles do not apply here. Even with a six month project cycle, the opportunity may be lost as a whole new set of merchandise, economic conditions, or new data sources arise. You therefore need to be able to test your hypothesis quickly and cost effectively.
If you can't find the resources in-house, there are hundreds of emerging companies that provide both Big Data and Big Data analysis capabilities in the cloud as “software as a service” (SaaS). At this point you don't need to understand all of the underlying technologies you are reading about. Simply know that they are useful for rapidly consolidating your Big Data into forms more accessible for analysis and hypothesis testing. Your choice of companies and methods are dictated by where you face bottlenecks. Do you have the analytic horsepower on your staff to work with the data?
Then find data mobilization experts. Do you have ready access to developers skilled in advanced scripting and data movement, but no statistical bandwidth? Then it's time to move in a different direction. If you are severely constrained across many fronts, a broader full-service Big Data provider might be in order. The point is there are readily available outsourced resources to quickly test your hypothesis, provided you can get the data to them.
Lock and load
Once your Big Data hypothesis is tested and proven, you have the ammunition necessary to institutionalize your new process based on your marketing ROI. This institutionalization will involve a mix of internal and outsourced resources. But even before heading down this path, make sure you have the “small” data right.
Big Data is here to stay, providing a new task for the already challenged marketer to take on. But the promise of real ROI which moves the needle in consumer engagement is too great to ignore. Big Data allows us to take a broader view than the traditional “one campaign at a time” optimization, and it allows us to adapt quickly to underlying changes. Several key challenges facing retailers can be solved, such as promotion, offer, and price optimization, or even merchandise optimization to a specific store location.
The data is there, we just need to harness and use it to reap its rewards.
Bob Fetter is senior vice president of Pluris Marketing.
The great guru of user experience design, Jakob Nielsen, had keen ideas about TV advertising:
“While watching TV, people approach a vegetable state, and the main goal of a commercial is to minimize interaction by keeping the user's hand off the remote. As long as the user watches, you can keep them engaged by high production values.”
The practices of today's online marketers are at the opposite spectrum of Nielsen's “vegetable” thesis. The Internet, unlike TV, is a lean forward medium—your natural instinct is to sit up and engage with the online world. Enter online video: one part TV, one part Internet. Does that make online video a lean forward or a sit back medium?
Take market leader YouTube's strategic investment in content channels, the goal of which is to steer consumers away from navigating to simply kicking back and relaxing for a longer duration. And with the option of entire episodes on view, TV online is like TV in your living room, with the added convenience of mobility.
Interactive video formats used to be a niche specialty, implemented in proprietary fashion between specific publishers and vendors (my employer included). Now that VAST and VPAID have leveled the playing field, there's no more fertile a time than now for marketers to seize the opportunity of video interactivity.
Here are four tips for adding interactivity to online video advertising—with little effort and much impact.
1. Make it touchy-feely. And clingy. When you add interactive engagement to video, the viewer's senses are occupied by sight, sound and touch. The way people learn is directly related to the number of senses involved in that learning process. When more senses are involved in a pursuit, the “learning experience” inherently becomes more impactful.
With three senses at place, like you have with interactive video, the learning process is that much more impactful. For example, people become more invested when they actually make the effort to type in the command “dance” into Burger King's subservient chicken ad program Video interactivity nabs the viewer's attention across the board and leaves a permanent imprint. With video interactivity in the mix, the formerly passive, vegetative viewer is much more likely to recollect the car, the soft drink, and definitely the dancing chicken.
2. It's about time—not clicks. The direct response roots of display advertising led to the extensive use of clicks as an activation objective and success metric. In the real world, consumers don't click, nor do brand advertisers gain inherent value in them doing so. Focusing on clicks proved to be detrimental to the appreciation of branding value in display advertising. As video takes the stage, click rates have increased. In fact, people are more than 200 times more likely to click on an in-stream video ad than on banner ads. Those enthusiastic numbers are partially due to the novelty of the ad format, and we can expect to see it decline as that novelty wears down. This doesn't necessarily mean that an ad is less effective, however. As marketers, we need to implement better campaign objectives.
More effective metrics include brand survey tools used extensively in display advertising which offer valuable insights into video campaign performance. In addition, the time spent with a display ad has been proven to correlate with common brand objectives. The adoption of VPAID now allows ad designers to go beyond the 15- or 30-second passive experience—and consumers get to spend much more time with the brand message. Simply put, with in-video interactivity, the viewer has the option to spend more time to linger with an ad they want to experience.
3. Lean forward and purchase. Online consumers want information when they want it, for making purchase decisions or because of brand preferences. Help them out, and help your brand out, by making your ad content on video as informative as possible. It's about putting purchasing power at the viewers' fingertips when they're craving it and most likely to engage with it.
4. Engage. Don't enrage. The best brand engagement is about homing in on the consumer's attention span in gradual increments. Engage them first with a 15-second video, tease them with a mouse-over option to receive the longer ad after the video, and then offer a purchase reward or an opportunity to establish a long-term relationship with the brand. Thinking in incremental steps of increased engagement helps creative designers build more effective video ads and allows planners to better measure and understand audience reaction.
Video interactivity has the potential to marry some of the best practices in brand advertising and make your video ad dollars work harder for you. The possibilities are endless, and it will be exciting to see how advertisers will evolve this opportunity over the coming months and beyond.
Amit Rahav is general manager of video and mobile at DG/MediaMind.
In the early days of the Web, the “online marketplace” seemed to level the playing field between Fortune 500 B2B organizations and smaller companies. Expensive, traditional channels—i.e. huge sales forces and ad budgets—became less critical to success once B2B buyers were shopping independently on the Web. For a brief moment, any company that put together a decent website could compete.
Then, the online world exploded at a remarkable pace. Today, there are more tools and channels than the average organization can manage: marketing automation, sales force automation, email campaigns, data providers, video marketing, banner ads and retargeting, analytics, webinars, email list vendors, sales intelligence aggregators, landing pages, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, e-newsletters, websites, content syndication, SEO, YouTube, lead scoring, mobile devices, QR codes and more.
Marketers in the 2.0 era are under enormous pressure to use all of these new digital tools to reach buyers and, because it's all integrated and measureable, they're expected to systematically optimize each program and balance spending accordingly. Even the best marketers struggle to do so many new things at once; doing them all well can feel impossible.
Few marketing departments have the skill sets or bandwidth to leverage all of these new integrated marketing channels and tools in a meaningful way. Each can be its own vortex, sucking time, money, and energy from a department. Yesterday's “marketing communications” department must reinvent itself into a team of journalists (think content creation), IT experts (think website & CRM integration) and process-oriented scientists (think A/B testing every element of every campaign in every channel). They must have a deep understanding of how to integrate all of the facets of digital marketing into a cohesive demand generation engine.
Where should they begin? They should start with deciding where their time is best spent. To succeed you will need to excel in one or two channels, but trying to be good at all of them is a sure path to exhaustion and underperformance. Here's what any B2B can do to get a handle on its integrated marketing program:
Achieving ROI on integrated marketing programs is possible for the mid-market B2B. All you need to do is make an honest assessment of your market and of your team. Then, you can start measuring your success.
If you're like me, you have to have your coffee in the morning. I usually stop at Dunkin' Donuts on my way in to work for a medium hot, milk, no sugar. Yeah, cream and sugar are bad for you I hear. Taking the same path to work every day I stop at the same store. I usually go in too because, although I'm not sure this is a rule of the universe, the drive through line is always longer than the one inside.
For months, nothing changed. “May I help you?” “Medium hot, milk, no sugar.” “Anything else?” “No.” “That will be $1.96.” “OK,” I would always say as I hand the cashier $2. “I don't need the change or the receipt.” “Here's your coffee, your change and your receipt.” That also has to be a rule or something because I'm always specific about not wanting it and they're equally as specific about giving it to me. Day in, day out, same people behind the counter, same order, same routine, same me.
Day in, day out, same thing—that is, until Christine. Let me start by saying I don't know Christine. She's wearing the same uniform as everyone else and seems to be doing the same job everyone else is. But after one day of “Medium hot, milk, no sugar” from me, Christine looked up on day 2 and said, “Medium hot, milk, no sugar, right?” Actually, I had to think for a minute. What cruel game was she playing? Big smile from me: “Yes.” I gave her the $2 and left, no receipt, no pennies.
Next day, same thing. In fact, it's been happening like this now for months. I've even thrown in a curve for an extra coffee for a coworker and the next day she asks if I want one or two, even knowing the second one is a regular, surely causing heart disease for my friend.
So, how is this direct marketing? First, ask me what I thought of Dunkin' Donuts before Christine. Now ask me what I think after. Customer service has changed my perception. Somehow, I'm even an appreciated customer now. All those things marketers are after in engaging their customers, improving retention—even cross selling and upsellng. Occasionally I get a different brew to see if I can shake Christine up. Even referrals. I am, after all, talking about Dunkin' Donuts right now.
We think about this all the time in our organization. We have one of the best customer service account management teams in the business that knows that understanding the customer's needs, anticipating, and servicing the hell out of them means our company is differentiated in the marketplace. Our customers can tell the difference. Are our account teams trained in direct marketing? No, but they act toward the same goals.
So, do I think Dunkin' Donuts knows this? Not sure. No one acted like Christine, before Christine. Does the company appreciate that this marketing tactic not only improves its position with customers like me, but also increases efficiency—I'm happier and in and out quick and the cashier gets to move on to the next customer quicker, this serving more people in less time.
My guess is that if Dunkin' Donuts knew that customer service really is direct marketing and that people just like us can tell, it might make everyone into as close a replica of Christine as it could. And I don't think this is just for Dunkin Donuts. Think of all the companies you interact with and how much of an impact customer service has on you. How much more “direct” can it get?
In the mean time, I'm hoping Christine is there this morning. I'm in a hurry and I need caffeine.
Read John's last post, “Personalization, personalization everywhere and not a drop to drink.”
The PowerPoint slides are retired. The internal vetting process is complete. And everyone on your team agrees that you have landed on the perfect manipulation of words to define your brand. It is only a matter of time before someone asks the inevitable question.
It's the most important question you will ever address in brand management. Brands derive value through experiences. Your promise sets the right expectation. Each experience with the brand should meet or exceed that expectation. Most brand strategies fail because they stop short of addressing the value of brand experiences. The best brands think beyond a promise statement and a new logo. They bring the brand to life at every touchpoint that matters. The answer to “now what?” should always be “the experience.”
Here are four guidelines to help you align your brand's experience with its promise:
Audit. Audits aren't just for accountants. They're essential to brand activation. In an audit, your team or a third-party team experiences what your audiences experience except your auditors are taking notes, snapping pictures and recording relevant touchpoints on video.
Each audit should be built around an audience scenario. For example, if you're a bank, one scenario might be a customer visiting a branch to make a deposit. Another might be a prospective employee applying for a job. Still another might be a prospective customer visiting your Website online. Your auditors should record what happened and how they felt during the experience. It's a good idea to have audit teams work in pairs, where one partner can observe while the other participates. All of this data can be used to evaluate how well the experience delivered on the values and benefits set by your brand promise.
Map. With your audits complete, your next step is to create an experience map. Here, you use the input from your teams and other research to chart out the linear process of the brand experience.
People recall brand experiences in narrative form — they tell a story that goes from A to Z. The purpose of your map is to reconstruct that story by charting out how the brand “touched” the stakeholder. For example, if our banking client came into a branch to make a deposit, her first relevant touchpoint might have been the deposit slip she had to fill out. The next touch point might have been her interaction with the teller. You don't need to map every last detail, just the ones that were most relevant to the experience.
Think photo album, not life movie. A growing body of research suggests that a photo album is the apt metaphor for how people recall and evaluate brand experience. Imagine that your stakeholder took a snapshot each time they really liked or disliked something about your brand experience. Those snapshots then made their way into a photo album. If we thumbed through that album, that's all we'd have to share with others about the experience.
This is exactly how most people remember a brand experience. They remember the peaks, good or bad. Many brand managers assume that a stakeholder keeps a running record; a kind of life movie. But no one has that much memory. It's the peaks that make or break a brand experience and that's where you want to focus your attention
Your audits are your guide. Where did auditors have the most unpleasant experience? Was it consistent? How branded or unbranded was it? If you wanted to change any of those photos in the album, what would they look like? This becomes your means to prioritization.
Operations, not marketing. Finally, once you've mapped out your experience the next step is making change. Sadly, most companies think this is a marketing exercise. That's why we see needless posters, buttons, collateral material and graphical wizardry. You won't improve your experience by peppering the stakeholder with more information. Marketing may not be able to help at all. You need to enlist your operational teams, including human resources, and yes, finance.
You'll deliver on your brand promise by fixing the problem, not messaging around it.
Laurence Vincent is head of The Brand Studio at United Talent Agency. He has worked with high-profile brands, including Disney, MasterCard and Microsoft.
Junk mail is just a great offer sent to the wrong person at the wrong time.
Many elements make up an effective direct mail campaign. A warm list, succinct messaging, a compelling incentive and diligent follow-up can all play very vital roles. However, an often overlooked facet of a successful direct mail campaign is the actual shape and structure of the mailer. Sometimes, adding a die-cut or an extra fold can help your piece break through clutter and past gatekeepers. If your budget can support a dimensional format, your response rates can soar upwards of 8.5%, versus the traditional 3.42% for flat mail, according to the DMA's 2010 Annual Response Rate Report.
Oftentimes, clients choose to forego dimensional and spend their budget on priority envelope delivery. First, you are sacrificing prime exterior real estate for communicating your message by using a pre-printed envelope. Second, you are borrowing equity from another brand (i.e. FedEx or UPS) rather than allowing your own brand to shine. And third, I often wonder if people feel taken advantage of after receiving direct mail in this manner. They open their package thinking that something urgent waits inside, only to find out that they're just being solicited. So, I often urge clients to skip this approach and put their budget towards a breakthrough dimensional piece that can help bring a message to life.
At Jacobs Agency, we believe that dimensional mail should have purpose and utility. Innovative mailers let structure and/or mechanics help tell the story. For instance, a piece we developed for the Microsoft Business Intelligence (BI) campaign allowed the sides of a square box to fall open once the lid was lifted off. This format physically represented the flattening that takes place within an organization once information is permitted to flow freely. We offered a free Zune for recipients who took a meeting. The incentive, paired with the shape and structure of the piece, reinforced the business value of Microsoft's BI solution and garnered appointments from 7.5% prospects!
As another example, Jacobs Agency was tasked with generating interest in and leads for Hewitt's outsourcing HR model for mid-market businesses. Hewitt's solution had business value because it was customizable and scalable so as to work for an organization of any size. This story inspired us to design a dimensional mailer that looked like a shoe box in order to visually showcase how Hewitt's solution is the “perfect fit” for its customers.
Dimensional direct mail can really help support your message. For Avanade's Enterprise Architecture Planning solutions, we learned that the target audience was in the habit of “duct taping” quick fixes for issues in their IT infrastructure, versus proper planning. Jacobs Agency designed a mailer that was covered with pain point messaging wrapped in duct tape. A roll of duct tape inside the box served up Avanade as the solution to get out of the “quick-fix” habit. This effort drove sales engagements that were more than an 800% ROI.
As a final example, dimensional design played an important role in the Unified Communications mailer we developed for Microsoft. For this piece, we chose a box that looked like a mini-suitcase. The shape of the mailer reinforced the idea that the members of an ever-growing mobile workforce need their “office” to be as mobile as their job.
While dimensional direct mail is more costly than traditional postcards and letters, when combined with the right list, a compelling incentive and the appropriate follow-up strategy, it can lead to a greater ROI with a fuller, richer sales pipeline and boosted brand awareness.
Flora Caputo is executive creative director at Jacobs Agency.
More from Flora Caputo in Direct by Design:
Infographics are a trendy topic in the business and design world right now and have become the go-to method for conveying many types of information. One of the things that interests me about the subject is that it's being treated as a new thing. Thinking back to studying and teaching art history in grad school, I can happily report that infographics are ancient — literally. But first, let me explain why they are popular today.
Infographics are appealing to people because of the way we are wired. When processing information we generally use the left side of our brain for verbal and written cues. The right brain tackles the more visual work. The abstracted images of infographics get the right brain thinking and put the whole brain to work, making information easier to absorb. A clear, thoughtful infographic design is the best way to speak to both the left and right brain and to fully engage cognition.
Not a new concept, though. Ancient Egyptian carvings offer abundant information, with both hieroglyphs and particular iconography. Everything about the relief sculpture of the pharaoh Akhenaten and his family pictured above is loaded with information: The image has a complete narrative based in textual symbols and graphical metaphor, from the rays of the sun to the peculiar shapes of the babies. For example, by representing the young boy as a miniaturized pharaoh, the artist has used effective shorthand to deny the physiologically correct human qualities of this child and instead illustrate his godlike nature as passed down from the father. Taken as a whole, it's essentially a 3,300 year old infographic.
In a similar vein, for centuries Chinese artists have paired painting (visual) and poetry (verbal) to engage both halves of the brain. In a sense, they are two translations of the same scene that together give the viewer a more well-rounded understanding of the subject matter. While not infographics per se, they are based on the same fundamentals of whole-brain thinking that we see in good infographic design today.
In recent years people have started to pay more attention to this pictures-and-words approach — partially because people like trends, but in large part because it works. We have less and less time to get somebody's attention, to get our point across, to explain data that might be complicated or even boring. With the growth of the Internet we are exposed to more data than ever, so information must be presented effectively to register. A whole-brain infographic has a greater chance of having an impact than text or image alone.
Infographics have not popped up in the mainstream consciousness overnight. Since the 1980s, USA Today's front page has featured something in the infographic family. This newspaper helped popularize infographics, which were something of a specialty before. In the last few years both The New York Times and TIME magazine have taken the concept of using graphics as a means to convey data to a new level. These publications have some incredibly talented infographic designers. Shan Carter and Amanda Cox at The New York Times are great. The Times is highly respected for this type of visual journalism, with amazing examples on display on their interactive page.
IKEA is actually another touchstone for successful infographic design. For a flat-pack furniture company to thrive, it's essential that their products are easy to assemble. One way in which IKEA accomplishes this is with efficient, easy-to-follow graphical instructions that require no text whatsoever. One could never explain how to put together a dresser in one graphic, but by breaking that graphic up into discrete parts, it couldn't be simpler. Like all strong infographics, these instructions maintain a clear, well-organized narrative and point of view to convey a message — in this case, how to assemble furniture. As an added bonus, IKEA gains an even broader market by eliminating language barriers along the way.
The love affair with infographics gained steam with the Internet, and they are everywhere now. Our brains are subject to so much information hitting at once that processing it all can be difficult. A strong infographic makes it that much easier to digest information — and if done right, it can make a message resonate in a sea of white noise.
Jim Confalone is cofounder, principal, creative director and production and design manager at ProPoint Graphics.
With summer just around the corner and consumers planning those much-needed vacations, brands should be preparing to make the most of retail experiences that consumers will be encountering on boardwalks, in theme parks and at tourist destinations across America.
There are five key principles to keep in mind when planning your retail experience — interestingly, they're also perfect tips for planning a great vacation. In no particular order, you want to: 1) make it fun; 2) provide great memories; 3) make it mean something; 4) make it exclusive; and 5) tell a story.
If you build your experience around one or more of these principles, you will not only build equity for your brand, but jumpstart onsite transactions, which oftentimes serve as souvenirs.
Here are some stellar examples of successful retail for each principle below. Follow any of these winning formulas and you're sure to find your brand memorialized in those end of summer essays on how consumers spent their summer vacation.
1. Fun: Madewell's Denim Shop: You want to move product but your main goal should to be entertain the guests in your brand's retail home. One recent campaign for this clothing store placed it in a vintage trailer on a U.S. road trip. Consumers could shop, get their hair braided and check out the denim bar — all within the kitschy and fun airstream.
2. Make memories: Nike Bowery Stadium: Onsite customization of branded apparel allows consumers to keep a personal memento of their experience at your store — turning merchandise into a one-of a kind keepsake. Through this collaborative creative process, consumers feel a much deeper connection to the brand and their purchases.
3. Make it mean something: The Generous Store: This Copenhagen pop-up store allowed consumers to purchase Anthon Berg chocolates with good deeds. Consumers committed to doing a good deed on Facebook or through in-store iPads. One example: to “serve your loved one breakfast in bed.” Each good deed had a dollar value redeemable for store merchandise. It was personal, it meant something and it was all over social media. This is smart marketing.
4. Make it exclusive: Doughnut Vault in Chicago: This tiny bakery housed in an old bank vault closes for business each day after the last doughnut is sold, making its sweet confections somewhat of a badge of honor if you can arrive in time to get them. By making sport of getting in line early, the brand successfully plays hard-to-get and saves costs on manpower. Talk about a win-win!
5. Tell a story: The Startup Store: Take a cue from Rachel Shectman who started this New York City-based retail marketing experience that has a point-of-view like a magazine, curates like a gallery and sells like a store. The store reinvents itself every four to six weeks and brands opt in to sponsor and sell as part of the ever-changing exhibit.
Charlie Horsey is president and CEO of MKTG INC.
The thought came to me as I was remembering a conversation I had about interactive advertising with a traditional ad agency writer. This was at a time when established agencies were running scared that they were becoming dinosaurs. His question was simply, “What is possible with interactive?”
Other thinking this was as a terribly wide open question, my initial response was, “If you agree that your job is to get an audience to believe something then really anything is possible short of creating smells.” Upon further review of that statement years later, I believe that you can even recreate smells.
Of course, recreating smells is not what this is about. This is about tricking the senses through the use of technology, psychology and, in some cases, mathematics and science to make anything seem possible. In my mind, this is a really long way of saying “sleight of hand.”
Now, if you are a magician or illusionist or somebody that has dedicated your life to understanding sleight of hand, turn away. Click on this link or go saw someone in half. This research is based strictly on my observations as a third party. I'm a creative who understands the parallels of sleight of hand and advertising.
That is all.
Ask any creative in the interactive industry and you'll find they get a real thrill out of pulling off a stunt that makes even their peers scratch their head and wonder how they did it. We're a lot like illusionists. What the overriding principle boils down to is this: The large motions hide the small motions.
For example, Teller, the silent half of the legendary duo Penn & Teller, explained how to make a business card disappear into thin air in an issue of Wired a couple years back. He explained that the illusion only works if you move your hand from side to side. The brain is trained to believe that when the hand moves from left to right, everything will remain the same. The brain refuses to pay attention to what is happening in between, even if you tell it to. It just won't. That is why the illusionist will use that area of movement, flip the card back between the fingers, hold the card perpendicularly behind the hand and make it invisible to the viewer. Even knowing all of this, knowing exactly how the trick works to a T, you won't see it happen. Because the large motion hides the subtle motion and the brain is too set in its ways to process it visually.
So sweet, right? I just ruined a trick for you. It was worth it, though. A) You'll still never see it happen even now that you know what is happening. B) I needed a good segue into the next statement. The parallels between illusions or magic and digital advertising are quite strong. Using large motions to hide subtle motions and exploiting the brain's comfort zone are necessary to pull off some cool stuff online.
For example, ClickFireMedia did a project with DeVito/Verdi for Daffy's 50th anniversary. DeVito/Verdi had the idea to give online users a chance to blow out a birthday candle. Of course, on paper this impossible, but, we can trick the mind into thinking it's possible. The ad opens and the user sees a candle flickering before them. The copy invites them to blow at the screen to blow the candle out. The user blows at the screen and depending on how hard they blow, the candle flickers until the user blows hard enough and the candle goes out and leave a stream of smoke.
Obviously, the computer isn't sensing the amount of air being blown at the screen (although I'm sure there is a developer somewhere in the basement of IBM hammering out a USB peripheral that can do just that). The trick was in the microphone. When the user blows at the screen, it makes noise. The harder you blow, the louder you are. When the microphone picks up enough sound, the ad assumes you are blowing harder and puts the candle out. While users are asked at the ad to use their mic at the beginning (for security reasons, you can't just turn on someone's mic without informing them), the brain isn't trained to relate the microphone with blowing. So, the illusion blowing into the screen is actually affecting the flame.
This is just a small example of creating an illusion online. Creatives in this industry have been unknowingly, or maybe knowingly, pulling off illusions for quite a while. The Halo “I Love Bees” campaign and even the Sam Jackson phone call from the Snakes on a Plane website are other good examples of creating an illusion for the sake of advertising.
Of course there is a matter of suspending disbelief. No one goes into a magic show expecting real sorcery or witchcraft. People know it's a show and want to be entertained. But, like all creatives and illusionists, we revel in trying to pull off something that requires a second look. The second look that causes the user to asks, “How'd they do that?”
And hopefully, if we've done it correctly, they won't figure it out. But even if they do figure it out, our mission was accomplished in using sleight of hand in interactive.
Nick Agderian is a creative director at ClickFireMedia.
Good morning class. Time for a pop quiz. These news items recently caught our attention: P&G shifting money from marketing to social media, and GM walking away from advertising on Facebook.
Question: Are these events contradictory or complimentary? Discuss.
Ok, pencils down. The answer, class, is that they are complimentary. If you answered otherwise please go back and review the last 15 years of digital evolution. If you got the answer correct, then what are you doing about it?
Please understand that the story here isn't the demise of advertising. Rather it's the rise of content. While GM may be cutting the $10 million it spends on Facebook ads, it has no inclination to cut the $30 million it spends annually to create content for Facebook. That's because unlike the advertising, the content is delivering results.
Across the digital world marketers are learning the same lesson: Advertising, and more significantly the marketing funnel as we've known it, is becoming an ineffective tool for influencing how consumers move to purchase. Consumers are no longer willing to be shoved down the path to purchase, like meat being pushed through a grinder.
This isn't just a change in tools; it's part of the fundamental shift in how the consumer economy works. We are now well into the digital age with technology providing the infrastructure of this new economy. But we've quickly evolved past the time when the novelty of the infrastructure was enough to motivate us.
Now it's all about what goes in and on these digital channels: the messaging, the programming, the content. You're either producing it, curating it, consuming it, or just not getting it.
Think about how people go about making major purchases today versus in, say, 1992. It used to be that the brands under consideration were decided in the consumer's mind early on, pretty much dictated by advertising and word-of-mouth recommendations from a handful of family and friends. From there consumers evaluated and narrowed their choices prompted by advertising that reinforced analytical or emotional messages. Throw in a timely promotion here or there and we had fairly predictable consumer behavior.
The digital consumer has turned that process upside down. Close friends, family and marketing still play a role, but typically they're only influential early on. From that point on the experience is best described as a complex dance of digital influences during which some brands are winnowed, while others are added to the mix. Instead of a simple funnel we're faced with something more like a spiraling cyclone with a debris field extending in all directions. A bit more challenging than the old funnel.
Think about the shopping experience that Amazon.com introduced. You may know what you're looking for, but as soon as you arrive at a specific product page, Amazon offers you a list of alternatives considered by others who shopped for that product before you. What's more, Amazon encourages you and other shoppers to create your own content and reviews related to the product. Does anyone buy goods and services without looking for consumer reviews now?
Across the digital landscape people expect to be engaged, not interrupted. If you want the consumer to listen to your pitch you better entertain them, educate them, provide utility to enrich their lives or generally bring them something of value. We call this content, and in our brave new world content is the coin of the realm.
Which brings me back to the GM story. Here is GM, cutting ads because investing in content for social channels gets better results. Actually what the company is doing is shifting money from the medium to the message, or from buying ads to investing in the power of stories. That's because the spiraling cyclone of consumer-to-consumer touch points we call social media, is actually a better way to influence brand preference than advertising.
The key, of course, is delivering the right content at the right time to the right person. No matter what industry you are in, there is content you can make that will engage your audience and build preference for your brand.
The problem is that social communities are hungry mouths that consume all the content you can throw at them and always want more, which means the only way to stay at the center of the social conversation is to keep a stream of fresh, compelling content coming … all the time.
It's a bigger commitment to content creation than most brands are used to. Making a TV commercial once a year is one thing, but now you need a content factory. That's a stretch for most organizations, but there really isn't any way around it. If you want your brand to be where the action is you need lots of compelling content. So like GM, it's time to get wise, get focused and jump on the content bandwagon.
Todd Copilevitz is a digital strategist at IQ.
Imagine a post-apocalyptic future in which marketing is ruled by a Thunderdome of data-savvy thieves, mathematicians and homebound analysts. Mordantly obscure algorithms rule the day. Creative directors are used as wheel chocks on the boat trailers of data tamers.
Gradually, but subtly and inexorably there is a decline of marketing creativity, instinct and fun.
Next, imagine marketing's new Golden Age, with big data as the brand jigsaw's missing piece. Imagine the integration of lumping and splitting. Imagine the workday becoming a synaptic firefight of left- and right-brain creativity interpretation and invention.
Whether big data will be regretted for its corrosive effect on the marketing ideal or celebrated for its contribution to it is just one of the data narratives that will play out in our lifetimes.
Big data describes the tornadic, complex messy and overwhelming torrent of today's digital data. Even as we speak, the teeming worm ball of data continues to grow in ways that are difficult for man — and increasingly for machines — to comprehend.
The stuff is solid rock. What are some of the birth agonies of big data? The answer for marketing, in a kind of trivalent nutshell, is: one, functional overload; two, creative schism; and three, cultural conflicted-ness.
The sheer volume of data generated, stored and consumed in the world is bumping up against comprehension. As McKinsey reported, MGI estimates that enterprises globally stored more than 7 exabytes (billion gigabytes) of new data in 2010, while consumers stored more than 6 exabytes. (One exabyte is the equivalent of more than 4,000 times the information stored in the U.S. Library of Congress.)
We are generating so much data it's physically impossible to capture it all. Health care providers, for example, discard 90% of the data that they generate; for example, almost all real time video feeds created during surgery.
For our clients, death by analytics means nothing more than information anarchy and the struggle to tame, funnel and shape it. All companies will need to explore how to do the same if they are to compete.
Big data is also leading to one of the great and terrible fissures in modern marketing: the belief that one can work in big data or big creative but not both.
The quants will go to digital and the storytellers to brand. Big data is seen as solid rock and arcane, while creativity is subjective ephemera. But it's really a false choice. We need to get much more comfortable creating and interpreting stories out of digital data and seeing that big data is the behavioral storyteller and our ticket to unexpected connections only machines can see, while creativity is still what makes an operant limbic system shake a leg or cry a tear.
As Princeton psychology professor and Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman said, “Signs of emotional arousal are salient in the reactions to many events — and especially to decisions — so the conceptual separation between emotion and pure cognition seems likely to crumble.” Fusion, not fission.
As Pico Iyer said in The Joy of Quiet, “The central paradox of the machines that have made our lives so much brighter, quicker, longer and healthier is that they cannot teach us how to make the best use of them; the information revolution came without an instruction manual. All the data in the world cannot teach us how to sift through data.”
He also reminded us that it was Pascal who said all of man's problems come from his inability to sit quietly in a room alone.
In spite of the bombardment of data and the extroversion of so much personal data online, we are culturally recoiling from so much screen time and retreating to Internet Sabbaths, tai chi, yoga, Crossfit, Netflix and undistracted mindfulness.
Perhaps the fundamental challenge for individuals and for the companies who will need to reckon with big data in order to compete will be separating what's merely new from what's essential and then challenging the plasticity of the marketing brain.
Societies always tend to evaluate new developments in light of what they know. Cars were called “horseless carriages.” Could we be falling into the same trap with the new data capabilities, i.e. force-fitting our new data capabilities into existing marketing paradigms?
Big data, properly disciplined and focused with strategic insights, could lead to the next creative revolution or a message so relevant, and personal, it will lead to ideas that don't communicate with mass audiences, but actually emanate from the very people we're talking to.
John Mullin, is VP of strategy at Javelin.
What if every marketing program was guaranteed to succeed — and what if success was measured not in the number of Facebook “likes” or retweets, but how well a marketer followed the path of Lady Gaga?
I must admit I'm not “gaga” for Gaga. I prefer Indie music to stylized pop. But while Gaga doesn't top my playlist, her success as a marketer and builder of relationships with fans is impressive to a brand marketer like myself.
The stats don't lie; Lady Gaga has sold more than 10 million albums. She has more than 24 million Twitter followers and over 1 billion video views. Simply put, Lady Gaga is all about establishing what I call “curious disbelief,” and she can teach marketers a lot about brand building.
Let's start with a definition. “Curious disbelief” is simply getting consumers to: one, pay attention; two, care; and three, act. I'll take each individually in the form of three questions you can ask yourself to see if you're doing it right.
1. How do you get consumers to pay attention?
We're more and more connected across multichannel platforms and through mobile devices. Everything is faster and this shift is reshaping marketing communications. A few examples:
Amazon Price Check is changing how consumers shop and interact with retailers, providing both information and shifting the balance of control. Television is seeing a radical shift. From live viewer experiences like what MTV did with the second screen connecting live TV through mobile devices to the impact Twitter has had on what is now called appointment TV.
This multichannel convergence forces us as marketers to change our perspective. We need to think, plan, organize and communicate in the same way our consumers do.
2. How do you get consumers to care?
You need a great product or story. Sounds simple, but when you look at recent retail failures like Borders and Circuit City, or challenges that companies like Groupon and Yahoo face, you can see it's easier said than done.
These brands prioritize the consumer experience and deliver it with flawless execution:
3. How do you get consumers to act?
Establish a highly personal connection and cut through the clutter. I'll take you back to my days leading brand marketing for Kmart, where our challenge was to do just that, while also building consideration.
Kmart surprisingly had a great story to tell, with improved product quality and design, and a staff of talented in-house designers. So instead of running a thirty second ad or spending money on billboards, we hired a team ofSundance-winning documentary film makers to tell our story. This was Kmart's opportunity to differentiate; 150 videos and more than four million views later, along with solid industry praise, Kmart was able to foster a personal connection with customers and differentiate from the “sameness” within big box retail.
Here are three takeaways to “get some more Gaga” in your marketing:
Whether you're a legacy brand fighting for survival like Kmart or a startup in an emerging space like my current employer edō — or even a mega-superstar, Lady Gaga — the idea of building curious disbelief transcends.
When Foldit was first released in 2008, the online game challenged users to solve a series of complex 3D problems built around intricate structures with multiple layers. These models were based on protein structures and the gamers' problem-solving efforts have since helped to revolutionize the way medical researchers look at amino acid chains.
We can hardly expect every digital game or collaborative problem-solving effort to hold the same awe-inspiring effect as Foldit — but there's something to be said about incorporating our human experiences into the digital environment as we continue to explore new technologies.
The Starfield installation by Lab212 is a wonderfully effective example of how motion-sensor technology can be used to emulate nature. Using openFrameworks and Kinect software, the installation allowed participants to sit on a swing underneath an interactive galaxy of stars while controlling the view of the night sky by how high or fast they swung.
With the increasing sophistication around interactive technology comes a new pool of projects attempting to replicate our natural environment. Like the Starfield installation, Japanese artist Ryoichi Kurokawa's Octfalls is a strong example of one such literal interpretation. Octfalls was created as part of the 54th Venice Biennale and it is an installation that recreates a waterfall through HD screens and a series of complex audio loops. The audio loops are arranged to challenge the audience's sense of perception and to allow them to experience a highly stylized digital version of what it's like to stand by a waterfall.
Not surprisingly, members of the younger generation are also turning to the digital space to try out new methods of learning and communication. Inspired by their seventh grade science teacher's size comparison videos on cells, 14 year-old twin brothers Cary and Michael Huang created an interactive and scalable view of the universe that shows users a visual comparison between items ranging from atoms to the Andromeda Galaxy.
As we evolve within the digital environment, it is only natural that we continue to incorporate elements from our physical surroundings to help us explore this new world. While only some of the projects will lead to incredible opportunities such as Foldit, they will all provide countless means of creative expression. And that can't be a bad thing.
Kumiko Ide is a digital strategist at Tribal DDB Vancouver.
The first half of 2012 is behind us and during the past months, we witnessed — thanks especially to the Super Bowl — marketing that upped the integration and engagement ante. Marketers ignited consumers to talk, share and become part of a pop-cultural moment — more than merely a championship football game — that crossed generations.
Beyond just a showcase of great creative commercials, the Super Bowl has grown into a live stage that communicates with more than 110 million people who are most likely watching the game while they're texting or tweeting on their smartphone or exploring the Web on their tablet or laptop. Because of multi-screen viewing, impression numbers exponentially grow to the billions among this attentive, live audience — a marketer's dream for executing seamless integration.
Integration is engagement tool and occurs when strategy and messaging are aligned across every communication platform. As the Super Bowl revealed, successful integration depends on emotionally connecting with consumers and fostering an honest and approachable bond between customer and brand.
Take for example Chrysler's “Halftime in America” commercial. The two-minute Super Bowl ad wasn't released pregame. It starred Clint Eastwood who emotionally struck a chord with consumers by delivering an equal dose of optimism and nationalism. This commercial successfully generated more press coverage than any other in-game commercial.
On the other hand, several successful Super Bowl marketers began the conversation about their Super Bowl work days if not weeks before the game with an arsenal of pregame content that prolonged interest before, during and after the game.
Having the good fortune to work with Honda on Super Bowl this year, I put together a roundup of key takeaways that any marketer can adapt to their brand communications:
The biggest media event of year is just one example of how it's not only about great creative, but also about using that creative as a platform for driving intrigue and conversation. Ultimately the goal is for this relationship with the consumer to grow and yield loyalty and preference for your brand.
Joe Baratelli is EVP and executive creative director at full-service advertising agency RPA.
If 2011 was the breakout year for mobile marketing, then 2012 looks to be the year brands successfully bring video into the mobile marketing mix. Increases in smartphone and tablet adoption combined with faster mobile broadband speeds mean the market is ready for video on-the-go.
In fact, consumers are already accustomed to watching video on the small screen. Thanks to mobile entertainment apps like Netflix, YouTube, and HBO GO, and video-rich mobile sites like ESPN, the consumer behavioral shift has already taken place. Within one week of launching, the HBO GO app was downloaded over one million times. ESPN, who has been the #1 sports destination on mobile devices since 2007, now has more than 20 million mobile viewers and has stated that mobile is the company's fourth-largest network.
By the end of 2011, mobile video traffic was 52% of all traffic, with more than 30 million U.S. consumers already watching video on their mobile phones. In order to take advantage of mobile video, marketers need to be aware of opportunities emerging in the mobile space.
As technologies evolve, new marketing channels are opening up for delivering highly targeted, high-impact video ads to a growing base of mobile viewers. Need examples? Here are three innovative strategies to consider for your 2012 mobile marketing campaigns.
In-game video ads
Still in the early phases of monetization, mobile apps have relied primarily on paid downloads and display ads to bring in cash. However, as publishers become savvier about the advertising options available, there's increasing experimentation with video sponsorship. Just as video broke through the display ad market on PC browsers, it is now entering the mobile app world. For example, the ad-supported version of the popular mobile game Words with Friends now includes video ads among the commercial messages it inserts between player moves. These “unskippable” video ads take advantage of a captive audience during game play.
The value of these high-impact in-game video ads is such that innovations in the category are emerging quickly. New technology makes it possible to interact with mobile video ads without ever leaving the primary game experience. This technology makes in-app video ads “tappable,” allowing users to launch a landing page for more product information without exiting the app to go to a mobile browser. Advertisers gain the opportunity for deeper engagement through interactive video, while publishers increase the value of ad inventory within the mobile app domain.
Location-based video marketing
Location-based applications are not only a new channel for online marketers; they also provide a unique targeting opportunity for reaching out to a very select consumer audience. Location awareness means marketers can deliver messages to consumers when they're near a physical point of purchase. That targeting by location — combined with growth in mobile video viewing — creates a powerful new communications channel.
There are a few different ways advertisers can use video to take advantage of new location-based apps. One is to buy video ad placements strictly based on geography. Another is to run video ads with a local incentive, like NBC did when it ran a trailer of America's Next Great Restaurant through LivingSocial. Targets were offered an additional discount on restaurant vouchers from the daily deal site in return for watching the NBC video.
Finally, advertisers can use video in enhanced directory listings available through location-based apps like Yelp. To date, Yelp does not offer the ability to publish video in directory listings on its mobile apps, but it does promote video use in the listings on its website. And Yelp's CEO has promised that mobile will play a major role as the company heads toward a planned IPO in 2012.
Social video goes mobile
Online video testimonials made it big when retail giant Amazon introduced the feature in 2007. However, this type of user-generated video hasn't played a large role in the mobile space. Despite the fact that mobile devices offer one of the best channels for sharing content, many marketers haven't extended support for video reviews to their mobile browsers and apps.
Fortunately, social networks are opening up a new avenue for video marketing. Take ShoeDazzle. The shoe company, cofounded by Kim Kardashian, started soliciting short customer video reviews in 2011. Rather than simply post those videos on its main site, ShoeDazzle also distributes its new video content via YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. Through those social networking channels, ShoeDazzle is taking its user-generated video mobile. It's a simple solution to a previously difficult distribution problem, and for ShoeDazzle, it's proven highly effective.
Social networking channels are also an opportunity for marketers to make their viewers more involved and active participants and to foster a two-way communication between audiences and brands.
For example, when viewers visit the CENTURY 21 mobile-optimized microsite that was built by Cyberitas, they can watch the company's recent Super Bowl commercial featuring Donald Trump, Dion Sanders, and Apollo Ono, as well as a video highlighting the making of the commercial and six additional versions of the ad. Viewers are prompted to vote for the CENTURY 21 commercial, which brings them to You Tube's Ad Blitz, where viewers can watch, vote and comment on their favorite 2012 Super Bowl commercials.
As consumers turn more and more to mobile video for entertainment, they are also establishing new behavioral patterns that benefit the marketing community. Mobile video opens up new marketing channels that are both targeted and engaging. This is a trend in its early stages, but one that offers marketers immediate opportunities — and promises to become even more compelling in the months ahead.
David Rowley is VP of products and services, mobility and monetization solutions, at Limelight Networks.
Company of the week
R2C creates, produces, distributes and measures messages that inspire and compel consumers to do something with a brand to drive commercial advantage. The full-service advertising agency specializes in creative, production, media, analytics and performance.
What's in our mailbox this month: fitness postcards from Retro Fitness, American Woman Fitness Centers, Union's United Taekwondo Academy, and Bally Total Fitness. (We're totally pumped.)
Social data can improve a brand's bottom line and customer relationships. Just ask brands Infiniti and Diamond Nexus.
Here are three must-have data sets that every marketer should include in his or her email strategy.