Welcome to our blog
Here you will find posts related to nearly all facets of integrated online and offline marketing communications. It is our goal to use this blog to inform and educate our readers of what we have found to be the most effective marketing practices. We hope that reading through these posts will provide you with something engaging to think about, or equip you to better attain your marketing goals.
Predictive Modeling and Retail Bank Customer Acquisition
Predictive modeling has long been a valuable analytic tool for database/direct marketers searching for a means to improve upon direct marketing response, and reduce the cost of customer acquisition. As the competitive climate heats up in the world of retail banking with more and more community banks competing against their peers, as well as the big banks, predictive modeling and predictive analytics done well are fast becoming a mechanism for smaller banks to compete in the fight to acquire more new retail customers.
What is Predictive Modeling?
Predictive modeling is a process by which data models are created to effectively predict the probability of a desired outcome. In many cases the model is chosen on the basis of detection theory to predict the probability of an outcome given a set amount of input data. For example, in direct marketing, a model might be created based on a number of demographic and lifestyle characteristics that based on historical customer response data, the bank is able to determine how likely it will be that a targeted prospect universe would respond, and at what level of response can be expected per decile.
How can a retail bank take advantage of a Predictive Model?
When it comes to acquiring new retail deposit accounts, there are 4 basic questions that need to be addressed?
1. 1. Whom to contact?
2. 2. What to offer?
3. 3. When to make the offer?
4. 4. What channels of communications to utilize?
A predictive model will address the first and most important of these questions. Historic evidence in the world of direct marketing has demonstrated that as much as 60% of any direct marketing initiative can be attributed to the ‘list’. So, the question, “Whom to contact?” becomes the single most important question to address.
Whom to contact?
Beginning with an extract of existing retail bank customers and examining customer characteristics such as product portfolio, length of relationship, first product, acquisition source, distance from branch, etc., we are able to determine the most profitable of customer segments. By then appending demographic and lifestyle data through 3rd party data sources to the customer data files, we’re able to paint a more robust picture of who are our best customers. Examples of this characteristic data may include: age, HH income, marital status, homeownership, presence of children, length of residence, net worth, hobbies, interests, participation in sports, travel, active use of the Internet, engaged in Internet banking, use/ownership of various financial instruments, etc.
A more robust picture will emerge of the bank’s existing customer base and the characteristics that differentiate the more profitable from least profitable of customers. These key differentiators become the basis of the acquisition model and its ability to rank prospects on their likelihood to become new customers of the bank.
Why Build Predictive Models?
Predictive modeling affords smaller community banks the ability to compete with the big banks and their smaller competitors by acquiring new retail bank customers in the most cost efficient manner possible. Effective direct marketing is as much about knowing whom to market to, as it is to know whom not to market an offer. It makes little sense to knock on the door of a prospect that is going to slam the door in your face once its opened. Utilizing predictive models and predictive analytics, the marker is able to market relevant offerings to a universe of highly receptive prospects.
How Can We Help?
Digital Intersection provides database analytic and modeling services to our clients across a number of industries from healthcare to financial services. If your bank is interested in effectively acquiring new retail customers, and do so at a lower cost of acquisition, give us a call or complete the Contact Us form on our website to schedule a time to talk. We are confident that we can help you achieve your business/marketing goals while maximizing your return on marketing investment over the long term.
Mobile Deposit Capture Meets Retail Banking
Remote Deposit Capture (RDC) is a process in which businesses use check scanners to send banks electronic images of checks in place of paper checks. Made possible by the Check Clearing for the 21st Century Act (a.k.a. Check 21 Act) that was enacted in 2003, RDC offers several benefits for banks, such as reduced processing and clearing costs that result from image processing costing less per item than paper processing, reduced transportation costs that stem from the reduction of courier services, and new revenue streams that are generated from expanding of the customer territory.
In the past, these benefits were limited to the commercial banking sector. Today, however, RDC has penetrated retail banking, where it is commonly referred to as mobile Remote Deposit Capture (mRDC). Whereas businesses typically use check scanners to capture and transmit check images, consumers can now use their smart phones to capture and transmit the images. The transmission process is the same in both cases. The only difference is the technology used to complete the transaction.
Two Essential Resources
To capitalize on the opportunities that exist in mRDC, a retail bank needs two resources: a mobile banking platform and a mobile RDC program. With the help of an integrated marketing firm that specializes in mobile banking and the assistance of a banking services provider that specializes in RDC, both resources can be fully integrated in a few months. If your bank needs a mobile platform, Digital Intersection can provide it with a well designed website that is optimized for mobile access. With the website in place, your bank will have the web platform it needs to reap the benefits of a mobile RDC program.
The Case For Mobile
According to RemoteDepositCapure.com—an independent information resource for the payments industry—mRDC is the number one mobile feature that would cause consumers to switch banks. Reinforcing this assertion is a RemoteDepositCapture.com study that found that, in the second quarter of 2012, nearly 50% of bank customers reported that mobile banking services were “important” or “very important” in their decision to switch primary banks. In the second quarter of 2010, only 7% of bank customer reported that mobile banks services were “important” or “very important” in their decision to change banks.
According to Forrester Research, the number of U.S. consumers who used mobile banking grew from 22.7 million in 2010 to 47.1 million in 2012. By 2014, the number of mobile bankers in the U.S. is expected to reach 47.1 million. As for what these statistics mean to retail banks that implement a mobile RDC program, a study by Intuit Financial Services that analyzed the behavior of customers who use mRDC reveals some interesting findings:
- Before they used mRDC, customers made 29% of their deposits at the branch. When they started using mRDC, the number dropped to 19%.
- Before they used mRDC, customers made 9.2% of deposits at ATMs. When they started using mRDC, the number dropped to 6.5%.
- Customers who started using mRDC increased their number of monthly deposits by 2%.
As mobile banking continues to increase in popularity, many banks will have the opportunity to reduce operating costs by staffing fewer service specialists on the teller line. Combined with the increased revenue from increased deposit activity, this cost saving can significantly increase the profit margin of retail banks.
Taking The First Step
The first step toward profiting from mRDC is implementing a mobile banking platform that optimizes your institution’s website for mobile access. If your bank’s website needs mobile optimization, Digital Intersection will create a mobile website whose architecture, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tactics, and content are designed to capitalize on opportunities that exist in mobile banking.
With a mobile web platform in place, your institution will be positioned to implement an mRDC program that helps it increase revenue by meeting the consumer demand for mobile banking options. To learn more about the benefits of mobile banking for retail banks, call Digital Intersection today to schedule a free consultation.
Considerations for Integrated Marketing Success
Although there has been great improvement in the development of online marketing strategies and tactics for small and midsize businesses over the past 5 to 10 years, organizations still have a long way to go before they have effectively leveraged the power of the Internet to their marketing advantage. The following article provides 3 tips to decision-makers within small and midsize companies to consider when putting together marketing plans for the balance of 2013. Let’s first begin with some definitions.
What is meant by Integrated Marketing?
As defined by Wikipedia, Integrated Marketing communications (IMC) was first defined by the American Association of Advertising Agencies (also 4A's) in 1989, as "an approach to achieving the objectives of a marketing campaign through a well-coordinated use of different promotional methods that are intended to reinforce each other." Basically, it is the application of consistent brand messaging across both traditional and non-traditional online marketing channels.
Tip#1 – Developing an Integrated Marketing Plan
We all know that business success does not come by accident. Business owners and marketing executives realize that to be effective in achieving business/marketing objectives whether those objectives are customer acquisition, customer retention or customer growth, a well-conceived and researched plan that integrates online marketing initiatives with offline direct marketing and broadcast communications will be instrumental to achieving the desired goals.
Tip#2 – How Should We Communicate?
When designing an Integrated Marketing program, by definition the marketer will want to give careful consideration to the various communications channels, online marketing (e.g. web/landing page, email marketing), offline marketing communications (e.g. direct mail, newspaper, print, T.V. radio etc.), as well as social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr etc.). Based on analysis, customer/prospect segments can be identified to determine the optimum communications channel(s) to be utilized with each of the segments.
Tip#3 – Measurement & Refinement
When considering online marketing campaigns, a number of marketing tools exist to aid the marketer in assessing campaign performance. Google Analytics is an obvious choice of a set of marketing tools that measures multiple dimensions of website activity. Digital Intersection recently secured a highly robust ‘real-time’ set of marketing tools that, similar to Google Analytics tracks website activity, but too, does it in real-time. In addition this toolset, Digital Insightssm provides an added advantage of tracking online activity for B2B marketers by matching back the identified IP address to a database of over 60 million individual records from approximately 10 million companies.
Being able to track customer and prospect behavior in real-time online allows the marketer to take timely action on marketing response based on target audience behavior, as opposed to blindly executing follow-up marketing communications.
At the end of the day, the key to improving marketing performance is identifying a key set of metrics, measuring these performance indicators with the appropriate set of assessment tools, and taking the appropriate actions to improve marketing communications along with the other elements of the marketing mix.
Integrated Marketing…It’s all about managing the moving parts.
From plan objectives, to the development of integrated marketing communications strategies for the various target audience segments, followed by flawless tactical execution and finally, measurement, performance of integrated marketing campaigns will only stand to perform better and better over time. At Digital Intersection, we have coined a term, Right4, this simple concept is all about directing the right messages, to the right audiences, at the right time via the right mix of communications channels. Although simple to state, like anything in business, it’s all in the execution.
To discuss your integrated marketing requirements, or potentially your organization’s online marketing initiatives, please call Maurice Parisien at 314-222-2548 or email me at email@example.com, or make use of our contact form.
Healthcare in the Digital Age: Physicians Look to the Web
Many people hesitate to make a doctor’s appointment because they check their symptoms online and are scared by what they find, or discover that what they are feeling doesn’t seem so worrisome after all. If you do a Google search for “chronic shoulder pain,” you’ll find several medical websites that list the symptom as a possible sign of cancer. You will also find sites that say the pain could indicate a rotator cuff injury.
Which website has the right information?
In the absence of a medical examination, it is often impossible to tell. That’s why many physicians tell their patients to stay away from the Internet and make a doctor’s appointment when they experience health issues. However, because turning to the Internet for information is second nature, doctors can’t depend on people to make an appointment in lieu of researching their condition on the web.
Instead, they must compel people to come in for a check up despite what a website such as webmd.com indicates about their health. Creating a physician’s website with the help of an experienced web marketing agency such as Digital Intersection is the best way to do this.
The Internet As a Health Resource
In September 2012, the Pew Internet & American Life Project conducted a survey that analyzed how people use the Internet to search for health-related information. For healthcare providers, the survey yielded the following important statistics:
· 6- 63% of Internet users research health problems on the web
· 4- 47% go online to find information about medical procedures
· 3- 3 4% use the Internet to search for information about prescription drugs
· 2- 21% use the net to look up information about doctors or hospitals
According to the survey, 80 percent of Internet users in the U.S.—about 93 million Americans—have researched a health-related topic online. If you are a physician who doesn’t have a website, you are missing out on the opportunity to provide reliable medical advice to these people. You also have a slimmer chance of making them your patients.
A well-designed physician website that appears high in search results helps you attract new patients in the same way that a quality business website that has a high search rank helps a company win new clients. The key to making this parallel a reality, of course, is partnering with a web marketing firm that understands the healthcare industry and has experience creating and optimizing health-related websites.
How We Can Help?
Digital Intersection has created digital content for websites across a number of industries from healthcare to financial services. If your office or organization is without a website, or has a site that hasn’t been updated in a while, give us a call to schedule a free consultation. We can help you reach out to new patients online and provide the online community with the reliable medical information it so badly needs.
Web Marketing 101: Why Does Google Rank Other Websites Above Yours?
Achieving a high Search Engine Results Position (SERP) is the goal of every business that sells something online, but making a website appear near the top of organic search results involves more than linking it with the right keywords. While keywords play an essential role in determining the position of a website in search results, they are one of four criteria that Google considers when it determines a website’s SERP. If your site contains the right keywords for its target audience but fails to achieve a high SERP, it may be due to how Google interprets the inbound links, user metrics and social media metrics for your website.
How Google Ranks Websites
As the online marketplace has grown more competitive, Google’s search rank criteria have become more complex. Today, the ubiquitous search engine analyzes the following four aspects of a website to determine its SERP: keyword content, inbound links, user metrics and social media metrics.
1) Keyword Content – Google searches the HTML elements of a website to find keywords that indicate what the site is about. Elements that are searched include Java script code, title tags and on page content. After Google finds the keywords for the website, it determines the site’s “authority” by comparing it to other websites that use the same keywords. The criteria below determine authority.
2) Inbound Links – Not all inbound links are created equal. For example, receiving a link from CNN.com counts for roughly 1000 “votes” toward a website’s authority rating, whereas receiving a link from a spam site counts for roughly –5 votes. The key is to receive links from quality websites. A web marketing firm can help you develop a strategy for increasing profitable inbound links.
4) Social Media Metrics – The more Facebook likes, Pinterest pins and Twitter mentions your business receives, the more authoritative its website appears to Google’s web crawling algorithms. If your business doesn’t use social media sites to reach out to customers and business partners, now would be a good time to start.
The site that has the most authority receives the highest SERP. Because the authority of a website applies to each of its keywords, an authoritative website typically achieves a high SERP for each keyword with which it is linked.
Improving Your Search Rank
Improving the SERP of a website begins with determining why it fails to achieve a better position in search results. In some cases, the problem is poor web design that results in negative user metrics. In other instances, the issue is inbound links that come from the wrong websites. In still other cases, the problem is a lack of social media presence. Regardless of why a website fails to achieve a high search rank, the goal is to address the problem as soon as possible.
Achieving a high organic SERP can take weeks or months. The sooner a business navigates through the obstacle course that Google has laid for companies that wish to reap the benefits of a high organic SERP, the sooner it can tap into the online revenue that fills the coffers of its competitors.
Having Google rank your website above competing websites isn’t as hard as it may seem, but it requires a knowledgeable, disciplined, patient approach to organic Search Engine Optimization (SEO). If your company has difficulty achieving a high SERP for its keywords, don’t waste time trying every strategy that you read about in SEO blogs. Have an experienced web marketing firm such as Digital Intersection examine your needs and propose a plan of action.
The Value of Multi-Channel, Integrated Communications for Non-Profits
Much of the focus our work at Digital Intersection on behalf of our clients is to effectively leverage multi-channels of online and offline communications in an integrated fashion to achieve our clients’ business/marketing goals and objectives. Our efforts have been directed to both for-profit, as well as non-profit institutions. In this blog post, I want to draw our readers’ attention to the value of leveraging integrated communications for non-profits.
I recently came across a study commissioned by Convio and conducted by Edge Research that gathered responses from 123 non-profit practitioners. The study explored key success factors for non-profit organizations already practicing integrated multi-channel communications with donors and prospective donors. The purpose of the study was not to convince non-profits to engage in integrated multi-channel communications, but rather to aid those organizations already engaged in integrated, multi-channel communications to understand just how their organization compared to their peers, and where to focus next to improve marketing performance.
The principal finding of the research was that by adding online communications to a direct mail-only treatment, improved donor retention rates, increased frequency and consequently lifetime value of the donor relationship. Interestingly, the boost in lifetime value occurred whether or not the donor actually elected to give online. Donors who actually gave online in addition to the mail were shown to be even more valuable.
It is widely accepted among marketers that various age demographic segments behave differently with respect to marketing communications consumption. Separate from the study cited above, Edge Research published a separate study that explored the engagement habits and preferences across four generations: ‘Matures’ (age 65+), ‘Boomers’ (47-64), ‘Gen X’s’ (31-46), ‘Gen Y’s’ (20-30). The results of this study revealed that while Mature donors, by-and-large, prefer a more traditional engagement, i.e., direct mail, with the non-profits they support, Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y are very receptive to multi-channel communications in their engagement with non-profits. Outside of the ‘Matures’, the younger demographic segments revealed that no one particular engagement channel dominates the other, suggesting that non-profits need to adopt a balanced, multi-channel approach to capture the attention of the younger (<65) age demographic donor segments.
At Digital Intersection, we refer to the process of employing integrated marketing communications as Right to the the 4th power. An element of this theory and practice recognizes the importance of ensuring that marketers make use of the ‘right’ combination of communications channels to effectively communicate with various audience segments. Non-profits would be wise to adopt a more ‘constituent-centric’ approach to employing the ‘right’ combination of communications channels (both online and offline) that are based on both constituent behavior and survey data that reveals communications channel preferences. By combining this communications strategy with constituent-centric message frequency, marketers will most assuredly improve communications efficiencies and effectiveness. And finally, by establishing a set of integrated metrics that measure donor behavior and campaign performance across multiple channels that focus more on long-term value, versus a single response, non-profits will ultimately improve donor life time value in the process.
Whether your enterprise is a for-profit or non-profit, Digital Intersection can assist in devising effective communications strategies grounded in sound database marketing practices. If interested in learning more, please Contact Us or email me, Maurice Parisien at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Leveraging Key Elements of Integrated Marketing Communications
As we wind down 2012 and consider our integrated marketing communications plans for the coming year, let me offer up some thoughts relative to a few key factors that independently seem blatantly obvious as to their role in effective communications, but when taken together, represent a powerful combination of factors that marketers can control and leverage to their advantage when planning and executing integrated marketing initiatives in 2013.
Factor #1: Visual Engagement – Visual images, whether still photography or video, have grown increasingly popular in our day-to-day digital communications. As much as the written word represents (and hopefully always will) a critical component to communications, visual elements in the form of still images and video continue to grow increasingly valuable as digital communications elements. Just consider the explosive growth of YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest. These social media platforms rely completely on the uploading and sharing of visual images. USA Today reports that over 72 hours of video content is uploaded to YouTube every minute. And Facebook, the largest social media platform in the world is developing new means to post and share photo images and videos. The reason behind the effectiveness of photos and videos is that visual communications tend to bring about near instantaneous understanding of the material being communicated. Consider the old saying: ‘a picture is worth a 1,000 words’. Does it not follow that visual images tend to quickly engage the audience. For marketers, opportunity exists in discovering opportunities to better leverage visual communications within the context of their integrated marketing campaigns.
Factor #2: Social Media – We have all seen the impact that social media has on our lives. With Facebook now touting over 1 billion users is it any wonder that this global social media platform has changed the way that we not only stay in touch with family, friends and associates, but too, how this social media juggernaut has the potential to influence consumer purchase behavior. A survey conducted earlier this year by SocialableLabs among 1,088 online shoppers revealed some compelling insights regarding social sharing and its impact on consumer buying behavior:
1. 62% of online shoppers have read product-related comments from their friends on Facebook.
2. 75% of shoppers who read social sharing comments have clicked on the product link in their friends’ Facebook posts, taking them to the product page on a retailer’s website.
3. 53% of the shoppers who have clicked through to the retailer’s site have made a purchase.
4. 81% of consumers who purchase products they learn about through social sharing are valuable social sharers themselves, thus creating a cycle of sharing and buying.
Factor #3: Technology – Whether its accessing information on the Internet via a smart phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop computer, information where, when and how one wants it will continue to be a major influencing factor for marketers to consider in developing strategies and tactics for integrated marketing initiatives going forward. In counseling our clients, we frequently advise not to jump on the ‘next new thing’ because it is new, but rather, the decision to employ a new technology is guided more by whether or not the technology represents a pathway to effectively carry on 2-way communications with the target audience (TA). The underlying factor in effectively leveraging technology is understanding how, and in what manner, the TA accesses and utilizes a particular technology when consuming and sharing information.
Looking forward to 2013, marketers will be wise to consider the power of visual engagement, social media and technology when devising integrated marketing plans. Independently, each element is powerful unto itself, but together the 3, effectively employed, have the potential to significantly influence the success of integrated marketing campaigns.
Wishing our readers success in developing and executing your integrated marketing initiatives in 2013.
Let us know if we can lend a hand in helping your organization achieve marketing success.
The Road to Integrated Marketing Success
As we approach the beginning of a new year, it’s a good time to ask what your management and marketing teams have agreed to as the organization’s top marketing priorities? Is it customer acquisition, retention, or potentially customer acquisition coupled with customer growth (expanding the breadth of products and/or services that customers are buying from the enterprise)? Whatever your company’s growth objectives may be, I’d like to offer up three (3) considerations to help ensure that those goals are achieved.
Consideration #1: Segmentation - What are the relevant messages and offers to be presented to your various customer and prospect segments? Recognition of the fact that not all customers and prospects are alike in their consumption and/or use of your company’s products or services is an important step to improving the effectiveness of marketing initiatives. Take the time to better understand the interests and motivations of every customer segment to impart a greater degree of relevance in your communications to each of the segments.
Consideration #2: Media Channels - What are the relevant communications channels for each of your target audiences? We know from experience that individuals consume information in many different ways depending on the situation at the point in time in which the messages are being delivered. At times business decision-makers prefer to consume information in printed media form. (For impact and communications that ‘keep on giving’ printed materials are invaluable.) At other times, your customers and prospects may prefer to obtain their information in digital form. That is why it is critical that proper thought be put into planning and development of integrated online and offline data-driven marketing communications.
Consideration #3: Measurement - What are the critical metrics that effectively assess marketing campaign performance? Obvious key measures such as units and dollars sold are important, but recognizing that customers and prospects are not all going to be in the market for your company’s products and/or services when you want them to buy, it’s important to stay in front of your target audiences throughout the year and track metrics of audience interest and purchase behavior along the way. For example, engagement may be measured by email opens and clicks, requests for information, website traffic and specific pages on the website visited, etc.
The other side of the equation for measurement is that of investment. Isolating the dollars invested in a particular marketing communications program is essential in measuring a key factor of the ROI equation. What’s more, having the ability to track the communications that are delivered to the customer/prospect coupled with the customer’s purchases is nothing short of the holy grail when assessing Return on Marketing Investment (ROMI) calculations. Unfortunately, these steps are frequently easier said than done.
Based on a survey conducted by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) many marketers find themselves unable to accurately assess the return on dollars spent. A survey conducted by the ANA in their 2012 Digital and Social Media Survey fielded in the spring of this year among 224 marketers, more than 70% report that they currently are adopting newer media platforms to reach their customers and prospects. However, this same survey reveals that 62% experience difficulty in assessing ROI, and although they believe digital and social media channels to be important, this inability to prove ROI is a nagging concern.
As a full-service integrated digital and offline database marketing services agency, Digital Intersection is constantly preaching and practicing measurement with each of our clients’ tactical campaigns, irrespective as to how the messages are delivered, whether online or offline, or more frequently, employing a combination of multi-faceted online channels with offline direct mail and/or print media. The challenge comes when attempting to measure the incremental contribution of social media. However, based on our experience, when one begins with a plan that defines the objectives of the campaign and the role of each of the communications channels in the campaign, it is easier to define the metrics that measure and track campaign performance. When measuring the effectiveness of social media delivered via Facebook, Twitter, as well as most leading 3rd party social media platforms coupled with Google Analytics, we find resources with highly effective reporting capabilities. As these social media platforms continue to develop and expand, measurement capabilities will only continue to improve.
One thing is certain, no matter what the combination of marketing communications and social media channels employed today or in the future, our ultimate goal is to continually focus on achieving our marketing objectives, while at the same time, maximize the organizations’ return on marketing investment.
Here’s to marketing success in 2013!
Social Media…Communicating with Quick Response
In my last blog I wrote about how Social Media has created a new world environment where brand/customer relationships have taken a twist. And how social media has shifted considerable power and control of the customer/marketer relationship squarely in the hands of the customer. Let’s turn our attention now to the issue of social media in the context of speed of communications.
In a recent study released by MarketingCharts and Socialbakers, Socialbakers analyzed a select group of Facebook posts published on October 31st, finding that an average of one-third of post reach was obtained in the first 10 minutes after publication. Previous data from Socialbakers indicated that fully 50% of social media reach is realized in the first 30 minutes post-publication with the balance of the reach realized within 7 hours.
So, why is this finding relevant? The issue is ‘speed-to-reach’. We all are well aware of the speed in which news travels in our 24 hour news cycle, but when it comes to personal one-to-many communications, quite possibly, we are not paying close enough attention to the impact that a Tweet, a Facebook post, or any other form of social media communications can have on the audience to which it is directed within the context of ‘speed-to-reach’. Good, bad, or anywhere in between, it is important for all engaged in social media exchanges to recognize that posted messages can have nearly instantaneous impact, such that if the subject of the communication is at all time sensitive, it would be wise to consider the day and time of the post. For example, what if you owned a retail restaurant, and you were planning to extend a special promotional offer to Facebook fans. Knowing what we know now regarding the ‘speed-to-reach’ would it not make sense to extend offers at a time of day and/or day of week when the offers would reach the greatest number of customers at a time when they would be most receptive to take action. Or how about the movie rental business, knowing what we know now about the ‘speed-to-reach’ wouldn’t it be smart to execute a promotion for a discounted movie rental on a Friday or Saturday afternoon to stimulate customer interest/traffic at a point in time when the customer would be most receptive to renting a movie for the weekend.
In some respects, the role of social media in business/customer relationships is no different than in a personal social media exchange. Social media provides a dynamic, instantaneous platform for the exchange of thoughts, ideas, and offers between businesses and organizations and their respective audiences. The opportunity for properly employing social media lies in knowing how best to leverage it in a manner that capitalizes on the dynamic nature of the communications channel. At the end of the day, social media is but one more arrow in the marketer’s quiver to exchange thoughts and ideas that supports the delivery of the right message, at the right time, to the right audience to achieve the desired business outcome.
Let’s keep communicating.
Social Media…Are you Using or Abusing the privilege?
As marketers we strive to find opportunities to communicate (preferably 2-way) with our customers and prospective customers in multiple ways to create mutually beneficial relationships. A key channel for our communications today now comes in the form of Social Media from Facebook, and Twitter, to Pinterest, Tumblr and a seemingly endless stream of new platforms coming our way every day. But, like anything, managing those communications opportunities in a manner that is both appropriate and relevant is critical to achieving a marketer’s communications objectives. Although it probably goes without saying, too much or too little in terms of social media activity can and will lead to a breakdown in communications. To take a lesson from Goldie Locks: It can’t be too hard or too soft. It’s got to be just right.
A study conducted by Exact Target and CoTweet in a published report entitled ‘The Social Media Break-Up’, we learn that 44% of Facebook users indicate ‘too frequent posting’ as a top reason for ‘unliking’ a brand. The study virtually tied the overposting as the top reason for ‘unliking’ a brand on Facebook. Other reasons for ‘unliking’ a brand/company is page content becoming boring and/or repetitive (38%), while (28%) indicate ‘unliking’ a brand because the reason for ‘liking’ was simply to take advantage of a one-time offer.
The dynamics and characteristics to both create and sustain long-term relationships between brands and customers have not changed over time. What has changed is the manner in which brands/companies interact with their customers. And too, (and this is a big ‘and too’), social media has shifted considerable power and control of the marketing relationship to the customer. Some experts have gone as far as saying that social media has placed the customer in control of the relationship dynamics. I’m not sure I buy totally into this belief system, but rather, I’d like to think about the brand/customer relationship as a delicate one. In some ways, a business/customer relationship is no different than a personal relationship. And from a communications perspective, the various forms of social media provide a dynamic platform for the exchange of thoughts and ideas back and forth between brand/company and customer. Just as in a personal relationship, one side cannot dominate the conversation. By definition, a conversation requires give and take; a dialogue that ultimately forges a stronger and more valuable exchange. Kind of reminds me of a basic ‘life lesson’ that my dad once shared with me: God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason.
Think about it!
Integrating Online & Offline Content for B2B Marketers…Just as Important as Ever
Our current economic environment continues to drive B2B marketers to be increasingly focused on accountability for their marketing spend and what’s being done to drive the topline of the business, while at the same time creating greater and greater alignment between the disciplines of marketing and sales.
In a recent survey published by MarketingCharts, B2B marketers tell us that they are devoting a growing amount of their working hours on content creation that ties directly to their lead generation programs. According to a survey released this month roughly 3 in 10 respondents spend more than 15 hours a week on content creation. This is the highest proportion for any of the activities engaged in by the marketer’s surveyed. But even more interesting, those organizations that have high-performing marketing organizations and are either meeting or exceeding their respective lead generation goals, we find that these organizations are 50% more likely to spend this amount of time than are their less successful counterparts. And while nearly 17% of the overall sample of respondents spends 15+ hours a week on lead generation, top-performing companies are about 2 times more likely to do so than lesser performing organizations.
Top Performers Utilized both Online & Offline Communications
The self-identified ‘top-performers’ made up 47% of all respondents in this survey and of the 7 lead generation tactics identified, the top performers focused more of their efforts on every marketing tactic but one, that being Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising. The top channel of communications for the top performers was Social Media followed by direct marketing, SEO and PR. Interestingly enough, very few marketers spend considerable time on online banner advertising and PPC. What’s more, top-performers indicated that they were twice as likely as lesser performing organizations to devote 15+ hours per week to offline tactics.
Top Performing Lead Generators Leverage Social Media
Top performers rate themselves highly in their knowledge of multiple lead-generation tactics. The areas in which they rated themselves highest in expertise were: social media (42% claiming expert knowledge); offline tactics (34%); and email marketing & SEO (28%). The areas in which they rated themselves weakest (with little or no knowledge) were PPC (25%), online advertising (18%) and SEO (17%).
What does this mean to your business?
As a B2B marketer, you need to spend time, energy and expert resources on integrated marketing communications to achieve your organization’s lead generation/new business development objectives. Importantly, you need to make use of integrated online and offline marketing communications. In previous blogs, I’ve stated the importance of employing the principle of Right4. Right4 recognizes the reality of today’s marketing communications, that in order to be successful in achieving business growth objectives, it is imperative that there be an intelligent combination of both online and offline communications at work to reach the right audience at the right time with the right message/offer with the right channel(s) of communication. At times, segments of your target audience will be receptive to online communications, and at other times it will make sense to reinforce messaging with offline communications. There’s no simple solution…no silver bullet. It takes time, effort and ‘smart’ work of integrated marketing communications to position your organization’s solutions front and center in the minds of your prospects to turn those prospects into customers.
CEOs Indicate Continued Interest in Marketing ROI
Frequently, I find myself engaged in conversations with a business owners and senior executives debating the merits of marketing and more recently the value and role of social media in the marketing mix. At the end of the day, the discussion typically comes back to the importance of identifying the key metrics that completely and accurately assess the enterprise’s return on marketing investment for each of the marketing tactics (and combinations of tactics) employed.
A recent study completed by Fournaise Marketing Group revealed that approximately 3 in 4 CEOs globally say they want marketers to become fully focused on ROI. A similar proportion think marketers misunderstand the real meaning of the words “results,” “ROI” and “performance.” The upshot of this is that 80% of CEOs believe marketers are disconnected from an organization’s financial business performance, the same proportion claim of return on marketing investment, and as a result, executives do not trust and are not impressed by the contributions of their marketing staffs.
CEOs’ concerns regarding marketers’ focus on ROI finds some basis in marketers’ own perceptions and business practices. According to another study conducted by Columbia University’s Center on Global Brand Leadership and the New York American Marketing Association (NYAMA), 57% of senior marketers say they don’t base their marketing budgets on any form of ROI analysis. In fact, roughly two-thirds report establishing their marketing budgets in part on historical spending, and 28% on gut instincts. And when looking at specific spending decisions, 21% say they use financial metrics for little or none of the decisions, while 7% are making most or all of the decisions absent any metrics at all.
CEOs interest in assessing marketing ROI.
Data from the Fournaise Marketing Group’s “2012 Global Marketing Effectiveness Program” indicates that 82% of B2C CEOs want their marketers focused 100% on ROI along with a focus on tracking, reporting, and enhancing the following key performance indicators: sell-in; sell-out; market share; and marketing ROI.
Similarly, 85% of B2B CEOs (and B2C CEOs in prospect-driven industries) want their marketers to focus on the same ROI metrics, as well as the business potential generated by marketing.
Merits of Employing the Proven-Practices of Database Marketing
Outside of the fact that database marketing tends to be highly targeted in channeling marketing communications to the right audience, at the right time, with the right message/offer, with the right channels of communication, the practice of traditional database marketing tends also to be highly focused on a single bottom-line metric. That metric is return on investment (ROI). Depending on the tactic and the communications channel(s) being deployed i.e. online (email, web, social media, SE0 (both paid and organic), banner ads, mobile, or offline (direct mail), key performance indicators (KPIs) will vary, but ultimately these KPIs will narrow the focus on a few key measures that completely and accurately assess marketing performance, whether measured in customer acquisition, retention and/or growth.Today, more than ever, database marketing principles represent a core methodology to address the concerns of business owners and executive management and the age-old dilemma of accurately assessing the effectiveness of every marketing dollar spent.
Measuring the True Value of Social Media
Social media continues to play an increasingly important role in the marketing mix of more and more marketers. Yet, marketers have yet to totally agree on the metrics, the critical few, that accurately assess the effectiveness that social media plays in influencing customer acquisition, retention or growth. But possibly, the tide is shifting to measuring what matters.
A recent survey completed by the Association of National Advertisers among 224 client-side marketers reveals that the majority of advertisers continue to look to the ‘soft metrics’ i.e. ‘daily or monthly active users’ (83%), ‘click-throughs’ (93%), ‘likes’ (82%), however, in increasing numbers, marketers are looking to new metrics to assess the effectiveness of social media. The highest proportion of marketers responding to the ANA survey rated ‘purchases’ (67%) as a top-3 box rating on a 10-point scale of effectiveness, up 14 percentage points from the 2011 survey. While, the metric of ‘would recommend/forward to a friend’ was up 12 percentage points vs. the previous year’s study. The growth of importance of these 2 key metrics point to a growing shift in marketer considerations from softer measures (e.g. ‘likes’, ‘followers’, ‘daily users’, etc.) to harder metrics that are more closely aligned to measuring behaviors and attitudes that that are tightly linked to what matters most - customer acquisition, retention and growth.
So, how might this change your thinking on measuring the impact of Social Media?
Not that the soft measures of social media are unimportant, as the measures of ‘likes’, ‘followers’ and ‘daily users’ are clearly precursors to higher levels of engagement and business impact. However, to properly assess the influence of your organization’s social media initiatives, hard metrics need to be incorporated to assess your organization’s return on social media investment (ROSMI). The following are 3 tips to begin to take your enterprise down this path.
Connect the Dots - As your enterprise assesses the level of engagement by ‘followers’ and ‘likes’ consider putting in place promotional devices to encourage engaged fans to take advantage of special offers extended to ‘fans’ only. This tactic can then be tied directly to product/service sales of targeted fans.
Tell a Friend - Although this concept has been in practice for decades, in the world of social media, few things are more powerful in developing customer relationships than that of encouraging fans of your product/service to tell others of their positive feelings about an organization. Utilizing both online and offline communications, promotional tactics can be developed to reward current satisfied customers to introduce your organization’s products/services to their friends, family and/or business associates.
Assess the Failures - No matter how good your product or service is, potential exists that something will break and the quality of your organization’s product and/or service will fail and result in customer dissatisfaction and potential for customer loss. Social media represents an excellent channel to maintain open lines of communications with customers. If and when such a negative impact occurs, organizations should embrace the problem and communicate with customers to learn the root cause and fix it. Such action will not only stem the potential losses, but too, will make a positive impression on those customers that observe your organization’s response to fix what’s broke.
Social media will only continue to grow in importance as an integral component to the marketing mix. It is important for marketers to embrace the fact that with the advent of social media, customers are taking on an increasingly important role in the future success of the marketer’s enterprise. Therefore, obtaining a firm measure of the impact of the influence of the customer that flows through the social media channel is critical to not only measuring its impact, but also strengthen the performance of the enterprise for the near and long-term.
Managing through the Customer Buying Process
It is with greater and greater frequency that we are hearing from our clients that they recognize more and more the importance of developing and maintaining a strong website presence. To underscore the importance of this fact, according to the National Retail Federation, over 92% of adults regularly or occasionally research products online before buying those products in a store.
Beyond this data point, even though social media, along with an organization’s website and blog presence tends to rule the day in the minds of many, customers make purchase decisions using a combination of both offline (traditional advertising: print, broadcast etc.), along with online media, all coupled with conversations with friends and family. According to a relatively old study conducted back in 2009 by Harris Interactive, the most common methods of gathering information prior to making a purchase decision are:
• visiting a company website (36%),
• face-to-face conversation with a salesperson or other company representative (22%),
• face-to-face conversation with a person not associated with the company (21%).
The insight from this research indicates that even though social media and the influence of parties outside of the marketer’s control can, and do influence buying decisions, nearly 80% of the buying decision is still heavily influence by the marketer. So, what can you the marketer do to ensure that they are in control of acquiring and growing customer relationships. The following are 3 basic tips that may just assist in placing the marketer in the driver’s seat when it comes to acquiring and developing long-standing customer relationships.
Tip#1 - Don’t Hide - Be Easy to Find - The value of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has been written and talked about much on many eMarketing fronts. But, what SEO does well, particularly organic search, is that it allows the major search engines to do the work for the marketer by presenting relevant information to the organization’s target audiences. Conducting keyword research can reveal the most valuable of keywords around which the marketer will want to ‘own’ by continuously developing rich and valuable content. The end goal for the marketer is to make its website an invaluable source of information that keeps the target audience well fed and coming back for more.
Tip #2 - Website Interactions To be successful, marketers need to ensure that the content of their websites not only communicate the value of their product/service offering, but too, the website should become a destination of interactions. Well designed and developed websites create a two-way dialogue with site visitors. Successful online marketers create occasions to interact with visitors via chat, contact forms, providing special offers and information that is relevant and keeps the visitors coming back for more.
Tip #3 - Create Alignment with Sales & Marketing Research referenced earlier indicates that nearly 80% of the potential to influence buying decisions still resides within the purview of the marketer. Even though social media is becoming increasingly important in influencing customer buying habits, data supports the importance that an organization’s marketing function who ‘formulates the messages’ must work closely with the sales organization that ‘delivers the messages’ to optimize the effectiveness of the enterprise’s sales and marketing initiatives. In a book that the writer of this blog recently published entitled ALIGNED- A Story for Improving Sales and Marketing Effectiveness, I lay out not only the theory of the process, but too, the practical steps to creating alignment within the disciplines of sales and marketing.
In summary, marketers need not believe that the control of the process of acquiring and growing customer relationships is being undermined or usurped by new media, but rather, marketers need to consider the world of integrated and interactive marketing as an opportunity to take charge and leverage what is in their control, both online and offline, to achieve their organization’s marketing/business objectives, and do so in a manner that maximizes the organization’s return on marketing investment in the process.
The Value of Trust in Customer Relationships
Marketing of a product or service has much to do with reaching the ‘right’ person at the ‘right’ time with the ‘right’ message through the ‘right’ combinations of communications channels, or as I’ve frequently referred to the right to the 4th power or right(4). At Digital Intersection, we deal with this process routinely in our client work.
Targeted communications to attract, retain and grow customer relationships are but the first step in the customer relationship development process. A recent experience has caused me to think a bit more deeply about the goal of the right(4) process which is to ultimately create long-standing customer relationships that deliver value on both sides, for the customer as well as the enterprise.
A marketer can perform its work with great skill and expertise in strategy development and tactical execution of marketing initiatives, but what happens when something happens to make the customer relationship go south. The one thing that can quickly destroy a relationship, any relationship, is the loss of trust. Let me relay a personal experience to illustrate the value of customer relationships and just how these relationships can quickly disintegrate when trust is lost.
Recently, my wife and I decided to make a change in our telephone, television and Internet services. We had changed services 2 years prior to the new entry into the market due in large part to the brand name and reputation of the new provider. Fast forward 2 years, and we begin to experience problems with the quality of service. I reached out to our original service provider and found that we were able to improve the level of service (e.g. Internet speeds that were 5 times faster than that of our current provider) while saving over 30% in service charges per month. We decided to change back to our original service provider. Next, I call my current provider and here’s where trust in the relationship is seriously challenged. I’m informed by the customer service (‘save’) agent that if I were to stay with my current provider that I can reduce my monthly service charges by over 45% for the next 12 months. I was shocked and offended. Was I being overcharged for services over the past 2 years? Now when the company is about to lose me as a customer, policy allows the representative to drastically reduce monthly service charges to save the relationship. Seems to work well for the company (positive impact on revenue and profits), but what about me the customer? Where has this service provider been over the past 2 years? When was I ever offered special pricing or promotional offers to recognize me as a valued customer? Sure, if we stayed with this service provider we would save money, but service quality was still an issue to say nothing of the fact that I had trusted this provider to deliver quality service at a fair and competitive price throughout the course of the relationship. Trust was lost.
Whether your business is consumer directed or business-to-business, we can't lose sight of the precious nature of customer relationships. They are fragile and at times tested. What holds relationships together is a sense of trust that each party has in the other. If you feel like you’re being taken advantage of, or not being treated with respect and fairness, the relationship quickly disintegrates. How is your company or organization viewing its customer relationships? Is value being exchanged with every transaction? Customer relationships are hard to create, and can be lost faster than they are created when trust is lost.
What the #@&* is your Internet Strategy?
Over the course of several years we've been engaged in helping clients to make more effective use of their web presence to achieve their business/marketing goals and objectives. Interestingly, even though the Internet has in recent years become an even more powerful devise to generate awareness and engage both customers and prospects with an organization's product or service offering, many organizations continue to make use of their websites as 'electronic brochures' and one-way communications vehicles. The following offers 3 points to consider when either establishing or re-staging your organization's web presence to ultimately maximize the value derived from your website.
Plan - So frequently we see websites that have been slapped together with little consideration given to the goals/objectives of the website. Before embarking on either building-out, or restaging your organization's website. It is critically important to establish some very explicit goals/objectives for the website.
- What's the primary goal? Is it to attract new customers or donors? Is it to expand the share-of-wallet with existing customers or donors? Depending on the primary objective, the look/feel and user interface will likely be very different.
- What's the secondary goal? If the primary goal is to attract new customers or donors, what is the secondary goal? If your business is like most organizations, likely the next objective is to encourage existing customers or donors to buy or give more. Likely the content and user experience for this objective will be different from the primary goal, as to how the website design is handled to achieve the desired customer or donor behavior.
Design - Once the objectives have been established for the website, the design must fall in line to achieve those objectives. Paying close attention to the user experience will help ensure that the website will achieve the desired objectives. For example, if the primary goal of the website is to attract new customers or donors, a key tactical component would be to create a platform that supports one-to-one dialogue with customers/prospects/donors to learn and understand customer needs. Tactical devices such as contact forms, chat, 'call me button' etc. can play a valuable role in facilitating the all important customer dialogue.
Search Optimization - Planning and designing your website are only the first steps to leveraging your organization's web presence. The next step is to ensure that the various search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing, AOL) lead those interested in your products and/or services to your website. Organic Search is all about developing content surrounding the keywords that are most relevant to your product/service offering. Although paid search (PPC) is another valuable tool, like any tool it needs to be utilized properly. Depending on your organization's offering, it may or may not be a proper fit.
Getting your organization's website to perform in a way that supports the organization's business/marketing objectives takes careful and thoughtful consideration, planning and execution on many fronts. The aforementioned thoughts are just a start. Done well, an organization must continuously assess the website's performance on key metrics to ensure that the stated objectives are being realized. At the end of the day, managing an organization's website presence is like any well-executed marketing strategy. One needs to carefully Plan, Develop, Implement, Measure, and Continuously Refine the organization's web presence to achieve marketing excellence.
The Science of Social Media
Since its founding in 2004, Facebook’s mission has been to make the world more open and connected. Today, Facebook reports to have over 845 million active users with approximately 80% of the social media giant’s active monthly user base located outside the U.S. and Canada. The daily active user count has now grown to over 483 million people.
With so much activity in Facebook to say nothing of the many other social media platforms, businesses, organizations and associations have been jumping on the Social Media band wagon to attempt to capitalize on the opportunity to create one-to-many relationships. However, to be successful, every enterprise must make the effort to think through the science of social media to maximize the organization’s return on investment. The following are 3 critical formula elements when engaging in Social Media.
- Establish Objectives - At the end of the day, management needs to ask of itself what it is that the business or association is wanting to accomplish by engaging in social media. Is it to acquire new customers? Or, is it to encourage existing customers/members to spread the word about your business or organization to others, both existing customers/members, as well as non-customers/non-members to create awareness, interest and affinity for your brand.
- Measure &Track - Beyond the number of ‘Likes’, the enterprise must give serious thought to the key metrics that will define success. Done right, a well-executed social media strategy can drive traffic to an enterprise website and landing pages to engage the visitor and support acquisition, growth and retention strategies.
- Refine Social Media Strategies & Tactics - Like all things in business, one rarely, if ever gets it right straight out of the box. Going back to revisit the enterprise''s' stated social media objectives and assessing performance relative to these objectives is critical to improving the effective application of social media. Based on performance versus objectives, management will want to rethink strategies and tactical programs to improve performance.
Like most business processes the approach to constructing an effective Social Media plan is much the same. First, establish business goals, then identify a set of key metrics by which the organization will measure performance going forward. And finally, refine both strategies and tactics to improve the effectiveness of social media initiatives on a going forward basis.
Done right, social media designed and executed in either a non-profit or a for-profit organization is not ‘rocket science’, but it is a ‘science’ none the less.
SEO and Email Marketing: Two Important Digital Marketing Mix Elements
We continue to hear and read more and more about the value of online marketing in furthering an organization’s marketing goals and objectives. In a study released earlier this month by Econsultancy in association with Adestra, we learn that almost 8 in 10 global company marketers rate search engine optimization (SEO) as either excellent (31%) or good (48%) in terms of return on investment (ROI).
This statistic compares to the use of email marketing where some 70% of the marketing executives surveyed rate email marketing either excellent (23%) or good (47%) in delivering a positive ROI.
On the other side of the desk, marketing agency respondents participating in the survey agree with company respondents’ top picks, though email marketing takes the lead among this group. 82% rate email marketing ROI as either excellent (37%) or good (44%), compared to 78% who score SEO as either excellent (32%) or good (46%).
Part of the growing view of importance of SEO and email marketing is the fact that these two digital marketing tactics are most effective in stimulating the market place and attracting the attention of the ‘right’ audience(s) at the ‘right’ time with the ‘right’ message(s), through the ‘right’ marketing communications channels. So, whether your business is a B2B model or B2C, investigating and developing marketing strategies that integrate both SEO and email marketing is a prudent investment of time and financial resources. SEO, particularly organic search, tends to score above paid search (PPC) cost effectively driving traffic to one’s website. The investment in organic search is more to do with identifying the relevant keywords and developing content around those keywords that will appeal to the interests of those individuals engaged in search activity.
Although not revealed in this research, Digital Intersection has observed and demonstrated the value of integrating email marketing into a social media campaign to stimulate the social network with pro-active email touches to ultimately drive the desired audience behavior. This strategy tends to jump-start social programs by encouraging ‘Likes’, as well as engagement in consumer promotion activity along with an overall audience engagement with a brand’s social media presence.
At the end of the day, no one communication tactic will effectively address every marketers communications requirements, but rather it is the combination of messages, and offers communicated through multiple online and offline channels that will achieve the desired marketing result.
Creating a Winning Market Strategy
In 2005 business strategists, W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne published a book entitled Blue Ocean Strategy. The book quickly became an international best seller, selling over 1 million copies. Based on research conducted on over 150 companies across 30 different industries, the work defined, in empirical terms, just how winning companies have carved greater market share for their brands and done so while realizing a higher degree of profitability.
The book title came from a depiction of brands that have historically attempted to expand market share through traditional line extensions while playing in the familiar space of the ‘red ocean’, market spaces defined by conventional wisdom and long established industry definitions. The authors defined the real challenge to be expanding a company’s market share by reaching out beyond the traditional ‘red ocean’ to ‘blue oceans’ of uncontested market space that is ripe for growth. Blue Ocean strategic moves bring ‘value innovation’ into play by developing stronger value propositions for brands, and as a result create an environment where competitors become obsolete.
Where are Your Blue Oceans?
Very likely your company’s ‘blue oceans’ are not going to be on the obvious horizon. Discovering a blue ocean strategy requires innovation and out-of-the-box thinking in assessing product/service value components coupled with a trade-off/Conjoint analysis.
The authors of Blue Ocean Strategy offer a number of examples of companies that discovered their innovative solutions to capture incremental market share. One company cited in the book was in the entertainment industry. The company was Cirque du Soleil. Cirque discovered their ‘value innovation’ in a non-traditional circus offering, and in the end created a whole new entertainment experience. True to the ‘blue ocean’ strategy, value innovation for Cirque was created by eliminating elements of the traditional circus experience, such as live animal acts, and high priced talent that were particularly expensive to maintain. While at the same time, these same attributes also represented the less popular components to the entertainment offering. The founders ultimately created a live entertainment experience that borrowed the creative concepts of successful Broadway shows with each of its programs having an original score of assorted music which drives the visual performance, the lighting and timing of the acts. In short, Cirque created its own ‘blue ocean’ in the world of entertainment.
How to Create Value Innovation?
There are two key requirements critical to creating ‘value innovation’ for a brand. The first element is to uncover the brand attributes that have the greatest perceived customer value, along with those attributes that represent the least in consumer perceived value. Case in point...for the automotive industry, a key attribute may well be fuel efficient automobiles. As the cost and availability of fossil fuels continue to be a critical issue, more and more consumers will come to value more fuel efficient vehicles. But fuel efficiency is but one part of the equation. For an auto manufacturer to create their blue ocean strategy and value innovation, the manufacturer would not only need to deliver on high fuel efficiency, but would need to deliver a quality non-petroleum powered vehicle at a lower sticker price than the current premium new car pricing. Today’s electric and hybrid vehicles have yet to generate significant car sales, due in large part to the cost of the vehicle. As such, no ‘blue oceans’ have yet to be created in the automobile industry around a non-petroleum based vehicle.
Whatever the product, service or industry, every marketer has the ability to create conditions for ‘value innovation’ and set sail on their blue oceans. However, to do so requires careful thought, well-designed market research and cost analysis to innovate and create sustainable customer value.
Social Media Channels: Optimize the Mix
Facebook and LinkedIn are now the most popular and most effective social media channels among the nation's fastest-growing private companies according to a study by the University of Massachusetts and the Center for Marketing Research.
Meanwhile, the number of Inc. 500 businesses that publish a corporate blog has fallen over the past year, as companies appear to be shifting away from maturing tools (e.g., blogs, message/bulletin boards, online video, and podcasting) toward popular platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Foursquare.
Key social media-related findings among companies listed on the 2011 Inc. 500 study are:
- Facebook and Twitter continue to grow - albeit slightly: 73% of Inc. 500 companies use Facebook, up from the 71% that did so in 2010, and 64% use Twitter, up from 59%.
- Blogging and online video are down: 37% of Inc. 500 companies now publish a blog, down from 50% in 2010, and 24% use online video (vs. 33% in 2010). Among those not using blogging, 56% plan to start, whereas only 34% of those not using online video plan to do so.
So, what does this data tell us?
The interactive nature of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube literally encourage 2 way dialogue and thus a growing level of adoption and engagement. Think about it. The ease of posting a message to a Facebook page with the potential to gain immediate response fosters dynamic dialogue. It’s not to say that there is not the potential to interact with a blogger, but it’s just not that easy to engage in dialogue with Blogs. Blogging tends to be more like the epublishing. All this being said, this author is not suggesting that Blogs are dead. (after all, am I not sharing this point-of-view in a Blog :-)) In fact, even though the aforementioned survey points to a decline in the use of Blogs, it is my opinion that part of the reason for a reduction in Blogging may be due to some basic factors like time constraints on all of us. It takes a whole lot less time to compose a 140 character Tweet than it does to compose a 300 - 400 word Blog post.
One key point that should not be lost in all of this is the fact that blog posting continues to play a key role in the development of quality searchable content around an relevant keywords. Thus, the marketer would be wise not to abandon blogs for the short form Social Media alternatives. In fact the savy marketer would be wise to pursue many of the varied forms of social media to engage with interested parties.
In summary, counter to the results of this recent University of Massachusetts survey, marketers would be wise to continue to embrace all forms of Social Media including the newly emerging platforms e.g. Google+. No marketer has a crystal ball to direct them to the proper mix of Social Media communications that will optimize one’s social media presence. Be smart and test the results of audience interaction and when the results of the interaction are clear narrow the focus on those social media channels that are maximizing performance.
Demand & Lead Generation: Is there a difference?
How many of us have used the terms ‘Lead Generation’ and ‘Demand Generation’? It almost seems like the two terms are frequently used synonymously. Point of fact, the terms are different.
Lead Generation - The term is often expressed in terms that describe the ‘sales readiness’ of a prospect, such as:
Need: The prospect has a need/problem that can be solved by the products and/or services offered by the company.
Priority: Management decision-markers and influencers within the prospect company agree that the problem is real and needs to be addressed.
Budget: The prospect company has a budget to address the need.
Timing: The prospect organization is interested in addressing the need within the window of time that the seller is interested in generating sales.
Demand Generation, on the other hand, tends to look a bit further upstream in the customer buying process. Demand generation has at its heart the premise that the prospect may not yet be aware that a need/problem even exists. It assumes that the prospective buyer must first be alerted to, or educated about, a particular need in their business before any effective sales process can begin. The follow-on step in demand generation is then to communicate that the need/problem can best be addressed by the enterprise that is doing the educating.
In summary, Lead Generation tends to focus on the qualification criteria of customer Need, Priority, Budget, and Timing, whereas the focus of Demand Generation is on heightening the AWARENESS as to a possible need/problem that can be solved by the seller’s product/service.
So, the next time you hear or read the terms Lead Generation or Demand Generation give some thought as to what the enterprise is looking to achieve. Is the issue a short-term fix to new business development, or is the business development strategy a bit more sophisticated and focused on building an ongoing flow of prospective new customers and/or expanding existing customer relationships.
Blogging Takes on Greater Importance in Social Media
According to an article published this past week by MarketingProfs, seven in ten brands (70%) say they plan to increase their presence across social media platforms in 2012, while 59% plan to boost the frequency of social content publishing, according to a survey from Awareness, Inc.
What’s more, in the year ahead, many brands, plan to focus efforts beyond the big three platforms (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn) and expand their reach into multiple social marketing channels.
The biggest gain in social media investments will be in blogging. Among the 320 marketers surveyed in the Awareness, Inc. study, 28% indicated that they would be further investing blogging in 2012. This amount is on top of the 57% that indicate that they already are actively blogging to support their brands. This indicated change is the single largest move forward in social media investment of any of the social platforms. At this rate, 85% of marketers will be participating in blogging by the end of 2012.
So, what does this all mean?
Among other social media investment priorities, the management and monitoring of social media is becoming more critical: 50% of brands plan to improve social media management processes and tools in 2012, while 40% plan to focus on monitoring social channels.
Three points to consider:
RESOURCE ALLOCATION - The opportunity to better leverage social media requires resources, both in terms of management time and attention, as well as staff support to develop and post content. In the case of blogging, composing quality blog posts of between 300 and 400 words requires proper research and writing composition to make for content that is worth reading.
QUALITY OVER QUANTITY - In our world of 24 hour news cycles, everyone is inundated with content, some good, some not-do-good, some valuable, some not-so-much. Although blogging, represents an excellent means to share ideas and information beyond the proverbial 140 character Tweet, it does pose a challenge to deliver quality content, and not merely more ‘text noise’. For the marketer, blogging represents a perfect informal means to share thoughts and ideas and stimulate dialogue with customers and prospects. However, just because the social channel is easily accessed does not mean that the marketer doesn’t have a responsibility to put forth well-thought-out, quality posts.
SEO & MEASUREMENT - A final point to consider is that blog content is ripe for supporting search engine optimization (SEO). Done right, blogging that focuses on optimized content behind a marketer’s keywords can lend to highly supportive element to help drive quality traffic to the marketer’s website for interaction and conversion.
In summary, in 2012 blogging will be taking on even greater importance in the mix of social media. Because of its longer text format, blogging lends itself to a means of delivering quality rich content. In short, blogging provides yet one more mechanism to engage customers, prospects and various stakeholders to deliver meaningful marketing communications.
Content Marketing Delivers Value in More Ways than One
Wikipedia defines Content Marketing as a term that encompasses all marketing communications formats that involve the creation or sharing of content for the purpose of engaging current and potential customers. Organizations that employ Content Marketing subscribe to the notion that delivering high quality, relevant information to prospects and customers stimulates profitable customer behavior. Content marketing has benefits in terms of retaining reader attention and improving brand loyalty. Beyond the marketing communications value of Content Marketing, this strategy also contributes mightily to elevating an organization’s web content in search (SEO).
Although Content Marketing covers a myriad of delivery vehicles from websites to landing pages, emails and whitepapers, one timely and relevant communications vehicle for Content Marketing is blogs. Beyond the ability of blogs to deliver content that aids in establishing a 2-way dialogue on subjects of interest to customer and prospect audiences, blogs also provide an effective means of driving higher organic search rankings. Irrespective of whether your organization is marketing a product, a service or a cause as in the case of philanthropic non-profits, Content Marketing through blogs can be an instrumental communications channel to aid in achieving an organization’s marketing objectives. The following are 3 guiding principals to consider when developing a Content Marketing strategy and blog content.
• Be Relevant – make sure that the content of your blog not only supports the marketing communications goals of your organization, but from a reader perspective, the content of the blog posts need to be relevant to the audience(s) that your attempting to reach.
• Be Consistent & Frequent – with the tsunami of content presented daily on the Internet (Case in point, according to statistics reported by YouTube, 48 hours of video content is uploaded every minute, resulting in nearly 8 years of content uploaded every day.) In the face of this barrage of content, it is imperative that marketers frequently and consistently present content that is focused on subjects of interest to both your customers and prospects.
• Be Interactive – the strength of the Internet is found in the inherent interactive nature of this digital communications channel. Gone are the days of one-way communications. Content marketing done well will elicit response and dialogue with both customers and prospects that will support the marketing and sales processes.
Content marketing and the use of blogs as a key component of a comprehensive content marketing strategy is just one more arrow in the marketer’s quiver to effectively communicate and stimulate the desired behavior of customers and prospects alike.
So, You think Direct Mail is Dead...Well You're Dead Wrong.
According to DMA 2011 Statistical Fact Book a catalog lead costs $47.61, while email comes in at $53.85 per lead, and, what is more, the response rate to direct mail has consistently been three times higher than email.
Still not convinced direct mail is alive and kicking? When going through your office mail, what's the likelihood of you or your assistant opening a Priority Mail piece as opposed to throwing the piece in the circular file. I suspect that that mail piece gets opened and read. Direct mail still has its place in the marketing mix.
Here Are 3 Reasons Why Direct Mail is Still Alive and Kicking.
Reason #1: Direct Mail Provides Valuable Information
Marketers can provide a whole lot more information in a direct mail package than can be included in an email, a banner ad or a keyword ad. And what's more if the direct mail piece is highly informative and relevant, your target is very likely to review the material keep it around to refer to time and again.
Reason #2: Direct Mail Done Right Can be Interactive.
Just like an email message, direct mail can be interactive! When a direct mail piece incorporates a PURL (personalized URL), your recipient can plug that PURL into their browser and be taken to a customized, personalized and highly relevant landing page to deliver a tailored message while at the same time capture some valuable customer and/or prospect information.
Reason #3: Direct Mail Can Be Highly Targeted.
Effective direct mail begins with a quality list. That list may be a quality customer list targeting the 'right' customers, with the 'right' message at the 'right' time. Executed well this is targeted direct mail. From a prospecting perspective, smart list development will begin with an accurate profiling and segmentation analysis of the customer file. Segmentations can be demographic/firmographic, or psychographic/attitudinal, geographic and combinations of each. Lists can be broken down by geographic location, age, gender, usage and purchase behavior and values and lifestyles.
Direct mail is far from dead, and well executed direct mail can be a highly effective component to a fully integrated online and offline marketing mix.
Optimizing Your Email Campaigns
Are you getting the most out of your email marketing efforts?
No different than direct mail, if you're not providing your audience with relevant content, at the right time, you're likely missing opportunity to engage your audience in valuable one-to-one dialogue.
What's more if you're not segmenting your target audience in such a way that you're speaking to all customers/prospects in the same way, you're apt to be missing out on opportunities to deliver relevant messages/offers to the most receptive of segments. Before you set out on your next email marketing campaign take some time to give some serious thought to the content of your message and what information/offers that you're sharing with each of your customer/prospect segments.
Another, key consideration is that of FREQUENCY. There is no rule of thumb here. The frequency of your messages and/or offers has more to do with how valuable is your information and/or offer to the target audience based on where they are in relationship with your organization. You'll find some segments of your target audience that will find value in being contacted every week, every other week or some may want to be contacted once a month with relevant messages and/or offers. An easy test of the value that your various audience segments derive from your email communications is in the open rates, click throughs and yes, opt-outs. It's a hard lesson to learn, but seeing a growing percentage of opt-outs is a sure sign of a failure to deliver relevant content with the right level of frequency.
No two people are alike and no two customer segments are going to be interested in the same message or frequency of messages. Get targeted to Get Results!
Social Media: How Might Google+ Benefit the B2B Marketer
Speculation abounds as to just how Google+ will benefit B2B marketers. One interesting early perspective came from the UK. Doug Taylor, writing at Collier-Pickard's Insights blog, highlighted how three features of the new service could prove useful in the B2B realm. Just how might Google's latest offering improve the ability to more effectively target your posts, help solve problems as well as provide a platform for greater engagement?
Circles: According to Google, "Circles makes it easy to put your friends from Saturday night in one circle, your parents in another and your boss in a circle all on his own—just like in real life." According to Taylor, Circles "screams" advanced segmentation. "I can make tidy little segments like 'prospects' or 'leads' ... and make sure that they only see the messages that I want them to see," he says. Hangouts: "Until we perfect teleportation, it's the next best thing." Taylor recommends the Google+ video chat system for teamwork. "Clearly the business application for Hangouts is for teams to interact or present new information to one another quickly, efficiently and—most importantly of all—face-to-face," he says. "Sales people could have quick face-to-face meetings with prospects or clients. The list goes on."
Sparks: "It looks for videos and articles that it thinks you'll like, so that when you're free there's always something to watch, read and share." While this feature is far from groundbreaking, it can still serve a useful B2B purpose, Taylor writes. "Ping your contacts and groups an interesting link on an area they're interested in and start a discussion. Engagement, you see."
Although still in test mode (with supposedly more than 20 million individuals participating in the beta testing of Google+), there will likely be an opportunity to leverage Google's new application for channel partner/distributor communications, sales people, and importantly one's clients/customers. One more opportunity to enhance communications across all pertinent audiences.
The Value of Direct Mail - It Delivers...
Unlike traditional advertising e.g. broadcast TV, print, radio etc., direct mail, by it's very nature, is delivered to the target audience in an uncluttered manner to a target audience who is most likely to respond to the advertiser's message (assuming that the advertiser has done his/her job of understanding who their best customers are and how to then mirror those characteristics in the general population.
What's more, direct mail is highly measurable. In 2009, marketers, both commercial and non-profit, spent over $149 billion in direct marketing which accounted for over 54% of all ad expenditures in the U.S. Measured against total U.S. sales, these advertising expenditures generated in excess of $1.73 trillion dollars in sales according to a 2010 study conducted by the DMA.
So, the message is clear, irrespective of your company's product or service offering, it is very likely that direct mail can make a positive impact on your bottom line and do so in a manner that maximizes the return on your marketing investment. Even in today's world of electronic communications, direct mail still has a place in the marketing mix.
What do we mean by leveraging Social Media?
Rightly so, social media continues to be discussed and broadly implemented by today's businesses. No longer is the conversation about how many followers Aston Kutcher has today (He hit the 1 million mark back in April of 2009, and now has in excess of 7.1 million.) The conversations in marketing circles today is not only how might the marketer engage more followers, but to what end. In other words, what is our marketing objective. It may be to generate awareness for the brand, or engaging the followers to promote brand sales.
To properly leverage an organization's social media presence, there must be a clear set of objectives and a strategy to integrate the element of social into the entire fabric of the marketing mix. Additionally, a sound social media plan must carry with it specific metrics by which the contribution of social media can be measured. For although social media doesn't have a true media dollar expenditure placed against it as does traditional media e.g. television, print etc, it is far from free. Think of the time and talented resources that are placed against an organization's social media initiative. An organization's human resources do not come FREE. Time devoted to monitoring and contributing to the social exchange is time and resources that are being taken away from other tasks and activities that could be performed by the organization's staff.
Take time to plan your firm's marketing efforts and give proper consideration as to how social media will contribute to the mix. And too, don't fail to track and measure the contribution of social media to achieving the organization's marketing/business objectives. Knowing the return on investment for social media will afford the management team the ability to assess its value and provide strategic direction as to where future investments of time and expert resources should best be placed.
The Better the Integration...The Better
We continue to read and hear much about the power of integration in marketing. So what is it all about. The answer is quite simple. Integration of marketing communications (preferably 2-way communications) is all about leveraging each of the unique communications channels to ultimately improve the overall effectiveness of the marketing communications effort.
It has become an almost over-used phrase, but it is one that captures the essence of marketing communications, and that is to be able to reach the 'right' audience at the 'right' time with the 'right' message, and now the 4th dimension, with the 'right' media channels that defines the success of marketing communications.
The growth in adoption of Social Media for both B2B and B2C marketers is one of our newest channels of communication. One of the unique characteristics of Social Media is that the marketer has turned over the conversation to its audience, such that the audience is now in control of the message, and in large part is driving the conversation. The challenge of Social Media for the marketer is to help guide and direct the flow of conversation. Much like the levees of a mighty river, the marketer must ensure that the strength of those levees are maintained all the way to the sea. When the conversation gets out of hand and the levees are breached there's no controlling the outcome. Mind those levees...
What's the Strategy Behind Integrated Marketing?
You've likely heard the old advertising axiom of "delivering the 'right' message to the 'right' audience at the 'right' time."
Well, its clear today that in the digital age of marketing that there is one more consideration when constructing an effective integrated marketing communications strategy. That consideration is to ensure that you're utilizing the 'right' communications channels (and combinations of channels), to reach the target audience.
This is where a well-conceived integrated marketing communications strategy comes into play to ensure that the proper combinations of both online and offline communications are employed, in an integrated manner to accomplish the marketing objectives.
A key step in developing this integrated marketing communications strategy is to begin with an accurate understanding as to how your target audience consumes information. Is your target engaging in social meda? If so, you better make sure that social is part of the mix. If your message bears some explaining and you have a clean and up-to-date customer/prospect database, you may find that the testing of direct mail is a prudent move as a component to the marketing mix.
Whatever, you decide to be the potentially optimum mix of marketing communications elements, you'll be wise to test, test, test, and test again. Through the testing process, you'll likely find that a certain combination of communications elements will work well with one or more segments of your customer/prospect universe, while another combination of elements will be more effective at achieving your marketing objectives with yet other segments.
Just keep in mind the concept of 'RIGHT to the 4th Power', delivering the 'right' message, to the 'right' audience, at the 'right' time with the 'right' combination of communications channels and you'll soon discover that developing a sound integrated marketing strategy that maximizes the return on your marketing investment begins with an accurate understanding of the customer, and how they interact with your brand.
...more to follow.
What is it about Integrated Marketing?
How often have you been in conversation (virtual or face-to-face) with a marketer and the words 'integrated marketing' floated into the conversation? Have you stopped to ask then ask yourself or that marketer friend or associate of yours what is meant by the words 'integrated marketing'.
If you turn to Wikipedia you'll find the definition: 'the coordination and integration of all marketing communications tools, avenues (channels), functions and sources within a company into seamless program that maximizes the impact on consumers and other users at a minimal cost.' Said differently, INTEGRATED MARKETING brings together the 'right' messaging to reach the 'right' audience at the 'right' time with the 'right' combination of media channels, both online and offline to realize a maximum return on investment.
Sound good? Okay smart guy, how do you go about doing it. Maybe it's easier said than done, but the marketing has to start with a plan. That plan must begin with a clear and specific set of objectives. These objectives must quantify what it is at the end of the day that the marketer expects to achieve with his/her marketing plan.
We'll talk more on what's to follow in future posts. But until then, why don't you give some thought to those specific and quantifiable marketing objectives that you plan to achieve.
More to follow...
Setting & Executing the Integrated Marketing Plan
Although most business executives and their marketing staffs have likely put in place a marketing plan for 2011, if you haven't done so at this point, now is the time to make it happen. After all, you can't get your business to where you want it to be without a well-conceived plan. And today with the multi-channels of communications from traditional advertising to email, mobile and social media, it takes time to give thoughtful consideration as to how best to reach the "right" audiences with the 'right' message, at the 'right' time, with the 'right' channels of integrated communications.
More and more today, successful marketers are constructing integrated marketing plans and leveraging new media to achieve their business/marketing objectives while at the same time maximizing their return on marketing investment. Some may question the value of a strong marketing push in the face of a tough economy, I argue that there is no time like now to gear up for the new year to make the most of 2011 and the years to follow, by placing your business a step ahead of the competition by developing and executing a sound integrated marketing plan.
However, constructing a well-conceived plan is but the first step. Once you have a plan then the hard work comes in to play with the execution of the plan. How many times have you either heard or been a part of an organization that spends considerable time talking about what they are going to do, but many times fall short when it comes to the execution of the tactics. Today with the advent of social media and online communications, managing all of the moving pieces and parts for the marketing plan is often a challenge. (In a recent study by the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth Center for Marketing, in a survey of 500 companies 86% of the executives interviewed indicate that social media is either "very important" or "somewhat important" to their overall marketing strategy.)
Often the evolving online tactics are beyond the capabilities of today's marketing organization, particularly the case for mid-size companies. Tapping resources outside of the organization for the required expertise can work in the early stages, but in time, some of the expertise will need to reside within the enterprise.
Social media is a prime example. We read and hear much today of organizations that are embarking on social media campaigns, but yet do not have the right people in the right places in the organization to execute the effort. When it comes to communicating the voice/personality of the organization, beyond the management staff that sets the strategic course, there needs to be people in the trenches that understand the strategy and are able to think for themselves and stay the course of the strategic direction for the organization's social media presence. This "in the trenches" talent can be developed, but like most specialized skills, it requires education and training on a continuous basis to be effective. Like most disciplines in an organization, whether the requirement is the ongoing execution of a social media strategy, or the design and execution of a customer focused email marketing program, an organization's management team need to ask themselves of the required disciplines what is a required core competency and what can we outsource, both for the near-term and potentially long-term. Crossing this bridge will help marketing organizations effectively determine what positions are needed within the company, and what can we look source outside of the organization to effectively design and execute their integrated marketing campaigns.