If It Ain’t Broke… Then Just Enhance It

I recently returned from the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA)  trade show in San Francisco for our client Manheim.  We repurposed last year’s “sports lounge” booth, enhancing a few key elements.  Why would we want to use the same sports lounge concept from last year?  Well, it worked.  How do we know it worked?  We looked at the results.

We didn’t just look at anecdotal comments from industry leaders such as Kathy Jackson of Automotive News, who stated in her blog, “They really had it going on at the Manheim booth – sports bar with lots of flat screen TVs and free beer, wine, soft drinks and nuts.  You would have thought you were on the set of ‘Cheers.’  The bar was packed.”  We also looked at last year’s results, such as 800 unique attendees engaged at the booth for an average of 28 minutes per person.

So going into planning for this year’s trade show, the consensus was to go with what worked last year and aim to make it even better.  The primary goals were to increase the number of attendee engagements as well as time spent with the attendees.

First, we increased the size of the booth footprint, making the sports lounge 10 feet deeper.  Since the sports lounge was packed last year, we figured attendees may appreciate more seating and more elbow room.  And, oh yeah, we may be able to engage with even more attendees.

Second, we promoted the sports lounge with news racks near the trade show and pre-show e-blasts to dealers, promoting an NFL replica football giveaway.

Third, we secured and branded a nearby sports bar with 31 interior and exterior window banners, two continuously looped, closed-circuit television spots, napkins and cups.  We invited attendees to join Manheim and watch the “Big Game” between the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers on February 6th after the trade show.  There, we gave away more footballs, iPod touches and iPads.

The results:

  • An increase in unique engagements over last year, from 800 to 1,150.
  • An increase in average time spent in-booth with attendees, from 28 minutes to 32 minutes.
  • Engagement with more than 350 attendees for an average of THREE-PLUS hours at the off-site sports bar.

So what does it all mean?  First, by establishing measurement criteria up front and looking at results, you can evaluate program-to-program performance objectively.  Second, even if previous results were good, they can always be better.  Third, you may not need to reinvent the wheel to drive results.  And finally, people like free beer and sports.

Gary Sayers, Vice President, Account Director

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Filed under advertising, Customer Experience, Engagement, Measurement, Trade Show

Making Your Customers Comfortable

A big part of what makes the online arena attractive to marketers is the ability to engage customers and potential customers in a variety of ways. The most important “engagement” aspect, however, is a user’s experience with the site. If a site is cumbersome and not user-friendly, people aren’t going to spend a lot of time trying to navigate through what is fast becoming a bad experience for them.

Add to that the aspect of being asked to register, and most users will alter their behavior as a result.  A recent study by Janrain in conjunction with Blue Research noted that:

  • 75% of consumers take issue with being asked to register on a website and will change their behavior as a result
  • 76% of consumers admit to giving false information or leaving forms incomplete when creating a new account
  • 54% will either leave the site or not return
  • 17% go to a different site

The research indicates that “…consumers are frustrated with the traditional online registration process and will favor brands that make it easy for them to be recognized.…”

One method that surfaced as a solution to being recognized was being able to sign in using an existing social media log-in such as from Facebook, Google, Twitter, or LinkedIn. Two-thirds (66%) of consumers said that this would be an “attractive solution to the problem.” Of this 66%:

  • 42% feel that companies who offer this are more up to date, innovative and leave a more positive impression.
  • 55% say they are more likely to return to a site that automatically recognizes them
  • 48% say they are more likely to make a purchase

Making your site user-friendly goes a long way in your effort to keep customers engaged. Listen to what your customers tell you about your site. They spend the most time there. Make their time on your site beneficial for both them and you. Like most things in life, people use things that they are familiar with and make them the most comfortable. Sometimes that’s a website, and most times that’s your customer.

— Dave Capano, EVP, Director of Connection Planning

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Engaging with the Big Game

There is no question that I will be engaged in the Super Bowl this weekend.  In fact, it has been on my radar for weeks.  The question is exactly how will I choose to engage?

  • Old School —  Just enjoy the game for the game’s sake.  As a native Pittsburgher with fond memories of the Steel Curtain, swirling terrible towels, and chanting “One for the Thumb,” it’s a logical choice.
  • Facebook Fanatic – Participating in the virtual cheers and jeers that are bound to continue between my Facebook friends who have been posting images of Steeler cheese graters, “Stairway to 7” slogans and other signs of their team affiliations for the past several weeks.
  • Professional – As a 20-year veteran of the advertising and marketing world, there is the obligation to analyze every commercial so that I am prepared to debate the winners and losers with family, friends and colleagues on Monday morning.
  • Twitter Tags – And there is always the appeal of the Twitter buffet of 140-character musings on everything from the plays, the refs, and the commercials to the Polamalu  vs. Matthews “Hair Bowl.”

The truth is, I will probably engage with the Super Bowl in all these ways, as each appeals to me on a different level.

As a marketer, it is also a good reminder that target audiences are multidimensional and will choose to engage with brands and messages in a variety of different ways with different expectations – sometimes all at the same time.  Communications plans need to be as multidimensional as they are.

Pamela J. Alvord – EVP, Managing Director of Strategy and Operations

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Filed under Ad Agencies, advertising, Customer Experience, Engagement, Social Media, Strategy

What will be hot in 2011?

More and more people are sharing their thoughts, receiving “up-to-the-minute” news updates, and taking advantage of deals and promotions from businesses. The idea being that if you receive it, then you can share it.

In addition to sharing thoughts, news, and promotions, people have begun to share their location by “checking in,” alerting followers to their whereabouts. Often using mobile devices to check in, these programs use GPS technology to share your location with others. Tap your device to check in when you patronize a business or arrive at a certain location, and your location is immediately shared. This type of sharing seems to be popular, as Foursquare, a location-based social networking site, logged more than 380 million check-ins, and grew 3,400% in 2010.

Mobile applications allow consumers to be in two places at once. It’s simply not enough to target your consumer in the store. In addition to the offline communication, one must penetrate the online market and connect directly with the consumer. Signage in your store to promote a new product must coincide with communication on a mobile app offering a discount. The ability to scan barcodes for that night’s ball game tickets can also be used to promote the concert that will be held at the same venue next week.

What do you think is going to be a hot trend in 2011? And, how will you break through the clutter?

— Jonathan Ginburg, Sr. Account Executive

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Marketing in the New “Mocial” Environment

The marketing buzzword of 2011 will likely be “mocial” – the convergence of mobile and social media.  Mobile technology encompasses speed and accessibility, and social media enables people to stay connected.  Merging the two fits today’s new cultural communications environment, where time and attention reign supreme.

Most brand managers understand the power of social media and have incorporated at least one social media tool to communicate with customers.  This is definitely a step in the right direction.  Seventy-five million of Facebook’s 500 million customers follow at least one brand or company, and nearly 50% of Twitter’s 190 million do the same.

Meanwhile, the use of mobile devices has grown exponentially, and recent statistics prove that mobile users are much more likely to engage in social media.  Currently, there are more than 200 million users accessing Facebook through their mobile devices, and these users are twice as active on Facebook compared to non-mobile users.

Building a personal relationship via mobile is a surefire way to influence customers and their buying behavior.  The power of mocial is the ability to reach people at key decision-making moments.  A Harris Interactive poll recently showed that of consumers who receive some form of permission-based text marketing from a company, 34% said the messages have made them more likely to visit the venue and 27% more likely to make a purchase.

Mocial marketing offers an opportunity for a company to interact with customers, rewarding them when they visit your location to make you aware of their interest in your products or service.  Other ways to engage customers include: discounting/couponing, instant feedback, interactive competitions and flash events.

Domino’s Pizza is one company that has capitalized on mocial marketing and reaped the benefits.  It attributes a 29% increase in 2010 pre-tax profits to an effective use of promotions on Foursquare.  Companies that follow in the footsteps of Domino’s Pizza and put a sound strategy behind mocial have an opportunity to make significant financial gains of their own in 2011.

— Debbie Dryden, VP, Thought Leadership

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Surviving the Social Media Storm

It snowed in Atlanta this week.

To a native Atlantan, that statement deserves a line on its own. Once “Winter Weather Advisory” is heard, people flock to grocery stores to prepare for the worst. An innocent bystander unaware of how much snow was on the horizon may think that Atlanta was about to be hit with enough snow to collapse the Georgia Dome. Instead, we only got 5 inches. But again…

It snowed in Atlanta this week.

And I mention this because snow in Atlanta can be as foreign to Southerners as social media is to marketing executives with little experience online.

Grocery stores are mob scenes before it snows. People don’t know what they need or how much they need; they just know they want it. And the same can be said about social media. Many companies know about social media. They know they want to use it, but they don’t know what, or how, or why. Without a plan or a goal in mind, social media results will just fall flat.

Now that it’s 2011, more and more companies are finding the need to use social media. And yet, some still don’t know why.

My suggestion? Stop thinking about Social Media as MEDIA. It should really be called Online Interaction. Accounts are created to strengthen the communication with customers. Yet, companies are creating accounts without thinking of how to get the most benefit from it. A marketer would never say, “We need to be on TV,” without knowing what kind of ROI would justify spending that much money. Before jumping into the latest fad of Online Interaction, take a minute to map out the purpose for being online, be it to establish dialogue with those already engaged with the brand, or to provide customer service to those seeking it.

And, while trying to figure out the purpose, establish goals for what being online will accomplish. Is there a desire to have comments posted about what is posted? Will there be an opportunity to talk with the consumer in order to establish dialogue? If Web traffic is increased, what should these new visitors do on the company site that will result in a positive return for being online? Let this new online interaction be an open door to further the consumer experience.

Once the purpose and goals are set in place, share it with employees. Let employees talk about it on their own online accounts. If there is a strong purpose with clear goals in place, but poor promotion of the online existence, then results will be weak. This may sound silly, but an online interaction continuously feeds off of, just that, interaction online. And the more that fellow colleagues can develop, the better the results.

Establishing a strong presence online is an ongoing process. Companies cannot create an account and leave it, hoping that friends, followers, and fans will continue to build. This is done through a constant stream of discussion. Once that has been established on the big three (Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube), explore new ways to connect with the audience. The age of Social Media is only 6-7 years old, so the “right” way for a soft-drink company may not be the best way for a shoe company. By experimenting with different sites (GoWalla, Digg, Flickr, Friendstr, Groupon, etc.) the online interaction may prove even more suitable than Facebook.

Social Media isn’t new, and is always changing. But having a plan, setting goals ahead of time, and letting fellow employees participate will increase the results of social media efforts. And it won’t feel like you’re scrapping around like we do down South due to winter storm warnings.

— Jonathan Ginburg, Sr. Account Executive

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