Tag Archives: business

Communications plan or connections plan. Using connection planning to target and engage customers during the buying cycle.

When most marketers develop a communications plan, they start with their product or service, determining the target audience that represents the greatest revenue opportunity.  Smart marketers dig deeper to identify target insights, high-opportunity vertical segments or underdeveloped regions.

But if you want your marketing to go a step further and truly engage with customers, you should establish rich connections based on where they are in the purchase cycle.  This dimension is especially important if you are promoting a product with a long sales cycle, or a B2B brand.

For a prospect to consider selecting your brand, you must first establish a base level of knowledge and trust.  One quarter of the U.S. respondents to Edelman’s 11th Annual Trust Barometer indicated that they needed to hear something about a company 6+ times before they believe it.  Note that they said “hear,” not “be exposed to.”  With advertising exposure exceeding 3,000 messages per day, it is critical that marketers connect with prospects, rather than simply shout at them.

To start creating a connection plan, consider how your brand relates to prospects in each of these stages:

Unaware and Unengaged:  This is the largest, but also the most passive target group.  They have unmet needs, but have yet to begin actively looking for a solution.

Increasingly Interested:  This group has started to show interest in your category and may be attending trade shows, beginning to read relevant articles or looking for informational webinars.

Actively Searching:  Prospects who are actively searching are driven by a pressing need.  They are researching specific solutions and beginning to establish impressions of brands that best fit that need.

Confirming Credentials and Chemistry: This group is actively going through the RFP process (whether formal or not), narrowing their options and determining which brand has the right solution at the right price.

Establishing the Relationship:  Communications shouldn’t stop when the sale is made.  The value that current users place on the relationship will make or break both referrals and incremental sales.

By customizing the media and message to align with each of these stages in the purchase cycle, marketers will have the foundation for a powerful, multi-touchpoint connection plan.

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

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Checking the Press in a Digital Age

The digital press check can be markedly different than the traditional press check. In a majority of instances, you never have to leave your office. Here are some basic tips to follow to ensure that you’ll have a successful experience.

1) What You See Is What You Get – When you review a proof for a digital press job, you’ll be looking at an actual press sheet printed from the digital press. And this is a key difference between digital printing and traditional printing.  The digital press gives the printer the capability of showing you exactly what you can expect on the actual paper you’ll be printing on.  While some proofing systems can run on the actual paper and generally serve the same purpose, you would have to go on a press check to make sure you’re getting an accurate representation of your client’s material.  With digital printing, you can check the sheet at your desk.

2) I Can See Clearly Now – Just like any traditional press check, you should carefully check for all the basics like type, color, clarity, crop marks, and any other potential problem areas.  Since you’re checking an actual press sheet, use a set of the color printouts of the final file you sent to the printer – this will give you something to check against, just in case there was an issue with the file.

3) The Times They Are A-Changing – Digital printing is the perfect fit when you’re using variable data to reach your client’s prospects. Look at the position of the variable data to make sure it is consistent in placement. Ask your printer to bring you several different press sheets so you can see a variety of line lengths for the names, addresses, and any other area that changes.  Remember to watch for type that might reflow in a paragraph due to length of the variable data.

4) Every Picture Tells a Story, Don’t It – When you have to “color match” a digitally printed piece that was previously printed on a traditional press, ask your printer to run some test sheets so you can see if you need to make any file adjustments. You may encounter this situation from time to time, so it is worth the minimal expense to maintain your client’s brand integrity.

— Tim Kedzierski, Production Manager

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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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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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The five stages of social media grief. Or how I learned to stop worrying about the bomb.

In the last couple years, we in advertising and marketing have had to deal with a lot of what could be called destructive change. Part of this has been from the economy, and also a good deal has come from social media.

And as 2010 closes, it’s great to see how far we’ve made it as an industry with integrating social media into our practices. For those of us already there, it’s taken more than a few steps:

The first stage is denial. This denial usually isn’t that social media exists but that it has any relevance at all. People in stage one often say, “I don’t care what anyone had for breakfast.”

The second stage is anger. Most marketing managers feel that they already have enough on their plate; it’s only natural that a new, unwanted burden should, well, piss them off. You’ll hear people in stage two muttering about Facebook or putting expletives in front of the word Twitter.

The third stage is bargaining.  Bargaining often revolves around stakeholders trying to get someone else to handle the burden of responsibility. Hiring an intern often occurs in this stage.

The fourth stage is depression. This is when the responsibility is accepted and the burden of learning is taken on. Mood swings are a regular occurrence in this stage.  One minute, the griever is excited by the possibilities and the next overwhelmed by the sheer size of the space.

The fifth stage is acceptance. Once the learning curve starts to bend down, the depression starts to subside. You can easily recognize when someone is in this stage because this is when they start talking intelligently about integrating Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube into marketing plans. Because they can start to see the real benefits of this new form of engagement. This is when the grief ends and magic can finally begin to happen.

If you’re still working your way through these stages, don’t fret, you’ll get there. It’s part of the new marketing landscape, and the sooner we’re able to fully accept it the sooner we’ll reap its rewards.

— Jimmy Gilmore, Senior Copywriter

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It’s Déjà vu all over again

As long as I have been in this business, I’ve heard the saying, “There are no new ideas, only old ones recycled.” I think we’re seeing that played out again with regard to test marketing. A staple of the direct marketing industry, it had fallen out of use by other marketing disciplines in the ‘80s and ‘90s.

When I started in the agency business, testing was a priority for a number of accounts that the agency handled.

I’ll throw out a few terms: “Little U.S.” and “As-It-Falls” (which one coworker thought referred to an actual market in the Midwest called “Acid Falls”). These referred to the methodologies we media folk used so that results from any test could be projected to a larger area, most often the entire U.S.

Test markets were selected based on their ability to replicate what the U.S. as a whole looked like. Additionally, they needed to be smaller in geographic scope so as to limit out-of-pocket cost. A few of the more popular test markets were Fort Wayne, Green Bay, and Tucson.

As the business moved into the ‘80s, testing seemed like an afterthought. One of the reasons may have been that the cost of production started to increase dramatically, and running expensive spots in small, inexpensive test markets may have thrown the media cost/production cost ratio out of whack. In any event, I can’t remember a single brand that I worked on during that time that did any testing.  And I find that interesting, given the primary reason for any test is to limit financial exposure.

Fast forward to the turn of the century and the spread of the Internet, and what’s back in style is the concept of testing, analyzing, and optimizing. An idea whose roots are firmly entrenched in the earlier days of advertising is making its way back in a big way. And that’s a good thing.

Testing should be an integral part of any plan. The more we learn, the better we are, and the better our clients are as a result.

The advent of the Internet has only strengthened the case for testing. As I said at the beginning, “There are no new ideas, only old ones recycled.” But a good idea always has a place.

— Dave Capano, EVP, Director of Media Services

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