Tag Archives: Marketing and Advertising

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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Filed under advertising, Branding, Community, Compelling

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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Compelling is a matter of respect. Advertisers should show some of it.

Ever gone out to dinner with someone who constantly cuts you off to talk about themselves? Ever work next to someone who bores you with what they did over the weekend while you’re trying to work? Or maybe you have a mother-in-law who continuously explains to you how things are supposed to be done while you’re trying to finish your chores. You probably get the feeling these people don’t really care what you think. And you’d most likely be right.

So why do advertisers interrupt and bore their audience with monotonous, dumbed-down messages? Some advertisers think the public is an idiot and they’re hopeless. Some are simply testing only for brand recall and a few copy points and feel this works for them. And most likely they don’t see it as their responsibility to entertain you.

I’d like to propose that it is an advertiser’s responsibility to provide a well-crafted, compelling message that not only informs but also entertains. There is enough visual and aural pollution in the world already. Walk down a commercial street and you’re most likely looking at ugly signs, litter, billboards and transit advertising, and listening to noisy cars, buses, and music coming from storefronts. The world is a very tough place to win attention. http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview?id=56750

Back in 1970, in a famous book, sociologist Alvin Toffler warned of information overload (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Future_shock). Today, there is a lot more media in our lives, and the pace of change is rapid. Messages need to do more than break through clutter; they must stand out in a torrent of media, much of which is actually designed to be engaging.

So how can a brand compete? Two ways. With big, targeted, and expensive media buys. Or with smart, engaging content that people actually want to see. It’s obvious that there is a responsible choice here.

— Jimmy Gilmore, Senior Copywriter

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Embracing Measurement

As I have said before, with marketing being held to a higher standard, the days of running programs and hoping that they worked are over.  The old saying, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it” rings true today, more than ever.  Nearly every target interaction can be measured in some manner.

But how do your get your marketing team to embrace measurement?

If you truly want measurement and accountability to permeate your organization, it can’t be just lip service.  You must make a wholesale change and bake it into the DNA of your company.  It may sound difficult, but it isn’t that hard to do.  We’ve helped many of our clients implement analytics programs to track and improve the effectiveness of their marketing efforts.

Here are a few of the keys.  Make sure you…

  • Put your analytics plan in place prior to any implementation.
  • Get input and buy-in from senior management.
  • Measure the right things – the data points that tie back to your specific objectives and can truly have an impact on revenue.  In some instances, 2-3 items will suffice.  In other cases, you may need to track 10-15 items.  It is fine to track softer items (e.g., awareness, favorability), but it is also critical to develop mechanisms to track leads/engagement and hard business metrics.
  • Create a conversion funnel that, where possible, tracks all the data points from each customer interaction all the way through to revenue.
  • Develop a scorecard to track the data.
  • Assign the team members who will be responsible for each data point.
  • Set a reporting schedule… and stick to it.

Don’t be afraid of measurement.  Embrace it.  Your future may depend on it!

— Stephen Weinstein, Director of Account Management

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A Good Move for Goldman Sachs?

There has been a lot of hype surrounding the recent launch of Goldman Sachs’ advertising campaign.  The firm that has built a reputation for being a group of elitist “bad boys” wants to change its image.  Perhaps it was the reference to the firm as “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity” in a Rolling Stone article that caused the firm to act.  In any case, the most profitable U.S. securities firm in Wall Street history wants the public to know that it creates jobs and loves the small-business community.

The firm’s first ad appeared in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, and it has been reported that ads will follow in other daily papers across the country.  Initially, I was surprised that their first effort to “repair their image” was via a full-page ad in two of the nation’s costliest media outlets.   If the firm’s message is one of inclusion and engagement, hence the tagline, “Progress is everyone’s business,” why is Goldman Sachs choosing to limit its campaign to a one-way message rather than engage the public with an integrated campaign that includes social media and public relations tactics?

A Goldman Sachs spokesperson said the advertising campaign is meant to “reflect the work we do for clients and the effect on the economy as a whole.”  Writing and circulating stories about the work they’ve done, the jobs they’ve created, and the industries they’ve helped would bode well in social media and traditional public relations.  In today’s environment, these tactics can be the most powerful weapons in a marketing arsenal.

What do you think?  Is Goldman Sachs on the right track to repair its image?

— Debbie Dryden, VP, Thought Leadership

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Auditing your measurement will help you achieve success outside and inside your organization.

When was the last time you audited your marketing measurement program? We find that most marketers don’t do this enough. And when they do, they find they’ve run into obstacles at many critical data points during the evaluation process.

Why? I believe everyone’s intention to adequately measure the results of individual or collective programs starts out meaningful.  Who does not want to measure whether or not the marketing initiative actually yielded the desired result? But the difference we find is not in the intent, rather, it is in the delivery and integrity of the data.

Oftentimes, information has to come from sources outside the marketing department’s control. Like sales lead information. Or, the data from IT, which doesn’t exactly match up to a reportable statistic that verifies that the marketing initiative works. Thankfully, there are tools like Google Analytics that are able to inform the process such that it allows data gatherers to get reporting moving.  Often, though, it is only one step in the measurement chain.

Technology changes everything we do when it comes to the collection of relevant data. More sophisticated technologies can help a marketing group get a clear understanding of how the myriad of tools employed actually can connect to relevant activity.

Marketers must make auditing their measurement a priority. Not just for measuring the effectiveness of their campaign but for internal accountability and the promotion of marketing’s agenda. And because today’s executive team demands hard numbers.

Using business goals as a clear metric is key to success. Using softer measures often does not satisfy the folks upstairs. Making sure all are aligned to deliver data that suggests an investment in the marketing program was well worth it will ensure success when budget time comes around.

— Rena Kilgannon, Principal & CEO

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Filed under Ad Agencies, advertising, Measurement

Drowning in data? Start with a clear strategy to effectively measure your marketing.

Analytics, Dashboards, Scorecards, ROI – these are some of today’s hottest marketing buzzwords, yet the industry still struggles to achieve true accountability.  It’s not that we don’t aspire to it:

  • Increased accountability is a key aspect of the ANA’s Marketers’ Constitution
  • 31 percent of respondents to the CMO Council State of Marketing Study indicated that they intend to improve marketing performance measurement in the next year
  • Another 32 percent of study respondents said they will also be looking to upgrade customer data integration and analytics.

Marketers are not suffering from a lack of information – we’re drowning in Google Analytics reports, Webtrends data, Social Media sentiment charts, Facebook friends, CPCs, and CTRs.  The issue is more a lack of actionable insights.  Just because something can be quantified, doesn’t mean it is valuable.

Data and analytics are only as good as the objectives that drive them.  Data without strategy is nothing more than the analytics equivalent of an Oscar-winning Sally Fields (You like me, you really like me, or as she actually said, You like me, right now, you really like me.)

Effective measurement must start with clearly stated, strategic marketing objectives.  Your plan will be even more actionable if those objectives are quantifiable, realistic, and aligned with business goals.  Most marketers would benefit from thinking in terms of KPIs – Key Performance Indicators – because the language itself demands an articulation of the performance that is expected as a result of the marketing efforts.

So, how can marketers achieve their accountability goals in 2011?

  • Focus on strategy before diving into the data
  • Don’t assume that the information is valuable just because it is a number
  • Identify and measure the path from engagement through conversion
  • Hold yourself accountable to real business results

And finally, heed the warning of the Cheshire Cat, who said, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”

— Pam Alvord, VP, Chief Strategist

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