Tag Archives: marketing

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

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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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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Holiday card selection underscores the importance of segmentation

Being a strategist, writing holiday cards is always a bit more complex for me than the average person.  I am driven to sort, segment and select:

  • Finding a card with a nativity scene for your most religious Christian friends
  • Sending an image of Jolly Ole St. Nick for kids and people who celebrate Christmas in a more secular fashion
  • Ensuring Jewish friends get a blue menorah and Hanukkah greetings (usually sent early, so as not to miss the holiday altogether)
  • Thinking I might need a Kwanzaa card, or at least one with a non-Judeo-Christian message
  • Offering Peace on Earth to those who categorize themselves as spiritual more than religious
  • Avoiding wishes for a Happy Healthy New Year to those with long-term health issues
  • Compromising with snowmen, snowflakes and other winter scenes for everyone else

This year’s round of holiday greeting segmentation got me thinking.  Do most marketers make this much effort to recognize different audiences and message to their needs?  Or do they send the marketing equivalent of a card that simply reads Happy Holidays – non-offensive, but also absent any insight or deep relevance to the recipient?

May I suggest a New Year’s Resolution for most marketers out there?    Take another look at your target audience and ask:  Who are they?  What drives them?  And how does my product/service align with what’s important to them?

It just might lead to a more segmented, personalized marketing plan; one that engages and motivates your target in new and powerful ways.

— Pam Alvord, EVP, Chief Brand Strategist

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Filed under advertising, Engagement

Social Media doesn’t mean traditional word of mouth is dead

These days, it seems we can’t make a purchase decision on our own.   We literally have the world at our fingertips, and can seek out the opinions of like-minded individuals, subject-matter experts or data aggregators before we pull the trigger.

In fact, there’s so much talk that some speculate it has watered down the impact of buzz or chatter about a brand.  We “like” things at a frenzied pace, we post and comment, tweet and re-tweet, subscribe and forward.  But as volume increases, so does our desire for more, and our need to know what others think.

Consider these stats from independent research studies conducted earlier this year:

  • When asked what sources “influence your decision to use or not use a particular company, brand or product,” 71 percent claim reviews from family members or friends exert a “great deal” or “fair amount” of influence.
  • 53 percent of people on Twitter recommend companies and/or products in their Tweets, with 48 percent of them delivering on their intention to buy the product.
  • The average consumer mentions specific brands more than 90 times per week in conversations with friends, family, and coworkers.

If you don’t trust statistics, just think about the power of word of mouth (WOM) when something bad happens with a brand.  In this age of social media, word travels so fast that damage can be done in a matter of minutes.   As Winston Churchill put it, “A lie will travel half way around the world before the truth even has a chance to put its pants on.”

So, WOM is powerful.  But what exactly constitutes a WOM program? The Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) has been kind enough to provide a list of 11 types of programs:

  1. Buzz Marketing: Using high-profile entertainment or news to get people to talk about your brand.
  2. Viral Marketing: Creating entertaining or informative messages that are designed to be passed along in an exponential fashion, often digitally or by e-mail.
  3. Community Marketing: Forming or supporting niche communities that are likely to share interests about the brand (e.g., user groups or fan clubs) and providing content for them.
  4. Grassroots Marketing: Organizing and motivating volunteers to engage in personal or local outreach.
  5. Evangelist Marketing: Cultivating evangelists, advocates, or volunteers who are encouraged to take a leadership role in actively spreading the word on your behalf.
  6. Product Seeding: Placing the right product into the right hands at the right time, providing information or samples to influential individuals.
  7. Influencer Marketing: Identifying key communities and opinion leaders who are likely to talk about products and have the ability to influence the opinions of others.
  8. Cause Marketing: Supporting social causes to earn respect and support from people who feel strongly about the cause.
  9. Conversation Creation: Interesting or fun advertising, e-mails, catch phrases, entertainment, or promotions designed to start word-of-mouth activity.
  10. Brand Blogging: Creating blogs and participating in the blogosphere; sharing information of value that the blog community may talk about.
  11. Referral Programs: Creating tools that enable satisfied customers to refer their friends.

Some may argue that not all these programs should fall under the WOM umbrella.  I would argue that it really doesn’t matter.  Programs like these will get people talking about your brand.  And the more people are talking, the more opportunities you are creating to sell!

— Ellen Repasky, SVP, Account Director

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Engagement the Steve Jobs Way

Carmine Gallo recently summarized 10 key takeaways from his book The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs:  How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience.  As I read them, I was struck by how well these guidelines apply to the development of engaging marketing messages.

  1. Plan in Analog
  2. For marketers, this is an endorsement of the simple tissue session.  Nothing separates big ideas from tactical one-offs faster than a stack of paper and a supply of Sharpies.

  3. Create a Twitter-Friendly Description
  4. Challenge yourself to clearly communicate your message in 140 characters.  The MacBook Air undoubtedly has numerous attributes, but Steve Jobs simply promised, “The world’s thinnest notebook.”

  5. Introduce the Antagonist
  6. Every good story needs a hero and a villain.  While your marketing campaign may never feature your villain as boldly as Mac does, a clear understanding of your antagonist is a powerful way to ensure your brand is positioned as the hero.

  7. Focus on Benefits
  8. Most brands use laundry lists of features to promote their product or service.  However, people are more likely to be motivated by benefits that address their problems.

  9. Stick to the Rule of Three
  10. Three is simply easier to remember than four, six, or eleven.  Plus, three has inherent drama; just ask any playwright or comedian.

  11. Sell Dreams, Not Products
  12. Most products are swiftly becoming commoditized.  Even truly revolutionary products are not likely to stay that way for long.  What can a marketer do?  Build emotional connections.  They last longer and even can transcend a misstep or two

  13. Create Visual Slides
  14. For marketers, this means looking beyond product photography.  Macs are beautifully designed, yet they don’t appear in the Mac vs. PC television campaign.  Instead, the personification of each brand establishes visual imagery far more powerful than what even the most beautiful product shots could have created.

  15. Make Numbers Meaningful
  16. Numbers often need context if you want people to truly understand them.  Communicating that it only takes one dollar a day to feed a starving child certainly puts a different perspective on the plea for a $365 annual donation.

  17. Use Zippy Words
  18. Adopt powerful language.  Ban the buzzwords.  Even create your own terminology.  Thanks to marketing, terms like scrubbing bubbles, ring around the collar and wassup are universally understood (and strongly associated with the brands that created them).

  19. Reveal a “Holy Smokes” Moment
  20. The creative brief might call it the net takeaway, the single most important idea, or the insight.  Call it whatever you want, just make sure that it is dramatic, motivating, and powerfully represented in your final creative product.

Steve Jobs’s final presentation tip is to practice – practice a lot.  For marketers this means to continually test, measure, evaluate, and optimize.  If not, our fate will be Einstein’s definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.

— Pamela J. Alvord, EVP Chief Brand Strategist

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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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