Tag Archives: Pam Alvord

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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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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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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Baking and Marketing, the Fundamentals Are the Same

Forget about decking the halls, fighting the mall crowds, or even singing carols (at least in public); for me, the holiday season has always been about baking.  This year, as I fired up my trusty red KitchenAid mixer on Black Friday, I was struck by the similarities between baking and good marketing.

1. Start with a Recipe

Sure, a little experimentation is great now and then, but make sure the basics are in place before you deviate from the core direction.  A marketer’s impulsive cry of “We need to be on Twitter” or “Get me more Facebook likes” is the baking equivalent of “Let’s just toss in some peanut butter.” It might be great or it might just ruin the whole thing.

2. Use the Right Tools

Whether your favorite spatula, grandmother’s measuring spoons, or the perfectly shaped pan, the right tools are critical.  For marketing, this might be a promotional offer, a blog, or a brand campaign – any of them might be effective, as long as they aid in the execution of the recipe (or for marketers, the strategy).

3. Measurement Is Key

If Google analytics, conversion metrics, social media mentions, and net promoter scores are the ounces, pounds, cups, and tablespoons of marketing, then your scorecard is the final taste test.  Did you earn 5 stars or 3?  Without measurement, you won’t know where you stand or if you have improved.

4. Don’t Overlook Simplicity

A single ingredient is rarely great on its own (I can’t be the only one who has fallen victim to the captivating smell of vanilla, only to recoil in horror after tasting it).  And the layered flavors of multiple ingredients sure can be tasty, but simple is magical.   Who would imagine that something as exquisite as a meringue could come from the combination of egg whites, sugar, and a touch of vanilla?  Bakers and marketers alike would benefit from focusing less on the number of elements and more on the way in which they are combined.

5. Offer Only Your Best

No amount of presentation can cover up bad execution.  Even if your guests don’t say anything, they will notice if you scrimped on the sugar, didn’t bake it long enough, or tried to cover the burned pieces with frosting.  So don’t be afraid to start over or bring in the experts to ensure that you can confidently stand behind anything that you serve.

The annual strategic planning timeline for most companies aligns nicely with holiday baking season.  Coincidence?  Perhaps not . . .

–Pam Alvord, EVP Chief Brand Strategist

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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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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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10 Reasons Why Marketing Is Like a Road Trip

As families everywhere scramble to squeeze in the last days of vacation before school starts, I am struck by the parallels between the iconic family road trip and the wonderful world of marketing.

With homage to David Letterman . . .

#10:     Before you put the key in the ignition, be sure everyone agrees on where you want to go.

#9:       Map your route and check periodically to be sure you haven’t gone off course.

#8:       No vehicle is large enough to accommodate everything you want to take with you.

#7:       Expect someone to ask “Are we there yet?” long before you reach your destination.

#6:       Changing course when you hear “Are we there yet?” will only prolong the trip and wreak havoc with your schedule.

#5:       That strange noise you hear just won’t go away, no matter how much you ignore it.

#4:       If someone says they don’t feel right, it is best to stop, take a minute and find out what’s wrong.

#3:       Never underestimate the power of plentiful snacks and well-timed “bio” breaks.

#2:       There is never enough time or money to do everything you want to do.

And finally, the #1 way that marketing is like a road trip . . .

#1:       It is always easier to criticize the person behind the wheel than to actually drive yourself.

— Pam Alvord, EVP, Chief Brand Strategist

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