by Richard Fouts | May 17, 2013 | 1 Comment
Amplifying your story over digital media is what branding in the 21st century is all about – and it’s been a hugely disruptive trend.
When Larry Light was CMO of McDonalds he found parallels between marketers, editors and writers. Just as writers collaborate with their editors to develop the many facets of a story, marketers develop stories with their customers. Happy Meals was one outcome of Light’s storytelling exercise, convincing him that brand managers shouldn’t tell product stories, rather stories about the outcomes their products produce for customers. Mr. Light soon coined the term “brand journalism” to describe this new twist on brand communications.
In the digital age, opportunities to tell brand stories multiply. Buyers for example, freely share stories of their favorite brands everyday – by the thousands – so much that some pundits say marketers have ceded control of their story to others, whether they like it or not. This is hugely overstated. While we can’t control what customers say, we can certainly coach them.
Marketo for example, knows its story well – to help marketers generate high quality prospects; the type that convert to customers – faster. Some users say Marketo’s solution has accelerated their sales cycles two to three times. When this story plays out revenue accelerates and sales costs decline. And so, Marketo simply asks customers to tell their stories within this context. Customers happily comply (see Marketo’s video testimonials).
Brand managers at P&G, Starbucks, BMW and Mercedes have all gotten hip to this storytelling idea, coaching customers to share their own experience, within the context of the company’s brand promise. Look on any auto enthusiast site; BMW owners can’t wait to share exactly what BMW wants them to share: driving excitement. Some do it willing; some are nudged a bit by BMW marketers.
There are of course, those customers who decline coaching – and we welcome those too, for it’s those customers that produce the kind of surprises we like, especially product usage we hadn’t even thought of (as General Mills found when many customers said Cheerios was their favorite bedtime snack).
Like any disruption, find a way to embrace it. Let your customers tell your story over Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, the blogosphere, and community forums. Coach them (or not) but let those stories flow – for stories engage, stories inspire. Stories help us remember, which after all, is what brand awareness is all about.
Category: Digital Marketing Tags:
by Richard Fouts | April 24, 2013 | 3 Comments
With the proliferation of social networks of every flavor, from professional to personal, users are simply getting tired of spending time and energy on every iteration of social media. This phenomenon has been aptly labeled social media fatigue. For many social marketers, fatigue is an inevitable stage.
Angie Picardo, a staff writer for NerdWallet, knows a bit about the social media fatigue phenomena. As someone who writes about how to save money and become financially savvy. she has been using social media for some time. What follows is her guest blog post, containing insights and advice for how to deal with social media fatigue.
How Real is Social Media Fatigue?
By Angie Picardo
For businesses that have spent significant time building a cohesive and comprehensive online presence, the idea of social media fatigue is frightening. The extent of social media fatigue amongst Americans has been examined by a few sources. The most noted study comes from the Pew Research Center concerning Facebook use. The results of the Pew survey show that 61% of surveyed Facebook users say that they have taken a break from the social network for several weeks or more at a time. Furthermore, the study shows that social media fatigue is not a passing phenomenon, as 38% of users plan using Facebook less in the coming year. However, social media fatigue transcends Facebook alone, and is of real concern in an era of content-targeted marketing.
Can you get over the social media hump?
Go back to the basics
Consumers are inundated with targeted ads, flurries of emails, and mobile messages every other moment. Most ads are ignored and most emails deleted in the world of online marketing. With social media fatigue abound, the probability of your message being acknowledged by something more than the “delete” button is decreased.
To compensate for less people being on social media to actively “like” your sale announcement on Facebook or watch linked promotional videos, you can do things the old-fashioned way: by word of mouth. People who are getting weary of social media still remain social through the human network. What online marketing often lacks is a sense of authenticity and trust, a contributing reason for social media fatigue. Algorithms cannot compensate for a good local buzz surrounding a new restaurant, or personal testimony from a local celebrity about a specialty hardware store. Spread awareness of your business through traditional means by exalting great customer service and waiting for the trickle down process to bring customers in.
Check out the competition
Social media fatigue is not an isolated incident. If you realize that less people are retweeting your announcements, see what’s happening on your competitor’s page. If they are getting hit by the fatigue phenomenon just as badly, you have less to worry about. If it seems like your competitors are putting all of their eggs in a basket on a particular form of social media, consider pivoting to a different medium for your business to capitalize on an untapped demographic.
Refocus and refine
There is a surplus of social media outlets from blogs, to Twitter, to a plethora of personal and social networking sites. Trying to actively promote a business on seven different fronts can spread your social media strategy thin really quickly. Think quality over quantity when it comes to social media. Go back to your social media metrics and analytics and figure out which networks get customers through the door or onto your site. Refocus your social media strategy on those elements, making them personable and thoughtful.
Slow and steady wins the race
You don’t need to bombard your customers with promotions, updates, and deals every other day. Thinking about optimizing timing is a good way to bring back in customers suffering from social media fatigue. Usually users will deactivate or lay off social media venues for a few weeks at a time. Keep this cycle in mind when planning a calendar for promotions and press releases.
Ground your social media strategy in reality
A great way to engage with customers with social media fatigue is to dedicate some effort to in-house marketing with social events, tabling, sample sales, etc. Talking to customers during live events allows you to make a more meaningful connection than any podcast ever would.
Jumping on something labeled “viral” may not be a good thing
Kitschy plays on viral trends and jumping on the social media bandwagon can leave a bad taste in some customers’ mouths. Maybe the best promotion for your artisanal bath and body shop is not the millionth iteration of “the Harlem Shake” video. The concepts of a viral phenomenon and it’s far reaching capabilities are appealing, but remember that authenticity will outlive trends online.
Make the fatigue worthwhile
Some social media fatigue is linked to the idea of “over sharing”. As people scale back on checking at every restaurant and shop they visit on their own accord, think about investing in location-based promotions. A free dessert or discount after checking in online, or signing up for a quick email-based rewards card are two ways to incentivize active social media engagement.
You alone cannot combat social media fatigue. It is one stage in a cycle of technology adaptation that is sure to be around for a bit longer. What you can do is make sure that your marketing strategy is diverse and focused enough to keep customers engaged and coming back for more.
Angie Picardo is a staff writer for NerdWallet. Her mission is to help consumers stay financially savvy, and save some money with the best savings account rates.
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by Richard Fouts | April 15, 2013 | Submit a Comment
We were all horrified by the events in Boston today. Many of you were there, others stopped to remember the many times they’ve enjoyed one of American’s most treasured cities, or even run the Boston Marathon. It’s also Patriots’ Day, a time to celebrate the city’s heritage and role in the founding of the United States. The special meaning this day has to Bostonians and to all Americans makes these events even more heartbreaking.
When something like this occurs, all of those automated social media postings need to be shut down. Tweeting during a time like this just isn’t appropriate. As colleague Julie Hopkins told me just now, “Just hit pause, and resume tomorrow.”
Category: Digital Marketing Tags:
by Richard Fouts | April 11, 2013 | 2 Comments
Okay, now that I have your attention: just kidding. Social media won’t die, but If all media is social media, at what point do we drop the adjective already?
I admit, I have always found the term ‘social media’ to be a bit annoying. Not because it’s unimportant – I’ve noted the effectiveness of marketing to and through social networks many times in my research. But now, isn’t all media is social media?
Even television, the ultimate one-way medium, has become conversational. Notice how programs that target youth are designed to drive them to interactive games and contests. Grown up shows like MadMen, Homeland, and The Americans have huge followings in the blogosphere. Most of these blogs (if not all) conduct online interviews with the program’s stars (which are so good, that I swear some of you think Don Draper is a real person). Modern day television talks back.
Then there’s print. Magazine after magazine is putting R.I.P. over its last hardcopy edition in favor of electronic. It’s inevitable given the convenience factor (and mainstream trends to go online) but social engagement is also a big driver. Comments have been turned on, which creates amazing interaction amongst people on opposite sides of the globe. Even the venerable New York Times is letting everyday citizens interact with its journalists. Another instance of old media talking back.
If you scan the titles of Gartner research in social, one thing jumps out. We are integrating social into everything we do, from generating awareness and leads to using communities and other social engagement techniques to drive retention.
As we note in much of our social research, marketers tend to force new things into old paradigms. Early television ads were simply visual radio ads. Web sites were called “brochureware.” Sticking a “Like us on FaceBook” call-to-action on an email campaign was considered social. But as we experiment and find what new media (already becoming an old term) can do for us, it’s becoming more pervasive, more integrated, more mainstream, and less distinct.
Have any of you dropped social? Or been tempted to drop it? How successful have you been with the integration challenge? Do you run social campaigns – or marketing campaigns with social qualities?
Finally, don’t forget to register for our upcoming webinar What’s Next for Social Markting and Social Marketers? hosted by Bill Gassman and Adam Sarner. This webinar will illustrate key findings from our interviews with social marketing practitioners.
Category: Digital Marketing Tags:
by Richard Fouts | March 21, 2013 | Submit a Comment
I know we all hate to hear old clichés, like “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” but after talking to Adobe’s CMO, Ann Lewnes, I just can’t help myself.
Ann doesn’t like to fail. In fact, her success in helping move Adobe into the digital marketing space has been impressive. Her global marketing organization is actually a case study in using Adobe’s tools and technology to improve her team’s marketing efficiency, measurability and impact. Not surprisingly, it often lends itself to experimentation and is often leading edge. Ann loves to win, she loves to inspire her people to do the same… and she sees a lot of success in her future.
So why then, is she also a proponent of failure? Let me explain.
Ms. Lewnes would never encourage her people to fail, but when I interviewed her a couple of weeks ago, I was struck by her open attitude about failure. But it made sense. In the digital age, marketers are moving so quickly, that perfection is an absurd goal.
Today’s marketers must have a passion to experiment, to try new things, to move fast, to do things before competitors. Sound stressful? Of course. Add the need to succeed every time, and you’ve got a sure recipe for cardiac arrest. It simply isn’t possible.
When I interviewed Ann she elaborated on the need to experiment, saying “We conducted a dozen experiments last year. Some of them were spectacular failures. Some were abandoned, others spectacularly succeeded after being reworked. But I’m okay with failure. We learn from it, and through our misfires, we come across new findings that we weren’t even looking for.”
Sage advice from a CMO who’s been in the role for six years, at least twice the current tenure.
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by Richard Fouts | March 18, 2013 | Submit a Comment
One of the first things you’ll note in our Digital Marketing Spending Survey: 10.4% revenue was spent on marketing in 2012; and it’s expected to rise to 11% in 2013. The usual sectors lead the way – with media, retail and financial services spending the most on marketing as a percentage of revenue.
But even the tech sector, which usually lags at 6 to 8% of revenue is moving toward 10%. In 2012, high tech spent 9.1% of revenue on marketing. In 2013 that is expected to rise to 9.6%. High-tech, known for spending heavily on its direct sales force, less on marketing, is changing as more technology marketers draw on digital techniques to generate inbound inquires (which typically cost less, and are more qualified than those generated by expensive outbound techniques).
The tech industry has also led the way in digitally-enabled lead nurturing, where lower-cost techniques, enabled by technology, are used to move a lead through the sales funnel automatically. These systems, once enabled by simple business rules based more on hunch than reality, are now adopting more sophisticated analytics that apply real time analysis to buyer behavior, making the marketer’s next offer – the best offer, the most relevant offer, and the most intelligent offer. Moreover, automated lead nurturing leaves the sales force to do what they do best: manage relationships and close qualified leads.
I believe the significant finding in this and other spend surveys: technology is doing for marketing what it did for financial markets 20 years ago: enabling smarter, more informed decisions through automation and real time analysis. Other specialized systems, that integrate content marketing, asset management and collaboration help digital marketers execute campaigns at scale and at the speed demanded by today’s buyer.
I also believe marketing organizations have historically underinvested in technology, relying on spreadsheets and email. Those habits, if sustained, will quickly drive an organization toward competitive disadvantage. The future of marketing is going to be much less art and much more science. That science is being led by personalization, customization, and more accurate targeting. In fact, those marketers who still target segments versus individuals will soon be seen as irrelevant and old fashioned.
So as you construct your marketing plans, make sure you pose the right questions: Are we treating our customers as individuals, or as members of faceless customer segments? How are we using technology to be more relevant? To get up close and personal? To make sure the next offer is the best offer?
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by Richard Fouts | February 18, 2013 | Submit a Comment
Edward Lu, (former NASA astronaut and leader of the effort to detect killer objects from outer space) asked this question the other day when discussing the need to detect serious threats from the sky. Last Friday’s explosive event over Siberia is instructive for marketers of course, who often let their companies lose share or die a slow death because they cling to value propositions that become outdated by technology. Even when technology enhances an organization’s value proposition, executives look the other way because it challenges their original thinking.
When senior managers decide it’s time to hit the reset button, they call on their strategic planners, fly off to some remote location for an emergency executive offsite, or call on expensive management consultants. While these actions present options, there are several exercises marketers can conduct regularly to ward off harmful events, or even better – leverage them to their advantage.
Your worst nightmare: What would your primary competitor do that would make your worst nightmare come true? What would any competitor do that would cause you to say, “Why didn’t we think of that?” Brainstorm as many ideas as you can, then assess their probability of occurrence. Implement your top two or three scenarios. If you’re really brave, go be the company that represents your worst nightmare.
Gartner hype cycles: Review our hype cycle for digital marketing, or any hype cycle relevant to your industry. What would happen to your business if the technologies and techniques coming up the slope became mainstream? What new opportunities would be presented? Any threats should you starting preparing for?
Re-set: Imagine if you were starting your company today with no baggage, no legacy, no cultural disorders. How would your product be different? Would it be larger in scope? Smaller? Would you deliver it differently? Maybe you’d substitute your direct sales force with a combination of inbound marketing, inside sales, and a handful of field reps. Maybe you’d take everything to the cloud. Create your list, then pick two of three things you can do right now.
Look back: Imagine it’s February 18, 2020. What technologies have gone mainstream? What events have occured? The auto drive car? Speech-to-speech translation? Wide scale adoption of digitized health care records? Massive product customization? Universities offering more degrees online? How are companies using analytics, especially those that predict? Pick those that have the highest probability of occurring and craft a plan for how you’ll get ready for them. Think of ways you’ll take advantage of them versus being threatened by them.
What other exercises could you do?
Category: Digital Marketing Marketing Strategy Tags:
by Richard Fouts | February 15, 2013 | 1 Comment
“Less is more” is a piece of advice we hear frequently. But not when we think of customers. We want as many of those as possible. Where this gets short sighted however is the long tail of sales.
When I sold to local government at HP, I was both hunter and farmer, meaning I was responsible for growing the new accounts that I landed. The Cites of Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach bled me dry with service demands. And they never bought anything. The Cities of Beverly Hills and Santa Monica were more middle-of-the road. But Los Angeles County? They bought a lot, and weren’t terribly demanding. They were very self supporting and made excellence use of our online support resources and their peer connections.
But, I couldn’t give LA County the attention they deserved because I was busy responding to lower value accounts. And I soon lost wallet share to IBM, who seeing the value, dumped their paratroopers downtown while I was at the beach. I remember when we had an account review, there I was with egg on my face. My sales manager, being a constructive type asked me to apply the attributes of these service demanders to my sales pipeline. “You can’t really fire these demanding customers,” he said, “but you can stop acquiring more like them.”
It was good advice. I applied my crude analysis of service demanders (that bought very little) to my pipeline. Lo and behold, there were two prospects that echoed the behavior my excessive high service demanders. Hard as it was, I told those prospects that HP was not a good fit, and that they should call IBM.
My predictions were pretty spot on, something computer software can now be trained to do. In fact, the use of predictive analytics in areas like lead scoring promises to dramatically help us get to a scenario where all of our customers are our best customers.
Many B2B marketers are way behind in this thinking. These are the same marketers that have not yet translated their post-sales observations of customers into business rules they can apply to prospects. If this is you, fix it now. If you’re past that stage, check out this announcement from KXEN, who is bringing even more sophistication to the process to help us “make every customer a good customer.”
Category: Digital Marketing Tags: lead scoring, predictive analytics
by Richard Fouts | February 14, 2013 | 4 Comments
Marketing investments that throw a positive jolt to other areas are particularly interesting. And they often surprise even the most savvy veterans.
Let’s start with retention. You’ve heard the statistics. A 2% increase in retention can create the equivalent of a 10% reduction in costs. Some studies show a 5% increase in retention improves profitability by 25 to 100%. But what marketers often forget: retained, happy customers, especially those willing to advocate, become a cost effective resource for new customer acquisition.
One senior marketer I spoke with about this observation said, “Once we achieved improvement in retention, through some focused investments on keeping the customers we already have, we began mobilizing them into our advocacy marketing program. Six months later we saw a 30% increase in new customer acquisition.”
Inside sales, outside sales. Marketers that turn up investments in areas such as SEO, SEM, and social marketing inevitably see an uptick in web site visitors – who download white papers, watch webinars, pick up data sheets; even review pricing information. Many are considered qualified to buy, because they align with the marketer’s firmographics (or segmentation model). But - in cases where the project is not yet budgeted, these leads require further nurturing, best conducted by an inside sales team. Once these leads reach a high enough score, they are turned over to a salesperson, who is delighted to add a highly qualified prospect to his or her sales funnel. The result? A more appropriate, and more cost effective treatment of leads – and a higher producing outside sales team.
Organizations that follow this model, also known as Revenue Performance Management (RPM) find they can increase the quotas of outside sales people due thanks to inside sales nurturing.
Inbound, outbound. In our survey of digital marketers last year, nearly a third of those in the most mature state strongly agreed that their inbound marketing programs were generating more qualified leads than their outbound programs. They also noted the lower cost of Inbound leads. But outbound marketing is hardly over. Often there’s no faster way to build awareness than a paid media campaign, even if it does behave in a more traditional in-your-face, interrupt style fashion. But these marketers also tell me that these inbound inquires are being driven to landing pages, white papers, webinars and other assets that were initially designed for outbound programs.
Hence, inbound investments improve the ROI of assets that were initially developed for outbound.
Are you witnessing similar observations in your own marketing? What other types of marketing investments echo the natural synergy between retention and acquisition, inside and outside sales, or inbound and outbound marketing?
Category: Digital Marketing Marketing communications Marketing Strategy Tags: inbound marketing, inside sales, retention
by Richard Fouts | February 13, 2013 | 4 Comments
Have you ever used Google to find and book a restaurant reservation in another city; or a tour in the foreign country you’re about to visit? Ever buy a rare book from a Japanese bookseller? Though the Internet has made the world smaller, Google reports that 75% of its search activity is from users looking for local resources. It’s also interesting to note that Google algorithms also favor social sites first, vendor sites second (Google “help me furnish my new office” and you’ll see what I mean).
Mobile enabled consumers eager to engage socially with peers prior to a local purchase – has been coined the SoLoMo movement (social, local, mobile). According to an AgeAge study, consumers trust local listing more other search results. 72% of those surveyed said they trust comments more from someone in their locale. 52% said they were more likely to use a local business if it has positive reviews.
Our desire to stick close to home is especially good news for retailers, who depend on local traffic. But the wakeup call to national brands: Get a comprehensive and integrated local strategy in place (one that spans offline and online channels). Allocating budget to local marketing is always a challenge for global brands, but thanks to technology there are more ways than ever to control and manage local marketing.
Products from up-and-comers like Adcentricity, Balihoo and Yext, help marketers automate, create, curate and manage marketing content. Sears, with its 1200 stores across the US, is working with Yext to do just that. CMO Dave Buckley said to AdAge earlier this year, “Local is extremely important to us and we’re putting a huge initiative behind making sure the basics of where people might discover us is correct. It’s not sexy digital technology, but it’s necessary.”
Read more about the Sears initiative http://adage.com/trend-reports/report.php?id=70.
Category: Brand awareness Digital Marketing Marketing Strategy Tags: location, location services, Sears