What’s Up with a Corporate Communication Plan?

If you have a company that employs sales staff or account executives as part of your business plan their whole career revolves around speaking with potential clients and current customers. They have their own tactics, plans and communication styles. But what happens when your customers or clients become disenchanted with their contact or if that person is no longer with your company? Do you have a corporate communication plan in place with over-arching, brand enforcing messages?

If for any reason the sales staff or account executives aren’t communicating in a consistent manner, a corporate communication plan means you still stay top of mind. So what should you be communicating? Think first about what your recipients would find relevant. By no means should you be blaring out in-your-face promotional messages every time you contact them. Go for a more subtle approach, but keep in mind some key points to communicate about your company: service, variety, knowledge and quality. Continue reading “What’s Up with a Corporate Communication Plan?”

Why Your Data is More Important than Your Message

As marketers, we automatically gravitate towards what we want to communicate. After all, communication makes up a great portion of our job description. We often times forget (or choose to ignore) the vast need for clean, detailed data of your target audience. Who you want to reach, dictates your message… not the other way around.

We all know it, and can repeat how important data is. But who is actually sincerely happy with their team’s effort to match data and messaging? According to a 2015 Digital Marketer survey of 1,000 diverse marketers, 80% use data to drive personalized communications, BUT one-third feel they are not using it to the best of their ability. They cite a shortage of internal resources, personalization technology and accurate data.

How can we expect to get the most out of our marketing dollars if the communications are doomed from the start? Data and communications will never reach 100% accuracy, but one cannot survive without the other. More than likely, depending on your target audience and state of your data (or lack thereof), you will need to implore several solutions to get the most return on your data.

 

  • An internal data management system

Depending on your resources and amount of pre-existing data you may be able to invest in a system to internally house your data. Robust systems may also clean, sort and complete other tasks in preparation for use.

  • An external data management company

If you do not have the internal know-how or availability to manage your own data: outsource. Companies can provide you a whole suite of services tied to your data, and can be more cost-effective than internal changes.

  • A big data company

Maybe you are starting from scratch and have no means to develop your own list of targeted audiences, then working with a list company is a fantastic option. By providing them criteria, they will create you a highly-targeted, customized list of viable customers.

 

The bottom line is without a strategy for utilizing segmented, targeted data, any marketing communications will not be successful. “Spray and pray” is not a valid method and provides very little return on your investment.

View our last blog on Content and Design.

How Content and Design Influences Buying Behavior

Creativity in advertising sparks emotion and motivates a prospect or consumer to react. The content of an advertisement is responsible for informing, persuading, and reminding—ultimately influencing buying behavior. The design is directly responsible for attracting attention. It is important to engage the viewer and peak their interest all the while establishing credibility building desire. Everything from images, graphics, text, and colors contribute to influencing buying behavior.

The three components of a message strategy, verbal, nonverbal, and technical, combine to describe how an idea will be communicated. In the case of the multi-media communication channels (i.e. television, internet), the verbal elements are derived from copy and converted into a script and delivered as a sound byte. When the medium is print, the verbal elements are designed to be read and understood.

The nonverbal elements of a message strategy encompass visuals, such as graphics, and their usage specific to the media. A message strategy developed for radio would not include nonverbal elements. It would, however, include the technical element. Slogans, jingles, contact information, and even disclaimers are considered members of the technical element within a message strategy.

The combination of message strategy elements is intended to engage a buyer and affect their behavior. The message strategy continues the vision identified in the creative strategy to cascade a common message across different media as part of an overall advertising strategy. After all, beauty is in the eye of the responder!

Check out our last blog on 3 steps to master social media analytics.

 

References:
Arens, W., Schaefer, D., & Weigold, M. (2009). Essentials of Contemporary Advertising. McGraw-Hill Irwin, New York.

 

Digital Marketing Demystified

It was once stated, “There’s a statistical theory that if you gave a million monkeys typewriters and set them to work, they’d eventually come up with the complete works of Shakespeare.” Thanks to the Internet, we now know this isn’t true. We also know, however, that the majority of the 3.1 billion Internet users are also consumers. Many are your current customers, while many more fit the profile of your ideal customer. Our challenge as marketers is to let them know you exist, the need your product or service satisfies, and the benefit of being a customer. Sounds easy, right? Without a basic understanding of this amazing communication channel, it would be nearly impossible to develop an effective digital marketing strategy.

 

The digital landscape

Navigating the marketing labyrinth of the Internet is not for the faint-hearted. Of the 3.1 billion Internet users worldwide, an estimated 279 million are in the United States. At the moment this article was penned, there were 140,669, 383 registered domains. The average users spends 66 personal hours per month on an Internet-connected device. The average user spends 7-10 hours per month on Facebook. This does not include the time spent on a computer at the office. There are an estimated 210 billion email messages finding their way to inboxes each and every day. Just over 80% of these messages are identified as SPAM. Using statistics from 2014, and considering the increase in smartphone and tablet sales, it is likely that 60% of online sales for Mother’s Day 2015 will be on a mobile device.

All digital marketers should be thinking about a “mobile first” strategy. Everything from the corporate website to email communications need to be composed with mobile devices in mind. Just over 87% of American adults use the Internet, 64% have a smartphone and 42% have a tablet. Let’s look a little deeper at the user community. Over 97% of individuals between the ages of 18 and 29 use the Internet. Around 74% of online adults use social networking sites. According to a recent report from The PEW Research Center (www.pewinternet.org), 70% of the Facebook users engage with the site daily—and 45% several times per day. Here’s a breakdown by site and percentage of users: Facebook – 58%, LinkedIn – 23%, Pinterest – 22%, Instagram – 21% and Twitter – 19%.

 

Enough already with the numbers!

Given the abacus-fueled results above, it is accurate to say… it would be far more likely for your target audience to visit your website than drive by your billboard, see your television advertisement or hear your radio spot. While mass-media continues to dominate all other communication channels for “brand building,” it relies on timing. The consumer needs to be tuned-in (and paying attention) at the exact moment the mass-media advertisement airs. Digital marketing has several advantages. Unlike other communication channels—especially mass-media—digital marketing can include messaging relevant to the consumer. Each and every consumer. Usage and tracking technologies can be leveraged to control the frequency of a particular message. One major concern among email marketers is “list fatigue.” The same is true for advertising on social media sites. There is a tipping point at which an advertisement becomes annoying.

Every marketing initiative starts with a communication objective. From there, the creative and message strategies must communicate key benefits while maintaining the brand’s personality. The communication—such as email, banner ad, social media post or text message—must explain the value proposition, and include a clear call-to-action. An email message, for example, should contain an objective statement, a support statement, and a tone or brand character statement. A well-planned digital marketing strategy often includes several communications—or touch points—working together to incubate interest and trigger a response. Unlike other communication channels, digital marketing is interactive. Consumers can respond immediately, or share with a friend or colleague. The Internet user community is growing at a mind-boggling pace. Every company should include the digital communication channels as part of their overall marketing strategy. There is no faster way to go from conversation to conversion!

 

Gaining Customer Feedback From Surveys

Gaining Customer Feedback From Surveys

Customer feedback is the lifeblood that keeps marketing going. While marketing is how you communicate with your target market, feedback is how they communicate with you. Feedback can vary across topics and can include: marketing efforts, product quality, company values and a variety of other subjects.  Listening to your customers is imperative to actively engaging your audience and making sure you are in the front of their minds when it comes time to purchase. Here are a few effective ways to gaining customer feedback from surveys.

One of the easiest ways to gather feedback is through surveys. Surveys are generally one of the more cost effective options, if not the most. They can be placed on a branded landing page or pURL and distributed via link options or in an email.

There are plenty of websites who offer survey options if you aren’t sure where to begin. Survey Monkey, SurveyGizmo and Wufoo are great choices to name a few. Many of these website   offer limited, free access to get you started. Depending on the complexity of your questions and the amount of people in your survey audience, you may be able to stick with one of these free options.

If you have a development team you could potentially build your own form to host on a landing page or a pURL. Outside of development effort, there should not be any cost associated with this “homegrown” option. This comes with the positives of not being co-branded with the hosting website, complete control on the UI and the ability to make changes on a whim.

After the Building Platform…

Once you’ve decided on the building platform, work on the content. What do you want to know? Whether you want feedback on your products, website designs or something else, decide on an objective. After you’ve decided on an objective, work on the questions themselves.

Questions are either structured or non-structured. An example of structured is a question that has a fixed response such as multiple choice, a sliding scale or a ranked question. These are easier for your audience to fill out and are generally a favored way to take a survey. However, it is important that you include one or two non-structured questions where participants can write in their thoughts or feelings.

Make sure your questions our concise and clear to get the best response rate with the least amount of errors.  Amount of questions can vary, but if you have over 6 questions, separate them by subjects into groups so to cut down on confusion.

What Makes a Contest Successful?

Running promotional contests are a great way to gain viral traffic and introduce people to your brand. I love something free, you love something free, we all love something free. It’s a no brainer people. While there is cost associated with a contest, such as promotional items, employee labor and advertising, this often is far under the gain of new business.

We are currently working on incorporating contests more regularly into our marketing plan for our retail websites, as part of our ongoing tactics to reach new customers. We’ve learned a couple things along the way:

  1. Have a mix of short-running and long-running contests

All contests don’t have to be complicated and drawn out. Try a mix of short and easy day-long contests that offer smaller prizes. For example, we have implemented #triviatuesday, where we ask social media followers something relating to e-Commerce, our industry or our local area. The prizes range from a percentage off to a free product. They might not be huge prizes, but it increases engagement and brand awareness. In contrast, take advantage of a contest that runs for an extended period of time, maybe a week or even a month. Prizes that are appropriate for this length of contest can range from multiple free products, cash prizes (depending on your business) or desirable gifts (like an ipad, tv, etc…). Be sure to scale your prizes to fit your predicted return.

  1. Use social media to its fullest

While Facebook has rules about holding a contest strictly through their service, you can link to an outside contest or giveaway. Other social media platforms are not so stringent on contest rules, and may be a more conducive medium. Holding a giveaway on Instagram, for example, is a great way to increase followers and grow your fan base. Ask them to repost your photo or tag friends that may be interested as well. Be sure to continuously mention your contest on all appropriate platforms for the length of the contest as to get the highest return.

  1. Take the time to do it right

Plan ahead as much as you can, as with any marketing strategy. If you go into a campaign not having your content fully-vetted or a half completed plan, you more than likely will run into issues. When your plan is not fully formed, you often cut corners and therefore cut into your ROI. No one wants to lose money. Take the time to do it right the first time. On the flipside, have the ability to tweak small things as you go. Maybe a certain image is really compelling, or you are reaching people through email more than you had a originally thought. Measure as you go to fully reach your contest potential.

  1. Measure, refine and repeat

Chances are, you will want to continue to periodically do contests. Some will be successful some not so much. Start by setting tangible goals for yourself. Maybe you want increased fans or followers, or you want to see an uptake in revenue. Define these BEFORE you start, as this makes it easier to make adjustments to your strategy mid-campaign. Measure EVERYTHING. Every move (post, email, landing page visit, etc…) that you can tie to your goals, is proof that your campaign was successful. Once your campaign completes, gauge how you did and refine for your next one… Then repeat!

 

Are contests part of your marketing plans for 2015?

Pitfalls to Avoid When Creating a Marketing Campaign

Creating a marketing campaign is a daunting task that can seem hard to tackle. Mistakes happen to even the most advanced marketing professional, and unfortunately they are not always realized until the end of the campaign. We’ve listed out the most common mistakes to help you avoid them:

 

  1. Not Defining a Goal

This seems like a no brainer, but it often isn’t. You must define tangible goals. What do you hope to accomplish? Don’t be lulled into saying “we want to make money”, come up with measurable and definable goals. Try “We want to improve our response rate by X%”, “We want to see $XXX,XXX revenue generated” or “I want to grow our followers by X”. By coming up with goals that can be monitored and measured, nothing can be left up to interpretation or discussion. Your campaign is successful or not successful; the goals were met or not met. If the goals weren’t met, try and understand why that is and how you can improve next time.

 

  1. Lack of Planning

We all get so caught up in our daily tasks that sometimes it’s hard to look ahead. Marketing people notoriously wear a lot of hats within a company, but we can’t do everything. We also don’t have the ability to come up with a solid marketing plan at the last minute. Put together an overall marketing strategy for the next year while still in the 4th quarter of the previous one. Start planning your holiday strategy in the summer. Planning ahead will lend itself to a successful campaign and helps you avoid some of the other pitfalls.

 

  1. Lack of Research

Research is often rushed or nonexistent when you are short on time or staff… And ironically, this is the most important step. Research your company’s past campaigns and see what worked and what didn’t. Look for successful campaigns that have room for improvement. Gather information from other departments. Including people who aren’t trained to think with a marketing brain is a great idea. You would be surprised how a fresh perspective can shape a campaign in a great way. Then do outside research. What are others in the industry doing? What are your competitors doing? How outwardly successful are they? Combine all this to come up with an educated decision on a direction. But, beware of…

 

  1. Faulty Data

This one is a hard one to avoid, but can make planning a strategy that much harder. Try and make sure your data you are working with is as clean and error free as possible. There is no way to have 100% clean data, but you want it as close as possible. Try and regularly get your customers to update their information, either manually or when placing an order with your company. A great way to make sure you have clean data is to require fields when customers are interacting online. This means, the more accurate the data, the more accurate the results of your marketing campaign.

 

  1. A Disjointed Relationship with Sales

Sales and Marketing department should work hand in hand with each other throughout the process of creating a marketing campaign, from inception to implementation. The partnering of these two teams, ensures that everyone is working to common goals that are for the good of the company. Marketing is to provide feedback to sales on where and how they are generating leads, and sales can confirm that the marketing campaign is working. Without this relationship, it is more likely for goals to not be reached and a marketing campaign to fail.

 

What obstacles does your team run into when creating a marketing strategy?

Why Create a Refer-A-Friend Marketing Campaign

Ongoing marketing programs have long become a necessary tool in the back pocket of marketers. Marketer’s, by trade, have a lot to do on any given day, so the more processes that are in place to automate and keep a campaign going, the better for everyone. In today’s time, it’s not enough to just market on a whim or not plan ahead, and most brands have ongoing marketing that happens as soon as you opt in. Here are some reasons why you should look into implementing a refer-a-friend campaign:

 

  1. Word of mouth is the best.

As a marketer, our goals all revolve around getting more customers to buy our services or products. Any marketer will tell you the fastest way to do this is to get backing by your current customers, who then become evangelists for your company.  Having our marketing content go “viral” or being shared organically means we are being successful in our job. As consumers, if we like a product, chances are we tell our friends, our family, the checkout girl and maybe that guy at the grocery store. It’s in our nature to want to be on the ground floor of something. We all want to recommend something really great and in turn, have our friends value our opinions more.

Refer-a-friend campaigns are that gentle push and extra incentive to get your customers involved and sharing your products. By offering your customer something in return for spreading brand awareness to their friends, they are more likely to share. It’s basic positive reinforcement.

 

  1. It’s easy to maintain.

Like most ongoing marketing campaigns the leg work is in the beginning. Once it’s set up, and the proper controls and software is in place, it should become automated. While you may want to adjust offers and triggers frequently in the beginning, after a while it should almost run itself. Be sure, however, to periodically measure your successes and shortcomings with this program and make the necessary adjustments.

 

  1. The cost is what you make it.

The other great thing about refer-a-friend marketing is that it doesn’t have to be an expensive marketing campaign. Typically the offers to the referrer and friend are small introductory offers. Maybe it’s $5 off your next order, free shipping or a small product. The point of this marketing is to gain new customers, so by merely offering them a small introduction token it encourages them to tryout your brand and turn into brand ambassadors themselves. Like all marketing ventures, you should structure your refer-a-friend marketing campaign to have your return far outweigh your cost.

 

Do you have a refer-a-friend marketing campaign set up? If so share with us your experiences!

The Crisis Marketing Challenge of #Bendgate

Earlier this month, Apple announced the arrival of their newest, and highly anticipated, bouncing baby phone… And at that twins! All hail the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Sales quickly skyrocketed and preorders surpassed any other Apple product, a record held previously by the iPhone 5 line of phones (5, 5c and 5s).

This launch comes on the heels of the iWatch announcement (available Spring 2015) and the iOS 8 software update to existing phones and preloaded on the 6 Series. So you would think that this launch that was probably in the planning process for more than a year went smoothly and end of story? Not so much. Enter #bendgate and the removal of the iOS 8.0.1 update.

America is a progressive nation; we are always striving for a better way of doing things, a sleeker design and altogether leaving the Jones in the dust scratching their heads. Apple is the quintessential brand that feeds into that need and gives us an outlet to show some of the most innovative and advanced designs and technologies.

But, as Apple is finding out, you can only push the envelope so far until you run into non-negotiable things. Apple meet physics, physics say hello to Apple. The iPhone 6 in all of its .27 inch thickness and aluminum frame glory, does what any product would do; it bends when pressure is applied to certain areas. BUT, it’s a phone. We drop it, we set it down, and we put it in our pockets… It’s probably the thing most touched on a daily basis. So, much to the new owners’ dismay, if you leave it in your pocket (front or back, according to reports) you may find yourself with a slightly curved iPhone in the matter of hours.

And as a nation, we are nothing if we are not clever; the hashtag #bendgate began trending on most social media platforms. A marketer’s worst nightmare has been realized. Crisis marketing has begun. Videos showing how easily the phone bends when pressure is applied are something that Apple cannot merely ignore. In fact, since it has been brought to light the faulty design Apple stock has fell.  To compound that, the iOS 8.0.1 update released effected some user’s call quality and cellular network leading to a recall of the update. Strike two.

So how does Apple market itself out of its trouble?  Apple who has prided itself and sold itself on never releasing something until it is 100% ready now finds itself on the other side. Because it is Apple, it probably is not in danger of losing the majority of its fan base; it has a variety of products outside the iPhone. However, this failure sends a subconscious message to consumers and potential consumers. The untouchable Apple is not so untouchable anymore. The marketing they have taken years to craft and perfect is somewhat in shambles.

Do they admit defeat? Recall the phone and issue replacements? Do they ignore the products faults and shift blame to the user? A tactic that former CEO Steve Jobs is all too familiar with.

It would be in Apple’s best interest to reign in the situation fast. It must balance the cost of issuing new phones and potentially scrapping this design against the cost of lost revenue due to decreased confidence from buyers. Which is more deadly for a company? Chances are your company is not on the scale of Apple, so what could you AFFORD to do? This is not a unique situation or one a much smaller company, no matter the industry, couldn’t face.  Any one with crisis marketing skills would tell you the answer on what to do is not: NOTHING.

My advice is to restore confidence in your consumers. Nothing is more endearing than admitting gracefully through a well-designed marketing plan that you screwed up, but will make it right. I guarantee Apple has crisis marketing teams that are in place solely for situations like these, and you should too. Things can escalate so quickly in our viral environment that you may not have time to make a comprehensive decision once something has started and time is of the essence. And ultimately, can lead to the demise of a company.

 

How to Win at Seasonal Selling

Seasonal selling is quite the interesting model in the business world.  Whether it is the winter holiday season, halloween, or summer; each different season has products specifically geared towards that time frame.  Some businesses see an increase in sales geared around a certain holiday or season. But some create entire business models on a specific season. Think tax preparaion or the popup halloween costume stores. These almost temporary ventures can be highly successful, but also have a short timeframe in which to make a profit.

The most important aspect to seasonal selling is preplanning.  Fail to plan, plan to fail. Marketing and planning should be going on all year, prior to your season. Don’t be fooled into thinking that you can begin forming a plan in the moment or a month beforehand. When you are in the moment, there will be no time to create a strategy, the best you could hope for is a small change in tactics.  That is why the planning beforehand is essential.  Having a a marketing plan, business  procedures and employees trained will ensure that your business is starting with your best foot forward.

A big part of the planning for seasonal selling is creating a targeted marketing strategy.  In no other business model is marketing more clearly valuable than the seasonal one. Marketing can be periodic and ramp up as the season approaches, reaching an all time high as the season commences. Since a seasonal storefront won’t necessarily have a year-round traditional brick and mortar availability and visibility to the public, marketing must be implemented to inform your potential customers know that you and your products are waiting.  While you may have past customer lists to work from, in most cases your success will depend heavily upon new business generation.  A good seasonal selling marketing strategy will target your potential consumers months before yours doors open.  Multiple touches (direct mail, advertisements, emails, signs, etc…) before opening day and continued visibility throughout your season is key.

At DME one of our more seasonal products is customized wrapping paper.  Certainly there are sales opportunities during the rest of the year, but the holiday season is where we generate most of our sales. For our wrapping paper we target 2 groups: those who know that we exist (past csutomer or contacts) and those that may not.  Our holiday marketing for both groups is similar: we need to introduce/reintroduce our wrapping paper into their minds and entice them to purchase it.  We send out preseason mailings in the 3rd quarter telling customers about our wrap and getting the idea planted in their heads.  Then, as the season approaches we send out incentive communications such as coupons or special offers.  After that we focus on reminder communications to keep us fresh in potential customer’s minds.  Also key when selling B2B is one-on-one follow up. In the supplier and distributor world, for example personalized follow up is imparitive to success.

As long as you plan, come up with a solid strategy and implement your plan well you will be sure to see success in the seasonal market.