Ernan’s Insights on Marketing Best Practices

Monday, December 17, 2012

AT&T: Engaging Customers with Personalized Videos

The Challenge: Gaining customer attention and engagement is tough. Marketer’s attempts at “personalization” have not been effective. Can personalized videos engage customers? AT&T thinks so and has the results to prove it.

Personal Connection with ATTHow important is a personal connection with your customers? Critical, says Danny Kalish, co-founder of Idomoo, “Today’s consumers are nostalgic for the personal relationships they once enjoyed with their service providers.  This type of emotional connection engenders loyalty, which is as valuable to organizations as innovation in products or services.”

Today’s customers are overwhelmed with the flood of marketing “spray and pray” blasts. To really engage them, marketers need to make it obvious that unlike their previous messaging, new communications are truly and obviously personalized and relevant.

With this in mind, AT&T has been testing auto-generated personalized videos in its billing for its wireless services. Subscribers receive an email with a link to a video, which addresses the subscriber by name before going through each element of their personal bill, anticipating and answering customer concerns along the way. The content the customer sees are his or her own, not generic examples -- and it’s all clearly laid out.

The results have been very encouraging:

1. Over 85% of customers have found the bill helpful.

2. Almost 80% of customers open and watch the video bill to completion.

3. Significant reduction in bill-related calls.

4. In July, AT&T and SundaySky won the Global Telecoms 2012 Consumer Service Award for Consumer Billing Innovation.

Key Takeaways for Marketers

1. Add new dimensions to your communications.
Help customers receive the information they need. This will engage customers short-term and build long-term loyalty.

2. Engage customers throughout the lifecycle.
Personalized attention should not stop at the moment of acquisition. Personalize all customer communications such as billing, offers, specials, and customer appreciation touches. Every communication is an opportunity to strengthen the relationship.

3. Relevance is the key.
Customers will embrace a message when it makes sense to them as individuals. Simply adding a name to the beginning of a general blast is not personalization.  For example, a personalized video can deliver personal information in a multi-sensory way that clearly highlights relevant information both visually and audibly.

4. Constantly test.
Testing different versions will enable you to learn what message and media mix is most effective.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Strong Customer Relationships: More Powerful than Satisfaction for Retention

The Challenge: As companies grow, relationships with customers usually suffer. Larger customer files, heavier account loads, and less available time, often contribute to a decrease in engagement with customers. This begins the cycle of increasing losses of customers.
Customer RelationshipsFindings from research conducted by our company ERDM indicate that engaging and forming strong relationships with customers has 12 times more influence on retention and repeat purchases than customer satisfaction. Satisfaction is now a minimum expectation.
As DMG Consulting says in their Microsoft-sponsored white paper, “In an era of intense competition, the customer experience is often the main differentiator between commoditized products and services.” In today’s consumer-centric business world, customers dictate the rise and fall of companies, and your business is completely dependent on keeping your customer relationships strong.
The key starting point for retention is understanding the state of customer relationships. Luca Paderni, VP and principal analyst at Forrester Research, says, “CMO’s and their peers...must understand what customers represent for the whole organization to help shape the strategy for the overall business.”
Once understanding is achieved, the next step, according to Walker, is closing the loop. This begins with setting alerts that indicate low customer loyalty or negative behavior, usually in the form of survey questions. After alerts are designed, a feedback system is created to ensure the information gets to someone who can act on it. There should also be follow-up protocols in place that allow staff to act on customer concerns, complaints, and opportunities accordingly. Finally, results should be documented, so the company can understand what works best and fine-tune accordingly.
This correlates with our findings, as well as the strategy used by Microsoft in the aforementioned white paper, that changing from relationships based on customer satisfaction to relationships with deeper levels of engagement - based on more in-depth understanding of their needs - increases customer retention drastically over the course of the customer lifecycle.
Key Takeaways for Marketers
1. Assess the state of current customer relationships.
Learn if you’re doing enough to meet customer expectations, and form deeper relationships with customers across multiple channels. Customers don’t just want to be satisfied, they want to be engaged.
2. Develop strategies for following up.
Create a system that will seek out red flags, notify appropriate staff members at the right time, acquire customer feedback, and use that feedback to enrich and improve customer experience.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Honoring Brand Promises Is Critical To Your Survival

The Challenge: Companies have always made promises to customers and prospects. But with today's socially empowered consumers, companies are made or broken based on how well they keep their promises. Is your company trustworthy enough?

Brand PromiseHistorically, companies have always over promised and under delivered.

But will that behavior fly with today’s savvy consumer? “The dirty laundry is out there because of social media,” says Loni Kao Stark, director of product marketing at Adobe’s Digital Marketing Solutions.

As a result, companies now have a greater responsibility to deliver on promises and live up to expectations.

This doesn't just affect existing customers, but corporate reputations, thus, their continued viability. As Stark says, "In the world of social media and digitally connected customers, only authentic brands will survive."

One company that consistently delivers on brand promises is the high-end men’s retailer Harry Rosen. The company consistently maintains brand promises by utilizing a three-point strategy involving observation, feedback, and training. Associates contact customers, use feedback to establish customer needs, and then respond to those needs throughout the customer lifecycle.

The retailer then strengthens its customer relationships by informing them of events relevant to their interests – such as shipments from their favorite designer – and trains associates to provide great service at every touchpoint. To ensure promises are maintained, Rosen also contacts customers within 30 days of purchase to ensure their satisfaction.

Key Takeaways

1. Understand customer expectations.
Organizations should realize customers no longer compare them only to their competition. Customer experience is also measured against online customer service dynamos like Zappos. In order to compete, brands must maintain ongoing dialogues with customers to gather feedback, and use that feedback to keep improving the customer experience. This dialogue should take place via surveys, CSR conversations, social media, and follow-up e-mails after purchases.

2. Keep promises throughout the customer life cycle.
Every experience that customers have with a company is a reflection of that company’s brand promise. Ensure that staff at every touchpoint in your customer lifecycle are trained to respond to customer feedback appropriately. Customer service reps should be knowledgeable and helpful. Sales associates should be attentive and aware of customer needs. And management should ensure that high levels of performance are being maintained. This applies to people and processes!

3. Ensure your brand promise is consistent across all channels.
Today’s consumer sends and receives information across multiple channels on a daily basis. If you promise one thing in TV ads and another on your social media feed, customers will notice. And that inconsistency can quickly paint you as an organization not to be trusted. Establish what specifically you want your brand promise to be, build your campaigns around that promise, and ensure that messages and experiences are consistent across your multi-channel mix.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Shopping Cart Abandonment And How You Can Stop It

The Challenge: According to recent research done by Fireclick/DigitalRiver, online retailers are experiencing shopping cart abandonment at a rate of about 74%. What can you do to prevent this from happening to you?

Shopping CartIn 2009, Forrester asked nearly 3000 web buyers why they abandon online purchases. In a recent study, Bronto analyzed the top reasons and classified them into 4 categories:

1. User Experience
The biggest problem customers had here was retailers asking for too much personal information upfront. People want to shop without unnecessary complications on the purchase path. These complications include required registration, too many pages, and poor site functionality.

2. Indecision
Abandoners who are on the fence about purchasing are usually the most responsive to post-abandonment messaging. However, understanding the behaviors that surround purchase indecision is required to shape post-abandonment marketing strategies.

3. Technical Issues
Technical issues that turned shoppers off included lack of online security, difficulty in redeeming promotional codes, lack of customer support, and constant redirection away from the cart, all of which ultimately lead to dissatisfaction. In order to keep customer interest, good customer service must be maintained along the entire purchase path. Zappos.com is a great example of this, constantly placing high on various “best of” lists for ease of use and customer service.

4. Product Cost & Additional Fees
Customers often drift away from their cart to compare prices with another product or site. Even if they¹re not lured away, this can still cause distraction at a crucial moment in the buying process. Many customers also leave their carts when they see shipping costs, having been spoiled by free shipping elsewhere, as in the case of Amazon.

Bronto also studied 100 companies, including Overstock.com, and how they reduced cart abandonment. Most companies who got customers back post-abandonment did so via follow-up e-mail. And here are some of their best practices.

Key Takeaways for Marketers

1. Test to determine the optimal timing for email follow-up.
Other than the obvious, which is that sooner is better, there¹s no magic time interval for email follow-up(s) after a customer abandons their cart. Conduct tests to measure response across different intervals; same day, 1 day, up to three days. Measure and evaluate.

2. Test incentives and promotions.
Everyone loves a discount. Test a percentage discount or free shipping when they complete their cart purchase. This provides incentive to complete the transaction. Also test a warm "thank you" and confirmation of next steps.

3. Avoid repeat abandoners.
Set controls on your program to keep shoppers from receiving abandoned cart reminders every time they abandon. This can result in customers being trained to abandon carts so they can receive free shipping or discount.

Monday, November 19, 2012

E-Mail: 3 Best Practices for Driving Engagement

The Challenge: Email is an essential element of almost every marketer’s multi-channel mix. But, it needs to do a better job of engaging readers. Here are 3 best practices.

2012 ElectionPer the CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) Council, 67% of marketers worldwide rated email as the most successful digital marketing tactic. In today’s competitive marketing arena, however, the key to that success hinges on being able to engage your customers. According to ExactTarget, engagement and customer revenue are directly connected to the relevance of your content. RealMagnet holds a similar view, stating that relevant content is fundamental when it comes to maximizing the lifetime value of your customers.

ExactTarget’s research has shown that as marketers increase the level of relevance, the potential to drive revenue increases exponentially as marketers begin to utilize more personalized, one-to-one marketing tactics. Our own Voice of Customer research indicates a similar finding; the value consumers receive in exchange for providing their information must be obvious and compelling. To overcome the legacy of receiving untargeted and irrelevant communications, consumers must see an obvious increase in relevance.

The following 3 best practices about engaging your customers via e-mail will help you deliver obvious value and relevance. Remember: if the value is not obvious, consumers will assume you have betrayed their trust and expectations.

3 Best Practices for Engaging Customers
via E-mail

1. Segment your communications.
Use every piece of relevant data you have about your customers. Their gender, job title, hobbies, interests, purchase history, browsing habits, and social media presence all provide essential insights. Use this information to create messages tailored to their daily needs and expectations.

2. Integrate your e-mail marketing and CRM (customer relationship management) systems.
Instead of spreading customer data across multiple third-party and in-house CRMs (staff-compiled databases), you should consolidate your customer data into one integrated system. Doing so makes it easier to personalize your marketing to create precise segments, acquire new leads, and nurture leads through your sales cycle.

3. Test to discover what works.
Run an A/B test each time you create a new marketing piece, so that you can maximize your level of engagement. Test various subject lines and content - such as sales copy, promotional offers, and calls-to-action - to see what performs best. Simple tests like these are easy to perform and guarantee that you’re delivering the most relevant content that you can offer. You can also give consumers the ability to hear from you through multiple channels by sporadically testing the promotion of other channels within all of your social networks.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Twitter: Taking Multichannel Marketing To New Levels

The Challenge: During Ad Week, Twitter VP Joel Lunenfeld drew a staggering correlation between a user’s activity on Twitter and their television watching habits. What could this mean for multichannel customer engagement?

2012 ElectionDuring his IAB Mixx presentation at Ad Week, Joel Lunenfeld, Twitter’s global brand strategy VP, shared data that Twitter had gathered about users’ brand relationships. According to Lunenfeld, 9 out of 10 users follow at least one brand on Twitter.

While most users followed brands for the sake of receiving promotional news, 87% followed brands for entertainment purposes and 80% did so for access to exclusive content.

More interesting, however, was the correlation found between Twitter usage and TV watching habits. “Twitter is the EKG of action for television,” said Lunenfeld, citing data that showed 50% of Twitter users do so while watching TV. This provides massive opportunities for multi-channel engagement, and brands are capitalizing on this by turning their Twitter conversations into ad campaigns.

Audi, for example, noted that a fan posted a tweet with the hashtag “#IWantAnR8”. In response, they brought the fan an R8 to test-drive, and turned the entire experience into a commercial. Instances like this demonstrate that the barrier between advertising channels is blurring every day, and that content is quickly becoming more important than ever.

American Express is also taking advantage of the Twitter multichannel phenomenon with their Sync program, which transforms special Twitter #hashtags into savings for card members. If a U.S. card member is eligible, they can sync their AmEx Card with Twitter, and when they tweet using special offer hashtags, savings are automatically loaded onto the synced Cards, with no coupons or printouts required. In this game-changing example, AmEx is turning Twitter content into commerce by connecting card members directly to merchants and delivering value to both.

Key Takeaways for Marketers
1. Engagement on multiple channels is essential.
Consumers have come to expect a multichannel experience from their marketing. Twitter may not be the first to attempt multichannel marketing, but it’s quickly becoming a bastion for companies that want preference-driven, engagement-rich campaigns.

2. Give people reasons and ways to share.
Giving customers the tools and incentive to share across multiple channels is the perfect way to engage them and enrich their experience. AmEx exemplifies this, giving their customers both value and the means to share that value with others via Twitter.

3. Blur the lines between conversation and marketing.
As we saw in the Audi example, social media marketing can be enhanced by crossing channels and bringing conversations to life for users. It generates positive press, gets people talking, and creates a genuine level of trust between you and your customers.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Microtargeting: Great for Obama and Romney, but Good for Consumers?

The Challenge: In the Presidential race, both candidates are sending out highly personalized e-mails to voters, using microtargeting to address individual interests. But what privacy issues does this raise for consumers?

SoLoMoIn a recent study, the Interactive Advertising Bureau stated that the use of microtargeting allows marketers to finally "reach out to prospective [customers] with messaging that addresses each person's specific interests and causes."

With the integration of digital political advertising into political campaigns, it's evident that increasingly accurate microtargeting of messages is being integrated into all levels of the marketing spectrum. Microtargeting makes use of online and offline data to find appropriate targets and generate models to further refine the message. But the sensitive data that makes microtargeting effective is also a cause for alarm among consumer advocates.

As seen with Facebook in our previous article, data is gathered through trackers on websites that consumers visit, and then routed through the databases of the trackers' respective companies. The inherent danger is that marketers or third-party trackers might use voter data for purposes the public never thought of, such as preventing someone from getting a job based on their past political affiliations.

And while microtargeting provides an unprecedented level of personalization for marketers, many consumers do not realize the implications that microtargeting has on their individual privacy. Christopher Calabrese of the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) says "Individual[s]…may not be aware that the message they are getting is based on information that has been gleaned about their activities around the Web and is precisely targeted to them."

Key Takeaways for Marketers

1. Create a Reciprocity of Value Equation, (as mentioned in our previous article).
As we've stated previously, consumers are willing to opt-in to share increasingly detailed personal preference information in exchange for marketer's promises to deliver relevant information and offers. If marketers want consumer's trust, they must show good faith by proving them with the choice to opt-in.
2. Establish safeguards to protect personal information.
Marketers must earn the trust that comes with the information they collect about consumers. Clearly communicate which tracking companies appear on your sites, and ensure that each company understands the privacy policies regarding the data that they gather.
3. Consumers should have the ability to opt-out.
As mentioned in our previous article on Google Remarketing, "what some will regard as highly relevant ads, others will see as invasions of their privacy." That's why those marketers using microtargeting as part of their campaigns should take care to be proactive about making the opt-out process easy to perform and understand.

Monday, October 29, 2012

SoLoMo Marketers and Multichannel Mix

The Challenge: SoLoMo(Social, Local, Mobile) marketing presents marketers with a chance to reach consumers when they want, where they want, and in the format they prefer. But with so many different elements, can marketers coordinate them properly?

SoLoMoSoLoMo marketing represents a powerful opportunity in the field of social commerce, allowing marketers to better serve today's multi-channel, multi-experience consumer. But with so many moving parts, getting all three areas to coordinate seamlessly can be difficult, especially as mobile marketing technology continues to evolve.

Russ Whitman, chief strategy officer at Ratio Interactive, says "many brands have challenges across all [channels] individually and definitely as an integrated approach...The biggest challenge...is that it's difficult to determine best practices and how to measure results."

When combined, social, local, and mobile channels are incredibly effective at driving customer engagement. But in order to fully take advantage of ever-changing technology, marketers will have to dedicate themselves equally across all channels and ensure a solid multi-channel approach. Wilson Kerr, VP of business development and sales at Unbound Commerce says “retailers and brands should start by asking themselves what their landing zone looks like for the mobile consumers they engage via SoLoMo…there are any number of exciting ways to target by location, engage via social and use mobile to deliver messaging at the exact time and place when consumers are most likely to act.”

L'Oreal is one of the companies that has had some success in gaining local ground with consumers, but like many other SoLoMo users, doesn’t believe that it has perfected its multichannel marketing mix. Beauty products tend to be a very personal purchase, and are often selected based on recommendations from friends or stylists.

With this in mind, L'Oreal created a social and local platform that, according to L'Oreal VP Rachel Weiss, “allows [individual] salons to be marketers with the help and overview of L'Oreal...we want to do real-time marketing so when someone’s...making a purchase decision we can provide an offer to tell them where [a salon] is.”

Unfortunately, L'Oreal suffers from one of the greatest challenges for marketers trying to run integrated SoLoMo campaigns: determining how to transition from strong offerings in one or two channels to seamless integration of all three.

Key Takeaways

1. Accommodate customers' existing shopping behavior.
The key to any good multichannel campaign is convenience, which means integrating your message into your customers' lives at the place, time, and manner that they prefer.

2. Simplify your messaging.
Again, simple, no-nonsense messaging makes it easier for consumers to make choices, which allows them to more easily traverse the purchase path without being overwhelmed by information.

3. Spread your efforts equally across all channels.
The strength of a SoLoMo approach depends on giving equal credence to each channel, and using the synergy of the three channels to deliver a highly concentrated level of engagement and convenience.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Starbucks: Using Online to Enhance Bricks and Mortar

The Challenge: As e-commerce grows in popularity, brick-and-mortar retailers are finding themselves losing more and more sales to online outlets like Amazon.com. But how are some of the most successful brick-and-mortar retailers holding their own against online retail?

Burberry OnlineAccording to STORES’ list of the largest U.S.-based retailers, Amazon.com has outperformed most brick-and-mortar retailers to rank 15th in the nation, establishing itself as America’s fastest-growing retailer. Like many successful online retailers, the website achieved success via competitive prices, fast shipping, and personalized offers that leverage a considerable customer database. So how are brick-and-mortar retailers fighting back? By using technology to upgrade customer service and create the same convenience in-store.

Mobile point of service

Retailers are equipping sales forces with smartphones and apps that allow them to reprice items, check inventory for customers, and conduct sales transactions on the spot. This spells a potential increase in employee efficiency and customer convenience at every point of contact. Lowe’s, in particular, has taken this method to heart, distributing iPhones to all 42,000 of its employees,

Precision Retailing

Precision Retailing is a customer service solution created by SAP that anticipates customers’ wants and gives them personalized discounts and offers at the appropriate time. This is accomplished by gathering multi-channel customer data and applying a system of predictive analytics. The technology allows stores to personalize shopping for customers in-store by sending mobile coupons and suggestions to their smartphones as they shop, and rewards customer loyalty by offering discounts based on their most frequent purchases.

Mobile Payments

Starbucks is a mobile payment pioneer, with over 70 million mobile payments made through their app since January 2011. But in addition to the existing Starbucks-exclusive payment app, Starbucks is expanding to support the multi-business Square Wallet app. The Wallet will allow customers to use the Square directory to find Starbucks locations, and will eventually add the ability to tip via smartphone, which will allow Starbucks and other businesses to measure customer satisfaction in real-time.

Key Takeaways

1. Customer service is key
Customers buy from online outlets because it’s often more convenient than dealing with their offline equivalents. Information is easier to come by, product comparison is simpler, and transactions are easier to conduct. The businesses above have shown that if you can streamline those processes offline, you can be competitive with online outlets.

2. Upgrade your sales process.
Regardless of how good an employee is, they can’t be everywhere at once. Arm them with the technology they’ll need to do their jobs to the best of their ability. The more efficiently they can accomplish their tasks, the better they can help your customers at each touchpoint on the purchase path.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Burberry: 3 Powerful Ways To Engage Consumers Online

The Challenge: According to a study conducted by Martini Media, luxury brands have been gradually dropping TV from their multichannel marketing mix in favor of digital media. But will the move pay off in the end? Digital darling Burberry seems to think so, quickly taking the throne of luxury online marketing by creating entirely new levels of customer engagement.
Burberry OnlineWhile luxury marketers have traditionally trailed mass marketers in digital marketing spend, digital media has skyrocketed among luxury agencies over the past year. Context and targeting are quickly becoming the most important criteria for luxury brands, and luxury marketers are finding a need to achieve reach through the use of niche, passion-based sites.
Digital media is perceived to be more effective than offline marketing in driving favorability, as well as online and brick-and-mortar traffic. It appeals to affluent audiences on the go, who often have more money than time. And because luxury brands must deal with an extremely niche audience that is more privacy-sensitive and difficult to reach, these customers expect an engagement experience that mass marketers aren’t capable of delivering.
With its highly successful push into digital media earlier this year, Burberry has become luxury online marketing's champion. Creative officer Christopher Bailey claims it’s become “as much a media-content company as a design company.” As proof, the company has launched its recent AW(Autumn/Winter) 2012 collection across 10 different social platforms, tailoring the presentations to best leverage the advantages of each site.
Key Takeaways from Burberry
1. Use co-creation to drive brand awareness and engagement through
user-generated content.

Taking a cue from Threadless, Burberry’s Art of the Trench photo-sharing site allows consumers and fashion photographers to document how they wear the brand’s iconic trenchcoat. This unique use of user-generated content and customer engagement has generated a massive amount of brand awareness for the company.
2. Make your consumers feel exclusive by showing them exclusive content.
In its recent “Tweetwalk” event, Burberry partnered with Twitter to post backstage pictures of every look before models were sent out onto the runway, which meant that Burberry followers were seeing looks before most members of the fashion show audience.
3. Design your content to help guide your customers down the purchase path.
In a fresh twist on direct sales, Burberry live-streamed its London Fashion Week catwalk to 25 main stores as a “living catalog,” allowing existing customers to place immediate orders on upcoming collections before the looks became available to the public. Burberry also made it possible for consumers to directly purchase items by clicking through any of the image or video galleries on their social media posts.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Election: What Marketers Should Learn About The Multichannel Mix

The Challenge: During this tight Presidential campaign, both parties are deploying an unusually diverse and integrated multichannel marketing mix. What lessons should you be learning from these strategies?
Election 2012Traditionally, TV, print, and radio have been the mainstays of presidential campaigns. However, they are not enough to engage today’s multichannel consumer. Increased use of social and mobile media is essential to engage potential voters. This has significantly complicated the media mix challenges for campaigns.
A recent study conducted by Borrell Associates reflects this, showing that while candidates still primarily utilize traditional media, campaign ads dropped from 61.9% to 57.3% for TV since the last election. However, other channels received increased funding across the board, demonstrating a shift towards more diverse multichannel marketing. This is particularly apparent in online media, which received 6 times more funding than it did in 2008.
Mobile: The Newest Addition to the Mix
Both camps understand the importance of social media in engaging today’s constituents, with staff manning Twitter and Facebook accounts for both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. These efforts are complemented by email to drive voter behavior and raise funds for ongoing campaigns. All indicators point to stronger focus on digital media and increased diversity in political marketing in the future.
Mobile Payments – Obama campaigners created a new program called “Quick Donate”, which makes donation easier by allowing supporters to contribute via text message.
Social sharing
The “With Mitt” app engages Romney supporters by helping them apply templates to photos of themselves at assemblies. The pictures can then be uploaded to Twitter or Facebook via the app.
Key Takeaways for Marketers
1. Think holistically about your multichannel marketing mix.
Whether you’re a presidential candidate or a corporation, you need the power of all elements of the media mix to engage today’s multichannel consumers. According to Glen Senk, CEO of Urban Outfitters, consumers who engage with the company across three or more channels spend 6x more than single channel buyers.
2. Engage your customers per their media of choice.
Campaign staff uses Facebook and Twitter to provide followers exclusive content and hear what they have to say about the candidates. This creates a degree of engagement and rapport with consumers that traditional media can’t match. How can you motivate your customers and prospects to opt-in and engage with you across multiple media?
3. Be self-aware.
An increased number of marketing channels leads to an increased amount of exposure. It allows you to be transparent and candid with your customers, but it also means that you should take greater care to maintain decorum and monitor the content you distribute.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Simplification in Marketing: Apple's Not-So-Secret Weapon

The Challenge: We all know that Apple has been holding court over the mobile market for the past several years with various incarnations of the iPhone. But how is a company with only a handful of mobile products capable of outselling the hundreds of models their competitors are cranking out? The answer might be simplicity itself.
Apple's SecretIn a recent CEB study, marketing simplicity was quantified using a “decision simplification index,” which gauged “how easily consumers can understand (navigate) information about a brand, how well they can trust that information, and how readily they can weigh their options." It was indicated that a 20% increase in decision simplification resulted in a 96% customer loyalty increase, and made brands 86% more likely to be purchased and 115% more likely to be recommended.
In a world where consumers are being bombarded with thousands of marketing messages, it's easy to fall victim to information overload. That overflow often leads customers to overthink purchase choices, making dozens of micro-comparisons between virtually identical products.
Instead of confusing customers with similar factory specs, marketers should be simplifying the decision-making process and giving the consumer less choices to agonize over.
For a real-world example, let’s look at Samsung, which features over 100 concurrent smartphones on its website, each with an encyclopedic list of factory specs. For most consumers, the amount of near-identical models and technical jargon only makes the purchase path more difficult to navigate.
Apple, on the other hand, only has one phone on their site. They tell you everything you need to know about it in plain, understandable language, not millimeters, megapixels, or megabytes. In short, they create a simple, easy-to-follow purchase path for their single product. And that one product has outsold all of Samsung’s 100 phones combined in the past year.
Not surprisingly, Apple also has one of the highest decision simplification indices in the CEB study.
Best Practices for Simplifying Your Marketing
1. Help Consumers Navigate The Purchase Path.
Creating a clear and efficient purchase path requires marketers to minimize the number of information touchpoints consumers must traverse as they move towards purchasing.
2. Generate Trustworthy Information About Your Product.
In the context of decision simplification, trusting product information is more important than trusting the brand. Unbiased reviews given by trusted advisers (review bloggers, consumers’ friends and family, etc.) are generally your best marketing asset.
3. Make It Easy For Customers To Weigh Their Options.
Cut down the number of available product choices. If that’s impossible, create transparent buying guides with side-by-side product comparisons to help customers feel confident about their purchases. Or, even better, create step-by-step online decision guides that auto-generate the best choice for their needs.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Volvo and Pinterest: Re-branding Through Customer-Driven Social Media

The Challenge: As we mentioned earlier this year, Pinterest has been captivating online users with its emphasis on engagement, content, and personalization. Now Volvo is taking to the Pinterest boards with a consumer-driven campaign designed to re-establish the company’s image. But can their campaign succeed in an unproven community-based social medium like Pinterest?

A study conducted with Pinterest users earlier this year provided several insights into user habits: Volvo on Pinterest

•     Over Over 20% of users purchase items they "pin" on their boards.
•     Purchasers visit Pinterest 2.7 times more often and pin 3.1 times as many items as non-purchasers.
•     The 3 most popular words purchasers use to describe Pinterest are "friendly," "community," and "genuine."

The statistics demonstrate that not only does Pinterest usage drive sales, but that those sales are achieved almost entirely through user interaction. RJ Metrics correlated this by showing over 80% of images “pinned” on Pinterest bulletin boards are re-pinned from other users.

Can companies penetrate such a tight-knit buying community without appearing intrusive?

Teresa Caro of iMediaConnection.com maintains that they can, if they create “a balance between...genuine brand story and…content that inspires and compels action.”

One example of this formula in action is Volvo’s new Pinterest campaign. Joe Barbagallo, their Social Media Manager, says the company is “rebranding [them]selves...through design. Pinterest being focused around photos and being driven by consumers is really what attracted us to establish a presence [there] .”

Volvo is basing the direction of the campaign on past social media successes such as their “You Inside” Facebook campaign, which allows customers to create and relate their own experiences.

Volvo re-uses this formula on Pinterest, inviting users to describe their ideal “joyride” by pinning images of the new Volvo S60 T5 and discussing their perfect road trip stories. And their commitment to customer interaction is getting them results.


1. Understand the nature of Pinterest before marketing.

As an inherently visual social medium, it requires a means to generate strong visuals, as well as time to create relationships and generate strong customer engagement.

2. Give customers the ability to share their experiences the way they want to, not the way you want them to.

As Mr. Barbagallo says, “we want these people to experience the product on their own terms and speak about it as naturally and organically as they can.” Customers respond best when they’re allowed to give feedback their way.

3. Let your customers feel relevant.
Engaging customers, sharing your story with them, and inviting them to do the same lets them know that they are important to you. And that lays the foundation for all good customer relationships.

Monday, September 17, 2012

USPS: New Service May Not Be Beneficial to Marketers or Consumers

The Challenge: The United States Post Office has introduced a new direct mail service for businesses. But the program could prove to be more detrimental than beneficial.

Every Door Direct Mail

Earlier this year, the USPS unveiled a new service for direct mailers known as EDDM (Every Door Direct Mail). In an era of declining mail volume, the service was intended to increase use of direct mail. Up to 5000 mail pieces can be distributed to any mail route in America for as low as $ .14 per piece.

How Will This Impact Consumers?

As we reported earlier this year, direct mail is an essential element of any effective multichannel marketing mix. And any service that streamlines the process of creating and distributing mail should theoretically be a good thing. The key word here is “theoretically”.

However, it appears that EDDM is a “Spray and Pray” mailing process that saturates entire mailing routes without any targeting and without allowing consumers the chance to opt-in. In addition to this, all EDDM mail is emblazoned with the generic title “Postal Customer” in lieu of actual recipient names.

With so many recent developments in preference-driven marketing, this type of generic mass mailing appears contrary to today’s consumer demands. As we’ve written previously, marketers know that relevance means sending the right message to the right person at the right time. And, today’s empowered consumers want messages delivered per their individual media preferences.

Response, revenue, and customer retention don’t exist in a vacuum. They're created by enriching customer experiences across the media mix. That will not be achieved by bombarding customers and prospects with junk mail.


1. Keep long-term objectives in mind.

As tempting as cheap mailings might be, "spray and pray" blasts are a turn-off to consumers. Long-term customer relationships are built through targeted, personalized, and relevant communications. This applies to new customer acquisition and retention.

2. Consider the impact of EDDM on your customer base.

Customer loyalty needs to be nurtured over time. EDDM may “simplify your mailing process”, but only per the same convoluted logic that eliminating call centers “helps automate customer service”.

3. Don’t associate your brand with junk mail.
You work hard to develop your brand equity. Your brand should be used with communications of value. Targeted, personalized, direct mail will enhance your brand. Junk mail will hurt it.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Google Remarketing: Combine the Reach of Display with the Precision of Search

The Challenge: Display advertising has significant limitations when it comes to high impact branding. However, it’s worth evaluating Google's innovative "Remarketing" Campaigns which can achieve double-digit click-through and conversion rates, if used carefully.
Many marketers feel that display ads are the "brand awareness black hole" of online marketing. They have extremely low click-through and conversion rates, and their effectiveness as a brand awareness tool is questionable. Google Remarketing is different.
Remarketing allows you to track what visitors view on your site, and display ads to them accordingly. Rather than seeing generic banners about your product, visitors will see ads based on the specific pages they were viewing. This results in more relevant ads for users, and greater revenue for advertisers.
Important caution: what some will regard as highly relevant ads, others will see as invasions of their privacy. Therefore, it is crucial to be proactive about explaining how people can opt-out of Google Remarketing Ads. (Unfortunately, Google has not gone so far as to make remarketing opt-in.) Customers can disable ad targeting in their settings, and Google “removes all of your historical ad targeting information if you opt-out and then opt-in again.”

» Abandoned Shopping Carts
Many customers abandon the conversion process without making a purchase. With remarketing, you can target these customers directly and encourage them to come back and complete the conversion process. The results are dramatic: "On average, 8% of customers return to a site to buy if the company does no remarketing. With a remarketing program in place, however, that average jumps to 26%."
» Repeat Customers
Repeat customers already know the value of your offer, and they’ve converted in the past. If you run a home goods site, for instance, you may expect customers to make purchases on a monthly basis. With remarketing, you can place ads across the display network reminding your loyal customers to come back.
» Saving Impressions
Some business are not looking for repeat customers: once somebody has subscribed to a magazine, for instance, there may not be another offer to make. In that case, advertisers can reduce their costs by not showing ads to these customers. Save your impressions for people who haven't yet converted.
» Unattributed Benefits
Not every benefit of remarketing campaigns can be directly attributed. In some cases, customers who don’t click on your ads might still search for your offer, or interact with your business in some other way. This is much more similar to traditional “branding” campaigns on display networks, and should be tracked and attributed similarly.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Priceline: Propel "Massive" Growth with Paid Search

The Challenge: As we reported last week, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an extremely effective way to create customer intent. To generate customer demand online, a particularly effective tool is Search Engine Marketing, or SEM.
SEM captures the moment when customers are directly communicating their intent. Of course, when a customer searches for "wireless speakers” on Google or Bing, they may simply want a picture of one, or information about their history. But, there is a very good chance that they are looking to buy one at that moment. The same applies to nearly every kind of product or service, including ones that are very costly and require more involved levels of information. In those cases, SEM can help drive sales leads rather than direct purchases.
Among the most prominent brands when it comes to paid search are travel sites like Orbitz, Expedia, Priceline, and TripAdviser.
Priceline in particular, has made huge investments in SEM, investing nearly $1 billion in paid search in 2011. The result was 2x growth over the same period the year prior. At the time, HotelMarketing.com reported, “Now that the dust has settled, it's clear the spectacular growth of Priceline ... was propelled by a massive boost in online marketing.”
Not all marketers can make 10-figure investments in SEM, but Priceline’s results clearly demonstrate SEM’s continuing growth potential.
4 Best Practices for Effective Search Marketing
» Implement Conversion Tracking
You cannot improve your search marketing campaigns if you don't know exactly how they're performing. To track performance, you need to implement conversion tracking, which tracks everything from impressions to clicks to conversions. For the best results, implement a tool like Google Analytics that allows you to track conversions across all major search networks.
» Optimize for Revenue, Not Position or Clicks
The goal of a search marketing campaign is not to generate clicks or to appear highest in the paid search results. The goal of SEM is to generate conversions. To do so, pause or reduce bids on low-performing keywords, rewrite ads that don't drive high-quality traffic, and adjust landing pages to make converting as simple as possible.
» Don't Over-Rely on "Broad" Terms
The simplest way to select keywords is to choose a handful of "Broad" match terms. By selecting "book" as a "Broad Match" term, for instance, you'd effectively be adding "books," "travel books," "deals on books," "books by Stephen King" – and hundreds of other phrases – to your campaign. To home in on a specific audience, use narrower "Phrase" or "Exact" keywords. For more details on keyword match types, check out this extensive tutorial from Search Engine Land.
» Use Location Targeting to Drive Local Sales
Local businesses cannot succeed with search marketing unless they implement location, or "geo" targeting. By default, search ads appear country or world-wide (depending on the network you're advertising on). If you're offer isn't available nationwide, limit the reach of your ads to specific cities, states, or metropolitan regions. Priceline has done this very effectively: rather than simply displaying “Priceline” ads to the entire world, they target specific regional brands they own – like Agoda – to specified markets. This commitment to regional targeting is a key differentiator: “Priceline global brands such as Agoda and Booking.com are eclipsing their rivals from the Expedia and Orbitz camps around the world when it comes to a presence in paid-search.”

Monday, August 27, 2012

Have You Forgotten About SEO?

The Challenge: Marketers have grown obsessed with building "engagement" on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Are they neglecting old-fashioned SEO in the process?


For years, tech pundits have depicted an "epic battle" between Facebook and Google, one that has only heated up with Facebook's IPO in May. But for marketers, Facebook and Google fulfill very different functions and represent different stages in the conversion funnel.

While Facebook is a platform for driving social engagement, organic Google results are still one of the best ways to create demand for your products and services. SEO captures users who are trying to solve a problem, but don't know that you offer a solution. Appear high in the search results, and they won't remain ignorant for long.

Before discussing ways to do this right, let's review a couple ways to do it wrong.


In the early days of Google, tech-saavy marketers tried to improve their search ranking by "gaming" the system, regardless of how relevant - or irrelevant - their content was to the terms a user was searching. These tactics included:

» Transparent-Pixel ALT Tags

One early tactic was to hide keywords in an ALT tag. The only problem is that ALT tags require images. The solution? a transparent, single-pixel image with a "keyword rich" ALT tag. The search engine response? Devaluing ALT tags.


Next, optimizers tried filling their META-KEYWORDS tags with ... you probably know where this is going.

In every case above, marketers and developers tried to drive organic traffic to their sites by fooling the search engines. Nobody was fooled: the search engines responded by adjusting their algorithms to better track the single most valuable aspect of SEO: relevance.


» Create Relevant Content

The open secret of SEO is that there are only a limited number of things marketers can do on their sites to affect search rankings. The major factor in search rankings is links from other sites: i.e., other human beings who think your content is relevant. It’s not something you can game, but it’s something you can assure by creating a steady stream of high-quality content—especially on your official blog. Google demonstrates this fact with their own official blog, which often ranks as a top tech blog—not just a high-quality "corporate" blog.

» Maintain a Consistent Voice
While keyword-heavy content might help search engine algorithms, it's likely to decrease organic, human links to your site. Maintain a consistent voice, rather than setting a minimum number of keywords per sentence, as Dropbox does on their corporate blog.

» Practice Tagging Best Practices on Every Page of Your Site
All of that said, don't neglect basic tagging best practices like concise META-DESCRIPTION tags and relevant TITLE and H1 tags. (SEOmoz offers a great tutorial on tagging basics.) There isn't much you can do on your site to affect SEO, but don't neglect the factors that are in your control.

Monday, August 20, 2012

5 Best Practices for Marketing on Twitter

The Challenge: Real-time platforms like Twitter make it easier than ever for public conversations about customer’s brand experiences—for better and for worse. Marketers need to be part of the conversation.

Crowd Sourcing

In the past, marketers had a clear distinction to work with: Facebook offered great demographic targeting options and opportunities for social endorsement, and Twitter was a real-time platform. But with the growth of Facebook's News Feed (and, now, Timeline) both platforms are truly real-time. So what is the unique benefit of Twitter for marketers? Twitter is the major platform for monitoring and participating in the public conversation around your brand.

As we reported before, "Regardless whether your business is on major social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, your customers are—and they're talking about you." This is especially true on Twitter: whether customers are reporting positive experiences or service outages; passing on a special offer or a negative review Twitter allows customers to alter the market perception of your brand instantly. As always with social media, what some regard as a threat, others see as an opportunity: manage an effective presence on Twitter, and you'll be broadcasting a positive brand image to 140 million users.


» Select a Branded Hashtag

Given the millions of tweets produced every day, there's only one effective way to track mentions of your brand: by selecting a memorable brand hashtag. These can range from simple branding (@Dropbox), or more creative subbrands like Audi’s #WantAnR8 campaign. In addition to simplifying Twitter management, branded hashtags are the centerpiece of branded Twitter pages.

» Track Mentions of Your Own Brand 24/7
Twitter was built for viral messaging: within minutes, someone's 140-character compliment or complaints can be retweeted hundreds or even thousands of times. Catch every mention of your brand early, and mitigate damage or amplify opportunities accordingly.

» Monitor All Conversations Relevant to Your Business
Monitoring mentions of your own brand is essential, but it's not enough. For a truly successful approach to Twitter, you should also monitor conversations around your area of expertise, and participate where you can add value. Music streaming service Songza received more than 2,000 retweets when they responded to fans discussing Dawson’s Creek on Twitter with links to their playlist of “every song featured on Dawson’s Creek.” If they monitored Twitter exclusively for mentions of their brand, it’s an opportunity they would have missed.

» Actively Manage Your Twitter Feed
Because Twitter is a real-time platform, customers expect a constant flow of updates and new content. Don't let your feed go stale: add something of value multiple times a day.

» Maintain an Authentic Voice
One of the keys to success with social media is maintaining authenticity. Robotic content will fall flat with customers; updates with personality will be appreciated. As one user tweeted in response to an interaction with the Internet Education firm Grovo, "People like to know who they're talking to. That there's a name and a face behind the brand makes your brand more trustworthy." Don't efface your employees on social media platforms; let their personalities come through.

Monday, August 13, 2012

3 Best Practices for Facebook Sponsored Stories

The Challenge: Marketers are eager to take advantage of Facebook's huge customer base and powerful targeting options, but Facebook's most powerful tool remains relatively unknown.

Crowd Sourcing

Few advertising channels heed the Voice of the Customer (VoC) more directly than Facebook Sponsored Stories. Users determine what they say, when they appear, and who they appear to. While some advertisers might see this lack of control as a disadvantage, savvy marketers recognize it as a guarantee of authenticity.

Unlike traditional ad units, Sponsored Stories are not directly created by brands. Instead, brands must create meaningful and engaging content on their Facebook Pages. When users interact with that content – whether by Liking it, playing a game, or posting a comment – that engagement appears on their Timelines.

Standard Facebook Ads display generic brand messages and offers, like "Go to Starbucks for 20% Off!" As we reported last month, these were often ineffective and driving high levels of engagement, because there was a mismatch between the purpose of the platform and the purpose of the ad unit. Google users may be looking for ways to purchase goods and services, but Facebook users want to check in on their friends. Sponsored Stories addresses this problem: ads provide relevant, social news - "Tom just checked in at Starbucks" - rather than trying to make a sale. The result: effective, scalable social endorsement campaigns.


» Fill Your Facebook Pages with "Engaging" Content
Sponsored Stories can only be generated when users directly engage with content on your site, whether by Liking it, commenting on it, taking a poll, playing a game, etc. If you don't keep your pages up to date, your fans won't have any opportunities to engage—and you won't have the opportunity to drive social endorsements with Sponsored Stories.

» Provide Opportunities to Share rather than Opportunities to Sell
The key to Facebook's popularity is sharing: users of the site can share their own status and check up on others. They're not there to buy and sell. To keep your social endorsements coming, build content that users will be eager to share – like fun games or interesting content – rather than more commercial content like discount coupons.

» Give Fans Reasons to Keep Clicking
As with every other marketing channel, digital or offline, no customer is better than a repeat customer. Give your fans a reason to keep coming back by posting fresh, relevant content to your Facebook Page on a daily basis.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Sam Adams: Using Social Media to Create a Beer

The Challenge: Companies are learning how to tap into the potential of social media not only to strengthen their brands, but to create new products.
Crowd SourcingInnovative marketers are not only using social media to promote a brand; they’re using it to create products. Using Facebook, Twitter, and other major social media platforms, Wal-Mart, Gilt Groupe and others are conducting wide-ranging research, predicting inventory needs, and developing new products.
Social media is allowing these brands to gain powerful Voice of Customer (VoC) insights. According to a recent article in The New York Times, the results offer dramatic proof of the value of listening to customers:
arrow Samuel Adams used crowd-sourced data to create “B’Austin Ale”. As Steve Greenlee wrote at “99 bottles”, “man is it good.”
arrow Frito-Lay used their “Do Us a Flavor” app on Facebook to discover that “beer-battered onion-ring flavor is popular in California and Ohio, while a churros flavor is a hit in New York.”
arrow Gilt Groupe uses Facebook to select sale items and “refine products”.
arrow @WalMartLabs used Twitter data to determine which DVDs to stock, and which game releases don’t merit major orders.
Amazing as these results are, social media data should be supplemented by in-depth customer insights. In the Times article cited above, Lara Lee of Continuum, a design group that helped to develop the Swiffer, expressed the risk of relying on social media research alone, “Data can’t tell you where the world is headed.” For that, you need in-depth, personal conversations with customers and prospects.
» Supplement Social Media Data with In-depth VoC Insights
Social media data can tell you what is happening. But, you must validate and enrich this data with in-depth, person to person conversations which detail why this is, and how customers want you to address their needs.
» Use a Diverse Mix of Research Tools
Develop an integrated research strategy which deploys multiple research methodologies and tools. Use each methodology for the value it can provide, i.e., quick surveys, social media, in-depth interviews, etc.
» Offer Value in Exchange for Customer Feedback
Today’s customers know how valuable their insights are, and they expect something in return. What did Frito-Lay offer? A million-dollar prize to the creator of their newest flavor.