Ernan’s Insights on Marketing Best Practices

Monday, April 30, 2012

Have You Forgotten About the Value of Direct Mail?

The Challenge: All businesses want to engage in sophisticated multichannel marketing, but many are forgetting about the power of direct mail as a vital element of their media mix. Recent Articles

Multichannel Integration: Online And Off
As we reported earlier this year, a recent Direct Marketing Association study found that 93% of marketers using multiple channels indicated they have attempted to integrate their messaging, but only 27.4% of these said their efforts are ‘effective’...
Experienced marketers know that relevance means sending the right message to the right person at the right time. But they neglect a key aspect: that message must be delivered per that individual's media preferences.
According to a recent Epsilon study, "Consumers use and trust certain communications channels more than others”. While the general point may not be surprising, at least one detail will be a surprise to a number of marketers: 50% of U.S. consumers prefer direct mail to email.
Out With The Old?
Data-driven marketers shouldn’t ignore the evidence: consumers want direct mail to be part of their multichannel mix. Many common objections to this channel among “digital-only” marketers are at odds with the evidence:
Consumers Prefer Mail
Epsilon's study found that, "despite direct mail's reputation for being 'old school' or expensive, it is the top choice of U.S. and Canadian consumers for the receipt of brand communications in almost every category, ranging from 'health to household products, to household services, insurance and financial services.'"
Young Consumers Prefer Mail
Nor is this true only for technophobes: Epsilon found that "the preference for direct mail also extends to the 18-24 year old demographic."
→ Deliver Content Per Consumers' Media Preferences
Search and social media allow us to send the right message to the right person at the right time, but the right channel isn't always online.
→ Email is not Always the Most Cost-Effective Channel
Extensive testing for clients by our company determined that while the Cost per Piece is clearly much higher for Direct Mail than Email, the yield from direct mail efforts are often far greater, i.e., sales per 1000 names. Therefore, total sales from direct mail are often significantly higher than email.
→ Seriously Consider Direct Mail As Part of Your Multichannel Mix
Forward-thinking marketers should evaluate the potential value of direct mail as a component of their multichannel mix. It may not be effective for all businesses, but it just might be right for yours.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Instagram: 4 Lessons on Optimizing for Engagement

The Challenge: Instagram's billion-dollar exit was not an anomaly. It was a lesson about the value of “engagement” that every marketer must heed.
Recent Articles
Since the advent of social media advertising on Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms, "engagement" has become a mantra for marketers. But despite the media buzz, many businesses remain hesitant to embrace the new reality.
Search marketing is clear: optimize ad spend for conversions (i.e., revenue). But what is the value of "engagements" and "likes"?
Then, Facebook put a value on engagement: $1 billion. That was the price they paid for photo-sharing site Instagram: a company with no revenue―and very impressive engagement metrics.
Google and Facebook introduced AdWords and "Sponsored Stories" years after launching their sites. They began by building customer loyalty and engagement, and found their revenue streams later. With 30 million users in only two years, Instagram is on the same path.
Speaking with Bloomberg, Instagram VC Chris Sacca identified two keys to the site's success:
1) High Percentage of Engagement
According to Sacca, a high percentage of photos shared on Instagram lead to user engagement, most often in the form of "likes." That promise of feedback brings users back to the site, repeatedly.
2) The "Dopamine Effect"
"That engagement creates the dopamine effect that leaves users feeling fantastic and coming back for more," Sacca told Bloomberg. Photo sharing without engagement won't lead to the dopamine effect―though it might lead to a narcoleptic one.
4 Imperatives for Engagement-Optimized Marketing
1. Build Mechanisms for Engagement
Give your users a way to share, tweet, like, or "+1" your content. You can't optimize for engagement if you don't facilitate it.
2. Create Engaging Content
If you want customers to engage your brand, you need to produce a significant volume of high-quality content. Creating that content is a business-critical function; staff and budget for it accordingly.
3. Reward Customer Evangelists
The journey to a million user engagements begins with one "like." Early evangelists are among your most important customers. Target them with custom messaging and special offers―and keep them engaged.
4. Don't Stifle Engagement by Chasing Short-Term Revenue
When customers start engaging your content, build on that momentum. Don't cut it off with premature "asks." The easiest way to kill engagement is by selling.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Social Media: 3 Disaster Planning Tips

The Challenge:  Domino's Pizza. GoDaddy. Chrysler. Mattel. The Gap. Nestle. And the list goes on. Some of the biggest brands have suddenly found themselves entangled in social media crises that no one could have predicted ... but that we all must now plan for.

Social Media Crises on the Rise
These crises were sparked by thoughtless, tactless, and/or malicious social media postings. Whether the postings were true or false, whether they originated from within or outside the company, they eventually became big mainstream news in both traditional and interactive media.
Social Media Disasters
The risk of instant, devastating damage to any brand, large or small, is now higher than ever ... and the trend is only accelerating.

In this environment, the question arises: Should your enterprise simply wait for a disaster to happen?

The obvious, imperative, and increasingly impossible-to-ignore answer is "No."

4 Takeaways for Marketers:

Here are four best practices you can implement right now, before the storm hits, that will reduce the chances of your enterprise being "blindsided" by a social media disaster:

Best Practice #1: Identify the Communication Channels That Matter Most. 
You must know ahead of time where and how your current customers, prospects, and advocates now communicate about you and your brand. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are likely environments, but certainly not the only ones to consider. Decide who within your organization will be responsible for handling messaging in each of those channels during a crisis. Do this now.

Best Practice #2: Monitor Social Media References to Your Brand. 
Two essential tools for keeping tabs on what people are saying about your company, its brands, and its promotions are Google Alerts and Twitter's search tool. Other tools will be found in specific on-line environments. If you're not now monitoring for daily, or even hourly, intelligence on what is happening in interactive media and how it affects your enterprise, start.

Best Practice #3: Create a Virtual Customer Council.
When a crisis hits, you will have minutes or hours -- not days or weeks -- to hone your message and respond. When you do, be sure to take advantage of existing online relationships with your best customers. Identify your "top ten" (or twenty, or however many) online advocates who are satisfied customers. When the storm descends, take their counsel and get their feedback before you make any major decisions about how to respond to the crisis. Ask for their help in addressing false or malicious communications about your brand.

Best Practice #4: Of course, once the storm does hit, you must BE ACCOUNTABLE for problems that actually exist, and fix them.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Pinterest: 3 Takeaways About Personalizing the Customer Experience

THE CHALLENGE: Customer-driven personalization is a powerful competitive differentiator, and marketers should take note of how Pinterest provides this.
Pinterest: 3 Takeaways About Personalizing the Customer Experience True personalization is complex to achieve and requires a deep database of individual’s opt-in preferences. However, the results are powerful.
Personalization is an Expectation:
Online shoppers view personalization as a requirement for their preferred shopping venues, rather than as simply a perk. Per our Voice of Customer research:
» Many BtoB decision makers use Amazon as their point of reference regarding expectations for BtoB personalization.
» Both BtoB and BtoC marketers have to at least match the Amazon level of personalization!
Pinterest Approach to Personalization:
Pinterest has a fascinating approach to personalization: Pinterest doesn’t take on the hard work of personalizing the experience, it enables the consumer to personalize their experience.
Per a recent article in TechCrunch by Nir Eyal, “Pinterest is becoming the web’s personalized mail-order catalog. Each user is presented with a one-of-a-kind visual interface based on their tastes. They are presented with any product, from any retailer, anywhere in the world. The items they see are curated through people and topics they’ve identified as interesting and what is shown to them improves the more they interact with it. Every time they pin, re-pin, like, or comment on an object, the relevancy of the products displayed on their magic catalog improves.”
Pinterest lets the consumer do the work by allowing them to decide whose tastes they would like to follow. It is curated by the consumer so the consumer likes what they see. And if they like the products, they will buy them.
Per a recent article from Fortune, “In March the site registered 17.8 million users, according to Comscore, a 52% jump in just one month…Brands--from large companies like Gap and West Elm--are tripping over themselves to establish a presence on it, and some are starting to reap the rewards of being "pinned," a referral that prompts followers to click on product pictures to learn more. In February, Pinterest drove more traffic to websites than Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and YouTube combined.
We will keep an eye on this company and track how they evolve to the next level of personalization.
3 Key Takeaways for Marketers:
1. Determine the type of personalization experience you want to/are able to, offer: Deep preference-driven personalization, like the Microsoft example above, or, like Pinterest, avoid some of the hard work of personalization and enable the consumer to personalize their experience.
2. Make your value proposition so appealing that consumers will come to your site, (repeatedly) and engage with others in the community by posting and consuming appealing content.
3. If you are offering a service based on personalized engagement, don’t restrict how people can engage with you. I could not sign up for Pinterest without connecting via Facebook or Twitter. They would not let me sign up via email. It is inconsistent with a positive customer experience to block enrollment via email.
Also, need to respond to questions in a timely manner. I, along with a colleague, sent questions to their support email address requesting to join via email. One week later, we still await a response.

Monday, April 2, 2012

New Value Exchange: Preference Info to Drive Personalization

THE CHALLENGE: Consumer frustration with Opt-Out marketing policies is growing; marketers need to convince them to share information regarding their preferences in exchange for a valuable, personalized relationship.
Unfortunately, Opt-Out Is the New Norm
OPT INThere are now over 200 million numbers listed on the National Do Not Call Registry. Moreover, a number of states have introduced “Do-Not-Mail” bills and the topic of “Do Not Track” legislation is red hot. Overseas, governments are taking even more drastic actions. For example, the Italian government banned all unsolicited mail, phone, email, fax and mobile communications.
As consumers find more ways to avoid unsolicited marketing communications, panicked businesses are responding by creating opt-out relationships wherever they can. This is the wrong approach.
Customer Frustration is Growing
Today’s empowered consumers are questioning why the burden should be on them to Opt-Out. In fact, prominent Opt-In campaigns have resulted in enthusiastic customer response. Consider the case of comedian Louis C.K.
In recent years, Louis C.K. has risen to prominence as a stand-up comic, an actor, and, with his show Louie, a writer, director and editor. And with his self-produced and distributed “Live at the Beacon Theater” video, he’s setting an important example for online marketers. Rather than forcing his consumers to Opt-Out, he asked them to Opt-In—in a prominent, tongue-in-cheek way:
“I’m going to be offering other things through this site. Would you like to hear about them?
- Yes, I’d like to receive further emails about Louis C.K. things.
- No, leave me alone forever, you fat idiot.”
The latter was selected by default. The customer response was unequivocal: “‘Opt in’ as the default is such a minor thing, but it makes people feel good.”
Create a Reciprocity of Value
Rather than making “Opt-Out” the default, marketers should compete to engage consumers with compelling value propositions that motivate them to Opt-In.
The most compelling value you can offer is relevance. Consumers are eager for meaningful personalization. The challenge for marketers is to make them aware that, in order to receive or access increasingly relevant information, consumers must share increasing amounts of information regarding their preferences.
Microsoft used Voice of the Customer (VoC) research to create a highly personalized experience in their Business Resource Center, which asked over 14 detailed business questions in order to deliver targeted and relevant information. As a result, they have achieved opt-in rates as high as 95 percent.
3 Takeaways for Marketers
> Create a Reciprocity of Value
Consumers opt-in to share increasingly detailed personal preference information in exchange for marketer’s promises to deliver relevant information and offers.
> Opt-In Is Not About Passively Agreeing to Receive Email
It’s about actively opting-in to a relationship and self-profiling your preferences and aversions.
> Consumers Are Eager to Tell You How They Want to be Treated
The key is to ask.