Ernan’s Insights on Marketing Best Practices

Monday, August 24, 2015

An Ace Hardware EVP Answers 4 Questions For Marketing Innovators

Article by Ernan Roman
Featured on CMO.com
John Surane is executive vice president of merchandising, marketing, and sales for Ace Hardware. Since joining the retailer in March 2009, he has made significant contributions toward enriching Ace's product assortments.
Lara Hood BalazsFor example, Surane has initiated category growth through the launch of Clark+Kensington, Ace's first-ever paint-primer in one—ranked No. 1 by Consumer Reports in 2012, and has been a key driver in Ace's 20-year strategic alliance with Valspar. In addition, Surane has positioned the company as the exclusive retailer for Craftsman products in the convenience hardware industry, driving the largest product selection in the industry at more than 1,000 Craftsman-branded products.
Surane recently participated in our "4 Questions for Marketing Innovators" series.
1. What is one marketing topic that is most important to you as an innovator?
Customer loyalty is very important to me, as well as the use of powerful analytics to build better, more relevant relationships with our customers to keep them coming back.
2. Why is this so important?
We've seen through our loyalty program that half of our transactions come from returning customers. As a brand that stands for helpful, award-winning customer service, it's rewarding to see that we are offering them an amazing experience. I consider that a win!
3. How will the customer experience be improved by this?
The benefits of building a strong, analytics-based rewards program are tremendous. It allows us to reallocate our enterprise-wide marketing and promotional dollars toward smarter, customer relevant programs that follow customers through their purchase journey–giving them what they want and need.
A few simple examples of providing relevant and helpful offers to customers [is letting them know] when it's time to change their furnace filters, fertilize their lawns, or check the batteries in their smoke detectors. Next-level help can be delivered by studying consumer purchases to deliver purchase triggers before they even realize they need a product or to take their projects to the next level. For example, a customer that recently purchased three gallons of paint—the average quantity needed to complete an average-size painting project—can take the project to the next level by replacing the light bulbs from old, soft-white, incandescent bulbs to new LED daylight bulbs that will make that paint job really stand out. [That is] relevant and helpful advice delivered and powered by knowing our customers better.
The customer experience begins when the customer first interacts with a brand, whether that be online or in a brick-and-mortar store. When the customer walks through the door, it should be a company's goal to amaze every one. Whether they come in to buy a large amount of items or just one, each customer should be treated the same and be provided with an unparalleled customer service experience. This philosophy led us at Ace to launch the Ace Center for Excellence, with the goal of sharing our strategies and key principles that drive our own brand's outstanding customer service with businesses and organizations across the company.
4. How will this improve the effectiveness of marketing?
Efforts to improve the customer experience are much bigger than merely marketing. It's positioning your brand and store associates to serve customers more effectively by knowing their wants and needs before they do.
I humbly submit that our renowned customer experience has resulted in nine years of consecutively being ranked "Highest in Customer Satisfaction with Home Improvement Retail Stores," according to the J.D. Power annual study.
Clearly, building a reputation for great customer service begins and ends in the hands of our associates' consistently amazing customers with their helpful service. It's our job in marketing to drive footsteps in the aisles and put them in the best possible position to deliver on our brand promise. Engaging customers when and where they desire, with messages that matter, is a good start to accomplishing both of these objectives.
Bonus: Favorite activity outside of work?
I love to play golf—nothing too serious, though. The round must include good friends, music, refreshing drinks, and heavy doses of humility.

Monday, August 17, 2015

How Disney Influences Small Customer Segments for Major Impact

Article by Ernan Roman
Featured on CustomerThink.com
The art and science of engaging customer segments via influencer marketing or blogger outreach has emerged as a necessity for marketers. The success of this strategy depends on focusing on specific customer segments rather than broad blasts.
In ERDM learnings from 15,000+ hours of VoC Interviews, we have reported that engagement is now the critical competitive differentiator for companies.
  • Marketers now have unpresented opportunities to connect with both existing customers and new prospects by engaging, listening to, and acting on customer feedback and insights.
  • Make customer listening a part of every functional area and deliver high quality experiences in every channel.
  • Communications should reflect the “personalities” of the individual media used by customers to engage with your brand.
  • Your customer insights must be real time to stay in sync with your customer’s ever changing life stages.
  • 59% of marketers are planning to increase their influencer marketing budgets over the next 12 months.
  • Influencer marketing was rated as the fastest-growing online customer-acquisition channel, beating organic search, paid search and email marketing.
  • Influencer marketing and email tied for first place when marketers were asked for their most cost-effective online customer-acquisition channel, narrowly beating organic search.
  • Businesses are making $6.50 for each $1 spent on influencer marketing.
Disney Connects with Social Media Moms
Disney, known for making an impact in big ways, is now going grassroots with a social media outreach they call “Social Media Moms.“ It not only is a portal for information, photo sharing, and planning but more importantly, it is a small movement with big influence. The program includes outreach to specific bloggers, events, information education and incentives.
The “Social Media Moms” network comprises approximately 1,300 carefully chosen parents that spread the enthusiasm and influential power of Disney’s marketing message for families. “For a big chunk of our guests, it’s the moms who are making [travel] decisions,” said Tom Staggs, Disney’s chief operating officer.
As a part of their outreach program, Disney runs a yearly Social Media Moms Celebration for its influencers. This year’s event in May generated 28,500 tweets.
Pescetarian Kitchen Uses Analytic Insights to Build and Grow
Pescetarian Kitchen is a Pescetarian food blog offering recipes and healthy eating lifestyle tips. There little left to chance for Matthew Barby, founder of Pescetarian Kitchen, who used research for every aspect of building and growing his blog. “The term “pescetarian” is searched more than 70K per month in Google …. this seemed like a huge opportunity to tap into a very specific niche.”
Barby explains their successful strategy:
“We [had] key online communities that we wanted to be present within, and made sure we were engaging in them and shared our content there a lot. We spent a lot of time engaging within Reddit which gave us a ton of traffic. … we [prepared] content for BuzzFeed which ended bringing through 10K+ visitors to our blog and a flurry of email subscribers … we [also used] Facebook and Twitter ads to acquire new email subscribers.”
1. Think of influencer marketing as a strategy of viral marketing as opposed to mass marketing, to reach select consumer groups with targeted messages built on data, but conveyed with the kind of emotional tone that makes it “shareable.”
2. Understand that influencer marketing is a conversation. Develop methods for two-way communication that cultivate a sense of community and belonging with the brand.
3. Research where and how your niche market is spending time in order to be able to run concurrent paid marketing initiatives that build audience and generate customers.
Traditional push marketing does not deliver the type of engaging one-on-one conversations that are now essential when thinking about fully rounded 360-degree marketing. Listening and responding is now the #1 goal that every marketing plan needs to address in order to influence both brand opinion and brand value.

Monday, August 10, 2015

A Visa Marketing SVP Answers 4 Questions For Marketing Innovators

Article by Ernan Roman
Featured on CMO.com
Lara Hood Balazs leads North America marketing for Visa, where she is responsible for building the brand and business in the U.S. and Canada, launching digital products, such as Visa Checkout and Apple Pay, and leading sponsorships, such as with the Olympics, NFL, and NHL.
She also played an integral role developing the brand’s first global brand positioning ad campaign as the company prepared to go public in 2008.
Balazs, who before joining Visa in 2006 held marketing leadership roles at Gap and Nike, recently participated in our “4 Questions for Marketing Innovators” series.
Lara Hood Balazs1. What is one marketing topic that is most important to you as an innovator?
As a marketer, I’m always looking at what’s next and trying to innovate not for the sake of innovation, but for the sake of helping the consumer interact with a product, service, or brand. Right now I’m focused on how technology is driving the convergence of the physical and digital worlds. Payments have become an extension of any consumer experience in both the real and digital worlds, offering marketers exciting challenges and opportunities.
2. Why is this so important?
This is being driven by smaller, faster, and more affordable mobile technology. The proliferation of smartphones is driving the blurring of owned, earned, and paid media. Consumers don’t discern between these different media types when ingesting information on a mobile device. The best brands and marketers embrace this and are often leading campaigns with earned media. When we launched Visa Checkout, our easier way to pay online, we invited technology and financial influencers to be some of the first to try our new service and use their social channels to highlight their experiences. Only after we received credibility via social and digital did we launch paid media. Even then, we started with 15-second digital videos that showcased the ease and convenience of Visa Checkout.
3. How will the customer experience be improved by this?
The physical and digital convergence means faster, easier, more secure experiences in our lives. A great example of this is how we now watch and consume media. Online streaming services have put extensive libraries of digital entertainment at our fingertips–giving consumers the ability to choose not only what they watch, but when and how they watch it. And it’s not just at home or on the go.
And it’s not just about digitizing the physical experience. Technology is helping transform real-world experiences, like a night on the town or even dating. From the palm of your hand, consumers can find a date on Tinder, purchase movie tickets on their mobile, get a cab through Uber or Lyft, and order dinner for two on GrubHub. In many of these instances, the act of paying is ubiquitous. Payment used to be a bolt-on to the experience, and now it’s a key component. Today, you can make a safe, seamless payment that is imbued into the shopping experience, whether in a store, online, on your mobile, or, in the future, even through a connected car.
4. How will this improve the effectiveness of marketing?
Technology and smartphones are forcing marketers to up their game. On a mobile device, you have a small screen and only a few seconds to capture your consumers’ attention, as well as the ability to track your effectiveness. Your messages need to be compelling and relevant. As a marketer, the bar is higher than ever, but that makes our jobs more challenging and exciting.
Bonus: Favorite activity outside of work?
Skiing with my two boys, ages 8 and 11. My husband and I met skiing in Whistler, Canada. Our kids learned to ski at Squaw Valley in Tahoe when they were three, and now we all enjoy it together.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Marketers: Use These 2 Strategies to Engage with Consumers, Win BIG

Article by Ernan Roman
Featured on CustomerThink.com
Your marketing messages go through a virtually instantaneous evaluation by consumers.
Engage with ConsumersThey either identify with your communication and say, “Yes, that’s me!” or, disconnect, feeling that you have no idea who they are or what they want. It’s all based on your degree of relevancy.
The following requirements for achieving meaningful marketing relevance emerged from 15,000 + hours of VoC research we have conducted;
  • Segmentation by life stage is now essential for determining which products consumers will see as relevant.
  • Within life stages, determine consumer’s self defined attitudes toward your category and your products.
  • Develop truly personalized messaging and offers for each individual consumer with relevant content and imagery to address their likely concerns and questions.
  • Your customer insights must be real time to stay in sync with your customer’s ever changing life stages.
  • Most shoppers want innovations that improve convenience and efficiency, extending beyond personalization into hyper-relevance [Tweet this]
  • Hyper-relevance delivers value… or engagement… throughout the shopping lifecycle, … that best suits the customer’s context (where [they], what [they] are looking to accomplish in that moment).
Relevancy Strategy 1: Make your brand and product relatable to your target audience:
How Nail Polish Helped Ace Hardware Become Relevant
When Ace Hardware set out last year to begin targeting women, they reached out with a relevant and unexpected message that women could relate to–offering wall paint in OPI Nail Polish colors. The campaign was so successful that the two companies teamed up to introduce a lineup of 50 new colors.
One of the reasons this unlikely effort worked, is that it made the idea of do-it-yourself relatable and turned the “helpful hardware man” stylish. The company quite literally re-engineered not only their marketing strategies, but also their actual product in order to make it relevant to a brand new audience.
Bloggers, women’s magazines, and other style-savvy media outlets that would have never before reported on a paint collection found the campaign relevant to their audience which made the reach all that much wider.
These efforts to make an established brand relevant to new audiences appear to be working. Ace Hardware reported that for the first quarter ended April 4, 2015, total revenues were $1,186.1 million against $1,078.7 million a year ago.
Relevancy Strategy 2: Tailor your offering and message to a highly targeted audience to ensure relevance to their needs:
BtoB Relevancy Drove Event Attendance for Replicon
Replicon, a software company, turned to LinkedIn to promote live BtoB events to specific job titles. They created an event series called “Culture vs. Compliance,” featuring live presentations.
Brett Chester, VP-online marketing at Replicon noted that the company “utilized a marketing mix that no one had used before in the same way.” They teased the event with a LinkedIn sponsored update and followed up with sponsored targeted InMail messages sent to LinkedIn users with HR, payroll manager and higher-level titles.
Victor Lin, digital marketing manager at Replicon reported that “…Within the first two weeks of the campaign, the sponsored updates delivered over 90,000 impressions, with an average click-through rate of 1.33%, compared with the LinkedIn average click-through rate of 0.31% during that same time period.” The company reports that the event achieved the campaign goal, with an average attendee rate of 51% — and in some locations, the attendance rate topped 60% of registrations.
“[We used] copy resonating with our target audience [and] we tweaked the message as we were learning and improving… When you truly understand your audience, who they are and what they need, then you are able to say, ‘We have something you’re looking for’,” said Lin.
3 TakeAways
1. Consumers are demanding marketing that is relevant to their interests as a person for BtoC, and to their individual job title and function for BtoB.
2. Marketing ROI increases significantly when targeted to an audience with a message that is relevant per 3 criteria; their interests, life stages and self defined attitudes toward your category and brand.
3. Be creatively daring! The Ace Hardware example above and the Ice Bucket challenge last year are examples of extreme creativity.
Today, the big win will be achieved when marketers engage consumer needs with credible relevancy. By scrutinizing every single communication to make sure it is relevant, you demonstrate a sincere interest in what is truly important to your customers.