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Archive for February, 2009

Nine Rules of Engagement… Marketing

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

Long before the social web, people would get to know those who they did business with on a personal level. Now we have built Customer Relationship Management systems so that we have some understanding of who our customers are, how often we are talking to them, what products they are interested in, etc. to help us manage customer service and automate sales and marketing. This has not changed the fundamental truth that,

“People do business with people they know, like and trust.”

~Rachelle Disbennett-Lee, PhD

By engaging our communities through face-to-face experiences and the social web, we have a new opportunity to reconnect our brands with the people we do business with. Here are a few tips to get you started.

1. Don’t focus so much on Second Life that you forget people have a “first life”

My 14-year-old son was talking to his best friend about “leveling” his character while playing World of Warcraft. I asked them what level they were in real life. A deeply philosophical discussion ensued, and then, for the rest of the afternoon, they played with each other outside.

In all the buzz about social media and web 2.0, we seem to be forgetting that the most important interactions take place in person. Make sure you allow opportunities for people to experience your brand in person. This is what builds real relationships.

2. Experience Matters

I saw John Mayer perform at a BlackBerry event in Las Vegas a few weeks ago. There were some folks in the audience that were so focused on taking pictures of the concert with their mobile devices to share with their friends, they seemed to forget that there was a special experience happening that was just for them.

Without experiences we would have nothing to share on blogs, YouTube, Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and the like. Engage your audiences face-to-face in a meaningful way, and they will become your brand advocates, both on and offline.

3. Its Not About You

While I was at the Consumer Electronics Show last month, I was amazed at the inward focus most of the leading consumer electronics companies had about their brands. Some products were larger, some were faster, some were better looking, but at the end of the day, it was all about them.

It reminded me of a band of gorillas standing around and beating their chests in the hopes of attracting a mate.For face-to-face experiences to be successful, they need to be customer-centric among other things. The same holds true for engagement online. Think of your most successful personal relationships. No one likes to hang around people who talk about themselves all the time.

4. Engagement Marketing Hasn’t Driven a Single Sale…

…its influenced millions of them. According to Forrester Research, the traditional sales funnel has radically evolved from awareness, consideration, preference, action and loyalty, to a maze of recommendations from friends, peer reviews, competitive alternatives and user-generated content resulting in both buyers and contributors.

Make sure your legacy linear marketing and sales models reflect this, and adjust as necessary. How are you influencing both contributors and potential buyers in the sales process? Marketing and sales efforts need to be community-focused. This is true for both face-to-face and online interactions.

5. Engagement is Even More Important After the Sale

According to Frederick Reichheld of Bain & Company,

  • “Businesses may lose as many as 1/2 of their customers over a 5 year period.
  • “Acquiring a new customer can cost 6 to 7 times more than retaining an existing customer.”
  • “Businesses who boosted customer retention rates by as little as 5% saw increases in their profits ranging from 5% to a whopping 95%.” 

Make sure you balance your face-to-face and online marketing activities to address everyone in your community all the time. This includes influencers, suspects, prospects, customers and brand advocates.

6. Engagement is an Ongoing Conversation

Earlier this week, I was reviewing the social media presence of some of the world’s largest brands. Some of which have been my clients, and some have not. I was interested to find that many had set up FaceBook Pages, Twitter profiles and the like, but have long since abandoned them. Instead, the communities have taken over and driven the conversation, sometimes in a very unfavorable way to the brand.

You wouldn’t open a restaurant or retail store, or set up a tradeshow and not show up. Why behave that way online? Have we learned nothing from Dell Hell and the Comcast technician asleep on the couch? Listen, and participate in the conversation.

7. Mobility Brings the Conversation Full Circle

In the beginning, there were face-to-face interactions with a brand. Then these face-to-face interactions would drive further community engagement online. Mobile engagement takes place at the same time everywhere. You can be having a face-to-face experience while you are engaging your mobile and online communities. A person can truly be in more than one place at once!

The opportunities and potential for the integration of mobility, online and face-to-face marketing are boundless. Consider tapping into the power of mobility and integrating it into your engagement plan.

8.“What We Do in Life, Echoes in Eternity…”

~Maximus, Gladiator - (I loved that movie) …or as Forrester puts it,

“what brands do offline echoes online.”

Long before there were mobile devices, computers, or even telephones, people would have a brand experience, either positive or negative, in person. This would influence their perception of a brand. Sometimes, they would share this experience with their friends which would in turn influence them. According to Jack Trout,

“Marketing is not a battle of products. It’s a battle of perceptions.”

A study conducted by the Event Marketing Institute found,

  • 98% of people will recommend your brand after a positive experience(50% will tell at least 4 people)
  • 95% will trash you based on a negative experience(62% telling at least 4 people)

Create a strategy that integrates your face-to-face activities with online and mobile activities. Helping to facilitate the conversation across your marketing portfolio, or before, during and after an event will ensure your investment has reach well beyond the original point in time of the event, creating a ripple effect. This long tail will not only help foster new acquaintances, but build deeper relationships.

9. Measurement is critical to continuous improvement and ongoing success

As marketers, we’ve been searching for the end of the rainbow for some time now. Understanding the optimal number, frequency, cadence and type of tactics helps us improve our art and our science. Jason Falls of Social Media Explorer writes,

“The problem with trying to determine ROI for social media is you are trying to put numeric quantities around human interactions and conversations, which are not quantifiable.” 

I understand Jason’s point, but would add human interactions and conversations are quantifiable to a point. We can quantify number of engagements, and through the application of semantic technologies, we can understand whether these engagements were positive or negative, but social media alone does not provide ROI.

Events on the other hand are quite measurable. In a recent BrandWeek article, the latest EventView study was discussed. Twenty-six percent of survey respondents said event marketing is the discipline that drives the greatest return-on-investment.

By combining social media and face-to-face strategies and measuring the relationship between the two, we can understand how engagement marketing moves the ROI needle. Monetize portfolios and campaigns, not just individual tactics, and we’ll get closer to finding the end of that rainbow.

Why B2B Companies Should Consider Affiliate Marketing

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

I was at a Boston AMA bloggers meeting and affiliate marketing came up.  That sparked some thoughts for this month’s post:  What is affiliate marketing? How can B2B organizations get the most return on investment from affiliate marketing programs? This post serves as a baby step into the huge world of affiliate marketing and how B2B companies should consider starting an affiliate program, whether for their own products or partnering with organizations that have complementary products or services.

What is it affiliate marketing?

In the simplest terms, affiliate marketing involves selling third-party products and services for a commission.  According to AffStat, 80% percent of affiliate programs today use revenue sharing or cost per sale (CPS) as a compensation method, 19% use cost per action (CPA), and the remaining programs use other methods such as cost per click (CPC) or cost per mille/thousand (CPM).

Affiliate marketing has been widely used for years, primarily in the B2C market.  A Forrester Research report indicated that B2B affiliate marketing is a multi-billion dollar market.  More and more B2B companies are taking a closer look at affiliate marketing because it’s a quick, cost-effective way to deliver brand awareness and generate revenue.  Affiliate marketing is done on-line; therefore, it’s trackable, and compensation is performance-based depending on the action (e.g., lead, click, or sale) keeping customer acquisition costs very low.

How can B2B organizations succeed with affiliate marketing?

As with any marketing programs, it’s critical that affiliate marketing fits within an organization’s marketing plan.  It’s also important to have a specific set of goals for an affiliate program, resources to coordinate it since a large portion involves business development and relationship building, and an excellent knowledge of targeted niches or markets that compliment your company’s products/services.

Affiliate partners can range from product/services providers to blogs/bloggers to industry associations.  Affiliate marketing also enables companies to cost-effectively reach or test new markets or niches, identify strategic partners or place their products and services where others may not search for them.

Affiliate marketing companies

If you do a Google search you will come across hundreds of affiliate marketing companies in specific markets.  Top affiliate marketing companies like Kowabunga! And LinkConnector are currently working with B2B organizations like Marketing Sherpa and Getty Images, respectively.

Many B2B organizations are still not putting enough attention in this area and should.  The benefits far outweigh the costs.  Two great resources on affiliate marketing include Shawn Collin’s AffiliateTip blog and the Affiliate Tips website. Have you considered or are you currently using affiliate marketing within your organization? Please feel free to share your experiences.  We’re always interested in learning from you!

Anna Barcelos has over 15 years of experience in both traditional and on-line marketing.  Recently she was the Director of Business Development & Marketing for Business Link International, a messaging services provider where she worked directly with top B2B/B2C clients to put together effective consumer satisfaction and lead generation programs.  You will find her writing about the importance of integrating classic with the latest marketing media and how to achieve the best results.  Currently she is a freelancer helping and educating small to medium-sized businesses on how to use marketing tools to drive business. She’s an AMA member, monthly AMA Boston blogger, and you will always find her on Twitter.  Feel free to follow Anna at @abarcelos.

Retrench or Rejuvenate?

Sunday, February 15th, 2009

As President of the American Marketing Association in Boston, I am uniquely privileged to have my finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the market. Practical business intuition would suggest that a down economy is the perfect time to invest in your company. However, due to the rolling effects of “Black October” and the lack of confidence demonstrated by consumers during the holiday season, some marketing executives are retrenching. It may be tempting to freeze salaries, cut marketing budgets, and take on a “Marketing for NOW” attitude, but now may not be the time.One consequence of marketing for NOW might be to eliminate tactics that are not readily familiar to you as a marketer. New marketing tactics such as social media, online video, digital media outreach, viral marketing and event search marketing are sometimes not perceived as “safe” if they haven’t had a few successes already. With our clients, we’ve found that when executed properly, these new media tactics can increase your lead generation by up to 25%.

A second effect of focusing on NOW is the temptation to axe your nurture programs. These important programs may fall off the budget table because the yield is too far down the road. However, these nurture programs are your future. There are some creative ways to keep your nurture programs running in the background.

The third result of focusing on NOW is that your cuts could create holes in your message. At a time when companies desperately need marketing, cutting important online and offline channels can create unfortunate gaps in your unified marketing message. If you are not careful, retrenching can also create campaign silos, which will eat away at the effectiveness of your total marketing investment.

Marketing is always important, in good times or bad. As your competitors pull back in fear, they create extra space for you to fill. You may have an opportunity to create a bright spot for your brand to shine through the economic darkness. What will you do?

Myles Bristowe
President, Boston Chapter of the American Marketing Association

Chief Marketing Officer
Commonwealth Creative Associates
Framingham, MA

Email and Branding: Avoiding Hype, Staying Ahead of the Curve

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

Now more than ever, consumer caution is something we all have to contend with; and it’s thus becoming increasingly essential to examine fundamentals such as branding, which can play a pivotal role in marketing, but can fall by the wayside in the struggle to gain immediate ROI. Nowhere is solid branding more important than in email marketing, which is the single most frequently-seen messaging that many of your customers will see. If you have a solid grasp of branding in this medium, you’re well on your way to messaging that is consistent, provides value, and makes your brand stand out from the rest.

What are some of the fundamentals of branding that are most relevant when you sit down to compose that next email message? It all boils down to an understanding of your market, a lack of hype, and a reason for consumers to connect with your brand. Branding is about relevance, and so is email marketing. Following the basic tenets of branding is a vital way to ensure that your email program has the essential relevance it needs to remain a must-read in your subscribers’ inbox.

Continuously Evaluate The Landscape in Which Your Brand Operates:  In a succinct, yet remarkably comprehensive post at Brand Positioning Basics, Jack Trout looks at essential points to bear in mind in any brand positioning endeavor. Trout reminds marketers to first identify the product space in which you are competing, then clearly identify the attributes of that space. It’s this fairly basic advice that many can lose sight of in the daily rush of devising email creative. And yet, it’s essential to consider, at least briefly, before launching any email messaging. Markets change rapidly, and a message that was relevant last quarter may be completely irrelevant this quarter. While your branding needs to stay consistent (as Laura Lake points out in another great post), you need to remain flexible as to how you express your brand’s value.  Nowhere is this more important than in email marketing, which consumers expect to be up to the minute and highly relevant, especially when they recognize that the emails they receive are closely targeted to their specific demographics and buying patterns. Look at how your space has been performing this week or month, and how your brand fits into the current landscape.  Design your email’s creative around what is relevant to consumers now, and how your brand addresses a current need-this relevance can boost response rates, and cause a gradual increase in opens, as consumers come to recognize your emails as a source of current, timely information, not just another attempt to sell them your product.

Emphasize Real Benefits: Whitney Hutchinson, writing for MediaPost’s Email Insider, offers some valuable advice on branding when reaching out to the senior demographic in “An Important Market to Remember”: “hold back on the hype,” be transparent, and respect the fact that you are targeting an incredibly savvy demographic. She also emphasizes bearing in mind that fixed-income buyers will look for discounts before buying. This advice applies no matter what demographic you are addressing. In a tough economy, consumers are not going to make many impulse buys, so emphasizing the value your brand offers-in terms of concrete benefits, such as free technical support or industry-leading quality. Offering discounts will probably not depend solely on marketing, but if you can initiate some discounting programs, they can be a great benefit to emphasize in email-as long as they are straightforward, and provide genuine value to your customers.

Realize that Your Brand Means Different Things to Different People: This is segmentation done with a real understanding of segments not just as a statistic, or a list you can pull from your database, but as a way of perceiving your brand. Think of the last time you were approached by a journalist about your organization, or spoke about it at a workshop. It was likely an interesting experience to see how someone from outside your industry saw your company-both their misconceptions, and the surprising insights they had. Now think of your core subscribers and regular customers-their perception of your brand is often very proprietary, and yet each individual customer no doubt has her own take on your organization. While you can’t take into account all the individual customer ideas of your brand, you can segment your email list according to groups that likely have very different perceptions of that brand: new customers, long-term customers, and those who are on your opt-in list but have never bought. They will each have their own ways of understanding your brand, and the most effective email communications will be targeted to what you know about how each group perceives your company, based on your research.

 When many of us think of branding, we tend to think in terms of online and print ads, and other more glamorous messaging than the humble email. Yet, email is one of the most important venues for your branding efforts. Taking the time to make sure that your email creative follows the fundamental tenets of good branding will ensure maximum effectiveness for your email campaigns.        

Move over football, there’s a new Super Bowl spectator sport: Ad Tweets

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

I attended four Super Bowl parties last Sunday; one was physical and three were virtual parties. Along with thousands of other Twitter users, my party check list included assorted chips, beverages, savory treats and hashtags. According to New Media Strategies, there were 49,000 posts on Twitter that referenced Super Bowl advertising.  From kick off through Monday morning, we all commented on the TV spots using 140 characters or less and tagged these comments with either #SuperAds09, #SB43Ads or #Superbowlads so that we could track the conversation.

The hashtag #SuperAds09  was introduced by  media critic Steve Hall and tweets also streamed live on Steve’s site Adrants . Edward Boches, Mullen’s chief creative officer, and his team introduced #SB43Ads and also streamed it from a separate site entitled “Trash Talk from Section Twitter.” Prior to Sunday, Boches told the Boston Globe  that in participating in the Twitter experiment on Super Bowl ads, “We’re looking to use a new medium to comment on an old medium.”

Lisa Hickey, creative strategist, joined Steve and Edward to explore how pre-game advertising exposure online and real-time reactions to Super Bowl television advertising may begin to change the nature of  the “Water Cooler” chatter and how consumers interact with brands.

Is this Twitter Super Bowl party idea an example of online community, just an event or a little of both?

@stevehall:. “I think it’s a little of both. You have TV event with an online event and with the tools you have to interact online, Twitter makes it a gigantic group chat.”

@lisahickey: “To me, it’s highlighting the way Social Media will evolve in the coming months and years. I was sitting in a room with my real-life friends and family watching the game. At the same time, I’m connected with hundreds of Twitter friends. A commercial plays. I get instant feedback from people in the room. I process that, add my own thoughts and broadcast it to the Twitter world. My family then shouts out ‘What did everyone say? Did they like that?’Advertisers would be smart to realize that their commercials can be an event as well as a message.”

@edwardboches: “Things moved pretty fast. I think it was less of a community and more of an experience, like going to a rock concert. You’re sharing the same thing in an interactive way so you’re sort of feeling connected.”

Will real time group interaction change people’s perception of the advertising messages or judgment of creative?  (I’m thinking of the group think you often see in focus groups — peer pressure to agree or disagree)@stevehall: “Well, with Twitter, I think there is enough physical detachment that people feel they can be more truthful.”@lisahickey: “I looked for the effect of peer pressure, but didn’t see it. Everything was happening much too quickly – and that’s a direct factor of Twitter itself. In that sense, I think the feedback was perhaps more real and honest than what you might find in focus groups.”

@edwardboches:  “No, there is enough difference of opinion that you can always find something that validates your point of view.”

Many of the Super Bowl spots had been online for at least a week prior to game. Does this help brands or take away the suspense or interest in creative?  Will some feel they’ve seen it all so it will seem like a big “so what?”    

@stevehall “As a critic, I had seen about one-third of the spots ahead of time, so there were still spots I had not seen. In fact, a few of them I missed during the game and watched them later at AdAge.com.  I don’t think your average person would have seen much before the game. Most people out side of media don’t seek this out in advance.”

@lisahickey: “This year, I found there to be an enormous amount of pre-game chatter. And I found it interesting how many companies released their ads to the public before the game. In the ultimate irony, you would often have to watch a commercial before you could see the commercial you were looking for. Advertisers, take note: the ads I liked the best, and talked about the most were the ones I hadn’t seen ahead of time.”

@edwardboches:  “I almost prefer not seeing them before hand. The majority of people don’t see them ahead of time.  It’s mainly those of us in the business.”

What was your overall Twitter Super Bowl Experience like?   Anything surprise, amuse or impress you? @lisahickey: “I loved participating with so many people in real time. At first it was actually quite stressful. My kids (in the room with me), let me know in know uncertain terms that they didn’t like my attention being divided between them and the rest of the world. And it was all happening so fast; it was really hard keeping up.”@edwardboches:  What I thought was very interesting was the momentum we created only by sending out a few tweets, emails and invites to the #sb43ads and our site stream. It seemed like within days we had thousands of followers.  So an individual can create this attention but the key is you have to create something that people want to participate in.”

Anything stand out for you in terms of TV spots demonstrating interesting integration with social media platforms?  Or Tweets providing link to that integration?

@stevehall:  “I didn’t notice anything specifically integrated within the spots themselves. In fact, someone at the (physical) party I attended had said, ‘If the brands had put their twitter ID on the spots they might have had instant followers.”

@edwardboches:  “Watching all the spots made me realize that television is getting old.” 

Which brands did you notice participating within the tweet chat? Anyone demonstrating that they are using the medium to really listen to the consumer?

@stevehall: Definitely SoBe (@sobeworld) was very active. They got involved with Twitter prior to the game and during the game they seemed pretty engaged.  I noticed E-trade showed up on Twitter after the game started and they were on for a bit afterward.  I didn’t notice anyone else.

@lisahickey: “I felt like SoBe was really trying to listen, where e-Trade was more intent on just broadcasting. No brands really got involved with the conversation while it was happening. That is one of the fascinating things about this medium that I have been tweeting a lot about recently. How can you participate in rapid-fire, real time dialogue without getting yourself in trouble as a brand? Is it possible?”

How did the experience affect your participation in watching the game itself?

@stevehall: “Well it was multi-tasking and hard to react quickly to everything real time.  When you critique ads, it is hard enough to pay attention to the game itself, but now you have tweeting and reviewing ads and oh, yeah, there is a game too.”

@lisahickey:  “I thought one of the funniest things someone said was ‘I’m trying to concentrate on the commercials, but a football game keeps breaking out.’  It was a little hard going back and forth, especially at first. But, my overall experience was great. In my observations, this is the way the world is evolving: Moments where individuals have short, discreet, focused activity followed by moments of connection with the entire world.”

Final thoughts?

@lisahickey: “For me, the biggest thing is: what’s next? For example, next year, a commercial might show in the first half without an ending. People could vote in real time, and in the second half the ending voted for could air. That’s just one idea… there are so many amazing things that can be done with this media. I, for one, can’t wait to participate.”

@edwardboches: “Well, the Super Bowl was a fast moving event. But in thinking of everyday use of Twitter, I’m struck with how collaborative the users are. People encourage the sharing of ideas and attribute ideas to others. It’s really a pretty positive experience.”

Please join us in the conversation on Twitter: @edwardboches, @stevehall, @lisahickey,@sarahmontague 

Sarah Montague, an AMA Boston blogger is a brand strategist and marketing communications professional that has directed integrated marketing programs for diverse, emerging and high-growth national and global companies. Sarah’s first advertising agency experience at Arnold Worldwide included working on the Digital Equipment Corporation account where she was part of the world’s largest global email system. Sarah remembers the time everyone asked her, “What’s an email?” and is fascinated with how technology continues to shape new ways to connect with the constituents that matter most. Join in the conversation with Sarah on Twitter: @sarahmontague

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The views and opinions on this blog are solely those of the contributors and do NOT necessarily reflect the official opinions of the Boston Chapter of the American Marketing Association.