Before you build your Marketing Plan, it is often helpful to conduct a strategic Marketing brainstorming session. In this session, everything gets thrown on the table (even the kitchen sink and in some cases the bathroom toilet). All too often, people jump right into their Marketing Plan without really knowing what they want to accomplish with it.
Here are some things you should consider in your strategic Marketing planning:
Step 1: Focus and Discipline Your Communications by Developing an Annual Marketing Plan
Through the development and execution of an organized marketing plan, a company can accomplish the following:
- Brand Building—an organized effort to build awareness and affinity for the company brand among current and potential customers
- Retention of the Base—reduce attrition rates through proactive communication
- New Customer Acquisitions—attract new customers through the successful communication of the company value proposition
In addition to identifying the exact Marketing actions that will be taken during the length of the Marketing Plan, it will also include the timing in which all actions are to be taken.
Step 2: Identify Prospective customers and Prioritize Their “Capture” Through Market Analysis and Targeting
- Profitable Customer Identification—conduct a full review of current and former customers to identify patterns that help determine success with a specific market target.
- Market Targeting—Once the attributes of profitable customers have been identified, a company can then determine which types of potential customers they would like to target
- Market Sizing—the first step in the market sizing analysis is to evaluate the overall potential for the company—given the tough economic times, it is good to revisit what the actual potential of new customer group is currently (i.e., in the short term). Once the overall market is determined, the company would then look to determine pockets of potential (overall and among the identified targets) throughout the target area.
Step 3: Demand Attention With Cutting-Edge Message and Creative Development
- Create Maximum Stopping Power – aim messages toward thought-provoking issues surrounding prospect concerns and needs
- Message Targeting—each prospect target group will be unique and thus requires messaging that is specific to its needs and wants. To be successful with each of the market targets, compelling messages need to be crafted that address the specific pain points for the target.
- Communication Media Strategy—Similar to messaging, the selection and possibly a blend of optimal media for communication is critical to success.
- Creative Development—Message delivery should be consistent with the company brand, so that the creative itself rounds out prospects’ belief in the value proposition.
Step 4: Marketing Plan Execution
The final step in the Marketing Strategy Planning is to execute an Integrated Marketing Campaign Strategy—the elements of the strategy may include, but are not limited to:
- Direct Marketing—mailings (letters), faxes, and e-mails
- Social Media—maximizing a company’s visibility through Social Media sites such as Facebook, Linked In and Twitter
- Network Marketing—personal contact (i.e. phone calls), presentations to associations and a presence at local business meetings
- Internet Marketing—increasing a company’s presence on the internet through a SEO (search engine optimization) of the the company’s website and blogging and keeping in consistent contact with current and potential customers through systematic lead management
- Affiliate Marketing—to the extent it makes sense, continue to build the value of the company services through discount programs offered to partner associations
Brainstorming is a critical component of building an effective marketing plan. Don’t cheat yourself and your company without spending the time to brainstorm.
The technology used to conduct effective and efficient market research is growing by leaps and bounds every year. We have gone from punch cards to fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging to conduct neuromarketing studies in the space of just a few decades.
New technologies are wonderful things. They allow us to do more with less in many ways. That said, with new technologies comes new problems. One of these new problems has been actively discussed on the LinkedIn Group NextGen Market Research (NGMR). If you are a market researcher and haven’t joined this group, you should. You will learn a lot from the discussions on this site.
The most recent topic that has been discussed has to do with a really important issue: data quality in online panels. Online panels can be very useful tools in collecting data both quickly and inexpensively. There is just one big problem that this data collection tool experiences: the “professional” respondent or as I like to call them “cheaters”. These are folks that are on many panels and/or are on the same panel many times under different names. These folks can have an adverse effect on your data and ultimately the actions you take based on your data because they aren’t interested in giving you thoughtful responses to your questions, they are only interested in completing as many surveys as they can to receive the monetary or gift incentives they receive for completing surveys.
There have been several articles written on the subject lately and here’s why: China/India Farms. Unlike normal cheaters, these are people in China or India or other country that work for companies that are actively defrauding survey and gaming companies. These are people who are not qualified for the surveys they are filling out; and they are filling out these surveys as fast as they can. Oh how I long for the days of the simple telephone survey!
But don’t despair; there are ways to effectively weed out the cheaters. So, if you are planning to conduct research using an online panel, here’s what I would recommend you ask your online panel vendor. First and foremost: what methods do you use to weed out cheaters?
Here are the detailed questions you should be asking:
- Do you use Machine ID (picks up the IP address of the respondent) to weed out cheaters?
- Do you use digital fingerprinting and personal identity verification with a third party?
- What test questions do you use to identify cheaters?
- Do you use both open and closed ended questions to test for cheaters?
- Do you have your survey programmed such that it does a goodness of fit calculation for each respondent? Meaning do you have measures/questions in your survey that are evaluated against each other that enable you to find incongruities in your data (and eliminate them)?
- Do you use the amount of time the respondents take to answer each question to weed out cheaters?
- What percentage of your survey respondents fall out of the survey due to straight-lining (giving the same numerical answer for every question) and/or non-sense responses?
- What percentage of your survey respondents fall out of the survey because they fail the test questions?
Online panels can be a very quick and cost effective way to collect data. And, there are certain populations of respondents that are very suited to this type of surveying. So, you should consider using them when appropriate. Just do yourself a favor and do your homework. Not all panels are the same or even good. Ask questions; exercise your right to be informed!
In my blog, “Your brand is under attack, will you save it,” I talked about the potential downside to online advertising—that downside being that when you place online advertising with aggregators, you can’t always be sure that you brand message and image won’t be under attack from the ads and stories surrounding it. So, in this blog I thought I would give you a bit of the upside with respect to how online advertising can be effective if done right—with a little bit of metrics thrown in for good measure.
The usual measures of success for online advertising are click-through and conversion rates. These are obviously very important to the visibility of your brand and your bottom line. But, there is one additional measure you might not have considered that can help with both of these metrics—“dwell” rates. According to Eyeblaster, dwell time is a unique metric that measures user engagement with large branding campaigns without relying on clicks and constant mouse activity. So, basically it’s the amount of time someone puts their cursor (arrow) over your online ad regardless of whether they actively engage with the online ad.
Here’s why dwell times/rates are important:
- Eyeblaster’s “Global Benchmark 2010” report analyzed dwell metrics for billions of rich media impressions served in 2009 and found that high dwell correlated with high engagement, brand-related searches and ultimately conversion (data via eMarketer).
- An increase in dwell rate from 5% to 15% translated to an increase in conversion from 0.4% to 0.6%, up 45%.
- Joint research conducted by Eyeblaster with Microsoft Advertising and comScore also found that high-dwell campaigns led to a 39% increase in brand-related keyword searches on the part of exposed users.
Now you know that dwell time is important, your next question should be how can I increase my online ad’s dwell time? The answer appears to be video according to the Global Benchmark Report 2010.
So, having video is important, but ad placement (as always) is also key. As the chart shows below, ads on pages with editorial content achieved better dwell metrics. And, ad formats, such as commercial breaks and floating ads, perform better than standard banners.
Dwell time can be important for your brand equity/image and your bottom line, but be careful—the Garbage In Garbage Out rules apply. And your brand image, click-through rates and conversion rates can be negatively impacted by an online ad/video that is off topic/message, off target, too hard to make the story/brand connection and/or (my favorite) too over the top to convey the appropriate message about your brand.