Archive for June, 2010

Effective direct mail campaigns are possible…don’t give up hope!

As I discussed in my blog, Direct Mail Is a Viable Option for Marketing to Small Businesses, direct mail campaigns are certainly not dead, in fact they are growing.

Here is just one sign that Direct Mail is making a comeback.  According to Mintel Comperemedia:

  • In the first quarter of 2010, quarterly direct mail volume received by consumers increased 16%– 6.1 billion pieces of direct mail up from the 5.3 billion mail pieces received in the fourth quarter of 2009.

So, what should you do for a new direct mail campaign (or even a direct marketing campaign)?

  • Consult an expert—unless you are lucky enough to have an experienced direct marketer on your staff, you are wise to consult a direct marketing expert before you start a campaign.
    • And, when I say direct marketing expert, I do not mean an advertising agency.  I mean someone specializing in direct marketing campaigns.  There is a huge different between the two types of companies that I could take many pages of blog to explain (but wont).  You will just have to trust me on this one.
  • Consult your data—I am a market research geek, but I am not steering you wrong on this one.  One of the best starting places for any campaign is a getting a full understanding your current customer base.  Basically, you need to determine the types of customers that are profitable for you and target them.
  • Build your targets—you don’t need a degree is statistics and decades of experience in predictive modeling to determine your targets (but it does help).  Thinking practically, you should focus on 5 or less “test” cells that are composed of the prospects that you think you can win over and convert based on your internal customer database deep dive.
  • Spend money on your delivery system—while it is scary to spend money on any new campaign, using your plain company-branded envelope probably isn’t going to encourage openership among non-customers.  Thus, in many cases you will need to use a custom envelope or even a small box to encourage openership.
  • Craft your message carefully—the ability to get people to read and respond to direct mail really boils down to relevant copy.  So how can you create relevant copy?
    • Focus on how you are solving the prospect’s problem—including your company’s benefits are important, but make sure they are wrapped around how you are solving the prospect’s problem.
    • The letter should be all about them and not you—once you have completed your letter, check to make sure that you have used the word “you” at least 10 times in your letter.  If not, you have spent too much talking about your company.
    • Make sure there is a clear WIIFM—if prospects cant immediately make the “what’s in it for me” connection, you’ve lost them.
  • Give them a clear and wanted response mechanism—you would probably be shocked to learn that many of the responses that I get to campaigns are through business reply cards…not the call center or the landing page.  I would have never expected that dinosaur to be the winner in the response mechanism race, but it is.  So make sure you include all ways that your prospects might want to respond.
    • Test, test and more test….don’t spray and pray—testing and learning is a much safer and cost-effective approach to any direct mail campaign.  Far too often, I have seen companies send out thousands of letters or postcards only to see/realize no responses and certainly no conversions.  And for that, potentially effective campaigns get killed.  So, make sure you test and learn before you go full force on a direct mail campaign.

    As I have repeatedly said, direct mail can be a viable option for both B2B and B2C companies.  They key is doing it right.

    Happy Marketing!

    Social media impact for B2B marketers strong, but potentially limited…

    While having a long distance relationship in the beginning, social media and B2B marketers seem to be settling into their honeymoon period and perhaps marriage.  While B2B marketers do seem to be reaping some of the benefits of social media in terms of data gathering, lead generation and prospecting; according to a study conducted by LeadForce1, the benefits they are enjoying appear to be focusing more on brand awareness and education (the top part of the purchase funnel) rather than increasing product and service consideration (and ultimately purchase).

    Here’s a glimpse of what the LeadForce1 study found:

    • Visitors from the top social sites (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Wikipedia) were much more likely to click on a company’s information and blog pages rather than company’s products or services pages.
    • LinkedIn and Wikipedia users were more likely to browse around company Websites before leaving.  LinkedIn users, however, tended to be interested in “careers” pages, suggesting the business-oriented social network refers many job seekers.
    • Visitors from Wikipedia were most likely to be carrying out product research.

     

    Visitors to B2B Sites from Facebook, by Site Pages of Interest*, June 2010 (% of total)

    Visitors to B2B Sites from Twitter, by Site Pages of Interest*, June 2010 (% of total)

     

    Visitors referred from Facebook or Twitter generally visited only one page before leaving. This suggests that social network users are willing to follow company links to check out content but unlikely to make the leap to the pages that would be conducive to the purchase consideration.

    Visitors Referred from Social Media Sites to B2B Sites Who Only Visited a Single Page, June 2010 (% of each group)

     

    So the B2B marketer’s search for social media’s impact on the full purchase funnel continues.  That said, I am still excited about the potential social media provides to me and the other B2B marketers out there!

    Happy marketing!

    A traditional marketer’s view of social media..

    When starting a social media campaign, marketers need to first understand and focus on what they want their social media efforts to accomplish.   From purely a marketing perspective, social media really has two important components:  the potential for Increased revenue and brand protection/elevation. There is a whole other customer service and customer engagement side that I wont even begin to tackle, but understand that is another benefit as well.

    • From a revenue/sales perspective, social media marketing is best for the hard to reach prospects and “whales;” and by whales I mean the customer that would be a home run for your business if you can bring them on board (due to the large amount of revenue that that customer could bring).  Social media is not necessarily good for bringing in large numbers of clients at once, unless of course you are connected to a social community that enables you wide-scale access to its members.
      • Social media can allow you “backdoor access” to prospects that you might not have had in the past; here’s how:
        1. It allows you to uncover many different people that work for the company that you would not otherwise have known about—this can be accomplished through searches in LinkedIn and to a lesser extent Facebook and Twitter.
        2. It allows to follow what is going on from a company attrition perspective (again through LinkedIn).
        3. It allows you follow key executives from a company, which in turn allows you to become visible to that executive (assuming of course that the executive in question is actually doing the Tweeting him/herself and that it isn’t been done by another employee).
        4. It allows you to monitor what your prospects are saying about themselves and what other people are saying about your prospects.  This can enable you to “hit” your prospect with the right message at just the right time (mostly through Twitter, but also through Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube).  Oh, and don’t forget traditional media and e-mail marketing!
    • From the brand protection/elevation perspective, social media allows you to do four key things:
      • Position a new brand in the market or reposition a mature brand
      • Improve your customer service levels by identifying unreported (i.e., no calls or e-mails to your service center) customer service issues and problems
      • Know immediately when your brand is under attack (if you are actively listening)
      • Mitigate the impact a bad news story can have on you brand.

    Here’s how you can monitor and position your brand:

        1. Through free sites such as HootSuite and paid (more sophisticated social media platforms such as the one provided by Radian6), you can systematically and easily monitor mention of your company’s name on all the key social media sites.  It can also give you insights on your competition and about your industry in general.
        2. Through twitter and YouTube, you can provide your company’s “side” of the controversy that is plaguing it almost instanteously.  No longer do we have to wait for the media to come to us to report the story.  We can proactively tell the world what we believe to be the facts of the story.

    So in my book, social media provides marketers with many marketing and sales benefits.  The key is to understand what you want your social media campaign to do before you jump in.  So, in essence, have a plan—just like you would do for your traditional marketing efforts.

    Happy marketing!

    The customer journey and your brand…are they on the same path?

    Social media and search engine marketing (SEM) are growing by leaps and bounds.  And, they should.  That said, in this new world of social media and SEM, we often forget that the best marketing campaign is often an integrated campaign, not just one that is offered solely through the internet.

    So, even though I am a big proponent of social media and SEM, why am I recommending an integrated campaign?  That’s because we need to focus on the customer experience or journey (as some people call it) and not on any particular marketing methodology—that we like or we even good at.  The customer’s journey to our product or service brand can be as varied as ways there are to experience our brand.  So, to be most effective, we need to have our brands presented in the most positive manner in as many of these journey pathways as economically possible.

    So what type of integrated campaign is right for your brand?  Well, as you might expect, it depends.  It depends on your current and potential customer targets.  Here are some of the contact methods that you should consider for your brand:

    • Traditional Media—these are the tried and true “old school” marketing methods.  And make no mistake, these are useful for both B2B and B2C campaigns.  These would include:
      • Print advertising—best used for building awareness of your brand to a wide audience.  The key here is to focus your advertising on publications that focus on your target markets and not on national and expensive publications in which your brand may get lost in the shuffle.
      • Direct mail—best used for increasing consideration of your brand and presenting more complex offers.  Many companies have gotten away from this type of marketing, so this type of interruption marketing can be very effective.
      • Faxes—yes, faxes.  This will probably shock some people, but it can be very effective reach method for hard to reach B2B prospects.
      • PR marketing—thought these were mutually exclusive?  Not anymore.  Effective PR campaigns can be even more successful than a well-defined marketing campaign.  The key?  Making the PR meaningful for your audience…not your father’s or grandfather’s press releases.
    • Internet Marketing—these are the new methods that have all buzz nowadays.  These methods can be effective for both B2B and B2c prospects, though some of these methods are clearly more focused on the younger segments of the market than us old folks.
      • Online advertising—these are the banner ads that are pervasive on virtually every commerce-based website out there.  While online advertising has sort of been the redheaded stepchild of the online marketing set, it truly can be effective if done right.
      • Social media—these are the listening and engagement tools in your marketing campaign.  These include such sites as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Youtube and Myspace.  Remember, this type of marketing is very different than your typical internet marketing campaign.  This method has a much longer “tail” as we say in the insurance business—meaning that the sale can take longer than it would with other methods.
      • E-mail marketing—spam, spam everywhere…e-mail marketing can be effective, but for most it isn’t.  That’s because many marketers are spamming people, even if they don’t realize it.  If you are going to do e-mail marketing, make sure you engage a professional.  Even if e-mail marketing is essentially free, it can cost you a lot from a brand perception perspective if done incorrectly.
      • Mobile marketing—ads on my cell phone?  Say it isn’t so.  Actually, with the geomapping software now available, this type of marketing truly is a brave and exciting new world and possibly a “win win” for both the marketer and the consumer.  How great is it that I can receive a coupon for my Skinny Latte as I enter the proximity of a Starbucks?
      • Search Engine Optimization/Your Website—some companies put way too much focus on other internet marketing efforts without putting enough effort on ensuring that their website can be found organically on the internet.

    There are many ways you can be visible on your current and prospect customers’ product and service search journeys.  The key is to identify what methods allow your brand to be most visible to your targets, for the most effective cost.  If you’ve got the money, integrated campaigns are usually the way to go.

    Happy marketing!

    Brand strength matters…don’t let yours wither on the vine…

    In past blogs, I have talked repeatedly about the value of having and protecting a strong brand—if for no other reason than keeping your product from slipping into commodity status.  While most people would agree that intuitively it makes sense that having a strong brand would lead to more sales, not much data has been around for us data junkies to prove it.  Well, I am happy to say that one company, the Reputation Institute went out and did just that…attempt to prove the link between a strong/excellent brand and revenue.

    Here are some of the highlights of the findings from the Global Reputation Pulse 2010 research:

    • Strong reputations have a direct link to link to the bottom line in the form of increased:
      • Recommendations/verbal support
      • Purchase consideration
    • According to The Reputation Pulse Study, excellent reputations are built across the following seven dimensions:
      • Products/Services
      • Innovation
      • Governance
      • Workplace
      • Citizenship
      • Leadership
      • Performance

    Here are some additional highlights from the 2010 study:

    • Ten companies (Chubb, McDonald’s, Archer Daniels Midland, SunTrust Banks, ExxonMobil, AutoNation, Humana, Marathon Oil, CITGO and Staples) increased their reputation scores by seven points or more from 2009.
    • U.S. consumers feel the most respected and reputable industries, as measured by the reputations of the biggest companies are: 1) Food Manufacturing, 2) Consumer Products, 3) Transportation & Logistics, 3) Computers, 4) Industrial Products, and 5) General Retail.
    • With mergers, bankruptcies and bail-outs, financial industries suffered the most with the greatest negative individual company changes in reputation.
    • Interestingly, utilities and communications companies improved as a whole.
      • While the drivers of excellent reputations differs by industry, country and stakeholder group, the study found that for U.S. companies, Products/Services was the most influential brand dimension; followed by Governance and Citizenship.

    So you must be wondering which brand achieved the best brand reputation score overall….drum roll please…it was Johnson & Johnson—for the second year in a row.  Kraft Foods, Kellogg, The Walt Disney Company, PepsiCo, and Sara Lee rounded out the top tier of U.S. companies in 2010, all with excellent reputation.

    Achieving and protecting a strong brand is critically important.  Even if you don’t see the direct link between brand excellence/strength and sales, you can certainly make the connection of having a strong brand elevating your product above commodity status (even if you are producing what some would argue is a commodity product—think Band-Aid or Jell-O).   Make sure you and your employees are charged up with protecting your brand!   Perhaps The Reputation Institute will be measuring your brand some day!

    Happy Marketing!

    For those of you that want more information about the study I reference above, the following describes how the study was conducted. The Global Reputation Pulse 2010 was conducted online in January and February 2010. A Pulse score is a measure of corporate reputation calculated by averaging perceptions of four indicators — trust, esteem, admiration, and good feeling — obtained from a representative sample of at least 100 local respondents who were familiar with the company. Scores range from a low of 0 to a high of 100, Pulse scores that differ by more than +/-0.5 are significantly different at the 95% confidence level. The U.S. mean for all 150 companies included in the study was 67.38. Top line reports on the 2010 Global Reputation Pulse findings can be downloaded at www.ReputationInstitute.com.

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