Archive for the ‘Marketing advice’ Category

Improved Analytics Are The Key To Understanding The Social Web

December 14, 2009

I am fascinated by the parallels between the early days of email and the current social network landscape. Back in 1999, I was part of a team that defined email best practices, developed creative templates, and interviewed major email providers. The findings were then rolled out to our clients – who were very eager to hop on the email bandwagon. The process was a mix of good research, bread and butter testing, and a few leaps of faith. In the end we got it mostly right.

Jump to today and we see the same thing occur with social networks. There is a lot of discussion about how to understand and use social networks, which vendors are leaders in the field, and which benchmarks to use to define success. There is also a lot of talk wrapped around the idea of “monetizing” an organizations social network. But there are no hard and fast rules yet.

The truth is we are still at a point where learning and ROI are inferred more than actually known in social networks. Tools such as Rapleaf provide a good snapshot of social network activity but not a living view that tracks interactions. Digging into networks and identifying key influencers is a manual, time consuming, and possible inaccurate process.

Over the next 12 to 18 months we will see increased consolidation among the listening tools as standardization begins to take shape regarding how and when to listen. Every analytic package will have a social network listening module – most of which will have been purchased from a previous start-up – and every organization will have someone managing the interactions on their social network platforms.

However, the learning derived from these tools will not have a significant impact on an organization’s bottom line until 3 things occur;

1) Documentation of what is working and what is not is studied. It’s the wild-wild west out there and we are all in a learning phase. The more we learn now the better we’ll be tomorrow.
2) Social Networks are viewed from an integrated and not silo approach. This was a common problem when email was new – a lack of integration with overall communications planning.
3) Analytic tools not only identify influencers but also score and predict how customers and prospects will behave to an organizations message – eliminating a large portion of the time required to manually find key influencers.

This last item will be difficult because analytics tool such as those used for search and display advertising look at responders to a marketing event and optimizes in real time. Analytic social network tools will have to resemble customer acquisition models that identifies who is likely to respond to a marketing event. This will be complicated because a typical acquisition model relies on a relatively stable set of data. The number of social networks changes daily and the activity level on even leading sites can be variable. The provider that figures this out first wins in the space and puts actual campaign development in the hands of the marketer.

One last thought, the inclination of many marketers is to think of social networks, email, even the phone as tactics, our customers use these as communication channels. We need to be respectful of this both in our outreach as well as understanding that not everyone is going to have a Facebook page or tweet about a sale down the road. It’s the customer who decides which channel they use. Not us.

Happy Marketing

Jon the Marketing Guy
BTW: I am wrapping up an assignment and am seeking a new full-time engagement in 2010. If your organization is seeking a marketing services expert (data, analysis, vendors, and strategy), I’d like to help you. Check me out on LinkedIn, http://www.linkedin.com/in/joncohan or reply to this post.

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8 Warning Signs Your Measurement is Not Measuring Up

July 22, 2009

OK so your campaign is out the door and everyone wants to know how it is doing.  Before you go and report on the performance of the program, take a moment and think about these red flags.  It will save you a lot of grief later on. 

1)     There are responses where you did not expect them.  This happens when old promotion codes are pulled or data is misdirected.  For example you get responses attributed to an inactive 800 number or a there are spikes in response when media is not running

2)     Orders or registrations exceed clicks or calls.  Causes for this can range from double counting results or clicks from an email vendor not matching what Google analytics is reporting.  Sometime this is caused by a bad code – other times it’s as simple as not understanding the tracking methodology of the vendors you are using.

3)     Customers or prospects can not be tied back to your database. Check to see if the correct responders are being matched to your program.  Another cause is incorrect customer IDs being used.

4)     There is a significant decrease in the results of the control population.  Unless you are spinning gold from lead silk, your control package should never turn into a dog in one campaign.  Check to make sure that codes are not reversed or if there were deliver issues with the program or non-function links.

5)     Results are only attributed to a single cell.  See #4 for causes.  Again it is illogical for all results to come from a single cell/tactic.

6)     It is taking a long time to get results from your vendor.  If seemingly simple reporting (such as clicks and opens) is taking days to obtain or are partial, there is probably a problem with the vendor providing the reporting.  In these cases, it’s best to be direct and either ask for reports by a given data or ask what the problem is.  Quite often you will have to take this ‘problem’ data and do some back-end work-arounds to get resolution and it is better to be proactive than wait for the bad news.

7)     The numbers keep changing.  If you have fewer sales than the day before, stop all reporting and see what the cause is.  Here are a few simple things to check – has the date range of the reporting changed, were clicks/quotes counted as sales and then changed but you were not told, was it the end of the month/quarter and someone fudged the numbers to look good for financial reporting (I’ve see all this happened at one time or another).

8)     Results are far better then industry (and internal) norms.  The days of 15% response rates for DM or 50% click rates for email are long long long since over.  Question anything that appears to be too good to be true.  I worked on a project a few years back where the roll-out of 50,000 mail pieces were sent with a test of 10,000.  For a few days everyone was ecstatic with an 8% response rate – until the lettershop called to tell us about their mistake.

Do you have other warning signs or experiences you want to share?  Post them to this blog entry.

And as always if you need help fixing a broken marketing program, give us shot.  Remember, we fix broken marketing programs so you do not have to.

Happy Marketing

 Jon the Marketing Guy

Stupid Reasons Why Marketing Programs Fail

July 8, 2009

Here are ten “duh” errors that will cause a lot of pain and distress if you are not careful. 

  1. Links and 800 numbers and tracking codes are not tested in advance of going live
  2. A ‘manual’ spell check of the document is not completed
  3. The wrong file is mailed
  4. Legal review is skipped
  5. Fulfillment or service teams are not aware of the program’s launch
  6. The lettershop’s postage meter (or display property) is not funded
  7. The wrong artwork/creative is used
  8. The URL is not renewed
  9. Transposed data in results reporting
  10. Key dates/vendors are not adjusted to accommodate delays in the schedule

Always check and recheck your work.  Remember nothing is actually wrong until it is in the hand of the consumer.  It is always easier to fix something before it goes live (or to print) than after.

Enough said.

Why Twitter Does Not Matter

June 22, 2009

I keep hearing people tell me that as a marketer, you have to be on Twitter.  In fact I have been a Twitter user for a little over a year and I still do not get why the channel is so important.  I liken Twitter to a movie title from the 1970’s – “A Bridge Too Far”.  What I mean by this is that it is one marketing channel too many – with fewer capabilities than other channels such as Facebook.

From my vantage point Twitter is nothing more than IM slightly turbocharged.  Over the course of the last few months I have noticed a significant decrease in relevant tweats.  As a result I pay less attention tweats overall and tune out the channel

There are only a few things Twitter does well.  These are;

  • Instant surveys
  • Posting job opportunities
  • Real-time commentary – with the caveat that you have to make sure the person doing the posting is real and not a ‘fake’ persona.  In the recent Iran protest, a number of pro recount tweats were really from the government and visa versa.

Here is what Twitter does not do well

  • Share information.  The whole tiny URL read this link sending it too crowded and increasingly ineffective.  No one has time to read everything that is twitted.
  • Create connections.  Facebook allows more flexibility in creating a full view of the user. 128 characters and a small profile photo are insufficient create a real bond
  • Create a brand.  A extension of the above comment

 It’s also important to remember that Twitter has not made a profit as of yet.  Adding ad units to tweats will only diminish the value of the channel to the user.  My prediction: In a few years we’ll look at Twitter the same way we viewed the Betamax and McDonald’s selling pizza.

What’s in a Name?

June 1, 2009

I renamed by blog today.  A lot of people have commented that “Yeah, Whatever” sounded too-much like a teen-age arguing with a parent.  Since this is a marketing blog, I figured I’d forgo the cool name and become a little more ‘on-brand’.

This got me thinking what’s in a name.  Specifically why do some companies decide to risk the brand equity of an established brand by changing it?    Here are a few examples:

Boston Chicken to Boston Market.  What is a Boston Market?  To this day I have no idea what to expect from a store with this name. 

KFC a.k.a. Kentucky Fried Chicken.  Whatever happened to “Finger Licking Good”?  I think KFC misses the point that their fried chicken is what made them popular.  Now they are offering a bucket of not fried chicken.  I’m thinking the next product is some sort of potato substitute with a tofu based gravy. 

New Coke – What was wrong with “old Coke”?  This is not so much an example of a name change as a needless tweaking of a product that had no problems to begin with.

Cingular is now ATT – Here’s a good idea, let’s take a brand known for service and innovation and replace it with the name of the company that people were switching away from.  I still write my AT & T checks to Cingular in protest of the name change.

Any established retailer to “Macy’s”.  I’m sure Macy’s would do better regionally if there were still a Jordan Marsh or Marshall Fields store down the road. 

Cleveland Browns to Baltimore Ravens.  So lamented, that the NFL not only granted a new franchise in Cleveland, they returned all the old trophies/awards back to the Browns.

Montreal Expos to the Washington Nationals.  Well no one misses the Expos and the Nationals have yet to excite the Majors, so I guess it’s even on this one.

Got other ideas?  Send along a comment.

Happy Marketing!

Jon

Why Marketing Programs Fail -Reason #6

May 27, 2009

Spamming the Customer

For this post I will consider spam any communication that is ill-timed, irrelevant, or over-used.  These are the type of communications that make customers scratch their heads – communications such as;

  • Dog food coupons to fish owners
  • Discounts to try a product when you are already a customer (and can’t use the offer)
  • Birthday greetings on your anniversary
  • Loyalty/rewards for items you do not have nearly enough points for

Regardless of the number of customers (or prospects) you have.  It’s important to have a plan for when and how frequently we communicate with them.  For organizations where there are multiple departments communicating with customer (such as field sales, inside sales, and online) it’s even more essential.  I am not suggesting everyone go out and buy a CRM system – although I know a number of Unica sales reps that would love the idea.  I am suggesting that in 80% of the cases you can have a streamlined communication flow if you do the following;

  • Have a 12 month marketing calendar and update it monthly on a rolling basis.
  • Flag records as they are used.  This can be as simple as a date/time-stamp.  Put rules around how long the record needs to ‘rest’ or under what conditions can the list be used again.
  • Be aware of other company initiatives and how they will impact the customer – have a monthly round-table with other departments to discuss what will be in market.
  • Piggy-back off other communications.  For example, if you do monthly billing add one of your messages to the invoice package so there is not a second communication going out to them.
  • Allow customers more options on opt-in pages so they can tell you when and how they want to be communicated with.

 By following these simple steps you will have happier customers and fewer headaches in the office. 

 Until next time, happy marketing.

Why Marketing Programs Fail – Reason # 5

May 20, 2009

Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen

As marketers, we all have a specialized skill set that allows organizations to attract and retain customers.  This is what we do.  Yet how often does someone in finance think they can write copy, lawyers crush the intent of the copy, or sales tries to take the lead on creative?  We’ll all experienced this.  Today’s blog tells you how to diplomatically keep these individuals at bay – so you can do your job well 

  • Thank them for their input and interest.  Once you thank them you have their attention.  Then you can explain why things are the way they are.  Much of the time this will be sufficient to get them out of your hair. 
  • Ask them why the change to copy/input is important.  You’ll likely get an excuse of some type – to which you restate the goals and strategy of the program and how although their idea is “interesting”, it does not fit the particular project you are working on.
  • Address the impact of their suggestion on the budget of the program.  One client we had wanted us to mail a block of wood etched with a marketing message in it.  Besides the obvious difficulty in mass etching a block of wood, the post office was less than thrilled.   This program died a quiet death once the costs were considered
  • Go over their head.  This is a last resort, but if thanking them and discussing the project with them (to make them feel included) does not work, you may need to go to a senior ally in the organization and work top down.  If you do this, be sure to have a solid case for your POV.
  • If all else fails, document everything.  If it turns out you have to do it their way, document everything.  (Especially the impact you think the changes will have on costs/response/customer reaction).  Provide alternative plans along the way.  When the program fails, do not rub it in their face.  Instead show how the program results were as you expected (and shared), talk about what was learned from the program, and propose one of your (original) ideas as a next step.

Too many cooks in the kitchen can be delicate as far as client relations and internal politics go, but with a little foresight you can come out on top – or at least not tarnished as you could be.

Happy Marketing

Jon

Why Marketing Programs Fail – Reason #4

May 19, 2009

  A few years back I was running the marketing for a financial services company.  We were in the middle of a mailing and did not see the typical response to the promotion via our web site or service center.  We contacted the agency that was managing the promotion for us and they assured us that all was fine – yet we had not seen a single 3602.   (A 3602 is the proof of mailing certificate the post office provides).  After a few more days of waiting I sent one of my teammates up to the letter shop unannounced.  When he got there he found that the entire mailing was still on the dock awaiting a new indicia. 

It turns out that the post office rejected the mailing due to a technical violation of the rules.  No one told us.  The lettershop had hoped to fix the error without telling us. Hiding issues is one of the biggest sins in my book when it comes to vendor performance.  Here are some warning signs that mean it may be time to find a new vendor;

  • There is a lot of turn-over in the account management team. 
  • The company is being sold or bought
  • They have no available positions (slowing sales) or are always hiring a specialized skill such as programming. 
  • Deadlines are continually missed
  • It is difficult to get a straight answer from the organization
  • Your requirements no longer align with the organization

 Lastly, to stay on top of vendors you should do a quarterly meeting with them to discuss what went well, what challenges were faced (and how they were handled) and what goal/projects will be for the next 3 to 6 months.

 Good luck and good vendor managing