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Customer-First Marketing: Use data to make sure the customer always wins

March 17th, 2017

Every year when I’m in Las Vegas for MarketingSherpa Summit, I find myself on the casino floor at some point. All roads in Vegas lead through the casino.

There’s bright flashing lights and sounds. Lively chatter. General bacchanalia.

Gambling looks like a lot of fun, and many people enjoy it. But other than a few bucks here or there, I don’t partake. Because, as someone who has written about evidence-based marketing for these many years, I suspect the odds are not in my favor.

The house always wins. In the gambler-casino relationship, the casino has the slight edge that, over billions of transactions, generates positive cash flow. This is a business after all, and revenue for the fountains, the curved glass and steel towers, the futuristic trams — it has to come from somewhere.

So when I had a chance to interview Jeff Ma, I wanted his opinion on the customer-marketer relationship. Who has the edge?

The customer and the marketer shouldn’t be opposed

“I think ultimately it’s not a similar thing because the difference . . . this is like honestly one of the things I don’t think people realize — the customer and the marketer shouldn’t be opposed. There’s not a contentious relationship. This should actually be a very positive relationship,” Jeff told me.

“If I were a customer, as long as the marketer had my best intentions, I wouldn’t give a s%&@ if they knew everything about me and all the data about me. As long as they’re not going to harm or use that against me, I want them to have as much information as they can.”

Jeff Ma is currently the senior director of analytics for Twitter, was previously ESPN’s predictive analytics expert, and is perhaps best known for his role on the infamous MIT Blackjack Team. Using creativity, math and teamwork, Ma created a card-counting method that helped the group win millions in Las Vegas. He was the inspiration for the book Bringing Down the House and the Kevin Spacey movie 21.

I was interviewing Jeff because he is a featured speaker at MarketingSherpa Summit 2017 in Las Vegas, and his response was right in line with discoveries from MarketingSherpa’s recent research.

For example, “showing personalized ads based on data about me is invasive” was not a major factor in why consumers blocked online ads.

However, that part Jeff mentioned about “as long as the marketer had my best intentions” was huge. Customer-first marketing was the key difference between how satisfied and unsatisfied customers described a company’s marketing, showing that the intentions behind the marketing play a critical role in the relationship with a customer.

Here are a few more quick takeaways from my conversation with Jeff to help you look at your data through a new lens.

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The Future of Advertising: What Wharton learned from 200 marketing leaders

February 10th, 2017

The world is moving away from a standard view of advertising. Back in the ‘60s and ‘70s, advertising was fairly easy to identify. But what is it today? And what will it be tomorrow? These are the challenges that have been facing the advertising and marketing industry for at least the past decade.

What should advertising be in the future? How do we get there? And, most importantly, who can answer these questions?

The Wharton Future of Advertising Innovation Network

So in 2008, Catharine Hays teamed up with Wharton’s SEI Center for Advanced Studies in Management, founded the Future of Advertising Program at the Wharton School, and began assembling what would be a team of 200 advertising, marketing and academic leaders at organizations ranging from Facebook and Google to Tsinghua University and NPR.

hays 3Research from this who’s who of the advertising and marketing industry ultimately informed the publication of Hays’ book (with co-author Jerry Wind, Director, SEI Center for Advanced Studies in Management), Beyond Advertising: Creating value through all customer touchpoints.

In the book, she provides a perfect summation of the challenges facing our industry: “This book is for those who recognize that tremendous and far-reaching changes continue unabated in the field of advertising and marketing.”

Catharine’s research intrigued us, and I’ll be interviewing her on stage at MarketingSherpa Summit 2017 in Las Vegas.

As we prepared for that session, we chatted about these challenges, and I wanted to share a few of the lessons I learned from that conversation about her research.

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The Radical Idea: Outsourcing that touches the customer is penny wise, but pound foolish

October 14th, 2016

Think about how hard you work, how much time and resources you put in to get a customer’s attention.

It may be that you have methodically built up a content marketing powerhouse that pulls in new and returning customers. Or you invest a big part of your budget in social media advertising or print advertising. Maybe you’ve spent hours and hours scrubbing your list squeaky clean and creating valuable newsletters and a finely tuned, marketing-automation fueled drip campaign.

Whatever your marketing focus, you realize that getting customer attention for your marketing efforts is costly…and valuable (not to mention a privilege).

Now what if I told you that companies are throwing this valuable asset away every…single…day?

No, it’s likely not you and your peers in marketing. It’s probably the team in the Logistics Department. Maybe in your company they call it Fulfillment. Or perhaps it’s someone in some other department that is involved in product delivery.

These product delivery decisions are about so much more than cost and speed. They also affect customer perception because they touch the customer. Customer touches and those valuable moments of customer attention are just as valuable after a purchase as they are before a purchase.

When I brought up this idea to Shane Cragun, Founding Principal and CEO, SweetmanCragun, and co-author, “Reinvention: Accelerating Results in the Age of Disruption,” he told me that “customer touchpoints can also be called ‘moments of truth.’ They are connecting points between the company and customer where the customer leaves with a renewed perception of the company.”

Cragun said that these moments of truth touchpoints can only do one of three things:

1) increase customer loyalty
2) decrease customer loyalty
3) maintain the status quo in the buyer’s mind.

First, a personal anecdote to understand the challenge, and then a few reasons why you’re missing an organic opportunity to connect with current and future customers and ensure that you increase customer loyalty (or at least maintain the status quo).

That can’t be for me

I recently bought a clothes dryer from The Home Depot. The driver calls me and says he’s 15 or 20 minutes away. A little while later, I hear what sounds like a big truck driving down my street. I look out the window, but no, it’s just a pickup truck towing a plain, white trailer. Not a truck from The Home Depot. Must be a roofing contractor working on another house in the neighborhood.

But then I hear the truck noise again. Apparently, the truck had turned around in the cul-de-sac at the end of my block, and was in front of my house. So I walked out of the house and talked to the driver and, sure enough, they were delivering my dryer. The driver happened to be wearing a GE shirt, and I had ordered an LG dryer.

Now you may be thinking — Daniel, who really cares? What’s the difference which truck they were driving or what shirt he was wearing? Value perception, my friends. Value perception.

Marketing’s job is to turn actual value into perceived value

When you think of the marketing function today, there are likely many processes and tasks that come to mind. Managing a database. Making sense of analytics. Setting a drip campaign in a marketing automation platform.

But all of those activities are secondary. Marketing’s primary job is to influence perceived value. And you do that by clearly understanding and leveraging the actual value delivered to the customer.

In my case, the actual value delivered was spot on. The delivery people were helpful and nice, and they delivered and installed the appliance quickly and correctly. Really, everything a customer would expect in a home appliance delivery.

So it wasn’t the service itself. It was the perceived value of the service. And that is marketing’s job to influence.

But if you’re a marketer, here are four reasons you should own or influence as many customer touchpoints as you can:

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What marketers can learn from The Onion: Interview with founding editor Scott Dikkers

September 28th, 2016

Change. Is. Scary.

There was a time, not very long ago, when marketers were the only ones that had the resources to get the message out about products. And they did it through print, TV, and radio ads.

And because of this one-sided power, advertisers would pretty much just say whatever ridiculous bunk they could come up with to sell their product. Like this ad from 1931, in which a “doctor” shills for cigarettes.

According to the Stanford School of Medicine, “The doctors depicted were never specific individuals, because physicians who engaged in advertising would risk losing their license. It was contrary to accepted medical ethics at the time for doctors to advertise, but that did not deter tobacco companies from hiring handsome talent, dressing them up to look like throat specialists, and printing their photographs alongside health claims or spurious doctor survey results. These images always presented an idealized physician wise, noble, and caring.”

Not surprisingly, customers became skeptical over time. And marketers’ jobs got harder. But that was nothing compared to what was about to happen.

dikkers interview blog pic

The digital revolution

In the year 2000, 50% of adult Americans were using the Internet, according to Pew Research Center. By 2013, that number hit 86%.

With the advent of the web, more and more customers were given an outlet to express their opinions about products and services. This exploded further with social media. No longer did marketers and brands have the market cornered on communication about products and services.

This was a massive change that made marketers’ jobs exponentially harder. Sure, there was the splintering of media. But the real challenge was in the change in brand voices. The Internet created the most skeptical generation yet. If marketers could no longer get away with ridiculous boasts, what should their voice be to customers? How could they convince and connect with customers in the age of the Internet?

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Millennials something Snapchat something something

September 22nd, 2016

Skeptical Millennials (defined as ages 18-34) are a notoriously hard-to-reach demographic for marketers. But a new social media outlet can help – Snapchat.

Millenials-Selfie

For experienced marketers unfamiliar with Snapchat, it’s like direct mail, in that you can send messages to potential customers with images. But it’s like weird direct mail that disappears after 24 hours. Because it was sent by a magician or something? No one knows for sure.

But we do know that means you should send heaps of snaps to your customers when you chat. Send snaps constantly and without pause, so they can never escape your product. Just keep ruthlessly going after customers like your company is the shark in Jaws.

Spoiler alert: you’re gonna need a bigger budget.

Just kidding.

scott-dikkers-colorAt MarketingSherpa Summit 2017 in Las Vegas, one of the featured speakers will be Scott Dikkers, co-founder and former owner and editor-in-chief of the notorious news satire publication, The Onion. Which got us thinking … what would MarketingSherpa look like if it were written by the editors of The Onion?

So I got together with one of my Summit co-hosts, Pamela Jesseau, Director of Marketing, MECLABS Institute, and we had a lot of fun coming up with the headlines at the bottom of this blog post that really, really should run on MarketingSherpa … but of course never will.

It’s an interesting exercise. Comedy, and satire specifically, is the perfect vehicle for constructive criticism. It’s funny because there is an element of truth to it. And the process of identifying the satire helps draw attention to areas (of society in general, or in our case, marketing) that can be improved.

It’s important to step outside of our industry and discover how customers see it. MarketingSherpa’s mission is to share inspirational stories of customer-first marketing. We’ve learned that sustainable success comes from putting the customer first – that means thinking like they do, even if it means poking fun at ourselves.

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Five tips from a personal care industry CEO for setting (and getting approval for) your marketing budget

September 9th, 2016

When we ask marketers about their biggest challenges, budget issues are usually at or near the top. Ecommerce marketers say size of marketing budget is the biggest challenge to their companies’ ecommerce operations. B2B marketers say lack of resources in staffing, budgeting or time are the biggest barrier to overcoming their top challenges.

Everybody is challenged by the budget in some way.

So to give you a business leader’s perspective on key budget questions: What should you prioritize in your budget? How should you work with the rest of the organization? How do you get your key priorities approved?

I looked outside of the marketing-sphere and interviewed Stuart Benton, President and CEO, Bradford Soap.

Budgeting Advice CEO_Sherpa_DB

Stuart has a unique perspective on budgeting, as he was formerly Bradford Soap’s CFO, and has a perspective on selling products as well from a previous stint as Director of Sales and Financial Operational Planning at Veryfine Products, a $250 million juice company (at the time).

To give you some context, Bradford Soaps is a 140-year-old, $100 million organization with 700 employees that develops and manufactures soap for Dove, Johnson & Johnson, L’Oreal, Tom’s of Maine, Dr. Bronner’s, and other brands.

“We make the majority of all the specialty bar soaps in America,” Stuart said.

Here are some tips from our conversation to keep in mind as you set your next budget…

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Startups 101: How and why a green retailer chose to bootstrap instead of accepting venture capital

August 26th, 2016

If you’re an entrepreneur running a startup and begin to find some success, you will likely face a crossroads:

  • Should I bootstrap, funding the business myself with personal savings and/or ongoing revenue?
  • Should I procure funding and give away ownership interests to a venture capitalist or private equity firm?

To help you make this decision, we interviewed Brian Fricano, Founder/CEO, Sustainable Supply. He is an entrepreneur who has weighed the pros and cons of each option and made this decision for his own startup.

Brian and his wife launched Sustainable Supply seven years ago as a business with a social mission. “The core of what we were trying to do was sell products for commercial buildings that save water and save energy,” Brian said.

Profitable from day one

They started the business without any outside funding, according to Brian.

“Bootstrapping has forced us to be profitable from day one,” Brian said.

Without a cushion of outside funding, the company had to be creative, and launched with a “drop shipping” model, in which products are shipped directly to customers after they purchase and not to a retailer’s warehouse.

“We signed up dozens of suppliers that were willing to drop ship on our behalf, so we were able to become a virtual distributor, never taking possession of inventory,” he said.

Not only did the drop shipping model allow Sustainable Supply to start operations without the need to invest in inventory, it also tied into its social mission by reducing the carbon footprint and pollution generated from shipping products twice (first to the retailer, and then to the customer).

Success brings offers of capital

Sustainable Supply was successful, and was named the fifth-fastest growing retailer on the Inc. 500 list of America’s fastest-growing companies. This attracted the attention of venture capitalists interested in investing in high-growth startups.

This decision has worked for his company for two reasons. First, Brian would have diluted his ownership if he accepted the investment.

“Our growth after that has [grown four times over] since we made the Inc. 500 list. Had we brought on investors, we would have given away too much too early in the process,” Brian said.

Sticking to its social mission

In addition, his company has a social mission. Its tagline is “Build. Work. Green.” While there are a few exceptions, most venture capitalists are focused on growth and profitability, and less concerned with a social mission.

“Each venture capitalist has its own specialty, not a lot are specialized in sustainability…there’s not a lot out there that have a social component to them,” Brian said.

You might also like

Inbound Marketing: Medical startup increases website traffic 600% year-over-year with content marketing

Email Marketing: ‘Go Green’ campaign lifts revenue $30K for bookstore chain

Watch more interviews from the MarketingSherpa Media Center at IRCE 2016

The Radical Idea: Why investing in the physical world should be part of your social media marketing budget

August 18th, 2016

What do you include in your social media marketing budget? Most marketers focus on elements like software and tools, paid advertising, social media management, and content creation.

But let me introduce a radical idea – the physical customer experience is a worthwhile investment as part of your social media marketing budget.

Sounds crazy, right? That’s in someone else’s department. It’s someone else’s focus.

But I bet you would have thought I was crazy if I told you just a few months ago that two men would fall off a cliff chasing a pretend monster on their mobile phones (fortunately, both were rescued by firefighters and only suffered moderate injuries).

One thing the Pokémon GO phenomenon should teach all marketers is that – thanks to the evolving way customers interact using mobile devices – the digital world is not a vacuum.

Nowhere is that more true than in social media. Because companies do not own the conversation about their brands on social media. They can participate and engage and boost and shape and share the conversations about their brands. But they cannot control them.

So an important element of positive word-of-mouth about your brand is how customers interact with your brand in the physical, real-world environment. To put it in terms of an overused cliché – think outside of the digital box.

Here are three ideas to help you create unique ways to leverage the physical world for social media impact.

Idea #1: Invest in the product

This may be the most radical idea. Product cost is not usually considered part of the social media marketing budget. The usual (way overly simplified) thinking is: price – cost of goods sold = margin.

But what if you didn’t attribute all of the cost to produce the product as a manufacturing or R&D expense? What if you looked past simple production costs to consider what extra, special, unique touches you could add to a product (or service) experience that sparks enough extra joy in your customers that they’ll want to tell everyone about it on social media?

Wouldn’t this be a worthwhile investment? Specifically, a social media marketing investment? In fact, it might be worth more than, say, a paid Facebook ad.

To spark some ideas, watch this story from the MarketingSherpa Summit 2016 Media Center showing how an exceptional product experience naturally flowed into social media exposure and value.

 

“They actually were going to Instagram and posting very natural photos of what their experience was like when they received that box. They’d put their children in and want to take pictures of their babies in this box brimming with broccoli and kale,” said Cambria Jacobs, Vice President of Marketing, Door to Door Organics. “And all of a sudden, we realized that they were taking and sharing that joyful feeling. It was all over social media, and it was ours to embrace.”

Some products have a more expected passion behind them than others. And in this case, Door to Door Organics is an online grocer that delivers natural and organic groceries, a product that typically has a passionate following and lends itself unsurprisingly to social sharing.

However, any product experience has the potential for social sharing. All experiences are relative. When you create a better product experience than expected, you increase the odds of a positive customer experience on social (on the flip side, the same effect works in reverse when you don’t meet customer expectations).

If you’re serious about social, don’t leave that just up to product managers. Put some (budgetary) skin in the game to deliver positive surprises for customers.

Read more…

Customer-first Marketing: Understanding customer pain and responding with action

August 5th, 2016

It’s all too easy to think of our jobs narrowly: “I’m a marketer. I’m in ecommerce. I’m in the apparel industry. I work in tech.”

But what we really do, or at least what we should be doing, is much too big to be constrained by a single job title or industry.

To give you an example, I came across an interesting story while conducting interviews at the MarketingSherpa Media Center at IRCE 2016. As you would expect, most of the interviews focused around hot ecommerce topics like Amazon Marketplace, Snapchat, and funding a startup.

But I had a deeper conversation with Joe Peppers, the Ecommerce Market Sector Leader at The Weitz Company.

But previously, Joe went to West Point and served three tours of duty in Iraq as a Captain in the U.S. Army, before going on to work in ecommerce for Amazon, Apple, Fanatics.com, and now The Weitz Company.

I discovered some interesting lessons from military service that can be applied to ecommerce, so we sat down to talk about it…

Personally, I have two big takeaways from this conversation.

Read more…

Customer-first Marketing: Do you put your customers’ interests first?

June 21st, 2016

fiduciary-dutyFiduciary duty. These words have been in the news lately, as the government seeks to require that financial advisors have a fiduciary duty to their customers in certain cases.

A fiduciary duty is a legal duty to act solely in another party’s interests. So what this new regulation essentially means is, financial advisors must put customer’s interests before their own. And the financial industry has been fighting this.

As marketers – this should be crazy to us! This is what we should do every day: Put our customer’s interests before our own. How can a business, much less an entire industry, be against the customer?

 

Remember: You are not your customers

Customer-first marketing begins with the realization that our desires and goals are not necessarily the same as our customers’.

Let me give you an example. Mary Abrahamson is an Email Marketing Specialist at Ferguson Enterprises.

Usually if you go to marketing industry events, and a mobile vendor asks, “Who has a smartphone?” we see that everybody raises their hands. And so the vendor says – “See, everyone has smartphones.”

Well Mary realized – she wasn’t her customer. Her customers were plumbers and HVAC professionals. These people often had flip phones. So, when she launched a mobile campaign, she made sure that text messaging was an important part of her campaign … not just apps. The campaign ultimately generated more than $10 million in online revenue.

So next time you’re launching a campaign – take a fiduciary responsibility with your customers. Think of their needs … and not just your own.

  Read more…