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.
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…
“We knew that the content was there, but [customers] weren’t sure how to interpret that. We used very industry-specific terminology,” said Abby See, Director of Online Marketing, Sunrise Senior Living.
Visitors to the Sunrise Senior Living website are often looking for immediate senior care options or are researching senior care providers for upcoming care needs. The issue was, that research wasn’t coming as easy to them as it should have.
In the Media Center at MarketingSherpa Summit 2016, Abby told me that through user experience testing, she and her team found what was a surprising insight at the time – customers were actually requesting a questionnaire.
“They said, ‘it would be great if you could offer some sort of tool that would help me determine what I need for my mom or dad,’” she said.
The result of that insight was the development of a Care Questionnaire, which leads those customers through an emotional point in their lives, where they are trying to determine what the best next move is for a family member.
The questionnaire is a non-invasive overlay, she said, so customers don’t lose whatever page they were on, and they’re able to access it from every channel.
“They have choices from there. They can reach out to a resource counselor, or just do nothing with the results and continue on with their research,” she said.
This puts the customer in control, she said, which is especially important because, “it’s such an emotional time, so we want them to feel comfortable and confident before they reach out to us.”
The advice Abby gave for other marketers who might want this kind of customer insight, was to, “create a survey [through email marketing,] you could have some detailed information and surveys on your site, and really tailor the sales experience to that information you learned from the customer before you reach out.”
Since the launch in September 2014, the impact of launching a Care Questionnaire to foster meaningful off-site engagement has been measured by more than 19,400 users completing the survey, resulting in a 12% lift in on-site leads and a 4% lift in total site conversion rate.
The best results, thought, might be anecdotal in what See and her colleagues have seen in personal interactions with customers.
“There was a woman, she took the Care Questionnaire, it told her that her mom needed assisted living. So she did her research that night, and called several other competitors, but was able to book a tour with us at seven o’clock at night. Other competitors wouldn’t take her at that time, “Abby said.
That customer was able to quickly go from online to offline, knowing what she wanted to do and comfortable in her decision. Having the Care Questionnaire allowed Sunrise Senior Living to help her in a way that competitors couldn’t.
Abby and Sunrise Senior Living were selected last year by blog readers as the MarketingSherpa Summit 2016 Reader’s Choice Award. This year’s Award is going up on Monday, September 12 – please be sure to visit and vote for one marketer who will present their campaign on stage at Summit, held February 13-16 in Las Vegas.
Marketers can learn a lot from Pokémon GO, and it call comes down to one mantra: Gotta catch ‘em all.
Except in our case, we’re talking about our customers. While not everyone can create a social phenomenon out of their product, you can definitely capitalize on one to pique your customer’s interests and stay top of mind.
Pokémon GO, which is an augmented-reality smartphone game that has players exploring the real world to find virtual Pokémon, is currently rivaling Twitter when it comes to daily active users. This means you can’t afford to just ignore it. Especially if you plan on reaching out to millennials.
Let’s review how some businesses have capitalized on the Pokémon GO phenomenon of the past week.
It doesn’t have to be external
MECLABS Institute, the parent company of MarketingSherpa, is sponsoring its own Pokémon GO contest, with the employee who captures the most interesting picture of a Pokémon winning dinner for two.
Many companies have noticed their employees wandering around the company campus, phone in hand, chasing elusive Pokémon. And they’ve capitalized on the fun by working with something their employees were already doing.
Instead of employees trying to sneak around hiding their obsession, why not turn it into a company activity?
Recently, I wrote about our need to guard against company logic. I argued that it is very easy for us as marketers to slip into a mindset that ignores the ultimate desires of the customer. This is a struggle experienced by all companies, big or small, new or old, well-known or unknown.
Ironically, as one commenter posted, perhaps even my blog post suffered from a little company logic as it seemed to focus on what I wanted to say rather than what would have most served the audience: more application. Knowing myself, and the tendency that I have just like anyone else, it may very well be true. I can also relate to wanting to know not just the “what” of a thing but also the “how.”
So, in the spirit of taking my own medicine, I would like to attempt being a little more customer centric and suggest four ways in which we can practically guard against company logic and become more customer-centric marketers. These are not the only four ways, but they are a good place to start.
Learning the discipline of listening to your customer is essential for all marketers. This is where a marketer should always start. Listening to customers was once much more difficult, but today there is so much feedback our customer is giving to us. With the prevailing social dynamic of the Internet, our customers are constantly talking to us (directly or indirectly). We just have to make sure we are listening.
Many marketers are tempted to fear social feedback. I mean, who really wants to hear someone else critique you? However, if we are really doing our job, we will embrace both pleasant and painful insights that we gain from hearing from the customer. It is so easy to become insular and solicit feedback only from our peers, but we must force ourselves to hear the customer’s feedback. Sometimes that comes in the form of them talking directly to us, and other times it comes in the form of customers talking to one another. Nonetheless, our customers are talking, and we must learn to listen.
The first I nigh abandoned when about five years ago in college it became so inundated with spam that I panicked and started over. The experience was essentially the electronic mail version of Fastball’s 90’s hit “The Way.” I just took off and left it all behind me.
It seems silly that email could cause so much anxiety that I would call it quits and get the heck outta Dodge — meaning that I even switched email platforms.
Now that I’m a full-grown adult of 26, I know that when I have an overwhelming amount of unwanted dirty laundry piling up, I don’t just set the basket on fire so I can start my wardrobe over. I roll up my sleeves and get to work.
I apply the same principles to unwanted emails. And with services like unroll.me, it’s easier than ever to clear out the clutter. Emails fight it out for survival like it’s the digital Hunger Games.
My situation is not unique. It’s not even uncommon. As a Millennial, it pains me to admit that I am not special.
As a marketer, it makes me curious: how can emails earn their place in my inbox?
Tactic #1. Make a good first impression
Just like with in-person interactions, a first impression is everything.
Marketing is constantly evolving, because your customers are. It continually begs the question: what is currently working to grow brands?
I interviewed three brand owners from Expedia.com, the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company and Ancestry who are leaders in digital marketing to understand what’s working and what’s not for brand growth currently.
First of all, what is a brand owner? Those who build, grow and sustain brands that reflect their company’s principles, values and value proposition, to ultimately influence consumers to believe in and purchase their product/service.
And these brand owners are definitely feeling the squeeze.
“We all live in a world of limited budgets and need to make those dollars extend as far as possible,” Vic Walia, Senior Director of Brand Marketing, Expedia.com, said.
According to Kathi Skow, VP Brand Marketing, Ancestry, “With the measurement tools now available, we can see near real-time results on marketing efforts. But brand marketing’s influence is measured through a more qualitative and longer-term lens, so we’re having find new ways to prove its impact on the business.”
“The biggest challenge is how we are leveraging digital platforms,” Lisa Holladay, Vice President, Global Brand Marketing, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, said.
The top issues facing brand owners right now include:
Needing more/better insight from data to understand customer journey
Needing better predictive data models for behavior (i.e., who is likely to buy?)
Proving the ROI of brand investments with results/data
Needing to better connect and communicate with customers
Growing new markets/growing outside the U.S.
Building trust with customers and overcoming customer skepticism
Profiling customers and understanding/influencing their customer journey (use of data)
So what’s working to overcome these issues and help brand owners to grow their brands?
When Cheerios came out with its gluten-free line, social media platforms erupted with Celiac and gluten-intolerant customers celebrating. Perhaps following in the wake of the Chex cereal flavors, Cheerios listened to consumer needs and created a product line to appeal to a very specific subset of customer.
Then the worst thing happened to a brand that had capitalized on being allergen-friendly — customers started getting sick.
It was determined that the way Cheerios was processing its gluten-free grains did not keep them from being cross-contaminated with wheat and oats, resulting in many gluten-free consumers becoming quite ill.
Although the brand made a huge mistake in how it was producing the product, this shouldn’t take away from the main effort: a brand listening and responding to consumers. And while Cheerios should have been far more careful, it is important to see a major brand adjusting its product model to try and respond to consumer wants, and then readjust once more when it made a mistake.
“We see a lift, definitely, in conversion, whenever we have video on the page,” Val DuVernet, Senior Program Manager, Advance Auto Parts, told me during an interview in the MarketingSherpa Media Center at IRCE 2015.
Read on for three of the biggest lessons I learned from my interview with Val, and watch the below video to get your own ideas for using video to improve your brand’s conversion.
Three important points stuck out to me from this interview …
We generally think of only companies or campaigns having value propositions. For nonprofit companies, communicating the value proposition effectively is necessary for survival.
There is a value prop behind every action, including each email sent — why should people read your entire email or click through to a landing page? In the case of nonprofits, it seems this challenge is stronger, with no promise of a product at the end of the cycle.
This value proposition of action for email marketing answers the question behind why customers should take a specific action when they get your email — click.
Once people land on your page, that’s when you give them the reason to take action.
At Web Optimization Summit 2014, Tim Kachuriack, Chief Innovation and Optimization Officer, NextAfter, shared his experiences of working with nonprofits on email and landing page designs.
He explained that he was inspired at a MarketingSherpa conference a few years prior, when his page was selected for live optimization and critiqued in front of the entire MarketingSherpa audience.
Although confident that the page could more effectively communicate his value proposition, he mentioned his reservations when asking to test this page for the first time, saying,
“You guys helped me create this ugly, Frankenstein-looking version of the landing page,” Tim said. “It took much convincing and pleading, and many adult beverages. I convinced my client to actually let us, in fact, test this.”
It resulted in a 274% increase in revenue for the nonprofit.
A prospect 80% down the pipeline is likely going to be a more qualified prospect because they are nearing the end goal in terms of making a purchase — and because Marketing and Sales only have to get that last 20% to close the sale. At the same time, it means you can’t just push out marketing messages to names and leads in order to reach the entire marketplace.
The solution to this issue is to have a solid content marketing strategy in place, maybe even making content marketing the centerpiece of the overall marketing strategy.
Having spoken with hundreds of marketers about their content strategies over the years, I wanted to share tips on some of the basics of content marketing with the MarketingSherpa Blog reader.
It’s not about selling
One point about content marketing that can’t be emphasized enough is this: It’s not about selling your company, your products or your services. At its core, a content marketing strategy is targeting those prospects in the research phase that have yet to identify themselves as potential customers. You don’t know their names; you don’t have their email addresses in your database, and they might not even follow you on social media.
However, they are conducting research on your products, your services, your marketplace, your competitors and your company. If you can become a resource of basic information and instruction around the general marketplace of your business, you can become a trusted destination for those as-yet unknown prospects.
The two terms to keep in mind here are thought leadership and brand awareness. If you can provide valuable and relevant content to people conducting research on your marketplace, products and services, you can become a thought leader for information in that space.
As people visit, and revisit, your website and other digital outposts (such as a Facebook page or answer to a question on Quora) without being sold to, they will become aware of your brand. When they do decide to take a more definite step and raise their hand to be sold to, hopefully you will be top of mind.