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Digital Marketing: Be relevant, data-driven and precise

July 31st, 2012
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I think all marketers would agree that digital technology has brought about a sea change in the world of marketing. The basic model has gone from almost exclusively “push” messages to more of a “pull” approach that combines traditional channels, such as advertising and direct mail, with strategies like search engine optimization, social media marketing, mobile and email marketing.

At one point in time, marketers could dictate the message their prospects and customers received, and then hope that message resonated enough to drive sales. In the complex sale, this meant Sales was handed scads of leads from a variety of sources with almost no additional information about that prospect on where they were in the buying cycle, or even where they were in the buying process at their company.

 

Power shifting to the customer

In marketing today, prospects and customers are educating themselves about your industry, business space and product or service area. This holds true in both B2B and consumer marketing.

These people are not interested in receiving marketing messages pushed to them from the mountaintop. They want useful information to begin the decision-making process long before they actually interact with your company or brand.

This new way of looking at marketing has been described a number of ways, and one new book fresh off the presses calls it, “precision marketing.”

I had the chance to speak with Sandra Zoratti, Vice President Marketing, Executive Briefing and Education, Ricoh. Along with Lee Gallagher, former Director Precision Marketing Solutions, Ricoh, she co-authored, Precision Marketing: Maximizing revenue through relevance, which is this week’s MarketingSherpa Book Giveaway.

Sandra defines the term, “Precision marketing is about using data to drive customer insights so that you send the right message to the right person at the right time in the right channel.”

 

 

The precision marketing framework is about following a logical, sequential and continually improving process:

  1. Determine objective
  2. Gather data
  3. Analyze and model
  4. Strategize
  5. Deploy
  6. Measure

We covered a variety of what Sandra considers precision marketing topics, including how it can even help improve your marketing career.

Before I get into Sandra’s ideas, here are a few interesting data points from the book:

  • 64% of consumers say promotional offers dominate email and traditional mail received. Only 41% consider these offers “must-read” communications.
  • Out of the 91% of consumers opting out or unsubscribing from email programs, 46% do so because the messages are not relevant.
  • 41% of consumers would consider ending a brand relationship because of irrelevant messaging, and an additional 22% would definitely end the relationship because of irrelevance.
  • A survey of IT buyers by the International Data Group found 58% of vendor content was not relevant to potential buyers, and that this lack of relevance reduced the chance of closing a sale by 45%.

Are you seeing a theme here? Relevance is extremely important in marketing today.

“I say customers are powerful, in control, and they know it,” Sandra says. “They vote with their dollars. They vote with their attention, and what I would call their brand-altering online voices. So, customers are really in the driver’s seat, and marketers need to recognize that.”

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Digital Marketing 101: A panel for startups

July 6th, 2012
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Recently, I had the privilege to sit on, and moderate, a panel discussion on the basics of digital marketing for the technology startups being incubated at Tech Wildcatters in Dallas this spring and early summer.

We covered a variety of digital marketing topics, but we focused on three areas: email marketing, social media marketing and online privacy. And, I wanted to share some of the panel’s wisdom with MarketingSherpa readers. Luckily for me, I was joined on the panel by two excellent marketers – Dennis Dayman, Chief Privacy and Security Officer, Eloqua, and Shama Kabani, CEO, the Marketing Zen Group.

It was called “fireside marketing,” but, thankfully, the fireplace was virtual given the summer temperatures in Dallas.

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The Boston Globe: An inside look at launching a paid content site

June 7th, 2012
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The Boston Globe has been in the content business for a long time. The newspaper published its first edition on March 4, 1872. Now in the digital age, it offers a free online version. At the end of last year, the company decided to include a premium, subscription-based digital version as well.

This blog post reveals an early, inside look at the approach The Boston Globe is taking to launch a paywall, complete with an honest look at a few bumps the marketing team hit along the way.

Peter Doucette, executive director of circulation, sales and marketing, The Boston Globe, will present further information about the newspaper’s marketing efforts at the MarketingSherpa and MarketingExperiments Optimization Summit in Denver, June 11-14.

 

THE CHALLENGE

The marketing challenge for The Boston Globe is maintaining two Internet offerings, one free and one paid.

Peter says the issue is to grow digital consumer revenue while at the same time maintain and grow digital advertising revenue.

“In the end, how do you take a prospect and turn them into a customer?” he asks.

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Online Privacy: Information from the EU and Capitol Hill

May 15th, 2012
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Dennis Dayman, Chief Privacy and Security Officer, Eloqua, has been a hands-on participant in the ongoing online privacy debate in Washington, D.C.

After his recent trip to the Capitol, I interviewed him to give MarketingSherpa blog readers an inside look at the current political process involving proposed privacy regulations here in America as well as find out about some conversations he had with officials from the European Union.

Frankly, I was surprised how much behind-the-scenes information he revealed.

 

The White House and the Federal Trade Commission have publicly supported the self-compliance efforts promoted by the Direct Marketing Association, the Council of the Better Business Bureaus, the Digital Advertising Alliance and other groups.

And, for marketers either based in Europe or conducting business on the continent, the EU directive should become much simpler very soon, according to Dennis.

In the U.S., a number of legislative actions will probably reach the floor for a vote, but are not likely to pass.

Dennis has been lobbying the lawmakers on Capitol Hill. His position is that security is an issue worth addressing, but that privacy — right now — is better handled at the enterprise level. The playing field just simply changes far too fast for any effective legislation, Dennis says.

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Digital Marketing: Google’s “Zero Moment of Truth”

April 26th, 2012
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For last Tuesday’s SherpaBlog post, I covered some of our own MarketingSherpa research. This post is about an e-book from Google – Winning the Zero Moment of Truth – by Jim Lecinski, Managing Director of US Sales & Service and Chief ZMOT Evangelist, Google.

 

What is the Zero Moment of Truth?

Google defines the zero moment of truth, or ZMOT, as the decision-making moment of online shoppers.

Here’s how the process that leads to ZMOT is described on the e-book’s landing page:

Today we’re all digital explorers, seeking out online ratings, social media-based peer reviews, videos, and in-depth product details as we move down the path to purchase. Marketing has evolved and modern marketing strategies have to evolve with the changing shape of shopping.

 

Jim describes this process as something that “changed the rulebook” on “where marketing happens, where information happens, and where consumers make choices that affect the success and failure of nearly every brand in the world.”

That is a pretty bold statement, but as practicing marketers, you probably have to agree that digital marketing and the power that consumers (for B2C marketers) and clients (for B2B marketers) have in terms of finding the information they want, and not necessarily what you want them to see, has been a true game-changer.

Here are the elements of ZMOT:

  • Not surprisingly for an e-book published by Google, Lecinski says that ZMOT happens online, usually started by a Web search via Bing, Google, Yahoo!, YouTube or another search engine
  • It happens in real time – any time of the day or night
  • The consumer is in charge and pulling information, not consuming a pushed message
  • It’s satisfying an emotional need of the consumer
  • The conversation involves many parties: the customer, marketers, friends, strangers, websites and experts

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Crisis Communication: The first 48 hours of 9/11 from inside American Airlines headquarters

September 9th, 2011
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Tony Wright, founder and CEO, WrightIMC, had a very unique view of the tragic events of September 11, 2001. — he worked for Weber Shandwick on the American Airlines account, helping with corporation communications and interactive marketing. One of his key responsibilities was optimizing AA.com for search.

“When 9/11 happened, it was an all-hands-on-deck type of thing at Weber Shandwick. [American Airlines] called us because they needed help and support,” explained Tony.

He immediately drove over to the Fort Worth, Texas, airline headquarters and began tracking news about the event and his client.

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Marketing Psychology: The behavioral triggers behind success at Amazon, Groupon and FarmVille

September 8th, 2011
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I like to think of myself as a savvy consumer. I research purchases. I ask friends for suggestions. I look for deals. This has undoubtedly spared me headaches and wasted money — but it has not freed me from clever marketing.

This fact is made clear in a recent Wired article by Dan Ariely, Professor of Behavioral Economics, Duke University. In the piece, Ariely explains the psychological factors that help build Amazon, Facebook, Groupon and other successful companies.

We interviewed Ariely last year about his book, Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, and published his advice. Here are three marketing insights from his recent article in Wired:

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Green Marketing: How to tap into a $3.5 trillion market

June 28th, 2011
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In a time of overall economic uncertainty, when there is shrinking demand for everything from big box stores to diagnostic imaging, where can marketers find a market for growth?

Simply put, there is green in being green. The global market for green products is projected to hit $3.5 trillion by 2017. How often do you hear the word “trillion” used outside of talks about the national debt?

But notice I use the word “being” in the above sentence. It is no longer good enough to simply “appear” green, you must come through on that marketing promise.

“Transparency is the new privacy,” according to Alina Wheeler, author of Brand Atlas and Designing Brand Identity. “Consumers can access product information, labor practices, and environmental compliance in a few keystrokes. Bloggers reviewing products hold nothing back. Word of mouth can break a brand. A company’s reputation is valuable and can be ruined by a false representation of the product.”

Not only might the government punish you for greenwashing, customers will too, according to the 2011 Cone Green Gap Trend Tracker:

Most Americans are willing to punish a company for using misleading claims. Of the 71 percent who will stop buying the product if they feel misled by an environmental claim, more than a third (37%) will go so far as to boycott the company’s products.

Ouch. Sounds like a jilted lover. So how do you take advantage of this huge market opportunity while avoiding turning any of your customers into bunny boilers? In this blog post, I’d like to help your company answer two questions:

  • Are we guilty of greenwashing now without even realizing it?
  • How can we best express our green value proposition?

Green rinse, wash, but whatever you do, don’t repeat

Green marketing is no easy task for the simple reason that there is no one clear definition of what it actually means to be green. For example, is a Barbie doll green simply because the doll comes with a purse made out of recycled material? After all, the doll is made out of plastic (which comes from petroleum) and is wrapped in plastic.

Perhaps that’s why, when TerraChoice studied this topic last year, it found that (of 5,000 retail items studied), every single toy and 95% of home and family products had at least one eco-friendly claim that turned out to be misleading or false.

So maybe you’ve unintentionally accidently stumbled into this trap once or twice in the past. How can you avoid it going forward?

Eric Corey Freed, an expert on green design and green products, gave me this six-step checklist to help you evaluate your marketing efforts:

6 signs you may be greenwashing

1.  Jargon: An environmental statement should be clear and concise. If you are using a lot of confusing jargon or technical terms, then dig a little deeper if you really do have a simple, green message for your customers.

2.  Fake friends: If your company cannot obtain a legitimate and respected certification from the USDA’s Organic Program or the U.S. Green Building Council, don’t seek to obtain certification from Photoshop. Don’t create your own. Consumers are wary of labels, seals or awards that seem fake or made-up.

3.  Tiny amounts: Just containing recycled content is not enough. Don’t claim to be green if your products contain only 4% recycled content, especially if the raw material is not green to begin with (i.e.:  recycled vinyl).

4.  Running alone: One green product line out of dozens of non-green ones is green washing. If this one line of products is your “green” line, what would you call your other products? The toxic line? Beware of trying to appease people with little effort.

5.  Suggestive ads: Don’t paint a picture of perfection. Don’t show images of flowers flowing out of a tailpipe, or rainbows terminating with a pot of your product. Simply painting a green happy face does not make a product green.

6.  LEED Certified: The impossible claim. Buildings get certified, not products. There is no such thing as a LEED-certified product. Beware of claiming that your products are certified and just slapping on on the official seal of the U.S. Green Building Council. It may just be that your company is a member, not certified.

Effectively expressing your green value proposition

That’s a pretty harsh list of what not to do. And hopefully it helps you avoid any warning letters or fines from the Federal Trade Commission.

But, assuming you have a legitimate green value proposition, how do you communicate it to your audience? Here are two factors to consider:

Anxiety reducers: In testing we’ve conducted through MarketingExperiments, we’ve found that including anxiety reducers in the form of customer testimonials, industry awards, and privacy policy logos can significantly increase conversion. In the green world, those anxiety reducers tend to come from third-party certification seals.

“We’re a third-party verifier of environmental claims, so we believe that getting certified to an independent standard is the best way to prove that your product is truly sustainable,” said Nick Kordesch, Communications Associate, Scientific Certification Systems. “If you’re Home Depot, for instance, and you get your wood products third-party certified to the Forest Stewardship Council’s well-respected standard for responsible forestry, you gain instant credibility.”

Heck, even McDonald’s is beginning to dip a toe in the green pool, Kordesch says.

“McDonald’s just got their EU restaurants certified to the Marine Stewardship Council standard for sustainable seafood. They haven’t been seen as a ‘green’ company, but aligning with a strong standard gives them credibility.”

Alina Wheeler agrees. “As the proliferation of choices grows exponentially, consumers are looking for ways to facilitate their decisions and align their values with their purchases. Which products and companies should they trust? Which brands are environmentally and socially responsible? Certification matters.”

However, a lot of smaller businesses don’t have the resources to get certified. What does Nick advise in those situations?

“Small businesses should make sure that any green claims they are making are specific and can be proven. If you claim that a product is ‘eco-friendly,’ it’s really hard to back up that claim. If you say your product was made from recycled content, you could prove that pretty clearly.”

Value enhancers: Here’s a place where I see a major opportunity for green marketers. Sure, there are the greenwashers. But on the flip side, many companies aren’t doing enough to effectively communicate the value of the many green initiatives they are already taking.

This isn’t unique to green marketing, of course. Through MarketingExperiments research, we’ve found that many companies have difficulties expressing their value proposition. For example, in a bedding company homepage we optimized in a Web clinic about powerful value propositions (it’s about half way down the page). The value proposition was buried in a long, complex sentence that probably was skipped over by most visitors.

If you do have green bona fides, don’t shy away from expressing them. One way to do that is by getting your staff involved.

Or move to the next level and jump in with two feet. Build your entire company narrative around sustainability. Spearhead a green team. Get manufacturing, customer service, human resources, and senior buying managers involved.

Once you’re created strong plot points, tell that story through every customer touch point you have.

“Patagonia is viewed as a top-tier sustainable marketer because they’ve really lived their sustainability messaging. They are consistently exceeding requirements and leading the way in terms of organic cotton, textile recycling, and supporting green causes. Their customers don’t have much anxiety about their green claims,” Nick Kordesch said.

And they tell that story well. On their homepage, they have a separate tab just for environmentalism (out of only four tabs). They sell songs to benefit the environment. And even though they are selling clothing, they talk about the importance of clean water.

Of course, if you have a strong story to tell, look past your own homepage. There is a passionate audience out there looking for green solutions, so this is an excellent chance to build strong word of mouth.

“Once the company is secure in its green bonafides, I’d develop a social media campaign that engages identified green bloggers and seed them with the product/service,” said Tom Augenthaler, author of Social Media Judo.

“At this point, the product should have been vetted by third parties and feedback taken and incorporated to improve/tweak the product, so the blog posts should be rather positive. This will greatly help the readers feel confident that they are buying something that is truly green and therefore worthwhile.”

In the end, to remix a quote from another Michael Douglas movie, “Green, for a lack of a better word, is good.” It’s a good way to connect with your customers. It’s good for the bottom line. And, heck, it’s a good thing to brag about to your kids when you get home.

After all, it’s their world. We’re just holding it in safe keeping for a few years.

Related resources

FTC Green Guides

Terrachoice’s “6 Sins of Greenwashing”

Corporate Social Responsibility, Meet Transparency

Members Library — Don’t Make These Common Green Marketing Mistakes

Landing Page Optimization: Clean air or a free backpack? (Which is the bigger incentive for Sierra Club members?)

Photo by Looking Glass

New Technology Tracks the Eyepath of Website Visitors

June 14th, 2011
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A recently published research paper may prove to be of great interest to marketers. “No Clicks, No Problem: Using Cursor Movements to Understand and Improve Search,” by Jeff Huang, Information School University of Washington; and Ryen W. White and Susan Dumais of Microsoft Research, takes a look at the correlation of eyegaze on a webpage and cursor placement.

This research found a high correlation between where the cursor was placed on a page and where the user was actually looking, and created a tiny JavaScript capable of running invisibly on a webpage that tracks where the cursor is in real time providing information on where that webpage visitor is looking and, possibly more importantly, pausing throughout the visit.

This is from the abstract of the linked paper:

In this paper, we examine mouse cursor behavior on search engine results pages (SERPs), including not only clicks but also cursor movements and hovers over different page regions.

We: (i) report an eye-tracking study showing that cursor position is closely related to eye gaze, especially on SERPs; (ii) present a scalable approach to capture cursor movements, and an analysis of search result examination behavior evident in these large-scale cursor data; and (iii) describe two applications (estimating search result relevance and distinguishing good from bad abandonment) that demonstrate the value of capturing cursor data.

Maybe most intriguing for marketers is the final line of the abstract, “Our scalable cursor tracking method may also be useful in non-search settings.”

The JavaScript code that drives this online tracking tech is a mere 750 bytes and had a negligible effect on the load time of webpages hosting the script. Although this technology is not yet commercially available, it should eventually present another interesting avenue for marketers to test website visitor’s behavior.

Click to enlarge

Jeff Huang, the team member who implemented and deployed the cursor tracking code, mined the cursor data, and wrote parts of the paper, took a few moments to answer several questions I had about this intriguing technology.

Tell me a little more about this research.

Jeff Huang: We examined mouse cursor behavior on search engine results pages, including not only clicks but also cursor movements and hovers over different page regions. In an eye-tracking study, we showed that cursor position is closely related to eye gaze. We developed a scalable approach to capturing cursor movements, and an analysis of search result examination behavior for over 300,000 queries from around 22,000 people. Finally, we were able to use cursor movements to estimate search result relevance and distinguishing good from bad abandonment.

Marketers are probably familiar with click and heatmaps, and this seems closely related to that technology. Do you think this technology can be useful for more than search?

JH: Cursor movements can create heatmaps with a similar appeal as click maps. While click maps show only the regions being clicked, movement heatmaps can also show regions that received attention by proxy of the cursor position. Often clicks are not available for smaller sites so movements can provide richer information.

Could marketers utilize this tech for webpage research to improve, say, the eyepath of the page? Is cursor movement correlated with a page visitor’s eyepath?

JH: Yes, as we mention in the paper, the cursor is typically within 200 pixels of the eye gaze. The most common position for the cursor is to be slightly below what the user is looking at. We also found that the cursor follows the eye gaze by around 200ms [milliseconds] (although the data for this is highly variable).

Does this technology offer other applications for marketing efforts or webpage testing?

JH: Sure, having records of the cursor movements allow marketers to replay the user’s session on the Web page. For example, they can see which order a user filled out a form even if they did not complete the form and left the page instead. We have developed an efficient method to record the cursor movements so they take a minimal amount of space and can be collected without disrupting the user.

Is this tech publically available, and if not, when is commercial roll-out expected?

JH: This was developed as part of an internship at Microsoft Research last year, and deployed to internal users. I will return to Microsoft again this summer, but I cannot comment on its commercial availability.

B2B Marketing: Combining sales and marketing knowledge to improve lead qualification

June 10th, 2011
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Few issues create more conflict between sales and marketing than lead qualification criteria. In the MarketingSherpa 2011 B2B Benchmark Report, 72 percent of marketers listed generating higher-quality leads as their single biggest challenge, up from 69 percent the prior year. In most cases, Sales and Marketing each see lead qualification from very different perspectives, both of which have value.

In sales, management spends considerable time, including extensive one-on-one coaching, teaching sales people about lead qualification criteria, often dissecting specific sales calls, contacts, opportunities, and accounts. Good sales people soon learn that qualifying prospects takes significant skill and judgment.  Invariably, the best sales people are superb at this skill.

In contrast, the best marketers look at a sophisticated combination of techniques for delivering more qualified prospects to sales:

  • Targeting. By soliciting the right audience, fewer out-of-market prospects inquire.
  • Messaging and calls-to-action. The right message and supporting content will attract the most qualified buyers.
  • Explicit user-supplied information. Registration forms enable marketers to ask qualifying questions, questions that can evolve as the prospect moves deeper into the buying cycle.  Unfortunately, prospects are unwilling to fill-out a lot of information on a registration form so this tactic must be used with great restraint. MECLABS has one case study, for example, that shows a 189 percent increase in registration largely by decreasing the amount of information on a registration form.
  • Implicit data. Increasingly, marketers are drawing inferences about not just an area of interest, but the likely depth of interest, the role of the responder in the buying process, and similar qualifying information, all based not on what a prospect says but on what he or she does, primarily via his or her clickstream behavior but also via other media and transactional information.
  • Data Hygiene, enhancement, and consolidation. The cloud is creating very scalable and cost-effective tools for cleaning up inquiries, appending additional or better business card or firmagraphic information to each record, and consolidating duplicate accounts, contacts or areas of interest. The right processes will typically identify 14 to 21 percent of the lead pool as either duplicate or not usable (e.g., the visitor enters “Mickey Mouse” for a name).
  • Lead Scoring. Lead scoring uses any and all of the implicit, user-supplied information along with explicit and appended information to identify and prioritize records worthy of human follow up.

Leaving aside tele-qualification as a marketing function, the key difference between the approach of sales and marketing is this: marketing uses largely quantifiable techniques, primarily driven by highly scalable business rules and automation while sales uses qualitative techniques that are extremely nuanced and very subjective and invariably much more exacting for a given account.

In other words:

  • Marketing improves the probability of success across a pool of responders.
  • Sales identifies the probability of success for a particular responder.

Customers and prospects hedge, withhold information intentionally, change their minds, and/or misunderstand and even fabricate information.  Sales people use, not just the words of a customer, but a range of information, including someone’s tone, body language (in the case of on-site sales calls), the perspective of others within the account, external sources, and many other tools to evaluate the probability of purchase. While lead scoring is improving every day, it obviously has a long way to go before replicating the qualification techniques of sales people.

The truth is these two approaches are highly complementary

The more sales understands the tools and limitations marketing uses, the more insightful their suggestions can be; likewise, the more marketing understands the criteria and methods the best sales people use, the more marketers can improve their own upstream practices.

Related resources

MarketingSherpa B2B Summit 2011 – in San Francisco and Boston

B2B Marketing: Building a quality list

B2B Marketing: The 7 most important stages in the teleprospecting funnel

Members library – B2B How-To: 5 lead nurturing tactics to get from lead gen to sales-qualified

Free MarketingSherpa B2B Newsletter

Review: B2B Marketing Best Practices – MarketingSherpa 2011 Handbook by Lee Odden at TopRank online marketing blog