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Posts Tagged ‘Online Marketing’

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:

Read more…

Email Relevance Kaizen: 4 categories of data beyond the email database

July 19th, 2011
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We reported in MarketingSherpa’s 2011 Email Marketing Benchmark Report that the biggest challenge marketers’ face is targeting recipients with highly relevant content. I do not foresee this moving out of top tier of challenges due to the complexity of reaching a unique subscriber with the exact information they need to help he or she succeed

Crafting an email message that connects with the reader at the moment he or she choose to open the email is difficult. Nevertheless, the alternative of sending irrelevant emails puts a brand’s image, reputation and subscriber relationships at risk.

Relevancy is #1 Challenge

Today, some 70 million US consumers access their email inboxes through a mobile device, and subscribers’ bottomless appetites for multi-tasking, whether it be on a phone, tablet, or laptop during office meetings or in front of the television, make it impossible for companies to capture a reader’s full attention. To break through the clutter, email messages must be easy to engage with, relevant and clear.

A company that sends timely email messages with pinpoint accuracy will not only stand out from the competition, but may be the only brand to make it to their subscribers’ inboxes.

Webmail clients Hotmail and Gmail are using engagement metrics (open, delete, reply, etc.) to determine when and where email is delivered. B2B marketers also need to keep these trends in mind when planning their email campaigns. HubSpot found that 88 percent of email users do not have a separate work and home address. Many employees like to use webmail addressesto have the ability to share larger files over corporate email.

To meet customers’ rising demands for relevant and engaging communications, marketers can focus on three key elements:

  • Content
  • Segmentation
  • Time

All three are essential. If one element is missing, the email can become irrelevant to the reader. Let me show you a recent first-rate email series that fell just short of the goal for my family.

Moving beyond a single data point for determining relevancy

A year ago, my wife joined the Chuck E. Cheese’s email club to receive coupons and free tokens for our kids. In exchange for her email address and dates of our children’s birthdays, we receive emails twice a month promoting their latest coupons or specials. The emails nicely tie into holidays, school calendars, or kid activities, like receiving a bonus of tokens for cleaning their rooms.

As you might expect, with the information of my children’s birthdays, Chuck E. Cheese’s sends a few emails leading up to the big day. About thirty days before my son’s birthday we received this email with the personalized subject line “[Parent’s name], Get 100 Bonus Birthday Tokens for [Child’s name].” I did not speak with Chuck E. Cheese’s, but from the numerous party invitations my kids have received from their classmates starting in preschool, these emails are very successful at enticing parents to book birthday parties at Chuck E. Cheese’s locations.

The week of my son’s birthday, my wife received an email with the subject line “Happy Birthday to [Child’s name] from Chuck E. Cheese’s..” The principle message was to wish my son a happy birthday and encourage us to stop in and play some games with complimentary tokens.

Close behind and at the top of the email was the copy “Haven’t planned a party yet for [Child’s name]? No worries, it’s never too late to reserve a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese’s. Last minute walk-in parties are always welcome, so come on in and celebrate!”

As you might agree, these are excellent emails containing personalized and relevant information, and are delivered at appropriate times leading up to a child’s birthday.

So why did they fall short of relevancy for my family? Well, I guess you would classify us as outliers; we planned our son’s birthday 90 days out at an indoor gymnasium. (Full disclosure: Chuck E. Cheese’s does send half-birthday email cards, but we are not that organized, and yes, in the copy, Chuck E. Cheese’s promotes walk-in half-birthday celebrations).

I am confident Chuck E. Cheese’s identified two groups of parents/guardians with their internal sales data: a profile of party purchasers that plan within 30 days and another that plans the week leading up to the event. Combined with the child’s birthdates collected during email registration, Chuck E. Cheese’s sends highly relevant and targeted communications with these two types of buyers.

Moving forward, Chuck E. Cheese’s may choose to expand their email program to cater to “overly-organized” parents. An email message sent 90 days prior to the celebration, with more highlights on specific cake, food, and party favor options may appeal to this customer profile who enjoy delving into the details of the planning process.

Mining for data

For marketers, the quest for relevancy and engagement is not complete until a one-to-one relationship is established. Due to budget and resource constraints, this is an unrealistic goal for most companies. That should not discourage marketers from moving towards one-to-fewer, even if their budget doesn’t allow for a true one-to-one relationship to develop. Remember, with each successful email campaign targeted to a select customer profile, brands can expand their reach and look at new segments of their customer base to exploit, such as outliers like my family.

To do that, organizations need to go beyond traditional demographics like birthdates to understand their customer’s motivations. I do not think you would ever want to have an email preference center with a checkbox to identify your customers as an early bird, prompt, or fashionably late party planner. But that doesn’t mean such valuable information is out of your reach.

In addition to your email database, mining all of the in-house data found inside CRM, sCRM, web analytics or financial software systems may be beneficial. When you begin, search four categories of data; endemic, transactional, behavioral and computed.

Endemic data is data unique to a particular record. Examples are contact and demographic information commonly collected during registration or  in a brands preference center.

Transactional data consists of data captured during any transaction a customer has with an organization. Financial software is the most common source of transactional data, but transactional data can also encompass a subscriber’s IP address.

Behavioral data is perhaps the most actionable of all database information and can come from a wide variety of both online and offline sources. Website clicks, email opens, calls to customer service, and redemption of coupons at store locations are all examples of behavioral data.

Computed data is the outcome when one or more variables are used to create a third variable.

For example, the variable of “number of miles from a retail store” is computed data, and is the difference of the distance between the customer and store’s address.

Mining these four types of data will uncover insights into your customers and understand the steps they take to make a purchase. At MarketingSherpa, we recently launched our annual Email Marketing Benchmark Survey to identify the barriers that exist in preventing subscriber engagement and the best practices to increase the velocity and accuracy of email communications. I encourage you to participate to help us learn more from marketers like you who are in the trenches, battling for relevancy every day. In exchange for your valuable time, we will provide you a complimentary copy of our Special Report: CMO Perspectives on Email Deliverability.

Related sources

Email Deliverability: How a marketing vendor with 99 percent delivery rates treats single opt-in lists vs. double opt-in lists

Email List Growth: Finding low-cost and no-cost ways to grow your database

Email Marketing: Three lessons learned at the MarketingSherpa Email Marketing LEAPS Advanced Practices Workshop

New Chart: Most effective email list growth tactics

The Indefensible Blog Post: Forget Charlie Sheen, here are 5 marketing lessons from marketers

July 5th, 2011
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I’m sure you’ve seen these blog posts before. They’re looking for a hook, so they throw a topical subject in the title to get you to click, and then share the deep marketing wisdom that you would naturally expect to learn from Charlie Sheen, The Bronx Zoo Cobra, and Justin Bieber.

I thought of this topic the other day because we actually did something I just knew we would never do on MarketingSherpa. We published those two proper nouns – Justin and Bieber – right next to each other.

In fairness, it was in an excellent email marketing case study about a very impressive trigger alert program, and Justin Bieber was only used as an example of search keywords this events company was targeting. But you better believe Senior Reporter Adam Sutton endured a relentless week of teasing for including the Biebs in his case study. There were the Photoshopped pictures. There were “Belieber” taunts.

Why? Because, and here is my indefensible blog post (with a hearty tip o’ the hat to Esquire magazine), marketers can’t learn anything from Justin Bieber. Or Lady Gaga. Or that kid who got his 15 minutes of fame for pretending to be in stuck in a weather balloon.

Think about it, what are 3 lessons from Charlie Sheen? 1. Be born to a famous dad. 2. Get a formulaic but highly rated sitcom. 3. Have an extremely weird but very public meltdown (using social media)

Does this really help your marketing campaigns? Get some ideas to generate more leads? Increase sales?

So, here’s the approach we take at MarketingSherpa. Perhaps the best people to learn marketing lessons from are…wait for it…actual marketers. That’s why we survey more than 10,000 marketers every year for our benchmark reports. That’s why we conduct more than 200 interviews every year for our free marketing newsletters. That’s why we invite dozens of marketers to present their case studies to their peers at our summits. And that’s why I’m writing this blog post today.

So, if I had to break down five marketing lessons I’ve learned from marketers, I would say…

1. Successful marketing comes from hard work, not “secrets” and “tricks”

Internet marketing is flat out hard work. The successful marketers I’ve seen go-to-market with a regimented marketing plan.

They understand what KPIs are key to their success – both the intermediate metrics that will help them make course corrections, as well as the key results that are critical to their business leaders.

They find ways to tear down artificial silos in their organization – between Sales and Marketing, between online marketing and offline marketing, between email marketing and social media marketing – to facilitate a cohesive funnel that drives customers to conversion.

They tame unwieldy, disjointed technology platforms to create tools that improve marketing campaigns and create clear, unified reports. They do this even though they don’t have a tech background. They do this even if it means having long conversations with IT about why Ubuntu is better than Windows.

But they don’t have “secrets to Internet marketing success.” And they don’t have “10 supercool tricks to boosting SEO.” They have war stories. And if you can get just a few minutes in their busy day to hear them, you just might learn something.

The battles are won in the trenches.

2. Your customers don’t care about your emails, your PPC ads, or even your TV campaign

They don’t even care about all that fun inbound stuff like your blog posts or YouTube videos. And they certainly don’t care about the latest features of your product, your mission statement, or your corporate structure.

They care about doing their jobs better. They care about having clean water for their kids. And they care about taking their wife out for a 12th anniversary dinner that she’ll never forget.

Never confuse a feature with a benefit. And never confuse a marketing “benefit” with what really matters to your customers.

3. Successful marketers have losses

This is marketing, folks. You don’t have to be one of the “crazy ones,” but you do need to push the limit on what your company thinks is possible.

As Theodore Roosevelt said, “There is no effort without error or shortcoming.”

If you don’t have losses – a “negative lift” on a test, a failed product launch – you’re not pushing hard enough. And if you don’t have losses, you’re not really learning anything. You’re just guessing.

The great thing about digital marketing is that it has never been easier to learn about your customers. You’ve got real-time data you can analyze and an endless possibility of tests you can run. Test two headlines you simply can’t decide between, two offers, two entirely different approaches against each other in a real-world, real-time environment and let your customers tell you which one is better. Test new landing pages against your top performers.

Sure, it’s scary, you might lose. But if you do it right, you’ll definitely learn.

4. Strategy is better than skill

This is something that I’ve heard Dr. Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director, MECLABS, say in almost every meeting I’ve had with him. Drill it into your team as well.

Marketers are all too used to having a goal placed in front of them – double leads, gain market share – and churning and burning and blasting and using every tool they can think of to hit that number. Just…one…more…email send…will do the trick.

Sometimes it helps to step back and look at the big picture. Is it worth scrapping and fighting for a tenth of a point of market share with your fiercest competitors? Are you inundating your lists with offers?

Take the time to step back from the marketing machine and determine what your value proposition truly is. Don’t dictate your value to your customers. Discover what they find valuable about your products and services. Why do they put their job on the line to hire your consultants? Why do they part with their precious cash to buy your products?

As with any job, you can work harder, or you can work smarter.

5. Be the customer advocate

As a marketer, you spend almost every waking moment making a proposition to the customer. That makes every customer your customer. So make sure your company comes through.

Stay in constant contact with customer service, product development, services, manufacturing, and sales to make sure you are truly serving the customer. What are customers complaining about? What are you doing right? How can you make their lives easier, better, smarter, more fun, more fulfilling? Are sales reps over promising? Does everyone understand the value proposition of your brands? Do you all speak with the same voice? Do you walk the walk and live the brand?

Hey, that’s no easy task. But if you’re looking for easy tasks, you’re in the wrong business. See point #1 above.

Your customer is empowered like never before in the history of commerce. Today, you must assume that every customer is a publisher as well. How would you react if you knew the editor of The Wall Street Journal was eating in your restaurant, trying on a suit in your store, or purchasing your software platform? There is no quicker way to sink your brand and your marketing campaign, and the huge amounts of time and money you have invested in them, than by ticking off the editor.

You know what you expect when you’re the customer. Under promise and over deliver.

And to over promise to you, my audience, my customer, I dug up a sixth lesson. But instead of telling you one more thing I’ve learned from you, I asked author and behavioral expert, Beverly Flaxington, what she’s learned from marketers. Beverly has built her career around understanding other people. Here’s what she had to say…

6. Provide your audience the context

In too many cases, a marketer develops information and materials based solely upon the data and information about a particular product or service. The marketing material reads like this: “We do this. This is what we do. This is how we do it.” It’s a great deal of data without a lot of context around why it is important to the targeted audience.

The missing component is the “So what?” What’s so important about how you do what you do? Why should someone care about it? What is it going to do for them and how will it do it? This goes deeper than the idea of selling benefits. It actually asks the marketer to create language that speaks TO an audience about their needs, and helps that audience to easily make a connection as to why what the marketer is proposing is good for them.

As you develop materials or write marketing copy, ask yourself the “So what?” question as you make statements and provide information. Think in terms of “This is good for our audience because…..” The process can be very eye-opening because instead of assuming that someone will get why what you’re saying is so important, you can more likely guarantee they will understand!

Thanks for reading today’s blog post. Stay tuned to the MarketingSherpa blog next week, where we’re going to talk about what marketing lessons you can learn from Michele Bachmann, New Mexico wildfires, and Greek debt.

Related Resources

Evidence-based Marketing: This blog post will not solve your most pressing marketing challenges…yet

Loyalty Marketing: How to get customers to stick around (and keep buying)

The Last Blog Post: How to succeed in an era of Transparent Marketing

The Last Blog Post: Marketers must embrace change


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

Lead Generation: How to get funding to improve your lead gen

June 24th, 2011
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You’d like to take your lead generation function to a new level. But how? The cost of all you want to do is far more than you suspect you can get budget for. Plus, you’ve seen others try new things that didn’t work. They lost credibility and any chance for getting funding in the future.

In this economy, that’s the last thing you need.

Let me share a blueprint that’s worked for me. I first used this blueprint ten years ago to help Denny Head, who worked at Avaya, get the funding that resulted in a billion-dollar sales lead pipeline in 20 months.

When framing your lead generation pilot for your CMO, keep these four critical success factors in mind:

1. Sell a vision.

Lead generation scales sales organizations. That’s a big deal. Sales channels are the least scalable part of the go-to-market machinery.

And yet, a recent survey I conducted with an American multinational conglomerate corporation (the name has to stay confidential for competitive reasons, found that sales reps were spending more than 40 percent of their time looking for sales opportunities (i.e., generating their own leads). Even worse, new reps spent more than half of their time just identifying opportunities.

That use of time has a material cost. It also robs sales of revenue production. If sales reps are spinning their wheels generating their own leads, they’re wasting time that could be better spent closing deals.

So, a very large expense is at stake, far bigger than the cost of funding your most ambitious lead generation plans. More importantly, the potential for increasing the revenue capacity of your sales team can pay for incremental investment many times over.

In addition to the financial benefit, a lead generation model that delivers insight and predictability about revenue production is a great benefit to the C-Suite.

Action Item: Survey your sales organization to find out how much time they spend looking for leads. They may not realize how pervasive the problem is. In the survey I mentioned above, even sales managers underestimated how much time was being lost. On average, they underestimated the amount of time their reps were devoting to lead identification by 27 percent.

Then use the information from that survey to estimate the cost of this time to the company and to reveal how much money the company is already spending on “lead generation.” Then collaborate with sales leaders to determine what kind of revenue production that additional sales capacity might represent.

2. Tie the vision to corporate objectives. Often, marketers are so focused on tactical considerations they fail to see the big financial picture.  Each year, the CEO develops a list of strategic objectives. Every smart department head should look at those objectives and position any initiative in that light.

For example, if the objective is higher profitability, then show how lead generation can take cost out of the business. If the objective is revenue growth, then show how lead generation can contribute to revenue growth.

Action item: Find out what the strategic objectives are for sales and then figure out how to tie lead generation to one or more sales, marketing, and/or corporate objectives. Focus on what truly matters to your business leaders. What are their KPIs? If you can move the needle even a little in a metric that matters, your lead generation initiative will be a success.

3. Under-promise and over-deliver.

Too often, marketers think they need to promise a miracle in order to get funding. That’s crazy. By painting a big enough picture of the end-state, you can soft-sell the pilot phase.

Collaborate with the executive stakeholder(s) about their priorities and success metrics. As best you can, moderate expectations. Remind everyone of the impact of the buying cycle on revenue production. The buying cycle will elongate the payback.

And make sure everyone understands the need to test and iterate during the pilot. In fact, I always stress the importance of continuous improvement through a repeatable process and scientific experimentation. It works in manufacturing. Why can’t it work in marketing?

Action item: Find relevant examples of counter-intuitive marketing experiments that produced big results. (Hint: Our sister company, MarketingExperiments, is a great resource).

4. Provide a roadmap.

A vision is great, but you need to have a practical plan on how to get from wherever you are today to where you’d like you’re company to be. Maybe you need to improve the marketing database. Maybe your content strategy needs re-engineering. Perhaps you need to do lead nurturing and lead scoring in a new, shiny marketing automation system.

And maybe you need to tie social media into the mix and convert more visitors into leads via paid search. And, well, the list is endless and growing all the time with cool possibilities.

There are “go-fast” scenarios and “stick-your-toe-in-the-water” scenarios. Which one is right for you depends on the risk appetite of the sponsoring executive, your personal track record, and the perceptions of lead generation in the company.

Action item: Collaborate with the sponsoring executive on a road map. Explain that there are many ways to get to lead generation Nirvana and it all depends on the tradeoff between the level of proof required and desire for speed and scale.

While there are many important considerations, I’ve found that these four factors are essential to get executive buy-in and to the long-term success of your lead generation initiative.

Related Resources

Lead Marketing: Cost-per-lead and lead nurturing ROI

B2B Lead Generation: Why teleprospecting is a bridge between sales and marketing

Lead generation: Real-time, data-driven B2B marketing and sales

B2B Lead Generation: Increasing leads 296% by analyzing Web traffic – Case Study

B2B Marketing: Embracing customer centricity

June 21st, 2011
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The pressure for B2B marketers is on. Buyers are empowered with an ocean of information available to them online through search engines and social media sites. They are researching their purchasing decisions on their own instead of engaging with Sales early on. Trepidation exists among the marketplace because of a struggling economy, making it more difficult to close new accounts.  Winning over modern B2B buyers requires organizations to revolutionize their marketing approach, and adopt a truly customer-centric approach.

At MarketingSherpa, we have just launched our annual B2B Marketing Benchmark Survey to identify key tactics B2B marketers can use to adopt customer centricity, and ensure success in an increasingly  challenging environment.

Let’s hone in on this concept of customer centricity. What is this and why is it so important to us now?

In today’s marketplace, the B2B buyer has the power. They can research their purchasing decisions before we even know who they are. They have instant access to peer and third-party opinions of our products and services through social media sites, and information coming directly from the company is received with more skepticism than ever before. We have to earn the trust of our buyers if we ever hope that they will choose us over the competition. This brings me to my next question:

How well do you know your customers?

I am currently in the middle of our B2B Marketing Workshop tour, and the number of attendees that do not yet have buyer personas established for their audience continually surprises me. This is a critical first step towards embracing customer centricity and achieving B2B marketing success. Before you can deliver content to your audience that is going to build trust and drive conversions, you must have a solid understanding of their interests, needs, motivations, etc.

A buyer persona is a detailed profile that represents an actual, real-life group of your target audience. It includes common interests, motivations and expectations, as well as demographics and other behavioral characteristics. Buyer personas enable you to deliver highly relevant content to your audience that will build trust and drive qualified conversions.

In a perfect world, we would be able to develop one piece of content and have it appeal to your entire audience. In reality, it is likely that your market can be broken up into multiple buyer personas. You will need to first identify these personas, and then develop unique content for each profile.

So, how can you get started with the first step, identifying your buyer personas?

This process is far too complex to cover in detail for one blog post. Plus, you’re busy – so I’ll just give you the highlights:

1. It’s going to start with research, and a lot of it. Start by talking to customer-facing departments. Ask them about motivations, challenges, common objectives, etc., for your best and worst prospects and customers.

2. Next, talk directly to your audience. Get your prospects and customers on the phone and ask them directly about their interests, motivations, challenges, etc. Ask them what types of content they want, and what format. Be sure to be in contact with best and worst prospects. You will want to be able to distinguish the differences that exist between these two groups.

3. You can also mine your in-house database. Look for common traits that exist for customers with large deal sizes, shorter timeframes to purchase, most repeat purchases, etc. Then identify common traits for customers that make returns, have the smallest deal sizes, or are for some reason less profitable. What is the difference between these two groups?

4. You can also conduct a survey of your audience, asking them about their interests, challenges, etc.

This research will get you started on identifying buyer personas, and adopting a customer-centric mentality. You will then be able to develop content that will be uniquely relevant, interesting and valuable to those groups in order to build trust and drive qualified conversions. You will also be able attract more of your ideal customers, instead of customers that make returns and are not a fit for your solution.

Related Resources

MarketingSherpa B2B Summit 2011 – in San Francisco and Boston

B2B Email Marketing: Why renting third-party lists is among the worst tactics

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

MarketingSherpa 2011 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report

Loyalty Marketing: How to get customers to stick around (and keep buying)

May 12th, 2011
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Quick quiz, savvy marketers.

What is going on in this picture?

A.      Their flights were canceled and all the hotels are booked up, so they’re camping out on the street for the night.

B.      They are pioneers of the latest fad – urban camping.

C.      They represent a new demographic – homeless yuppies. They bought a McMansion that was foreclosed on, yet took all the nice gear they bought at REI and now are forced to use it merely to survive.

D.      They are the natural consequence of some very impressive loyalty marketing.

The answer, of course, is D. They are camping out, on line at the Fifth Avenue Apple Store to be one of the first few people to buy an iPhone.

Polish toilet paper and well-designed telephones

“I remember once, a relative in France sent us three rolls of toilet paper. We couldn’t believe how soft it was. We were in heaven,” my colleague, MECLABS Research Manager Zuzia Soldenhoff-Thorpe told me recently. She grew up in Communist Poland, and her parents would wait in line for six hours in the Polish winter just to buy toilet paper. Scratchy, rough toilet paper. Not the fancy French stuff.

And that is understandable. Toilet paper is a necessity. Communist Poland rationed it.

But what would drive otherwise rational people in the world’s richest nation to wait in line for a telephone? Well, loyalty. In their view, they have solidarity with the brand.

So, what are the benefits of creating solidarity forever with your customers?

The value of a loyal customer

“A loyal customer is less price-sensitive and nearly immune to competitive entreaties. A loyal customer is often open to trying line extensions. Finally, a loyal customer is much more willing to forgive your inevitable small fumbles. (Does anyone seriously think Apple is going to lose core customers because iPad production delays due to the Japanese situation? Not likely.),” said Micah Solomon, author of “Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit.”

On the other hand, sometimes customer acquisition costs are so high that you need loyal customers just to break even. “It is estimated today that a large credit card portfolio has an 18-24 month window to repay the initial acquisition cost of that customer. Without loyalty and engagement you are losing money on every acquired customer,” said Mark Johnson, CEO, Loyalty 360 (the Loyalty Marketing Association).

A few data points to consider:

Of course, to benefit from that, first you must get the referral, and then you must keep them as customers for that long…

How to win and keep loyal customers

So, how do you instill loyalty? If your target audience is a dog, the answer is easy (Tummy Yummies). If, however, your audience is the jaded, savvy, demanding, rapidly evolving, skeptical, fickle, streetwise, cynical modern consumer, what then?

That’s no easy question to answer. So, I passed it around to a few industry leaders to see what advice they could give you to help you foster loyalty in your customers…

  • Be transparent – As Dr. Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director, MECLABS says “Tell me what you can’t do, and I might believe you when you tell me what you can do.
  • Be accessible – “Make your company extremely easy to reach via your marketing materials and correspondence,” Micah Solomon said. “Don’t – if you can avoid it – send out mass emails from a ‘do not reply!’ address; either have the address accept replies or have it extremely clear how to easily reply through an alternative mechanism.”
  • Deliver a rewarding experience, not just “rewards” – “Loyalty is MUCH bigger than just points, it is expanding to the process, techniques, software, ideas, communication mediums and interactions that create and engender engagement and loyalty. It is NOT ABOUT POINTS anymore,” Mark Johnson said.
  • Step out of your shoes – “You cannot treat others as you would like to be treated. Instead, you must identify what they want and treat them as they want to be treated,” Bob Lucas, Managing Partner, Global Performance Strategies advised. “Talk to your customers and solicit their opinions and expectations, then build marketing initiatives around them. This individualized approach to communicating with others is more likely to result in greater customer satisfaction, retention and loyalty.”
  • Less can be more – “Every day, we are bombarded with messaging from brands trying to hold our attention, and the ability to communicate a relevant, personalized message that appeals to your audience plays a crucial role in engagement and loyalty,” according to Rod Hirsh, Global Director, Brand and Content, Thunderhead. “Establish a baseline of what good communication practices are and make it a policy to exceed expectations. Aim to streamline and cut excessive communication while at the same time creating a better customer experience.”
  • Build a relationship, don’t just sell – “Relationships trump product. Anyone will tell you that,” said Andreas Ryuta Stenzel, Marketing Director, TRUSTe. “Sales and Marketing build and own relationships at scale more than almost any customer service organizations, especially these days with the more personal touches that automated nurturing and social media bring to the table.”

Here are a few thoughts of my own as well. And I’d love to hear what you’ve learned as well.

  • Be the customers’ advocate – Always ensure your company is delivering true value to your customers, not just a value proposition. You are the one making a promise to your customer with your innovative, creative, out-of-the-box marketing campaigns, so you also better be the one making sure your company comes through on that promise. Of course, that is no small task and likely involves Sales, Product Development, Manufacturing, Customer Service, and many more parts of your organization. But just because you cannot perfectly complete that challenge, doesn’t mean you’re exempt from trying. Or as Rabbi Tarfon said, “You are not required to complete the task, but neither are you free to desist from it.”
  • Don’t be shady – As marketers, we are always trying to be persuasive. But, c’mon, there are limits. Dishonest marketing breeds disloyal customers.
  • Radiate passion – You can’t expect passion from your customers unless you live it and breathe it yourself. Yes, we’ve all got bills to pay. Yes, we all need a job. But when and if possible, market things you are truly passionate about. Or spend enough time with your customers to understand why they really care about your products. Sure, it’s easy to do this if you’re a Harley enthusiast. But even a VP of Sales and Marketing for an industrial hose company can find a passionate way to communicate with the audience.

Related Resources

The Last Blog Post: How to succeed in an era of Transparent Marketing

The Last Blog Post: Marketers must embrace change

PPC Ad Optimization: Testing, unique landing pages, and honesty

Good Marketing: How your peers brought joy to the world (and their boss)

Photo attribution: mikemariano

Social Media Marketing: How to optimize the customer experience to benefit from word-of-mouth advertising

April 14th, 2011
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Do you know the problem with the customer experience? It doesn’t have a media sales rep.

So no one is taking you out to a nice lunch, plying you with semi-fine wine while slowly separating you from your budget and increasing your media spend on it.

However, that doesn’t mean that the customer experience doesn’t generate media for you. We live in a digital age where you must assume that every customer is also a publisher. So, if you invest in your customers, you can gain significant positive media exposure. Fail to invest? You can get significant exposure as well…it just won’t be as brand-friendly as those TV spots you just bought.

So, while businesses are expected to spend $214.3 billion on advertising in 2011(according to SNL Kagan), what return will they get for their investment? In recent research by Satmetrix, only four percent of Americans said they trust advertising the most as an information source when choosing products or services. The top choice? Independent sources (83 percent), especially those with whom they have personal relationships.

While recent research from Experian (warning: there is a squeeze page) disagrees on the exact number, it reaffirms the importance of winning over your customers. It states, “Despite consumer reliance on digital devices and Internet-provided information, the most influential element driving purchase decisions today is still word-of-mouth.”

Experian found that 54 percent of consumers chose word-of-mouth as highly influential to their purchase decisions. Of course, this shouldn’t be news to you. You probably learned about word-of-mouth in Marketing 101.

But, a lot has changed since then. As stated above, every customer you have is now likely a publisher as well. So now there is even word-of-mouth advertising from people your consumers have never even met. According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, “nearly six-in-ten adults (58%) have done research online about the products and services they buy, and about a quarter (24%) have posted comments or reviews online about the things they buy.”

So, how do you optimize the customer experience to get the most from word-of-mouth advertising today?

There is no one right answer, of course. I asked around a little in this vast, resourceful marketing community of ours. Read on for a few tips, and I’d love to hear your thoughts as well…

Your customers can see right through your marketing so you might as well let them

“When a company is humble enough to admit a weakness, they immediately distinguish themselves from the competition. It opens the door for a trust relationship.

The consumer is all too aware of the fact that we are not perfect. To pretend otherwise only serves to raise their suspicion. Tell them what you can’t do, and they’ll believe you when you tell then what you can do.”

– Dr. Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director (CEO), MECLABS



Transparent marketing is essential. According to the Satmetrix study, 20 percentof those who defected a company did so because of unfair fees or charges.

“Companies still need to advertise to create market awareness, but market trends such as the increased use of social media networks and consumer reviews online are all increasing transparency about the actual experiences that companies deliver, and what customers think of them,” John Abraham, general manager of Net Promoter programs at Satmetrix, said. “You just can’t hide any longer behind bad quality. Advertising and marketing messages need to line up with customers’ real experiences. So, first and foremost, you have to get the experience right.”

We’ll talk about getting that experience right in just a minute. But first, how do you ensure that your advertising and marketing messages are transparent and truly reflect what your customer is experiencing? You don’t want to be the Comical Ali of your company, claiming victory while the facts on the ground so clearly conflict with your messages. And while he may have literally had a gun to his head, forcing him to make ridiculous claims…you don’t. You have a choice.

As I’ve said before in these (Web) pages, I think Transparent Marketing: How to earn the trust of a skeptical consumer is an excellent guide, but, in full transparency, it is written by the man who signs my paychecks – Dr. Flint McGlaughlin.

So, I also wanted to get a perspective from someone outside of MECLABS and provide a very granular example that you could apply to your marketing efforts today. I asked Ryan Deutsch, VP of Strategic Services, StrongMail, about transparency in email marketing. He said that “welcome programs offer the best opportunity for transparency” and offered these specific tips:

  • Provide examples of the types of messages the subscriber will be receiving
  • Provide an overview of the frequency of communication and give the consumer the opportunity to set preferences around cadence
  • Provide an explanation of how data is captured within the email program and how that is used to create more targeted and relevant messages
  • Explain the privacy policy of the brand
  • Explain the opt-out and unsubscribe options

Don’t dictate, discover

“It is the customer who determines what a business is. For it is the customer, and he alone, who through being willing to pay for a good or for a service, converts economic resources into wealth, things into goods. What the business thinks it produces is not of first importance – especially not to the future of the business and to its success. What the customer thinks he is buying, what he considers “value,” is decisive – it determines what a business is, what it produces and whether it will prosper.”

– Peter Drucker, The Practice of Management



In Peter Drucker’s day, it was far more difficult to determine what the customer considered valuable. Today, you have almost instant access to that information in many different ways:

  • Test your value proposition – You can test and measure your value proposition in real-time under real-world conditions with your actual customers using PPC ads
  • Actually ask your customers – Use automated exit surveys, ensure your sales and customer service teams track customer interactions in a CRM system, engage in one-on-one conversations in user forums, or use technology in some other creative way to pick your customers’ brains.
  • Listen to what they say – Social media monitoring has become a very powerful tool to learning from your customers. Of course, don’t stop at listening to customers and discovering what they want, use social media to respond as well. For example…

I asked Joe Chernov, VP of Content Marketing, Eloqua how he uses social media to discover what customers want and nurture word-of-mouth advertising. As co-chair of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association’s Ethics Panel, he knows a thing or two about the topic. Here’s what he had to say…

“All customers are not created equal. Those who engage with you on social channels are far more likely to be your brand advocates. In fact, at Eloqua, a client who engages with us on any social network is 450 percent more likely to be a brand promoter than our baseline client. This self-selecting group is a collection of ambassadors-in-waiting.  The key to unlocking their word-of-mouth is as simple as connecting with them on a personal level on their social channel of choice. That’s really all it takes.”

Truly serve your customers

“We learn whatever skills we need to service the customer. We build whatever technology we need to service the customer.”

– Jeff Bezos, CEO, Amazon



Think about Amazon for a moment. They mostly sell books and other stuff (lots of stuff) through an e-commerce store. Yet, out of seemingly nowhere, they launched their own hardware device – the Kindle. We take it for granted now, but for an e-commerce store to launch a hardware device in a segment that barely existed before it entered the market is quite revolutionary.

Why take that leap of faith? To truly serve the customer.

How can you truly serve your customers? After all, you’re likely not Jeff Bezos. You likely only have control over a small patch of territory in your overall company.

And yet, that patch is likely the tip of the spear in terms of customer interaction. You are in the unique position to discover and then shine a light on issues that really matter to your customers, to ensure that there is true value in your marketing propositions.

I asked Dave Ewart, Senior Director of Marketing, Satmetrix how marketers can achieve this. Satmetrix, the company behind the study referenced above, makes a management tool that can be used to gauge the loyalty of a firm’s customer relationships. Ewart said that successful customer-centric marketers:

  1. Continuously collect and analyze data about customer interactions and customer satisfaction, and they use automated customer listening and feedback systems;
  2. Track and measure word-of-mouth online, and identify and support customer advocates;
  3. Share data from customer interactions across organizational departments; this helps them strengthen relationships with customers and sometimes even uncovers untapped markets; and
  4. Lead a company-wide commitment to addressing and resolving customer issues and problems.

Don’t consider anything that impacts the customer “not my problem.” It’s you who made the promise upfront with your impressive marketing campaigns. So, it better be you who ensures that your company delivers on that promise with an exceptional customer experience.

If not, your customers hold the trump card. Advertising even more successful than yours. Word-of-mouth.

Related Resources

Hoax Marketing: Your brand comes first, humor second, even on April Fool’s Day

Social Media Marketing: Turning social media engagement into action at Threadless

The Last Blog Post: How to succeed in an era of transparent marketing

Inbound Marketing newsletter – Free Case Studies and How To Articles from MarketingSherpa’s reporters

Social Marketing ROAD Map Handbook

Photo attribution: hansvanrijnberk

Hoax Marketing: Your brand comes first, humor second, even on April Fool’s Day

April 7th, 2011
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A priest, a rabbi, and a minister walk into a bar. And the priest says, “Hey, if we use FourSquare, we’ll save 50% off an appetizer.”

Ugh. It’s pretty hard to mix humor and marketing. It doesn’t mean marketers don’t try every day. Some are wildly successful (Mr. Rolling Cooler Cooler Roller), while others fall flat. Some are even worse…

How to lose customers and alienate people

Gilbert Gottfried was recently fired by Aflac because he brought disgrace to a talking duck. No small task. But the problem was, Gilbert Gottfried was thinking like a comedian, not a marketer. And perhaps Gottfried can be excused, because he’s not really a marketer. He’s been doing standup since he was 15. Job #1 for a comedian is to get the laugh. No matter how inappropriate the joke is, if it’s funny, it’s a success.

Not so for marketers. Job #1 is to sell the product. If you can make a funny ad that sells the product, that’s great. If you can make a boring ad that sells the product, that’s great too. But, never, ever produce anything that alienates your customers. Perhaps the hardest day to successfully walk this tightrope is on April Fool’s Day.

I had loads of fun viewing, dissecting and joking about all of the April Fool’s Day promotions, and I’m sure many of you did as well. But, after a few days, I tried to put on a sober face and a marketer’s hat and analyze these hoaxes – which are essentially marketing promotions – for their possible affect on their target audience. Here’s my Monday morning quarterback analysis of one classic, two recent high performers, and one I think is in serious need of improvement…

Taco Liberty Bell

Click to enlarge

The year was 1996. Back then, the national debt was a pressing problem (you may have to strain a little to imagine a time like that).

The Punchline: Taco Bell is buying the Liberty Bell to pitch in and help with the debt. Thanks to this purchase, it will also be rename this national icon “Taco Liberty Bell” and display it in Taco Bell’s corporate headquarters (Historic sidenote: Since the Internet wasn’t as widely adopted back then, Taco Bell used something our forefathers called a “print ad” to communicate this hoax).

Get it? Because… Taco Bell is at the forefront of groundbreaking marketing campaigns, and marketers will put their names on anything to turn a quick buck.

Analysis: I included this classic example so we could compare this year’s efforts to what marketers were doing before all April Fool’s hoaxes were essentially carried out online. See, it was still possible.

Also, because this was one of my all-time favorites. Probably because “Taco Liberty Bell” is just such a great line, and as a writer I’m a real sucker for great lines. (Writer’s sidenote: Supposedly, the sole reason Jerry Seinfeld made “Bee Movie” was because he loved the punny title).

But, upon thinking about this more, was it really effective? According to Wikipedia, “The campaign cost just $300,000, but it generated an estimated $25 million equivalent in free publicity, with a sales increase exceeding $1 million for the first two days in April.”

It even became a bit of a meme in its day, with then-White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry saying that the government was also “selling the Lincoln Memorial to Ford Motor Company and renaming it the Lincoln-Mercury Memorial.” (Historic sidenote: Ya see, there used to be a Ford brand named Mercury…)

David Paine, Founder of PainePR, the public relations agency that executed the campaign, feels that the climate today is much more cautious and a comparable prank is not possible. Also, it’s harder to stick out with so many companies pulling April Fool’s Day pranks. It’s just become expected.

So, let’s forget those impressive numbers for a second, and try to decipher the messaging. The underlying joke is that Taco Bell is a great marketer. But, is that really its value proposition? My guess is that Taco Bell’s value prop is more along the lines of – “cheap, fast food that’s not a burger.” And this marketing hoax doesn’t convey that idea at all.

Of course, I could be wrong. Maybe Taco Bell would prefer customers focus on the marketing than what’s in the food.

Now on to three examples from April Fool’s Day 2011…

Gmail Motion

The Punchline: No longer are you confined to a mouse and keyboard, great inventions at the time. You can now improve productivity and increase physical activity by typing email with your body motions.

Get it? Because… Google is coming out with so many new, free, cool beta products, you never know what they’re going to come out with next.

Click to enlarge

Analysis: To me, this one is the flat out funniest. I love the main video. The deadpan guy dancing around to write his email messages not only cracked me up…but my daughter as well. Plus, I noticed one of our developers had the Motion Guide posted on his wall. If you can get a writer, a developer, and a 2nd grader, that is a pretty wide demo you’re appealing to.

Overall, I think this prank ties very nicely into Google’s main value prop, which I would guess is “But we, somehow some way, keep coming up with funky cool technology like every single day.” And I think supporting the brand and the main value proposition is essential for everything a marketing department produces, even a prank.

If I had to find fault, though, this perhaps draws some attention to the technological prowess of Google’s main competitors – Apple and Microsoft.

After all, developing a product so you no longer have to use “outdated technologies like the keyboard and mouse” could also refer to touch screen technology, where Apple’s iOS and iPad seem to be beating Google’s Android touch screen operating system pretty handily.

Also, what Google is treating as so difficult and science ”fictiony” as to be an outlandish joke is a reality for customers of Microsoft’s Kinect, “a controller-free gaming and entertainment experience,” in a quote that must have been written by a team of lawyers in Redmond. It’s actually a pretty cool-looking response to the Wii from Microsoft’s Xbox gaming system, a sensor device that picks up motion for a whole-body gaming experience.

Of course, Kinect is just for games, right? Well, some hackers at USC gave Microsoft some nice press off of the Gmail Motion prank by combining Kinect with software they’ve developed to make what seemed ludicrous on April Fool’s Day a reality just a few days later.

Starbucks Mobile Pour

Click to enlarge

The Punchline: Can’t wait to walk to the next corner to get to a Starbucks? You can use a new smartphone app to have a barista on a scooter deliver your cup of coffee to you.

Get it? Because… There is no spot on Earth that is more than 12 seconds away from a Starbucks location. We’re almost too convenient.

Analysis: This ties in very nicely with Starbucks brands and reinforces the main value prop of “much cooler than the average cup of coffee and you can find us everywhere.” Plus, the underlying theme without saying it is…really, you’re getting your coffee at McDonald’s? Would their headquarter people even know what a smartphone is? Or a scooter? Or a decent cup of coffee?

If I had to find fault with this…it’s just not very funny. Yeah, the overall concept is amusing. But they didn’t spend much time on the execution. I think Starbucks was a little nervous about going too far out on the limb. This was even posted by “April F.”

And now, on to a bad attempt at humor…

Insects Raised with Compassion

The Punchline: There’s not one main joke, just a fake Whole Foods Market homepage with headlines like “Insects Raised with Compassion,” “Save Money With Refurbished Spices,” turning the lights off in the store for Earth Day, etc.

Get it? Because… I’m stumped. Best I could come up with is – You’re an idiot forpaying so much for our foods and your environmental leanings should be derided as well.

Click to enlarge

Analysis: To me, this one is a huge fail. I’d say Whole Foods’ value prop is nicely stated right under the logo on their website “Selling the highest quality natural & organic products.” This prank totally undercuts the value prop…and the brand.

I may be harsh because it cuts a little close to home. I shop at Whole Foods. I’m dead center in their target demographic. They make nice margins on food because their customers have deep-seated, eco-friendly values and are looking for healthier food than they could find in the supermarket. Also, occasionally, a little something special, more artisan than Kraft Mac & Cheese at a normal grocer.

And yet, Whole Foods undercuts all of this. This April Fool’s Day prank mocks environmentalists by saying it will shut off all the lights in its store on Earth Day, so you better bring a flashlight or buy one of its “torches of 100% reclaimed wood.” This is clearly based on Earth Hour, a very serious attempt by the World Wildlife Fund to prod action on climate change.

“Insects Raised with Compassion” belittles anyone who would buy more expensive meat because it was raised under more humane conditions. Refurbished spices with “favorite flavors that won’t break the bank” makes me think I might as well buy McCormick in a regular grocery store than fork over the extra bucks to Whole Foods. And the joke about artisan cheese lip balms…maybe artisan cheeses are ridiculous? Maybe I should just stick to the Publix deli?

Look, I can take a joke. I’m not seriously offended. But, remember, the point of marketing is to push product, not to get people to laugh. If this was a standup comedian like Gilbert Gottfried, he could rightly say, “It’s funny. Get over yourself.” But Whole Foods’ job isn’t to be funny; it’s to sell expensive food. This marketing hoax does not do that. It undercuts the brand Whole Foods has worked so hard (and spent so much money) to build.

It’s “The Simpsons” job to make fun of Whole Foods customers, not the Whole Foods marketing department.

Of course, it’s easier to burn down a house than build a new one, so what do I think would be a good marketing hoax from Whole Foods? How about joke that they’ve opened a new organic factory farm where they can now mass produce organic products? Show videos of workers assembling artisanal foods on a Detroit factory assembly line? This would underscore Whole Foods brand, not undercut it. They would be saying, “The joke is on the people who buy the mass-produced ‘food’ product and don’t buy our stuff.”

Laugh with your customers, never at them.

Related Resources

Marketing Wisdom: In the end, it’s all about…

Marketing Career: You must be your company’s corporate conscience

Top Online Marketing Lessons of 2010: What worked and what didn’t in the last 365 days of experimentation –Web Clinic Replay

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Online Advertising: How your peers optimize banner ads

March 29th, 2011
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Online display ad spending by B2C marketers increased 57 percent over the last two years…which means more competition for your ads to get that click, and more pressure to deliver ROI on your ad spending.

To help you get the most from your banner ads, we’re hosting a webinar this Thursday, sponsored by TRUSTe, to teach you “How to optimize your banner ad performance while complying with new privacy regulations.”

But before we share our discoveries, we wanted to hear what you had to say. Here are a couple of our favorite tips for optimizing display advertising…

Match your ad closely with the landing page

Create a landing page for this ad, don’t send people to your homepage and make them figure out what to do next or where to look for their answer. Your ad attracted them for a reason – usually to solve a problem, so make sure you offer a solution that they can find easily before they lose interest:

  • Make sure your ad matches the look and feel of the page they will be landing on – from wording used, to matching the colors of the display ad with the landing page. You want to ensure the person who clicked on your ad knows they have arrived at the right site.
  • Reinforce your message from the ad through headlines and copy on the page, as well as images.
  • Along with your solution, make sure both the ad and the landing page have a call to action that clearly tells the visitor what step they need to take next in order to complete the desired action. Whether it be signing up for a newsletter or adding something to their shopping cart, a direct call to action promotes user activity.
  • Test. Don’t assume your first ad you created is working out well. Always test and see what you can do to improve the ad and landing page. When you have determined a winning ad – test a new one, make it a continual process.

Rebekah May, Founder, Whole SEO

 

First ask “Why?”

You need to know why you’re running display ads long before you start. So many companies have said “we need to try banner” with no idea of whether they want to run a branded campaign or a direct response campaign, and whether they want to run on a CPA, CPC or CPM basis. Display will flop dramatically if you don’t have a goal.

And then make sure that whatever your goal is, you must design your creative around it. There’s no point putting a brand ad out on a direct response campaign (or vice versa). I’ve seen people create banners that are so pretty but have no call to action, and then wonder why they get no clicks.

– Carl Eisenstein, Founder, DropDigger



Related Resources

How to optimize your banner ad performance while complying with new privacy regulations — Webinar, Thursday, March  31, 2011, 1-2 PM.

Sherpa 101: Online Display Ads, Part II – Copywriting, Design Tips & Ad Networks + How to Counter ‘Banner Blindness’

Online Advertising: The 3 obstacles you must overcome to create an effective banner ad

This Just Tested: PPC vs. banner ads?