Marketing Practices


By guest blogger, Mark Weishaar
 
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Today’s smart, marketing-focused organizations realize the value of communicating with their customers using the channel of their customers’ preference. More and more, that preference is mobile.

It’s commonly reported that over 87% of Americans (90% of Canadians) own a cell phone, and most of them won’t leave home without it. For many, checking their mobile device is the last thing they do at night and the first thing they do in the morning. Almost 80% of smartphone owners use their device more frequently today for mobile email and texting than to actually make phone calls. Mobile marketing is dominating the media landscape, and mobile users are lapping it up.

  • 82% agree it’s a good way to learn about new products and brands;
  • 80% believe it can influence them to investigate a product or service;
  • 71% accept that it can change the way they think about a product or service; and
  • 65% report that it has the power to influence them to BUY a product or service.

Given this proliferation and mainstream acceptance of technology solutions, one would think that insurance companies and financial services organizations would be among the first to provide their customers and prospects with cutting-edge, lightning-fast applications. But one would be quite wrong. The fact is, only about one-third of marketers report having a defined strategy for mobile marketing! And the insurance industry, in particular, is lagging at the back of the pack when it comes to offering engaging mobile experiences. This sector must explore mobile websites, mobile applications and SMS text messaging campaigns to effectively respond to emerging consumer behavior.

Maximize the efficiency of your Customer Service efforts

One of the easiest and highest-ROI considerations should be your company’s website. Google reports that a good 50% of mobile users become frustrated when they encounter a site that is not mobile-friendly. It seems unnecessary to say that annoying your clients, especially those who may be experiencing an emergency, is not very smart. A mobile application is essentially a tool to make it easy for your customers to connect with you. It can be fun and useful, informative and interactive; it can be a short-cut to service. A Customer Service-specific mobile app might feature

  • Talking to a live agent
  • Dealing with an accident on the spot
  • Requesting a live call-back
  • Filing and managing a claim

Implementing these mobile options can help reduce support costs and call center overhead, reduce customer churn and even increase customer lifetime value. An app can enhance brand advocacy and promote upsells and cross-sells. What’s best, all of these benefits are entirely measurable in terms of ROI.

Building a Useful Database

The success of a mobile marketing strategy is going to depend on the power of your database. No program is complete without an Acquisition Model to cost-effectively harvest and manipulate prospect information. An advertising plan combining online, SMS and traditional channels is vital to drive traffic and promote downloads of a mobile app, with a clearly defined conversion funnel from prospect to customer.

Growing Pains specific to Mobile Payments for Insurance and Banking

Although Juniper Research reports that mobile payments are expected to reach $630 BILLION by 2014, remittances such as insurance premiums are not included. The issue does not lie with the technology of the Mobile Application, but rather with the capabilities and guidelines of mobile carriers, such as AT&T, Verizon and Sprint, among others.

Bill-to-Carrier US Obstacles

  1. Each carrier must approve each program based on their own guidelines. They demand a 2-3 week beta test, during which they review an online-hosted version of each app for flow, usability, bugs, and terms of use acceptance.Your customers choose from among many Carriers, so you need to be compliant with all of them. The degree of speed, complexity and cooperation varies from one Operator to the next; they are however consistent in requiring 20-30% of each purchase amount.
  2. Operators are strict and favor big brands; legitimacy is important given the number of bill-to-carrier scams. As a alternative, they look for a guaranteed minimum of $50,000 in monthly bill-to-carrier revenue, proof that is often first generated in Canada or Europe.
  3. US Carriers prefer micropayments to the tune of $2. They are reluctant to approve monthly fees of $15 or $20 due to the higher risk of complaints or accidental enrollment by children.

Their preference for lower price points, non-recurring fees and virtual goods over outside services can all be hurdles for monthly insurance premium billing.

In addition to carrier complexities, success can depend on the various device operating systems. Currently, only Android supports bill-to-carrier within a native application. iOS will only use its IAP API (In-app purchase) using iTunes to make a purchase.

Retention and Loyalty – in a Mobile Environment

It is possible to truly integrate mobile into your existing strategy and better measure increased retention and loyalty from your customers. It’s all about convenience and real-time communication. Give them instant fingertip access to source and share critical data:

  • Review the latest product and service offerings
  • Manage personal “MyAccount” files on the go
  • Provide 24/7 emergency access to processes and forms on a handheld device
  • Enable immediate accident claims reporting and supporting photo uploads

These are just a few of the exciting, dynamic Mobile solutions that will propel your further differentiation from the competition – with measurable results.

Yet there are many complexities surrounding the development of mobile apps and mobile websites for insurance premium payment processing and lead generation. Any such strategy requires an in-depth understanding of the various Carriers, government regulations, operating systems, user demographics and data availability. This calls for the experienced insights of seasoned experts.

Today’s technology does not allow “catch-up” time. But it’s never too late to adjust your marketing focus onto those channels that are proven to build connections with your customers. They will reward you with interest, participation and brand loyalty.

Mark Weishaar is VP, Business Development with Direct Access Marketing, based in Burlington, Ontario, Canada and Philadelphia, PA.

 

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What Stands in the Way of Compelling Content?

Nasheen Liu, VP of marketing at The  IT Media Group,  discusses hindrances marketers face in creating compelling marketing content and and recommends three strategies to overcome them.  Two key problems she identifies are:

  1. Lack of control over the subject-matter.
  2. Feeling too removed from their audience.

She shares some approaches for overcoming those  challenges that allows markerters to more effectively create and repurpose compelling content.

Three Strategies

Strategy 1: Be an avid journalist to your internal  audience

In brief, there is no substitute for interaction with your field organization and customers.  Your notes from these interactions should include insights  from customers that can be summarized in a report and communicated to  your stakeholders.

Liu’s recommendation is to repurpose these valuable insights as “Industry Newsflashes,”  “Customer Insights,” and “Opportunity Analysis” for your internal audiences.  Why is this important?

Marketers often fail to realize that their most important audience is the  internal one. To market anything successfully, one must first and foremost  create as much visibility as possible internally. Every employee is your message  carrier. You will not become a rock star marketer if you don’t have the support  of your internal stakeholders.

Strategy 2: Insource your content, but control the  output

To get a good handle on your subject matter, it’s important to identify the domain experts  – at least one person in each cross-functional area who can serve as your go-to resource. This will give you a ready supply of content.

Getting subject experts to be responsive is a key challenge. You’ll need to schedule some time interviewing them in person. The conversation should be targeted to extracting content from them in 30 minutes or less.  One way to set this process in motion is to create an editiorial calendar.

If you promote your experts and give them visibility, you can gain you loyal sponsors and  support for your endeavors.

Strategy 3: Outsource your topics to industry  experts

One of the most common failures that I see marketers make in trying to promote themselves as thought leaders or impress audiences with their products and services is the mistake of “singing your own praises.”  To gain the attention and trust of the customer, it’s much better to get someone else to do the praising in an indirect way.

In the technology space, I engage industry experts, media personalities, and  well-known bloggers. The kind of perception you are trying to create is this:  “Wow, these guys are associated with her? Impressive.”

To build on this,  you can build  an onging campaign in which your expert can help you in various activities. Some ideas:

An initial article can turn into a moderated customer forum. The  findings from the forum become a whitepaper. The whitepaper can be used to  develop a video case study. And so on. Such linkages can continue to develop and  mature over the life of the catmpaign.

As Liu points out, “content is the bread and butter of what we do in the world of marketing.” Yet it often seems to get lost in the flurry of planning and execution, and becomes an afterthought. A successful marketing organization exists as part of a larger context of consistent messaging accross all touch points, internal and external. Nothing promotes an organization’s brand value more effectvely than shared messaging.

happiness

Outstanding FB Page

Proving that Marketing isn’t about creating messages, but embodying them, Sivana (meaning Oasis of Enlightenment) is based in the yoga beach culture of Encinitas Ca., rooted in Eastern spirituality, and providing support for yoga and higher living. Their products include such goods as Yoga Clothing, Active Wear, Yoga Equipment and Accessories, Bags, Incense, Statues, and Malas.  They have an amazing Facebook page.

HubSpot’s Inbound Internet Marketing Blog’s 30 Amazing Marketing Tools, Tips & Tricks We’re Thankful For, by  Amanda Sibley lists some of the tools, tricks, and tips that marketers say help them do their jobs better. Here are a few:

Social Media Tools

Facebook Global Pages - This newly developed tool tool allows marketers to create one central maintenance location with better targeting options instead of having to choose between a single Facebook page for an entire global audience, or multiple pages to target specific audiences.

Audience Targeting in Facebook Advertisements - Facebook’s ad platform audience targeting allows marketers to create ads for a specific target audience. This makes your ads more relevant and allows you to target custom audiences from email addresses in your database

Content Creation Tools

Evernote - Note-taking apps are helpful for writing or brainstorming content on the go.

Factbrowser  helps you find compelling stats or data points as you create content. It breaks down data by topic, source, format, region, and/or demographic.

CreativeCommons This gives you another option for finding images for your marketing content. Instead of using stock photography or creating the images yourself, you can use CreativeCommons to search for free photos that are that are allowed to be used commercially, provided you give credit to the artist.

PowerPoint for Design - Marketers can create professional looking calls-to-action, ebooks, and infographics without hiring the services of a designer by using PowerPoint as a design tool.

Snipping Tool - This Windows tool lets you easily take screen captures. Hubspot provides an  overview.

Hubspot’s free template to help you easily create infographics.

SEO Tools

Free Site Crawl Tools - Free tools like Xenu and Screaming Frog crawl your entire site, and provide you a spreadsheet of all the pages, URLs, and broken links on your site.

Analytics Tools

VLOOKUP - You can use VLOOKUP in Excel to search for and identify particular sets of data, allowing you to analyze data quickly.

Statistical Significance Calculator - When you’re running tests in your marketing, statistical significance calculators can tell you when your test’s results are actually meaningful.

Collaboration & Planning Tools

Google Drive (Google Docs) – This tool helps everyone on a team to see and update information in real time.

Sales & Nurturing Tools

Landing Page Creation Tool - It can take a long time to get landing pages created working with IT.  to get landing pages created. Easy landing page creation tools like HubSpot allow you to create a landing page in minutes, making it easier to launch offers and lead generation.

Marketing Models That No Longer Work

 of Newmediamarketing.com provides a list of 10 Marketing Principles That Aren’t True Anymore. His core observation is that mass marketing models no longer optimally address the new attitudes and behaviors of the socially connected consumer.  For instance, while TV drives awareness, it is increasingly the Internet that drives conversion.
Of the 10 marketing principles that Rich finds increasingly irrelevant, I will highlight those that I consider to be the top 3.  It is important to consider these consideration points in the context of your own product and marketing environment because principles that work best for one type of product marketing environment may not work as well in others.

3 Marketing Principles To Rethink

1. Mass Segmentation Models - The old mass segmentation models are giving way to micro-segmentation.  Here’s why:  because people have more in common with those they follow on social media than their demographic peers, and because everything happens in real time online. Consequently:

…it’s more a relevant message to a relevant audience at a relevant time.

Customer segmentation is the practice of dividing customers into groups relevant to a particular line of business in order to decide how to relate to customers in each segment. The goal is to maximize the value of each customer to the business.

Micro-segmentation groups small numbers of customers into more precise segments, based on factors, including behavioral predictions in order to direct specific marketing actions to each micro-segment. The goal is to maximize the effectiveness of every contact with each customer.

The Process: For example, customers of an online gaming company might be segmented into Lifestyle Stage Groups, such as: 1) fun; 2) new; 3) active; 3) star; 4) churn; and 5) reengaged. Deeper dives into each Lifestyle Stage Group can be made by segmenting these customers into Segmentation Layers, using cluster analysis on sets of attributes that share a common context, including behavioral and demographic. By associating each customer with a string of different clusters, customers are then grouped together as micro-segments.

Intended Results: Micro-segments, which typically contain very few customers each, allows for highly personalized predictive analysis and marketing action optimization.   Tracking and analyzing how different marketing actions affect the spending behavior of different micro-segments makes it possible to predict the effectiveness levels of different marketing actions on different segments. As a result, marketers can better determine which marketing approaches will have greater impact on each group of customers. Further, since the micro-segments are dynamic, and there is movement through the Lifestyle Stages, dynamism of the customer path can be factored into the analysis. As explained by micro-segmentation company, Micromove:

Most companies  view segmentation as a method of clustering similar customers together at a given point in time, but they completely disregard the path or route that each customer has taken to reach his or her present segment. By analyzing customers based on their movement among segments over time, [micro-segmentation] achieves far more accurate segmentation than any other known method.

Focus on Customer Lifetime Value in segmentation allows for better targeted marketing based on more precise predictive customer behavior models.

2. The Purchase Funnel (Reach and Frequency)

For products where the purchase process is more complex, building awareness through reach and frequency is only a first step. In line with the Consumer Decision Journey as defined by McKinsey, to improve conversion, you need to rethink the “purchase funnel” in favor of a more complex consumer decision model.

My article, The Customer Decision Journey: Research Overturns the Marketing Funnel shows that the old consideration funnel has given way to a decision loop (“the consumer decision journey”) that takes place in a less linear and more complicated purchase environment where there are numerous touch points and key buying factors resulting from the explosion of product choices and digital channels, coupled with the emergence of an increasingly discerning, well-informed consumer. 

consumer decision journey

McKinsey’s David Court has a presentation showing what this means for marketers. He explains:

You have a trigger of some sort, where people start across the decision journey — they are now going to move towards purchase. The first stage is initial consideration. In many industries, people actually start in their initial consideration of a brand with a relatively narrow list, we believe because of the busy lives and bombardment of media — it’s just very difficult to get through all this clutter in this consumers initial consideration set. However, once the consumer decides they are going to buy a product, they move into a stage that we call active evaluation. It is here that the number of brands they are considering increases. Which is exactly the opposite of the premise of the funnel, going from broad to narrow. This is the stage when the consumer is intent on purchasing and they are actively researching the product.

3. Acquisition Only

Your business model will naturally continue to depend on new customer acquisition goals, but not exclusively. Marketing models based on new customer acquisition alone that do not also have strategies for retention and engagement break down over time, and the reason that pyramid schemes ultimately collapse is that there are a limited number of new customers to be sold.

Brand loyalty is important because brand enthusiasts will reengage and repurchase, and influence others to whom (s)he is socially connected to purchase and engage. So it’s vitally important today to keep the customers you have happy by delivering on all brand touch points, and creating a social context for them to become brand ambassadors.

Apple is the oft-cited example of a company whose brand loyalty-oriented model has been extremely successful. While not the PC market share leader, Apple has leapfrogged other PC makers in profitability because their customers are willing to pay more for a better brand experience. 

Lessons For Marketers In The Age of Socially Driven Conversion

Strategy: Traditional messaging is geared toward trying to get into the consumer’s initial consideration stet. However, rather than continue to push ads and promotions out to broad groups of consumers, marketers need to be sure that their marketing activities are aligned against how their consumers research and buy products.

Consider the likely results if the customer reaches out during the active evaluation stage but is not provided the facts and testimonials that (s)he is looking for to make the purchase decision. The budget spent on gaining recognition and getting into a customer’s initial considerations set will not only fail to result in conversion, but will effectively deliver the client to a competitor who delivers on the customer’s pre-purchase expectations.

In essence, this means that the customer has moved past a brand’s promise to a brand’s value in the consideration phase.  So marketers have to bridge the gap between consideration and conversion sooner by developing ways for people to talk about your product, and making word of mouth work in the age of socially driven conversion.

Social engagement doesn’t mean that, as Rich Meyer puts it, consumers necessarily “want to have a relationship with their salad dressing or butter…You also need to think more about your brand as media than just providing sales information online.”

In other words, since the joy of the purchase itself is often more than that derived from the product itself, what value are you delivering in the customer’s purchase experience? You need to emotionally connect to your customers and give them an emotional reason to select your brand.  The choices consumers make are not rational ones.

Tactics: Tactics include being represented on independent internet sites where people go and research and buy products. If you don’t have enough presence on those types of consumer driven approaches, when the consumer is reaching out during active evaluation, you’re not there for them to find.

Rich Meyer summarizes the customer-centric approach in the age of socially-driven conversion extremely well:

I believe the greatest strength any marketer can have is his, or her, ability to understand the dynamics of their brand/product from a consumers POV.  This means understanding what are the key drivers to conversion and where and when consumers want to interact with the brand.  I love Oreo cookies but I don’t want to friend them on Facebook.   Organizations that prepare for change and implement new marketing thinking will be ready to leverage new business and customers.

Ready, Fire, Aim?

Build it and they will come? If that were true, Marketers would be out of a job, wouldn’t they?
Rob Adams, senior lecturer at the business school at The University of Texas at Austin, and director of Texas Venture Labs, agrees. He should know. He is a leading voice on market validation who authored a book titled If You Build It, Will They Come? Three Steps to Test and Validate Any Market Opportunity.  A former software executive, entrepreneur and fund manager, he has founded or financed more than 40 companies that have launched more than 100 products with transactions exceeding one billion dollars of capital. The book is a quick read with insights and best practices gleaned from his own experiences. His core proposition:
Companies can improve their performance by moving from the common Ready, Fire Aim approach to a Ready, Aim, Fire approach.

Ready, Aim, Fire

To give yourself a better chance of avoiding the 90 percent failure rate of most new product startups, move “aim” – market validation, that is, – up to the front. Rob’s recommendation?
Invest 10% of your product development budget up front to make sure the remaining money is spent right.

Case Study: Using a formula given in the book, Rob Adams provides an example that he has implemented to launch a startup marketing campaign. For the sake of simplification, the figures have been rounded.

  • $1 million: Initial budget.
  • $500,000: Allocated to product development.
  • $500,000: Allocated to launch, sales and marketing.
  • $50,000: (10% percent of $500K) Spent over an intense 60 days of market validation before product design even begins.

Why: The Case for Investing in Up Front Validation

What is the rationale for such a large expenditure on validation?

I would rather have my name on a $25,000 hole in the ground than a $1 million hole in the ground.

1. Wasted Resources: In an article in Inc., Rob points out that more than 65% of new products fail, for a total loss of $260 billion a year in the U.S. alone. With start-ups, the failure rate jumps to 90% – numbers that have been constant over thirty years.

2. The Customer is the Key to Your Success: Products usually fail to generate enough revenue because they don’t sell well enough, and can’t generate enough revenue to cover their expenses. That means that customers either feel they’re not compelling enough, or not worth the value for the price. Startups typically can’t survive the failure of a company’s first product.  The failure of a new product in an established business can risk the company’s stability, depending on:

  • the strength of other revenue streams.
  • How many resources were lost on the failed product.

And Rob is quick to point out that, while investors or a parent company might cover shortfalls for a while, the offering must eventually generate returns that justify the capital and the risk that went into creating, marketing, and selling it, or the company will tend to fail.

3. Leapfrogging the Competition Puts You At the Leading Edge: Another important reason for Market Validation is to leapfrog the competition. Innovation tends to follow a fixed path, with one big idea begetting another, and so on. That linear approach to innovation doesn’t always get companies ahead of competitors, especially in the digital age. Consumers often learn that as soon as they buy the latest technology, the next big thing quickly emerges, making their purchase obsolete. Businesses often learn the same difficult lesson as they bring products and services to market, only to be trumped by companies with more sophisticated offers and deeper pockets. Companies have to continually innovate in an unending, linear cycle just to keep up. Companies that leapfrog the competition have an opportunity to change the game.

Case Study – Apple: Apple’s reinvention of the computer from a business to personal asset created a game-changing new industry, as did their reinvention of the mobile phone from a telephonic device to a mobile computing platform. More recently, while traditional laptop vendors focused on the technology- adding more speed, more memory, bigger screen size- Apple focused on how people use the technology, and made innovations on adding battery life, ease of use, and quick Web connectivity, and making their machines virtually bullet proof against virus. The result: unless Apple severely stumbles, their customers are committed and wouldn’t consider another vendor. Until other laptop manufacturers can make a compelling case, Apple has the corner on this market. Rather than trying to compete on price or technology, Apple discovered a way to leapfrog competitors on customer focus. The compelling case for Apple isn’t based on either technology or  price – Apple is the most expensive in the market for comparable performance. For Apple’s market, price isn’t the deciding factor. Yet, without Market Validation, opportunities like these may not be recognized.

What: Market Validation: Real-Win-Worth Analysis

Market Validation is performed to probe, test, and validate a market opportunity before you invest  large sums of money into product development. Whether you are designing, building, or selling products, whether you’re in a large corporation or a tiny start-up, whether your business is service- or product-based, Market Validation will significantly increase the likelihood your product will succeed in the market.

Developing a Real-Win-Worth Methodology: Using a Real-Win-Worth strategy of market validation (Is It Real? Can We Win? Is It Worth Doing?) has helped me to launch products to bypass the market share of major competitors. Real-Win-Worth was developed by by George S. Day, a Geoffrey T. Boisi Professor of Marketing and a codirector of the Mack Center for Technological Innovation at Wharton as a strategy tool  for “undertaking a systematic, disciplined review of your innovation portfolios and increasing the number of major innovations at an acceptable level of risk.”

To do this, Day recommends two tools that can increase the proportion of major innovations in your portfolio while carefully managing their risks:

  • risk matrix enables you to estimate each project’s probability of success or failure based on how big a stretch it is for your firm. The less familiar the intended market and the product or technology, the higher the risk.The R-W-W (“real,” “win,” “worth it”) screen helps you evaluate projects’ feasibility. The first step in using this tool–asking “Is it real” questions–helps you determine whether customers want your innovation and, if so, whether you can build it.

6 Questions to Ask Yourself

To evaluate the risks and potential of an individual project, you should be able to answer and score these three fundamental questions about the market opportunity: Is It Real? Can We Win? Is It Worth Doing?  To do so, ask these six fundamental questions:

  1. Is the market real? Explore customers’ needs, their willingness to buy, and the size of the potential market.
  2. Is the product real? Evaluate the feasibility of producing the innovation.
  3. Can the product be competitive? Determine whether the product can compete in the marketplace.
  4. Can our company be competitive? Investigate how well suited the company’s resources and management are to compete in the marketplace with the product.
  5. Will the product be profitable at an acceptable risk? Explore the financial analysis needed to assess an innovation’s commercial viability.
  6. Does launching the product make strategic sense? Determine whether the project fits with company strategy and whether management can support it.

How: Using the Risk Matrix

Assemble a team to assess each innovation project’s potential risk using these criteria:

  • How closely target customers’ behavior will match current customers’
  • How relevant the company’s brand is to the intended market
  • How applicable your capabilities are to the new product

Worst Practice Study: McDonald’s once started offering pizza, assuming that the new product was closely adjacent to existing ones, and targeting its usual customers. The problem is that it violated McDonald’s service-delivery model: employees couldn’t make and serve a pizza within 30 seconds, and the project failed.

How: Using the R-W-W Screen

This tool is used to repeatedly test each project’s viability throughout a product’s development. The R-W-W screen exposes faulty assumptions, knowledge gaps, sources of risk, and problems suggesting termination.  To use it, you need to develop a set of criteria such as the following:

Best Practices Study:
The Background: I served as Director of Marketing for a financial services company that was a major competitor in the Variable Annuity marketplace, which is one marked by keen competition and slim margins. This company was typically a late follower rather than an early entrant, and often found itself in the defensive position of competing on product features and cost, which placed great pressures on product profit margins.
The Opportunity: I identified an unserved niche market – people on the cusp of retirement. The problem is that annuitants who wanted to tap the cash in their contracts were subject to surrender charges (CDSC – Contingent Deferred Sales Charge) for the first 7 contract years or more. While this type of annuity was an excellent tax-deferred savings and accumulation vehicle for those saving for future retirement, there was no product appropriate for consumers in their 60s who were either just about to retire or recently retired and might need more immediate access to their contract funds.
The Organizational Challenge: The challenge was to move the organization from the late follower mentality to first-to-market to develop a new product solution that would place the company in a position of leadership and surpass the competitor’s market share.
The Process:  I needed to change the mindset of the organization through a process people could buy into. To do this, I needed to get buy-in across disciplines by identifying easy wins that would have impacts early on. Using a R-W-W template, I looked at behaviors and needs in the marketplace, and verified the need – a segment that was unserved.
  • Real? I performed product concept testing among mid size financial planners and confirmed that it was a viable concept up front – before asking the company to put resources into development.   I developed a recommendation for a 3-year  contingent deferred sales charge product that would serve people on the cusp of retirement who had until then no product for their needs.
  • Win? Rather than develop individual products to serve segments where Manulife had no channel presence, we confirmed that there was a viable market and perceived need among mid size financial planners for this product.
  • Worth? We determined internally that such a product was actuarially feasible and would be a good fit for the company’s sales model. It would not cannibalize existing products, for example.

Result:  The company, which had not typically been a first-to-market company, was first to market with this product. Sales goals were exceeded profitably, and we usurped the leading competitor’s market share.

The R-W-W methodology enabled us to leapfrog the competition. In this age, companies have to continually innovate in an unending, linear cycle just to keep up. Market Validation can help you  uncover new opportunities to leapfrog the competition into positions of market dominance.

Why Provide A Personalized Experience Across Touch Points?

1. Personalization Drives Consumer Behavior

According to a December 2011 analysis from Janrain, in Q3 2011, personalization is important to consumers:

  • half of the consumers surveyed say that social login’s personalization capability is attractive to them
  • One-quarter are neutral.
  • One-quarter do not find the capability attractive.

The study also shows that personalization proves quite valuable.

  • 50% say that if a website personalizes their experience, they are more likely to return to the site
  • 46% say they are more likely to buy products/services from the site
  • 38% would be more likely to recommend the site to others
  • 33% are more likely to make purchases in-store.

2. Both Consumers and CEOs are More Demanding

A January 2012 survey of 94 retailers by Retail Systems Research finds that 63% of multichannel retailers expect the online channel to account for a sharp increase in their total sales by 2015.  As commerce continues to flow through multiple channels including in-store, online, mobile and direct mail,  it’s important to remember this basic lesson: consumers still give their business to companies that are more service-oriented and customer-focused.

3. Personalization Has Become an Important Differentiator

Here are some statistics:

  • ChoiceStream study shows that personalization can drive 10% in incremental sales.
  • Yet, only half of the Top 500 online retailers are using personalization techniques.
  • Over 61% of retailers say personalization is among the most important merchandising tactics in web retailing (10th Annual e-tailing group Merchant Survey.)
  • Some estimates are that e-commerce will account for 20% to 30% of total retail sales in the U.S. in as little as five years

Lauren Freedman, president of the e-tailing group testifies that:

Personalization is critical, essential, and growing in importance because as merchants really want to grow conversion, giving the customer a targeted experience through personalization is more effective.

Millie Park, Vice President & General Manager or ChoiceStream explains more concretely in How Can Personalized Recommendations Transcend Channels? why personalization is so important:

Think about your favorite in-store experience. The one where a salesperson on the floor makes suggestions, provides feedback, and helps you find what you need. You shop there consistently for a reason. That “personal shopper” model can be replicated across other touch points as well, whether it be online, via email, or even in catalogs. But retailers few and far between actually provide this experience across touch points.

4. Personalization Brings the Enterprise Together

Integrating online data into the offline world has endless opportunities. The key organizational roles that can implement and benefit from personalization include:

  • Merchandisers - Being attuned to seasonality, product inventory and demand, merchandisers who oversee the presentation of products  can leverage the power of personal recommendations online, at in-store kiosks and Point-of-Sale.
  • Marketers - Personalized emails can be used to present recommendations and drive repeat visits both online and in-store, as well as to re-engage lapsed customers, to help create brand loyalists and advocates
  • Customer Relationship Management - Personalized recommendations can be deployed online, via email, in mobile-commerce environments and in-store if there is a way to tap into online customer activity at the cash register or in a call center environment. This will help CRM to maintain customer data and reengage and nurture customers while creating loyalty across channels.
  • Information Technology leaders - They can use personalization to assure that solutions deployed are usable across multiple touch points with minimal or no impact on resources and technology assets for both integration and maintenance, as well as enable the use of data across all channels while protecting personal customer data.
  • Store (Brick-and-Mortar) Management - While relying on marketing and online promotion to drive shoppers to the door, having more information on the customer can help them to make a sale.  By swiping a loyalty card or entering an online user ID and password, a prospective customer can give  a salesperson a glimpse of their online behavior including what recommendations they clicked on or  products they researched. This information can help the salesperson guide the customer to those same products that may be in-stock or on sale in the store.
  • The CEO - Since the CEO wants to assure that all the business groups are working in concert to assure customers are being seamlessly serviced and sales are being increased profitably across each channel, (s)he can readily  appreciate the contributions that a comprehensive personalized recommendation strategy can deliver.

Leading retailers are leading the way in embracing personalized recommendations, and finding ways to integrate recommendations across each touch point. Companies in the financial services industry, where buying decisions hinge on highly personal circumstances and concerns, should be closely following these retail trends for opportunities to leverage them to provide a more personalized experience across touch points that can help drive the purchase process.

Marketing Meets Social Meets R&D

 of Mindjumpers Social Media Group in her post, Case of Creative Crowdsourcing: Let Your Fans Guide Your Brand, highlights how crowdsourcing gives a voice to your fans to inspire brand loyalty.

“Do Us a Flavor” 

PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay division launched it’s “Do Us a Flavor” campaign launched in July, 2012. Lay’s is asking its US website, fans to “come up with the next great Lay’s flavor.” They invite users to name their flavor, pick out what ingredients will go into it and share their inspiration online or by text message. The payoff? The person who submits the winning flavor can win $1 million dollars or 1% of the chips’ 2013 net sales (the greater).

This campaign,  first launched in the UK in 2008 and then in several other countries across Europe, Asia, Africa and South America.  The campaign was successful in more than 14 countries, generating more than 8 million chips flavor ideas globally. It resulted in the creation of numerous new flavors, including: Chili & Chocolate, Caesar Salad, Late Night Kebob,  Thailand’s hot and spicy crab, Turkey’s haydari and India’s mastana mango.  Salman Amin, Executive Vice President Sales and Marketing, PepsiCo says he decided to launch the campaign in the U.S. because:

Judging from the success of these contests worldwide, we feel confident that the response will be incredibly enthusiastic here in the U.S. Consumers love to create new products and fervently support brands and companies that demonstrate they truly value their opinions. Moreover, everyone loves potato chips—each of us has a favorite taste that came from years of experimentation, and we all like contests with big prizes that reward our creativity.

Takeaways

  • Engagement People like to have their voices and opinions heard. By asking fans to submit a flavor, Lay’s makes them feel special, while an incentive to participate can generate even more engagement.
  • Attention News spreads fast among engaged fans as their participation shows in their Facebook newsfeeds.
  • Personal relationship You build a stronger relationship with customers by making them feel part of the company’s core processes. Guillaume Jesel, a Senior Vice President for global marketing at MAC describes the strategy as letting “the consumers take the steering wheel for a while.”
  • Problem solving Crowdsourcing provides you a quicker and lower cost way to decide on your next product, inspired by consumers’ needs and wishes.
  • Replicate success A winning idea in one market may work in many other markets as well with similar preferences.

Other successful crowdsourcing campaigns that have helped brands design their new products include:

Several have led to incredible levels of consumer engagement:

How Crowdsourcing Works

  1. You identify a problem
  2. You broadcast the problem
  3. The “crowd” (fans) submit solutions
  4. You and the crowd vet the solutions
  5. You reward winning solvers.
  6. Everybody profits

Dion Hinchcliffe of ebiz explains that internet startups that have had considerable success with crowdsourcing over the last few years, including with its more serious cousin peer production, have recently focused on creating the tools and communities for enterprises. They include the online design service Crowdspring, and other early providers such as Amazon’s excellent Mechanical Turk and Innocentive. The economics and results of crowdsourcing are often compelling. LG recently designed a new phone this way for just $20,000 (details and submissions here). Crowdsourcing services include idea generation, design work, execution of business processes, testing services, and even customer support, all of which can now be connected, often programmatically, directly to a company’s supply chain. While companies such as Netflix (the Netflix Prize) and Emporis have built their own internal crowdsourcing capabilities internally, most companies rely on commercial services  for the necessary ingredients of effective crowdsourcing, including configurablearchitectures of participation, legal constructs, customer support, and communities of users ready to contribute.  Crowdsourcing campaigns typically pay by the unit of work (such as a successfully completed task) or for a successful solution to a problem, usually in the form of a prize.

Why Use Crowdsourcing?

The reasons for a business to use crowdsourcing are varied:

  • The ability to offload peak demand
  • Access to cheaper business inputs
  • Generating better results
  • Tackling problems that would have been too difficult to do otherwise.

A challenge is the swamping of inputs – the richness and variety of contributions, while wonderful, can require considerable review to find the best ones.  Crowdsourcing services now address this with filters and controls, such as Kluster’s ability to more readily tune the “relative influence” of various types of participants.

Five Functional Business Areas Suitable for Crowdsourcing

Here are examples of some of the business uses of crowdsourcing today:

1. Problem Solving

Innocentive, the leading open innovation service, has over 180,000 contributors who can work on problems in science, manufacturing, biotech, medicine and many other fields. They offer rewards ranging from $5,000 up to $1 million for solutions to submitted problems.  An article in The Economist reports a 74% ROI for crowdsourcing over central production methods. Other options include GuruStormsPhiloptima and PlanetEureka.

2. Design

Crowdsourced design services like Crowdspring provide marketplaces to allows for crowdsourcing Web designs cheaply and quickly. Others, like Denook, offer design for other things like apparel. BootB, can help companies crowdsource marketing and creative work. General purpose tools like Kluster can help companies strategically farm specific design decisions across their own private or public community. Services such as Elance provide on-demand design work, but are not structured to create multiple competing inputs.

3. Work

For many kinds of simple tasks, there are highly granular on-demand work marketplaces. Mechanical Turk and CrowdFlower are two of the top solutions in this area. A good example is CastingWords, one of the best audio transacription web services, which breaks up recordings into tiny pieces and distributes them across the world to Mechanical Turk workers for conversion to text. For IT shops TopCoder offers crowdsourcing for software development from , the “world’s largest competitive software development community with 220,326 developers representing over 200 countries.

4. Testing. “Users as testers” assures broadbased and thorough user input from customers. Services such as uTest are bringing crowdsourcing to testing of software and other services.

5. Support. Online customer communities are a growing source of crowdsourced customer service and support for companies that understand how to grow and nurture them. Services such as FixyaGetSatisfaction and CrossLoop crowdsource customer support to get the answers to questions companies have that are often more accurate than what the companies can generate internally by themselves.

Like many aspects of digital business, crowdsourcing is a very recent development that is still in its early stages. Creative companies have an opportunity to use it to link marketing more closely to research, development, design and customer service, forging competitive marketplace advantages.

Is Mobile-Influenced Commerce The Next Big Boom?

Mobile-Influenced Commerce

Recent data presented by Deloitte Consulting LLP shows shows that:

  • 2012: Mobile-Influenced Commerce will be responsible for $159 billion in 2012 sales.
  • 2012: Direct mCommerce sales will draw just $12 billion in sales.
  • 2016: Mobile-Influenced Commerce will account for $689 billion (19.5%) of total retail sales.
  • Direct mCommerce will be only $31 billion.

Mcommerce

About 19 million US smartphone owners (or 17.4% of owners) completed a purchase via their device, aka mcommerce, during the three-month period ending April, 2012, according to comScore. This includes purchases such as tickets, meals for delivery or pickup, daily deals or discounts and gift certificates, but comScore’s list is missing other purchases that require the use of a mobile device such as music, videos, ebooks and games.

comscore what people buy on their smartphones

Mobile is More Than Mcommerce

Mobile devices empower their users with easy access to information, including:

  • Store locations
  • Product availability
  • Product features
  • Product reviews
  • Price comparisons

Mobile usage influences 5.1% of all retail store sales in the US or about $159 billion in 2012 forecasted sales, according to Deloitte research.   Consumers are using their mobile devices in retail locations for a variety of reasons. Retailers, however, are most concerned with the consumer practice of showrooming where consumers check out products in their stores and then buy online. Based on the results of ForeSee’s Mobile Satisfaction Survey, most shoppers turn to their smartphones for information about the retailer, specifically for their mobile website or app.

Additionally, buyers use their smartphone to check prices often through a price comparison app or website. This group is roughly one in three or four consumers, based on various research sources.

Implications for Marketers: Provide An Enhanced Shopping Experience

Deloitte found that shoppers who use a retailer’s dedicated app were 21% more likely to convert than those who didn’t. This may be attributable to an improved shopping experience that aided their purchase decision.

There are multiple stages in the purchase decision making process. Brands can provide the information relevant to the customer’s buying decision in the place where consumers are increasingly looking for this information – on their mobile device. Companies can influence their buying decisions by being the resource they consult as they research product information before, and during, their shopping trip, and being the digital voice they are hearing from while they are in your store.

3 Mobile Influence Marketing Strategies

Heidi Cohen provides this advice on how to leverage your mobile influence:

  1. Provide prospects and customers with easy-to-access, mobile-friendly information since they’re researching their purchases via online, tablet or smartphone.
  2. Offer both mobile website and app options. With the growing use of both alternatives, allow your customers to use the forum they choose. Ensure these platforms are consistent with your online website, social media and retail establishments to provide a seamless customer experience.
  3. Give mobile consumers the best price. While I’m not a proponent of competing on price, if you’re offering discounts anywhere, give on-the-go prospects the best price to close the deal since they may be in your store or your competitors.

A Mobile-Optimized Version of Your Website Is Not Enough

To unleash the full potential of Mobile-Influenced Commerce , companies must integrate mobile with their social media strategy and brick and mortar/field sales strategy, to create a richer buying experience. They should:

  • Make sure physical locations offer Wi-Fi connectivity to customers who expect the ability to utilize their mobile devices to make more-informed purchase decisions.
  • Invest in improving dedicated apps or websites to attract, retain and convert smartphone shoppers.
  • Keep costs down by partnering with cutting-edge companies that can offer additional functionality, via API, to existing apps -to increase use and engagement levels.
  • Pull together the social media strategy, Wi-Fi access and app functionality to deliver shoppers to the company’s physical location,  engage them at the point of purchase and influence their purchasing habits.
    • Use new technologies to offer discounts and rewards, subscribe them to loyalty cards and invite them to take advantage of free memberships via mobile.

Snap! principle of Mobile Influenced Commerce:

 To reap the optimal rewards from changing market conditions, forward-thinking companies position themselves to leverage their digital assets to tap into the power of Mobile-Influenced Commerce.

Why Adopt An Integrated Marketing Communications Strategy?

Many companies still employ a linear direct marketing process in which products are developed, messages created, incentives added to the mix, and the products are then pushed through various media or a sales force.

This methodology relies on behavior assumptions that all consumers follow the same decision process:

Awareness – Knowledge – Evaluation – Purchase.

This strategy worked well a few years ago because targeting and smart advertising gave companies the edge over consumers with limited product knowledge. However, buying behaviour has become more sophisticated since consumers acquired access to technology such as the Internet, mobile phones, iPods, search engines and on-demand TV.

This technology has rendered redundant the traditional linear marketing and communications process (product –> channel –> media –> customer).  Nowadays, consumers can just block out marketing messages using spam filters, pop-up blockers, remote controls, “do not mail” lists or the regular trash can.

A consumer-controlled communication landscape has emerged with a faster dynamic consumer learning process. The outcome is that traditional direct marketing activity now faces:

  • Declining efficiency rates.
  • Increased costs.

To be successful, companies now need an integrated marketing communications approach that combines traditional media, online channels, PR, affiliate partnerships, products, people and social networks

Developing An Integrated Marketing Communications Model

Don Schultz, Professor of Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University suggests companies coordinate their marketing resources and supply customers value-added information to create engagement and build long-term relationships.

Marketing Thinker suggests that you start by using “ABCD resources” and then need to finding the optimal mix based on your industry and competitive position.

  • Audience
  • Brand (Product/Service)
  • Content
  • Delivery.

Audience – a key ingredient is to use extensive data and analytics to understand your target segment. Creating pen-portraits of your core customers including demographic and lifestyle information will help optimize your media targeting strategy.

Brand – your product or service must have a unique selling proposition to provide a competitive advantage. It must deliver superior value for the audience and be clearly differentiated on features, service or price.

Content – with most competitors using the same linear marketing strategies targeting the same consumer segments, content can now become a point of competitive differentiation. When you supply value-added content you provide consumers a reason to engage with your brand and connect your products or services.

Delivery - You then need to connect new digital media channels with traditional channels to create a push-pull system. Consumers must become engaged with the media employed or your content delivery will be unsuccessful. To achieve this ensure the content is linked to your brand positioning to make the emotional connection with your product or services.

The customer experience occurs during the interaction with your products, online channels, customer service and content.

Executing An Integrated Lead Generation Campaign

Click to Closed Inbound Sales and Marketing Blog recently discussed how to maximize your marketing results through Integrated Marketing.

Problem: With the proliferation of new Social Media channels, such as Pinterest, Four Square, Twitter, Facebook, and Google + marketers may find it more confusing to determine where to best spend  their time and marketing dollars.  Additionally, new inbound marketing and marketing automation trends have entered the mix.
Solution: Many companies tend to drop one platform when a new hot platform comes out. When a new medium comes online, you need to consider whether your ideal target audience is even there yet.   But the most effective way to benefit from all these mediums is to integrate them to achieve synergies that compound results.

Execution: You can maximize your rewards by integrating your lead generation through multiple mediums.  Instead of dropping your traditional channel, we find it’s better to incorporate them into an integrated campaign and reap rewards beyond any individual channel alone.  We have found that this integrated approach has been able to deliver 131% greater results than the summation of these channels individually.

1. Get a good understanding of who your buyer is and how they buy.

To do this, develop a persona.  With this understanding of your buyer, you can then identify the platforms and places where they spend their time.  This usually would include traditional offline marketing, such as direct mail sales letter or postcard.  Inbound Sales Network finds both these traditional forms to be highly effective when incorporated into an integrated program.

2. Maximize the Mix: Inbound Sales Network (INS) has maximized results by having at least one touch in their lead generation’s programs be in each of the following forms:

  • Direct Mail
    79% of B2B marketers found direct mail to be either effective or very effective in a recent study cited by  Inbound Sales Network (ISN).  Effective direct mail campaigns don’t expect a call back but drive your target audience to a landing page.  Effective traffic generating tactics include:

    • Opportunities to win a tech gadget.
    • Educational offers: these draw much greater conversion when targeting corporate executives.
  • Digital
    A first touch in any new lead generation program can be an email.  It may not be the best channel for lead generation, but  it is the cheapest way to employ a database prior to spending significant amounts on the printing and mailing of a direct mail campaign. For Digital, it is important to then figure out if your target audience even uses that platform before spending moneydeveloping campaigns for that particular platform:

    • Typically for B2B sales integrating, the most effective for lead generation media are: LinkedIn, email, and blogging are .
    • For B2C, ISN has foundFacebook superior to LinkedIn, with Pinterest and mobile marketing proving to be strong options as well.
  • Out Call
    A live call – not cold call – is highly effective.
    ISN emphasizes that cold calling does not work well enough anymore.  An effective call sequenced with an already warmed prospect can deliver great returns.  The more complex the sale, the less likely you are to make a sale without talking to the prospect directly.  The ability to touch that prospect in many different mediums is much more effective than making 7 to 10 phone calls  without the support of other media, and is significantly more effective than 10 emails alone.

A Campaign Template

From its experience in running over 100 different integrated campaigns over the past year, INS has found the following to be the ideal general layout for an effective campaign.

  • Day 1 – Email sales letter with intro sales message to specific audience.  This is a typical email rather than a fancy graphic message that gets caught in spam as most readers have images turned off in their email reader.
  • Day 5 – Direct mail sales letter.  This piece is mailed the day after the email goes out scheduled to arrive on the target audience’s desk on day 5.
  • Day 6 – 2nd email letter.  Use a subject line that is the same as the initial email and sales letter.  It is more effective to add a “Re:” to the start, to help connect the message to the previous touches.
  • Day 9 – Intro sales call.  Even if the initial call ends up in voicemail, establishing early contact through phone, even voicemail, has been found to be very effective.
  • Day 12 – 3rd email.  This time a visual message is effective because the prospect has seen your message or company name 3-4 times and is starting to get a better understanding of who you are.  A similar message as you would use on a post card is very effective.
  • Day 16 – Postcard.  It is highly effective to deliver a strong visual message building on the last touch. (Refer to How to Shorten Your Revenue Cycle)
  • Day 19 – 2nd phone call.  Building on the message delivered in the previous 2 touches, the 2nd call tends to be where most of callers make the initial contact.
  • Day 21 – 4th email and 3rd phone call.  This “dump message” turns out to be the greatest touch of the mail.  Leave a message that says something like: “I know you’re busy, and we are busy too so instead of wasting both your time and ours let me know what works for you and I will follow up accordingly.”  The response rate to this message is outstanding.  In the worst case, they tell you they are not interested.  In the best case they tell you exactly when to contact them.

Measuring Results: Traditional measurements systems may not work well with integrated marketing. Still, most companies have all the data they need. They just need to align it bybreaking down internal silos and defining measures of success –site traffic, new sales, revenue per customer, return on capital, NPS (Net Promoter Score) etc.

Takeaway

It can take 7-12 touches to gain top of mind awareness with your target audience.  Rather than relying on pushing all of these touches through one platform or method, which can greatly hamper your lead generation efforts, it is best to build an integrated campaign with a unified message across multiple mediums, something I have called a “Symphony of Touch-points.”  This will generate brand awareness and maximize your return on investment. Inbound Sales Network claims that it doubles their ROI. If companies can optimize the synergy between their “ABCD resources” and employ an integrated marketing communications strategy they can drive improved returns from their marketing investment.

THE EXECUTIVES’ GUIDE TO BUILDING A LEAD GENERATION ENGINEThe Executives’ Guide to Building a Lead Generation Engine

Inbound Sales Network has created this free download guide, The Executives’ Guide to Building a Lead Generation Engine,  to help you build a lead generation engine that maps to your customers buying process and delivers maximum measureable ROI.

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