Category Archives: Marketing Tips and Techniques

Tips and techniques for successful marketing campaigns

Is Social Media Right For Your Business?

Social Conversations

Social Media is such a hot topic these days. It’s hard not to be curious about its potential for generating business, but it’s also easy to be confused about how to get started. There are so many platforms targeting multiple audiences, each with a slightly different spin on how to encourage social sharing. Usually the first question I have to answer for a client is whether social media is right for their business. To answer that, I have to explain what social media really is.

My simple definition is that social media is any tool that allows people to have a group conversation. This broad definition includes not just the popular platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, but also email, video hangouts, texting and even blogs.

Social media is unique to marketing in that for the first time, it allows companies to create conversations with their customers, and encourages those customers to reach out to each other. Whereas email newsletters, trade shows and direct mail are a tried and true way to advertise, those don’t scale very well, don’t allow for ongoing feedback, and usually don’t offer a way for customers to share the content with friends and colleagues. Creating an email newsletter of course has a fixed cost, but email addresses are required to send emails. Most people will not forward them. Harvesting emails is time consuming and expensive at best, and spamming at worst. Trade shows have a finite audience – companies have to attend more to reach more people. The show might post a video feed, but even that’s a finite audience. With direct mail, the more pieces a company sends, the higher are the print charges and postage, although there are print volume discounts. Web sites can scale to handle traffic, but expensive search optimization and search engine marketing campaigns which drive this traffic don’t. So there’s a clear value to using social media for marketing if the goal is to raise a business’ visibility and get people talking about its products and services, with the business and with each other. Who wouldn’t want that?

When I meet with clients from professional service industries, one of my favorite things to ask them is how they generate leads. The number one answer I get is “word of mouth”. Word of mouth can be very powerful, but it requires active participation in networking, to be connected within the business community. It’s also a largely untapped commodity – the networked professional has to hope the people they’ve developed relationships with are in the right place and the right time to uncover opportunities for them. If the people that networkers meet with aren’t themselves networking AND actively promoting the each other, networkers aren’t going to reap the maximum benefit of their efforts. The nice thing about social media is it’s full of people that are networking, and customers know they can find good product and service recommendations from their contacts on social media.

OK – so now that it’s pretty clear that everyone should want to have a social media presence, how does one get started? Navigating the expanding social media landscape can get confusing. My simple answer is to look at what the competition is doing. Start with the major sites – Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and YouTube. See if the competition has an active presence, and if so, study it. See what kinds of content they are posting and what kinds of conversations are happening about their companies. Also look to see if they have a blog. Having a blog content marketing strategy is one of the best ways to get a business in front of the public, while establishing thought leadership and expertise.

It’s also important to establish goals. Decide ahead of time what a social marketing strategy should accomplish? Is the goal to convert social media members into paying customers? Or perhaps instead should it generate actionable leads for sales to follow up with? Or perhaps, the goal is to improve customer service in a cost effective way. Any of these are good goals to set before jumping in. And, make sure whatever goals are set that they are measurable.

My social media development strategy can be summarized in six simple points:

Perform Competitive Analysis
Establish Goals
Determine Platforms
Set Up Profiles
Build the Community
Engage and Grow

I’ll wrap up by stressing that while many companies can make social media look easy, that hardest thing is to continue to generate the right kind of fresh content for a business, to establish its identity. Be social and good luck!

Is Your Data Giving You the Full Picture?

Lidija Davidson

This morning, I read the following in an email newsletter I receive regularly from a research company:

68% of consumers surveyed…say they order carry-out pizza once per month compared with 24% in 2010.

To the casual reader, this might be interpreted as: “More consumers are ordering carry-out pizza now than two years ago.” This may very well be true.

BUT, the reverse may also be true. What that data point fails to convey is what is happening to the other consumers surveyed. There are 32% (100%-68%) of consumers that order carry-out pizza either never, or perhaps as many as 2, 3, or more times a month.

So, it may actually be the case that 32% of consumers are ordering carry-out pizza 2 or more times per month now, compared with 76% (100% – 24%) in 2010. In other words, more people are ordering fewer carry-out pizzas now. So, the total number of carry-out pizzas sold is actually less.

So, which is it? Is there more or less carry-out pizza being ordered?

We can’t tell from the data.

And, to be perfectly honest, since I am not in the pizza business, I don’t really care, and you probably don’t either. But what you should care about is whether you are getting the full picture from the research you conduct or purchase and whether you are making the right or wrong decisions based on that research.

So, when you are looking at research reports, or are simply reading articles or newsletters, remember these tips to make sure you get the full story:

1) What is this data NOT telling me? Think about the converse of the data being presented to help identify whether there is important data missing preventing a full picture.

2) What is the sample size and methodology? The exact same survey can produce very different results when different samples are utilized. Users of a brand or product tend to have very different responses than non-users. Young respondents will answer differently than old. It is critical to define the target market and have crystal clear objectives of what you want to learn to get the sample and methodology right.

3) What is the objective of the writer? Is there a chance they are biased and therefore, intentionally slanting the data being presented? Showing a short date range instead of a long one can mean the difference between a few isolated data points moving in a particular direction or a real long-term trend. The scale on a graph can make a big difference in the interpretation of data in a chart. It may not be terribly ethical, but it is not hard to manipulate data to make a point.

I don’t mean to insinuate that all people reporting, interpreting, or commenting on data are intentionally trying to mislead you. That is the exception, rather than the rule. But even with the best of intentions, data can inadvertently be misrepresented, even by experts. Just review everything with a critical eye and ask questions if something doesn’t sound quite right!

Lidija Davidson
Sift Cipher & Bloom
www.SiftCipherandBloom.com

How to Overcome One of Marketing’s Biggest Challenges: Measuring ROI

Tim Templeton

The most important aspect of measuring ROI is to focus on the right success factors.  Unfortunately not all marketers know which results are important.  They focus on the easy metrics like impressions and web site visits, as well as social media Likes, Follows and Retweets, but do those things really impact the bottom line?  In the rush to reach the broadest audience possible, sales and revenue are often ignored.

Part of the problem is that Accounting and Marketing departments are in different silos.  Marketing departments are usually not given unfettered access to sales data.  Campaign codes aren’t tied to sales, making it hard to do effectively ROI number crunching.  Few small and medium sized companies have CRM and ERP systems in place to capture and store leads and associated campaign codes, along with sales revenue.  The heads of those departments needs to communicate to ensure the free and easy flow of critical tracking info.  It takes a lot of planning and coordination between departments to get this right.

Another reason metrics are hard to track has to do with the impersonal nature of modern consumer transactions.  At one time, the only ways to conduct business were with in-person visits or over the phone.  It was relatively easy to ask how someone heard of the business.  Up until about 25 years ago, advertising options were limited to events, print, broadcast (TV, Radio) and Out of Home (billboards, street furniture, cafes, etc.)  It was not too hard, for example, to track ad results by assigning an incoming phone extension to a particular piece.  With the explosion of the Internet and mobile phones, contact options have become more complex and less personal.    Marketers have to get more savvy to track their campaigns.

Luckily there are modern marketing tools to help businesses track their customers and tie revenue to a particular campaign.  Digital tracking tools allow customers to see how someone got to their web site.  The affiliate marketing industry has exploded since these tools allow businesses to pay incentives to partners for referring web traffic.  QR codes let mobile device users jump to a website at the click of a button, allowing marketers to use long tracking URLs behind the scenes without inconveniencing the user.  Custom web landing pages linked to campaigns allow prospects to fill out a response form that includes this tracking info.  Location-based mobile advertising is growing, allowing retailers to wirelessly deliver push coupons and deals to customers, and coded coupons can be tracked when they are redeemed.

More and more companies looking to improve their ROI tracking capabilities are tapping into marketing experts who keep on the cutting edge of technology and identify the best third party solutions for reporting and tracking campaign results.   One such provider is one of the newest members of the OCCAM Team, Digital Marketing Exponential (www.digitalmarketingexponential.com/).  DME specializes on tracking web site visitors and providing powerful information to sales to help them “reel in” these visitors.

All these tools are only as good as the information that is recorded.  It’s vital for businesses to include lead tracking as a best business practice.  Employees should be financially rewarded for tracking this info, because it is the only way for companies to measure the value of their campaigns.  Every customer touchpoint – whether an inbound customer service desk, a chat interface or a web response form –has to make accommodations for capturing lead sources.  Having this info allows businesses to focus on what’s important – the bottom line.

Tim Templeton
Templeton Interactive
www.templeton-interactive.com/