The Marketing Guy

Rooting for Good Marketing Since 2009

Archive for Marketing Goodness

What if you Don’t Know Why Your Marketing is Working?

My wife, a budding writer with her first book out (and doing really well!) was discussing an interesting conundrum with me this morning. Her sales are going up and she’s selling more and more books every day on both Amazon and Barnes and Noble, but cannot attribute the rise in sales to any particular marketing strategy she’s deployed.

She’s purchased keywords, run digital ads on her target audience websites, and gotten a lot of great reviews, but has not seen any ridiculous amounts of click-through’s, there’s no New York Times reviews, and at least on Amazon, she’s not anywhere near the top 10 bestseller list (she was #1 for a week on BarnesandNoble.com for contemporary romance, but that was a few weeks ago).

So as a former brand manager, she’s perplexed. Should she chalk this up to good luck? She’s unable to get analytics from the online sites that tell her who’s downloading the book and where they live. Is it word or mouth? Did some travel editor write a feature on London and people did a search online?

In any case, although it’s a frequent challenge of entrepreneurs to get this type of insight, larger companies often have this same problem. Often times the solution is presented as “you need business intelligence,” but that’s only the answer if you have the context behind what the numbers are telling you.

The point of all this is that even in today’s hyper-connected world, where feedback is immediate and anything you say can go viral with one click, there’s still a lot we don’t know. That’s hard to accept for many of us, as it feels like with all the data around us that we *should* be able to find out. But as connected as we all are, this example just goes to show that there’s a strong element of the “unknown” that is still a part of our world today.

The Importance of the Post Mortem

Often times in the rush of getting a marketing program out and the marketing pipeline filled, we get into a continuous execution cycle.  We plan and launch, we plan the next one and launch the next one, most of the time relying on our gut instincts and anecdotal evidence to determine success of our campaigns and marketing efforts.

Stopping, pausing, or putting new plans on hold to assess our performance often times seems counter-intuitive to the speed at which we need to move today.  After all, who has time to attend a meeting on what has already happened when the clock is ticking on this quarter’s deals?

But the best marketers know that their effectiveness is exponentially impacted by their ability to assess not only the quantitative results of a marketing plan, but the qualitative results as well.  What happened that was not expected?  What competitive responses occurred that came as a surprise?  What did you try
differently that worked this time around?  What did your sales reps think of the ad that you ran

Asking these types of questions gives us marketers important data points that help us tweak and tailor future plans and strategies to be more effective and efficient, especially given the budget constraints that we all have today.  Further, there’s the ever-present office politics to take into account as well.  Often times a high-profile marketing project will attract the attention not only of the field, but the executive team too.  Ensuring that you’ve taken their feedback on what they liked, and what they thought worked and didn’t work, is an important CYA step that may be just what you need to get the air cover you need to
continue to move forward with your plans.

Sometimes these are tough meetings to have—they involve sharp critique, assignment of responsibility, and admission of failure.  But they will make you smarter for the next cycle, and savvy marketing leaders know that they’re an integral component of your marketing strategy today.

Social Media as a Strategic Campaign

I was talking to a group of friends the other day about social media and some of the digital marketing work that they do at their companies. And as we got to talking about how our respective firms think and approach social media, we got into a heated discussion about having structure within a social media plan.

Now it may seem like a paradox that in a medium that is highly reactive and subject to the whims of everyone using the platform that anything could actually be “planned.” And to be fair, there are many times in social media where you need to move fast to get in on a topic or react to a customer complaint, and those aren’t the types of events that allow for a great deal of forethought.

However, as much as social media is about listening and observing, it’s also focused on driving opinion and trends—getting out in front of a topic and setting the tone; leading the market and your competitors; and owning a subject by being the thought leader. And it’s here that forethought and planning signify the difference between those that are reaping the benefits of a social strategy and those that wonder why no one really cares what they are saying.

Just as companies set up their editorial calendars in days of yore based on what the key publications were going to talk about in a given month, so too can a planned out and thought-out social media calendar help drive awareness and positive perception of you and your organization in the marketplace.

Say you’re in the IT retail industry, and you’re trying to establish your company (or yourself) as a leader in customer insights and analytics, a very hot topic in that industry today. While you can follow and monitor the leading retail analysts, retailers, and manufacturers to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s interesting to your audience, savvy social marketers are finding ways to not only insert themselves into the discussion, but start to lead it as well.

And they’re doing it by thinking of social media in terms of a campaign. There’s the “awareness” phase, where they use their credibility to lend some gravity to a topic, say by raising issues with data integrity in analytics and asking questions that require an answer. Then there’s the “interest” phase, where they can point to some thought leadership or expertise they’ve garnered that will lead people to click through the Twitter feed to the website and to the white paper they and an independent third party have co-authored on the importance of analytics to customer insight; third, the “consideration” phase, where the thought leadership is tied into the campaign offer, trial, or incentive, like a free online diagnosis or the offer to chat with a consultant; and finally the “purchase” phase, where prospects can be closed and turned into customers.

This process doesn’t happen by accident, and believe me, it takes time—you can’t do the above paragraph by accident, and you can’t do it in a day.

It’s understood by most marketers that having a social media strategy doesn’t equate to setting up a Facebook pages and a Twitter account. To drive opinion, results, and influence, companies are rapidly seeing that “social” a deliberate process that demands your time, attention, and creativity to drive demonstrable results.

Thinking of Social Media as a Strategic Campaign

I was talking to a group of friends the other day about social media and some of the digital marketing work that they do at their companies. And as we got to talking about how our respective firms think and approach social media, we got into a heated discussion about having structure within a social media plan.

Now it may seem like a paradox that in a medium that is highly reactive and subject to the whims of everyone using the platform that anything could actually be “planned.” And to be fair, there are many times in social media where you need to move fast to get in on a topic or react to a customer complaint, and those aren’t the types of events that allow for a great deal of forethought.

However, as much as social media is about listening and observing, it’s also focused on driving opinion and trends—getting out in front of a topic and setting the tone; leading the market and your competitors; and owning a subject by being the thought leader. And it’s here that a bit of forethought and planning can really help.

Just as companies set up their editorial calendars in days of yore based on what the key publications were going to talk about in a given month, so too can a planful and thought-out social media calendar help drive awareness and positive perception of you and your organization in the marketplace.

Say you’re in the retail industry, and you’re trying to establish your company (or yourself) as a leader in customer insights and analytics, a very hot topic in that industry today. While you can follow and monitor the leading retail analysts, retailers, and manufacturers to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s interesting to your audience, savvy social marketers are finding ways to not only insert themselves into the discussion, but start to lead it as well.

And they’re doing it by thinking of social media in terms of a campaign. There’s the “awareness” phase, where they use their credibility to lend some gravity to a topic, say by raising issues with data integrity in analytics and asking questions that require an answer. Then there’s the “interest” phase, where they can point to some thought leadership or expertise they’ve garnered that will lead people to click through the Twitter feed to the website and to the white paper they and an independent third party have co-authored on the importance of analytics to customer insight; third, the “consideration” phase, where the thought leadership is tied into the campaign offer, trial, or incentive, like a free online diagnosis or the offer to chat with a consultant; and finally the “purchase” phase, where prospects can be closed and turned into customers.

This process doesn’t happen by accident, and believe me, it takes time—you can’t do the above paragraph by accident, and you can’t do it in a day.

So in experienced social media teams, it’s true that you can be responding and retweeting to the topics at hand while you’re executing the planned strategy above. Both are important, and increasingly, both are table stakes to leading in this medium today.

Your Marketing isn’t really Marketing until it Lands with the Target

A great advertising concept is just that—a concept—until your customer hears it and acts on it.  An insightful campaign with a catchy YouTube video is just white noise until someone forwards it onward.  And your offer of “buy one get one free” is just another coupon until someone cashes it in.

A lot of times we get really comfortable as marketers with the creative concept and the planning side of marketing.  And yes, personally I find the creative process, the reviewing of graphics, new websites, advertising taglines, and great videos to be among the most rewarding parts of my job.

But until the prospect sees my marketing, internalizes it, and does something with it, it’s just an academic exercise for which no benefit has accrued to me or my company.  We need to remember that there’s a line between the agency and their creative process, and the skill and discipline of marketing itself.  Let the agency submit the ad campaign for an award and pat themselves on the back, it may be that it’s well deserved.  Just don’t pat yourself on the back until the order comes through.

 

 

Do you market to where your customers are—or where you WISH they were?

One of the great paradoxes of marketing today is in explosion of ways that people access information from which to make a decision. And as the waves of all things social media and online crash up against the tried-and true methods of generating awareness like webinars and white papers, it presents a significant challenge for marketers at all sizes of companies: do I continue to market in ways that my customers are saying they use today to find out more about us, or do I market to where the market for marketing is ultimately headed—all digital, all the time?

Now in some cases this trade-off exists only within the minds of some marketers because the online and digital environment is new and exciting—it invites creativity in ways that a formulaic 60 minute packaged call just cannot, and it’s natural for us as marketers to look at what’s new and interesting and try to have the next big viral marketing hit on the web.

But smart marketers don’t get so far ahead of their customers and prospects that they’re ultimately talking to the wrong people—those that have an opinion, but ultimately have no impact on the decision making process. While Twitter and Facebook are amazing marketing engines, if your buyers are still making decisions based on face-to-face meetings and a day on the golf course, while you’re re-tweeting a blog post, something’s out of alignment.

Ensure you bring your customers with you on the journey, and don’t get so far ahead of them that they can’t see you anymore and decide to stop following you. Savvy digital marketing may win you lots of site hits and marketing awards, but they don’t always win you the business of the people you’re trying to market to.

The Name of the Game is Execution

Given the crowded marketplace that most companies compete in today, there are no shortage of competitors touting the same features, functionality, and customer benefits to prospective buyers. Great marketing is often done around the edges, when you can notice a seam, a forthcoming trend, or developing theme that you take advantage of first and establish a leadership position.

But even that lasts for only so long. Take Apple and the iPad for example—as revolutionary as the tablet has become, the market will soon be flooded with new offerings (including, one must assume, something from my esteemed employer—fingers crossed!) which offer user benefits and features that, on first glance, make all the products look and feel pretty similar.

This happens a lot in B2B marketing as well. A company will notice an emerging trend and if they’re smart, they’ll take advantage of the trend quietly so as not to draw attention while they have the opportunity to themselves. But eventually, an industry analyst will write an article, a blogger will post a news item, and a new job posting will appear online that gives a sign as to the opportunity the company is seeing.

As marketers this can be a frustrating experience, when a competitor sees the same opportunity you did and comes into your market with the same value proposition, benefits, and feature set. And in markets where there’s no clear dominant leader (let’s leave the tablet market aside for just a minute), what determines “who wins” the market is often not about marketing anymore, it’s about execution. Are you able to close more business than your competition? Are you able to position yourself as “the inevitable winner” in the market? Can you demonstrate not just feature superiority, but “evidential” superiority?

What often fuels marketing success is not what the product or service actually does, but the benefit that the product or service actually brings to the user—and in turn, how your product or service brings more benefits than the competition. Often times as marketers we do a great job a pipeline loading, driving awareness, and a lot of the marketing activities at the beginning of the sales cycle. But increasingly customers are making purchases not on the basis of which company has the best airport advertising, but on who else is using the product with proof points that the product actually does what it purports to do.

The marketing battle today has increasingly moved to the trenches, and the ability to repeatedly execute is now key to a successful product strategy. It’s a great time to look at how you are executing with your product line-up as well, and determine how improving your execution can improve your marketing capabilities.