The 10 Most Fascinating People in B2B Marketing in 2019

I’m back with my roundup of brilliant B2B marketers whom I’ve encountered this year. With a tip of the hat to those on my previous lists, it is my pleasure to introduce these fascinating colleagues to you. Our B2B marketing field has thrived in recent decades.

I’m back with my roundup of brilliant B2B marketers whom I’ve encountered this year. With a tip of the hat to those on my lists last year, and in 2017, 2016, and 2015, it is my pleasure to introduce these fascinating colleagues to you. Our B2B marketing field has thrived in recent decades, as new technologies and strategies emerged to help us reach target audiences and generate sales conversations.

But now, as we enter a new decade where challenges loom — data privacy, ad fraud, fake posts, ever-longer sales cycles — we need all of the talent we can get.

  1. Nancy Harhut is the Energizer Bunny of B2B copywriting. After a long career at Boston-area agencies, she has formed her own firm, and is creating bang-up campaigns for clients based on new insights from behavioral science. Catch her informative keynotes at B2B marketing conferences here and abroad.
  2. Valerie Bowling co-founded The Conference Forum to serve the pharmaceutical clinical-trials industry. With programs on such cutting-edge fields as immuno-oncology and “patients as partners,” she’s responsible not only for recruiting top-notch industry speakers, but also for driving attendance. As such, Bowling is an avid follower of B2B marketing methods, to fill the seats and keep attendees coming year after year.
  3. Sean Campbell is CEO of Cascade Insights, a Portland, Ore.-based tech market research firm. On the content side, Campbell hosts the “B2B Revealed” podcast, where I was a recent guest. It was the best interview I’ve ever had. He was prepared — actually read my book! He asked thoughtful, important questions, but also managed to steer the interview into a real conversation. Thanks, Sean, for a great experience.
  4. Elle Woulfe, VP of growth marketing at the product design platform InVision, is one of the most coherent thought leaders in the B2B realm. Find wisdom in her article about new ways to think about lead qualification and her three keys to sales and marketing alignment.
  5. I’ve known Chris Jeffers for years, but 2019 saw his major move. Jeffers founded NetFactor, the first service to automate B2B visitor IP address identification, in 2003. In 2017, he sold the company to Bombora, and decided to “retire.” All eyes are on his next step. I know he’ll come up with a winner.
  6. Vinay Mehendi is one of those rare data scientists who easily bridges to the business world. His company, amusingly named OceanFrogs, offers a wide range of B2B data services, like data enrichment and hygiene, persona development, technographic data, and lookalike modeling. But he has also developed some interesting B2B data innovations, like target account prioritization models, partner prospecting services, and a way to identify the “champion” in your target account buying group.
  7. I have to laugh when I run across a B2B sales executive with a stand-up comedy side gig. Check out Vincent Pietrafesa, Stirista’s intrepid VP of B2B products by day, who moonlights as Vincent James at comedy spots in the NY area. Who said B2B couldn’t be funny?
  8. I am a big fan of Jill Konrath, a sales expert who really gets B2B marketing. Having reconnected with her this year to get help crafting cold prospecting emails, I benefited from her superb Prospecting Tool Kit. She knows what she’s talking about, explains things clearly and tells the truth: “What percent of your prospects want to spend time with a salesperson? Zero.”
  9. When I worked at IBM in the 1990s, I noticed that our Canadian colleagues were way ahead in B2B marketing strategy and execution. So I am not surprised to see the same today in marketing services and technology. One example is Mike Couch, Toronto-based martech systems integrator whose agency helps firms like Bloomberg and ADP make their new purchases hum. When asked who should own the martech stack: marketing, sales or IT, Mike says the answer is “your customer.” Indeed.
  10. Bernice Grossman is one of the early lights in B2B data management, who saw long before most the essential value of complete, clean, and well-organized customer information to the success of B2B marketers everywhere. I was honored to partner with her on a series of research reports on B2B data-driven marketing over the years. After 37 years running DMRS Group, she holds the fascinating record.

Here’s to another great year in B2B marketing. Happy new decade to all!

 

A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

The Truth Is, There Is No Truth — Let Alone in Advertising

Think about it. Most of what we consume as information about our world, society, events, and brands is “second-hand” reality — let alone in advertising. We didn’t really see what happened in protests covered on national news. We were not live audience members at a political rally.

Think about it. Most of what we consume as information about our world, society, events, and brands is “second-hand” reality — let alone in advertising. We didn’t really see what happened in protests covered on national news. We were not live audience members at a political rally. Or we didn’t experience the results firsthand that a customer claims to have experienced from a company’s products or services.

So can we really trust or should we believe what others “report” to us? The answer to this is widely debated on Facebook and news stations as we face all of the “fake” news we get daily, and as we become more aware that so much of what we see and hear is just that: fake. We are finally being made aware of the fact that many propogandists will overlay someone’s face on another person’s video image to “fake” that someone in the public eye said something harming that, in most cases ,they never did. Scary. We are also learning that so much of the posts we see on social media — Facebook, especially — were created by propogandists and posted to our accounts because of the demographic profile Facebook created from our past posts and those of the “friends” connected to us. We’re really starting to get it, whether we face it or not.

One thing we marketers need to also face is the how the “truth” we are putting out there is being received. As consumers are starting to watch the “news” and read social media with a different lens than before, we need to look at how that new lens affects their vision for our marketing messages. Here’s just two examples.

Testimonials

These have been the foundation of marketing since the beginning of time. They’re claims from one customer at a time about how products or services changed their worlds. We’ve used them, believing prospects will believe them if we attach them to a real person. Perhaps not so much anymore. Celebrity endorsements have been decreasing in influence rapidly for the past few years. We all know celebrities can be bought for the public appeal of their personal image, and that many are willing to put their mouth when the money is, and so these appeals don’t influence our purchasing choices like they used to. The same is holding true for ordinary people testimonials. Especially as more brands offer to reward us for posting reviews about them.

A testimonial is only true for the person speaking, and at the time they wrote the testimonial. Their truth may not apply to someone else, and it may not be true anymore, due to subsequent experiences with the brand involved. Testimonials can also backfire, as the prospects will expect to be just as delighted as those customers they believed, and the reality is that this is not likely the way it will go. Ever. As all customers’ needs, expectations and experiences are as different as the individual using the product or service. We see and judge life’s experiences through lenses of our experiences, culture, expectations, social situations, life’s challenges, and so much more.

Product Claims

Time to drop the hype. We’re so used to making self-proclaimed endorsements of our competitive advantages, product quality, results generated, and so much more. If anything has come out of the “fake” news movement, it’s that we are learning not to believe hype and claims that can’t be substantiated. We marketers need to start writing more like journalists were trained to write decades ago, before they cared more about ratings than news or truth. When I attended to journalism school as an undergraduate, our work was thrown out if we used adjectives or made suggestions that were not attributed to quotable sources. This needs to become the new norm for marketers, many of whom were raised to use big words, project big claims, and spark curiosity, and then explain later.

Many consumers today have become jaded, skeptical, and cautious to trust, and for good reason. They have been bombarded with “fake news,” “fake promises,” fake claims,” and more “fake” truths. Generation Xers, Millennials, and the up-and-coming generations are learning not to believe more than believe. There are a lot of reasons for them not to trust what they hear or see. TV and digital and print news can be manipulated with Photoshop and other special effect tools. Video and comments from spokespeople can easily be taken out of context and, in reality, we are learning to expect that they are more often than not.

What Marketers Can Do About Truth

Marketers can overcome this jaded vision of the world and brands in business today by addressing truth firsthand. You can do this by creating more interaction between your brand and consumers online and in the real world. Let customers experience what you are all about — your products, your persona, your values — more than reading your carefully crafted statements. Apple’s stores are a great example of how this can be done. The atmosphere is open and engaging, not stiff and overwhelming with merchandise and sales signs popping out in front of you at every corner. They simply ask how they can help, educate you about their technology and your options, and let you explore and experience the products for as long you want to, in an engaging, no hype, no hard-sell setting.

In short, “truth” is not in the written word or video snippets, but in the actual experience of each customer. Creating personal realities that are meaningful and relevant should be every marketing team’s top goal.

WWTT? JPMorgan Chase Opts for AI-Written Marketing Copy

Earlier this week, JPMorgan Chase announced that it had inked a five-year deal with Persado, a company with a product that produces AI-written marketing copy. Copywriters, don’t start hyperventilating … robots haven’t come for your jobs, yet.

Earlier this week, JPMorgan Chase announced that it had inked a five-year deal with Persado, a company with a product that produces AI-written marketing copy. Copywriters, don’t start hyperventilating … robots haven’t come for your jobs, yet.

According to a press release from Persado, in 2016 JPMorgan Chase started a pilot program with the company’s Message Machine product. Using the tool, Chase took marketing copy for its Card and Mortgage businesses and reworked it. The end result was a lift in clickthrough rates as high as 450% from AI-written marketing copy created using Persado’s tool, compared to a previous CTR range of 50% to 200%.

AI-written marketing copy from Persado outperforms the control.
Credit: JPMorgan Chase, sourced from Philadelphia Inquirer

Persado’s Message Machine uses a database of over 1 million tagged and scored words and phrases to create the AI-written marketing copy, but that doesn’t mean its use by Chase, and other brands, will render the need for “human touch” obsolete. In an article from The Philadelphia Inquirer, Erich Timmerman, executive director for media relations at JPMorgan’s tech-oriented office in San Francisco was quoted:

“The goal is to get to copy that resonates. Edits and review have always been integral to the process.”

Throughout Persado’s press release, Chase’s CMO Kristin Lemkau is quoted, giving high praise to Persado’s product, and stating: “Machine learning is the path to more humanity in marketing.” While I’m personally not sure where I stand on that last statement made by Lemkau, I also feel like you can’t argue with what is working for the financial services company.

Chase clearly took its time to dedicate itself and its marketing to go through the pilot program, and it liked the results. And to note, the financial services company is not the only major brand working with Persado — the client list also includes Dell, Air Canada, Staples, and more. But, according to an Ad Age article, Chase is the first marketer working with Persado to employ its AI writing across all platforms.

I think this move is an interesting one for Chase, and since it was made following plenty of testing, I think it makes sense. Do I think AI-written marketing copy will always win out? No. But I think we can learn something about copywriting from AI.

And at the end of the day, there are bigger things to stress about  … like French’s partnering with Coolhaus Ice Cream to create yellow mustard flavored ice cream. Worry less about a robot coming for your job, and more about why someone thought this was a good idea.

 

Here’s the Customer Psychology You’ve Shown You Care About, Marketers

Customer psychology helps marketers design campaigns. Emotion drives many purchases, even in B2B circles. And considering all I write about is customer psychology, let’s look at what aspects of it interested you the most during these past six months.

Customer psychology helps marketers design campaigns. Emotion drives many purchases, even in B2B circles. And considering all I write about is customer psychology, let’s look at what aspects of it interested you the most during these past six months.

The science behind this analysis is based on posts you’ve clicked on and read, according to Target Marketing’s site analytics. These appear to be persistent favorites, as I only published one of them during the past six months. So you’ve been interested in and reading these posts for awhile — one since 2016. Parse.ly says these are the top posts you’ve read, marketers:

‘Persuasive Copy That Sells: It’s Not About the Words’

This opinion piece from Jan. 15 is your clear favorite, with almost four times as many hits as No. 4, “3 Customer Experience Tips for Marketers to Reduce Churn.”

So the psychology behind how you communicate with your customers is top-of-mind for marketers.

The column says:

“Smart consumers don’t believe marketing any more. We’ve used those lines way too long and not delivered on promises we’ve made. Conscious choices are built upon values, personality and giving natures of brands.”

Among the post’s 17 comments, many of which disagreed with me, is this from “Tony, the Pitiful Copywriter”:

“I find it easier to test and measure the results of an offer than a touchy-feely campaign. Don’t get me wrong, those campaigns are cool and moving the needle forward for someone. At the end of the day (hate that phrase), I gotta sell stuff to customers.”

He has a point. But that point may be missing the big picture. My response was:

“Hi Tony, thanks for reading and commenting. Traditional marketing will never go away. At the same time, the ROI and response will never be what it was years ago; and I don’t believe it will match the results we get now from highly relevant, psychologically based marketing [campaigns]. I see it in my own work. My copy that engages what matters deep in a person’s psyche has produced 20-year champions for brands across B2B and B2C. Price engages, of course; but not as much as it used to … Just read Cone Communications’ reports on how it matters less than CSR to about 90% of consumers today.”

‘What’s Your Brand Schema?’ 

This post from Nov. 1, 2016, is No. 2.

This is still true:

“Chances are, you don’t know what I’m talking about and creating your brand schema has never been a line item on your marketing to-do list. Yet in today’s cluttered word of information overload, understanding schema is more critical than polishing your content, engagement and customer service strategies. True, because if you don’t understand the schema that drives the attitudes, beliefs and interest in your brand, your other programs simply won’t work.

“So what is schema? Simply put, psychologists define our collective preconceived ideas about just about anything as schema or our mental framework of thoughts, attitudes, beliefs that drive our values and behavior. Our schemas produce automatic thoughts on which our opinions and beliefs are built, and no amount of evidence can change our minds. Just like Facebook posts, political speeches and debates don’t change our voting choices, brands’ promises, messages and claims don’t change our attitudes or propensity to engage if they don’t meet our ‘reality,’ which is based upon what we choose to believe vs. what brands want us to believe. As mentioned in last month’s post on marketing messages falling on deaf ears, we even choose which scientific evidence to believe and what not to believe.

“For marketing purposes, schema is your customers’ ‘reality’ vs. your own. And when the two don’t twine, you spend a lot of time effort and money on marketing that just doesn’t produce results that will reach your company’s goals and advance your individual career. Not good, either way.”

‘The Psychology of Rewards’

Marketers have evolved loyalty programs a lot since my post from Aug. 15, 2017. But customers’ motivations for joining the programs haven’t changed.

Extrinsic motivation, or our behavior which is driven by the anticipation of being rewarded by others for engaging in specific behaviors, drives much of the choices we make in life — how we perform our jobs and what products we chose to buy.

“And down deep, that motivation is linked to what I’ve said before is our greatest psychological driver: our survival DNA. Unconsciously, rewards help us feel like we are getting closer to that place in life where we have what we need to survive the daily battle to fulfill needs and wants that propel us ahead of the pack.”

‘3 Customer Experience Tips for Marketers to Reduce Churn’

Even though customers are telling brands that customer experience is more and more important to them, they’re becoming less and less satisfied with how well marketers are providing these experiences.

The post from May 7 cites research from Qualtrics-owned Temkin Group and my interview with David Morris, CMO of Proformex, marketing advisor to Resilience Capital, and respected authority on SaaS marketing.

He says:

“We spend thousands of dollars and huge amounts of time marketing to customers, and in some cases, a year or more to convert a lead to a customer. And then we lose a customer in a matter of months. When this happens, you spend a lot more money getting customers than you get back in revenue, and that is not a sustainable way to operate a business.”

Conclusion

Based on all of this, it seems as though marketers are serious about understanding their customers. This is good news for everyone. Because I love talking with you about customer psychology. Is there anything I haven’t covered that you’d like to talk about? I’ll read your suggestions in the comments section below.

Consider a New Direct Mail Strategy of Turning a ‘No’ to ‘Yes’

I read a book recently called “Never Split The Difference” by Chris Voss. It’s all about negotiating skills. It got me thinking about how some of those same strategies could be applied to direct mail.

Direct mail has been around for a long time, so there are many established strategies to get the best results. You have probably tried several of them.

I read a book recently called “Never Split The Difference” by Chris Voss. It’s all about negotiating skills. It got me thinking about how some of those same strategies could be applied to direct mail.

Direct mail is not a negotiation, but it is trying to convince people to buy from you. The better you are at convincing, the more response you will get.

So let’s take a look at one specific strategy that focuses on getting people to say “no” in order to get them to say “yes.” I know that you are thinking this is crazy. “No” is bad, and we don’t want people to say “no” to us. But hear me out. I think I can change your mind.

Why ‘No’

Simply because it works. Consider this, by allowing your prospect or customer to respond to a question with a “no,” you put them into a more confident position of being in control and decisive.

So by starting your direct mail messaging with a question that prompts a “no,” you will have more success getting a “yes” to them buying from you.

So how does this work? When people say “no,” they are now secure and confident. This leads them to take more action.

Let’s say you are a pest control company, selling your services to homeowners. To start with a “no” question, you could ask them: “Do you like ants in your house?”

Of course they will say “no.” Then you can follow up with some information about how ants get in. Then finally, finish with the real question you want them to say “yes” to; which is, will they hire you to remove bugs?

Why ‘Yes’ First Sets the Wrong Emotions

When your prospects or customers receive your mail piece, they know you are soliciting them. It’s not a big secret that you want them to buy from you. So they are already in the mindset of being wary and defensive. This is not the best mood to be in when making decisions that will be in your favor. By forcing them to answer your “yes” questions, you seed this mood within them more deeply.

In order to move them quickly to the right mindset, you should start with a “no” question. When you get someone to say “no,” you open them up to opportunities and to saying: “Yes, I will buy from you.”

In this context, “no” is a very powerful motivator.

Have you tried this tactic before? Many times, the strategy is to ask repeated “yes” questions, with the expectation that the final “will you buy from me?” question will then be “yes.”

This does work.

But starting with “no” can work better.

Because results matter, why not give the “no” strategy a try? You can run an A/B test one with your usual strategy and one that starts with a “no” question to see what works best for you. This “no” strategy scenario works for both B2B and B2C direct mail. Are you ready to get started?

From ACA to Medicare: 5 Answers to Healthcare Marketers’ Legal Questions About Insurance

As healthcare marketers and communications professionals, this swirl of forces hits close to home. Are you able to describe the various paths of reform to internal or external audiences?

In the spring of 2010, healthcare marketers saw the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), nicknamed ObamaCare, become law. It was the largest expansion of health insurance coverage since the establishment of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965. More than 50 years have passed since healthcare became more accessible, yet it remains a fiercely debated topic among politicians and is now the No. 1 concern among voters, according to a new poll from RealClear Opinion Research.

The tug-of-war between those who view healthcare as a guaranteed right and those who believe the government should have a minimal role is shaping up to be a driving force in the 2020 election. The processes used to “right-size” the government’s role shows we remain deeply conflicted. Court cases in different jurisdictions return victories and defeats to both sides. Voters generally approve Medicaid expansion when it’s on a state ballot, but elect federal representatives with divergent views. Why is this still so complicated?

The U.S., which has the world’s most powerful armed forces, spends 3.6% of its gross domestic product (GDP) on the military. Contrast that with the 18% of GDP spent on healthcare, and you start to get a sense of the scale of the industry and the Rubik’s Cube nature of how its pieces depend on each other. Those who view healthcare as a matter of seeing the doctor when you are sick tend to see the upside in expanding coverage. Those who think of it in economic terms tend to worry about potential disruption to jobs, given that healthcare is the largest source of employment in many towns. And those who view it as a commodity tend to think the marketplace should be left alone to sort it out.

As healthcare marketers and communications professionals, this swirl of forces hits close to home. Are you able to describe the various paths of reform to internal or external audiences?

  • The ACA (today’s status quo): For Americans who do not receive health insurance through their employer, the ACA removed restrictions on individual policies, such as exclusions for pre-existing conditions, lifetime limitations on benefits, and widely divergent premiums based on your health. Of course, the ACA also set up online exchanges where you could see if you qualify for certain subsidies to help you purchase different levels of gold, silver, or bronze coverage. Some people objected to the “individual mandate” that penalized taxpayers as a means of encouraging them to get coverage. Since its passage, the penalty for the mandate has been reduced to $0.
  • Single-Payer: Single-payer refers to the federal government reimbursing physicians and hospitals for services provided to patients, but doesn’t explicitly tie the reimbursement amounts to those of an existing program, such as Medicare or Medicaid. The uncertainty creates financial uncertainty for providers. Single-payer would, for the most part, eliminate the role of health insurance companies, which advocates believe would save money on administrative “waste” and opponents see as removing choice from the marketplace. Consumers who have “skimpy” health coverage might have more services covered under single payer, while those with richer benefits through commercial insurance might have fewer services covered.
  • Medicare-for-All (multiple flavors): Medicare-for-All is an expansion of an existing federal program accepted by almost all providers. Several proposals generally fall under the “Medicare for All” moniker, making it more complex to sort out. The name gives the impression the covered benefits would be similar to original Medicare parts A&B, but most proposals envision benefits like those available through Medicare Advantage, with benefits for vision, dental, and prescription drugs. Some proposals use traditional Medicare as a starting point for calculating reimbursements, while others use a more ambitious “global payments” approach for hospitals and standard rates for other types of providers. Consumers could purchase supplemental insurance to access services that are not covered. There would be no monthly premiums because tax revenues would cover costs. Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP would be discontinued in favor of Medicare-for-All.
  • Medicare Buy-in: Medicare Buy-in is a smaller expansion of Medicare than envisioned under Medicare-for-All. This proposal would allow people 50 years old and over to pay a premium for the coverage provided under traditional Medicare or Medicare Advantage. The buy-in premium would be expected to cover 100% of administrative and benefit costs, although the enrollee may qualify for subsidies that bring down monthly premiums. Consumers could also purchase supplemental coverage, preserving a role for commercial insurance companies for that segment, as well as for younger consumers. Reimbursement rates for providers would mimic Medicare payment rates.
  • Universal Coverage: This is a goal rather than a pre-defined approach. As the name implies, Universal Coverage means everyone has access to healthcare, but it does not necessarily mean all services would be covered and it does not specify which of the above methods would be used to achieve it. In some countries, Universal Coverage also means that the government would control pricing, which critics say leads to an overall decline in the quality of care and advocates view as being more socially equitable.

As the debate over healthcare heats up — yet again — it may produce confusion and fear among people who have come to depend on specific programs, even if those programs have well-known flaws. Real change isn’t likely until after the 2020 elections, and the direction of that change will depend on who voters send to D.C. to represent them. In the meantime, be prepared to answer a lot of questions from worried patients.

Persuasive Copy That Sells: It’s Not About the Words

You remember those lists of powerful words we marketers use to use to guide copywriting for short-term response and sales? You remember that persuasive copy. “Limited Time,” “Only One Left,” “Don’t Miss Out,” “Never to Be Offered Again,” “Big Discounts,” “Guaranteed,” and “Free,” “Free” and “Free.”

You remember those lists of powerful words we marketers use to use to guide copywriting for short-term response and sales? You remember that persuasive copy. “Limited Time,” “Only One Left,” “Don’t Miss Out,” “Never to Be Offered Again,” “Big Discounts,” “Guaranteed,” and “Free,” “Free” and “Free.”

And for a long while, those words printed in bright big bold graphics worked. They got response and they drove sales, and helped launch many direct marketing careers and agencies.

Just as many of you might remember building “urgent” direct mail copy, you might also remember that point of diminishing returns from using all of those “powerful” words. And the point at which your CEO and board of directors were not so okay with that average 1% response of direct marketing campaigns.

Things have changed. And they are not going back. We’re just not in an era where smartphones rule our lives, we are in a perpetual era where smart consumers rule markets, and aren’t believing those brand claims or promises any more. They’re also not caring if it is the very last seat on that flight at that price. They’ve heard it before, and seen it not be real, so they don’t care and they don’t respond.

Smart consumers don’t believe marketing any more. We’ve used those lines way too long and not delivered on promises we’ve made. Conscious choices are built upon values, personality and giving natures of brands. Brands that give back to the earth, people and causes don’t use price discounts or sales gimmicks to drives sales. And never will have to. Apple, Patagonia, Starbucks and Newman’s food products, are just a few of the “feel good” brands that people purchase, regardless of infrequent sales discounts and promotions. They don’t have to lower prices to make people feel good about purchasing from them.

That last statement above is the “key” to copywriting and overall marketing that works in today’s Smart Consumer environment — copy, stories, social and live engagement — that makes us feel good about ourselves and our role in helping drive good, amid the daily chaos we experience and witness.

Marketing copy strategies that align with “feeling good” address many aspects of human nature and what really influences us to change our behavior. It’s no longer about the words we use to influence behavior, it’s about the values we project, our brands, and the values of those we want to do business with us.

Here are some examples of how we can persuade with good values vs. just “good “ words:

Good Character

One of the five drivers of human happiness, according to Jonathan Haidt’s book, “The Happiness Hypothesis,” is being part of something that does good in the world. This new generation of customers not only seeks to do good in the world themselves, they seek to purchase from and align with brands that also do good in the world. If a brand just makes good products for good prices, that is not good enough for many consumers. According to Cone Communications research, more than 90% of consumers want to purchase from brands that give back to humanitarian or environmental causes, and around 80% of consumers will switch brands if their current brand is not aligned with their same “do good” values and able to show a direct impact, monetarily. (Opens as a PDF)

Good Place

We are wired to seek safety, comfort and security, no matter how successful we are, or powerful we may think we are. Its all part of the “survival of the fittest” mentality our species adheres to daily — socially, financially, physically and emotionally — whether we admit or acknowledge it. Brands that help consumers find and secure a “good” place in life are brands that win trial and secure loyalty, no matter what they are selling. What is the security that your brand provides? What is the comfort you deliver? These are the things you should write about in your content, your social posts, your marketing campaigns, even your packaging. All those promises of “best” quality, service, price, value are meaningless. We’ve all been there, done that, and now we want more. We want to feel safe and made that way by a brand we trust and a brand that has our same values.

Good Product Values

Of course, good products matter, too. Patagonia sold around $156 million in products with an ad that said “Don’t buy this jacket.” Instead, its call to action was to let customers repair their current jackets and save resources from the earth and money for themselves. However, this was so aligned with its customers’ core values, people bought those jackets and other products, anyway. But ads that promote your values really work best when your product has value, too. So as you promote the values you cherish for brand character, you need to promote what you do to add value to your products or services. Do you base your production protocols upon quality management processes and systems that have been certified by third parties? Do you add value in ways that others’ don’t, such as added features, warranties, extended return periods and so on? How can you communicate what goes into your product development that stands out from competitors’ products?

Words that communicate the above “good values” are the “words” that will stand out and help secure new sales, new levels of loyalty and new referrals. In marketing today, talk or “words” are cheap. Values drive value beyond price and imagination.

Is Your Content Marketing the Right Length to Touch the Ground?

The content marketing debate revolving around length makes me think of a story. A curious little girl is said to have asked Abraham Lincoln how long one’s legs should be. After a moment’s reflection, the tall and lanky president responded wisely, “just long enough to touch the ground.”

The content marketing debate revolving around length makes me think of a story. A curious little girl is said to have asked Abraham Lincoln how long one’s legs should be. After a moment’s reflection, the tall and lanky president responded wisely, “just long enough to touch the ground.”

He certainly could not have realized that he was creating an unassailable template used endlessly ever since to provide dimensions for just how short or long any form of communication should be. Thorin McGee, Target Marketing editor-in-chief, recently explored how to find the right length for your content here and concluded — rightly, I would suggest — that the right length was as long as you can keep your audience engaged. Because when they become bored, they leave.

“Think like a reality TV editor,” he writes, referencing popular media for couch potatoes. He might have found a better frame of reference in the novels of Dickens or Victor Hugo’s ‘Les Miserables’, originally published in weekly installments in the popular press. To be certain readers would come back and buy the next installment, each had to end with a cliffhanger — would the hero/heroine fall off of the proverbial cliff or be saved, just in the nick of time, to continue the story?

There is no question that if the copy is engaging or compelling, if it makes promises and poses questions you feel you must have the answers to, length isn’t a primary consideration. Guru Frank Johnson’s classic rule is:

Tell them what you are going to tell them.

Tell them.

Tell them what you told them and what to do about it.

It never fails. And whether you do that in 100 or thousands of words depends only on the type of product, the medium but — most of all — on the ability of the writer to increase the attention and interest of the reader as the narrative continues, never letting him get bored. Johnson liked to remind us that great copy “tracks” — like a train going to the next station, it has to stay on the track or you have a fatal derailment.

Try this from TheDogTrainingSecret.com:

Hi Peter,

It gets me every time …

You see a homeless guy on the streets, a dog cuddled at his side.

Life has clearly not been kind to the gentleman, he’s wearing the rattiest, dirtiest jacket you’ve ever seen and shoes so old, there’s no way his feet could be dry.

His life’s belongings are gathered at his side, in a small duffle bag and maybe a weathered grocery bag.

He’s collecting change in a paper coffee cup.

Maybe $1.25 so far today.

Not much.

And as a result of hard living, he’s painfully thin. Much too thin, for a man living on the streets. And life is bleak.

Except for the one obvious ray of sunshine in his life:

That misfit dog, cuddled up at his side.

A dog with nothing but love, admiration and adoration for his master, pouring from his heart and eyes.

Has YOUR dog ever looked at you like that?

Like you’re the center of his world, the only thing that matters, the only person he trusts, his rock and the one person who’s worth 100% of his love and attention?

I don’t know about you …

… But that look of love you get from a dog?

I tell you, it’s a gut check for me every time.

And it’s this feeling that inspired the next designer T-shirt in our line-up:

Be The Person Your Dog Thinks You Are.

Because wouldn’t the world be a better place if we all stepped up and lived this way? And loved this way?

This T-shirt comes in 3 styles … kids, women’s and unisex.

In a variety of stylish colors.

Check them out …

It’s just 275 words. Is it too long, too short or just right? Can you possibly get bored as the story unfolds?

OK, not everyone loves dogs or will buy the T-shirt, but I’d bet many do. (Disclaimer: I bought one.)

So what is the bottom line of the long or short content length issue?

To this maverick marketer, it is simply that every commercial communication must have an objective supported by a narrative engaging and compelling enough to take you by the hand and lead you to the call to action and to the action itself. All of the theorizing about generational differences in attention spans and similar research pales against one simple thing: Does the story accomplish the objective; is it the right length to touch the ground?

Customer Motivation: What Difference Does It Make?

The decision to undergo a healthcare procedure — and by whom — can be a complicated, emotional, non-linear journey. Understanding the customer motivation can make the difference between them moving forward with your provider, going elsewhere or simply taking no action at all.

Not long ago a marketing colleague remarked, “What difference does it make what their motivations are?”

To her, it was all about logic. A consumer in need of a healthcare service would conduct an online search, go to a website and move through the marketing funnel if the right engagement elements were in place. That made me wonder, are we losing sight of what makes a person tick? The customer motivation?

The rise of digital marketing makes it easy to track activity and measure conversions from the top of the funnel down through appointment-making. By using A/B or multivariate testing, you can make page tweaks to see if your throughput improves. But this data-based view of the world doesn’t provide visibility into the emotional context that drives some health care decisions.

There are different types of health care services, of course. Simple things like getting a primary care appointment or a flu shot can be based on convenience and almost transactional in nature. But many other health care decisions are ‘considered purchases.’

The decision to undergo a procedure — and by whom — can be a complicated, emotional, non-linear journey. In these instances, understanding the prospect’s motivations can make the difference between them moving forward with your provider, going elsewhere or simply taking no action at all. Understanding customer motivation is particularly important among the ‘aging in’ demographic where respect and sentiment are the norms.

We know this intuitively in other situations. When you are considering a purchase for home or work, you’ll look at information about features, pricing and warranty, but all things being equal, chances are you will buy from the company or representative who “gets you.” An organization that explicitly recognizes and embraces your customer motivation is building a bridge that you are more likely to cross.

5 Emotional Elements That Add Customer Motivation to Your Marketing

So how can you factor in emotional elements and conversion funnels in your marketing?

  1. Identify the services that are likely to be considered purchases. These are usually for chronic conditions where the consumer adapts by reducing activities, self-medicating or living in a constant state of worry.
  2. Use physician interviews or patient questionnaires in those service lines to probe for the length of time they have had the condition and ranking the factors (motivations) that drove them to seek treatment. Some patients may be willing to provide a video testimonial with the understanding it is intended to help others who are wrestling with a similar decision.
  3. Consider adding subtle variations to your online downstream content so that a visitor can see others with similar motivations. This provides validation to the prospective patient and places your facility in the context of ‘getting it.’ Tag your response mechanism from each section so any CRM nurturing campaign can leverage this insight.
  4. Use different motivating factors in your external messaging. Consider using call tracking so someone who is responding to a “play with the grand kids” message sees a different phone number or URL link than the consumer motivated by “being tired of the pain” or “wanting to travel again.”
  5. Segment your online reports so that you can see the volume generated by each type of message and rate of fall-off through the funnel. Remember, higher inbound volume doesn’t always equate to the highest percentage or volume of conversions.

Marketing Copywriting: Does ‘Anal Retentive’ Have a Hyphen?

There wouldn’t even be a brouhaha over one space or two if even having a marketing copywriting style guide as a reference didn’t seem so out of style.

There are many stellar copywriters out there. And there are equally great editors. But can we please have a marketing copywriting style guide?

You see, there appear to be (too) many discussions around the all-important matter of how many spaces a writer should place after an end punctuation. Two spaces later, and now I’ve added another one.

There’s the one-space marketing copywriting camp: the digerati, journalism (both digital and print), chronic text users, rule haters, possibly job-screeners looking to weed out (illegally, even in fun) anyone over 40 by examining their written work. Journalism? I received an “F” once in a J-school assignment, because my professor called me out for using two spaces after at full stop. Paper costs money, even if a Twitter character doesn’t.

And there’s the two-space marketing copywriting camp: Book publishing, science, aesthetics, rule respecters from days-long-past childhood education, and perhaps anyone anally retentive. Oh, did I say science? Yes, even researchers have weighed in on this weighty matter. And you knew it was coming … the digerati quickly responded: Mental Floss, and I really appreciate LifeHacker’s investigative response.

Punctuation in Marketing Copywriting: One or Two, Oh My! Whatever Are We to Do?!

I have to say, I’m flabbergasted by all this concern (or lack thereof) over marketing copywriting punctuation.

First, I demand that any HR professional who screens job applicants based on one-space use or two — as a tacit means for age discrimination — ought to be fired, and the company he or she works for sued to high heaven. (Good luck proving it.)

Second, I thank the researchers who have “proven” that all our eyes need a break — even if it’s only a couple of pixels. Dear reader, I know I’m prone to write long, drawn-out sentences, and I apologize. I’ve always suspected you needed a break — and, as a default, I’ve always sought to give you one. No matter what font is used.

Third, perhaps all we really need is a marketing copywriting style guide — and adhere to it. When I get a freelance assignment, one question I often ask, “Is there a style guide for your company or publication? If not, do you default to Associated Press, Wired or Chicago Manual of Style?“ Even studying a client’s website, direct mail, official filings or other communications simply to discern if a preference even exists (or not) is helpful. Observe, and do what the client does with marketing copywriting.

Anal-Retentive Marketing Copywriting: Why Bother? Bother

Logically, there wouldn’t even be a brouhaha over one space or two if even having a marketing copywriting style guide as a reference didn’t seem so out of style.

Perhaps “anything goes” and “break all rules” is the new style — and thus, I’ve wasted your time reading this column, as I get nostalgic for consistency, order, attention to detail, and a layer of copy editors and proofreaders who no longer exist in the world of on-demand communication. But as we throw away the style guides, do we have to throw away the fact-checkers, too?

I guess, these days, that’s also a matter of style. At least there will be no eye strain here, today.

[Editor’s Note: The editors of Target Marketing have removed one space after each of Chet’s sentences. He is now informed: It’s our style!]