Get More From Your Advertising While Spending A Lot Less

At a time when there seems to be a new national crisis daily, it is hard to justify moving forward with big marketing spends not knowing what the purchasing climate will be one day to the next. Clever copy, relevant content, and big promotions just can’t overcome the hurdles of spending freezes and cut backs many of your target customers are experiencing. When this happens, its really tough to make marketing pay off. At least the kind of marketing you might be used to executing.

Fortunately, marketing platforms today give us the opportunity to manage our marketing spend to be accountable for every dollar, and to eliminate waste by paying only for results, be it impressions, clicks, likes, contact information, and so on.

Regardless of COVID-19 economic challenges, and civil rights protests that disrupt business as usual in every sense of the term, spending dollars on performance marketing programs that are highly measurable is smart marketing under all circumstances. Such programs enable you to reach only who you want to reach, and only cost you money when they perform. This makes sense in good times, certain times, and the reverse.

The key to getting more from these media channels (e.g., Google Ads and LinkedIn ads) really boils down to two things:

  • What you say and how you say it
  • How you use them to spark a multi-step journey to YES for the leads you generate

Here are some considerations.

What You Say and How You Say It

Emotional and psychological relevance is more important than ever. It’s fair to say that most of us are operating from a perspective of fear, anxiety, and doubt most of the time. Every day there’s another setback to our respect for humanity, our belief in governments, our sense of security, and a lot more. So ads that appeal to just about anything but the above are likely to go unnoticed or unacted upon. Copy that directly appeals to a solution vs. boasts a brand’s expertise is likely to influence and persuade, the goal of all marketing. Yet so many ads across all platforms are still brag sheets that are meaningless to purchasers seeking solutions to the fears and anxieties that consume them.

You need to use powerful words that speak to how you can add confidence and security to those struggling to find both in their jobs and personal worlds. Even with the strict word counts for Google Ads and LinkedIn Ads, you can do it. The best way to identify the words or issues that move your customers the most is to ask them. Use your website, social media pages, and email programs to ask one to three questions that identify the greatest concerns and needs on customers’ minds today.

If you find fear of job loss or the great unknown to be top of mind among your customers, use words that speak directly to these fears in your Search Ads. Back up the promise implied by these words with all the other touch points you prepare to keep them on a journey to YES.

How You Spark a Multi-Step Journey

Its amazing how many marketers spend a lot of money on PPC and other performance marketing programs and then stop there. The intent of these programs is most often to create a lead or get people to a website where further engagement takes place. Yet many marketers don’t plan well for the next touch point.

This is why Customer Experience (CX) strategies and plans are so critical. And putting a strong CX plan in place is really quite simple. Some tips:

  • Map out the steps that take place from first introduction to your brand to closing the first sale and then what you do to keep them purchasing.
  • Document the triggers that keep customers moving from one step to the next. Was it a price incentive? A free trial? Content or actionable information? Was it simply a phone call or additional email?
  • Promote these triggers in a carefully concerted customer journey, starting with your website.

Once you get people to your website from your digital advertising campaigns, keep them there by making these same triggers or offers the first thing they see on your home page. Use them as reasons to go deeper in your site, sign up for a demo, download a paper, and so on.

The next step to doing more with less is to train your customer service and sales team members to follow up with each lead that lands on your website or responds to an email. As you are already paying for these people, having them follow up with a personal touch does not cost you a lot more, but most often gives back a lot more in terms of getting customers to take the next step in that critical journey to the first sale. Quite often it’s the phone call or personal email that makes all the difference, and yet this is often overlooked.

While it may seem like advertising is a big waste right now with all the uncertainty we face daily in this new normal state of the world, if you use the right emotional appeals, and keep engaging customers with a strong workflow and customer journey plans, you can actually achieve a great deal at a fairly low cost.

3 Steps to Complete a Competitive Content Marketing Review

You’ve got to know what’s out there if you’re going to attract the audience you want. So it’s worthwhile to evaluate your content marketing in relation to what’s already out there.

You’ve got to know what’s out there if you’re going to attract the audience you want. The best content in the world won’t gain any traction if someone else said the same thing 15 minutes ago. So it’s worthwhile to evaluate your content marketing in relation to what’s already out there. Here are three steps to completing a competitive content marketing review:

Step 1. It’s Not About Your Competitors’ Content (Yet)

You may be tempted to fire up your browser, do some searches for the terms you want to rank for, and see who and what pops up. That would be a mistake that can lead you down a rabbit hole and far, far away from your own goals.

Begin first by examining your own content and your analytics data to see what content you’ve created that has performed best. This will give you a baseline against which to evaluate the results you find on competitive sites.

Your goal during this content marketing review isn’t to beat everyone in everything – even if that was possible. Your goal is to beat all competitors in the niches you identify as most important to your target audience and in which you have significant expertise or perspective.

Step 2. Review Your Marketing Goals

Next, review your sales, marketing, and product goals to make sure the content you have out in the world is working toward the goals you have today. It’s not uncommon for older content, aimed at other goals, to continue to garner a strong audience. Of course, being off target, these content elements don’t help your bottom line. (Which is another great reason to perform a content marketing review at least annually and prune or edit content that isn’t aligned with your marketing message.)

Step 3. Review Competitors’ Content Marketing

With all of that information in hand, now it’s time to fire up your browser and see what content you are competing with in your chosen niche. Be sure your review includes long-tail keyword phrases as well as broader queries. This should help you get a solid picture of your content strengths and weaknesses from the top of your funnel to the bottom.

You’ll also want to check the products/services that are being marketed by the content you find. It may be that some keyword phrases are more commonly used in other industries or in other ways than you intend. Performing well against those keywords may drive traffic, but it’s unlikely to generate conversions.

To summarize all of the above, your content marketing review should focus on evaluating:

  • Targeting — are you speaking to the right audience?
  • Content — are you addressing your prospects’ primary concerns?
  • Distribution — are you getting content in front of your target audience?

The Art of the Virtual Pitch Part 4: Sealing the Deal With Post-Pitch Engagement

Pitches aren’t usually won or lost in the room, even though that feels like the main event. Here’s what I’ve learned about making the most of the time following your pitch, which can be applied to the virtual pitch, as well.

Note: This is the last in a four-part series about navigating the unique challenges of pitching without any in-person meetings.

Pitches aren’t usually won or lost in the room, even though that feels like the main event. Here’s what I’ve learned about making the most of the time following your pitch, which can be applied to the virtual pitch, as well.

If you’ve been reading this whole series, you won’t be surprised to hear that the most important part of post-pitch engagement goes back to nurturing the relationship with the clients. Revisit Part 1 of this series, because you just can’t put too much effort into romancing the client. Being creative and thoughtful will take you far.

Work your relationships: If you got the lead or the opportunity through someone you know, keep close to them. They can give you the inside scoop as to who’s in the running, who’s doing well, and what turned the team off during the pitch process — that allows you to tailor your pitch and the way you follow up.

Go big or go home (when appropriate): For example, years ago we were pitching Cadillac just after their move to NYC. They were looking to update their image, and we came up with a great street art program to show off new Cadillac models. As part of our pitch we created a roadmap for our program in the same street art style and had handouts at the pitch. We built on that after the pitch by having street artists paint a 10’x10’ canvas of the roadmap for the Cadillac office.

Don’t Dwell on Mistakes — Fix Them

We’ve all had an “oops!” moment during a pitch, or got grilled by the client and don’t feel great about how we handled it. While it’s important to analyze these moments and improve for next time, a few goof-ups don’t spell failure for your pitch.

The post-pitch follow-up should never just be a thank you note anyway, so take it as an opportunity to round out your pitch in whatever way you want to. Address your mistakes, offer clarity on elements there were a lot of questions about, etc.

Act Like You Already Have the Business

Don’t waste any time showing the clients that you’re excited and ready to dig into the work.

For example, if the clients were super responsive to certain elements of your pitch, create an action plan to show them how that program would get off the ground. Or, say you’re doing a PR pitch and the clients mentioned targeting publication in a specific journal. Show them you’re the one to make that connection. Imagine how the client feels when you’re following up and say you talked to Tom Smith at Dream Journal and he’d be happy for you to broker an introduction.

Do what you’d do if you got the job, like setting up relevant media alerts so you don’t miss the opportunity to congratulate the clients or point out an opportunity. When clients feel confident that you are on top of the job before you even have a scope of work, it answers a lot of questions for them. You’ll have an advantage over the competition when you show that your team needs less guidance, less onboarding.

Do you feel ready to conquer the virtual pitch now? Tweet me @rumekhtiar with any questions about handling pitches in the era of all-remote work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

4 Tips for Targeted Customer Acquisition Marketing

Customer acquisition is the most expensive part of marketing, but no company can afford to abandon marketing for new customers. Acquisition marketing is essential, but brands must find a way to do it more effectively, and that starts with tighter, more data-driven targeting. 

Most marketing is blind. Brands put out messages and hope they are found by enough people who want to be customers that it justifies the spend. Even with targeted marketing, most campaigns are sent to broad audiences defined by a few key attributes, but not enough to eliminate the massive waste inherent in customer acquisition marketing.

Customer acquisition is the most expensive part of marketing. It can cost five times more than retention, and the costs keep rising. Still, no company can afford to abandon marketing for new customers. Even the best retention strategies bleed customers at an alarming rate; prospecting is the only way to offset that loss and grow.

Acquisition is essential, but brands must find a way to do it more effectively, and that starts with tighter, more data-driven targeting.

Data-Driven Acquisition Marketing

Customer modeling is the key to better targeting your prospecting. If you dig into your existing customers, you can identify commonalities and buying signals that allow you to direct marketing spend more effectively and reduce the overall cost to acquire new customers.

The hard part is knowing which attributes correlate most closely to the likelihood of a prospect becoming a customer.

Demographics Aren’t Enough

Demographics are a mainstay of target marketing, but in 2020 they’re not enough.

While demographics do have power in targeting your marketing, they don’t reflect buying signals in their own right. They can still be useful for targeting messaging and creative around more impactful modeling methods, but it’s important to look deeper.

Ideally, you want to build a target list around buying signals, then segment that by demographic information and target your creative to those segments. This means optimizing the creative and/or offer by doing things like matching people in the imagery to the demographics of that segment.

Demographics are also useful in building look-a-like audiences to target new customers based on the customers you already have. Even though demographic data does not directly indicate buying behavior, it can reveal insights when analyzed as part of the wider customer picture with data modeling tools.

4 Data Points for Better Customer Acquisition Marketing

With the above qualifiers in mind, which information actually does line up with more successful acquisition marketing? There are four key data points we like to use for omnichannel targeting.

1. Buying Behavior

When the goal is to understand what type of offer motivates what type of people to buy, purchasing behavior is one of the most important data points to consider.

When you identify that certain list segments respond to deep discounts, you can hold them out from general mailings and bring them back in when you have deep discounts to talk about.

When you can identify audiences with a propensity to buy around certain price points, build offers around those price points. If it’s above your product price, bundle a strong package deal that will lift response and increase your average order value. If your price is above the target, present it as an installment option with payments in the target zone.

This is exactly the kind of actionable information you can get from deep-dive data that is missing from demographic information. You’re not just targeting an age group, area, etc. You’re making a surgical strike at the behavior you want to influence.

2. Personal Life Triggers

Timing is everything. Once you’ve narrowed your target market by interest and buying signals, life triggers become a powerful way to spur new action.

Life triggers can be tied to events ranging from birthdays and graduations to buying a home, getting a new job, retirement, and other once-in-a-lifetime moments. By targeting marketing to a specific time in a prospect’s life when they are most likely to be interested in your offer, you stand a much better chance of making the conversion.

3. Shared Interests

One of the most important indicators of customer potential is evidence of interest in the product category or the industry it serves. While you may not be able to read prospect’s minds directly, there are many data points brands can use to pinpoint interest.

One way is to target audiences and lists built around interests that are relevant to your target customer, such as subscriber files for related media.

Perhaps a more exciting option: Social media provides new opportunities to leverage interest data points. Facebook, for example, allows you to build custom audiences including specific interests.

4. Searcher Intent

“Search data captured across e-commerce, pricing comparison, and product review sites are one of the strongest signals of intent and best sources for new customer acquisition,” says James Green, CEO of Magnetic, and he’s right. Harnessing this data in your customer models is one of the best ways to more tightly target your acquisition efforts and cut down on wasted prospecting spend.

This is why Google now uses searcher intent as the main factor in targeting its search algorithm. The intent is the most reliable indicator of what searchers actually want, and that makes it a powerful marketing tool.

In practice, this means identifying visitor paths, either on your website or across the web, and matching them with desired outcomes. What product pages are they looking at? Did they come from a related external website? Did you catch them on a specific search ad that is relevant to what they may want? All of this data can be used to build a better, more efficient plan for your acquisition marketing.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

All these data points are important for optimizing your acquisition marketing, but they’re not necessarily easily accessible. When you’re trying to do advanced customer lift modeling that includes things like buyer intent seen through visits to other websites, it really helps to have data scientists on your side. These experts can isolate those variables and build them into a view of the audience you’re trying to target.

These are essential tactics that businesses are using now, and more businesses will use them in the future. Make sure you get ahead of the curve by digging into the data points today.

The Art of the Virtual Pitch, Part 3: 4 Steps for a Successful Client Presentation

If you studied up on Part 1 and Part 2 of my series on the virtual pitch, you’re ready to handle the actual client presentation. Here are the top four things to consider when you’re getting ready to put your virtual pitch in front of clients.

If you studied up on Part 1 and Part 2 of my series on the virtual pitch, you’re ready to handle the actual client presentation. Here are the top four things to consider when you’re getting ready to put your virtual pitch in front of clients.

Assume Your Technology Will Fail

Even if your wifi is blazing fast, even if you’re an expert with your presentation platform, you have to assume that some element of your tech will fail. If you just accept it as a given and plan out workarounds in advance, you’ll be able to keep your cool in the moment. At the very least, make sure you send the presentation out to everyone in advance as a PDF under 10 mb, so it makes it through everyone’s email provider without issue.

Mix Up Your Usual Presentation Order

You’re probably used to the in-person presentation standard of one person presenting 5-10 sides on their own. When you’re all in the room together, that works great. But with a virtual presentation, you’re in a constant battle to keep people engaged. Moreso when everyone is working from home amid the COVID-19 chaos.

So mix it up and have a few different people present a section together. That way you break up any possible monotony and keep listeners on their toes as presentation speakers keep changing. It also helps to showcase the various members of your team, lets their personalities shine, and really shows the client what you bring to the table beyond the ideas.

Pro tip: Incorporate this technique into your deck by including the name and photo of the presenter on each slide.

Schedule Pauses to Take the Audience’s Pulse

Losing the nonverbal cues of an in-person meeting can be tough, so you have to plan for a manual way to assess whether people are with you, or if they’re getting bored and frustrated. It’s an adjustment, but the fix is easy. Ask questions and address your audience by name.

Plan to mention specific people when it’s relevant. For example, if you know Scott handles digital campaigns, give him a shout out as you’re getting into discussing digital. A simple, “Scott, I know you’ll be interested in this …” goes a long way to make sure Scott and his colleagues are listening up.

It’s subtle, but making everyone feel that they could be mentioned or questioned helps you engage and makes sure everyone is paying attention.

Rehearse and Review, Even If It’s Painful

We’ve come full circle. You have to rehearse, rehearse, rehearse, so that when your technology fails, your presentation doesn’t. Over the course of multiple rehearsals, you’ll be able to feel out and address any pain points. There’s no substitute for doing a full rehearsal.

Pro tip: Up your game by recording the presentation. No one is excited about doing that, but it is one of the very best ways to see how your team can improve, and how you as an individual can grow. It’s okay to wait to review until after the pitch isn’t so fresh, so you can try to be more objective, but make time to watch the recording. If you just said to yourself, “I don’t need to go that far,” then you absolutely have to.

Understanding What a Customer Data Platform Needs to Be

Marketers try to achieve holistic personalization through all conceivable channels in order to stand out among countless messages hitting targeted individuals every day, if not every hour. If the message is not clearly about the target recipient, it will be quickly dismissed. So, how can marketers achieve such an advanced level of personalization?

Modern-day marketers try to achieve holistic personalization through all conceivable channels in order to stand out among countless marketing messages hitting targeted individuals every day, if not every hour. If the message is not clearly about the target recipient, it will be quickly dismissed.

So, how can marketers achieve such an advanced level of personalization? First, we have to figure out who each target individual is, which requires data collection: What they clicked, rejected, browsed, purchased, returned, repeated, recommended, look like, complained about, etc.  Pretty much every breath they take, every move they make (without being creepy). Let’s say that you achieved that level of data collection. Will it be enough?

Enter “Customer-360,” or “360-degree View of a Customer,” or “Customer-Centric Portrait,” or “Single View of a Customer.” You get the idea. Collected data must be consolidated around each individual to get a glimpse — never the whole picture — of who the targeted individual is.

You may say, “That’s cool, we just procured technology (or a vendor) that does all that.” Considering there is no CRM database or CDP (Customer Data Platform) company that does not say one of the terms I listed above, buyers of technology often buy into the marketing pitch.

Unfortunately,the 360-degree view of a customer is just a good start in this game, and a prerequisite. Not the end goal of any marketing effort. The goal of any data project should never be just putting all available data in one place. It must support great many complex and laborious functions during the course of planning, analysis, modeling, targeting, messaging, campaigning, and attribution.

So, for the interest of marketers, allow me to share the essentials of what a CDP needs to be and do, and what the common elements of useful marketing databases are.

A CDP Must Cover Omnichannel Sources

By definition, a CDP must support all touchpoints in an omnichannel marketing environment. No modern consumer lingers around just in one channel. The holistic view cannot be achieved by just looking at their past transaction history, either (even though the past purchase behavior still remains the most powerful predictor of future behavior).

Nor do marketers have time to wait until someone buys something through a particular channel for them to take actions. All movements and indicators — as much as possible — through every conceivable channel should be included in a CDP.

Yes, some data evaporates faster than others — such as browsing history — but we are talking about a game of inches here.  Besides, data atrophy can be delayed with proper use of modeling techniques.

Beware of vendors who want to stay in their comfort zone in terms of channels. No buyer is just an online or an offline person.

Data Must Be Connected on an Individual Level

Since buyers go through all kinds of online and offline channels during the course of their journey, collected data must be stitched together to reveal their true nature. Unfortunately, in this channel-centric world, characteristics of collected data are vastly different depending on sources.

Privacy concerns and regulations regarding Personally Identifiable Information (PII) greatly vary among channels. Even if PII is allowed to be collected, there may not be any common match key, such as address, email, phone number, cookie ID, device ID, etc.

There are third-party vendors who specialize in such data weaving work. But remember that no vendor is good with all types of data. You may have to procure different techniques depending on available channel data. I’ve seen cases where great technology companies that specialized in online data were clueless about “soft-match” techniques used by direct marketers for ages.

Remember, without accurate and consistent individual ID system, one cannot even start building a true Customer-360 view.

Data Must Be Clean and Reliable

You may think that I am stating the obvious, but you must assume that most data sources are dirty. There is no pristine dataset without a serious amount of data refinement work. And when I say dirty, I mean that databases are filled with inaccurate, inconsistent, uncategorized, and unstructured data. To be useful, data must be properly corrected, purged, standardized, and categorized.

Even simple time-stamps could be immensely inconsistent. What are date-time formats, and what time zones are they in?  Dollars aren’t just dollars either. What are net price, tax, shipping, discount, coupon, and paid amounts? No, the breakdown doesn’t have to be as precise as for an accounting system, but how would you identify habitual discount seekers without dissecting the data up front?

When it comes to free-form data, things get even more complicated. Let’s just say that most non-numeric data are not that useful without proper categorization, through strict rules along with text mining. And such work should all be done up front. If you don’t, you are simply deferring more tedious work to poor analysts, or worse, to the end-users.

Beware of vendors who think that loading the raw data onto some table is good enough. It never is, unless the goal is to hoard data.

Data Must Be Up-to-Date

“Real-time update” is one of the most abused word in this business. And I don’t casually recommend it, unless decisions must be made in real-time. Why? Because, generally speaking, more frequent updates mean higher maintenance cost.

Nevertheless, real-time update is a must, if we are getting into fully automated real-time personalization. It is entirely possible to rely on trigger data for reactive personalization outside the realm of CDP environment,  but such patch work will lead to regrets most of the time. For one, how would you figure out what elements really worked?

Even if a database is not updated in real-time, most source data must remain as fresh as they can be. For instance, it is generally not recommended to append third-party demographic data real-time (except for “hot-line” data, of course). But that doesn’t mean that you can just use old data indefinitely.

When it comes to behavioral data, time really is of an essence. Click data must be updated at least daily, if not real-time.  Transaction data may be updated weekly, but don’t go over a month without updating the base, as even simple measurements like “Days since last purchase” can be way off. You all know the importance of good old recency factor in any metrics.

Data Must Be Analytics-Ready

Just because the data in question are clean and error-free, that doesn’t mean that they are ready for advanced analytics. Data must be carefully summarized onto an individual level, in order to convert “event level information” into “descriptors of individuals.”  Presence of summary variables is a good indicator of true Customer-360.

You may have all the click, view, and conversion data, but those are all descriptors of events, not people. For personalization, you need know individual level affinities (you may call them “personas”). For planning and messaging, you may need to group target individuals into segments or cohorts. All those analytics run much faster and more effectively with analytics-ready data.

If not, even simple modeling or clustering work may take a very long time, even with a decent data platform in place. It is routinely quoted that over 80% of analysts’ time go into data preparation work — how about cutting that down to zero?

Most modern toolsets come with some analytics functions, such as KPI dashboards, basic queries, and even segmentation and modeling. However, for advanced level targeting and messaging, built-in tools may not be enough. You must ask how the system would support professional statisticians with data extraction, sampling, and scoring (on the backend). Don’t forget that most analytics work fails before or after the modeling steps. And when any meltdown happens, do not habitually blame the analysts, but dig deeper into the CDP ecosystem.

Also, remember that even automated modeling tools work much better with refined data on a proper level (i.e., Individual level data for individual level modeling).

CDP Must Be Campaign-Ready

For campaign execution, selected data may have to leave the CDP environment. Sometimes data may end up in a totally different system. A CDP must never be the bottleneck in data extraction and exchange. But in many cases, it is.

Beware of technology providers that only allow built-in campaign toolsets for campaign execution. You never know what new channels or technologies will spring up in the future. While at it, check how many different data exchange protocols are supported. Data going out is as important as data coming in.

CDP Must Support Omnichannel Attribution

Speaking of data coming in and out, CDPs must be able to collect campaign result data seamlessly, from all employed channels.  The very definition of “closed-loop” marketing is that we must continuously learn from past endeavors and improve effectiveness of targeting, messaging, and channel usage.

Omnichannel attribution is simply not possible without data coming from all marketing channels. And if you do not finish the backend analyses and attribution, how would you know what really worked?

The sad reality is that a great majority of marketers fly blind, even with a so-called CDP of their own. If I may be harsh here, you are not a database marketer if you are not measuring the results properly. A CDP must make complex backend reporting and attribution easier, not harder.

Final Thoughts

For a database system to be called a CDP, it must satisfy most — if not all — of these requirements. It may be daunting for some to read through this, but doing your homework in advance will make it easier for you in the long run.

And one last thing: Do not work with any technology providers that are stingy about custom modifications. Your business is unique, and you will have to tweak some features to satisfy your unique needs. I call that the “last-mile” service. Most data projects that are labeled as failures ended up there due to a lack of custom fitting.

Conversely, what we call “good” service providers are the ones who are really good at that last-mile service. Unless you are comfortable with one-size-fits-all pre-made — but cheaper — toolset, always insist on customizable solutions.

You didn’t think that this whole omnichannel marketing was that simple, did you?

 

3 Tactics to Stay Connected With Your Target Audience

What can you do today to help you to survive the current state of your market and thrive as it evolves? Consider these three tactics to help you maintain a strong connection with your audience.

Digital marketing — and marketing more broadly — is always about making it clear to your target audience that you can help them address the issue they need to solve. Nothing about the conditions we’re facing today changes that, though the issues your audience is facing very likely have.

So, as much as we’re all tired of hearing about our “unprecedented” times and “the new normal,” we do have to adapt our organizations to the conditions we see in our markets, or risk our own extinction.

What can you do today to help you to survive the current state of your market and thrive as it evolves? Consider these three tactics to help you maintain a strong connection with your target audience.

Trim Costs Without Negatively Affecting Your Audience

Where can you cut costs in a way that does not impact your ability to connect with your target audience? Begin by looking at what you’re doing now. For example, digital ad costs have fallen. If you can craft a message that still resonates with your prospects, you may be able to increase your impact at a lower overall cost, and certainly at a lower CPM. (Be careful, though, if your targeting relies on IP address identification. With many corporate folks working from home, their IP address will not be that of their organization unless they’re accessing the internet through a corporate VPN.)

What alternative to currently dormant channels have you shied away from testing in the past because of budget or bandwidth concerns? Virtual events rather than in-person events is the most obvious choice, but there may be other areas in your arsenal worth investigating.

Explore New Tactics for Your Sales Team to Employ

Speaking of alternatives, if your sales force has typically relied on face-to-face meetings to drive revenue, they’ll be itching for new ways to connect with potential buyers. They may be more open to new ideas than in the past; for example, creating a library of online resources.

The key here is doing the work to ensure that the resources you create align with the sales team’s needs. This makes creating a digital library a great way to get sales and marketing working together, even if they can’t be together physically. (I’m sure some of you are thinking about how that physical distance might make the process easier …)

Even better, a library like this works not only as a short-term play to get the sales team through a time of limited contact with prospects, but it also can pay benefits far down the road in the form of an expanded reach for the sales team as they become more comfortable using these tools in their sales process.

Improve Customer Experience

Don’t forget to check the possibilities already right under your nose. As difficult as it can be to connect with new prospects for many marketers at the moment, existing clients are likely far more receptive to your messaging, particularly if you focus on empathy, humanity, and being helpful.

Ask what help they need, share the struggles that your organization is going through, and make it clear that you will help them any way you can. Consider making a pre-emptive offer to clients that addresses problems you know they are facing. (See Point One above about asking what they need.) The short-term cost of any unpaid effort will pay long-term dividends in the kinds of trust and good will that lead to client retention and improved lifetime value.

The Art of the Virtual Pitch, Part 2: Prepping the Creative Brief and Getting to Work

This is Part 2 of a 4-part series on The Art of the Virtual Pitch. Let’s cover what happens after you’ve accepted the RFP, and now need to develop your pitch without the benefit of in-person meetings. There are two guiding principles to live by when drafting a creative brief to get all members of your team ready.

This is Part 2 of a four-part series on The Art of the Virtual Pitch. In Part 1, I laid out some strategies to help you cut through all the virtual noise and stand out to potential clients. Now let’s cover what happens after you’ve accepted the RFP, and need to develop your pitch without the benefit of in-person meetings. There are two guiding principles to live by when drafting a creative brief to get all members of your team ready to brainstorm:

Principle No. 1: Invest Your Time in Organizing

Now that you don’t have the luxury to kick things off in person, it’s critical to have documents to keep people aligned. You need to spell out roles and responsibilities, and create a work plan with clear owners and assignments for each deliverable. You’ll also need a new way to handle onboarding a bunch of different folks.

Instead of picking up the phone again and again to launch into your onboarding spiel, devote your time to developing a robust creative brief. In one document, you lay out:

  • all the relevant research,
  • the problems you’re trying to solve,
  • the details of the RFP, and
  • anything else you don’t want to find yourself repeating ad nauseam.

This briefing document becomes the foundation for briefing people moving forward and gives you the landscape analysis you need to craft the insight that will be the jumping-off point for your strategy.

A thorough creative brief gets everyone marching in the right direction, but the toughest element of pitch development to pull off in an all-remote setting is brainstorming, which brings me to my second principle.

Principle No. 2: Don’t Treat Virtual Meetings Like In-Person Meetings

We’ve all been at brainstorming sessions when many or all attendees are calling in to a conference line. The remote brainstorm is nothing new. It’s just that actually doing them effectively and ensuring participation is still really difficult.

Leverage that creative brief you already worked on! Everyone should have it well in advance, and they need to be held accountable for really knowing it. This isn’t just another email attachment in a meeting invite. It’s what everyone will be working from, and it’s absolutely required reading for every meeting.

In fact, successful virtual brainstorming generally requires the team to put more time than usual into meeting prep. Exercises that you’d normally depend on teams to do together in meetings, you might now have to have people do in advance. To help quickly ideate on a bunch of different things, give people two to three action items to brainstorm against on their own. They can present those ideas in a conference call, and the team can build from there instead of starting the call from the ground up.

Also consider assigning more structured brainstorming exercises in advance. One of my personal favorites is called “Pass It Along.” Here’s how it works: When I’m working on those big multi-million dollar pitches, I set up four to five teams consisting of four to five people each, and they have their own mini brainstorm.

First, one person writes down the germ of an idea. Then the second person builds on it, making it even bigger. The third person goes wild, making it so big they could get fired. Then, the last person brings the idea back down to being realistic. This approach forces the big, bold thinking you need. Later, the groups can present their hero idea to the larger group, which jumpstarts your process.

Adjust your brainstorming process to follow my two principles for virtual pitch development and you’ll have a winning deck in no time.

Next time, I want to discuss the finer points of presenting online and helping your team’s chemistry shine through. If you have questions about the art of the virtual pitch, tweet me @RumEkhtiar.

 

 

3 Marketing Tactics for Credit Unions to Win Over Millennials

Credit unions offer a better deal for Millennials than any other financial institution, but to win them over, your marketing must embody and convey those advantages.

Credit unions are doing worse with Millennials than any other generation, as this banking target market has flocked to fintech-driven mobile finance experiences that prioritize faceless convenience over the advantages of credit unions. But this disconnect is not the way it has to be.

Credit unions offer a better deal for Millennials than any other financial institution, but to win them over, your marketing must embody and convey those advantages.

The disconnect is a customer experience issue, but it’s not one that can be fixed by just improving customer service. You need to help these potential customers see what your brand represents throughout the lead generation process. If you amplify personalized direct mail with targeted digital marketing, you create an optichannel marketing experience that shows younger audiences you are both relevant to their world and able to deliver the individualized, convenient banking experience they’re looking for.

To attract digitally savvy, convenience-centric banking customers, credit unions must be able to deliver marketing that accomplishes three things at once:

  1. Convey a better customer experience
  2. Embrace technology and convenience
  3. Make a personal connection

1. Convey a Better Credit Union Customer Experience

This is the first taste these Millennials will have of your brand, so it’s important to show why it’s worth their time to bank with you. How does this marketing experience convey the things that will give them a great experience as customers? Is it relevant to what they’re interested in? Is it convenient? Is it personal?

Beyond the marketing experience, what aspects of the customer experience does it actually show? Does it showcase the mobile tools your credit union provides? Does it show how you make it easier for them to access funds and perform transactions? What other benefits do you offer? Do you integrate with their favorite fintech, like Venmo?

It’s the time to show why you’re the credit union that can help them live their active, technology-empowered lives and achieve their financial dreams. Make it clear why your institution is the financial hub Millennials should be choosing as the foundation to reach their goals.

2. Embrace Technology and Convenience

Mobile should not just feature in your customer experience, it must be an integral part of your marketing as well. Today brands can target individuals through data you already have about them or by building custom audiences on digital platforms. These ads must be targeted to social and mobile marketplaces, as well, to ensure that Millennials see your messaging where they live when they’re ready to engage with it.

Reaching out to your audience through mobile channels is only the beginning. The creative you send and the offers it presents must showcase mobile-enablement as well. These customers live on their phones, and you need to show them your credit union lives there, too.

3. Make a Personal Connection

Targeting and personalization go hand-in-hand. The data available today — both your first-party data and information vendors can provide — is a powerful tool for making marketing that connects. This goes beyond demographics. With the right data, you can target younger adults at times when they may be more open to changing banks or pursuing other financial products like car loans and mortgages.

Figure out what demographics and life events you want to engage with this campaign and design a direct mail campaign that addresses them and serves as your marketing catalyst. Then target that defined segment with complimentary marketing across the digital world.

Millennial Marketing Tech for Credit Unions

Credit unions have always marketed less than other financial institutions, especially through mass-market channels. Instead, the traditional credit union relied on word of mouth and brand reputation supported by local direct mail to build personal connections with its community customer base.

Those are all good tactics and credit unions should keep using them, but they aren’t enough. Today, a single direct mail campaign may be seen, but it’s too easily forgotten in the tide of advertising Millennials see all day. Not to mention, while Millennials have been shown to appreciate direct mail, this is not the demographic you want thinking that your brand is “old-school” — digital marketing and engagement channels are essential for getting and holding Millennials’ attention.

Just like your credit union isn’t their father’s financial institution, today’s optichannel marketing isn’t the direct marketing of 1990. With the data and tools available today, it’s possible to make a personal connection that sets your brand up for success with each customer you reach. Doing that in a way that embodies the customer experience your credit union provides is the key to winning Millennial bank accounts today.

The Art of the Virtual Pitch, Part 1: Perfecting Pre-Pitch Engagement

Pitches aren’t always won in the room. That’s great news right now because it might be a while before we’re even in a room together again. Pitches are won by what you do before, during, and after the pitch. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing my best insights on the art of the virtual pitch.

Pitches aren’t always won in the room. That’s great news right now because it might be a while before we’re even in a room together again. The flip side is that every other element of winning business has become a little more challenging. Pitches are won by what you do before, during, and after the pitch. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing my best insights on the art of the virtual pitch.

First, let’s talk about wowing potential clients before the pitch even happens. Without the benefit of face-to-face meetings, you’ll need new ways to engage with the client and show that you’re hungry for business.

It’s Business, and It’s Personal

Now is the time to get super creative about showing off your personality. Clients aren’t just buying capability; they’re also looking for chemistry. You’ve already put some thought into the team pitching this client, so dig into your thought process there. What are the skills each person has? What makes them indispensable to your team? When clients feel like they already know you before your pitch meeting, your proposal will go that much smoother.

A technique I love (and that you can tweak and reuse often!) is compiling something engaging to show off your team. Think of it like a totally juiced up business card. You could frame it as a yearbook, a set of baseball cards, the cast of a TV show — anything you think will get a second look. Including names, photos, and specialties is a given, but this should be fun, too. Consider including information like favorite quarantine activity, preferred pitching soundtrack, or last book read. Or lean into the yearbook concept and give everyone a superlative. Emphasizing personality is going to be crucial in the era of virtual pitches.

Make a Grand Gesture

When I was assisting Paypal’s push to expand into working with small businesses, we set up interviews with small businesses and profiled how PayPal could help. One of those small businesses was a great little chocolate maker, so we had them design special PayPal logo chocolates that we delivered on Valentine’s Day.

I also fondly remember a campaign we orchestrated for Discover. We wanted to upend the old notion that Discover cards aren’t widely accepted. It was at the height of the Cronut craze in NYC. So, a box of the city’s most sought after treats with a receipt showing we paid with a Discover credit card said it all.

Okay, so both of those involved snacks, and we know food can be a positive motivator and fan favorite to receive. But right now, something that supports your clients’ community could be a great move as everyone is looking to support one another through a public health crisis.

Whatever You Do, Don’t Be Afraid to Be Different

The virtual pitch isn’t new, but conducting remote business on this level is uncharted territory for many, so feel free to break out of your usual approach. Ultimately, this all comes down to romancing potential clients, so if you missed my post about “dating” clients, check it out now.

Remember, clients are not just buying capabilities from you, they’re also buying chemistry with you. Help them get a sense of who your team is and why they’d be awesome to collaborate with.

I’ll be back soon with tips on collaborating on a winning deck … remotely.