WWTT? Bud Light Promotes #OpenForTakeout During COVID-19

We’ve all heard about breweries and distilleries making hand sanitizer, as well as automakers producing medical equipment. But for this week’s “What Were They Thinking?” I have something a little different, but important: a campaign from Bud Light that supports the restaurant and bar industry, badly hit by COVID-19.

March 2020  which felt like it was a year long  is finally over. However, the coronavirus pandemic is far from over; many of us are staying at home under order of our local, state, or national governments, and doing the best we can personally and professionally. Through it all, it’s been uplifting to see communities come together to support each other (of course, while practicing the phrase of the year: social distancing), as well as the myriad brands stepping up and away from business as usual to also do their part.

We’ve all heard about breweries and distilleries shifting production to hand sanitizer, as well as automakers realigning their plants to produce the much needed medical equipment that healthcare workers need. These are such important stories, which have been covered a lot (as they should be). But for this week’s “What Were They Thinking?” I have something a little different, yet still important: a campaign from Bud Light in an effort to support the restaurant and bar industry, badly hit by COVID-19.

Our local restaurants and bars feed us; give us a place to come together with friends and family; and they make up so many of the important small businesses in our communities. While some have had to shutter, there are others who have managed to stay open (again, depending on local and state regulations here in the U.S.), offering takeout and delivery options. And this is where Bud Light steps in.

On Mar. 25, Bud Light debuted a new campaign, “Open for Takeout.” Powered by Bud Light, the new website encourages those establishments still open within the restaurant and bar industry to submit their info to be included on the website. The site’s focus is to help consumers across the U.S. locate spots that are #OpenForTakeout, while still practicing safe social distancing.

While money might be tough for a lot of people right now, there are those individuals who do have the spare cash for a takeout meal, which means Bud Light using their extensive reach can go a long way in extending the reach of the restaurant and bars they aim to help.

For me personally, there are at least 157 restaurants or bars within a 10-mile radius of my ZIP code, which gives me a lot of options after being cooped up all day in front of a computer and having no desire to cook (it happens from time to time).

Bud Light also is diverting some of their media spend to drive awareness of this consumer resource, offering added visibility for #OpenForTakeout, and their parent company, Anheuser-Busch has the following initiatives planned to support other COVID-19 efforts:

  • $5 million donation to the American Red Cross, as well as the donation of media air time to the Red Cross for PSAs.
  • Working alongside sports partners, Anheuser-Busch will identify available arenas and stadiums to be used for temporary blood drive centers.
  • The company’s tour centers in St. Louis, Mo. and Merrimack, NH will be made available to the Red Cross.
  • Anheuser-Busch’s supply and logistics network will produce and distribute bottles of hand sanitizer. The hand sanitizer will be used at Red Cross blood donation centers, as well as in an effort to support shelters for future relief efforts.

This partnership between the macro brewer and the Red Cross is, again, just another example of brands stepping away from business as usual, and considering what they can do with the resources and talent they have to play a role in the fight against the pandemic.

As for Bud Light’s initiative, this is personal for me (and I’m sure many others). I’m fortunate to know a lot of wonderful people in Philadelphia’s vibrant food and drink scene, and it crushes me to see so many of them out of work, many fighting to obtain unemployment, uncertain of their futures, and the restaurants and bars that once employed them facing the heartbreaking question of if they’ll ever be able to open their doors again.

I hope Bud Light’s Open for Takeout campaign truly helps those in the restaurant and bar industry across the country who are still open and feeding their local communities.

And finally, in my previous post from a couple weeks ago, I looked at two well-done email messages about COVID-19 that hit my inbox. Some readers shared publicly in the comments, as well as privately in emails to me, about what they had worked on and the response received, as well as about some of the good pieces they received themselves.

Feel free to keep commenting, and send me messages about what you’ve seen and done as well. As I’ve said, now is the time for sharing good news, and celebrating the little victories.

Trust Capital Is the New Marketing Gold Standard

Now, more than ever, trust capital may become the new marketing gold standard, joining brand equity as a key metric for valuing a company’s relationship with its customers and prospects.

My father used to caution not to believe everything one heard or read. He was not a cynic but an optimistic realist. Nonetheless, like the majority of his generation, his basic intuition urged him to trust existing institutions and assume (that most dangerous word), that what they were saying or doing was for the common good. “Fake news” had not morphed from the lingua franca to become the lingua twitter.

That’s not always the case anymore. MediaPost shared the following on Mar. 19:

“The news business is battling public distrust. Nearly half of respondents to a new Axios/Ipsos poll said they do not trust traditional media ‘very much or at all” to accurately deliver information about the COVID-19 virus.’”

That distrust should inform how marketers must rethink their approach to customers and prospects as we plunge into a new and uncertain era.

On Jan. 19, the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer published this worrisome finding:

“… despite a strong global economy and near full employment, none of the four societal institutions that the study measures — government, business, NGOs and media — is trusted. The cause of this paradox can be found in people’s fears about the future and their role in it, which are a wake-up call for our institutions to embrace a new way of effectively building trust: balancing competence with ethical behavior.”

If “disbelief” is the new normal gut reaction to our foundation institutions, it goes without saying that our commercial messages, however well wrapped in engaging narratives are likely to need the “suspension of disbelief” to be effective. That almost certainly means stepping back a little (or a lot) from our “act now” knee-jerk impulses and asking ourselves what we need to do to achieve that “suspension,” to establish the critical trust that my father suggested might be missing.

Building Trust With Customers and Prospects

If we look at the Amazon ethos, building credibility item by item, on-time delivery by on-time delivery, rapid refund by rapid refund, trust impacts each transaction more than efficiency. Not surprisingly, that same Edelman study found “ethical drivers such as integrity, dependability, and purpose drive 76% of the trust capital of business, while competence accounts for only 24%.”

Trust capital may become the new marketing gold standard, joining brand equity as a key metric for valuing a company’s relationship with its customers and prospects.

But how can we measure integrity, dependability and purpose? It may be easier said than done. Perhaps a good starting point is looking backwards.

How much feedback have you had from your customers, especially negative feedback? (We all love compliments but we seldom learn from them.)

One of my first jobs was to read complaint letters, research what had (or had not) gone wrong, and then write for the signature of the CEO, a truly personal answer. The number of “thank you” notes we received was the best lesson you could have in the value of real personalization.

If you don’t have a strong culture of responding to every complaint, not with a form letter or email but with a thoughtful and helpful personal communication, you should put one in place, now. If I can’t talk to a knowledgeable and helpful human being instead of an algorithm, like many others, I’m gone and your trust capital has tanked, or at best, taken a hit.

A recent blog post from Yes Marketing put it this way:

“In a world driven by access to options, an emotional connection with a brand can be the tipping point for consumers when deciding where to spend their dollars.”

You certainly want it to tip your way, and that means doing whatever is necessary to establish and retain that emotional connection and trust.

Whatever we do to build trust capital during these uncertain times, even if not immediately measurable, is certain to pay big dividends when the crisis is past.

 

Take a Break and Carry On: Adjust Your Mindset and Messaging During Coronavirus Pandemic

Timing is everything, perhaps now more than ever during this pandemic. As we watch the world around us change drastically, on a daily basis, it’s hard to know what to do. Do we ramp up advertising and customer messaging? Do we push out more offers? Do we create new discounts to keep sales coming in? If there was a crystal ball we trusted at times like these, what would it tell us to do?

Timing is everything, perhaps now more than ever during this pandemic. As we watch the world around us change drastically, on a daily basis, it’s hard to know what to do. Do we ramp up advertising and customer messaging? Do we push out more offers? Do we create new discounts to keep sales coming in? If there was a crystal ball we trusted at times like these, what would it tell us to do?

Nothing.

Yes. Do nothing different. Instead: “Carry on!”

No, I’m not in a state of denial, or naivete. Hear me out:

When everything around us seems to be in a state of chaos and uncertainty, we seek something solid to assure us that not all we know is pushing the “cancel” button, and that some parts of our lives will continue as normal.

When we see brands or businesses or organizations doing “business as usual,” or messaging positive news and actions, we find hope and relief and start to gravitate toward them. Whether they are right or wrong, it doesn’t matter. We need hope, assurance, and a little bit of our current normal, or we fall into states of despair and paralysis.

When we see the organizations or brands in our daily lives panic, we want to avoid their same dilemmas and tend to distance ourselves from them and find alternatives. Our trust in those organizations to be beacons for us during hard times and good times is forever changed.

Not only is our trust changed for those that panicked and gave up during those tough times, so too often is our loyalty.  We find alternatives and quite often those alternatives become our new normal. And when stability comes back to our lives, we stay with that new normal quite often vs. go back to those that panicked and let us down.

As long as you are able, stay the course in terms of keeping stores open and services available, while also abiding by what local and federal mandates require of you, of course. And most importantly, keep communication relevant and timely, while also avoiding overwhelming those you’re messaging. Remember, we’re all receiving a lot of information now, and it can be a lot to digest.

So, how do we “do nothing” effectively? Stay in touch.

Here are some thoughts on staying connected during uncertain times in ways that keep customers aligned with your brand, trusting your position, and ready to come back when life resumes as usual, once again.

Consider:

  • Keep communicating: If you send out weekly emails with product ideas, promotions, account statements, keep doing it. But instead of trying to sell to someone who is scared of life as they know it is over, peddle sincerity, compassion, and interesting stories.
  • Don’t make light of the situation: There is nothing funny from any angle so remain sensitive and stay real. Coors had plans to run an ad on being the best “work at home” beer, originally positioned for March Madness, but pulled it (ahead of the announcement of the tournament being canceled). While the ad was never intended to make fun of the current situation, it could have easily been taken the wrong way, if Coors had not pulled it.
  • This is not an opportunity: Don’t offer coronavirus specials, and don’t push to get in the news by giving away free toilet paper or make shift masks. Don’t use social media to increase impressions with insights about the situation unless you really have helpful information that makes a difference, and you are a credible source for the topic at hand.
  • Provide a healthy distraction: Stressful times are not prime for promoting sales, as efforts are not likely to achieve as much as they would during less uncertain times. It is, however, a great time to tell stories about your brand, your employees, your community causes, your vision. Take this time to be uplifting, again, where appropriate.

Regardless of what business you are in, take a break. Take a break from the routine of pushing sales and counting acquisitions. It’s not going to pay off and your frustration level will just elevate. Stay focused on what you can continue to have a positive effect on: relationships. Keep your brand relationships alive with positive communications, stories of hope and community, and more.

Stephanie Meyer, author of the Twilight Series, sheds a good light on this situation: “I like the night. Without the dark, we’d never see the stars.”

Embrace the dark. Look for the stars. And “Shine on!

 

How to Use Content Marketing to Support Your Sales Team

Improving your sales team’s effectiveness is an ongoing process. Content marketing can help. In fact, content is no longer a nice-to-have. For most marketers, it’s a must-have. Here’s why.

Improving your sales team’s effectiveness is an ongoing process. Content marketing can help. In fact, content is no longer a nice-to-have. For most marketers, it’s a must-have. Here’s why.

Content IS Your Sales Team

For starters, today’s buyers are typically far into their decision-making journey before they invite a salesperson into the conversation. So for the first three-quarters of that journey, your content marketing is a proxy for your sales team. If it’s not demonstrating your expertise and its applicability to the problem they’re trying to solve, you will never be in the running for serious consideration by your prospects.

Being in the running isn’t really our goal, though. We want to make the short list and, ultimately, win the business. For that, content can again ride to the rescue, setting the stage for the late-funnel work that your actual sales team will do.

The question is, what kind of content will do that? Content that is optimized to attract your audience, is structured to create a story that engages your audience, and which asks the questions that will move your audience toward a decision.

Optimizing Your Content Marketing

For your content marketing to work well, you have to know who will be reading it and what their objectives are. Your content has to address the challenges they are facing and understand what their status quo looks like.

That last bit is key because your competition is not just the other firms with whom you trade account wins and losses; it’s inertia. If you can’t create a case that points to real business improvements gained by changing what they’re doing now, you won’t lose the sale to your competitors. There simply won’t be a sale.

Story Follows Research

Once you’ve done the research that helps ensure you’re speaking the using the right language and addressing the right issues, you must get their attention and get them engaged. This is not a time for same-old, same-old. It’s time for constructing a narrative that brings your value proposition to life.

Data can support your story, but the human and emotional aspect is what resonates with even the most analytical audience. Make them feel the decision they’re about to make and let the data support that feeling.

Ask and Answer

Finally, it’s question time. You should be ready to ask questions that will move your prospect toward the next step on their buying journey. And you should be prepared to answer the questions that you know (from your research) are top of mind for prospects at each stage.

Whether your content answers those questions or your sales team does will depend on the questions and on the nature of the prospect and the sale. Either way, strong content is an important part of giving your sales team the best chance for making the most of the opportunities your marketing creates.

Are You Taking a 360 Degree View of Content Marketing?

Creating content that relates to customers and builds engagement has consistently been the top challenge for marketing departments. Many marketers feel like they’re just shooting in the dark in terms of content marketing — sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

Creating content that relates to customers and builds engagement has consistently been the top challenge for marketing departments. Many marketers feel like they’re just shooting in the dark in terms of content marketing — sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. This is especially true for teams that are trying to increase sales by building brand authority in their industry.

So here are some critical questions that CMOs and content managers can ask themselves to determine if their strategy is on the right track, confirm whether they’re sticking to the fundamentals and make sure they aren’t making any obvious mistakes.

Is Your Messaging in Tune With Industry Buzz?

Keeping your company’s marketing content relevant and interesting doesn’t mean that you should pursue every trend that passes by. However, that doesn’t mean you can simply dismiss all of them either. Content must either be unique or refer to current events fresh in people’s minds in order to keep their attention, regardless of how informative it is. By keeping up with the latest news and updates specific to your industry or niche, you could be one of the first outlets to provide an opinion on them.

Great content marketing and SEO go hand-in-hand, so in order to make your content seen and heard, it must include the terms, slang and even jargon that might draw in relevant audiences. By keeping up with the latest conversations and expressions being thrown around, you can tweak your content to identify more closely with your target audience.

Google’s Trends tool can help you monitor the keywords and topics being searched for and discussed online. It also shows you the volume of these searches and how fast interest in a given topic is rising or waning.

Credit: Trends.Google.com

Don’t just latch on to any topic that is trending in your area of reference. Be sure that it is relevant to an audience in your niche and that you understand what it is all about, and are able to share insights or at least use it in an entertaining way

Once you find the kind of themes and issues that your pique your audience’s interests, you can nail down a direction and certain ideas around which to build your brand messaging.

Are You Letting Your Audience Guide Your Content Strategy?

In order to let your audience and customers drive your ideation and approach, you must make sure you know them through and through, so that you can create the most relevant and engaging content. This is best done by formulating audience personas to help get into the mind of your typical consumer. You will need to delve deep into the demographics and analytical data to create generalizations about the type of people that follow your brand.

  • What do they look like?
  • How do they speak?
  • What buzzwords are they familiar with?
  • Where and how do they consume content?
  • What industries do they work in?

Create multiple personas. These generalities can then be used to guide content by focusing on the subjects that would likely appeal to these different personas. For example, Customer A may be more interested in the nitty-gritty details of your industry, while Customer B might be more interested in learning practical ways to use your products or services. Customer A might place a premium on your brand experience while Customer B might just be looking for the cheapest product around.

Credit: Hop.online

Perhaps the most important ingredient to a fresh content strategy is simply knowing who you are communicating with and how to do so effectively.

Are You Analyzing Visitor Behavior on Your Website to Understand Intent?

The role of big data in content marketing cannot be underestimated. To stay competitive, businesses and marketers need to understand that they’re operating in a competitive environment that needs constant adjusting and optimization. Whenever a landing page is tied to a piece of content, blog post, email or even social media update, you need to know exactly how it performs in relation to your goals.

Before you even begin designing or optimizing your landing page, you must first ask yourself: why are customers coming to this specific page? What do they intend to get out of it and what are they looking for?

Marketers need not wait for coders or designers to develop or customize a landing page. Tools such as Landingi offer easy ways to add a quick page with forms, text boxes, drop downs, buttons and other elements to help you optimize your marketing funnel and automate the user workflow on your site.

Take a sign up page for example. You can easily create a form to gather information that tells you more about your audience. This can as simple as their location, most pressing concern, or how they discovered your brand. Using this data, you can refine your sales approach in a way that resonates with current or potential leads.

Remember that the intent of visitors is not always (read, almost never) to purchase. On the contrary, the majority of your first-time visitors will be looking for information on what your company or product does, how much it costs, and so on. You need to create exact content so that each landing page fulfills a specific purpose.

One great place to start is by answering common questions that visitors are asking. You can find these through intent-based keyword research for more general topics or you can address issues that customers frequently raise with your support or service team.

Kapost used this strategy to great effect by sharing information directly from their sales and customer service team’s conversations with their marketing department. Their content team then created specific pages for these questions so that future customers could instantly find this information and they could create more relevant landing pages.

Credit: Kapost.com

You can also experiment with different variations of your landing pages through split testing. Consistently testing components like style, copy, and CTA buttons will give you plenty of data-backed insights as to what makes your audience tick.

Are You Using Events and Experiences to Create Content?

Your business events can provide a plethora of valuable inspiration that can be used and reused to support a sustainable content marketing strategy. You can also use these insights in future promotions with value-based messaging.

Ecommerce platform Shopify teamed up with Kylie Jenner to promote her temporary pop-up shop as well as their retail POS system. While there was a lot of marketing buzz promoting Kylie Cosmetics during the event, Shopify pulled the online equivalent of a guerilla marketing stunt by telling the story to their customers through their blog.

They published a post talking about all that goes into the planning of offline experiences for online businesses and the power it has. They even shared some behind-the-scenes pictures and details about Kylie’s store. The story was by no means blatantly promotional, but instead it had some real-life applications and valuable insights for retail business owners – Shopify’s core audience.

Credit: Shopify.com

Don’t be fooled. The entire piece was marketing content for their own company. Shopify used the event as an opportunity to mention their new POS system that Kylie Cosmetic used in order to handle all of the transactions during the pop-up. They even snapped a photo of Kylie herself using the system.

By turning a business event into marketing content, you can not only provide your audience with great information and examples, you can also promote your product’s usefulness through effective storytelling.

While statistics and numbers are great for proving points and communicating research, studies have found that when content tells an actual story and provides a practical application, it resonates far more with audiences and produces better results, eventually boosting conversion rates in the process.

Over to You

Consumers are more than an accumulation of facts and figures; and so must be your marketing strategies. There is so much pressure in the marketing world to deliver sales, to come out with the most innovative, creative, and unique strategies that marketers have lost focus on what is truly important: the customer experience.

Through content marketing, organizations are now able to build real connections with their customers as well as a larger audience in a way that was never before possible. The best content marketing strategies don’t necessarily depend on budgets or technology; they’re tied to brand-customer relationships.

As a marketer, it your job to empower your brand to build these relationships and facilitate experiences that bring positive results. The best way to do this is to give customers information that they can actually use – and make sure they use it!

10 PR Don’ts That Will Tarnish Brand Reputations With the Media

If you follow reporters on Twitter, inevitably you will encounter a frustrated post condemning the behavior of a PR pro or company. Experienced brand communicators should have enough understanding of journalism that they wouldn’t intentionally exhibit this behavior.

If you follow reporters on Twitter, inevitably you will encounter a frustrated post condemning the behavior of a PR pro or company. Experienced brand communicators should have enough understanding of journalism that they wouldn’t intentionally exhibit this behavior. However, lapses in judgment may be the result of colleagues or leaders disregarding the advice of the PR expert.

Here are 10 “don’ts” that will alienate reporters and put a company’s reputation at risk.

No. 1: Asking to See a Reporter’s Article Before It Publishes

If you’re lucky, a friendly reporter may let you review your quote. But if you’re interested in seeing a full article before it publishes, then your best bet is writing a contributed piece.

No. 2: Pitching a Story, Getting Interest, and Then Telling the Reporter That Your Spokesperson Is Unavailable

Make sure your spokesperson, or spokespeople, will be available to speak to reporters before you begin to pitch the story. If your subject matter expert is traveling, on vacation, or unreachable, make sure you have a backup plan or delay your outreach until the SME is available.

No. 3: Providing Misinformation

A spokesperson may not have every answer and that’s okay. In pre-interview preparation, instruct your spokesperson on how to handle a situation where they are unsure of a response. A spokesperson should ask if they can check on the answer and follow up with the reporter. They should never guess or provide incorrect information.

No. 4: Requesting a Correction on Something That’s Not Incorrect

A correction should only be requested if the information in an article is wrong. Asking for changes to anything else is an insult to the journalist. If the article is not what you wanted it to say, use this experience to inform your future PR efforts and strategy. Sometimes you just need to accept the outcome and move on.

No. 5: Asking Why You Weren’t in an Article About Your Industry or One That Featured a Competitor

You’re not going to be in every article and, of course, it’s frustrating and disappointing to be overlooked. However, instead of lobbing complaints at a reporter, use this experience as an opportunity to develop an education strategy so you’re top of mind the next time they write on the topic.

No. 6: Sharing Embargoed Information Before Agreeing With a Reporter That the Information Is Embargoed

This is not how embargoes work. You should reach out to the reporter, tease the announcement and ask explicitly if they would like the exclusive and/or embargoed announcement. If the reporter says “yes,” then you agree on the restrictions, such as the timeframe and exclusivity.

No. 7: Being Disrespectful

Treat reporters with respect and act professionally. You are a reflection of your company. Be on time. Appearances matter. Profanities are unacceptable.

No. 8: Following Up Too Many Times or Too Frequently

I find that one follow-up email or phone call is appropriate. As a best practice, give reporters at least 48 hours to respond, unless the news is time-sensitive. Reporters receive hundreds of emails per day and they can’t possibly respond to everyone. If you don’t hear back, they are likely too busy or uninterested. Move on, seek out other outlets, or look for a more compelling angle.

No. 9: Bribing a Reporter or Other Illegal Behavior

It’s shameful to offer money or other payment for a reporter to write about your company. Reporters will accept an invitation for a meal or coffee. But if you’re looking to pay for coverage, opt for an advertorial or sponsored article, instead.

No. 10: Confusing PR With Marketing

The reporter’s job is not to give you free advertising or marketing. They are reporting the news. A completely self-serving pitch is unlikely to generate interest. If you want to advertise your business, paid opportunities are more suitable.

Do Better

Public relations is all about relationships. Reporters have a job to do and so do PR pros. Let’s strive to make interactions mutually beneficial in 2020 and use social media to commend one another.

More Rules and Regulations for Content Marketers

So, content marketers, let’s talk about the regulatory environment more broadly, because one thing is for certain: the web, as wild and woolly as online discourse may be, is no longer the Wild West. Online marketing is now being held to a much higher standard.

Privacy protection, accessibility, and copyright —  oh, my!

Last time around, we talked about data privacy regulations as they apply to non-transactional sites. As confusing a landscape as those regulations currently present, they’re not the only regulations with which you need to be aware and compliant.

So, let’s talk about the regulatory environment more broadly, because one thing is for certain: the web, as wild and woolly as online discourse may be, is no longer the Wild West. Online marketing is now being held to a much higher standard than it has been, so you’ll want to be sure you have a plan in place to build your site by the book and to remain compliant. Otherwise, you risk spending more time talking to lawyers than to prospects.

Accessibility

If you built your website without accessibility in mind, chances are you’re not going to be happy when your website developers tell you what it’s going to cost to make it compliant. In many cases, it can make more sense to start from scratch, given the investment involved.

On the plus side, the cost to design and build a new website with compliance in mind is only incrementally greater than building that same site without WCAG Level AA compliance as your goal.

There is some extra work to be done, but for the most part, compliance requires a change in mindset for designers and some slightly different coding tactics for the dev team. Once that’s in place, it’s really only a matter of making sure new content additions are made in a compliant manner. (Image alt tags must be included, for example.)

You’ll want to include an accessibility statement on your site that includes a way for visitors who are having trouble consuming your content to contact you and seek remediation.

Privacy and Data Protection

As we’ve discussed, you need a privacy policy and you need to abide by it. If you haven’t told people that you’re planning on selling their email addresses to the highest bidder, you probably can’t. (Regulations differ by jurisdiction and industry; check with a lawyer.)

Once you have a collection of data, you need to take steps to keep that data safe, both in storage and in any transmittal or other use. Again, your industry may have specific compliance standards that you have to meet, and you may need to document the protections you’ve put in place.

Copyright

If you don’t own it, don’t publish it. This should be obvious, but often marketers make mistakes that can be costly.

Images are the most common area where errors occur. Doing a web search and then publishing any old image you find is a recipe for disaster. Going through a respected stock image library and paying for the images you use is the safest approach.

If you’d prefer not to go that route, you can use the Google Advanced Image Search tool. It is an excellent way to search for images to use in your digital marketing if you filter to include only those that are “free to use, share, or modify, even commercially.”

Don’t even think about trying to use an image from a stock image library without licensing it. They can and will find you. They can and will demand payment, usually well beyond what the initial license would have cost. (Also worth noting is that technically, for most stock image libraries, any image you use should be licensed under your firm’s name rather than by your design agency. That approach is also just smart business, because you may not always be working with that design team.)

When copy is purloined, it’s even easier to track down. Even if you get away with it, the search engines may very well penalize you for publishing duplicate content. There are other ways to get on the search engines’ bad sides, so be careful if you’re republishing content from other sources, even if it’s content that you have the right to republish.

Finally, think twice before stealing code. It’s an open source world, but that doesn’t mean you’re free to take and use anything you find in your travels. At the very least, attribution may be required. Most code libraries, snippets, etc., may require license fees — regardless of how they’re used. Some require payment only if you want updates or support. This can be harder for marketers to police, so be sure to have a regularly scheduled review with your dev team.

Spend Time on This

These regulations — and whatever may be coming down the pike in the future — make investing in digital expertise ever more important. Your team needs the time and mandate to stay on top of what regulations apply to your business and best practices for remaining compliant.

How to Make Actionable Sense of Customer Sentiment Analysis

Creating a better customer experience is a top priority for most businesses, with 72% of companies saying improving CX is their No. 1 goal, according to data from Forrester. However, figuring out what drives a better user experience is a total guessing game, unless you take a deep dive into customer sentiment analysis.

Creating a better customer experience is a top priority for most businesses, with 72% of companies saying improving CX is their No. 1 goal, according to data from Forrester. However, figuring out what drives a better user experience is a total guessing game, unless you take a deep dive into customer sentiment analysis.

Understanding the responses and reactions that customers give out after using your products can help your brand immensely. Of course, conducting market research and surveys, and gathering feedback from customers are all small but essential steps toward improving your product or service, as well as its user experience. However, these reports are mostly a whole lot of confusing numbers and statistics; they offer no action plan or recommendations, or even insights on what to do next.

Making actionable sense of the numbers can be tricky, especially if there are no clear problems or opportunities that were identified through your research.

So, what should you do? Let’s go step-by-step.

Pinpoint Common Threads in Customer Reviews

While it’s typically a company’s first reaction to try to remove negative reviews that could deter future customers, these actually may be your best resource for fixing hidden issues.

About 25% of consumers have left a review for a local business because of a bad experience, but this doesn’t mean that 100% of these reviews are helpful to either companies or other customers. It’s best to turn to a reliable system here that can sift through emotionally exaggerated (and practically useless) or downright fake reviews and uncover valuable information that could point you toward better solutions.

A review platform, such as Bazaarvoice, allows brands to collect genuine ratings and reviews from customers, respond to their questions and concerns about their products, display moderated content created by customers on social media, and even implement a product sampling program based on the reviews you’ve collected.

Similarly, an interaction management tool, like Podium, gets you in the game earlier, helping you connect and interact with prospects on multiple channels. It enables team collaboration on lead generation and nurturing, as well as solving customer problems, leading to a consistent customer experience.

Customer Sentiment Analysis image
Credit: Podium.com

More customers tend to leave reviews with brands that use customer review management tools. This results in more data for your sentiment research, eventually ensuring better targeting and success of your product marketing campaigns.

Watch out for repeated keywords throughout these reviews, such as issues with customer service, packaging, delivery, or pricing. Looking for patterns in your customer reviews lies at the core of identifying the problems and coming up with solutions.

Use Smart Segmentation

Customers never fit into the one-size-fits-all category. Even if you cater to a small niche or if your product has a very specific use, there will be subsets, segments, and cohorts, all influenced by varying demographics and regulations, who could affect opinions of your business. This is why smart segmentation is important when reviewing customer sentiment analysis.

Again, these segments may need different targeting strategies, depending on whether your company is a B2C or B2B entity.

B2C

B2C marketers need to look at the:

  • age:
  • location:
  • income: and
  • in-the-moment needs of their customers.

B2B

B2B marketers, on the other hand, need to address non-personal variances, such as:

  • company size:
  • budget; or
  • objectives.

By pairing demographic and quantitative data, customer sentiment may make more sense and provide even deeper insight than before. For instance, customers who are motivated by finding the best deal may say that your shipping costs are too high; whereas, customers with FOMO may be ready to pay extra for next-day delivery. When you have multiple datasets of behavioral data that you can compare against one another, your team can understand how to cater to various customer segments by understanding their motivations.

Note that customer “segments” vary from “profiles” or “personas.” They are not as specific, and typically only focus on one or two variables rather than a list of unique qualities. There are countless ways to segment your audience, so be sure to find the segmentation model that best fits your business.

Customer Sentiment Analysis photo
Credit: MeaningCloud.com

Identify Engagement Intent

Understanding the “why” behind your customer’s actions will shed some light on their sentiment reactions. Your expectations always influence your experience, so a customer’s engagement intent could play a part in their response.

The rise of search as a marketing channel has made it clear that there are essentially four engagement intent categories that consumers fall into today:

  • informational;
  • navigational;
  • commercial; and
  • transactional.

Each of these steps correlates well with the traditional AIDA sales funnel model.

Informational

The first is searching for information on a particular subject that may or may not be a problem for them. These are typically prospects who are just entering the marketing funnel. They simply want to know more, so if your website does not offer the information they are looking for, their interest in your brand or product will not develop at all.

Navigational

People in the navigational category are looking for a specific product, service, or piece of content. This group knows what they want, and they will be easily frustrated if they can’t find it.

Commercial

The commercial investigation intent group is interested in buying, but they just aren’t quite ready yet or aren’t convinced that your product offers the best solution for them. They fall just above the action segment of the sales funnel and are often looking for the last bits of information before they make a purchase.

Transactional

And finally, the transactional group has the intent to buy. They have already made their decision to buy a specific product; however, any hiccups in the buying or checkout process could deter them.

Identifying Engagement Intent

Of course, identifying their engagement intent is a little tricky, especially after the interaction has been completed. But with some digging and martech tools, there are ways to figure out the motivations behind every brand-customer engagement.

One of the clearest ways to identify engagement intent is through carrying out intent research, attribution modeling, and analyzing their behavior on your digital property. If they just read a post on your blog, chances are they were looking for more information on a topic related to your industry. If they clicked an ad and filled up a form on your landing page, they are probably interested in availing themselves of your service.

Once their intent has been identified and understood, it will be much easier to understand their sentiment post brand engagement or product usage.

Experiment With Changes

Finally, the only way to make customer analysis actionable is to, well, take action. However, just switching things up without constantly analyzing the results will only put you back at Square One.

Many marketers rely on A/B/n or multivariate testing strategies to compare different changes, whether it be in the design or layout to an entire product or service experience. However, A/B testing can be a long and arduous process that yields murky results. It may even mislead you, if you over-rely on seasonal or contextual variables. Unsurprisingly, AI technology has been a huge help in the A/B testing realm by improving the accuracy and reliability of the process, resulting in few conversion opportunities lost.

AI-based algorithms are able to gather and analyze massive amounts of data at a time. They can compare results of multiple tests against each other simultaneously at various interaction points along the buyer journey.

Tools like Evolv use machine learning (ML) to find which experiences and customer journey paths work best (make profits) for you and nudge customers down those paths accordingly. You can set up experiments on your landing pages with goals and KPIs, and let the algorithm tweak the UX for each customer by presenting various combinations. The data from these experiments help you understand how satisfied the customer is with the interaction, and also develop new hypotheses to keep testing further or make decisions related to product development or service delivery.

The Way Ahead

By understanding the root causes behind your customer’s reactions and feelings, you can go as far as to influence sentiment, improve brand loyalty ,and encourage advocacy. Always be looking for overlaps and commonalities among complaints. This will help you avert PR disasters, deliver exceptional customer service, and stay ahead of the competition.

Use sentiment analysis to understand where your customers are coming from by segmenting them and uncovering their intents at every interaction. Finally, track the effects of all your initiatives and take action responsibly to ensure they stay delighted at all times.

Gen Z Advertising Dos and Don’ts for Marketers

Every day, advertising trends are emerging. These trends and tactics are newly developed as a means to best reach a target audience, whomever it may be. As such, advertisers are utilizing new marketing methods to reach the newcomers on the scene of consumerism: Gen Z.

Every day, advertising trends are emerging. These trends and tactics are newly developed as a means to best reach a target audience, whomever it may be. As such, advertisers are utilizing new marketing methods to reach the newcomers on the scene of consumerism: Gen Z. Here are some vital dos and don’ts advertisers should take into account when advertising to the Gen Z audience.

DO: Seek to Make an Authentic Connection With Consumers

Authenticity is paramount to a brand’s success in selling to the Gen Z audience. As I’ve mentioned in a previous article, making connections has a whole new meaning for Gen Z, with the rise of technology. Social platforms have allowed for connection to feel more personal and more real than ever. As advertisers, taking advantage of this can make all of the difference. The more personalized social media marketing tactics present today make it inherently easier to reach your consumer. As a result, brands are more closely connected to their consumers than ever. Using this close contact to maintain an authentic relationship will go far with Gen Z. Interact with us and stay transparent; keep it real.

DON’T: Stick to Surface Level and Hope the Consumer Comes Knocking

With the tools at hand, not only is it easier than ever to make authentic connections with consumers, but it’s also more important than ever. The deep-rooted marketing tactics that credible companies have long used must be challenged to continue on successfully. Unless a brand’s marketing efforts dive deeper and seek to strike a chord with the emotions of Gen Z, they’ll likely have little to no luck. Remaining surface-level with the message advertised, along with how and what marketers choose to share about their products, just won’t work for a Gen Z audience. As consumers, Gen Z will never resonate with a brand unless there is a deep connection or story that sells the relationship between them and your product. This can only really be done if the campaign messaging hits hard on the reasons why it will truly enhance the lives of Gen Zers.

DO: Genuinely Care About Social Responsibility

One of the more exciting trends Gen Z can’t get enough of is social responsibility. Gen Z cares about the world they live in and the people in it, and are hungry for change to make a better tomorrow. They crave equality and want to help. Though these initiatives going mainstream have inevitably created some misconceptions, the overall adoption of these ideologies by brands is still a positive change, and Gen Z is excited about it. Whether products are ethically sourced and sustainably grown, or a company openly expresses its pro stance for transgender equality or that of female women employees, Gen Z feels incredibly satisfied to see these topics being taken on and embraced by brands.

DON’T: Stretch the Truth About Giving Back

If a company is moving toward more socially responsible initiatives, but isn’t quite there yet, that’s OK. The one thing that’s important to keep in mind as brands work to adopt more sustainable and socially responsible initiatives is to not stretch the truth. Becoming a socially responsible company does not happen overnight. As consumers, younger generations understand that. But during the process, brands should not market their products as sustainable or beneficial to a social justice cause, unless they truly are. Doing so will cause brands to look inauthentic to Gen Z when they do some online sleuthing and quickly find out the truth, ultimately driving away their business. Companies should simply state they are working toward it, and continue to do so. Gen Z prefers and appreciates sincerity and transparency as companies work toward a better future.

DO: Tap Into Trending News and Pop Culture

Pop culture is basically determined by young people. What’s cool, who’s not, and what’s funny on the Internet are some of the things Gen Z have precedence over, as generations prior have also ruled during their adolescence. This is nothing new. Tapping into pop culture can be one of the easiest ways to appeal to the Gen Z audience. Newsjacking, which is when brands creatively tailor trending news stories to bring attention to their own content, has proven successful on a number of occasions. Taking advantage of a situation for a brand’s own benefit seems intuitive and a win-win, as both the story/topic and the brand gain more exposure. However, when specifically targeting a young generation, it is vital to have a deep understanding of the topic before applying it to a brand inaccurately or overdoing it.

DON’T: Overdo the References in an Attempt to Relate to Gen Z

The easiest way to understand Gen Z is to pay attention to the media they consume. With that said, however, it’s important to remember that just because you’re in on a meme about Baby Yoda or Billie Eilish secretly being the same person as Lil Xan, doesn’t mean you can seamlessly relate to them. Though utilizing a pop culture reference can go extremely well in selling to Gen Z, it’s pretty easy to spot when it’s been done incorrectly by an older generational brand. This may seems like a simple way to get on the radar of Gen Z, but it’s really important to make sure it’s  done right. Don’t take advantage of pop culture references and don’t overuse them for the sake of a potentially easy connection. Only newsjack pop culture and trending news if it really fits in with your brand identity and if you really understand the happenings.

How to Not Waste Money on Facebook and Instagram Ads

As publishers, our relationship with Facebook is … complicated. In 2019, Facebook traffic returned for a lot of publishers, and many now consider the platform a reliable source of traffic. However, there hasn’t been much consistency in regard to Facebook’s Ads Manager platform in the last several months, amiright?

As publishers, our relationship with Facebook is … complicated.

In 2019, Facebook traffic returned for a lot of publishers, and many now consider the platform a reliable source of traffic. However, there hasn’t been much consistency in regard to Facebook’s Ads Manager platform in the last several months, amiright?

Facebook Ads Manager Continues to Evolve

First, Ads Manager was completely redesigned in July. Reviews were mixed, but overall the user-interface improved. Even still, there’s always a learning curve when getting to know a new version of an intricate platform.

In addition to visual updates, Facebook Ads Manager is a lot more complex than it was just 2 years ago. There are now 18 different placement options for ads, including Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, in-article, plus Facebook’s audience network — which allows you to target users off of Facebook-owned platforms and applications. Facebook clearly marks “automatic placements” as “recommended,” but this isn’t often the best selection for most advertisers — and it takes some savvy to understand which placements make the most sense for your campaign.

There’s also the various options for campaign optimization. Facebook has four different delivery optimization options: conversions, landing page views, link clicks, and impressions. More than that if you consider that there are several different ways you can define a conversion. That’s a lot of decisions to make and places where your campaign can go wrong.

Beyond the campaign criteria above, a typical marketer also has to account for varying audiences and budget optimization, along with creative and copy testing. All this is to say, it’s easy to waste money using Facebook’s Ads Manager when running campaigns on Facebook and Instagram.

Secondly, Facebook Ads Manager underwent some significant changes in November. You remember … the one right before Black Friday. Along with slight changes to the UI, these changes seem to have also placed an emphasized level of importance on a few small but key nuances in how you build and optimize campaigns.

Facebook’s Learning Phase

The learning phase is an often under-estimated way you can derail your campaign objections. As someone on our team once put it, the learning phase is “a dance more than it’s a science.”

Additionally, Facebook’s platform updates in November included “New Learning Phase Insights.” In this update, Facebook launched insights that display “the percentage of ads, ad sets and spend spent in the learning phase over the last two weeks.”

The learning phase of your campaign (the time period in which Facebook is getting to know what type of user is most likely to engage with your campaign, learning from those findings, and further refining your placements and targeting as a result) is roughly 7 days or 50 conversions. Depending on the campaign you’re running, 50 conversions can be a lot, which means most marketers have to wait those 7 days.

So what does the Facebook learning phase mean for marketers looking not to waste money? It means allowing campaigns around 7 days to start spending budget most effectively. And during that time period, any significant edits to the campaign can start that time period over from the beginning, so edit wisely!

Most of us know those impatient marketers. The ones that just can’t stop themselves from making changes to their campaign just a day or two after launch. Stop doing that! Making significant edits to the campaign before it has been live for around 7 days is a surefire way to waste your ad budget. Your campaign will start over from scratch and any lessons learned from your original campaign will not be relayed.

Since this update went live in November, campaigns can now move into a “Learning Limited” status after 7 days. According to Facebook, this happens when:

  • The bid control or cost control is too low.
  • The budget is too low.
  • The audience size is too small.
  • There are too many ad sets.
  • Other ad sets from the same ad account or Page are winning auctions instead.

Certainly use these insights to understand why a particular campaign or ad set cannot exit the learning phase, but also recognize that without paying close attention to the nuances of targeting and placements, as we discussed above, you may run ads for 7 days only to then find out that the platform can’t find enough people to engage with your campaign in the current targeting, placement, and budget allotted.

Also consider the learning phase when planning the timing of your campaigns. If you’re marketing tickets to an event and you want to really hit your audience hard in the 2 weeks leading up to your event date, you’ll spend half of that precious time with your campaign in learning mode — thus not spending your budget most effectively. To combat this, consider running an awareness campaign several weeks out from the event to allow Facebook to find audiences that will engage with your event content, and then retarget those who engaged but haven’t yet purchased tickets.

Objective Optimization of Facebook Campaigns

It’s important to evaluate your campaign objective. As mentioned above, there are more than a few campaign “objective” options you can select when starting your campaign, and each can cause the behavior of your campaign to vary wildly.

If you’re running a click-based campaign (in other words, your campaign “Objective” is “Link Clicks”), you may start to notice that you’re getting clicks, but your ultimate objective of traffic to your website isn’t being met. If this is happening, add “Landing Page Views” to your customized report and see what percentage of those clicking on the ad are actually landing on your website. Unfortunately, we’ve seen these numbers be as low as 35-40%. That means of 100 people clicking on your ad, only 35-40 are waiting long enough for the page to load.

So where did you go wrong? A campaign objective of “Link Clicks” is telling Facebook that all it takes to make you happy is clicks. Not refining your objective to “Landing Page Views” or “Conversions” means you can end up wasting a lot of money on “clicks” when, depending on your ultimate campaign objective, “clicks” don’t really mean that much.

So, consider and scrutinize your Facebook campaign objective closely. (Note: If you haven’t added the Facebook pixel to your website, you won’t have the option to optimize for Landing Page Views. Adding the pixel to your page lets Facebook see who actually results in a visit to your website.)

Running Ads on Facebook and Instagram Is Not for the Faint of Heart

Executing a campaign on Facebook is not that hard. But executing an effective and cost-efficient campaign is. With recent platform updates and an ever-changing algorithm, it takes work to stay abreast of best practices and knowing how to avoid the pitfalls of an ill-targeted or budgeted campaign.

Thoroughly plan your campaign strategy to avoid wasting money. Consider your objective, placements, and testing parameters closely. There are plenty of resources available to help you make the correct choices for your campaign. Or, get help if you need it. A strategic marketing team that can plan and execute your campaign strategy effectively is worth their weight in conversions.