What I Learned at College: A Business Lesson in Revenue Maximization

Now, after attending three different colleges, I’m impressed with some of the strategies colleges are deploying to make sure they’ve got your kid (and you!) hooked for a four to six year relationship. Some of these institutions have mastered both acquisition and retention efforts and I wouldn’t be surprised if they could teach a course on the subject.

This fall, my twin sons are headed to college. Make no mistake — this is not my first trip to that rodeo. Our older son started his journey six years earlier.

While my husband handled all the college tours, Mom was the designated supporter for completing college applications and, upon acceptance, attending the orientation sessions. Now, after attending three different colleges, I’m impressed with some of the strategies colleges are deploying to make sure they’ve got your kid (and you!) hooked for a four to six year relationship. Some of these institutions have mastered both acquisition and retention efforts and I wouldn’t be surprised if they could teach a course on the subject.

Considering only 55 percent of undergraduates finished their degree within six years, and the average four-year college cost is between $23,410 and $46,272, there are hundreds of thousands of dollars at risk. So, like any good business, colleges have started figure out that there needs to be some really smart marketing strategies at play if they’re going to maximize their student investment, and it involves both the student and a key group of influencers — their parents.

One state college orientation was by and far the most memorable of the three, as I left their event feeling like I was the one going to college (clearly, they had me hooked). So take a few tips and apply them to your own marketing efforts.

  • Relationship Nurturing 101: The Welcome Letter
    You’d think we’d voluntarily joined a membership club with the surprise and delight that exudes from the acceptance letter. “Congratulations,” it chirps, “and welcome to the Class of 2019!” already planting the seed that we’re in it for the next four years. The letter goes on to remind you of all the fabulous things you’ll be encountering on your journey and keeps reiterating that we’ve made a fabulous choice. (Remember, my son hadn’t yet “accepted” their offer, so the sales pitch needed to be a powerful reminder of all the reasons he applied in the first place.) The “handwritten” notation by the Dean of his school of study, casually jotted at the bottom of the letter, added to the personal experience and feeling that they really, really wanted my son to attend.
  • Reaffirming the Purchase Decision: The Acceptance Confirmation Letter
    Once my son had confirmed his attendance, the next communication came via email — and you’d think he had won the lottery. It was lighthearted in tone, oozing with details about what he’ll experience in his campus life, and setting the stage for the mandatory orientation. But instead of feeling like a punishment, it was sold as an exciting way to meet new friends, learn to navigate the campus before classes actually start, and discover “insider’s” tips on how to make the most of your next four years.
  • Onboarding: The Orientation
    A two-day effort, this event was carefully calculated as a way to weed apart the parent/child relationship and start the separate, but equally important, sales pitch(es). Parents registered at a separate table, while students were redirected to a location beyond my line of sight. Parents were directed to a large room where a combination of student leaders and selected faculty sat on the stage. Each one was enthusiastic, knowledgeable and truly made me feel welcome. After brief opening remarks, they asked, through a show of hands, which states families were from – and then encouraged us to introduce ourselves to the people seated around us. Of course that sparked immediate conversation, helped everyone to relax and start to feel an intimate part of a special community. To keep your attention, they broke parents into different groups and moved us into different and smaller rooms for more Q&A-style sessions so that by lunch time, you weren’t worried about finding a buddy to share a lunch table. At cocktail hour, they walked us over to their new state-of-the-art music center where a group of students performed followed by a casual wine and cheese event. The faculty moved easily from table to table distributing a brochure featuring their fall line-up of musicians and it definitely made me want to return regularly to see other performers (yes, I was shifting from “like” to “evangelism” rather rapidly at this point, but they could also see the ROI in that cross-sell effort).It seems my son was getting the same welcoming treatment, only from a different angle. Lots of pretty girls and attractive boys created an upbeat environment. Broken into smaller groups, he was immersed into campus life. They played games, met professors, learned about course options, selected his fall semester classes, played ultimate Frisbee, participated in a water fight, and stayed up late watching horror flicks on the grassy knoll before retiring to his temporary dorm quarters exhausted.
  • Sealing the Deal: The Closing Rally
    At the end of a second day that involved a tour of the athletic center (Olympic-sized pool, five gyms, squash courts, workout rooms, yoga studio – heck, sign me up!), library (where all the cool kids study), and lake-side luncheon (can you say BBQ?), we were ushered into another venue for the closing ceremonies, and that’s the first time I laid eyes on my son since the morning we arrived. He was sitting with his newfound friends wearing a team t-shirt with a big grin on his face. Within minutes of being seated, group by group stood up and shouted their newly created team cheers, razzed other groups, and generally laughed their way to the final gong. Music filled the air as we danced our way out of the venue and made our way back to our cars for the trip home, barely containing our excitement about the start of his new life away from home.
  • Performance Improvement: The Survey
    About 2 days after we returned, we were both sent an online survey about our onboarding experience. Needless to say it got very high marks from this mother and son.

All-in-all, it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had with any college ever. Everyone was welcoming, friendly, helpful and truly invested in ensuring both me and my son were excited about what the future would hold for both of us. My other two college orientation experiences lacked the genuine enthusiasm, excitement and innovativeness of experience and felt more like their role was to make sure that I realized I needed to let go — but not before understanding that I would not have access to grades unless granted permission by my child.

Many colleges could take a lesson from this state school because I’m sure their retention rate thru graduation is better than the norm. They figured out that it isn’t just the student who needs to fall in love with the school, but the parent, too. After all, my son won’t be writing those tuition checks all by himself.

Releasing Data Trapped in CRM for Email Marketing

Want higher email marketing response rates? Personalize! Sounds straightforward, until you realize that the data you need is trapped in your CRM system or segmentation engine, and you don’t have it accessible to your email delivery solution. Do not despair — integrate!

Want higher email marketing response rates? Personalize! Sounds straightforward, until you realize that the data you need is trapped in your CRM system or segmentation engine, and you don’t have it accessible to your email delivery solution. Do not despair — integrate!

It’s really a no-brainer. Yet, even though personalized emails deliver a six-times higher transaction rates than non-personalized emails, a startling 70 percent of brands fail to take advantage of the opportunity, according to research from Experian Marketing Services. Why not?

Most marketers collect customer data and have it in-house. It also certainly seems to be conclusive from this study and others — and from experience with my clients — that personalization makes a huge difference in response rates and subscriber satisfaction. In fact, Experian found that personalized promotional mailings had 29 percent higher unique open rates and 41 percent higher unique click rates. For triggered email campaigns, personalization resulted in double the transaction rates compared to non-personalized triggered emails.

Those kinds of results are definitely appealing, especially with overall contribution from email marketing programs under increased scrutiny. With even a few attributes from data accessible, brands can use personalization as a real differentiator:

  • Offering discounts in bulk emails which only certain, high-value subscribers can see;
  • Personalizing the content of a birthday email, based on the year that the subscriber was born;
  • Showing products based on the subscriber’s brand and size preference. Sephora does a nice job of personalizing offers based on the “Beauty Profile” collected on the site.
  • Aggregating data from mobile apps for end-of-week/month/year summary emails. For example, Fitbit’s weekly summary email is a great example of this.
  • Personalizing the subject line — which Experian research showed delivered 26 percent higher unique open rates overall, with travel companies experiencing the “biggest boost” from personalized subject lines.

If personalization works so well, then why aren’t all marketers doing it? Perhaps it’s because although data is resident inside the company, the marketer doesn’t have access to it at the point of email delivery. Integration of systems and getting data accessible to the “right moment” of messaging is a real challenge for many brands. While most email delivery vendors have mature APIs and common integration points to e-commerce, CRM, marketing data warehouse and campaign management solutions, the integration can seem like a very daunting task.

It doesn’t need to be overly complex. Even simple pieces of data, such as location, gender and product preference can open up a number of possibilities for marketers. If you are not doing any personalization today, you could add data to your ESP manually. This can be helpful in proof of concept — especially if you see the kinds of lift that Experian’s research promises. However, long-term, this is not a good option. Doing manual uploads of data spreadsheets is not only time-consuming, but it has a high potential for error or data corruption. It’s also not cost-effective — the hours spent in these tasks may be more costly in a year than an integration project.

Better options are to use the automated data transfer features of your email delivery solution. Most can accept an automated feed from a FTP (file transfer protocol) site. This can be a good option for companies with very rigid IT access to internal systems. Integrations can also be coded using the API (Application Programming Interface) from your vendor, which can upload data from a variety of locations. APIs are more likely to support real-time use of data from multi-system integrations, as well.

When planning a data integration to your email delivery solution or anywhere, be sure to determine what data you have access to in your other systems, and outline exactly what you plan on doing with it. The more specific you can be, the more easily your IT and technology vendors can help you import that data on a regular basis.

Because we live in an age of highly customized online experiences, it makes sense that personalizing your email marketing will improve your results. What challenges do you have, and what results are you seeing, for personalizing your subscriber experience?

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Stalking Your Business Prey: 5 Ways to Fail at Follow-up

I could feel his eyes on me, watching my every move.

I opened his email, scanned the content, clicked on the link and arrived at the landing page. I carefully filled out the registration form, clicked on the download button … and BOOM! The phone rang with his follow-up call.

I gasped, picked up the phone and without even identifying myself said, in utter disbelief, “Don’t tell me you’re following up on the paper I downloaded TWO SECONDS ago?”

I could hear him chuckle before he said “I just wanted to see if you had any questions.”

“How could I have any questions?” I exclaimed. “I haven’t had a second to even open the PDF!”

Have we moved to an era where salespeople are so desperate to meet sales pipeline quotas that they think it’s appropriate to contact a potential lead within seconds or minutes of a download?

Needless to say, he’s tried calling me back again, and again, and again over the last few weeks. But since I enjoy call display, I’m going out of my way to avoid answering. Why? Because his behavior was so creepy, I don’t want to engage in any sort of dialogue with him – ever. In fact, he’s turned me into a “brand evader.

In this pressure-filled business world, using content to lure potential prospects into the sales funnel is an extremely common marketing strategy. But the follow-up needs to be carefully strategized: whether it’s message, timing or contact channel. And I find most marketing and sales people have already picked up a dozen bad habits.

The Random Connection
I seem to attract lots of interest from others on LinkedIn. I get invitations to Link In with dozens of people each week — most of which I ignore. Why? Because the only note attached to their invitation is the LinkedIn default message “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.”

I look at their name, title and the company they represent and think, “No thanks. You’re just going to try and sell me something.”

While LinkedIn is a powerful relationship building tool, it would work harder if you DO NOT use that default language. Instead, just like you test outbound email copy, try testing different introductory email messages. Try making note of the relationship between our two businesses and why it might make sense to connect. Or highlight what it was about my profile that made you want to connect with me. Test, refine and learn. It’s direct marketing 101.

Email Invitations to a Prescheduled Meeting
I don’t know who came up with this strategy, but it’s got to stop. The first time I got one, I thought “Wow. I’m really getting old. I have no memory of talking to this guy, let alone agreeing to a conference call/demo meeting.”

Since the time suggested for the meeting was a conflict on my calendar, I politely declined. But another one arrived about 2 days later – same guy, same company, same meeting invitation strategy.

I declined again. And, placed his name on my SPAM list.

Persistent Personal Email
Lately I’ve been getting a lot of emails that say things like “I’m following up on my previous email, in case you didn’t get it …” Oh, I got it all right. I deleted it. And now, I’m flagging you as a spammer, too.

The Inexperienced Phone Caller
One of my colleagues recently posted this unbelievable inbound phone call to her Facebook page so we could all enjoy the idiocy of this inexperienced sales guy. This is verbatim.

“Hello Denise, this is Enterprise.”
“Hello Enterprise.”
“Yes I’m calling because, like, we see you have an account.”
“Ding Ding Ding correct.”
“So we noticed, like, you’re not renting cars like at all.”
“That’s right.”
“So like why is that?”
“Because I haven’t needed a rental car.”
“Like is that gonna change?”
“Like I don’t know.”
“Because we want to know if you’re gonna lease a car.”
“Well I will certainly let you know. Can I get a free ride sometime?”
“Like I don’t think so but I can check.”

Come on. Who hired this guy? Who trained him? Who had the bright idea to give him a list of past customers and set him loose?

I get it. Selling is hard. But I can guarantee that NONE of these strategies will be successful.

Oh, and by the way, let me download and read my business article in peace. Then try emailing me with similar articles that I might like. Keep doing that and I’ll soon become familiar with your brand and, perhaps, engage in a conversation. But I warn you. More likely than not, I’m merely doing research on behalf of a client and I have no influence over purchase whatsoever.

5 Tips for Successful o2o Channel Leaping

The most strategically planned offline direct marketing effort can be sabotaged by weak links in an online sales order processing system. Moving a prospect from any offline channel marketing to online ordering has its clear benefits, but can be tricky. Whether from direct mail, broadcast, or other print source, your offline to online (o2o) channel redirection must be carefully designed, tested, and refined to maximize the conversion process. So here are five recommendations to ensure a seamless o2o leap.

The most strategically planned offline direct marketing effort can be sabotaged by weak links in an online sales order processing system. Moving a prospect from any offline channel marketing to online ordering has its clear benefits, but can be tricky. Whether from direct mail, broadcast, or other print source, your offline to online (o2o) channel redirection must be carefully designed, tested, and refined to maximize the conversion process. So here are five recommendations to ensure a seamless o2o leap.

In a past era, we direct marketers pitched our offer to our lists. When the prospect decided to buy, they would use a reply envelope to mail or phone their response. While that still happens today, more and more direct marketers prefer to drive a prospect to the web.

There is often a disconnect between concept and execution of taking a prospect from offline to online. We’re so close to the process that we sometimes assume a seamless o2o flow, but while fumbling around a keyboard, the prospect’s attention can be diverted. The online order experience can be clunky or even confusing. Sometimes too much is asked on the online order screen, and information overload sets in. Or we assume the customer is tech-savvy when in fact, they’re not. Orders and carts are abandoned because the prospect gives up.

What to do to ensure a seamless o2o leap? Here are five recommendations:

  1. Clarity Rules: Create a detailed flow chart of every possible path a prospect could take before they press “buy” to see if there is any unanswered or confusing language or visuals. Ensure that there are no dead-ends, and allow them to back up. And, be sure the form they’re returning to is still populated with their original entries, rather than being shown an infuriating screen full of blank fields.
  2. Roadmap the Journey: Manage expectations for your prospect with an overview of the process, why it’ll be worth their time, and how easy and quick it will be, especially if placing an order has multiple options.
  3. Wireframe to Visualize: If you, the marketer, are having trouble visualizing how it all works, just imagine how confused your customer will be. Developing even a crude wireframe will help ensure you don’t overlook something, or that the process unfolds logically and obviously.
  4. Clear Copy: Write to the reading level of your audience, but remember that online channels tend to be one where people are more rushed and scanning. They don’t always read for detail. Make it clear and simple.
  5. Tell and Sell with Video: People may not read copy as closely online, but they are apt to invest time watching a video with tips on how to place their order. It can save the customer time, and help reduce abandoned carts.

The back-end programming of online order systems are usually someone else’s responsibility. But, if you’re the marketer or copywriter, you need to put serious thought and effort into the customer-facing side, so it’s clear, friendly, and quick. Your prospect forms a lasting impression of your entire organization when you have an o2o channel leap requirement. And, if it’s muddled or worse, you may never have another opportunity to make it positive.

3 Success Factors to Insights-Driven Automation

Most marketers do not have a technology problem. In fact, we’ve crossed the chasm of a few years ago, when technology could not keep up with marketers’ vision of customer engagement. Now, we have so much technology, we can’t utilize it strategically and we struggle to integrate it.

Most marketers do not have a technology problem. In fact, we’ve crossed the chasm of a few years ago when, technology could not keep up with marketers’ vision of customer engagement. Now, we have so much technology we can’t utilize it strategically, and we struggle to integrate it.

At the same time, marketers do not have a data problem. There is more data than we can manage or use wisely.

Marketers do have an optimization problem when it comes to using their technology and data to generate meaningful insights. Many of us struggle with how to prioritize our integrated marketing technology, practices and teams in order to generate the kinds of insights (a key output of many of our technology and data solutions) which will move the needle for the business.

There are three factors to this challenge.

  1. Analytics must be integrated with campaign management.
  2. Content must be created to solve problems.
  3. Insights must be scored and prioritized.

First, We Have to Get the Analytics Closer to Our Outbound Messaging. Personalization is the key to successfully creating relevance for each customer, so the analytics can’t happen off to the side. It has to be integrated with our IMM/campaign management solution so that each customer and prospect will be connected with content that is important, and available at a time that will resonate.

We can pretty easily automate our marketing response to insights. Programmatic buying has been around for many years and is expanding beyond search to Web display, ad re-targeting and campaign management (outbound) solutions. The rise of the DMP (or DSP)—platforms which allow utilization of consumer data across websites—provides great benefit to marketers looking to serve customers and prospects as they interact with any combination of owned, earned and paid media. This is helping us identify the anonymous and known people in our marketplace. Yet, the insights from interactions with branded messages across the ecosystem are not yet accessible fast enough or completely enough to allow marketers to be nimble in serving customers. We have to get these programmatic insights back to the main IMM “hub” and the campaign messaging platforms.

We need automation to also serve the process. Marketing operations efficiencies like workflow and social CRM require these insights at scale. While truly integrated IMM on a single platform is nirvana, the marketing technology landscape is huge. Real engagement often requires a few tools that will work together.

Second, Our Content Creation Machines Have to Focus More on What Sells and Our Brand Purpose. Too much content is created simply because it’s interesting. That is not a high enough bar. If your product is water, then the content needs to be all about fire. Content has to create need and speak to the “Why” of what you do, not the “What.” Why brands produce a product is usually about vision, value, need and satisfaction. Look at those heartwarming Super Bowl ads—do Dove products make you a better dad? No. But the brand is about being true to yourself and to celebrating your own personal values. So the advertising content worked.

If 2015 has a theme in marketing, it’s got to be personalization. Of course that means something different now than it did 10 years ago, when we first started really considering what is possible with custom-branded experiences. Effective personalization now means curating the content that will resonate with each customer’s individual needs. Automation technology makes this possible through content blocks and integrated native advertising units.

Third, We Need More Discipline About the Types of Insights That Will Help Us Do More Effective Marketing. I’ve always found in marketing analysis that certain demographics have clear preferences in tone, pace and language when interacting with a sales rep or brand. We can capitalize on these preferences to increase sales and connect the right rep with the right type of customer.

One way to solidify the discipline is to have some sort of mantra or brand promise that is very clear, and so all analytics work can strive to generate insights that are true to that brand promise. Remember the Coca-Cola’s Content 2020 Manifesto? Auditing your landscape of opportunity and focusing on the areas that have the most impact on revenue and market share will help you identify the kinds of insights that are most meaningful for your business.

Granted, this task is complicated by the fact that much of our data is channel-specific and measures the effectiveness of campaigns against previous campaigns. We need more insights around the impact and engagement of individual customers. Silos are still present, and organizational structure can severely limit marketers’ ability to learn about the customer-level engagement. One way to bring the team together is to score insights as they are applied to the business (much as we score leads). Did this move the needle? Have we improved our reach or response? Are key audiences engaged? It’s not just a volume game, but an engagement game with priority, high-value customers.

With these three success factors in mind, marketers can use the technology they have in a test and learn methodology to help better understand how automated insights can grow the business. Once the key drivers are identified, we can start to also assess current technology and pare down the options for improving the integration and efficiency of your organization.

Are you automating the use of insights that help personalize the customer experience? Please share your success factors in the space below.

5 Tips for Effective Multichannel Campaigns

Your audience is in more than one place—you need to be too. Multichannel marketing means reaching your audience across more than one channel. A good multichannel campaign could be the key to your marketing success. Customers these days rarely communicate with any brand through one channel alone. These tips will help you craft your multichannel marketing campaign to not only include the latest digital channels, but also direct mail.

Your audience is in more than one place—you need to be too. multichannel marketing means reaching your audience across more than one channel. A good multichannel campaign could be the key to your marketing success. Customers these days rarely communicate with any brand through one channel alone. These tips will help you craft your multichannel marketing campaign to not only include the latest digital channels, but also direct mail.

5 Tips for effective multichannel campaigns:

  1. Start with your goal: Some common goals are to promote a product or service, increase sales, generate inquires or leads, brand awareness, build relationships, etc. Have your goal or goals clearly in mind so you can plan every stage of your campaign to best meet them. Laser focus on your goals will give you better results.
  2. Who is your audience: Before you start building your campaign, know who you’re talking to. Use sources such as previous campaigns, customer feedback, demographic information, and website or social media metrics to build a clear image of your audience. Make use of customer profiles to focus on your ideal customer, their wants and needs, and the kind of message that appeals to them. The more targeted the message the better your response will be.
  3. Choose channels carefully: A multichannel campaign doesn’t mean using every possible channel. Rather, figure out which combination of channels is likely to resonate best with your target audience. Use what you know about their past interactions with you, to help you make that decision. Pick the channels that will give you the most bang for your buck. Remember that the newest channels that have a lot of buzz, may not be the best channels to reach your audience.
  4. Consistent messaging: A good multichannel campaign gives your audience a consistent experience across channels. The value you offer them and your brand voice should remain consistent across channels. After all, your customers don’t think in terms of channels, they think in terms of what your message means to them. Make their transition between channels (such as scanning a QR code to go from direct mail to online, or clicking your email link) seamless.
  5. Vary delivery: Consistency is important in a multichannel marketing campaign, but that doesn’t mean saying the message the exact same way in each medium. Each channel has its own best method of communication. The essence of your message will be the same, but the way you convey it in a 140 character tweet will differ greatly from how you say it on your direct mail piece.

Planning a multichannel campaign takes time and effort. By breaking the process down into clear steps and always keeping your goals and your audience in mind, you can plan a campaign that will put your message in front of the right people, at the right time and in the right way. One reason that direct mail is so effective in a multichannel campaign, is that it facilitates the cross over from print to online. Direct mail can drive online engagement and still have all of the tangible benefits. The fact that it can be highly targeted, kept for long periods of time, used over and over, and then easily shared with others is a real bonus. Get started on your multichannel marketing campaign today.

Cross-Device Is the Cornerstone of Your Marketing Plan

As smartphones and tablets evolve, the bright lines that previously separated digital, print, TV, mobile and PC are now beginning to fade away. Advertising, now more than ever, needs to be wherever and whenever the consumer wants it be, and “mobile” is not so much a device-type as it is a behavior or state of mind

As smartphones and tablets evolve, the bright lines that previously separated digital, print, TV, mobile and PC are now beginning to fade away. Advertising, now more than ever, needs to be wherever and whenever the consumer wants it be, and “mobile” is not so much a device-type as it is a behavior or state of mind.

The spend on cross-device campaigns that target the same users across smartphone, tablet and laptop devices is growing as marketers discover their effectiveness. In a recent survey, 75 percent of marketers said they have seen increased effectiveness with cross-device campaigns.

Marketers are already investing quite a bit in cross-device campaigns as they follow consumer behavior, but now they want to better quantify the results. The rush to develop mobile advertising campaigns is coupled with the desire for better measurement and understanding.

More than 50 percent of marketers surveyed by ValueClick Media and Greystripe reported that cross-device campaigns expand the overall reach and help optimize the performance of the campaign. But marketers point to the time and money needed to track, build and maintain a mobile experience as the main reasons why mobile campaigns are underperforming.

Marketers want to move deeper into cross-device marketing, but they also want more from their campaigns. Specifically, they want to better understand the impact of each medium and the path to purchase.

While cross-screen advertising is becoming increasingly commonplace, it still presents a range of challenges for brands—challenges that are holding back spending growth. The key challenges are:

  • Difficulty tracking audiences across multiple devices and a lack of common performance metrics were cited as the largest issues facing agencies and marketers when deploying and measuring cross-screen campaigns. Research shows that one in four marketers are yet to execute campaigns across multiple screens. For 59 percent of marketers and 68 percent of agencies, difficulty with tracking audiences across multiple devices is what’s holding them back.
  • Media planning and execution often take precedence over the creative. To successfully launch a cross-screen campaign, creative cannot be an afterthought. It’s clear why reaching consumers across multiple screens and devices is appealing, but brands need to reevaluate how they resource creative and technical production to ensure they have the assets needed to run effective cross-screen campaigns.
  • Cross-device advertising budgets typically are managed separately, making it difficult to keep the consumer at the forefront of planning silos. It’s time to start thinking about how to remove the silos and have a more holistic approach to mobile advertising campaigns.

If brands and agencies can come together to unlock the promise of consistent and rich ad experiences across different device screens at scale that many long for, the future of mobile advertising will undoubtedly be cross-device and creative will be able to adjust to the context in which it appears—whether that’s a phone, tablet, desktop, wearables, connected TV, or an automobile.

Mastering the Complexities of Multichannel Digital Marketing

Integration is like the Holy Grail of marketing. Connecting the dots at the customer level, across channels, devices and owned and non-owned properties is hard, but not impossible. Multichannel marketers must commit to meeting the customer along a matrixed journey. In a session I led at DMA2014 in San Diego last month, we discussed the types of lifecycle marketing, automation and buyer-centric programs that are most effective for drawing marketers out of silos and into a collaborative multichannel approach.

Integration is like the Holy Grail of marketing. Connecting the dots at the customer level, across channels, devices and owned and non-owned properties is hard, but not impossible. Multichannel marketers must commit to meeting the customer along a matrixed journey.

In a session I led at DMA2014 in San Diego last month, we discussed the types of lifecycle marketing, automation and buyer-centric programs that are most effective for drawing marketers out of silos and into a collaborative multichannel approach.

Andrew “Drew” Bailey, marketing principal at FedEx, said that the most important thing is to have a roadmap that is blessed by the executive team. “We’re mapping out a 3-year roadmap for our strategic objectives, now branded ‘Purple Journey’ (color selected from the brand logo). We try not to be paralyzed by our own processes. We still have to keep the lights on while we move things forward.”

Customers don’t think about channels, so why are marketers still clinging to our silos? Silos occur for a very valid, if not a very good reason, said Staples Director of Analytics and Customer Insight James (Jim) Foreman. “You solve a single need, and then new needs are solved by bolting on something to the original solution and you end up with a lot of things duct-taped together,” he said. “To emerge out of the rut, you need to prioritize with people, upgrade your specifications and budget based on the benefits you will earn from the change.”

There is certainly a people-process-technology synergy that has to happen for great customer experience. “It’s a three-legged stool,” Jim said, “But the glue and power comes from data.” Technology has surpassed our ability to use it well, so a key aspect of your IMM and CRM planning has to be that terrible “P” word that all marketers hate because we really want to do it all, “Prioritization.”

“The purpose of marketing has not changed, but the technology has changed,” Jim said. “Now that we are smarter about—and faster to respond to—the customer, the key is to make sure that we still listen to customers and synchronize touchpoints to recognize people across channels. We’ve learned a lot by combing through the data, inserting touchpoints at conversion points (a video watch, certain session length, repeat purchase, email behaviors, change of address, etc.) and encourage customers to engage with us across a richer journey. We greet you at each new interaction, informed with data from the past—which customizes the experience as much as possible.

“That translates to higher share of wallet, as Staples becomes important to both business and personal needs (customer need), both office and technology needs (product offering), and offline and online (multichannel).”

Not all customers are created equal, and a huge benefit of CRM-driven marketing is to treat all customers well, but some customers better/differently. This allows more personal and custom experience, and builds brand loyalty—especially in competitive, price-driven markets.

“We deliver packages really well,” Drew said. “But when there are concerns, customers can be pretty vocal via social media, so you have to do a good job of addressing the needs of all customers, even when you mess up.”

One approach Drew shared: “We encourage all our team members to be patient, passionate and persistent. With a ‘Good, better, best’ approach, we can help employees be the champions of our customers.

“Change happens from the work of champions,” he continued.

The data that matters to us most is our own delivery performance data—we need the ops teams to play well with the marketing team, Drew said. Staples starts with basic Web behavior—views, clicks, purchases—but quickly augments with demographic data from online accounts and the loyalty program. “We find that a mix of data is most helpful to understanding the next-best offer,” Jim said.

Successful multichannel marketing is in large part due to the way each interaction is met and tackled by the various people and machines that make up your company’s front line. Focus on those that move the needle for your business, stick to an endorsed plan of action, and be nimble and open to changing as your customer and market demand.

Responsive Design: This Changes Everything

Like many businesses, we put off making updates to our Web page because we were … um … well … simply too busy. And shame on us. As marketers, we know the critical role a website plays for any business. If a potential client, employee or business colleague wants to really understand who you are and what you do, they take two actions

Like many businesses, we put off making updates to our Web page because we were … um … well … simply too busy. And shame on us.

As marketers, we know the critical role a website plays for any business.

If a potential client, employee or business colleague wants to really understand who you are and what you do, they take two actions:

  1. Check out your LinkedIn profile: Does your photo look like somebody they want to engage with? Does your experience/education/brand voice look like a good match for my needs? Do you know anybody I know so I can get the inside skinny on you?
  2. Visit your website: How do you present yourself in the digital world? Do you have the experience/skills I’m looking for?

With an increasing number of site visitors using their mobile devices to visit websites, the new design “must-do” trend is responsive design. While in the past it was necessary to have a separate mobile-friendly version of a site, it’s now easy to maintain one site that can serve all your needs regardless of the screen size.

A site that uses responsive is flexible: It changes its layout and appearance based on the pixel width of the screen on which the site is displayed by reorganizing the images into a cascading style sheet. By using x and y coordinates on a grid for layout, and mathematical percentages for images instead of fixed-width pixel parameters, your layout will resize itself to fit in the size of the display device. That means that text on a page can be larger and easier to read on small screen, and buttons can be easier to press/click because they can accommodate the actual size of a finger.

If your site currently uses Flash, it’s probably a good time to rethink that strategy, as many smart phones don’t currently support it—which means many visitors won’t be able to view that content.

Plus, since Google recommends and supports smart phone-optimized sites, their algorithms will automatically detect a responsive design setup if those all-important Google bots are allowed to crawl your page assets. And we all know how critical it is that your site is Google-search friendly!

But, it seems, many brands have not jumped on the new responsive design bandwagon—and understandably so. We’re living proof that planning, designing and re-launching a new website is a time-consuming task. And while many web design firms claim they can adapt your current site for less than you may think, we found that we needed to completely rethink our site and the way we were presenting our work in order to take advantage of responsive design techniques.

Now email is following this same responsive design trend. If you’re like most people, you’ve already discovered that reading email on your smart phone can be challenging. Just because it looks great on your work monitor, doesn’t mean it will render properly on every recipients device. According to Litmus, as of December 2013, more than 51 percent of email opens occur on a mobile device. Meaning you’d better be taking a serious look at your email design if you want to make sure it’s optimized for the majority of your readers.

As for our website, it’s now under construction … and yes, we’re using responsive design … and yes, we’re learning a lot as we go. Check back in about 60-days and let me know what you think.