The Biggest Obstacle to Personalization Is the Creative Element

In a world where everyone is exposed to constant marketing through every conceivable media channel every day, messages that are not relevant to the target will be utterly ignored. And don’t blame the consumers for it, either. You, as a consumer, are trained to ignore irrelevant messages, as well.

In this consumer-centric environment, personalization is something all marketers must practice constantly, not only to increase the level of customer engagement, but also to not be ignored completely. And if your messages keep getting ignored, decreasing click-through rate isn’t just some annoying KPI that doesn’t look good in front of your boss, it may be an existential threat to your organization.

Unfortunately, personalization isn’t easy, simple, or cheap. There are many elements that must work harmoniously, so that each target sees something that is uniquely relevant to “her.”

4 Elements of Personalization

First, you need data about the target. What is she about, and what does she look like? That may require data from all kinds of sources — be they online or offline transactions, browsing history, store visits, reactions to previous campaigns (requiring both campaign and response history data), call-center logs, third-party demographic data, etc. Putting them all in one place, and rearranging them to create coveted Customer-360 View is often the first hurdle. But that is just the beginning. Without customer-centric data, there is no personalization — unless you count on your guesswork.

Then you need to make sense out of collected data. We often call such work analytics, which includes segmentation (or clustering), modeling, personas development (a series of affinity models), etc. Many marketers consider this to be the highest hurdle, as it requires different types of talents. Data scientists tend to think that the modeling work is the pinnacle of personalization, and they may not be wrong. But is it enough? So, what if they have 40 personas meticulously built by top-notch statisticians? How would you use them to differentiate messages for “each” target?

That leads to the third and forth elements in personalization, which are “Display Capability” and “Content and Creative.” Basically, you need to be able to show different creatives to different targets. If you are uniformly displaying the same content to everyone, what is the point in all this, no matter how many personas or affinity models you built?

Display capability is a technical hurdle. And you can procure technologies to overcome it, whether the challenge is dynamic web content, or personalized email delivery. You have to align pieces of technologies to make it happen. If Person A shows up on your website, and her affinity score is higher for “Luxury Travel” category in comparison to “Family Oriented Activities,” you should be able to show a picture of luxury cruise ship sailing in the Caribbean sunset, not necessarily a picture of happy children surrounded by cartoon characters.

As you can see, I am actually mixing three elements in this one example. I am assuming you built a series of personas (or affinity models). Your website should be dynamic so that such models can trigger different experiences for different visitors. Then of course, I am assuming you have ample amount of marketing creatives to differentiate messages. Display technology is a prerequisite in all this. If you don’t have it, go get it.

Your Persona Menu

Building a Customer-360 View is a customer-centric activity, but creating a persona menu is a selfish activity. What do you want to sell? And what kind of person would be interested in such products or services?

If you are selling fashion items, personas such as “Fashionista” or “Trend Setter” would be helpful. If you are pushing cutting-edge products, an “Early Adopter” persona would be necessary. If you are selling various types of insurance or security-related products, you will benefit from personas such as “Security Conscious.”

The important point here is that you should create persona menu based on your product and marketing roadmap. Be imaginative and creative. What kind of persona would be interested in your services? Once the goal is set, we need some samples of people who actually displayed such tendencies or behaviors. If you are building a persona called “Luxury Travel,” gather samples of people who actually have been on a luxury cruise ship or checked into luxury hotels (of course you have to define what constitutes “luxury”). Modelers do the rest.

Now, here is the reason why setting up a proper persona menu is so important. Not only will we define the target audience with it, but also categorize your marketing contents and digital assets with personas.

The most basic usage of any model is to go after high score individuals in a given category. You want to send messages to fashion-oriented people? Just select high score individuals using the Fashionista model.

But personalization is a little more complex that that. Let’s just say this one individual showed up at your website (or your store for that matter). You may have less than one second to show something that “she” would be interested in. Pull up all persona scores for that person, and see in which categories she scores high (let’s say over 7 out of a maximum score of 9). Going back to the previous example, if the target has score of 8 in Luxury Travel, and 4 in Family-oriented Activity, pull out the content for the former.

The Creative Element

Now, why is this article titled “The Biggest Obstacle to Personalization Is the Creative Element”? Because, I often see either lack of enough creative materials or lack of proper content library is the roadblock. And it really breaks my heart. With all the dynamic display capabilities and a series of models and personas, it would be a real shame if everyone gets to see the same damn picture.

I’ve seen sad and weird cases where marketers balk at the idea of personalization, as their creative agency is not flexible enough to create multiple versions of marketing materials. In this day and age, that is just a horrible excuse. What are they dealing with, some Mad Men agency people from the 1950s with cigarettes in their mouths and glasses of Scotch in their hands?

I’ve also seen other strange cases where proper personalization doesn’t happen – even with all good elements ready to be deployed – because departments don’t know how to communicate with one another. That is why someone should be in charge of all four elements of personalization.

How will the persona menu be created with grand marketing goals in mind? Who would procure actual data and build models? How will the resultant model/persona scores be shared throughout the organization and various systems, especially with the dynamic display technologies? How will the content library be tagged with all the relevant “persona” names (e.g., Tag “Luxury Travel” persona name to all digital assets related to “Luxury Cruise Ships”)?

Model scores (or personas) may function as a communication tool that binds different departments and constituents. Personalization is a team sport, and it is only as good as the weakest link. If you invested in building CDP solutions and analytics, go a little further and finish the work with the creative elements.

If you have a bunch of pictures stored in someone’s PC (or worse, some agency guy’s drawer), go build a digital content library. And while you’re at it, tag those digital assets with relevant persona names in your persona menu. Even automated personalization engines would appreciate your effort, and it will definitely pay off.

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.

What Did You Do on Data Privacy Day 2020? Do Tell Us.

Each year, Jan. 28 is known as “Data Privacy Day” in the United States and globally — also Data Protection Day in other jurisdictions. As business organizations — and marketers — we see that it’s a day when consumers are reminded to exercise their “privacy rights.”

Each year, Jan. 28 is known as “Data Privacy Day” in the United States and globally — also Data Protection Day in other jurisdictions.

As business organizations — and marketers — we see that it’s a day when consumers are reminded to exercise their “privacy rights” and take advantage of tips and tricks for safeguarding their privacy and security. In our world of marketing, there are quite a few self-regulatory and co-regulatory tools (U.S. focus here) that enable choices and opt-outs:

  • To opt out of commercial email, direct mail, and telemarketing in certain states, consumers can avail themselves of DMAchoice. For telemarketing, they can also enroll on the Federal Trade Commission’s Do Not Call database.
  • For data collected online for interest-based ads, consumers can take advantage of Digital Advertising Alliance’s WebChoices and Network Advertising Initiative consumer control tools, which are accessible via the ubiquitous “AdChoices” icon. DAA also offers AppChoices, where data is collected across apps for interest-based ads. [Disclosure: DAA is a client.]
  • Now that California has a new consumer privacy law, consumers there can also take advantage of DAA’s new “Do-Not-Sell My Personal Information” Opt Out Tool for the Web. Its AppChoices mobile app also has a new CCPA opt-out component for “do not sell.” Publishers all over the Web are placing “Do Not Sell My Personal Information” notices in their footers, even if others outside California can see them, and offering links to their own in-house suppression lists, as well as DAA’s. Some publishers are using new the Privacy Rights icon to accompany these notices.

Certainly, businesses need to be using all of these tools — either as participants, or as subscribers — for the media channels where they collect, analyze, and use personal and anonymized data for targeted marketing. There’s no reason for not participating in these industry initiatives to honor consumer’s opt-out choices, unless we wish to invite more prescriptive laws and regulations.

We are constantly reminded that consumers demand high privacy and high security — and they do. We also are reminded that they prefer personalized experiences, relevant messaging, and wish to be recognized as customers as they go from device to device, and across the media landscape. Sometimes, these objectives may seem to be in conflict … but they really are not. Both objectives are good business sense.

As The Winterberry’s Group Bruce Biegel reported while presenting his Annual Outlook for media in 2020 (opens as a PDF), the U.S. data marketplace remains alive and well. For data providers, the onus is to show where consumer permissions are properly sourced, and transparency is fully authenticated and demonstrated to consumers in the data-gathering process. It’s a rush to quality. Plainly stated, adherence to industry data codes and principles (DAA, NAI, Interactive Advertising Bureau, Association of National Advertisers, among others) are table stakes. Going above and beyond laws and ethics codes are business decisions that may provide a competitive edge.

So what did I do on Data Privacy Day 2020? You’re reading it!  Share with me any efforts you may have taken on that day in the “public” comments below.

Think of Food Nutrition Labels. Now, There’s Audience Data Labeling

This summer — this “nutritional” label for commercially available audience data, which vendors, agencies, advertisers and publishers can use to understand the sourcing of targeting data and how it is prepared for market — is ready for marketplace use.

Last fall, I reported briefly on an industry initiative related to “data labeling” a bid to provide transparency of data sourcing for audience data used in digital and mobile marketing. DataLabel.org is an initiative of the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and the IAB Tech Lab. (At the time of inception, the Data & Marketing Association now the Data Marketing Analytics division of the Association of National Advertisers was also at the table.)

This summer this “nutritional” label for commercially available audience data, which vendors, agencies, advertisers and publishers can use to understand the sourcing of targeting data and how it is prepared for market is ready for marketplace use.  (From a June 27 IAB Tech Lab press release🙂

“Data transparency is a table-stakes requirement to ensure responsible and effective use of audience data and companies that provide consistent access to detailed information about their data will attract more business,” said Dennis Buchheim, EVP and general manager at IAB Tech Lab. “Taking part in the corresponding compliance program will further differentiate an organization, affirming their full commitment to the highest standards.”

Transparency in Data Sourcing Matters

I remember hearing IAB CEO Randall Rothenberg admonishing the ad tech ecosystem in early 2017 to get out of the “fake anything” business, and arguably the effects of fraud, brand safety, and other concerns have led many advertising and marketing professionals to scour their data sourcing, permissions, stacking, integrating, and statistical analyzing to make sure that an otherwise reputable company is not engaged with anything untoward on the data front.

DataLabel.org supports this objective, in part, and goes further.  While it does not assign a quality score to any particular data source, it does enable apples-to-apples comparisons in important areas, (Opens as a PDF) which inform where media dollars based on audience data are committed:

Data Labeling label
Source: DataLabel.org

Yes, it’s an agnostic nutritional data label for data sourcing. Through IAB et al, dozens of companies were part of a working group that led to the Data Transparency Standard, Version 1.0 (a PDF download] led by Meredith Digital, Lotame Solutions and Pandora, among its supporting cast.

Does ‘Table-Stakes’ Mean Traction? You Look Good Dressed, in Responsible Data

According to the IAB, “completion of the program requires an annual business audit to confirm that the information provided within the labelling is reliable, that the organization has the necessary systems, processes, and personnel in place to sustain consistent label completion at scale, and that a label can be produced for all in-market segments available. Engagements typically range between [two to five] months, depending upon the size and complexity of the company’s business.”

So now that’s the Data Label is available to the data-driven marketing marketplace, is there real traction to see its use?  From the data provider side, at least, I’d say so.  While some may be taking a wait-and-see approach, some data marketing companies are moving forward with data labeling and transparency certification.

“The digital ecosystem tends to focus on areas like inventory and traffic,” said Chris Hemick, senior product marketing manager, Alliant, whose company is now in the onboarding process. “Alliant is an advocate for bringing the same level of focus to the data marketplace. We firmly believe that IAB’s efforts to spotlight data provider practices around audience creation will be a positive for the entire industry.”

Another data provider, Audience Acuity, echoes these sentiments. “The concept of the Data Transparency Label was introduced in the fourth quarter of last year, after it was developed by the ANA’s Data Marketing Analytics (DMA) division, the IAB Tech Lab, the Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement (CIMM), and the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF),” said Riad Shalaby, CMO of Audience Acuity. “We are aligned with their perspective on this important topic, and we are delighted to be one of the first major data companies in the United States to provide this level of transparency.”

There are many things we, as data marketing professionals, need to concern ourselves with in best practices, ethics, and even legal compliance. Brand safety, ad measurement, piracy, privacy and security, and fake anything are among them. Proper data governance is related to all of these concerns. The more we spotlight our roles as stewards of and for data integrity, the better we can achieve marketplace confidence and trust in the very information that helps make brand-consumer engagement succeed.

Identifying and Engaging Your Most Valuable Audience Segments

Your audience is made up of a series of segments of audiences, all in a different place in their journey with your brand. From one-time visitors to the most loyal readers, each segment requires a different strategy for engagement and something different from your brand experience.

Your audience is made up of a series of segments of audiences, all in a different place in their journey with your brand. From one-time visitors to the most loyal readers, each segment requires a different strategy for engagement and something different from your brand experience.

To optimize your audience development strategies for 2020, you need to first identify these audience segments and then determine a plan for engaging with and growing each segment.

For the purposes of this blog post, we’ll use Google Analytics to create audience segments, as most readers will be familiar with and have access to the tool. There are, of course, more advanced tools like CDPs that will allow you to act even more strategically.

Note that when creating segments in Google Analytics you can typically look at a segment’s behavior for a maximum of 90 days. So for the purposes of analyzing these groups, we’ll be looking at them in terms of their behavior within a 90-day period.

Segmenting Your Online Audiences

This article overviews one way to segment your online audience into four categories. If this isn’t the right way for your brand, you can segment in a way that works for you. The lesson here is to develop your segments and then create a plan that prioritizes and engages each accordingly.

1. Drive-bys

Drive-bys visit your site once and likely won’t again, at least not for another few months. More than likely they stumbled onto your website through a Google search or a friend sharing a link on social media. They may or may not be in your target audience.

Find these users by creating a segment in Google Analytics and filtering by users who have exactly one session on your website. If your target audience is based on a geographic region, you can create two segments, one within that region and one without.

How to Engage Your Drive-bys

Drive-bys are the audience segment that is likely to be on the bottom of the totem pole in terms of priority, so your strategy for engaging them should be minimal. Monetize their visit with programmatic advertising, but invest little other efforts in engagement.

2. Passive Visitors

Passive visitors to your website are those who return to engage with your brand two or three times in a 90-day period. The fact that they have returned to your website after their initial visit suggests they might be within your target audience and should be engaged accordingly.

One way to identify your passive visitors is to create a segment in Google Analytics that filters users who have exactly or greater than two sessions on your website and more than 30 days since their last session. The second part of this criteria will eliminate your more frequent visitors — we’ll get to those soon.

How to Engage Your Passive Visitors

Passive visitors have much more value to your brand than the drive-by visitors. Based on their return to your website, they are more likely to be in your target audience and should be considered warm leads for your brand.

Keep passive visitors on clean, clutter-free website pages to avoid overwhelming their experience with advertising, if possible. You can do this by exporting audiences from your segments into DFP (Google’s ad platform). The ideal outcome is to secure their email address capture, so present these users with opportunities to sign-up for one of your weekly (or lower frequency) newsletters.

If you’re unable to capture an email address, happily settle for a social follow by targeting these users in DFP with ads driving to your social channels, or retarget these visitors on social media using the same process above.

3. Engaged Visitors

Highly engaged visitors are regularly engaging with your brand and are visiting your website at least once per month. Get excited because this is where your marketing strategies get fun.

When creating the segment in Google Analytics, filter by users who have exactly or greater than five sessions on your website. Based on our work with regional and niche publishers, these visitors are likely to be less than 10% of your total users, yet there’s a good chance they generate more than 40% of your website’s page views, making them an incredibly valuable audience segment.

How to Market to Your Engaged Visitors

These users are already engaged with your brand, so the next step is marketing more of your content to them and deepening their connection with it. If you do not have email addresses in your database for these users, your number-one goal should be to capture them. If you do have an email address, you should be using your email service provider to monitor their behavior with your emails and fine-tuning your content delivery based on their interests. For example, if they are recurringly visiting your food coverage, deliver them news about restaurant openings first or make sure they know about your upcoming food event.

Further engagement includes driving these readers back to your website with advertising on Facebook and Instagram. Consider experimenting with soft gates on popular pieces of content to force an email capture to read the articles. But keep their experience clean and clutter-free. This isn’t the audience you want to hit over the head with invasive or pop-up advertising. This audience is primed for a deeper relationship with your brand and your marketing actions can drive them to your site more frequently — or drive them away.

4. Loyalists

Loyalists visit your website at least 15 times over a quarter, which equates to visiting more than once per week. These folks are very likely to be on your email newsletter list or are highly engaged with your brand on social media. Based on what we see from our clients’ brands, loyalists may comprise less than 3% of your visitors but could be making up as much as 25% of your page views.

Create a final segment inside Google Analytics that filters by users who have exactly or greater than 15 sessions on your website. Remember you’ll be looking at these segments over a period of 90 days.

How to Market to Your Loyalists

Like your ‘engaged’ visitors, these individuals are already invested in the content you are sharing, and now your goal is to drive revenue from them.

If you have a metered paywall in place – or are considering putting one on your website – these users are the ones who will hit it. If you have a subscription product to sell, these users will feel the most inclined to support your brand financially.

A great way to extract more value out of these users is to get their feedback. As regular consumers of your content, they are more likely to share their time and their opinions. Whether you’re considering a new product launch or a shift in editorial coverage, this audience’s opinions will be valuable.

Two common ways to solicit feedback are through a traditional survey – typically sent via email (SurveyMonkey is easy to use for something like this) – or through a focus group. The latter especially allows you to gain a deeper understanding of the content they love, what kind of products they want from your brand, and most importantly what they would be willing to pay for.

Not All Audiences Are Created Equal

We know by now that not all audiences are created equal, so your engagement strategies shouldn’t be either. These high-level strategy suggestions are the beginning of engaging your various website audiences differently to make the most out of your time and marketing resources.

Why You Are Missing Out Without Conversion Tracking

Which digital marketing channels are driving the most leads and sales for your business? Are any channels just wasting your budget? Without properly set up conversion tracking, there’s no way to answer those two critical questions.

How can you tell if your new Google Ads campaign is improving your conversion rate? What percentage of visitors coming to your landing pages are there because of your Facebook Ads? You can’t get an accurate assessment of the ROI generated by your advertising efforts without implementing mechanisms to track visitor responses.

What Is Conversion Tracking?

Conversion tracking involves placing a piece of code on your website to track visitors and their actions. The data helps you understand their responses to various techniques used in your ad campaigns and different webpage designs. You can use conversion tracking for testing of keywords, redesigned landing pages, and new ad text.

Items You Should Be Tracking

  • Forms on your website (ex. quote requests, scheduled appointments, demo requests)
  • E-commerce sales
  • Coupon codes you give out as a way of encouraging people to visit physical locations
  • Phone calls

Here is what you gain by effectively tracking your digital marketing efforts.

1. Better ROI Tracking

You can add tracking codes to “Thank You” pages to monitor completed transactions by visitors and origination channels. That can tell you how many of those conversions came from visitors who clicked on specific advertisements. You can include tracking of signups, lead generation, or other items relevant to improving ROI.

2. Insights Into Campaign Successes

Some ads will perform better than others. Conversion tracking tells you how well specific keywords perform in attracting your target audience. You can also learn which ad campaigns to eliminate if they tend to draw visitors who quickly move away from your landing pages. Use information gained from your split testing efforts to tweak your keyword lists, ad copy, and landing pages for better performance.

3. Figuring Out What Content to Reuse

You want to stick with what works. Conversion tracking lets you know which content on your website attracted the most interest, or which campaigns helped drive higher-quality visitors. You want content that keeps visitors on your site who will eventually convert into a lead or sale.

4. Improved Audience Categorization

Segmenting audiences allows you to provide relevant content to those who visit your site or sign up to receive your email communications. Conversion tracking helps you figure out whether you have your contacts properly sorted for the type of information they receive.

Better categorization means your audiences aren’t sending your emails directly to the trash bin, or worse, clicking the “report spam” and/or “Unsubscribe” link. You also increase your chances of attracting the type of attention that leads to more conversions and better ROI.

5. Knowledge of Where to Direct Marketing Budget

Marketers running campaigns on a limited budget must maximize each dollar spent, while being cost-efficient. That allows you to create more effective campaigns that get the most for your money. You avoid dumping money into failing ad strategies and can direct those funds to higher-performing efforts.

Why Conversion Tracking?

Conversion tracking allows you to track and improve the ROI of your digital marketing campaigns by helping you identify your best-performing campaigns and eliminate those not delivering the desired conversion rates. It also helps you understand where you should be directing your budget across all the various marketing channels so you maximize every dollar invested.

Want more help tracking your marketing campaigns?  Click here to grab a copy of our “Ultimate Google Analytics Checklist.”

Need Prospects? 5 Direct Mailing List Types to Help You Find Them

Direct mail is a great way to reach targeted prospects to turn them into customers, but how do you select the right prospects? There are so many mailing list options, it can feel overwhelming. Let’s look at the various list options.

Direct mail is a great way to reach targeted prospects to turn them into customers, but how do you select the right prospects? There are so many mailing list options, it can feel overwhelming.

Let’s look at the various list options.

Prospect data is marketing data that has been collected and compiled for the purpose of new customer acquisition. This data is compiled from a variety of public record sources, including deed recordings, surveys, telephone directories, self-reported and more.

5 Prospect List Types

  1. Residential/Occupant: This list is compiled from USPS intelligence carrier route-level demographics, and you can segment businesses. The purpose of this type of list is to saturate an area and have names associated with it, along with census demographics, unlike EDDM. The advantage of this list is deep postal discounts. The disadvantages are the ability to only target to the ZIP-carrier route level, there are fewer options for personalization, and it uses only postal data.
  2. Consumer: This list can be selected by demographics, psychographics, life stage, lifestyles, behavioral, new mover, new homeowner, new borrower, new connect, pre-mover, mortgage/loan, and property data. The purpose of this type of list is to target consumers at their home addresses. The advantages of this list are: controlling who receives your offer; rich demographics selects for enhanced targeting, so you can use variable data for creative optimization; you can use look-alike targeting through the use of demographic profiles; and there are multi-channel opportunities.
  3. Business: This list can be selected by contact names, job titles, company size, ownership status, square footage, own vs. rent, years in business, business expenses, credit rating, SIC, and NAICS. The purpose of this list is finding businesses and/or business professionals. The advantage of this list is you can target specific types of businesses and key contacts within them.
  4. Specialty: This list can be selected by many things. Here are some of them: automotive, hospitals, doctors and nurses, education, government, voters, clubs/nonprofits, insurance agents, pilots, realtors, churches, or pool owners. The purpose of this list is to be able to target consumers or businesses based on specific niche attributes most commonly related to occupation/profession. The advantage of this list is a highly targeted audience.
  5. Managed: This list can be selected by niche marketing, RFM, subscriber files, specific purchases, past purchases, hotline buyers, multi-buyers, responders, or donors. The purpose of this type of list is the ability to identify consumers and businesses by their actions and affinities; to benefit from RFM (recency, frequency, and monetary value). The advantage of this type of list is significant targeting.

Keep in mind that the cost of prospecting lists goes up, the more targeted you get. However, by targeting correctly, you can send fewer mail pieces to more people who are most likely to buy from you. You can save money, send to the right segment of people, and increase your ROI when you mail to the right people.

There is also the option of profiling your current customers and then finding like people in your marketplace, which we will discuss in the next article. Are you ready to select your prospect list?

How Will Your Audience Receive Your New Product?

Product innovation is necessary for every company to grow and evolve in a competitive market. But if your audience “doesn’t get” your new product, success is much less of a guarantee.

Product innovation is necessary for every company to grow and evolve in a competitive market. But if your audience “doesn’t get” your new product, success is much less of a guarantee. Before you unveil your hard-won innovations, here are some ways to ensure you’re targeting the segments of your audience who will be the most receptive — both to the new product and accompanying marketing efforts.

First, Really Know Who They Are

While basic demographics like age, marital status, geographic location, hobbies and other points help you form a picture of your audience, to really know them means gaining specific, unique insights about them. You want to understand more than just who they are on paper by finding out how they think and feel and what they truly need. To do this, you have to integrate survey data with rich behavioral insights gleaned from big data.

Look at how personality profiles developed through a scan of big data reveal the personality characteristics common to the potential target audience for a new robot vacuum:

Credit: GutCheckIt

This audience ranks high for agreeableness, which points to other traits like altruistic, modest, and empathetic. So when communicating with them about the vacuum, messaging that uses a social responsibility angle will likely attract and feel relevant to them.

How your new product appeals to the individual needs and lifestyles of your audience further deepens your understanding of them. Consider in this summary of needs how the robot vacuum could hit home with the audience’s high ideals, drive toward harmony, and interest in self-expression, as well as how the vacuum could appeal to the audience majority who enjoy keeping their home tidy.

Credit: GutCheckIt
Credit: GutCheckIt

Then, Determine How Best to Reach Them

Once you’ve formed a full understanding of your audience’s personality, needs, and lifestyle, combine your learning with a study of the type of media consumed and during which times of day. For example, the vacuum audience learns about new products mainly through social media rather than television or promotional emails. They spend 7-plus hours per week on the web and using apps, mostly in the early evening hours between 5-8 pm.

Credit: GutCheckIt

To reach this audience effectively, online or mobile campaigns work best, with ads that could be shown on traditional TV in the later evening hours between 8-11 pm.

To learn what type of unique insights you could uncover about your brand’s audience before you launch a new product, visit the GutCheck website to learn more.

Gen Z Influencers – Are Celebrity Endorsers Doomed to Extinction?

As Gen Z starts to dominate the consumer landscape, will celebrity endorsers lose their status? Quizzing my Gen Z college students about brands they’re loyal to and brand influencers, I find that they’re more focused on social media and peers than they are on advertising and celebrity endorsers.

As Gen Z starts to dominate the consumer landscape, will celebrity endorsers lose their status?

Quizzing my Gen Z college students about brands they’re loyal to and brand influencers, I find that they’re more focused on social media and peers than they are on advertising and celebrity endorsers. When asked to give examples of categories where they’re brand loyal, most of the female students turn to cosmetics, a category where the opinion leaders have traditionally been celebrities. Many female students reference little-known (at least to me) YouTube make-up artists, rather than celebrities. The beauty category may become the first to turn completely away from traditional celebrity endorsers. But what others will follow? This Gen Z trend will be a challenge for marketers to keep up with in a burgeoning consumer cohort.

“Influencers, such as Kylie Jenner and Huda Kattan have started successful beauty lines, built on their base of online followers. However, as social platforms become more crowded, some iGens are looking to more niche apps to express themselves, making it harder for brands to identify up-and-coming influencers.” Mintel, MARKETING TO THE iGENERATION US, MAY 2018

This new breed of beauty influencer is making an impact on Beautycon (think the Consumer Electronics for cosmetics). Moj Mahdara, Beautycon  CEO, notes “Nearly three-quarters of Beautycon’s target audience — Gen Z-ers and younger Millennials — say they are influenced more by ‘content creators’ than traditional celebrities, according to Beautycon’s research.” The New York Times, July 28, 2018

Cosmetics marketers are adapting.

“Our in-store marketing will feature authentic, real-girl product reviews, with the intent to teach the customer how she can use our products or why they’re trending, rather than to tell her what to buy.” Linda Chang, co-founder, Riley Rose Global Cosmetic Industry Feb. 1, 2018

“Although most beauty purchases are made in-store, more than 40% of Gen Z makes purchase decisions based on real-time social media feedback. A beauty brand’s packaging or product might catch their eye, but if someone’s influencers don’t like it? No sale.” Global Cosmetic Industry,June 1, 2018

What does this trend in the beauty industry mean for marketers in other categories? Are Michael Jordan and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson about to lose substantial portions of their incomes?

Tech already depends on bloggers and YouTubers to explain, review and endorse their products. And while Nike relies heavily on celebrity endorsers like LeBron James and Serena Williams, they brand also pays homage to everyday people with its Dream Crazy campaign, encouraging everyday people to share their crazy dream.

In your view, what other categories are beginning to adapt to this Gen Z trend?

Generational Marketing: Gen Z Goes to College

I’ve taught in colleges since 2005, and have shared my observations about Millennials in several Target Marketing blog posts. Recently, I realized that most of my current students aren’t Millennials, so my curiosity about psycho-demographics has me trying to observe the generational marketing characteristics of this new cohort of college students, arbitrarily defined as those born starting in 1997.

I’ve taught in colleges since 2005, and have shared my observations about Millennials in several Target Marketing blog posts. Recently, I realized that most of my current students aren’t Millennials, so my curiosity about psycho-demographics has me trying to observe the generational marketing characteristics of this new cohort of college students, arbitrarily defined as those born starting in 1997.

Of course, changes in generational attitudes don’t occur overnight, and so I didn’t walk into class one semester and say, “Wow, these kids are different!” The oldest Gen Zers were freshmen in 2015 and because the lines between the generations aren’t always distinct, I don’t have a large sample on which to base my generalizations. But here are some of my initial observations based on some recent classroom encounters.

Technology and Ageism

Unlike the students of five-plus years ago, the current group does not automatically assume that older people (myself included) are digital idiots. Perhaps that’s because their parents are more technologically savvy and their grandparents have social media accounts. Although most identified their grandparents as laggards when it came to smartphone adoption in a recent assignment on the Diffusion of Innovation Theory, they don’t automatically assume that older people are technologically clueless. (See my post from 2016 on “Millennial Microagression”).

Financial Awareness

The cost of their education is always top-of-mind. It comes up frequently in classroom discussions about their consumption habits. Their formative years were marked by a time of economic uncertainty. In a recent marketing class at Rutgers, we were discussing how the economic environment affects marketing strategy and tactics. When I referenced the financial crisis of 2008, I realized that most of the students were in elementary or middle school during that time. Whether or not they experienced a parent’s job loss or home foreclosure firsthand, most understood that times were difficult and the financial future was not always assured.

Social Media-Cautious

In a recent assignment about retargeting, I asked them to cite examples of how their online activity led to seeing ads about things they posted or searched. Most referenced Google searches, and one student claimed that she was disadvantaged in coming up with examples because she has no social media accounts. Some have abandoned Facebook and, while they use Instagram, most keep their accounts private. By contrast, my experience with Millennials is that they were, and continue to be, much freer with their social media activity.

Look for more about Gen Z in upcoming posts.