Does Channel Even Matter Anymore? Prove It With an ECHO!

I’ve heard it said, and I believe it, that the consumer has gone “omnichannel” on us. As customers have taken all the power in which brands they choose to interact with, we’ve awakened to find ourselves in a world where we—the brands and the marketers behind them—need to be everywhere the customer is. Digital created a real-time, on-demand environment where communities could easily tap and share knowledge. There is a collective intelligence there that, in tandem, empowers individual customers who use it. The result has affected all channels

I’ve heard it said, and I believe it, that the consumer has gone “omnichannel” on us. As customers have taken all the power in which brands they choose to interact with, we’ve awakened to find ourselves in a world where we—the brands and the marketers behind them—need to be everywhere the customer is. We need to be ready on demand, easily accessed, relevant but not intrusive, poised with an offer, with an ability to listen and interact accordingly, all on top of a product or service that demonstrates value to the customer.

The shift to customer centrism—the growth of customer power—probably began before the digital age, but certainly digital was the game-changer. Digital created a real-time, on-demand environment where communities could easily tap and share knowledge. There is a collective intelligence there that, in tandem, empowers individual customers who use it. The result has affected all channels.

It’s been said that the sole purpose of a business is to create a customer and grow the value of that customer over time. (Using this same reasoning, I doubt that the sole purpose of a charity is to create a donor, but it is to show a need to create a donor, and to make that donor relationship happen and grow.)

So in this brave new world, does channel even matter? Former Direct Marketing Association Chief Executive Officer Larry Kimmel (now with hawkeye) once told direct marketers we need to be “channel-agnostic.” That is, we need to be willing to understand and accept that our prospects and customers could be anywhere, with wants and needs, so we need to be able to recognize these individuals and communicate with them with relevance and permission—and deliver value to them when and where they are ready to engage.

(By the way, relevance—always interpreted from a consumer’s perspective—trumps permission. Discuss.)

I’ve always preferred the descriptor “channel fluent” to communicate this same message. Be channel agnostic, yes, but also have the best practices know-how to deploy any channel in an all-channel mix.

So BAM! Now we have all these channels, and all this channel data to deal with, and the customer wanting brand interaction and engagement in real time, her wants and needs met, and to move on until she’s ready to interact again.

How does a chief marketing officer navigate all this … with success? How should channels be deployed in concert with each other—around the customer? What unique attributes, if any, does any single channel bring to the brand engagement mix? What successful results have been achieved? How can we learn from each other?

I believe it’s time we take a page from the consumer to establish and share collective intelligence, this time among advertisers and marketers. Enter, the DMA 2013 International ECHO Awards Competition.

Does Your Marketing Have What it Takes?
Prove It With an ECHO Entry

Since its debut in 1929, the ECHOs have evolved with direct-response advertising—in all its channels and all of direct marketing’s manifestations. Today, the ECHOs are about the world’s best data-driven marketing campaigns—with data informing both strategy and creative, and producing results. Winning campaigns in 2012 came from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Germany, India, Mexico, New Zealand, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. The winners represent today’s direct marketing—and the winners truly showcase the best in channel-fluency performance.

For 2013, Winners will be selected in 15 business categories, including three new categories in consumer products, education, and professional services, as well as automotive; business and consumer services; communications and utilities; financial products and services; information technologies; insurance; nonprofit; pharmaceutical and healthcare; product manufacturing and distribution; publishing and entertainment; retail and direct sales; and travel and hospitality/transportation.

Channels represented among the winning campaigns will cover the media landscape: alternative media, catalog, direct mail, email, mobile, print, search engine marketing, social media, telemarketing, television/video/radio, Web advertising and Web development. Entries may represent single channel success—but increasingly entries reflect integrated marketing deployments, not necessarily “omnichannel,” but moving toward this customer expectation.

This year’s call for entries is now open, under the theme “The Ultimate Team Award” (campaign credits to Quinn Fable Advertising, New York, NY). Information on the ECHOs is posted at http://dma-echo.org/index.jsp.

The deadline is May 3, so let’s get started on building 2013’s version of marketing excellence collective intelligence—to share how and when channels matter. I’ll have more to share on the ECHOs in future posts here at “Marketing Sustainably,” but get started today on proving how direct marketing matters, and matters most, in creating and engaging customers everywhere.

Affiliates: Redefining the Original Performance Marketing Channel

As the original performance marketing channel, affiliate marketing has been effectively driving performance-based sales since the mid-90s. But the characteristics of an effective affiliate program have changed dramatically over the years. Whether marketers choose a closed or open affiliate program, or optimize their program monthly or annually, they should view affiliates differently today than they have in the past.

As the original performance marketing channel, affiliate marketing has been effectively driving performance-based sales since the mid-90s. But the characteristics of an effective affiliate program have changed dramatically over the years. Whether marketers choose a closed or open affiliate program, or optimize their program monthly or annually, they should view affiliates differently today than they have in the past.

When evaluating the worth of any affiliate in any given program, ask yourself questions that consider the increasingly mobile, social and local reality of today’s online world. A few starting point questions include the following:

  • Do your affiliates actively work for you?
  • Do your affiliates develop content around your products/categories to improve natural search exposure?
  • Do they generate new traffic/users to your site, both online and offline?
  • Do they use social networks like Facebook or Twitter to encourage brand interaction?

In some cases, the onus falls on marketers to do more to empower affiliates — i.e., arming them with vital brand information to help them drive high-quality sales and more volume. That includes the following:

  • insights on what the best-selling products are;
  • seasonal issues to be aware of, including holidays;
  • dates of catalog drops;
  • seasonal product lines;
  • anything unique about the marketer’s products;
  • proven tactics that have worked with customers; and
  • the type of conversion rates typically experienced.

Marketers should proactively provide affiliates with this critical merchandising information to help them work effectively for their brands.

Give affiliates relevant and timely content, such as how-to articles, important/relevant trends and customer reviews. Provide affiliates with compelling creative assets, including valuable promotions and special offers. Offering great resources for content can help affiliates perform better on natural search and/or increase the clickthrough rate of an advertiser’s promotions by establishing credibility with prospects.

Likely the most substantial change affiliates have had to deal with in recent years is the emergence of social media. Social media has opened up many new opportunities for affiliates. Marketers should seek out affiliate partners that add value by actively embracing this new medium.

Social media offers affiliates an additional distribution channel to interact with consumers. Similar to brands, affiliates use social media to gain followers, generate traffic, distribute offers and promotions, and drive conversions for retailers. Social media enables affiliates to engage more with consumers than ever before, creating deeper relationships with consumers who opt in as brand advocates by becoming fans on Facebook or followers on Twitter. Seek out affiliate partners with loyal user bases; social media prowess often provides a good indication of this loyalty.

Careful consideration to these crucial questions will help marketers better understand which affiliates are their best channel partners and which might have the most untapped potential. After all, the original performance marketing channel is here to stay. Updating one’s view of the channel will help you remain strong and keep a competitive edge.

* Special thanks to contributing authors Leo Dalakos and Megan Halscheid of Performics.

Craig Greenfield’s Redefining Performance Marketing: Holding Performance Marketing Campaigns Accountable

Facebook recently passed Google to become the most visited website in the U.S., according to Hitwise. This achievement from the social networking giant reminds marketers not only of the growing importance of social media, and Facebook in particular, but of choosing the right approach and success measurement plan.

Facebook recently passed Google as the most visited website in the U.S., according to Hitwise. This achievement from the social networking giant reminds marketers not only of the growing importance of social media, and Facebook in particular, but of choosing the right approach and success measurement plan.

Performance media offers marketers several solid choices to connect with target audiences, but marketers should clearly define campaign goals up front to ensure they choose the right campaign tactics and success measurement scheme. With concrete goals in place, marketers can consider incorporating fan pages, ads and applications into their campaigns and create plans to observe and measure engagement, conversions, connections and opinions (ECCO) to quantify success.

Facebook pages
Facebook pages offer free, simple ways to update people about promotions, events, new products and more. Marketers should select a memorable Facebook vanity URL for their pages, and promote them on their brands’ native sites, blogs and other promotional materials since consumers need to opt in or click the “Like” button on the page to engage with the brand.

Search engines rank social site pages high for branded searches, and marketers can use them to own more of the search engine results page since search engines only display two results from marketers’ native sites.

Applications
Applications foster viral sharing, encourage brand interaction and generate leads through “tell your friends” and “add to profile” buttons. Papa John’s, for example, uses sweepstakes apps to capture names and email addresses while staying top of mind with consumers. Tools exist to track user interaction with applications.

Social ads
Performance media ads are text- and image-based ads that appear in the right sidebars of Facebook users’ profile pages. Marketers trigger these cost-per-click or cost-per-impression ads based on user attributes like gender, geography, age and interests. These powerful microtargeting capabilities enable marketers to effectively target only the most suitable of Facebook’s more than 400 million users.

ECCO success tracking

A performance marketing campaign’s success hinges on whether, and to what extent, it achieved its goals. ECCO offers a concrete approach to measuring and quantifying success. It can be adapted to a specific campaign’s goals and tactics to establish clearly defined success metrics and milestones, but the approach always incorporates some combination of engagement, conversion, connection and opinion measurement. These terms are explained in more detail in the following list:

  • Engagement. What immediate reaction or interaction was created? Often measures clickthroughs, rollovers, interaction rates, video streams, time spent with ads, games played, etc.
  • Conversions. Following engagement, what actions did the campaign spur? Commonly consists of sales/orders, leads/emails, downloads, sweeps entries and other post-click activity.
  • Connections. How well did the campaign reach its target? What impressions were left? Measures reach, frequency, cross-site duplication, impressions delivered, site visits and more.
  • Opinions. How was the campaign perceived? What reactions were elicited? Can include brand studies, polls/surveys, ad recall, brand awareness, purchase intent, among other things.

Marketers and their partners must assign the right values and indicators to each ECCO element, but the framework provides an adaptable approach that can support a wide range of performance media campaigns and other social media programs. Whether just getting started or devising the next in a long line of effective performance marketing campaigns, marketers can lean on ECCO to hold Facebook campaigns accountable.