The Keys to Customer Success

How far are you willing to go to make sure your customers are successful with your products or services? It’s a different way of looking at marketing, but it’s essential to building strong relationships and repeat business.

How far are you willing to go to make sure your customers are successful with your products or services?

It’s a different way of looking at marketing, but it’s essential to building strong relationships and repeat business.

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Customer Success? Not Don Draper’s Problem

Traditionally, marketers are focused on convincing customers to believe something, and it’s almost always an idea that will help sell the product.

It’s the part where Don Draper gets up, takes a slug of whiskey and says, “It’s not a slide projector, it’s a time machine.”

Then Don walks away, content knowing that once someone buys the product, whether or not they are successful in “time traveling,” it is 10,000% not his problem.Don Draper Doesnt Care About Customer Success

Only it is your problem, because if your customer is not able to use your product or solution successfully, they’re not likely to buy again, or say good things about the product to other potential buyers.

That makes customer failure a silent killer of lifetime value.

And it’s a difficult problem to address because the issue is often less about your product and more about your customer’s understanding of how to use it.

If you sell someone software to, say, do their own taxes, and they’re happy with the software but in the end they still aren’t able to do their own taxes, next time they’re not going to buy the software, they’re just going to go to an accountant.

Beyond Satisfaction

This isn’t about customer satisfaction. Customers can be satisfied that they got what they paid for, even if they aren’t able to use it successfully.

Yes, I am saying your customers may not be competent to use your solutions. The question is, what do you do about that?

How far are you willing to go to ensure customer success?

Calling All College Students

We need the ideas and passion of college students interested in online marketing to keep our industry energized and growing. But judging by the many smart and capable students and grads we have been privileged to connect with over the years, your coursework has failed to adequately prepare you for the future you envision.

college studentIf you are considering a career in online marketing,  I applaud you.

We need your ideas and passion to keep our industry energized and growing. But judging by the many smart and capable students and grads we have been privileged to connect with over the years, your coursework has failed to adequately prepare you for the future you envision. And the industry is poorer for it.

Our educational institutions are starting to catch up with dedicated, digitally focused coursework and industry practitioners to help keep it real, but the ivory tower alone won’t sufficiently groom you for success. You will need to take your future into your own hands and look outside your required classes to set the stage for your professional trajectory.

In many ways, an entrepreneurial approach is excellent preparation for a digital career. Digital marketers are, of necessity, multi-faceted and in a constant state of change that favors the nimble and prepared. A solid set of core skills, a deep understanding of consumer behaviors online, demonstrated passion for this industry and the right attitude are infinitely more valuable than even specific experience that may soon be obsolete and can help prepare you to chart your own future and that of this industry.

Core Skills

In addition to learning the marketing basics be sure to come to your first job with the following hard, soft (and somewhere in-between) skill sets.

Data Acuity. The days of math-challenged or tech-avoidance students in marketing careers are long, long gone. As a start, get comfortable in spread sheets including more advanced skills like pivot tables and macros. Learn to read and manipulate data tables but use statistics and other analytics skills and programs to extract meaning that can be used for decision making. Know the difference between data and information.

Programming. You don’t need to be a professional coder but you do need to understand how bits and bytes work. Experiment with your own simple site to learn the basics of HTML.

Writing. Communicating in all channels and modes is a critical skill set for any professional and great communicators have a substantial advantage in any marketplace at any level. This extends to public speaking so work on your confident presentation by offering to deliver class projects or results in front of both small and larger audiences.

Perspective

Broaden your horizons with disciplines that will give you insights into human behavior and psyche. Behavioral economics, psychology and literature, among other disciplines, will advance your understanding of human decision making and make you a stronger marketer.

Go global. Our world is shrinking so understanding how others view and interact with the world beyond documented, aggregated buying behaviors is a plus. If you have the opportunity to study or travel abroad don’t pass it up. Foreign language skills will also differentiate you.

It’s also important that you don’t believe that your current set of college age, college educated friends represents the totality of even the US population. Get out of your bubble and get to know the broader population through travel, hobbies, activism or other means.

Entrepreneurism

Entrepreneurs seem to have the right DNA to succeed in the online marketing industry amid the demands of constant reinvention. Regardless of the type of business, show us that you have the desire and capacity to try to build something. Even better if you had to team with others as this will demonstrate your ability to collaborate and problem solve. If you have not built a business on any scale, show how you have responded quickly and successfully to changing circumstance.

Industry Passion

For online marketing, learning is about participating — not just hearing or reading — so you need to be a student of the industry. Demonstrate your interest by finding industry internships, following industry publications and staying current with major news, trends and releases. Use your social channels, personal site or other online avenues to present your POV or participate in the industry discussion.

Jump at opportunities like the Google Online Marketing Challenge or other student competitions to get some hands on experience in building plans and launching, optimizing and measuring campaigns.

Ask for student discounted or even free admittance to industry events when they come to your town and use the time to steep yourself in the industry and also network for contacts. Local ad clubs or the like often have student memberships or events that provide access to local professionals for industry mentorship.

To succeed in a digital marketing career you need more than what your school offers and a fair amount of personal commitment. Layer academic theory with some practical exposure and the right combination of skills and attitude to become a sought-after addition to any online marketing team. And should you decide to take a different career track you will still be empowered with an impressive and marketable skill set that most any employer would covet. Good luck!

Opportunities Abound for Learning SEO Today

As the dog days of summer yield to the beginnings of fall, schools reopen and my mind turns to the classroom and thoughts on education and learning. I recently considered how the education and training of search marketers, particularly those of us who are SEO practitioners, has evolved.

As the dog days of summer yield to the beginnings of fall, schools reopen and my mind turns to the classroom and thoughts on education and learning. I recently considered how the education and training of search marketers, particularly those of us who are SEO practitioners, has evolved. In the early 1990s when the Web was young, there were no established “best practices,” no body of knowledge to consult, and many more search engines to target with each vying for the supremacy now won by Google. In this environment, early search marketers essentially made it up as they went. There was a lot of experimentation, and numerous strategies and tactics both good and bad were developed and employed. Some were later decried; others became the basis of today’s best practices. SEOs learned from each other. Online publications and conferences like SES and PubCon were the lifeline for practitioners wanting to learn from their peers.

There were no colleges and universities teaching search engine marketing. These came later as digital marketing became a legitimate discipline, and search became a vital component of any digital marketing plan. The learning opportunities for SEO also grew hand-in-hand with the demand for skilled practitioners. Today, there exists a dizzying array of educational opportunities for those wanting to enter or segue into search and other areas of digital marketing. As a seasoned practitioner, read old-timer, I am sometimes asked: “Do I need actual training to be a search marketer?” Most who ask this question assume that because I never took any specialized training that I will suggest a do-it-yourself approach. On the contrary, an organized, well-thought out curriculum would have offered me a nice jump-start.

If I make the point that training is necessary, then the follow-up question is the difficult one: “Where, how and what should I take to become a search marketer?” As a former educator, I am convinced that there is no one-size-fits-all approach for education or training. Today, with so many educational opportunities available, the would-be SEO can easily find just the right level of training that will be needed to gain entrance or advancement. It is a matter of shopping and matching current skills and knowledge with desired skills and knowledge.

SEO Calls for Lifetime Learning
With search, as with any technology-based discipline, the learning never ends. Even after two decades, I find myself still studying and learning. As a matter of course, I set aside roughly six to eight hours per week for continuous learning. Yes! There is that much to learn and absorb in search. Today, I still rely on do-it-yourself learning to enhance my personal storehouse of knowledge. I doubt that I will ever stop seeking new information and learning. One example should suffice as to why I believe this to be true. Search marketing is deeply tied to marketing and the study of human behavior. A few short years ago, no one shopped online or used a mobile device for search. Today, online shopping and mobile e-commerce are familiar watchwords. As we adapt and interact with new technologies, so too must the search marketer learn how to respond. This means that anyone coming into search must be prepared to be a lifelong learner and a keen observer of human behavior. Maybe like this seasoned SEO, you too watch the season change and find your thoughts turning to how you might enhance your knowledge of the fascinating discipline of search.

The ‘Sustainability’ of Giving Back: How Marketers Look After Their Own

Sustainability in business is often referred to as “the triple bottom line”—financial, environmental and social. This past week, I had the opportunity to see firsthand how we—as marketers—address social sustainability, specifically our fostering of human resources and marketing talent. It is a critical need

Sustainability in business is often referred to as “the triple bottom line”—financial, environmental and social.

This past week, I had the opportunity to see firsthand how we—as marketers—address social sustainability, specifically our fostering of human resources and marketing talent. It is a critical need.

First, we had the Marketing EDGE Annual Awards Dinner. Nearly 250 marketing leaders gathered to honor two recipients for Marketing EDGE’s two most prestigious education leadership awards: Michael Becker, co-founder and managing partner North America, mCordis, as the 2014 Edward N. Mayer, Jr. Education Leadership Award honoree; and Google as the 2014 Corporate Leadership Award designate.

Many of the emcees of the evening, uniquely, were alumni of Marketing EDGE programs (Marketing EDGE engages thousands of students and professors every year). Altogether, the evening generated not only hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarship monies, but also mini-testimonials from students and young professionals including one individual who confessed he almost became a Eurobond trader until he was engaged in a Marketing EDGE program. He described himself as an “accidental marketer.”

Think about the term, “accidental marketer.” Today’s generation of students and “market-ready” career entrants are increasingly marketing educated, and even direct and interactive marketing educated, armed with internships and professional experiences the moment they reach the marketplace. Marketing EDGE programs alone touched more than 5,000 students last year—and 6,000 are anticipated for 2015. Many are marketing majors, while others are in STEM fields, creative and other disciplines, but with exposure to marketing curricula and some marketing experience.

Compare that to 20—even 10—years ago. This business was built largely by “accidental marketers” who found a home in measurable, accountable direct, interactive and data-driven marketing, and found entrepreneurial opportunities in our field. We did OK, even spectacularly, but our successes have only made the appetite for top talent grow more ravenous. Thus, the more we “give” to marketing education today—in donated time and money, in adjunct teaching, in internships, and in involvement with colleges, universities and “bridges” such as Marketing EDGE—the better chance we have to attract the best and brightest to our field, and to our companies. Giving back pays immediate dividends. (Don’t forget #GivingTuesday is December 2!)

During the Direct Marketing Association 2014 Strategic Summit, we heard from a panel on what it takes to bring along “The Next Generation of Marketing Talent.” Representatives from IBM, Javelin Marketing Group, Marketing EDGE and University of Georgia talked about the need for flexibility, mentoring, culture and social responsibility as motivators to today’s students and career entrants. Young professionals crave guidance, and likewise to understand their role in the big picture of community (in marketing, the business overall, the end-user, the industry, the world). One might say these attributes motivate everyone, but they are particularly important to digital natives and Millennials who want to start their careers as contributors and difference makers. How much better to have these new and young professionals matched with mentors, by default or design, to bring clarity to such contributions.

Which brings me to a third event, the Direct Marketing Club of New York’s 30th Annual Silver Apples Gala, honoring seven individuals (Brian Fetherstonhaugh, chairman & chief executive officer, OgilvyOne Worldwide; Timothy Kennon, president & owner, McVicker & Higginbotham, Inc.; Pamela Maphis Larrick, CEO, Omnicom’s Javelin Marketing Group; Thomas “Tim” Litle, founder & chairman, Litle & Co.; Lon Mandel, president, SMS Marketing Services; Debbie Roth, vice president of sales, Japs-Olson Company; and Dawn Zier, president & chief executive officer, Nutrisystem; and one corporate honoree (Fosina Marketing Group) who have contributed a quarter century (or more) to the direct marketing discipline, through demonstrable professional success, and a giving of time and effort to promote the goals of DMCNY which incorporates education and to foster growth of the field.

All during the evening, honorees recalled having mentors, being mentors to others, and having the clarity of marketing goals and measurement to achieve marketing success. They also spoke of community—where ideas are freely explored and exchanged, the good, the bad and the not-so-pretty (testing and lifelong learning)—as being part of the key to not only professional success, but also a deep sense of personal and professional fulfillment.

We are a community—and one I’m thankful for everyday in my own accidental career. It’s always time to give back and mentor.

How to Generate Leads With Education Marketing

If you’re into content marketing these days, then you probably know a bit about using education to generate leads. But what makes an educational marketing approach actually work?  How can you be sure educating clients will ultimately generate leads worth following up? Today, I’m profiling Hubspot, B-to-B company that’s making social media sell and following the principles I preach in each of my columns.

If you’re into content marketing these days, then you probably know a bit about using education to generate leads. But what makes an educational marketing approach actually work? How can you be sure educating clients will ultimately generate leads worth following up? Today, I’m profiling HubSpot, a B-to-B company that’s making social media sell and following the principles I preach in each of my columns.

What Is Education Marketing?
The main idea here is to show, not tell, customers that investing in your product or service is worth every penny. But to be successful you’ve got to be willing to prove it for free, up front, by giving your customer a small but meaningful “win” right out of the gate, free. Why is this important?

When customers experience a success, no matter how small, they gain confidence in themselves (that they can reach the ultimate goal—one that relates to the itch your product scratches!) and at the same time trust of the educator (you). This confidence-plus-trust formula builds trust and persuades prospects that your paid product might just be worth it by giving them results in advance. Yet there’s more.

Education removes the “sales barrier” by transforming your product from a transactional consideration to an obvious “next step” in a problem solving sequence (the path to purchase). It all but removes the need to prove or persuade customers of your product’s effectiveness. You’ve already given an actual result in advance so why wouldn’t the product do the same?

Case in Point: HubSpot
HubSpot serves customers that are sales-focused online marketers of B-to-B and B-to-C goods and services. They’re probably a lot like you: everyday business people who need a better way to manage sales leads. No surprise, HubSpot sells a suite of software tools that helps them do that.

As a way to create sales leads for itself, HubSpot offers various “toolboxes” that solve common problems. Think of them as easy-to-use, educational utilities that can be quite addictive. How so? Well, it’s how HubSpot designs these tools empower customers with knowledge—practical information they can use to grow their business.

HubSpot’s free Web Site Grader tool allows a business owner to instantly understand how well their Web site stacks up against others. The Grader passes critical judgment on criteria like how many inbound links are coming into the site or how many of the site’s pages Google has included in its index.Yet HubSpot’s tool wisely scores qualitative Web site aspects too. It gives valuable, actionable feedback to site owners on things like readability level. It scores the Web site’s content … in terms of its ability to effectively communicate messages to target markets.

The best part of all is that the Grader’s scores are designed to induce more questions and expressions of need from the user. It is designed to help customers self-select themselves as business leads for HubSpot’s software product.

Behavioral Targeting Industry Needs Further Delineation

I received an interesting press release the other day from ValueClick Media that recapped a recent behavioral targeting panel that took the stage at the Hard Rock Hotel in Chicago.

The panel featured an industry analyst (David Hallerman, senior analyst, eMarketer), a behavioral targeting product expert (Joshua Koran, vice president, targeting and optimization, ValueClick, Inc.), a brand marketer (Julian Chu, Director of Acquisition Marketing, Discover) and an interactive agency executive (Sam Wehrs, Digital Activation Director, Starcom).
 

I received an interesting press release the other day from ValueClick Media that recapped a recent behavioral targeting panel that took the stage at the Hard Rock Hotel in Chicago.

The panel featured an industry analyst (David Hallerman, senior analyst, eMarketer), a behavioral targeting product expert (Joshua Koran, vice president, targeting and optimization, ValueClick, Inc.), a brand marketer (Julian Chu, Director of Acquisition Marketing, Discover) and an interactive agency executive (Sam Wehrs, Digital Activation Director, Starcom).

What I found most interesting about the release was that fact the group discussed and agreed on the need for delineation between the different approaches to behavioral targeting.

“While it is important to understand the difference between retargeting – which Hallerman referred to as “reactive” – and the more complex models, the panel agreed it is also critical to understand the differences within the more sophisticated group of behavioral targeting approaches, and Joshua Koran shared three designations: “clustering,” “custom business rules” and “predictive attributes,” the release said.

The “clustering” approach assigns each visitor to one and only one segment while the “custom business rules” approach offers marketers the ability to target visitors who have done X events in Y days, with Boolean operators of “and.” “or,” and “not.” Finally, the “predictive attributes” approach automates the assignment of interest categories based on the visitor activities that best correlate with performance; thus, the system is continuously learning to identify multiple interest attributes per visitor.

Another notable takeaway was the need for a focus on the customer experience and the corresponding importance of demonstrating value to customers when serving behaviorally targeted ads.

According to the release Julian Chu offered three questions marketers must address to make behavioral targeting a valuable experience for customers instead of merely serving the ads, which would unavoidably become customer annoyance: How are you going to do it? Where is it going to happen? What is going to happen at that time?

Presented as part of ValueClick Media’s ongoing Media Lounge education event series, this event – The Changing Behavioral Targeting Landscape – as well as the discussion itself underscored the importance of education relative to this increasingly important online advertising technique.

Food for thought!