Slow Down to Go Faster, Marketers

Sometimes you have to slow down to go faster. Those wise words of wisdom don’t just apply to business strategy, they are highly applicable to marketing.

Sometimes you have to slow down to go faster.

Those wise words of wisdom don’t just apply to business strategy, they are highly applicable to marketing.

We live in an age of extreme digital addiction, consumers glued to digital devices every waking hour. As a result, marketers rush to buy up all of the digital channels they can to be present and steal mindshare from all of the other brands tweeting, posting, sharing and hoping to get attention, engagement and sales. Yet, the simple truth is that most brands can’t really tell if its working, if they are getting sales and they don’t really know if consumers are really focused on their messages, even when data analytics say they were.

The secret is quite clear: to create meaningful engagement with customers in ways that build brands for the moment, as fleeting as it is today, and brands for the long-term despite technological changes, brands must slow down in order to go faster. Faster toward securing meaningful, purposeful engagement that results in what matters most to brands, now, in the past and in the future – lifetime value.

As old-fashioned as it may seem, print is one of the best ways to do this. And one of the oldest forms of print at its best is the catalog. In 1845, Tiffany and Company put out the first mail order catalog in North America, which they called the “Blue Book.” Shortly after the most commonly known catalogs like Sears and JCPenney took hold and the American catalog industry took off. Yet with online stores taking off and minimizing the cost to entry the retail world, print started to die off. Fewer ads in magazines, fewer catalogs and eventually, for companies that dropped their catalogs, that  meant fewer sales. A lot fewer.

Here’s just one example:

In 2000, Lands’ End cut back on sending catalogs to consumers. The result was a mere drop in sales of $100 million.  When the company conducted a survey among its customers to see what happened, they discovered that 76 percent of their online customers reviewed their printed catalog before going online. (Research by Kurt Salmon)

Xerox has helped add even more life to catalogs by using its variable data printing machines to create personalized catalogs.  Like personalized direct mail which enables customers to see their names and transaction history in a letter written “just for them,” customers can now see their names and other personalized information references in a multipage catalog.

According to Shelley Sweeney, a VP/General Manager at Xerox, brands are seeing big increases in results.

Catalogs are re-surging, not just because they can be personalized, but because they appeal to some key psychological drivers that digital just can’t. We humans are tactile people. We seem to trust more, believe more, like more and act more when we can reach out and touch something or someone. When we hold a magazine in our hands, carry it in our bags, and feel it with our finger tips, we feel connected. And when those catalogs present stories about the products, about the people who use the products, about the lifestyle qualities, values and causes associated with those brands and products, we feel connected with brands with a veracity that is hard to get from the fleeting digital screen with all of its moving parts, pop up distractions and links to click.

Patagonia’s catalog is a great example. This epic catalog features products alongside stories from its ambassadors and customers, sharing their personal stories in ways that inspire passion and evoke bonds with the brand telling the story. They use world-class photography to showcase the lifestyle of those who love their brand. And people love the art, story and products in the catalogs to the point that it not only creates product sales, but another life of its own. You can now purchase a book called “Unexpected,” which features some of the best catalog photographs from over the years.

The Patagonia catalog is not a quick read. It’s not a fast project and it’s not about fast and furious sales. It’s about slowing down for a moment, to read, to touch, to ponder the life you want to live and can live with brands that provide you tips, ideas, inspiration, and connection with themselves and with others just like you.

Its just like Dmitri Siegel, executive creative director and vice president of e-commerce for Patagonia, says, according to a recent New York Times article.

“Catalogs are a way we’re speaking to our closest friends and people who know the brand really well.”

Catalogs, now commonly called “magalogs,” are critical tools that build connections like few other channels can. Some things just never go out of style and this form of communication is not heading that way fast. In fact, while catalogs might seem to some like taking a step backward, they are truly becoming one of the fastest steps forward. And all by slowing down to regroup on what we humans like most: tangible, credible communications about things that matter to me.

2017 Search Trends — No. 1, Faster Sites

Before turning the last page on the 2016 calendar and welcoming in 2017, I’d like to pause for a moment and look briefly at some important trends in organic search that will strongly impact search performance in 2017. These should not be mysterious hints of things to come, but rather strong signals — claxons, if you will.

faster seoBefore turning the last page on the 2016 calendar and welcoming in 2017, I’d like to pause for a moment and look briefly at some important trends in organic search that will strongly impact search performance in 2017. These should not be mysterious hints of things to come, but rather strong signals — claxons, if you will.

Faster Site Speed Is Now an Imperative

If you have not been working on improving your site speed, by 2017 you will be left in the slow lane and passed by sites that have taken on the challenges of improving end-to-end speed.

You might ask: Why is it so important now? Google has been nudging site owners to improve their sites for several years. They have offered tools for site speed measurement and guidelines for improvement. The search giant even announced that its algorithm would give a boost to faster pages. The boost proved to be minimal; so many site owners did not see it as an imperative. Besides, in many organizations site performance improvements are seen as the province of the technical team, not marketing. Now, a slow site will inhibit your ability to successfully execute other trendy initiatives.

Mobile Is First

In 2015, more searches were done on mobile devices than on desktops.

The trend to more mobile usage has not abated. Google noted the growing use of mobile and is now working on a mobile-first approach. Because more people see pages on a mobile device, Google will be indexing and ranking based on the content of the mobile pages.

Guess what? Slow sites deliver slow mobile pages, which users rapidly abandon. Some site owners chose to address the need for a mobile site by offering stripped-down versions of their sites. With the mobile-first imperative, these sites will be judged based on the content given on the mobile version, not their “full” sites.

Several years ago, Google began advocating for using responsive design for mobile sites. As we move into the future, responsive design will simply be table stakes for mobile search performance. With mobile-first, it is more than likely that even mobile-friendly, slower performing sites will be left in the search rankings dust.

Now, with accelerated mobile pages (AMP) expanding beyond news content, fast, lean pages are leaping to the forefront. Google is even identifying them in the search results so that users can choose these fast, lean pages for themselves. The number of AMP pages is expected to continue to grow in the future.

In 2017, not having a fast, mobile site will put you behind the curve.

Secure Is Better

Google continues to push for more secure sites. It has already been announced that in 2017, users of Google Chrome will see clear designations on the browser bar whenever they are visiting insecure pages.

Google intends to essentially shame sites into moving to secure environments. Because of the encryption, secure sites tend to be slower than insecure sites.

Once again, this cries out for a need to improve site speed.

If there is a single unifying theme that should drive organic search efforts in 2017, it can be summed up in this slogan: Get fast or get left behind.