Gamification: Game Playing? Or Game Changing?

Direct marketers have known for years that involvement devices in direct mail draw the reader in and often result in higher response rates. A couple of recent articles about “gamification” and the fact that the Super Bowl game is coming in a few days, got me to thinking about how direct marketers can seize the “gamification” phenomenon. Here are five ideas about how you can use our cultural obsession to play games to

Direct marketers have known for years that involvement devices in direct mail draw the reader in and often result in higher response rates. A couple of recent articles about “gamification,” and the fact that the Super Bowl game is coming in a few days, got me to thinking about how direct marketers can seize the “gamification” phenomenon. Here are five ideas about how you can use our cultural obsession to play games to boost response.

Two recent articles are worth noting for direct marketers. One article was about playing games. The other about gamification.

On one side of the coin, games are used to reduce stress by people who play on mobile devices. In this case, an eMarketer report said that 50 percent of mobile gamers spend up to 30 minutes daily playing games to reduce stress. Others use games to pass time.

On the other side of the coin, offices are using gamification to increase productivity, which reportedly increases stress. In office settings, gaming processes—gamification—engages users to solve problems that improve user engagement, ROI, data quality, timeliness and learning. An article in the Wall Street Journal titled “The ‘Gamification’ of the Office Approaches” noted how productivity inside offices can be tracked and measured in points, fostering competitiveness and excellence.

Gaming is all around us. Millions scratch off lottery tickets or pick random numbers, and casinos are often packed.

In a few days, the biggest football game of the year—the Super Bowl—will be played with millions watching, and a lot of money wagered, as it becomes a national obsession for several days.

Let’s face it: We’re a culture who loves to play games and keep score.

For direct marketers, we can use our cultural obsession with games for a marketing advantage to increase response.

Whether you use offline direct mail with tokens or other involvement devices, or online channels, gaming techniques that are vetted as being legal, can be a good way to perk up your results.

Here are five ideas:

  1. In direct mail, if you mail your prospects or customers frequently, add a game that builds over time for purpose, more interaction and anticipation of your mailing.
  2. For any channel you’re in, use games to create customer loyalty so your buyers return again and again.
  3. In social media, check-ins and badges using mobile apps are like games, and they get your name in front of the friends of your fans.
  4. Encourage people to play a game that requires completing surveys and gives information about themselves for use in nurture marketing programs.
  5. Let your prospects and customers track their game scores, but as a direct marketer using sophisticated marketing automation software, you can turn the tables and score your customers to determine who is most likely to come back and buy again.

Finally, if you’re stumped with generating ideas, get your staff together and play games to get the ideas swirling. Ideation meetings that include games often bring out unexpected creative ideas.

Bottom line, use the principles of gamification to reinvent and re-energize your direct marketing approach. By becoming familiar with gamification techniques now, you or your staff may identify the next big sales game changer.

Copywriting for Social Media Marketing: 3 Best Practices for 2014

Effective copywriting for social media marketing was the game changer in 2013. Still trying to prove ROI on social media? Make 2014 the year you stop obsessing over measuring trivial stats—and start generating leads with social media. Do it without sacrificing brand integrity or annoying prospects. Use these three, proven social media copywriting best practices.

Effective copywriting for social media marketing was the game changer in 2013. Still trying to prove ROI on social media? Make 2014 the year you stop obsessing over measuring trivial stats—and start generating leads with social media. Do it without sacrificing brand integrity or annoying prospects.

Use these three, proven social media copywriting best practices.

Yes, You CAN Sell on Social Media
“People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it,” said George Bernard Shaw. He’s right.

Effective social media and content marketing attracts, engages and takes customers on journeys to better places—where they decide how, when and were to get there. Effective copywriting for social media powers each stage of the “attract, engage, nurture” process.

Effective copywriting for social media is all about helping customers:

  • believe there is a better way (via your short-form social comments)
  • realize they just found part of it (on your longer-form blog) and
  • act—taking a first step toward what they want (giving you a lead)

Best Practice No. 1: Re-think the Role of Your Blog
“Gating” your best knowledge and tips is less and less effective each year. For example, buyers are becoming more likely to offer fake or “un-attended” email addresses in exchange for your whitepaper. What’s the answer? Long-er form content that proves you are worth a real relationship to the buyer.

According to sources like InfusionSoft (and my own experience!) buyers are registering less and less. Why? Because competitors are increasingly giving-away their best knowledge. Where?

Blogs.

We cannot keep forcing readers to give up their contact and purchase intent details in exchange for our content marketing assets. So my first social media copywriting best practice for you is strategic.

Becoming a better social media copywriter starts with the right strategy.

Converting readers to leads demands the best copywriting on social platforms plus effectively written, long-form content. Your best tips, tricks and advice that helps customers achieve a desired goal, avoid a risk or solve a problem.

Your blog is the content marketing hub. It is where your short-form social media copywriting directs prospects. Facebook and Google+ updates. LinkedIn group discussions, status updates, company page posts, your LinkedIn profile call to action.

Social media drives visitors to blog content that proves you’re worth a real email address!

Best Practice No. 2: Follow a Process, Not Just Passion
Don’t get caught up in the “show you’re human” and “tell a good story” nonsense. Having personality and being interesting is the entry fee. It’s essential. The force multiplier is an effective copywriting for social media process.

Start here. Write a solution (answer) to a problem (question) your target market needs solved on your blog. Follow these guidelines to make sure your words get acted on-prospects see your call to action and ACT on it.

1. Get right to-the-point
When you write be like a laser. Don’t make readers wait for the solution. Hit ’em with it in the first paragraph. Give them everything up front at a high level. Then, in the body of your article …

2. Reveal slowly
When it comes to all the juicy details of your remedy take it slow. Slow enough to encourage more questions—to create curiosity in the total solution. When you do this, make sure you …

3. Provoke response by leveraging the curiosity you just created
Yes, be action-oriented and specific. But avoid being so complete in your blog, LinkedIn or Google+ post that readers become totally satisfied with your words.

Remember to:

  • start with customers pains, goals, fears, ambitions or cravings in mind … and …
  • structure blog posts to teach, guide or answer in ways that …
  • create hunger for more of what we have to offer (a lead generation offer).

Focus on following this structure. Form the habit. You can do it!

Best Practice No. 3: Get back to basics
I know it sounds trite, but hear me out. There is one copywriting tip (habit) that consistently produces new business using social media. It’s an old direct response marketing rule.

Give customers a clear, compelling reason to act immediately—resolve, experience or improve something important to them.

This is why your blog is so critical.

At the most basic level, customers need help:

  • believing there is a better way
  • realizing they just found it (on your blog) and
  • acting-taking a first step toward what they want (giving you a lead)

Blog or video content that makes customers respond does one thing really well: It answers questions in ways that makes potential buyers think, “Yes, yes, YES … I can take action on that. That will probably create results for me. Now, how can I get my hands on more of those kinds of insights/tips?”

This is the key to using a blog to sell. This simple idea is the difference between blogging for sales and starving! Make it your goal. Good luck in 2014.

Facebook’s Timeline for Brands: A Facebook Performance Opportunity

Facebook’s new Timeline for Brands enables marketers to foster engagement with participants. This engagement can equal Facebook performance. Brands can separate themselves from the competition by using real-time Facebook engagement data and insights to optimize their brand pages for performance.  

Facebook recently announced the launch of Facebook Timeline for Brands, or new profile pages for brands on the social networking site. New features of brand pages include the following:

  • pages are much more visual as brands have the opportunity to use large cover photos and videos to promote themselves;
  • brands can now prominently feature their most important tabs at the top of their pages;
  • brands can pin key posts to the top of their pages for up to seven days (i.e., they can highlight important posts for a longer time period); and
  • similar to Twitter, brands can privately message fans (and vice versa), helping Facebook become a more powerful customer service tool

The new pages are the hub for your brand on Facebook. All of your brand’s Facebook activities, ads and posts originate from your brand page. The brand page is also the key place for you and your fans to communicate, enabling you to foster stronger customer relationships.

Brands now have a platform on Facebook for complete experience optimization — i.e., engaging participants through sights, sounds, words, interactions, ads, games and apps, all in one easy-to-find place. Facebook noted that it wants Timeline for Brands to bring back the relationship between the customer and shopkeeper. The updated brand pages provide a platform for brands to engage with customers on a more personal and relevant level than probably any other platform, including the brand’s own website.

The same day Facebook launched Timeline for Brands, it also announced its new real-time Page Insights. Real-time insights are a game changer as marketers used to have to wait 48 hours for Facebook data.

Facebook Product Manager David Baser recently talked to AdAge about what real-time insights means for brands seeking performance through Facebook pages. Baser maintained that engagement can equal performance if brands are able to leverage real-time participant data to quickly optimize brand pages. For instance, if a brand knows that a certain post is driving a significant number of likes, comments or shares, that brand can quickly pin that post to the top of its brand page.

The new brand pages and real-time insights give brands the opportunity to understand how well they’re interacting with their users and how responsive customers are to the brand. These engagement metrics don’t necessarily directly equate to performance (i.e., sales and leads), but they can help a brand understand its ability to increase the likelihood of performance — e.g., conversions, new customers, improved customer loyalty and increased average order size.

The like button isn’t the only Facebook engagement metric of interest to marketers. Facebook also now reports on various engagement metrics centered on actions. These include the “People Talking About This” metric, which incorporates likes, comments, shares, tags, check-ins and event RSVPs, and the “Engaged Users” metric, which incorporates clicks on links, photos and video views. Performance marketers are focused on collecting and analyzing this engagement data to inform brand page content, make real-time brand page optimization decisions and increase the chance of performance. Brands should consider the following when analyzing their Facebook marketing strategy:

  1. Test specific posts (videos, polls, etc.) around new products, promotions and events.
  2. Collect engagement data.
  3. Measure changes in customer behavior (e.g., sales, leads, new-to-file customers, order size, etc.) based on the data.

Facebook’s new Timeline for Brands enables marketers to foster engagement with participants. This engagement can equal Facebook performance. Brands can separate themselves from the competition by using real-time Facebook engagement data and insights to optimize their brand pages for performance.

A Look at Facebook’s Premium Ads

Last week Facebook officially announced its new premium ads at the fMC confab, its marketing conference. While there were several announcements, including Timeline for brand pages, the most relevant one for this column was the official launch of the social media platform’s new premium ad units.

Last week Facebook officially announced its new premium ads at the fMC confab, its marketing conference. While there were several announcements, including Timeline for brand pages, the most relevant one for this column was the official launch of the social media platform’s new premium ad units.

The new units put a brand’s page and relevant posts in front of the right audience and amplify its relevance and trust with “social context” by including an individual’s connections who also “Like” the brand. Based on internal Facebook testing, premium ads are 80 percent more likely to be remembered, drive 40 percent higher engagement and significantly increase purchase intent.

Aside from the obvious lift in performance, what makes the launch of premium ads so significant and what should marketers do to maximize this opportunity?

First and foremost, premium ads are a potential game changer. They combine the strengths of Facebook (connections, conversations and community) with the triad of marketing disciplines (paid, earned and owned media). As a result, they should be extremely popular with marketers interested in taking the conversation to potential fans. In addition, premium ads will play a role in potentially helping Facebook to maintain and grow its lead as the top U.S. display advertising company.

Premium ads are spouting a wave of new startups, which is great for the industry and economy. Forbes recently highlighted several social media players scrambling to support premium ads. While their approaches differ with various buy, build or partner strategies, activity is significant, as illustrated by the following:

For marketers interested in leveraging Facebook advertising to grow their community, the game plan is relatively straightforward: prep for a test; review and identify potential conversations to feature; and partner with a solution provider who can help you optimize the most valuable and engaging content to feature.

In addition, look to add retargeting tags into the mix. Premium ads are all about leveraging your social posts and social context to drive acquisition and encourage engagement. Adding a retargeting strategy is the perfect complement to help seal the deal and ultimately understand conversion and attribution for your efforts.

Will premium ads be a game changer and keep Facebook on top? If the emergence of new solutions together with the promise of combining paid, earned and owned media with a double-digit lift in performance is any indication, the answer is yes.

The Mobile Nexus—If You’re a Marketer, Be Prepared to Live or Die By It

It’s no secret that the mobile channel is exploding in our lives. Unless you’ve recently been living under a rock, you’ve undoubtedly come across some jaw-dropping stats on mobile usage. Here’s a couple more to chew on. According to a recent article in Mobile Commerce Daily, mobile retail dollars doubled between April and December 2011 alone. That’s just eight months! And, Mobithinking.com reports that approximately 25 percent of Americans access the Web only on their mobile devices. Kowabunga!

It’s no secret that the mobile channel is exploding in our lives. Unless you’ve recently been living under a rock, you’ve undoubtedly come across some jaw-dropping stats on mobile usage. Here’s a couple more to chew on. According to a recent article in Mobile Commerce Daily, mobile retail dollars doubled between April and December 2011 alone. That’s just eight months! And, Mobithinking.com reports that approximately 25 percent of Americans access the Web only on their mobile devices. Kowabunga!

Many marketers refer to the mobile device as the Third Screen, after the television and personal computer. In this post, I’m going to propose a bold new idea here about the Third Screen, and why recent technological advances mean this exciting new channel is going to change our lives in ways we cannot possibly fathom today. This idea is predicated on the fact that in its new form, mobile essentially presents us with an entirely new paradigm in not only the way individuals interact with technology, but also how companies engage with and market to individuals. Let me explain.

Remember in the movie Minority Report, starring Tom Cruise, in which stores changed their signage when you entered, using your profile data to create a custom experience? Well, to a certain extent, that’s what’s possible now with mobile. Using location services, you see, mobile knows exactly where you are. Not where you live. Not where you’ve been. Where you are right now. It’s effectively marrying your personal profile to your geographic location. But that’s not all. Mobile also connects you seamlessly to your social networks—friends, followers, networks, reviews, blogs posts, etc. This provides a truly three-dimensional user experience. I call it the Mobile Nexus.

The Mobile Nexus is the intersection of three major elements in our lives—Personal Attributes (your demographic and psychographic profile), Geographic Location and Social Media. In theory, this confluence should enable marketers to craft marketing messages and personalized promotions based not only on who you are, but where you are, while at the same time giving users the ability to interact with your various social media networks to get more information, invite friends, share opinions, post reviews, and so on. The possibilities are simply staggering.

Sure, one could argue that mobile phones have been around for a while. But it was the recent emergence of the smartphone connected to the Internet and enabled with location services that, in my opinion, at least, changed the rules of the game for marketers. And although smartphones only came on the scene a few years ago, they’re gaining traction fast. In fact, according to MediaPost, smartphone penetration in the US is currently at 44 percent. What’s more, Mobile Marketing Watch reports that, as we speak, an astounding 75 percent of all new mobile phone contract subscribers are for smartphones. So count on the number of devices in the marketplace to skyrocket in coming months as old contracts expire. Can you say, “game changer”?

Of course, anyone familiar with the interactive marketing world could easily argue that geographic profiling is nothing new. Yes, it’s true that many websites and pretty much all ad serving networks drive personalized Web content based on IP address location. But, location services takes geo-targeting to an entirely new place, by providing real-time dynamic location data while you go about your day—not where your computer happens to be plugged into the Internet.

Turning to the social media component, if you look at current usage stats, you begin to appreciate its pervasiveness in our lives and why it’s playing such a big role in the mobile channel. Facebook has 600 million users. Twitter has 175 million. Meanwhile, 10 million foursquare members “check in” at more than three million locations a day, and consumers have posted more than 20 million business reviews on Yelp, and counting. So the numbers are eye-popping. Now with smartphones becoming the norm, accessing social media on the go is becoming mainstream, too.

Hype aside, let’s not forget that the mobile channel is still in its infancy and it will need much more time to reach maturity. At this early stage, enterprising firms are only now releasing the first generation of tools, while innovative agencies and consultants concoct new techniques to harness its power for business. In fact, we can see the preliminary results of the Mobile Nexus already.

Want to go out to eat? How about searching for a local restaurant nearby using your mobile device? Then use an app like Yelp and it’s not hard generate a list of nearby places, based on your preferences, along with user-generated reviews, hours of business, contact details, etc. Are you a traveling salesman in need of some fresh leads to visit? Well, install the Hoover’s “Near Here” App and, voila, you can search for look-alike businesses in the surrounding area based on proximity and business type. And if technology like this already exists, imagine what the future will hold?

“Those who call themselves ‘Mobile Experts’ only have two to three years of experience in the field,” explained a friend of mine who works as a consultant at a major management consulting firm. He and his team develop multi-channel sales and marketing strategies for their clients. With the recent proliferation of mobile technology, it should come as no surprise that many, if not all, of their new projects have a mobile component.

At this point, even the most experienced consultants have overseen no more than a handful of mobile implementations, and successful mobile marketers probably have no more than a dozen successful campaigns under their belts. “But things are changing so fast. Those who jump in now will be able to call themselves experts within a year’s time,” he explained. In other words, the best is yet to come.

Are you getting involved in the exciting new Mobile channel? If so, what success have you enjoyed? I’d love to hear your comments.