Great Marketing Starts With Powerful Insights: Here Are 5 Rules to Find Them

All inspiring marketing rests on a powerful, catalyzing insight. Most marketing misfires stem from a miscue masquerading as an insight. As the starting point for any innovation, communication or experience effort, nothing is more foundationally critical than a sound insight for staying on-target as work progresses.

All inspiring marketing rests on a powerful, catalyzing insight. Most marketing misfires stem from a miscue masquerading as an insight. As the starting point for any innovation, communication or experience effort, nothing is more foundationally critical than a sound insight for staying on-target as work progresses.

If an insight is even two degrees off at the start, by the time you’re reviewing work weeks or months down the road, you’ll likely be miles off the mark. So getting the insight right from the outset is essential to developing resonant marketing and avoiding the agony of round after round of unproductive work.

As a recent case in point, we have two examples of brands that tried to take on the issue of the polarized, strident state of our social reality: Pepsi and Heineken.

With its Kendall Jenner ad, Pepsi showed the quasi-celebrity resolving social crisis by opening a can of cola.

https://youtu.be/dA5Yq1DLSmQ

In World’s Apart, Heineken showcased pairs of people with wildly divergent views discovering they could talk calmly and reasonably to each other.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8wYXw4K0A3g

The Pepsi work was instantly and universally panned, leading to its embarrassing and equally instant withdrawal. The Heineken work was widely viewed as thought-provoking, moving and appropriate.

While it’s easy to pick on a variety of issues with the Pepsi ad (as so many have done at this point), I believe that the difference in the success of the two efforts comes down to the difference between how well the two brands adhered to what I consider these cardinal rules of good insights.

1. No Room for Wishful Thinking

One of the worst — and most common — sins of insights is allowing wishful thinking to creep into the mix. I shudder to think how many times I’ve sat with a brand manager who showed me a positioning statement containing an insight along the lines of, “I wish there were a breakfast cereal that was healthy AND tasted good.” This is an insight pre-engineered to invite the circular brand promise, “Only Toasty-O’s are healthy AND good tasting!” You’ve got to tune your BS meter to 11, rigorously sniff out any trace of self-delusion, strategy or aspiration, and stick to reality.

Creating a One-Word Brand Statement

What do your customers think of when they see your organization name and logo? Your public image is important and should be up-to-date and fresh, especially during times of swift technology, cultural changes, and new generations. Every organization should go through a periodic review of how it is viewed and how it wants to be viewed by customers, donors and prospects.

What do your customers think of when they see your organization’s name and logo? Your public image is important and should be up-to-date and fresh, especially during times of swift technology, cultural changes, and new generations. Every organization should go through a periodic review of how it is viewed and how it wants to be viewed by customers, donors and prospects.

While sitting in an organization’s Board of Directors meeting last month, the topic came up of the desire to create a new logo. It had been the 1990s when it was last updated, and at that, it still had visual remnants of a decidedly 1970s feel. It was agreed a new logo should be developed, but it was also agreed that before going too far, a branding statement should be created to guide along the process more efficiently and result in a better outcome.

If you’re like many organizations, you might not have a branding statement. This isn’t to be confused with a mission statement (which can too often be filled with empty language that rings hollow to customers and staff).

A branding statement is a marketing tool. It reflects your organization’s reputation: what you are known for, or would like to be known for. It articulates how you stand apart from competitors. A branding statement is often written by individuals to define and enhance their own careers. If that’s of interest to you, adapt these steps and you can be on your way to creating your personal branding statement.

Today we launch into steps you can take to freshen your organization’s brand and image. This first installment will lay out five research and brainstorming steps to distill your image down to a single word. My next blog post, published in a couple of weeks, will focus on how to succinctly state your logical and emotional promise, both of which must be formulated in order to create a hard-working branding statement for your organization.

  1. Audience Research:
    Are you confident you accurately know the demographics, psychographics, and purchase behavior of your audience? If you’ve recently profiled or modeled your customers, then you probably have a good grasp of who they are. But if it’s been a year or longer, a profile is affordable and will yield a tremendous wealth of information about your customers. Demographics (age, income, education, etc.) are a good foundation. Knowing psychographics (personality, values, opinions, attitudes, interests, and lifestyles) takes you further. And knowing categories of purchase behavior enables you to drill down even further.
  2. Competitive Analysis:
    You can’t completely construct your own brand identity without understanding how your competitors position themselves. A competitive analysis can be conducted along two lines of inquiry: offline, such as direct mail and other print materials, along with what you can learn online. If you have print samples, you can discern much about a competitor’s marketing message. But you may not be able to pin down demographics, psychographics, and purchase behavior by looking at a direct mail package. There are a number of tools you can use online to deliver insights about your competition. Here are a few:
    • Compete.com offers detailed traffic data so you can compare your site to other sites. You can also get keyword data, demographics, and more.
    • Alexa.com provides SEO audits, engagement, reputation metrics, demographics, and more.
    • Quantcast.com enables you to compare the demographics of who comes to your site versus your competitors. You’ll be shown an index of how a website performs compared to the internet average. You’ll get statistics on attributes such as age, presence of children, income, education, and ethnicity.
  3. Interpretation and Insight:
    Now that you’ve conducted research, you’re positioned to interpret the data to create your own insights. This is where creativity needs to kick in and where you need to consider the type of individual who will embrace and advocate for your organization. You may want to involve a few people from your team in brainstorming, or perhaps you’ll want to bring in someone from outside your organization who can objectively look at your data. What’s key is that you peer below the surface of the numbers and reports. Transform facts into insights through interpretation. Use comparison charts and create personas. Then create statements describing who your best customers are.
  4. One-Word Description:
    Now the challenging work begins. Distill your interpretation and insight into one word that personifies your organization. Then think deeply about that word. Does it capture the essence of who you are (or want to become) and what your customer desires? For example, a technology company might use a word like “innovative,” “cutting-edge,” or “intuitive.” Car manufacturers might use a one-word description like “sleek,” “utilitarian,” or “safe” to describe their brand and what they want their customers to feel when they hear a brand’s name. You might think that by only allowing one word, you are short-changing everything about your organization’s image. It won’t. Finding the one word that describes your organization’s image will force you to focus.
  5. Reality Check:
    So now you’ve identified a word to describe your organization’s brand and image that resonates with both your team and your customers. It’s time for a reality check. Can your organization or product actually support that word? Or if it’s aspirational—that is, a word that you’d like your image to reflect in the future—is it achievable? And if it’s aspirational, what plans are in place to take it to reality?

My next blog will extend the important foundational work you’ve done working through these five steps. It will discuss how to look at your brand as it appeals to both logic and emotion, as well as credibility, uniqueness, and ultimately an example branding statement that you can use with your team. Watch for it in two weeks.

As always, your comments, questions, and challenges are welcome.

How to Use Webinars to Increase Sales in 5 Steps

Let’s face it. Our baby is ugly. The word “webinar” has become synonymous with “boring.” But for a minority of B-to-B marketers, webinars are money in the bank. Are you wondering how to use webinars to increase sales and generate leads? I’ve discovered the answer: Helping viewers get so confident, so trusting, that they jump at the chance to engage more seriously.

Let’s face it. Our baby is ugly. The word “webinar” has become synonymous with “boring.” But for a minority of B-to-B marketers, webinars are money in the bank. Are you wondering how to use webinars to increase sales and generate leads? I’ve discovered the answer: Helping viewers get so confident, so trusting, that they jump at the chance to engage more seriously.

Living Proof
On average, most webinars keep 40 percent of their listeners attention from start-to-finish. My webinars keep 94 percent of attendees to the end. My best webinar had a 29 percent close rate.

I’m not bragging; I’m following the success tips of others and sharing what I learned with you. Here’s how to use webinars to increase sales in five steps.

The 5 Steps to Success

  1. Go beyond relevant: Make the title irresistible. Your topic must be goal-oriented-specific to a pain, fear, goal or ambition of your customer. More importantly, your title must promise complete satisfaction in a way that customers cannot resist acting on (signing-up AND showing-up).
  2. Skip the introduction. Other than a passionate 30-60 seconds on why you are bothering to invest your time, skip it! After all, you’re talking into the air at them, alone in a room. You must be on a mission. This is where you connect with the audience. It’s do or die.
  3. Promise viewers something NEW. Literally say to them, “I know you don’t have time to waste, so I’m not going to waste it. Most likely, what I’m about to tell you about ______ (insert audience’s goal or pain) will be new to you … you’ve probably not heard this before.”
  4. Meet that expectation & create hunger for more. Give insights and next steps they’ve never heard before. Be crystal clear. Use stories to illustrate, punctuate. Guide prospects in ways that encourage them to ask more questions and creates intense curiosity in what else you can offer (e.g., what you sell).
  5. Help customers, and yourself, with a call-to-action. At the end of your webinar, if you’ve structured it correctly, viewers will crave more from you. They’ll want more clarity, more insights … more specific details about you or your business. Your call to action gives them a way to satisfy that hunger—and it gives you a lead (or sale).

Want to see a webinar like this in-action? Check out this LinkedIn webinar and come back to the five steps above—notice how it follows these guidelines.

Without This Essential Piece You’ll Fail
Many webinar hosts unknowingly sabotage their programs—even after following the above guidelines. They forget the basics of good communication. If you don’t follow the Golden Rule it will cost you:

  • Tell them what you’re about to tell them (the main insight, short-cut, better way or remedy)
  • Tell them the “better way” (at a high level, yet specific)
  • Tell them what you just told them (come back and remind of the main point)

This approach serves your most essential goal: Getting customers CLEAR on your message. Without clarity your webinar will fail

Remember the last time you were clear—really clear—on something? Remember how you felt? Remember the sense of confidence that came with your “ah-ha moment?”

That’s your webinar’s job: get buyers crystal clear, confident in themselves and trusting you.

Structure the entire webinar to follow this flow. Similarly, structure each section of your webinar this way. Doing so will help you sell toward the end.

Make Every Second Count
Most webinars are not bad. They don’t suck. The are horrible in every way. Don’t let yours fall into this category. Use the above “format formula” to structure your webinar. Make it grab and hold your audience to the very end. Make it generate leads. Make every single second of your presentation specific to “what’s in it” for them.

Here’s what I do: When done creating your images and script go back over your presentation. Ask yourself, “so what?” on each image.

Once you’re done crafting the message, it’s time to forget about “the what.” Focus on the WHY. If you cannot answer the question, “why does this matter to the viewer?” with conviction rip out that image and/or section of your scrip.

Push yourself. Now you know how to use webinars to increase sales. Good luck!

Take Command of Marketing Data Governance—Because We Have To

The emergence of “big data” as an enterprise concern for many businesses and organizations is, as with most trends, both an opportunity and a concern. I recently was involved in reviewing new and recent Aberdeen Research on “Big Data”—how it is defined, how it is changing information volume (astounding in quantity), variety (both structured and unstructured, with tremendous pressure to integrate and make sense of it), and velocity (pushing the insight, analytics and business rules that flow from such data to lines of business that can best profit from it).

The emergence of “big data” as an enterprise concern for many businesses and organizations is, as with most trends, both an opportunity and a concern.

I recently was involved in reviewing new and recent Aberdeen Research on “Big Data”—how it is defined, how it is changing information volume (astounding in quantity), variety (both structured and unstructured, with tremendous pressure to integrate and make sense of it), and velocity (pushing the insight, analytics and business rules that flow from such data to lines of business that can best profit from it). An infographic that captures some of this research is now posted at Mason Zimbler, a Harte-Hanks Company, which created the visual presentation.

Alongside this current fascination and business trend, perhaps it’s not surprising that members of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, also are posing questions at the marketing business as to how we collect, buy/sell, rent and exchange data about consumers online and offline, and if there is adequate notice and choice in the process. In the rush to capitalize on Big Data, we need to ensure that we’re collecting and using marketing data for marketing purposes only, and doing so in a manner that is respectful of fair information practices principles and ultimately serves the end-customer, be it consumer or business individual or enterprise. [See Rep. Ed Markey, D-MA: http://markey.house.gov/content/letters-major-data-brokers.]

All too often, privacy adherence is considered a legal matter, or an information technology matter—but I maintain that while these two business areas are important in respecting consumer privacy, it is marketers who have the most to gain (and lose) by smart (or insensitive) information practices. Data is our currency, and we must treat data (our customers as data subjects) as our primary asset to protect. Our method of marketing is in the balance. One or two major privacy mishaps can spoil it for everyone.

Of course, marketing data governance is far more than privacy compliance. Data quality, data integrity, data security, data integration, data validation and data flows within an enterprise all, too, are part of marketing data’s customer intelligence equation. It is in this spirit that the Direct Marketing Association recently introduced its newest certification program for professionals: “The Institute for Marketing Data Governance and Certification,” taught by marketing veteran Peg Kuman, who is vice chair at Relevate Group. The three-day course, which has launched on a two-year, multiple-city tour, is indispensable in understanding how multiple channels, multiple data sources and platforms, customer expectations and business objectives combine to command better understanding, tools and processes for data handling for smart integrated marketing. Forthcoming course dates and registrations are available here: http://www.dmaeducation.org/dm-essentials/marketing_data_governance.php

For three days last month in New York, approximately two dozen professionals from large and small enterprises, both commercial and nonprofit, attended the first seminar. I, too, attended. There were representatives from marketing, public relations, analytics, legal, IT and fundraising, representing brands, agencies and service providers. This group was engaged—providing examples, asking questions and reporting experiences as the curriculum moved along. (For those who don’t know Peg—a former client of mine—she is quite the facilitator.)

Alongside a workbook, I took home some great handouts, too:

  • A sample security policy; a sample information security vulnerability assessment;
  • A security due diligence questionnaire;
  • A sample vendor risk management program vendor questionnaire;
  • The latest copy of the DMA Guidelines for Ethical Business Practice (recently updated with new email append guidelines, by the way) and a bevy of news articles that captures the media’s and public policymakers’ current attention on consumer data in America.

The meat of the course tackled, among other topics:

  • Categorizing data and assigning priority and sensitivity (personally identifiable information, sensitive data and other categories);
  • Mapping data flows and interactions with customers; enhancing data with appended information, and ensuring its use for marketing only;
  • Having a data quality strategy as part of a data strategy;
  • Calculating return on data investment;
  • The emergence of digital, mobile and social data platforms, and how these present both structured and unstructured data collection and insight analysis challenges;
  • Assigning data “ownership”;
  • Calculating and assigning risk regarding security;
  • Monitoring security, investigating potential incidents of a breach, and handling a response to a breach were it to occur (using recent breach response examples of LinkedIn and Epsilon); as well as
  • Laws, ethics and best practices for all of these areas.

One of my concerns is the importation of European-style privacy protection in America, and current fascination with such protections by U.S. regulators and elected officials. That is worth another blog post in itself, but I can assure you that we need to educate politicians about the superiority of self and peer regulation where no consumer harm exists.

Thank you, DMA. Marketing data does not harm. It only creates consumer choice, commerce, jobs and (tax) revenue—and pays for the Internet and other media, too—and it is ridiculous to even entertain government-knows-better regulation of such information through a potential omnibus law in America, or other notions such as a government-mandated “privacy by design” requirement in marketing innovations. (On the other hand, I’m more than happy to see laws pass that protect Americans from potential government abuse of private sector marketing data—Big Brother should not be getting access to marketing data for non-marketing purposes, unless there is a demonstrable greater public good, where subpoenas are served and heard.) Privacy by design is smart business, but only when left to the innovators, not the policymakers.

Which brings me to close—and if you’re still reading this, I congratulate myself for not chasing you away. Big Data (which can incorporate far more than marketing data) goes hand-in-hand with marketing data governance. Whether a Big Data user or not, we all use marketing data everyday as our currency. Protect it. Respect it. Serve it. Govern it. So we can use it.

Challenge Emails: ‘Go Away. We Don’t Want You.’

“Stay in touch?” That was the headline on an email I got today from the folks at Pitney Bowes. What was notable, however, was the first line of copy: “We notice it’s been a while since you opened an email from us …” I honestly can’t decide if this is a strategic insight gone awry, or a little creepy.

“Stay in touch?” That was the headline on a challenge email I got today from the folks at Pitney Bowes. What was notable, however, was the first line of copy: “We notice it’s been a while since you opened an email from us …” I honestly can’t decide if this is a strategic insight gone awry, or a little creepy.

Email open rates are a misunderstood analytics tool; take a minute and follow my logic:

  • According to Campaign Monitor, the most popular email client is Outlook. And, according to MarketingSherpa, over 50 percent of consumers use a preview feature to view emails.
  • Nearly 40 percent of email clients block images by default.
  • Conclusion: If you read your email via preview pane (or not), and don’t download the images, your “open” is not being recorded as an “open” and in this instances, that seems to make Momma a very bad girl.

Bottom line is this: Pitney Bowes really doesn’t know whether I am reading their emails or not. They’ve assumed I am NOT since I am not downloading the images contained in their emails. And, it seems, they believe I am not reading their “valuable information about supplies, offers, discounts, new products and thought leadership pieces.”

If I wasn’t opening/reading them before, they’ve certainly given me a good reason to unsubscribe now. Like many companies, Pitney Bowes needs to stop thinking their marketing messages need to be about THEM, and start thinking about what might be deemed interesting (and therefore valuable) to ME.

Funnily enough, the last email I got from Pitney Bowes two weeks earlier, was another little smack across the hand for my apparent bad behavior. The subject line “Don’t miss out” didn’t compel me to even open that email, but the message was even worse! They noted that it had been a while since they had heard from me—Really? It’s not like we were corresponding or anything—and they wanted to know if I was still interested in getting emails from them. I had to confirm my interest by July 15 in order to “continue receiving the latest from PB.”

Needless to say I didn’t open nor respond; but that didn’t stop them from sending this weeks’ email to me.

In a world where businesses spend an inordinate amount of time (and money!) trying to collect email addresses for ongoing engagement with their customers, PB seems to want to sever the ties with me. And all because I’m (apparently) not opening their email messages.

I think the good folks in PB marketing need this little wake up call: While I appreciate that you think I’m not reading your emails and therefore may no longer be interested in your products/services/thought leadership pieces, you might want to wait for me to unsubscribe. Or better yet, try sending me emails with content that is actually of value to me and my organization. Oh, and here’s a hint: Don’t make that content about YOUR products/services.

Craig Greenfield’s Redefining Performance Marketing: 3 Ways to Turn Earned Media Insights Into Paid and Owned/Organic Gold

It’s quickly becoming common knowledge that earned media outlets, if properly mined, can provide unique insights into what resonates most with marketers’ audiences. With the proper tools and techniques, marketers can begin to answer questions such as the following:

It’s quickly becoming common knowledge that earned media outlets, if properly mined, can provide unique insights into what resonates most with marketers’ audiences. With the proper tools and techniques, marketers can begin to answer questions such as the following:

  • Who’s talking about your brand?
  • How’s your audience discussing your brand?
  • What themes, topics and links permeate the conversation?
  • What are users querying about your brand or the vertical in general?
  • What’s the phraseology they’re using?

Simple collection methods include using social listening tools to understand customer conversations on social sites; managing profile pages on Facebook and/or Twitter to gain customer feedback; and mining query data to get a better idea of customer intent. However, to turn earned media insights into paid and owned/organic gold, brands need practical tactics for leveraging and applying the information.

Moving from insights to action

Earned media can create more effective paid media campaigns through the use of social listening tools to build out keywords for a client’s paid search campaign. Performics has done this for a number of clients, specifically in the apparel vertical. After a retailer’s recent product launch, Performics used its proprietary social listening tool to identify top themes that its client’s customers were discussing on social sites.

Performics focused analysis on brand-related conversations, and then filtered those posts by topic to only view conversations around the new product line. The retailer was able to identify all relevant phrases and terms, such as “military jacket” and “bf blazer,” that customers associated with its new product launch.

To assess the value of these newly identified phrases/terms, the retailer took into account the sentiment, frequency and reach of each. Performics’ listening tool assigns sentiment — positive, negative and/or neutral — to every customer post collected. Any customer post or tweet, for example, that included the term “military jacket” was assigned a sentiment value. The posts referring to “military jacket” were generally positive; therefore, that term was assigned positive sentiment.

The social listening tool also helps evaluate the influence of those selected phrases/terms. The retailer was able to assess the value of “military jacket” compared to other terms by understanding the number of customers using this term (frequency) and the number of followers exposed to the term (reach). The tool helped to quickly identify the most valuable phrases/terms relevant to the brand and product that were appearing within customer conversations. The phrases/terms then became the baseline for building out additional keywords for the new product launch.

Varied application of insights

How can marketers apply information gained from earned media? Three suggestions to get started include the following:

  • keyword buildout for search campaigns (paid and organic);
  • content campaign development; and
  • creative development.

As more consumers take to social sites to converse, performance marketers should continually be mindful of ways to make insight from these conversations actionable.