Making Digital Marketing and IT Work Together

If your IT department has the lead role in your digital marketing, expect many agencies to politely decline the opportunity to work with you. Such an arrangement is a big red flag to most of us. That doesn’t mean we, as digital marketing pros, put technology in the back seat. But we’ve found that when IT is leading the charge, success is more difficult to achieve.

If your IT department has the lead role in your digital marketing, expect many agencies to politely decline the opportunity to work with you. Such an arrangement is a big red flag to most of us.

That doesn’t mean we, as digital marketing pros, put technology in the back seat. Quite the opposite is true — we are, after all, digital marketers.

But we’ve found that when IT is leading the charge, success is more difficult to achieve. It’s not much easier if technology has no seat at the table, either. A healthy balance is your best bet.

Balancing Competing Concerns

Balancing concerns across the board will allow marketing goals to drive the process, with technology being implemented to help achieve those goals.

Take, for example, CRM integration. IT shouldn’t select your CRM, set it up, and hand it off to marketing. They simply aren’t going to have the marketing (and, we hope, sales) perspective to make the best choices along the way.

Neither should your marketing department select the CRM and hand it off to IT with implementation orders. You probably don’t have all the information you need surrounding issues of security and interoperability.

Instead, marketing and IT should work together, with Marketing defining what it needs, scouting potential solutions, working with IT to vet those solutions, and testing IT’s implementation.

Create a Cross-Functional Digital Marketing Team

This works best when there is an IT staffer with at least an interest in marketing who can become the bridge between the two departments and perhaps even move toward becoming a full-fledged marketing technologist.

The person in that role can prioritize amongst the issues most likely to be at top of everyone’s list.

  1. Generating high-quality leads
  2. Tracking generated leads
  3. Tracking content consumption
  4. Maintaining appropriate security for your industry and implementation
  5. Increasing administrative efficiency

Be Pro-active

So unless your team already includes a marketing technologist and a strong working relationship with IT, drafting an IT staffer will help you better match your needs with the available software tools best fit for the systems already in place.

And a pro-active approach may also help keep the IT/marketing relationship on productive terms.

Direct Mail Marketing Predictions for 2016

Direct mail is not dead, far from it. With the growth in technology and personalization, direct mail has become an even more powerful player for your ROI. But 2016 will bring tightened direct mail budgets, since marketers need to spread their money farther and farther. Because of that, serious considerations need to be made

Crystal ball and the horizonDirect mail is not dead, far from it. With the growth in technology and personalization, direct mail has become an even more powerful player for your ROI. But 2016 will bring tightened direct mail budgets, since marketers need to spread their money farther and farther. Because of that, serious considerations need to be made with direct mail.

The first, of course, is how to improve your ROI. So far the only postage increases announced have been for packages, but we will need to be on the lookout for possible changes in late spring 2016. If postage rates remain the same, that can help to increase your ROI. The post office will also be finishing consolidation which may increase delivery times like we saw last spring. So timing will need to be considered as well.

Here are my five predictions for 2016, so can you continue to grow your direct mail marketing ROI.

  1. Personalized: We will see an increase in customers expecting direct mail that is relevant to them. Offers based on what they want and need are going to be the key to your success. The mail boxes are no longer full of junk, but useful offers they can take advantage of.
  2. Integration: When integrating other channels with direct mail, you create more engaging content and leave a better impression on customers and prospects. The longer you can keep their attention, the greater chance you have to capture the sale. There are many cost effective options you can use to integrate from mobile and email to online content.
  3. Multilayered: 2016 will bring more multilayered direct mail campaigns. The staggering of different pieces going at selected intervals continually. Since, as we know, direct mail is more effective the more often someone gets your offer, this will help increase your ROI.
  4. Enhance your database: Constantly adding information into your database is very important. The more you know about each customer the better able to you are to target them. If you are just starting out and need a little help, you can profile your customer database to find out more information about them. Ask your mail service provider how.
  5. Multiple response devices: The more options you have for people to respond to your offer, the better response you are going to get. So for 2016, add in a new response method. That can be a wide range from QR Codes to texting a response code. Find what you think your customers/prospects are most interested in and try it out.

Consumers are smarter and expect more from companies now. They feel powerful and in the driver’s seat of their experiences with you. In order to compete, you will need to meet or exceed those expectations. Your brand needs to be approachable and knowledgeable about each person. The more information you have in your database about each person the better you can target your messages and offers.

Direct mail can be a very creative way to reach people who are interested in your product or service. Think of all the fun ways you can go beyond imagery to engage people. Having fun with your creativity can be a real boost to your ROI. Make sure you consult with your mail service provider about the design of your piece to make sure that you are not creating a postal problem, which will cost you a lot of money. Let’s make 2016 the best year ever for direct mail marketing!

 

Beacons — and the Data They Provide — Help Merge the Digital and Physical Worlds

Wouldn’t it be great if we could all create marketing that is so fantastic, it becomes inextricable from the brand experience? What if those experiences were seamless between your audience’s blended physical and digital worlds? It’s what marketing coach Jay Baer calls “utility.”

Wouldn’t it be great if we could all create marketing that is so fantastic, it becomes inextricable from the brand experience? What if those experiences were seamless between your audience’s blended physical and digital worlds? It’s what marketing coach Jay Baer calls “utility.” When marketing is helpful and has relevant utility for the recipient, then it does achieve status as a “service.” We know it as marketing, but the recipient finds such value in it that it is viewed as service.

Similarly, because mobile is such a powerful part of the way people experience brands today, marketers are looking for ways to understand what people need “in the moment,” and provide it as a branded service.

What exactly do people want to hear from brands on their mobile phones that could be of such utility? In the past, advertisers had to make assumptions about messaging and were forced to send them without the input of the consumer.

Enter the beacon. It’s a powerful arrow in the marketing quiver, and can be exceptionally powerful in understanding and engaging people in that precious “moment of truth” when buying decisions are made.

Beacons are small indoor positioning devices that use low-energy Bluetooth (BLE) to communicate with a shopper’s smartphone, usually when they are on location or in a store. The hope is that the information sent – a text, an email, an app alert – will improve the in-store shopping experience and drive new sales. When placed in a store, beacons can detect nearby smartphones and send them media such as ads, coupons or customized supplementary product information. This brief video from ShopKick illustrates how it works through a trial it did with Macy’s in New York and San Francisco.

Not just for shoppers, beacons can also be used as point-of-sale systems and collect large amounts of data that can then be used to improve both real-time and right-time marketing, in-store and online.

Beacons allow marketers to deliver customized messages, usually designed to improve the shopping experience. Using preferences, previous shopping habits, location and other data, beacons allow marketing messages to be woven into the larger customer experience, creating both interactive and relevant messaging — all at the time of purchase.

Beacons are hot … a BI Intelligence report projects that use will grow 287 percent to nearly 5 million by 2018. With so many beacons already in play, it increases the stakes for getting them right. Take a look at a few examples of how beacons are being used to help you determine if it’s a good opportunity for both your business and your customers.

  • Miami International Airport recently launched an app that uses beacons to help consumers navigate overwhelming terminals and find the correct gate for departure. Similarly, an airline could use a beacon to alert people to delays and direct them to the bar or shopping choices around the corner – with a coupon!
  • The National Geographic Museum in Washington, D.C., and The Guggenheim in New York City have used beacons to enhance the visitor experience. When a viewer approaches a piece, additional information about that painting, sculpture or magazine cover is served directly to his or her phone. While certainly helpful in educating visitors, the real power is the tracking data provided to museum administrators. That data can help curators determine what exhibits are most popular and which need to be tweaked to better appeal to the audience.
  • McCormick & Co.’s Zatarain’s uses beacons to send shoppers grocery list reminders and loyalty points based on the context of the store from the food and spice brand.
  • Retailers like Macy’s and Target use beacons to recognize, reward and get to know their best customers. This helps increase loyalty and, in turn, build a stronger relationship with them. The data collected on these shoppers also allows highly personalized and targeted offers, which will reinforce the loyalty programs mentioned above.

Beacon technology is an incredibly cost-effective and targeted way to communicate, but the best value it provides is data. Data on consumer shopping habits and behavior will inform store layouts, product placement, target market penetration and on-site displays, as well as help monitor staff efficiencies and service standards.

Beacons are also invaluable to marketers because they help to merge all the “Moments of Truth” (MOTs) along a buying journey. Because customer experiences that used to take days or even months now happen in a fraction of a second, mobile is the accelerator of the connection and the channel by which a physical experience is enhanced through digital communications.

One caution: The use of beacons has to follow the same guideline as all marketing – it must have utility. Zapping people walking down the street past your store may not be welcome, but then again, a well-timed coupon might bring them into the store they may not have entered otherwise. Use beacons sparingly at first while you test out the value to your customers and prospects.

Becoming truly customer-centric – where your marketing serves the customer rather than the product or campaign goals – is complex, but beacons are becoming an important source of the data that enables marketers to map out actually helpful customer experiences. How are you thinking about merging digital and physical experiences? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Releasing Data Trapped in CRM for Email Marketing

Want higher email marketing response rates? Personalize! Sounds straightforward, until you realize that the data you need is trapped in your CRM system or segmentation engine, and you don’t have it accessible to your email delivery solution. Do not despair — integrate!

Want higher email marketing response rates? Personalize! Sounds straightforward, until you realize that the data you need is trapped in your CRM system or segmentation engine, and you don’t have it accessible to your email delivery solution. Do not despair — integrate!

It’s really a no-brainer. Yet, even though personalized emails deliver a six-times higher transaction rates than non-personalized emails, a startling 70 percent of brands fail to take advantage of the opportunity, according to research from Experian Marketing Services. Why not?

Most marketers collect customer data and have it in-house. It also certainly seems to be conclusive from this study and others — and from experience with my clients — that personalization makes a huge difference in response rates and subscriber satisfaction. In fact, Experian found that personalized promotional mailings had 29 percent higher unique open rates and 41 percent higher unique click rates. For triggered email campaigns, personalization resulted in double the transaction rates compared to non-personalized triggered emails.

Those kinds of results are definitely appealing, especially with overall contribution from email marketing programs under increased scrutiny. With even a few attributes from data accessible, brands can use personalization as a real differentiator:

  • Offering discounts in bulk emails which only certain, high-value subscribers can see;
  • Personalizing the content of a birthday email, based on the year that the subscriber was born;
  • Showing products based on the subscriber’s brand and size preference. Sephora does a nice job of personalizing offers based on the “Beauty Profile” collected on the site.
  • Aggregating data from mobile apps for end-of-week/month/year summary emails. For example, Fitbit’s weekly summary email is a great example of this.
  • Personalizing the subject line — which Experian research showed delivered 26 percent higher unique open rates overall, with travel companies experiencing the “biggest boost” from personalized subject lines.

If personalization works so well, then why aren’t all marketers doing it? Perhaps it’s because although data is resident inside the company, the marketer doesn’t have access to it at the point of email delivery. Integration of systems and getting data accessible to the “right moment” of messaging is a real challenge for many brands. While most email delivery vendors have mature APIs and common integration points to e-commerce, CRM, marketing data warehouse and campaign management solutions, the integration can seem like a very daunting task.

It doesn’t need to be overly complex. Even simple pieces of data, such as location, gender and product preference can open up a number of possibilities for marketers. If you are not doing any personalization today, you could add data to your ESP manually. This can be helpful in proof of concept — especially if you see the kinds of lift that Experian’s research promises. However, long-term, this is not a good option. Doing manual uploads of data spreadsheets is not only time-consuming, but it has a high potential for error or data corruption. It’s also not cost-effective — the hours spent in these tasks may be more costly in a year than an integration project.

Better options are to use the automated data transfer features of your email delivery solution. Most can accept an automated feed from a FTP (file transfer protocol) site. This can be a good option for companies with very rigid IT access to internal systems. Integrations can also be coded using the API (Application Programming Interface) from your vendor, which can upload data from a variety of locations. APIs are more likely to support real-time use of data from multi-system integrations, as well.

When planning a data integration to your email delivery solution or anywhere, be sure to determine what data you have access to in your other systems, and outline exactly what you plan on doing with it. The more specific you can be, the more easily your IT and technology vendors can help you import that data on a regular basis.

Because we live in an age of highly customized online experiences, it makes sense that personalizing your email marketing will improve your results. What challenges do you have, and what results are you seeing, for personalizing your subscriber experience?

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.