3 Speed Dating Tips for Marketers

The dating world is a scary and complicated place, but in an effort to find love, some singles try the speed dating route. Because, hey, at least if it’s going to be a bad date, it’ll only last three minutes, right? But when you think about it long enough, you realize marketing is a lot like speed dating. Scared yet?

The dating world is a scary and complicated place, full of poorly written online profiles, ghosting after an awkward first date and friends kindly dropping off copies of “He’s Just Not That Into You.”

Gilmore Girls Paris Geller Speed Dating
Oh Paris … you scare all the boys.

In an effort to find love, some singles even try the speed dating route, because hey, at least if it’s going to be a bad date, it’ll only last three minutes, right? And when you think about it long enough, you realize marketing is a lot like speed dating. Scared yet?

Consumers are busy, and their attention spans are shrinking. According to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, the average attention span in the US in 2015 was 8.25 seconds. Suddenly that three-minute speed-dating date seems like a lifetime to make a connection with a customer.Marketing Speed Dating

But never fear, while I’ve never braved the wilds of speed dating, I have seen it represented rather comically in film and television. And it’s not too much of a stretch to connect what works well in speed dating with what works well in marketing.

Fake It til You Make it1. Don’t “fake it ’til you make it.” People can sniff out a fake in an instant. So, just as it’s wise to not tell a potential date you’re a doctor with three sports cars — when in reality you’re a cubicle drone with a beat up `94 Nissan Sentra — don’t tell a prospective customer your brand is something it really isn’t, just because you think it sounds cool.

Remember what Ron Johnson did to JCPenney? He thought applying Apple-esque store-styling and dumping customers’ beloved discounts was the way to bring the retailer into the future. To make it cool. Unfortunately it was all offbrand.

I couldn’t say it better than this quote from Forbes:

Boutiques/streets, wi-fi, juice bars with smoothies and coffee; no long-term customer of JCP cares about all that crap. JCP got away from what it did best.

Sound of Music Confidence2. Confidence is attractive. Just like in romance, no consumer wants a product or service that’s marketed meekly. There’s a reason the Old Spice Man campaign was both a viral success — garnering almost 105 million views on YouTube and a 300 percent increase of traffic to oldspice.com (opens as a PDF) — as well as a sale success.

Old Spice, a Proctor + Gamble company, targeted both men and women with the campaign. For women, it offered the fantasy of a gorgeous man, and the possibility of their current beaus smelling as good as him; and for men, it offered the opportunity to become the Old Spice Man. P&G took a legacy product, infused it with confidence and sex appeal, and made it relevant to a younger generation.

But your marketing message doesn’t have to be as sexy as the Old Spice Man to be confident. Don’t believe me? Check out this Hubspot post that details five brilliant marketing campaigns for boring products.

5 Things to Do Now to Prepare for the Next Stage of Email Marketing

The email channel is well known for being a low cost high performance marketing machine. Generating revenue requires little more than the ability to acquire opt-in permission and change content in a template. It’s so easy that someone with no experience could create a successful email program. But the email marketing world is changing. Evolution has already begun. Companies have to adapt or lose the effectiveness of a channel that has served well as a cash flow king

The email channel is well known for being a low cost high performance marketing machine. Generating revenue requires little more than the ability to acquire opt-in permission and change content in a template. It’s so easy that someone with no experience could create a successful email program.

And, they do. This is one of the reasons that spam continues to grow. Someone with access to thousands of addresses can fill his or her coffers by blanketing the list with promotional messages or scams. Those emails keep coming because they work. If people didn’t respond to them, the spammers would find a new source of income.

The minimal requirements for success also contribute to the cookie cutter emails sent by established brands. Subject lines, images and content change, but the layout and offers are strikingly similar. When asked why they do this, marketers claim that testing has proven that their subscribers respond best to this presentation and offers.

The problem is that they decided to stop testing once a solution was found. Any halfway decent direct marketer will tell you that testing shows what works best AT THAT TIME. The winner becomes the control that is used to gauge the effectiveness of future tests. Email marketing lulls marketers into complacency because it works so well at consistently generating revenue. Following the “don’t fix it if it’s not broke” theory keeps them from finding strategies that work better.

In fairness, the demands on marketing teams are continuously increasing. Participation in high maintenance, continuously changing channels requires time and effort that might have been dedicated to improving email campaigns if the world were different. Resources have to be allocated by need and email campaigns do not require much to be successful.

The email marketing world is changing. Evolution has already begun. Companies have to adapt or lose the effectiveness of a channel that has served well as a cash flow king. That adaptation has to start now because it takes time to establish the relationships required for continued success. Waiting until campaigns start losing their effectiveness will be too late.

There are two shifts creating the need for change. The first is increased competition. According to the Radicati Group’s email statistics report for 2012 – 2016, 144.8 billion emails were sent in 2012. By 2016, that number is expected to increase to 192.2 billion. Business emails account for 61 percent of the emails today, increasing to 75 percent in 2016. Consumer emails are decreasing. In 2012, 55.8 billion emails were sent. By 2016, consumer emails will drop to 48.4 billion. More marketing messages mean that company emails have to fight harder for recipients’ attention.

The second shift is the ongoing effort to provide a personalized universal search experience. Google is the first search engine to test adding emails to results. It’s only a matter of time before the field trial rolls out and other search providers follow the lead. This changes the rules of engagement for the email marketing game.

Email campaigns will need to work overtime to deliver the best results. In addition to generating immediate cash flow, they need to have a “save for later” appeal that keeps recipients from deleting them. The saved emails will appear when people search the web for similar products or services.

Fortunately, preparing for increased competition and universal search has immediate benefits. The same tactics that position your emails for success in the future also make them work better today. To get started:

  1. Improve your customer relationships: Loyal customers are more likely to ignore increased competition and save your emails. Including emails that make it easier for people to use your products and services solidifies relationships and adds life to your messages.
  2. Optimize emails for search: Adding alternative text to images provides information that can be accessed by search bots. Balancing text and images makes your messages more readable by recipients and bots. It also improves deliverability.
  3. Use personalized trigger emails to improve the shopping and service experience: Trigger emails are a low cost way to keep customers informed about order status and new products or services.
  4. Customize emails by customer behavior: Sending everyone in your database the same marketing message works. Sending customized message to individuals based on their shopping and communication preferences works better.
  5. Keep everything simple and easy: The easier you make it for your customers, the more loyal they tend to be. Work to eliminate as many steps as possible between the marketing message and sale. People keep coming back when the process is simple.

B-to-B: Where Social Media Meets Direct Marketing

Business marketers have embraced social media with enthusiasm. One of the reasons social media is working so well in B-to-B, in my opinion, is that business marketers tend to wear their direct marketing hats when they strategize and plan how to apply social media to their marketing objectives. So they get a lot of measurable value from social media, and they pull it into their programs as a full-fledged member of the integrated marketing mix. In B-to-B, social media and direct marketing have-in other words-met, hit it off, and developed a long-term relationship.

Business marketers have embraced social media with enthusiasm. One of the reasons social media is working so well in B-to-B, in my opinion, is that business marketers tend to wear their direct marketing hats when they strategize and plan how to apply social media to their marketing objectives. So they get a lot of measurable value from social media, and they pull it into their programs as a full-fledged member of the integrated marketing mix. In B-to-B, social media and direct marketing have-in other words-met, hit it off, and developed a long-term relationship.

To back up and support my argument, let me offer a working definition for direct marketing: Direct marketing describes communications that are structured to motivate a response. Direct marketing communications are characterized by:

  1. Being delivered to a carefully targeted audience;
  2. Containing a motivational offer, a call to action and a response vehicle;
  3. Collecting the responses in a database;
  4. Expecting the results to deliver a measurable ROI.

By this definition, a direct marketing message can be delivered anywhere. It is truly “media neutral.” It can work in direct mail and email, but also in print, on billboards, on television and radio. And in social media.

In fact, social media represent an ideal direct marketing medium. When social media first arrived on the scene, they were widely viewed by marketers as a way to “get the word out” (which means awareness) and bring traffic to a website.

But increasingly, marketers are getting much more “DM-y” about social media. In this year’s Social Media Marketing Industry Report, 58 percent of marketers said they were using it to generate leads. Last year, in 2011, only 7 percent said that. A big change. Small businesses were even more likely, at 65 percent, to focus on lead generation in social media.

As marketers increasingly view social media as direct marketing media, the media owners themselves are responding, fast. Just last August, Facebook announced that it would improve the targeting options available to advertisers, including for the first time targeting variables like email address and phone number, which direct marketers have used for years. Before this, advertisers were limited to demographic selects like company size.

Also in August, Twitter announced that it will offer ad targeting by user interests or @username follower groups. This kind of targeting has been a staple of direct marketing media for decades. So I am concluding that these social media are moving in a direct marketing direction, recognizing that this way they can attract advertisers who are looking for measurable results, like a specific number of leads and a certain allowable cost per lead.

One other piece of evidence to support my case that B-to-B social media are intersecting with direct marketing, albeit a semi-humorous point: I was doing a seminar out at Facebook in Palo Alto a while back, training their ad sales marketing team on B-to-B direct marketing. While there, I learned that Facebook itself is a sizable user of direct mail, the long-time workhorse medium of direct marketing. The Facebook ad sales group uses direct mail to sell advertising to small and medium businesses. So here’s a social medium using a traditional direct marketing medium to reach their B-to-B goals. The intersection comes full circle.

What ways are you seeing social media intersect with direct marketing?

A version of this post appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

Get Your PCRM On!

Never heard of PCRM? Well, that’s because it doesn’t exist—not yet, anyway. But it should. For those who are unfamiliar with Customer Relationship Management, or CRM, it describes a strategy for managing a company’s interactions with customers and prospects. The key to any CRM program is that interactions are with your customers and prospects—and that means you know something, usually a lot, about them.

Never heard of PCRM? Well, that’s because it doesn’t exist—not yet, anyway. But it should. For those who are unfamiliar with Customer Relationship Management, or CRM, it describes a strategy for managing a company’s interactions with customers and prospects. The key to any CRM program is that interactions are with your customers and prospects—and that means you know something, usually a lot, about them.

And as any experienced database marketer knows, knowledge means power—power to tailor the marketing message based on what you know or learn. Essentially, it’s a marriage of marketing and data. Unfortunately, however, many CRM programs miss the boat when it comes to taking advantage of this fact, and fail to communicate with customers and prospects on a 1:1 basis. Hence the need for Personalized CRM, or PCRM, instead.

Personalization is important because, let’s face it, we live in an age of information overload. According to an article in the New York Times published in 2007, at the time Americans were exposed to 5,000 ads a day—and it’s safe to say that number has continued to climb since. And unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 10 years, this fact has been painfully obvious. For marketers, it’s meant a steady and inexorable decline in response rates across the board, in an increasingly futile attempt to get the attention of a distracted populace. How pronounced has the decline been? While a 3 percent response rate might have been the gold standard for a prospecting direct mail campaign 10 years ago, for example, today it hovers at around 1 percent, according to the DMA.

One effective strategy to cut through the clutter is personalization, or 1:1 marketing-a strategy you should be implementing across the board on all your CRM initiatives. Think about it: These are your customers and prospects, and you’ve captured tons a data about them. You know when they became customers, and how. You know what campaigns they’ve responded to, banners they’ve clicked, emails they’ve opened, and so on. You know their gender. You may even know their birthdays. So use this data to drive personalization!

When it comes to implementing 1:1 communications, the good news for marketers is two-fold. First, in our multi-channel world there are increased opportunities to add a personalized touch to your communication strategy; email, direct mail, landing pages and mobile can all be personalized based on your CRM data. Second and perhaps more importantly, the past few years have witnessed a proliferation of new and exciting technologies that make it ridiculously easy for rank-and-file marketers to communicate on a 1:1 basis, much of it not requiring any IT support.

Direct mail, for example, can now be personalized using Variable Data Printing (VDP) software, a technology used by virtually all digital printers in business today. Never tried it? Well, maybe it’s time you did, as the days of ‘spray and pray’ are long gone. And although VDP may be more expensive than traditional offset, the improved response rates can mean improved ROI. On the Interactive side, email marketing and demand generation software have grown up to the point where it’s a snap to personalize both images and text in an email message based on profile data, not to mention trigger multi-touch drip-marketing campaigns based on lead scoring.

When driving customers of prospects to the Web, keep in mind that a personalized landing page can convert traffic up to five times better than a generic Web page ever will. The fact is, keeping customers and prospects focused on the marketing message interlaced with personalized content is a winning combination.