How to Effectively Promote Your Content Marketing

Marketers all understand the importance of great content. But, when building a content marketing program for your organization, creating content is only the first step.

Marketers all understand the importance of great content. But, when building a content marketing program for your organization, creating content is only the first step.

The second step — as discussed in my previous post about reviewing your content marketing efforts in relation to the competitive landscape — requires marketers to ask themselves this question: What does your competition’s content marketing look like and how does yours compare?

Once you work through that audit, then you’re ready for the third step: distribution and promotion. Great content on its own isn’t enough. Great content designed to own a niche will get you closer. Leaping the final hurdle requires properly promoting that great, tightly targeted content. Here’s how.

Channels Is Spelled With an ’S’

In other words, it can’t be about one channel. Very rarely are there industries or niches in which only one channel is required.

That doesn’t mean finding every tiny audience you can and pummeling each with undifferentiated content. Instead, you must tailor content to each channel you have identified as a gathering place for your target audience.

Make sure the channel is appropriate for your message. For example, there’s a reason Fortune 500 B2B marketers advertise on golf tournaments. The audience is their desired demographic. But that doesn’t mean that they’d be smart to pump promotional material about their management consulting practice into an online golf forum. Same (or similar) audience, but much different atmosphere.

Also keep in mind that social media channels are all about your audience and their preferences. Not you and yours. Be sure of whose preferences you are catering to.

Email Marketing

Email’s importance and effectiveness as a marketing channel are hard to overrate. They’re easy to overuse, but hard to overrate. And easy to abuse. Spamming unknown users won’t work. Sending purely promotional content won’t work. Provide value, be relevant, and build a relationship. You’ll win business over time, even if the ramp up is slow.

Timesharing

Time share condos in the swamps of Florida have a bad reputation, and with good reason. Similarly, the idea of guest posting and cross-promoting have frequently been abused, but they can be incredibly effective in growing your audience quickly.

A guest post or jointly-produced piece of content is a warm introduction and a stamp of approval all rolled into one. You are being introduced and recommended to your counterpart’s audience and vice versa. These are great opportunities to seek out, assuming you and your partner can provide insights and information relevant to one another’s audiences.

Diversify Your Formats

Video is incredibly popular right now, but not everyone likes to watch videos as they’re researching their purchasing options. (It’s a lot easier to scan a written article to get to the info you’re looking for.)

That’s reason alone to adapt your content to different formats. Another benefit to that form of re-use is the efficiency it brings to the content development process. You can leverage the initial research and writing investment to create multiple related content elements.

The Importance of Relevance

I’ve mentioned relevance a few times above, but it’s worth repeating as we wrap up. None of the above works if the content you’re pushing is purely promotional or fails to provide value to your target audience. Without relevance and value, you’re simply not going to keep your audience’s attention.

Beware of One-Size-Fits-All Customer Data Solutions

In the data business, the ability to fine-tune database structure and toolsets to meet unique business requirements is key to success, not just flashy features and functionalities. Beware of technology providers who insist on a “one-size-fits-all” customer data solution.

In the data business, the ability to fine-tune database structure and toolsets to meet unique business requirements is key to success, not just flashy features and functionalities. Beware of technology providers who insist on a “one-size-fits-all” customer data solution, unless the price of entry is extremely low. Always check the tech provider’s exception management skills and their determination to finish the last mile. Too often, many just freeze at the thought of any customization.

The goal of any data project is to create monetary value out of available data. Whether it is about increasing revenue or reducing cost, data activities through various types of basic and advanced analytics must yield tangible results. Marketers are not doing all this data-related work to entertain geeks and nerds (no offense); no one is paying for data infrastructure, analytics toolsets, and most importantly, human cost to support some intellectual curiosity of a bunch of specialists.

Therefore, when it comes to evaluating any data play, the criteria that CEOs and CFOs bring to the table matter the most. Yes, I shared a long list of CDP evaluation criteria from the users’ and technical points of views last month, but let me emphasize that, like any business activity, data work is ultimately about the bottom line.

That means we have to maintain balance between the cost of doing business and usability of data assets. Unfortunately, these two important factors are inversely related. In other words, to make customer data more useful, one must put more time and money into it. Most datasets are unstructured, unrefined, uncategorized, and plain dirty. And the messiness level is not uniform.

Start With the Basics

Now, there are many commoditized toolsets out in the market to clean the data and weave them together to create a coveted Customer-360 view. In fact, if a service provider or a toolset isn’t even equipped to do the basic part, I suggest working with someone who can.

For example, a service provider must know the definition of dirty data. They may have to ask the client to gauge the tolerance level (for messy data), but basic parameters must be in place already.

What is a good email address, for instance? It should have all the proper components like @ signs and .com, .net, .org, etc. at the end. Permission flags must be attached properly. Primary and secondary email must be set by predetermined rules. They must be tagged properly if delivery fails, even once. The list goes on. I can think of similar sets of rules when it comes to name, address, company name, phone number, and other basic data fields.

Why are these important? Because it is not possible to create that Customer-360 view without properly cleaned and standardized Personally Identifiable Information (PII). And anyone who is in this game must be masters of that. The ability to clean basic information and matching seemingly unmatchable entities are just prerequisites in this game.

Even Basic Data Hygiene and Matching Routines Must Be Tweaked

Even with basic match routines, users must be able to dictate tightness and looseness of matching logics. If the goal of customer communication involves legal notifications (as for banking and investment industries), one should not merge any two entities just because they look similar. If the goal is mainly to maximize campaign effectiveness, one may merge similar looking entities using various “fuzzy” matching techniques, employing Soundex, nickname tables, and abbreviated or hashed match keys. If the database is filled with business entities for B2B marketing, then so-called commoditized merge rules become more complicated.

The first sign of trouble often becomes visible at this basic stage. Be aware of providers that insist on “one-size-fits-all” rules, in the name of some universal matching routine. There was no such thing even in the age of direct marketing (i.e., really old days). How are we going to go through complex omnichannel marketing environment with just a few hard-set rules that can’t be modified?

Simple matching logic only with name, address, and email becomes much more complex when you add new online and offline channels, as they all come with different types of match keys. Just in the offline world, the quality of customer names collected in physical stores vastly differs from that of self-entered information from a website along with shipping addresses. For example, I have seen countless invalid names like “Mickey Mouse,” “Asian Tourist,” or “No Name Provided.” Conversely, no one who wants to receive the merchandise at their address would create an entry “First Name: Asian” and “Last Name: Tourist.”

Sure, I’m providing simple examples to illustrate the fallacy of “one-size-fits-all” rules. But by definition, a CDP is an amalgamation of vastly different data sources, online and offline. Exceptions are the rules.

Dissecting Transaction Elements

Up to this point, we are still in the realm of “basic” stuff, which is mostly commoditized in the technology market. Now, let’s get into more challenging parts.

Once data weaving is done through PII fields and various proxies of individuals across networks and platforms, then behavioral, demographic, geo-location, and movement data must be consolidated around each individual. Now, demographic data from commercial data compilers are already standardized (one would hope), regardless of their data sources. Every other customer data type varies depending on your business.

The simplest form of transaction records would be from retail businesses, where you would sell widgets for set prices through certain channels. And what is a transaction record in that sense? “Who” bought “what,” “when,” for “how much,” through “what channel.” Even from such a simplified view point, things are not so uniform.

Let’s start with an easy one, such as common date/time stamp. Is it in form of UTC time code? That would be simple. Do we need to know the day-part of the transaction? Eventually, but by what standard? Do we need to convert them into local time of the transaction? Yes, because we need to tell evening buyers and daytime buyers apart, and we can’t use Coordinated Universal Time for that (unless you only operate in the U.K.).

“How much” isn’t so bad. It is made of net price, tax, shipping, discount, coupon redemption, and finally, total paid amount (for completed transactions). Sounds easy? Let’s just say that out of thousands of transaction files that I’ve encountered in my lifetime, I couldn’t find any “one rule” that governs how merchants would handle returns, refunds, or coupon redemptions.

Some create multiple entries for each action, with or without common transaction ID (crazy, right?). Many customer data sources contain mathematical errors all over. Inevitable file cutoff dates would create orphan records where only return transactions are found without any linkage to the original transaction record. Yes, we are not building an accounting system out of a marketing database, but no one should count canceled and returned transactions as a valid transaction for any analytics. “One-size-fits-all?” I laugh at that notion.

“Channel” may not be so bad. But at what level? What if the client has over 1,000 retail store locations all over the world? Should there be a subcategory under “Retail” as a channel? What about multiple websites with different brand names? How would we organize all that? If this type of basic – but essential – data isn’t organized properly, you won’t even be able to share store level reports with the marketing and sales teams, who wouldn’t care for a minute about “why” such basic reports are so hard to obtain.

The “what” part can be really complicated. Or, very simple if product SKUs are well-organized with proper product descriptions, and more importantly, predetermined product categories. A good sign would be the presence of a multi-level product category table, where you see entries like an apparel category broken down into Men, Women, Children, etc., and Women’s Apparel is broken down further into Formalwear, Sportswear, Casualwear, Underwear, Lingerie, Beachwear, Fashion, Accessories, etc.

For merchants with vast arrays of products, three to five levels of subcategories may be necessary even for simple BI reports, or further, advanced modeling and segmentation. But I’ve seen too many cases of incongruous and inconsistent categories (totally useless), recycled category names (really?), and weird categories such as “Summer Sales” or “Gift” (which are clearly for promotional events, not products).

All these items must be fixed and categorized properly, if they are not adequate for analytics. Otherwise, the gatekeepers of information are just dumping the hard work on poor end-users and analysts. Good luck creating any usable reports or models out of uncategorized product information. You might as well leave it as an unknown field, as product reports will have as many rows as the number of SKUs in the system. It will be a challenge finding any insights out of that kind of messy report.

Behavioral Data Are Complex and Unique to Your Business

Now, all this was about relatively simple “transaction” part. Shall we get into the online behavior data? Oh, it gets much dirtier, as any “tag” data are only as good as the person or department that tagged the web pages in question. Let’s just say I’ve seen all kinds of variations of one channel (or “Source”) called “Facebook.” Not from one place either, as they show up in “Medium” or “Device” fields. Who is going to clean up the mess?

I don’t mean to scare you, but these are just common examples in the retail industry. If you are in any subscription, continuity, travel, hospitality, or credit business, things get much more complicated.

For example, there isn’t any one “transaction date” in the travel industry. There would be Reservation Date, Booking Confirmation Date, Payment Date, Travel Date, Travel Duration, Cancellation Date, Modification Date, etc., and all these dates matter if you want to figure out what the traveler is about. If you get all these down properly and calculate distances from one another, you may be able to tell if the individual is traveling for business or for leisure. But only if all these data are in usable forms.

Always Consider Exception Management Skills

Some of you may be in businesses where turn-key solutions may be sufficient. And there are plenty of companies that provide automated, but simpler and cheaper options. The proper way to evaluate your situation would be to start with specific objectives and prioritize them. What are the functionalities you can’t live without, and what is the main goal of the data project? (Hopefully not hoarding the customer data.)

Once you set the organizational goals, try not to deviate from them so casually in the name of cost savings and automation. Your bosses and colleagues (i.e., mostly the “bottom line” folks) may not care much about the limitations of toolsets and technologies (i.e., geeky concerns).

Omnichannel marketing that requires a CDP is already complicated. So, beware of sales pitches like “All your dreams will come true with our CDP solution!” Ask some hard questions, and see if they balk at the word “customization.” Your success may depend on their ability to handle exceptions than executing some commoditized functions that they had acquired a long time ago. Unless you really believe that you will safely get to your destination on a “autopilot” mode.

 

Understanding What a Customer Data Platform Needs to Be

Marketers try to achieve holistic personalization through all conceivable channels in order to stand out among countless messages hitting targeted individuals every day, if not every hour. If the message is not clearly about the target recipient, it will be quickly dismissed. So, how can marketers achieve such an advanced level of personalization?

Modern-day marketers try to achieve holistic personalization through all conceivable channels in order to stand out among countless marketing messages hitting targeted individuals every day, if not every hour. If the message is not clearly about the target recipient, it will be quickly dismissed.

So, how can marketers achieve such an advanced level of personalization? First, we have to figure out who each target individual is, which requires data collection: What they clicked, rejected, browsed, purchased, returned, repeated, recommended, look like, complained about, etc.  Pretty much every breath they take, every move they make (without being creepy). Let’s say that you achieved that level of data collection. Will it be enough?

Enter “Customer-360,” or “360-degree View of a Customer,” or “Customer-Centric Portrait,” or “Single View of a Customer.” You get the idea. Collected data must be consolidated around each individual to get a glimpse — never the whole picture — of who the targeted individual is.

You may say, “That’s cool, we just procured technology (or a vendor) that does all that.” Considering there is no CRM database or CDP (Customer Data Platform) company that does not say one of the terms I listed above, buyers of technology often buy into the marketing pitch.

Unfortunately,the 360-degree view of a customer is just a good start in this game, and a prerequisite. Not the end goal of any marketing effort. The goal of any data project should never be just putting all available data in one place. It must support great many complex and laborious functions during the course of planning, analysis, modeling, targeting, messaging, campaigning, and attribution.

So, for the interest of marketers, allow me to share the essentials of what a CDP needs to be and do, and what the common elements of useful marketing databases are.

A CDP Must Cover Omnichannel Sources

By definition, a CDP must support all touchpoints in an omnichannel marketing environment. No modern consumer lingers around just in one channel. The holistic view cannot be achieved by just looking at their past transaction history, either (even though the past purchase behavior still remains the most powerful predictor of future behavior).

Nor do marketers have time to wait until someone buys something through a particular channel for them to take actions. All movements and indicators — as much as possible — through every conceivable channel should be included in a CDP.

Yes, some data evaporates faster than others — such as browsing history — but we are talking about a game of inches here.  Besides, data atrophy can be delayed with proper use of modeling techniques.

Beware of vendors who want to stay in their comfort zone in terms of channels. No buyer is just an online or an offline person.

Data Must Be Connected on an Individual Level

Since buyers go through all kinds of online and offline channels during the course of their journey, collected data must be stitched together to reveal their true nature. Unfortunately, in this channel-centric world, characteristics of collected data are vastly different depending on sources.

Privacy concerns and regulations regarding Personally Identifiable Information (PII) greatly vary among channels. Even if PII is allowed to be collected, there may not be any common match key, such as address, email, phone number, cookie ID, device ID, etc.

There are third-party vendors who specialize in such data weaving work. But remember that no vendor is good with all types of data. You may have to procure different techniques depending on available channel data. I’ve seen cases where great technology companies that specialized in online data were clueless about “soft-match” techniques used by direct marketers for ages.

Remember, without accurate and consistent individual ID system, one cannot even start building a true Customer-360 view.

Data Must Be Clean and Reliable

You may think that I am stating the obvious, but you must assume that most data sources are dirty. There is no pristine dataset without a serious amount of data refinement work. And when I say dirty, I mean that databases are filled with inaccurate, inconsistent, uncategorized, and unstructured data. To be useful, data must be properly corrected, purged, standardized, and categorized.

Even simple time-stamps could be immensely inconsistent. What are date-time formats, and what time zones are they in?  Dollars aren’t just dollars either. What are net price, tax, shipping, discount, coupon, and paid amounts? No, the breakdown doesn’t have to be as precise as for an accounting system, but how would you identify habitual discount seekers without dissecting the data up front?

When it comes to free-form data, things get even more complicated. Let’s just say that most non-numeric data are not that useful without proper categorization, through strict rules along with text mining. And such work should all be done up front. If you don’t, you are simply deferring more tedious work to poor analysts, or worse, to the end-users.

Beware of vendors who think that loading the raw data onto some table is good enough. It never is, unless the goal is to hoard data.

Data Must Be Up-to-Date

“Real-time update” is one of the most abused word in this business. And I don’t casually recommend it, unless decisions must be made in real-time. Why? Because, generally speaking, more frequent updates mean higher maintenance cost.

Nevertheless, real-time update is a must, if we are getting into fully automated real-time personalization. It is entirely possible to rely on trigger data for reactive personalization outside the realm of CDP environment,  but such patch work will lead to regrets most of the time. For one, how would you figure out what elements really worked?

Even if a database is not updated in real-time, most source data must remain as fresh as they can be. For instance, it is generally not recommended to append third-party demographic data real-time (except for “hot-line” data, of course). But that doesn’t mean that you can just use old data indefinitely.

When it comes to behavioral data, time really is of an essence. Click data must be updated at least daily, if not real-time.  Transaction data may be updated weekly, but don’t go over a month without updating the base, as even simple measurements like “Days since last purchase” can be way off. You all know the importance of good old recency factor in any metrics.

Data Must Be Analytics-Ready

Just because the data in question are clean and error-free, that doesn’t mean that they are ready for advanced analytics. Data must be carefully summarized onto an individual level, in order to convert “event level information” into “descriptors of individuals.”  Presence of summary variables is a good indicator of true Customer-360.

You may have all the click, view, and conversion data, but those are all descriptors of events, not people. For personalization, you need know individual level affinities (you may call them “personas”). For planning and messaging, you may need to group target individuals into segments or cohorts. All those analytics run much faster and more effectively with analytics-ready data.

If not, even simple modeling or clustering work may take a very long time, even with a decent data platform in place. It is routinely quoted that over 80% of analysts’ time go into data preparation work — how about cutting that down to zero?

Most modern toolsets come with some analytics functions, such as KPI dashboards, basic queries, and even segmentation and modeling. However, for advanced level targeting and messaging, built-in tools may not be enough. You must ask how the system would support professional statisticians with data extraction, sampling, and scoring (on the backend). Don’t forget that most analytics work fails before or after the modeling steps. And when any meltdown happens, do not habitually blame the analysts, but dig deeper into the CDP ecosystem.

Also, remember that even automated modeling tools work much better with refined data on a proper level (i.e., Individual level data for individual level modeling).

CDP Must Be Campaign-Ready

For campaign execution, selected data may have to leave the CDP environment. Sometimes data may end up in a totally different system. A CDP must never be the bottleneck in data extraction and exchange. But in many cases, it is.

Beware of technology providers that only allow built-in campaign toolsets for campaign execution. You never know what new channels or technologies will spring up in the future. While at it, check how many different data exchange protocols are supported. Data going out is as important as data coming in.

CDP Must Support Omnichannel Attribution

Speaking of data coming in and out, CDPs must be able to collect campaign result data seamlessly, from all employed channels.  The very definition of “closed-loop” marketing is that we must continuously learn from past endeavors and improve effectiveness of targeting, messaging, and channel usage.

Omnichannel attribution is simply not possible without data coming from all marketing channels. And if you do not finish the backend analyses and attribution, how would you know what really worked?

The sad reality is that a great majority of marketers fly blind, even with a so-called CDP of their own. If I may be harsh here, you are not a database marketer if you are not measuring the results properly. A CDP must make complex backend reporting and attribution easier, not harder.

Final Thoughts

For a database system to be called a CDP, it must satisfy most — if not all — of these requirements. It may be daunting for some to read through this, but doing your homework in advance will make it easier for you in the long run.

And one last thing: Do not work with any technology providers that are stingy about custom modifications. Your business is unique, and you will have to tweak some features to satisfy your unique needs. I call that the “last-mile” service. Most data projects that are labeled as failures ended up there due to a lack of custom fitting.

Conversely, what we call “good” service providers are the ones who are really good at that last-mile service. Unless you are comfortable with one-size-fits-all pre-made — but cheaper — toolset, always insist on customizable solutions.

You didn’t think that this whole omnichannel marketing was that simple, did you?

 

3 Marketing Tactics for Credit Unions to Win Over Millennials

Credit unions offer a better deal for Millennials than any other financial institution, but to win them over, your marketing must embody and convey those advantages.

Credit unions are doing worse with Millennials than any other generation, as this banking target market has flocked to fintech-driven mobile finance experiences that prioritize faceless convenience over the advantages of credit unions. But this disconnect is not the way it has to be.

Credit unions offer a better deal for Millennials than any other financial institution, but to win them over, your marketing must embody and convey those advantages.

The disconnect is a customer experience issue, but it’s not one that can be fixed by just improving customer service. You need to help these potential customers see what your brand represents throughout the lead generation process. If you amplify personalized direct mail with targeted digital marketing, you create an optichannel marketing experience that shows younger audiences you are both relevant to their world and able to deliver the individualized, convenient banking experience they’re looking for.

To attract digitally savvy, convenience-centric banking customers, credit unions must be able to deliver marketing that accomplishes three things at once:

  1. Convey a better customer experience
  2. Embrace technology and convenience
  3. Make a personal connection

1. Convey a Better Credit Union Customer Experience

This is the first taste these Millennials will have of your brand, so it’s important to show why it’s worth their time to bank with you. How does this marketing experience convey the things that will give them a great experience as customers? Is it relevant to what they’re interested in? Is it convenient? Is it personal?

Beyond the marketing experience, what aspects of the customer experience does it actually show? Does it showcase the mobile tools your credit union provides? Does it show how you make it easier for them to access funds and perform transactions? What other benefits do you offer? Do you integrate with their favorite fintech, like Venmo?

It’s the time to show why you’re the credit union that can help them live their active, technology-empowered lives and achieve their financial dreams. Make it clear why your institution is the financial hub Millennials should be choosing as the foundation to reach their goals.

2. Embrace Technology and Convenience

Mobile should not just feature in your customer experience, it must be an integral part of your marketing as well. Today brands can target individuals through data you already have about them or by building custom audiences on digital platforms. These ads must be targeted to social and mobile marketplaces, as well, to ensure that Millennials see your messaging where they live when they’re ready to engage with it.

Reaching out to your audience through mobile channels is only the beginning. The creative you send and the offers it presents must showcase mobile-enablement as well. These customers live on their phones, and you need to show them your credit union lives there, too.

3. Make a Personal Connection

Targeting and personalization go hand-in-hand. The data available today — both your first-party data and information vendors can provide — is a powerful tool for making marketing that connects. This goes beyond demographics. With the right data, you can target younger adults at times when they may be more open to changing banks or pursuing other financial products like car loans and mortgages.

Figure out what demographics and life events you want to engage with this campaign and design a direct mail campaign that addresses them and serves as your marketing catalyst. Then target that defined segment with complimentary marketing across the digital world.

Millennial Marketing Tech for Credit Unions

Credit unions have always marketed less than other financial institutions, especially through mass-market channels. Instead, the traditional credit union relied on word of mouth and brand reputation supported by local direct mail to build personal connections with its community customer base.

Those are all good tactics and credit unions should keep using them, but they aren’t enough. Today, a single direct mail campaign may be seen, but it’s too easily forgotten in the tide of advertising Millennials see all day. Not to mention, while Millennials have been shown to appreciate direct mail, this is not the demographic you want thinking that your brand is “old-school” — digital marketing and engagement channels are essential for getting and holding Millennials’ attention.

Just like your credit union isn’t their father’s financial institution, today’s optichannel marketing isn’t the direct marketing of 1990. With the data and tools available today, it’s possible to make a personal connection that sets your brand up for success with each customer you reach. Doing that in a way that embodies the customer experience your credit union provides is the key to winning Millennial bank accounts today.

Optichannel Marketing Campaigns Get an Additional Boost With Direct Mail

Not every brand has a big brand’s marketing resources. Here’s are two case studies in how optichannel marketing is being used at a more reasonable level of investment by real, medium-sized businesses to increase campaign effectiveness and bottom-line results.

Not too long ago, we looked at how some of the biggest companies in the world — including Disney and Neiman Marcus — use optichannel customer experience strategies to deliver great marketing ROI. Even among big brands, though, the customer experience magic of Disney may be out of reach. So let’s take a look at how optichannel marketing is being used at a more reasonable level of investment by real, medium-sized businesses to significantly increase campaign effectiveness and bottom-line results.

Response-Lift Modeling Finds New Campers and New Revenue for Summer Learning Initiative

The hard part of operating any business focused on school-age children is the built-in rate of attrition. Students grow up, graduate, and otherwise age out of your programs every year. It’s likely that at least 25% of your customers won’t be back the following year due to matriculation alone.

To refill those seats without breaking the bank, these institutions must focus marketing on lead generation and new customer acquisition — two of the most expensive goals in marketing. It’s challenging to do that and still find a way to market profitably.

One such program is Galileo Learning, which operates 75 children’s summer camps across parts of California and Chicago, Ill. Age limits on the program mean that large portions of the customer base graduate out every year.

Finding a way to replace those students quickly becomes prohibitive. Summer Erickson, head of marketing for Galileo Learning, saw that many direct mail strategies were becoming too expensive for the ROI. The answer she found was to combine a very effective mail piece with tight customer models built on the data of current customers.

“The customer modeling tool was a game-changer for us,” says Erickson. By using response-lift modeling to identify prospects on external lists who were highly likely to respond, Galileo was able to market much more efficiently. They used the savings to create better mail pieces that would also drive better-than-normal response, and the mailers were localized to each of their nine markets where Galileo operated camps.

The results, Erickson says, surpassed her most optimistic expectations. The campaign brought in 155 new campers and $66,000 in new revenue. And she expects even better success from a wider program launched later in the year.

Holiday Direct Mail Adds Optichannel Targeting, Gets 6X More Impressions, $200k-Plus in Donations

Sometimes you need to break out beyond a single channel to get the best results. Meals on Wheels (MOW) in the Diablo Region of California spurred $230,000 in new donations by doing exactly that with its holiday donor appeal campaign.

The campaign broke with MOW’s traditional strategy in two main ways:

  • They built three audience segments defined by demographics and customer look-a-like modeling.
  • MOW added targeted digital advertising to amplify its direct mail, which made sure the target audience saw 6X more campaign impressions that they would have in a mail-only strategy.

First, much like Galileo, MOW and its agency starting working from the donor database, using existing data from real donors to identify three list segments who would be most responsive to this campaign: current donors, lapsed donors and prospective donors. Although the names sound straightforward, the segments were developed by examining the demographic and engagement data of known donors across dozens of factors.

Each person on the list received a personalized donor appeal letter with infographics highlighting the benefits of donating to MOW and a coupon CTA to make a donation.

Overall, the campaign blanketed the audience with 75,000 pieces of direct mail alone. But that was just the beginning of the campaign.

In addition to those 75,000 mailpieces, MOW built email, social media, and online display advertising to amplify the direct mail message. Together, this added 467,542 additional marketing impressions for the campaign — more than a 600% increase in overall brand exposure, compared to a mail-only control group.

The results were impressive for MOW, even for a holiday appeal: $230,000 in donations, 43% new donors, and donors from the optichannel campaign averaged 169% more than donors in the control group who only received direct mail.

Great Customer Experience Starts With Your Marketing

How your brand engages prospects sets the tone for the entire customer relationship. Here are three things your marketing must do to show prospects that you understand how to treat them as customers.

How your brand engages prospects sets the tone for the entire customer relationship. In fact, the customer experience — especially before purchase — is influenced more by when, where, and how you talk to them than by your website’s or app’s UX polish (although, bad UX can certainly still ruin the experience).

Here are three things every brand must get right to lay the foundation for a great customer experience.

1. Customers Must Be Interested in What You’re Saying

How often do you see marketing that you’re just not interested in? Is that a good experience for you as a customer? Do you think it’s a good experience when your brand’s marketing has the same impact on its potential customers?

The ability to control where and to whom your message appears is the core of successful omnichannel marketing, but brands get it wrong all the time.

It starts with knowing your current customers. Knowing what your audience wants to see in your marketing is a function of how well you understand the data around your current customers and how you apply those insights to prospects. For example, building look-a-like models based on your current customers allows you to target demographic and behavioral features in prospect audiences that make them likely to be interested in your messaging.

Once you understand the data points that will allow you to target prospects, your marketing must be able to put those insights into action. That’s where your omnichannel marketing strategy comes into play. Each channel has its own, unique ways to target audiences, and you need to be able to use those channels to deliver your messages to just the people who want to see them.

On social media, for example, you can target people by interests, likes, and follows that match what you know current customers are interested in. Online display advertising can target website visitors based on browsing profiles. Search ads target based on the search terms you buy.

There are a thousand ways to get there, but targeting your omnichannel messages is essential. Once you see engagement and know that marketing is on-target, then you can expand the customer experience strategy to reach new target audiences based on broader profiles.

By talking to prospects about things you know they’re interested in, you’re showing them that you understand what they need and you’re not going to waste their time.

2. Customers Must Be Open to Engaging on That Platform

Many brands put their marketing in front of people wherever they can and whenever they can, and the result is a generation of people who tune out marketing as little more than background noise.

It’s this simple: If your ad annoys people, it’s not a good customer experience.

The secret to providing consumers a good marketing experience is to be there when it’s helpful and not be there when it’s annoying. If your marketing is annoying, prospects will just tune it out — but they won’t forget that you annoyed them.

Many TV and online ads fall into this trap, but there are times and places for good marketing to create positive brand experiences. Direct mail is one channel that customers interact with on their own terms. Direct mail marketing is there when customers want it, not when they don’t. Even online marketing, despite the annoying nature of so many digital ads, can create a great customer experience if you put the ads in the right places at the right time.

Paid search, again, is a good example of advertising that works hand-in-hand with its platform to provide a positive experience. There’s no better time to promote your solution than when someone is actively asking the question.

Good omnichannel marketing doesn’t just focus on where leads may be found, it focuses on where leads have been found and where they engage and convert with the kind of marketing you’re doing. By positioning your marketing in the channels where your prospects want to engage with that kind of content, you start a customer journey that can make customers fall in love with your business.

3. The Time Must Be Right to Have a Customer Experience

Timing is everything. All the demographic and interest-based targeting in the world won’t turn bad timing into a good customer experience.

The timing of your marketing is affected by several cycles, some of which are universal, like seasonality, while others are unique to each customer or to your brand. Great omnichannel brands identify these cycles and use them to deliver great experiences.

There are important points in individual customer lifecycles, such as identifying when a known prospect will be ready to buy or an existing customer will be ready to repurchase. When a brand recognizes those moments and acknowledges them with a positive message, that creates a good customer experience. These milestones matter to your customers, and so do birthdays and other important dates in their individual years.

This is where customer journey maps can come in handy. By sketching out the entire customer journey from initial consideration through repurchase and (hopefully) product evangelism, you better understand what customers are doing at each step of the way. This helps you identify which messages are needed at milestone points in the lifecycle as well as the kind of experiences that will help nudge people from being just customers to true brand evangelists.

In the end, all of this work isn’t just about making marketing that converts more, it’s about creating marketing that connects with your target audience on a personal level. If you get these three things right before the purchase, you lay the foundation for a great customer experience throughout the post-purchase journey.

Taking Omnichannel Marketing Outbound in 2020!

While a strong omnichannel customer experience is important, it’s equally important to incorporate omnichannel marketing into your lead generation strategy. Content optimization, customer modeling, and profiling through a strategic optichannel plan will produce a strong customer acquisition system.

Omnichannel marketing is an important piece of any brand’s customer experience (CX) strategy, but too often it stops there. While a strong omnichannel CX is important, it’s equally important to incorporate omnichannel marketing into your lead generation strategy. Content optimization, customer modeling, and profiling through a strategic optichannel plan will produce a strong customer acquisition system.

Here are three ways to use the power of omnichannel marketing to enhance your outbound marketing and generate leads, acquire customers, and lay the foundation for strong customer relationships.

1. Omnichannel Content Optimization

The biggest difference between omnichannel CX and omnichannel marketing is that the CX mostly happens on your owned channels, and it mostly engages existing customers and lower-funnel prospects deciding to become customers.

But how do you get those prospects into the pipeline in the first place? Traditional mass marketing? That’s not the right way to introduce prospects to a highly targeted, personalized, omnichannel experience. Maybe Disney can pull that off, but most brands need to put more effort into building a strong foundation for the customer experience.

That’s where omnichannel marketing comes in. We recently dove into how four brands deliver great omnichannel customer experiences by anticipating individual customer needs and removing obstacles that would have a negative impact on customer experience. In omnichannel marketing, you take that same approach to outbound marketing content. That can be as simple as offering a discount or as complex as creating videos to counter known buying objections.

Great omnichannel marketing comes from understanding what your target audience wants and needs, and providing content that addresses those drives. At a minimum, you must develop ad content tailored to the specific segments you’re targeting. Blasting the same offer to all of your audience models is not omnichannel marketing.

For prospects who are already pretty far down the funnel, target them with ad content that makes it easy to see that you offer the things they want and will make them easy to get.

Not all prospect segments are going to be that far down the funnel, though. You may be using omnichannel marketing to drive awareness and get top-of-funnel prospects to sign up as leads and receive your newsletter. Here, educational content can be highly effective. If they’re new to the market, promote blog content that answers common newbie questions. If they’re experienced — but not looking to buy yet — promote high-value content that makes an impression and encourages them to come to you for answers (technology companies like Cisco and HubSpot do a wonderful job of this).

Keep in mind that a targeted audience offers new opportunities to optimize content. For example,  Google affinity audiences allow advertisers to loosely target visitors of competing websites. For these kinds of campaigns, you can talk specifically about the kinds of things those websites cover.

2. Turn Customer Data From a Microscope Into a Telescope

Every brand has customer data, but even though that data lets marketers examine their customers in small — even microscopic — detail, most have a hard time using it to do much more than send birthday emails and make fairly shallow product recommendations.

In order to use your data for true outbound omnichannel marketing, you need to turn that data around so it can be your telescope instead of a microscope. You can do this by examining the data to extrapolate traits from your existing customers that also should appear on likely customers — i.e., look-a-like modeling.

The process is two-fold data science. First, you identify the segments you want to model in your customer data and look for data points they have in common. These traits may indicate someone is likely to become your customer, but it’s not a single-factor analysis. Each segment may have demographic, psychographic, and behavioral variables you can synthesize to create models that will help find other likely customers.

Then you use those models to target both online and offline marketing. For example, Facebook has long offered look-a-like targeting to its audience. Google offers similar options across its whole online and mobile ad network. You can also use these models to identify mailing lists that include the right kind of audiences and target them with relevant marketing.

Omnichannel marketing is not just for direct response, either. It is highly effective at getting the right content in front of your target audience on social media. You can use these models to target content promotion on social networks and make sure the right stories from your accounts wind up in the feeds of the right people on each network.

3. Make Omnichannel Marketing Optichannel

As mentioned, omnichannel marketing takes everything you do to build your omnichannel customer experience and applies it to lead generation and customer acquisition. You can take this further to an optichannel strategy by constricting your outreach to just the channels where each customer prefers to engage with marketing. That may sound counterintuitive as part of an omnichannel strategy, but consumers and business audiences are both showing fatigue with being hounded by ads from every brand on every channel. There are benefits to actually limiting the channels you use for specific customers by selecting ones that can be effectively optimized.

If you can identify the preferred channel of a specific audience segment — or, ideally, individual prospects — and create a great experience for them on that channel, you stand a much better chance of laying the foundation for a great omnichannel customer relationship.

Omnichannel CX has been a breakthrough for many brands. Done well, the techniques it uses can provide your customers with the kind of experiences that keep them coming back — it’s like customer relationship magic. But if you can’t take those principles and apply them to your outbound marketing as well, you’re doing a disservice to brand growth. Use these tips to turn your CX strategy around and leverage the power of true omnichannel marketing.

How Direct Mail Fits in an Omnichannel Strategy

Many times, marketers look at direct mail as an old-school choice that does not fit well in an omnichannel world. This is just not true. Direct mail helps you integrate online marketing with the physical world. Research shows people like and trust direct mail across all generations.

Many times, marketers look at direct mail as an old-school choice that does not fit well in an omnichannel world. This is just not true. Direct mail helps you integrate online marketing with the physical world. Research shows people like and trust direct mail across all generations. Direct mail is the tangible component of your omnichannel strategy. It is a physical piece that draws attention and then is remembered better than marketing that’s in digital channels.

When customers and prospects get a mail piece that ties to multiple channels, not only is your branding more effective, but your engagement goes up. Why? Attention spans are shorter, people are inundated with ads all day, and they are very busy in this fast-paced world, so reaching them multiple times across channels gives you more opportunity to get them to buy from you.

So exactly where does direct mail fit in an omnichannel strategy?

  • Start — Direct mail can be the start of your campaign. Use it to drive customers and prospects to specific online landing pages. Then create triggers for other channels, based on mail delivery date, landing page visits or lack of action.
  • Middle — So after you have sent out emails, display ads or any other marketing channel message, you can then use direct mail as a mid-campaign push to action. Then your follow up will be with other channels, based on either their response or the in-home dates.
  • End — Lack of response does not necessarily equate to lack of interest, so ending with direct mail is a very popular method. Direct mail is a driver of response. You can time it to distribute after a set number of days from other channels or be triggered based on lack of response to other channels. Direct mail as the last touch allows a final push of your campaign that can easily be saved until they have time to respond and can be given to others to increase your exposure.

Because direct mail is a good fit in any phase of your campaign, you should include the channel to help boost your sales. Now, let’s look at a real example of how IKEA uses direct mail in an omnichannel strategy. IKEA is known for its catalogs that come to life when scanned with a cell phone to show you how its furniture will look in your home, but did you also know that it’s using email and social media in conjunction with the catalogs, not to mention TV and radio ads? Each channel feeds into the other and allows them to build up audiences across all channels, which increase sales.

Direct mail doesn’t have to include an AR or VR experience like IKEA, but it does need to tie into your online content and other channels. You want the flow for customers to be the same, no matter what channel they respond to, so create a workflow that accomplishes this. Of course, what they see first is based on where and how they respond; however, the overall flow should be driven by triggers based on what each person is doing along the way. Customer experience is the key to great omnichannel marketing. You can no longer put your money into just one channel, because you will not get enough bang for your buck. Omnichannel marketing allows you to create a complete campaign based on ease of use for your customers. Every customer is different so allowing them to respond in the most convenient way for them increases your ROI. Are you ready to get started?

The Omnichannel Customer Service Gap

As part of our analysis of the omnichannel experience today in the report “Omnichannel Marketing: The Key to Unlocking a Powerful Customer Experience,” we asked marketers how they provide customer service in each channel, and whether or not they are getting AI involved.

As part of our analysis of the omnichannel experience today in the report “Omnichannel Marketing: The Key to Unlocking a Powerful Customer Experience,” we asked marketers how they provide customer service in each channel, and whether or not they are getting AI involved.

The Extent of Omnichannel Customer Service

Here’s what the marketers had to say:

Omnichannel Customer Service chart from the Omnichannel Marketing Report, 2018.

Perhaps not surprisingly, 82 percent of marketers offer live customer service over the phone, 73 percent through email and 52 percent through social media. But only 28 percent offer live service through website chat, and almost none do via virtual assistants (which is an emerging field).

Very few respondents are dabbling in AI or AI-assisted customer service. However, 14 percent do so through web chat — which means half of all web chat is being handled by AI. That’s followed by social media and email.

Outside of website chat bots, AI customer service is still a rare experience. Also, marketers do not yet seem to consider virtual assistants and smart speakers to be important service channels.

Is That Futuristic Enough?

I was a bit surprised that service was not offered more frequently in more channels. Only half of respondents said they offer customer service reps via social media. Tiny numbers offered it through website chat or virtual assistants.

Is that a wide enough spread of service options to satisfy today’s omnichannel customer? Is it enough to be considered “Omnichannel Customer Service”? On the flip side, does limiting those options make for a better service experience?

Beyond the number of channels service was offered in, it seems that very few marketers are leveraging AI for customer service in any channels. Helping customers still means connecting them with live CSRs. Is that really the most efficient way to do things?

The slower customer service is, the higher the chance you’ll lose that customer to a competitor. Offering service on more channels should help you ensure a great experience. Using good AI to assist your CSR’s should reduce friction and make the process more efficient.

What’s holding marketers back here? Is it the fear that an already damaged experience is going to be made worse? Well, I certainly don’t think the robots are going to do a worse job than crowdsourcing that service.

If you’re nervous about creating a chat bot, we’ve got a great session coming up at the All About Marketing Tech virtual conference that will help you learn the basics and build a chatbot that doesn’t suck. Check i out.

And for more about how marketers are building their omnichannel customer experiences, click here to download the complete report for free.

Early Results of Our Omnichannel Marketing Survey

While our “2018 Omnichannel Marketing Survey” is still ongoing, the early results are surprising. Far from being a retail-only issue, over 75 percent of respondents say the omnichannel customer experience is important in their industries.

While our “2018 Omnichannel Marketing Survey” is still ongoing — we’ve only sent out the first of at least three emails for it, with another coming out today — the early results are surprising. Far from being a retail-only issue, over 75 percent of respondents say the omnichannel customer experience is important in their industries.

The early returns on our Omnichannel Marketing survey find that 75 percent of marketers, across all industries, think omnichannel is important.
The early returns on our Omnichannel Marketing survey find that 75 percent of marketers, across all industries, think omnichannel is important.

What’s more, only 6 percent of respondents so far are in the retail/e-tail sector; more responses are coming from a host of other industries, from non-profits to CPG to financial services in both B2B and B2C.

So far, omnichannel is proving to be an essential concern in 2018 for marketers of all stripes, enough that budgets are shifting to handle it. The early results show that 53 percent plan to spend more on omnichannel marketing in 2018 than they did in 2017, and 7 percent are more than doubling that investment.

What are they investing in? According to the early results, a lot of that investment is going toward customer data, customer service and customer identification.

In the early results, new omnichannel investment is overwhelmingly going to data, customer service and customer identification.
In the early results, new omnichannel investment is overwhelmingly going to data, customer service and customer identification.

Based on tha, it appears that customers are continuing to face challenges in the core capabilities of omnichannel marketing: Knowing who’s engaging where, and putting that together with what they did on the other channels to create a worthwhile experience.

Now, these are only the early results. The survey is far from done, and I’d love to hear from you. There’s still time to be entered to win the $100 AmEx gift card!

So, if you haven’t yet, click here to participate in the Omnichannel Marketing Survey yourself. And keep an eye out in March for the final report and a lot more coverage!