Data Analytics Projects Only Benefit Marketers When Properly Applied

A recent report shared that only about 20% of all analytics projects work turns out to be beneficial to businesses. Such waste. Nonetheless, is that solely the fault of data scientists? After all, even effective medicine renders useless if the patient refuses to take it.

I recently read a report that only about 20% of all analytics projects work turns out to be beneficial to businesses. Such waste. Nonetheless, is that solely the fault of data scientists? After all, even effective medicine renders useless if the patient refuses to take it.

Then again, why would users reject the results of analytics work? At the risk of gross simplification, allow me to break it down into two categories: Cases where project goals do not align with the business goals, and others where good intelligence gets wasted due to lack of capability, procedure, or will to implement follow-up actions. Basically, poor planning in the beginning, and poor execution at the backend.

Results of analytics projects often get ignored if the project goal doesn’t serve the general strategy or specific needs of the business. To put it in a different way, projects stemming from the analyst’s intellectual curiosity may or may not align with business interests. Some math geek may be fascinated by the elegance of mathematical precision or complexity of solutions, but such intrigue rarely translates directly into monetization of data assets.

In business, faster and simpler answers are far more actionable and valuable. If I ask business people if they want an answer with 80% confidence level in next 2 days, or an answer with 95% certainty in 4 weeks, the great majority would choose the quicker but less-than-perfect answer. Why? Because the keyword in all this is “actionable,” not “certainty.”

Analysts who would like to maintain a distance from immediate business needs should instead pursue pure science in the world of academia (a noble cause, without a doubt). In business settings, however, we play with data only to make tangible differences, as in dollars, cents, minutes or seconds. Once such differences in philosophy are accepted and understood by all involved parties, then the real question is: What kind of answers are most needed to improve business results?

Setting Analytics Projects Up for Success

Defining the problem statement is the hardest part for many analysts. Even the ones who are well-trained often struggle with the goal setting process. Why? Because in school, the professor in charge provides the problems to solve, and students submit solutions to them.

In business, analysts must understand the intentions of decision makers (i.e., their clients), deciphering not-so-logical general statements and anecdotes. Yeah, sure, we need to attract more high-value customers, but how would we express such value via mathematical statements? What would the end result look like, and how will it be deployed to make any difference in the end?

If unchecked, many analytics projects move forward purely based on the analysts’ assumptions, or worse, procedural convenience factors. For example, if the goal of the project is to rank a customer list in the order of responsiveness to certain product offers, then to build models like that, one may employ all kinds of transactional, behavioral, response, and demographic data.

All these data types come with different strengths and weaknesses, and even different missing data ratios. In cases like this, I’ve encountered many — too many — analysts who would just omit the whole population with missing demographic data in the development universe. Sometimes such omission adds up to be over 30% of the whole. What, are we never going to reach out to those souls just because they lack some peripheral data points for them?

Good luck convincing the stakeholders who want to use the entire list for various channel promotions. “Sorry, we can provide model scores for only 70% of your valuable list,” is not going to cut it.

More than a few times, I received questions about what analysts should do when they have to reach deep into lower model groups (of response models) to meet the demand of marketers, knowing that the bottom half won’t perform well. My response would be to forget about the model — no matter how elegant it may be — and develop heuristic rules to eliminate obvious non-targets in the prospect universe. If the model gets to be used, it is almost certain that the modeler in charge will be blamed for mediocre or bad performance, anyway.

Then I firmly warn them to ask about typical campaign size “before” one starts building some fancy models. What is the point of building a response model when the emailer would blast emails as much as he wants? To prove that the analyst is well-versed in building complex response models? What difference would it ever make in the “real” world? With that energy, it would be far more prudent to build a series of personas and product affinity models to personalize messages and offers.

Supporting Analytics Results With Marketing

Now, let’s pause for a moment and think about the second major reason why the results of analytics are not utilized. Assume that the analytics team developed a series of personas and product affinity models to customize offers on a personal level. Does the marketing team have the ability to display different offers to different targets? Via email, websites, and/or print media? In other words, do they have capabilities and resources to show “a picture of two wine glasses filled with attractive looking red wine” to people who scored high scores in the “Wine Enthusiast” model?

I’ve encountered too many situations where marketers look concerned — rather than getting excited — when talking about personas for personalization. Not because they care about what analysts must go through to produce a series of models, but because they lack creative assets and technical capabilities to make it all happen.

They often complain about lack of budget to develop multiple versions of creatives, lack of proper digital asset management tools, lack of campaign management tools that allows complex versioning, lack of ability to serve dynamic contents on websites, etc. There is no shortage of reasons why something “cannot” be done.

But, even in a situation like that, it is not the job of a data scientist to suggest increasing investments in various areas, especially when “other” departments have to cough up the money. No one gets to command unlimited resources, and every department has its own priorities. What analytics professionals must do is to figure out all kinds of limitations beyond the little world of analytics, and prioritize the work in terms of actionability.

Consider what can be done with minimal changes in the marketing ecosystem, and for preservation of analytics and marketing departments, what efforts will immediately bring tangible results? Basically, what will we be able to brag about in front of CEOs and CFOs?

When to Put Analytics Projects First

Prioritization of analytics projects should never be done solely based on data availability, ease of data crunching or modeling, or “geek” factors. It should be done in terms of potential value of the result, immediate actionability, and most importantly, alignment with overall business objectives.

The fact that only about 20% of analytics work yields business value means that 80% of the work was never even necessary. Sure, data geeks deserve to have some fun once in a while, but the fun factor doesn’t pay for the systems, toolsets, data maintenance, and salaries.

Without proper problem statements on the front-end and follow-up actions on the back-end, no amount of analytical activities would produce any value for businesses. That is why data and analytics professionals must act as translators between the business world and the technical world. Without that critical consulting layer, it becomes the-luck-of-the-draw when prioritizing projects.

To stay on target, always start with a proper analytics roadmap covering from ideation to applications stages. To be valued and appreciated, data scientists must act as business consultants, as well.

 

3 Tips to Refine Your Current SEO Strategy

It’s a good time of the year for digital marketers to take a closer look at the success of their SEO efforts. What SEO strategy seems to have worked best? How successful have you been in attracting your core audience? Now is not the time to coast on what you are doing, even if you’ve hit or exceeded your goals this year.

It’s a good time of the year for digital marketers to take a closer look at the success of their SEO efforts. What SEO strategy seems to have worked best? How successful have you been in attracting your core audience? Now is not the time to coast on what you are doing, even if you’ve hit or exceeded your goals this year.

Use the last few months of the year to refine your SEO strategy and pinpoint opportunities for driving more high-converting visitors to your website. A quick audit like the one below can highlight places where these SEO tactics could yield better results.

1. Polish Your Technical SEO Components

You would be surprised at how many seemingly polished websites neglect basic SEO techniques, like optimal keyword placement and appropriate headers. Keyword research is one thing that remains vital in a sea of SEO changes over the years. Of course, don’t mistake an emphasis on keywords as an invitation to start using outdated keyword-stuffing tactics.

Unnaturally stuffing keywords into your pages is unnecessary and reads awkwardly to your target audience. Sprinkle your focus keywords throughout your content organically, in a way that makes sense. You can also target multiple, related keywords by optimizing their placement in the headings (H1, H2, H3, etc.) of your content.

Meta descriptions are another SEO component many marketers neglect. Optimizing meta descriptions is a quick, easy way to help drive more clicks to your website; which, in turn, can improve your search engine rankings. Don’t just let Google decide what to use as your description in its search results. Draft compelling meta descriptions that will help your business stand out to prospective customers.

The biggest thing to keep in mind when it comes to SEO is the intent. How well are you matching the page titles and descriptions to what your prospective customers are searching for?

2. Upgrade Your Content

You’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating, content is king. Google’s goal is to provide the absolute best search results possible for its users, and that means you must have the best content if you want to compete in SEO.

What can visitors find on your site that they cannot get anywhere else? Home contractors can create video guides for common do-it-yourself scenarios that often stump potential clients, while making it clear when they should call in a professional. Creative types can take their visitors through their process of coming up with their final product, whether it is a song or a new cake design.

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Look at what is already ranking at the top of Google for your target keywords. How can you do it better? What new angle can you cover that can fulfill the needs of your visitors? The voice of experience should be evident throughout, showing customers why you should be their top choice over other competitors.

3. Improve Tracking Across Your Pages

Tracking is a marketer’s best tool when it comes to finding SEO improvements. It can tell you exactly where the issues are and what changes can have the most significant impact, when properly implemented. If you haven’t done so already, then I suggest installing Google Analytics across your entire website and linking it up to your account with Google Search Console. Those two tools will give you invaluable insights into your SEO efforts.

You’ll be able to track keyword rankings, search engine click-through rates, and SEO landing page conversions.

For locally-focused businesses, I recommend BrightLocal for tracking your Google My Business rankings, over time. This will help you spot trends and continue to make improvements with your local SEO efforts.

It’s Time to Work on Your SEO Strategy

We’re in the fourth quarter, so it’s time to set up your SEO for success in the next year. Review the basics and make sure you’ve optimized your website correctly for your target keywords. Then review your content, compared to what’s already ranking in Google. How can you compete and create superior content for your target audience? Lastly, don’t forget about tracking. It’s never too late to get proper tracking installed so that you have the tools readily available to improve your SEO.

Want more tips to help you with SEO? Click here to grab a copy of my “Ultimate SEO Checklist.”

Marketers, How Valid Is Your Test? Hint: It’s Not About the Sample Size

The validity of a test is not tied to the size of the sample itself, but rather to the number of responses that you get from that sample. Choose sample sizes based on your expected response rate, not from tradition, your gut or convenience.

A client I worked with years ago kept fastidious records of test results that involved offers, lists, and creative executions. At the outset of our relationship, the client shared the results of these direct mail campaigns and the corresponding decisions that were made based on those results. The usual response rates were in the 0.3 to 0.5% range, and the test sample sizes were always 25,000. If a particular test cell got 130 responses (0.52%), it was deemed to have beaten a test cell that received 110 responses (0.44%). Make sense? Intuitively, yes. Statistically, no.

In fact, those two cells are statistically equal. With a sample size of 25,000 a 0.5% response rate, your results can vary by as much as 14.7% at a 90% confidence level. That means that there was a 90% chance that the results from that test could have been as much 0.55% or as little as 0.43%, making our test cell results of 110 responses (0.44%) and 130 responses (0.52%) statistically equal. I had to gently encourage the client to consider retesting at larger sample sizes.

There are statistical formulas for calculating sample size, but a good rule of thumb to follow is that with 250 responses, you can be 90% confident that your results will vary no more than +10%. This rule of thumb is valid in any medium online or offline. For example, if you test 25,000 emails and you get a 1% response rate, that’s 250 responses. Similarly, if you buy 250,000 impressions for an online ad and you get a 0.1% response rate, you get 250 responses. That means you can be 90% confident that (all things held equal) you will get between 0.9% and 1.1% in the email rollout,  and between 0.009% and 0.01%, with a continuation of the same ad in the same media. (Older editions of Ed Nash’sDirect Marketing — Strategy, Planning, Execution contain charts that you can reference at different sample sizes and response rates).

A smaller number of responses will result in a reduced confidence level or increased variance. For example, with a test size of 10,000 emails and a 1% response rate (100 responses), your variance at a 90% confidence level would be 16%, rather than 10%. That means you can be 90% confident that you’ll get between 0.84% and 1.16% response rate  with all things being held equal. Any response within that range could have been the result of variation within the sample.

Marketers are not alone in using their gut rather than statistics to determine sample sizes. Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman confesses in his book “Thinking, Fast and Slow“:

“Like many research psychologists, I had routinely chosen samples that were too small and had often obtained results that made no sense … the odd results were actually artifacts of my research method. My mistake, was particularly embarrassing because I taught statistics and knew how to compute the sample size that would reduce the risk to an acceptable level. But I had never chosen a sample size by computation. Like my colleagues, I had trusted tradition and my intuition in planning my experiments and had never thought seriously about the issue.”

The most important takeaway here is that the validity of a test is not tied to the size of the sample itself, but rather to the number of responses that you get from that sample. Choose sample sizes based on your expected response rate, not from tradition, your gut or convenience.

When Marketing’s Not Working, Stop Trying So Hard

We see it all of the time. The most talented athletes who kill all records and expectations in their sport. During training. But when it comes to delivering during a high-pressure, high-stakes competition, they go cold, stiff and can’t come close to the potential they have shown sans pressure. When marketing’s not working, the story’s often the same as it is for athletes.

We see it all of the time. The most talented athletes who kill all records and expectations in their sport. During training. But when it comes to delivering during a high-pressure, high-stakes competition, they go cold, stiff, and can’t come close to the potential they have shown sans pressure. When marketing’s not working, the story’s often the same as it is for athletes.

As a mom of three elite ski racers, I’ve seen it for years — among athletes young and old. And when it happens, its labeled as “over-thinking” that gets in the way of a relaxed performance driven by passion and not results. In fact, the old adage in the ski racing industry is, “Focus on results, be disappointed. Focus on passion, be happily surprised.”

If focusing on passion vs. results can pay big dividends in sports performance, can it do the same for marketing?

Think about it. Marketers are rushing to push out more content, more emails, more ads — and we work long hard hours to do this faster and better than everyone else. And then so often we sit back to watch the results, and end up disappointed or even stunned at the lack of response, even from our best customers. This tends to be the pattern more often than not.

Yet, when we launch campaigns that do not follow the rules of skills, tactics and techniques we have learned over the years, and just let go of the boundaries and set loose our passion for our brand, category or the purpose our products enable us to fulfill, we quite often experience something very different: customer engagement, response and ROI levels that exceed even our basic expectations. Much like when an athlete quits thinking of results and plays his/her game for the love of it instead of the glory, marketers quite often achieve personal bests.

Take a look at the brands that are more movements than profit centers:

  • Tom’s Shoes is one of the pioneer brands in this area. Instead of organizing and operating to make rich shareholders richer, founder Blake Mycoskie started an organization to put shoes on the feet of children living in poverty in third-world countries in which he had volunteered. His business reached $23 million in revenue in just three years, because his mission and his passion were contagious. That made his product that much more attractive, even when it was priced well over the cost of goods equation.
  • Another great example is Newman’s Own, a line of natural food products from which all profits are donated to charity. Its mission is “Newman’s Own Foundation uses the power of giving to help transform lives and nourish the common good.” And since starting in 1982, it has donated more than $530 million to charity. Giving back was a passion of founder, Paul Newman, whose personal mantra was, “What could be better than to hold your hand out to those who are less fortunate?” His products are top sellers at grocery stores nationwide, because they are good, and because the company creates good — both of which are contagious and inspire people to engage or purchase time and time again.

While many might call the above brand examples cause-related marketing models, others might join me in calling it Passion Marketing, which I define as: Building products and business models around a cause about which you are passionate, and working hard to engage others in your cause in order to make a powerful contact.

Like the athletes or performers who operate for the joy of doing what they love, and the passion to share their talents or gifts with others, when brands operate toward this higher purpose, they do better. Achieve more. And attract more people to their tribe, based upon like values and goals.

At some point, you — the business owner, marketing executive, operations lead — need to ask yourself a key question: Why do you do what you do? What about your job gives you joy? And why should others join your cause?

If you still have passion for what you do, your product, your brand, shift your focus and efforts to passing forward the joy you receive vs. the profits you are expected to increase.

If you are not getting the results you want. Stop trying so hard. Chances are, you’re over-thinking and not communicating with contagious passion or sharing the joy that keeps you doing what you do. Like the athlete, your efforts could be so routinized that they are just stiff and ineffective, even at the most basic level.

Instead, build campaigns around furthering the cause that you’ve aligned with your brand, and building a community around your cause that makes people want to be part of your brand. When you can do this, like Tom’s did with his mantra to give a pair of shoes away for every pair he sold, you will surprisingly see your profits grow in ways that routine, expected marketing efforts never will.

Create Direct Mail Alignment for Better Results

The strategy of direct mail alignment with your other marketing channels is crucial for your success. Mixed messages, poor clarity and too many points of view confuse your prospects and customers so they don’t make a purchase. Aligning your messaging across channels is the best strategy to give you better results.

The strategy of direct mail alignment with your other marketing channels is crucial for your success. Mixed messages, poor clarity and too many points of view confuse your prospects and customers so they don’t make a purchase. Aligning your messaging across channels is the best strategy to give you better results.

Good marketing alignment provides:

  • Engagement: People are more engaged with your mail piece when they understand what you are saying. They must be able to easily see what the key benefits are to them and why they matter.
  • Trust: Alignment across your marketing channels provides greater clarity and trust. When people trust you, they buy from you. Since direct mail is considered to be the most trustworthy marketing channel, take advantage of it.
  • Performance: When you align, you are able to meet customer and prospect expectations. This leads to more purchases and better marketing performance.

So how can you come up with aligned messaging? Find the right problem to solve with your product or service for your customers and prospects. You must deliver a value to them and you do that by solving their problems. If you are not sure of how best to articulate your message as solving a problem, talk to some of your current customers. Their feedback can help you articulate better messaging.

With direct mail alignment with other marketing channels, you find that prospects and customers are pulled into the purchase zone. It is a natural occurrence when people are engaged with your company and want to be a part of the experience you have created across marketing channels. Remember that emotion is the key to drive response. How can people get an emotional attachment to your messaging if it is not clear and resonates throughout all of your marketing messaging?

Your customers and prospects need to know that you can provide them with three key things:

  1. Attention: They want to feel as though you think they are special. You can do this with personalization and special offers. Only send relevant marketing to them. I once received a mailer that wanted me to become a member of an organization that I had already been a member of for over 14 years. I felt insulted and not valued. Be sure to send the right offer to the right people.
  2. Competency: They want to feel that you know what you are doing and will provide them with a good product or service. You can help build up their view of you by using testimonials from current customers.
  3. Caring: They want to feel that you care about them as individuals. Give them a little extra love with a bonus offer or gift after they order. Make them want to continue to do business with you.

When your story messaging meets all three points, it resonates more — which leads to increased response. Your marketing strategy should align your messaging effectively. How do you do that? Remember that people love and relate to stories. When you are able to create your messaging in story form, you build authenticity, trust, empathy and engagement — which all lead to purchasing from you. This story can then be used strategically across all of your marketing channels to enhance your results.

This will take planning and time to prefect; however, the results are well worth it. Are you ready to get started?

Direct Mail Marketing Can Be a Pleasure, Not Just a Workhorse

Most marketers look at direct mail marketing as a must-do in their marketing mix; but really, direct mail can be fabulous with the right strategy. If you have been using direct mail for a long time, you may have reached the point where you continue to recycle the same strategy over and over again. This becomes less effective each time. So how can you rethink your strategy to get better results?

direct mail marketing
Credit: Pixabay by ElisaRiva

Most marketers look at direct mail marketing as a must-do in their marketing mix; but really, direct mail can be fabulous with the right strategy. If you have been using direct mail for a long time, you may have reached the point where you continue to recycle the same strategy over and over again. This becomes less effective each time. So how can you rethink your strategy to get better results?

Check out  these five creative direct mail strategies:

Turn a Standard Holiday Card Into an Adventure

SS+K changed from a traditional flat holiday card to offering a 360-degree virtual reality bobsled ride. Here is how it works: The folds will turn the 2D card into 3D VR glasses. With the cardboard glasses, the recipients get to take their seats in the bobsled. After sliding through banked turns, jumps, an upside-down loop and more jumps, the bobsledder will bash through a bank of snow at the finish line, where they are greeted by cheering polar creatures that they’ve encountered along the way.

Create a Memorable Experience With a Pop-up Cube Mailer

Schemmer, an architectural firm, wanted to reach out in a creative and memorable way to potential clients. The mailer arrived flat and, when opened, popped into a cube shape, highlighting images and messaging to get a response. How can you use a pop-up to grab attention an increase response?

Unique Invitations Are Fun

Enogarage created an invitation with a cutout wine glass sleeve. As you start to remove the invitation from the sleeve, the wine glass fills up. It is a great way to showcase the invitation in a fun and unique way. This is also a very cost-effective way to do something different.

Include Other Senses to Increase Engagement

Voyanga, a travel company, created a mailer that includes sound. You can listen to the sound of the sea coming from an image of a conch shell. This is a great way to get people to interact with your mail piece and share it with others. They tied in the message of travel well with the call for them to respond to the sea. Check out the piece at No. 10 on this list.

Playful and Interesting

For World Water Day in Belgium, a letter was sent out that could only be read when in water. It highlighted the importance of water and built more awareness.

One more marketing example to showcase having fun with direct mail marketing: Planet Kids created a hand puppet invitation that was a hit with both parents and kids. How can you incorporate fun into your mail pieces?

Conclusion

As you can see with the five creative examples, direct mail can be more than you have ever thought of before. Don’t limit yourself to what you have done historically, because that limits your response. One thing to keep in mind as you get creative is to make sure that you are tying the marketing creative to your message. Doing something fun while not incorporating it with your call to action and message is a waste of money, because it does not work. Well-crafted messaging with creative that supports it drives response. Your strategic mailing plan should address all the usual requirements, as well as how a more creative approach can increase response.

Not sure it will work for you? Try a test. Grab a segment of your list and send the new creative to them then check your results. Are you ready to get started?

How to Create Influential Variable Data Direct Mail

The real power in direct mail is sending the right offer to the right person. In order to do this effectively, you need to be using variable data direct mail for offers and images, not just names.

The real power in direct mail is sending the right offer to the right person. In order to do this effectively, you need to be using variable data direct mail for offers and images, not just names.

“Dear Summer” does not grab me. What draws me in are offers that I want. So if you send me direct mail, send me offers for fishing, camping, reading and, of course, the normal household requirements. Yet, every day I get mail that is not appropriate for me, such as offers for baby gear (my kids are adults now).

When direct mail is sent to someone who is not interested in it, it’s basically junk mail and is thrown in the trash. So how can you prevent that from happening with your mail? Use your list wisely.

  • Step 1: Your Data — You need to make sure that your data files are correct. This means not only checking to see if addresses are correct, but that you have all of the purchase history and any other relevant information up to date. You can’t use bad data.
  • Step 2: Your Offers — Now you will need to decide what your offers are going to be. You can have as many offers as you want, just be sure you send one offer per person.
  • Step 3: Your Copy/Messaging — You will need to create your copy/messaging to highlight your offer and raise interest. Compelling and relevant copy drives response. Take the time to write yours. Remember to stay away from acronyms and keep your word choice simple and concise.
  • Step 4: Your List — Now you are ready to target people in your list based on your offers. Select people into groups for which offer best matches them. You can code them and use that offer code for them to respond. This will with analyzing your results later.
  • Step 5: Your Images — Now that you have your offers and your data segmented you are ready to select the variable images to match each offer. The image should help convey your message without words. It should also grab attention. You will want at least one image per offer and depending on your design you may need more than one.
  • Step 6: Your Design — You will need to decide what your design will be no matter whether it is a postcard, self-mailer or booklet you will want to create a layout that has static elements across all versions and areas where your variable copy, offers and images will drop in.
  • Step 7: Your QC — Variable data requires extensive quality control. You should sample each version with multiple people to make sure that everything is working correctly. We have also found that once everything is good then create batch pdf merged files rather than printing direct to the printer. This helps maintain your quality through the run and prevents any hiccups in large file transmission across a network.
  • Step 8: Your Results — Since you coded your offers you will know who responded and what they responded to. This allows you to plan future mail campaigns based on what worked and what did not.

Obviously variable data is not the be all and end all of direct mail marketing, but it can really help you to save money by only sending pieces to people who are interested in it. You will also see a response increase when you send the right offer to the right person. Another benefit is that people look forward to getting mail that they like. So when you have a track record of sending offers they want, they will take the time to read your next mailer to see what great offer they can get now. Are you ready to get started?

5 Ways Direct Mail Can Give You a Marketing Advantage

Direct mail has consistently performed well for many years, providing the results marketers need. However, not all direct mail is the same. There are things you can do to gain an advantage over your competitors. Are your results as good as they could be? Let’s check out the segments you can focus on to use direct mail to its full advantage.

Direct mail has consistently performed well for many years, providing the results marketers need. However, not all direct mail is the same. There are things you can do to gain an advantage over your competitors. Are your results as good as they could be? Let’s check out the segments you can focus on to use direct mail to its full advantage.

  1. Pursue The first way to take full advantage of direct mail is to go after the right people. This will depend on what your offer is, as well as if you are going after prospects or customers. There is a difference in the way you target these two groups. Use your data to segment people into like categories. Sending to the right people makes all the difference and can save you money by not sending pieces to people who are not interested.
  2. Clarity — Next, you need to make sure that your messaging and offer are very clear. If not, you are going to miss out on the people who misunderstood what you were trying to say. Keep your wording simple and stay away from acronyms; in the texting age, your acronym could mean something very different.
  3. Succinct — Your copy needs to get right to the point. Make it easy and fast to read. You can use bullets, bolding and other text highlights to get your most important information to stand out. The less reading required, the more people will scan your piece.
  4. Interest — Does your mail piece generate interest? Your images and messaging need to call people to your piece to look closer at what you have to offer. The more interest people have in your mail piece, the more likely they are to buy.
  5. Cohesion — Do your marketing channels work together? Can customers and prospects flow easily from your direct mail piece to your website or other online platform? When they can, you will get better response rates.

When you have all five segments done correctly, you will see an increase in response. Don’t let your competitors win. Use direct mail to your advantage and get ahead of them. You will need to block out time to get your best mail pieces conceptualized and created. Do not rush the process, or you risk your results. As they say, Rome was not built in a day — and neither are your direct mail pieces.

One of the best features about direct mail is that it arrives in the mailbox and is a physical piece. No other marketing channel is physical in this way. In order to draw interest to your mail piece, you can add features to enhance the sensory experience for your customers and prospects. There are many features you can add, such as textures, foil, embossing, debossing, die cuts, special folds and more. Most of these features are not very expensive but can boost your direct mail advantage. You can also add scent for a multi-sensory experience. Get creative and allow your prospects and customers to have fun.

Boring direct mail will not get you the results you want. You need to find ways to enhance your mail pieces to increase prospect and customer engagement. The better you are able to do this using the five segments above, the bigger your direct mail advantage will be. Are you ready to get started?

Add More Traffic With Universal and Extended Search Optimization

If your organic search optimization plan does not include optimization for pertinent elements of both universal and extended search, you may be missing out on a surprising amount of traffic.

SEOIf your organic search optimization plan does not include optimization for pertinent elements of both universal and extended search, you may be missing out on a surprising amount of traffic.

In the beginning, organic search optimization was focused on the pursuit of top placements for your site’s pages. Search has evolved and so, too, must your optimization plan.

Today, instead of 10 blue links on a page, most contain 8.5. An array of universal and extended search elements enhance and complement the Google search results pages. The inclusion of maps, images, video results, the Knowledge Box and Twitter results enhance the user experience and speed searchers to their desired information.

A recent white paper from Searchmetrics looked at the results from approximately 500,000 general, frequently searched terms. Because Google increasingly is applying different algorithms for mobile vs. desktop searches, the results from both were analyzed. This study clearly shows that any optimization plan is incomplete, unless it includes the elements of both universal and extended search.

Universal Search — Vertical Search Integrated Into the Results Page

Universal search, launched in 2007, was Google’s integration directly into the search results of vertical search elements that had previously been developed as separate search engines. These included: shopping, news, videos, images and maps. Although showing up integrated into the search results page, these vertical silos of information can still be accessed from tabs on the Google results page.

The type of elements displayed vary depending on the keyword search. For example, a search for a “Zen frog fountain” yields a results page rich in images and shopping details. There is even a video. A search for your local hospital will yield a results page with a map and directions.

Each element in universal search has its own optimization requirements, and many organic SEO plans employ them. The SEO can clearly guide the optimization of images so that relevant product images will be included in the array of images shown for keyword searches.

For e-commerce merchants, it is quite important to optimize all of your images, because they can drive substantial amounts of traffic. Similarly, video content can be readily optimized using available guidelines.

Google’s emphasis on quality of the information and the authority of the source has driven the evolution of news optimization from press releases to publishers. Today, the news integration includes just the freshest and most authoritative sources. Because the news elements evolved from vertical search, there are a set of guidelines for optimization of news.

Not all elements are equally important for every business, but traffic can be gained by optimizing all the germane elements.

Extended Search — More Boxes and Features

Extended search is the term applied to the additions to the search results that are not based on vertical search engines. These results are algorithmically developed from a variety of internal and external sources available to Google. Extended search includes: The Knowledge Graph, the image carousel, the Twitter Cards, the direct answer/fact boxes, the related questions that are delivered along with the direct answers, and the app packs found in mobile searches.

Because the results pull information from a number of sources, they are much more difficult to optimize for. They are best viewed as the result of a broad footprint of information that will satisfy the demands of these elements.

For example, the Knowledge Graph relies on Google My Business and Wikipedia information. If your company has a complete profile on these two key sources, you will be feeding the information needed to drive the Knowledge Graph. Similarly, sites with recipes, events and reviews can use structured data to enhance the likelihood of appearing in the direct answers boxes.

As we move into the fourth quarter and plan for the next year, do be sure to review the universal search and expanded search elements that have the most traffic-driving potential for your business and strategize for how to include them in your optimization planning.

Unintended Results of Social Selling Training

Do you want to: Upset and discourage your best sales reps? Reinforce prospecting tactics that have never worked? Encourage reps (who know better) to spam potential buyers? Pay a premium to achieve all of these horrors? If not, then you need social selling training for your sales team.

The Silver Bullet for Driving Sales & Impressions: DATADo you want to:

  • Upset and discourage your best sales reps?
  • Reinforce prospecting tactics that have never, ever worked?
  • Encourage reps (who know better) to spam potential buyers?
  • Put your sellers’ “personal brands” in front of sales outcomes?
  • Pay a premium to achieve all of these horrors?

If not, then you need social selling training for your sales team.

Forget about my opinion. Look around. Social selling (as it’s being practiced) is a waste of time for most sales teams.

Whether you’re new to social selling or using LinkedIn for sales you should know the truth — and make changes to how you measure social selling’s impact.

The Truth About Social Selling Training

I’m not saying LinkedIn isn’t a valuable tool. It is, for some sellers. But for most it’s proving ineffective because of misguided curriculum within social selling training programs.

The lack of productivity isn’t intentional. However, it is avoidable by assessing your reps’ current communications techniques and improving them. Social selling training must help sellers become better conversation-starters.

Most teams will benefit from focusing less on sharing information on LinkedIn — more on plumbing its database for leads the good old-fashioned way.

Effectively, prospecting.

Success is less about farming leads, more about hunting prospects.

Social selling training must help sellers become better interrupters. Better prospectors. Everything else is a waste of precious time.

Why You Must Measure Reps Differently

Whether you’re getting started or considering further investment in social selling training, measuring your team is vital. However, LinkedIn statistics are not enough to determine how effectively sellers are using LinkedIn.

Use of LinkedIn is a nice-to-know. Effectiveness is a must-know.

Effective use of technology is the most difficult part of social selling. Hence, many sales managers settle for less. Don’t. Beware.

LinkedIn itself and social selling gurus are often financially motivated to sell practices that don’t much work.

Here’s proof: Have a look at sellers’ typical social selling activities. An honest look. How’s it going lately? Usually we see…

  • Comments on prospects’ LinkedIn posts going without interaction.
  • Posts of press releases on reps profiles yielding radio silence.
  • Updates (more press releases and regurgitated articles) seeing likes.

It smells a lot like a mass marketing campaign, doesn’t it? Most sellers (even the good ones) are broadcasting: Having a one-way monologue on LinkedIn.

Beware: Assessing your sales team’s LinkedIn Social Selling Index statistics (usage) is not enough to determine how effectively they are using LinkedIn to prospect new business.

Don’t settle for less than sales outcome measures.

A Perfect Storm

Comments, posts of press releases, updates sharing articles… these activities rarely connect to a clear, effective prospecting process. Worse, sellers are being encouraged to act as marketers. And they’re rejecting it.

It’s becoming a perfect storm of productivity loss.

Have a close look. Most social selling training investments aren’t paying off. Because they train reps on marketing tactics rather than prospecting skills.

The result: Sellers (hunters) are becoming in-effective farmers. They’re planting seeds that never sprout.

Because they can’t. Germination is impossible. People aren’t on social media to be sold to. In fact, according to Simon Marley, CEO, of Growth Logik, an increasing number of decision-makers are hiding their true authority on LinkedIn.

Think about that!

Bottom line: The most effective digital / social sellers are focusing less on sharing information on LinkedIn—more on plumbing its database for leads the good old-fashioned way.

Prospecting.

This in mind, here are three questions you should be asking sellers in every pipeline meeting.

  • Why do you invest time on LinkedIn? (at all)
  • How do you invest that time?
  • Would you rather reassign that time? Why or why not?

What do you think?