A New Way to Net B-to-B Services Sales With Social Trust

Oh no … not another article on how important building trust is with social marketing. Please I can’t take it anymore! I admit we hear too much hype about the importance of trust but behind all the blather there’s a powerful new approach emerging in B-to-B services sales forces. This is the exact system you should be using to exploit social marketing programs that tap LinkedIn, blogging, Twitter, video, etc.

Oh no … not another article on how important building trust is with social marketing. Please, I can’t take it anymore! I admit we hear too much hype about the importance of trust, but behind all the blather there’s a powerful new approach emerging in B-to-B services sales forces.

This is the exact system you should be using to exploit social marketing programs that tap LinkedIn, blogging, Twitter, video, etc.

This foundational method has traditional roots. It’s based on what works—amplifying concepts that have always worked. It’s just re-tweaking them for our hyper-networked, always-on world.

A Buyer’s Decision Model
Selling B-to-B services in the past looked like this. It’s a selling process:

  1. Lead qualification
  2. Presentation
  3. Objection management
  4. Close
  5. Buyer’s remorse (sometimes!)

The new buyer-focused decision model (forced upon us by the Internet) looks like this:

  1. Cognitive thinking
  2. Information gathering
  3. Divergent thinking
  4. Convergent thinking
  5. Evaluation

For years now we’ve been hearing “it’s not about how we are selling, it’s about how customers go about buying.”

Well duh! Realizing this means nothing. Acting is everything. Building practical B-to-B social marketing strategies that create leads and sales is a must. That’s what this post is all about.

From Messenger to Trusted Advisor
A buying decision model is different than a selling process. Herein lies the emergence of an entirely new industry that hot new companies ranging from point-of-sale messaging firms like Corporate Visions to software-based lead generation companies like HubSpot are set to exploit.

So what’s in it for you and your brand?

In his book, “Putting the Win Back in Your Sales,” Samurai Business Group’s, Dan Kreutzer reveals this decision-making model and quickly elaborates on putting it to use.

“This model provides a framework for how buyers make decisions and, ultimately, how sales people can build trust by helping buyers make effective buying decisions,” says Kreutzer, a 25-year veteran of building winning sales organizations on an international scale.

Think about that for a minute. As social marketers, what if our job is actually less about messages and email “blasts” and more about guidance and education? In this context the buyer decision-making model comes into clear focus.

Social marketing suddenly makes more sense.

What If?
What if you could bring marketing and sales together by helping customers:

  • Engage in critical thinking and situational analysis—placing less strategic emphasis on qualifying leads and coming up with killer content marketing messaging?
  • Move toward or away from your services—gaining confidence in decisions they’re making thanks the trusted, needed advice we provide.
  • Determine ‘best fit’ by publishing powerful (“transparent”) and overtly honest truths—helping customers evaluate all options available to them through useful decision-making tools and education.

What if “the doing of” all these things resulted in creative, effective brand messaging, better quality leads and shorter sales cycles? Well they already are for some organizations.

In weeks ahead I’ll be profiling companies and diving deeper into the subject of using this B-to-B buyer-side model to make social media sell for you.

What do you think?

What Social Sites Should YOU Be Using?

Most people know about mega-popular social sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. However, I get a lot of questions about other, underutilized sites that are on the tipping point of mass popularity—specifically, how these sites can be leveraged for marketing purposes.

Most people know about mega-popular social sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. However, I get a lot of questions about other, underutilized sites that are on the tipping point of mass popularity—specifically, how these sites can be leveraged for marketing purposes.

But before I go into that, I’d like to clarify the differences between various “social”-type sites:

Social bookmarking, news and tagging are sites like Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit, Delicious and Pinterest. These websites allow users to “bookmark” things they like—content, images, videos, websites—and allow others in the community to see what’s been bookmarked and “follow,” if they wish. This is the epitome of viral marketing and community interaction. When groups of people are like-minded, it’s fun and easy to share feedback of things of common interest. For business purposes, it’s also a strong way to bond with your audience through content, news and images that are synergistic and leverage those interests for increased website traffic and more.

Social networking sites are communities like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus. It’s a way for groups of people to meet and stay in touch with each other, for personal and professional purposes. People can friend, follow or fan someone based on affiliation or interest. Another new site is Quora.com, which is a social question and answer site. Users can view by category and post questions or answers on virtually any business-related topic.

Social media refers to sites like Youtube, Flicker or Tumblr, where groups of users share media content such as video, audio or pictures (photos). There’s also new sites like Spotify.com, which are social music sharing sites, where users can listen to mp3 files themselves, as well as with friends, via Facebook.

The following are some social sites that you may want to include in your online marketing mix as well as some other tactical tidbits:

  • Pinterest.com is a social community where users “pin” (think of a bulletin board) things that they like. Quite simply, it’s a virtual pin board. Users can re-pin (which promotes viral marketing) or follow someone with the same interest. Pinterest is a fun site because it focuses on the visual element. You can leverage your keyword-rich content when you add your descriptive text to your “pin.” In addition, Pinterest asks for your URL, which will be a back-link to that webpage. This will encourage search engine marketing, branding and webpage traffic. Pinterest uses graphics, images (pics) and video pictures. And that’s what will grab community members’ attention, along with well-written descriptive text.

Important Tip! For marketing purposes, you can use Pinterest to promote your business or websites related to your business, such as landing pages, squeeze pages, product pages and more. What’s important to know is that if your website, or the webpages you’re thinking of pinning are flash (dynamic) webpages, you will be unable to “pin” it, as there’s no static images on a flash page for Pinterest to “grab” for posting.

So if you’re thinking about using testing Pinterest in your social marketing plan, make sure to pick websites or modify your own webpages to be graphic-, image- or video-rich. Also, like any marketing tactics you’re testing, make sure it’s in sync with your overall marketing plan and target audience.

If you’re target audience is an older crowd, then this may not be the best website, or channel, to reach them.

  • Quora.com is a great online resource community of questions and answers. If you want to reinforce yourself as an expert, you can search questions related to your area of expertise and post responses that are useful, valuable and actionable. If you have a legitimate question about any topic, you can post by category and view replies from others who may be versed in that field. Quora is a great way to create visibility for yourself. As well, it allows you to upload relevant back-links which encourage website traffic and linkbuilding.

Important Tip! It’s important to keep a steady presence on Quora. Stick to your areas of expertise (categories and topics). Make sure you have a keyword rich descriptive bio about yourself and include back-links to relevant websites. As with most all search, social and content marketing strategies—relevance and usefulness is key. All of these things help with credibility and branding. In addition, Quora’s pages are indexed by search engines and do appear in organic search engine results pages (SERPs). That, in and of itself, can expand your reach and visibility, which can lead to increased website traffic, which can then be parlayed into leads or sales.

  • Digg.com.com is one of my favorite content bookmarking sites. You can upload content “snippets” or news nuggets. The site will also pull in any images and well as back-links appearing on the same page as your content. Content can be given a “category,” so that the right readers will find it. The more popular your content (number of “digs”), the more people in the community it gets exposed to. Viral marketing and traffic generation (to the source website in the “digg”) are typical outcomes from this website. Reddit.com is a similar site, which allows users to upload a content excerpts (article, video, picture) and link to the full version. This is a great site to increase your market visibility and extend reach. It’s also a powerful platform to drive website traffic.

Important Tip! Use content that is “UVA”—useful, valuable and actionable, something newsworthy and/or interesting to your target reader. It’s very important to have a strong, eye-catching or persuasive headline that people in the community will want to read. There’s so much background noise on Digg that you want your content/headline to jump out at the reader. Also, include a back-link in the body copy you are uploading. This will help with branding, link-building and traffic generation. With Reddit, your content excerpt space is limited, so make sure to pick content that will not only resonate with the target audience, but also screams out to the reader to “click here” to read more. Then link to your full article, which should be posted on an inside page of your website.

  • Google+. Google Plus is Google’s attempt at social networking. It’s not as popular … yet … as behemoth Facebook (900 million users as of April 2012), but it’s got “teeth,” at around 90 million users. And because it’s Google, there’s some great search-friendly benefits built right in. For example, it’s indexed by Google, so your messages can get found faster. This helps with search engine visibility and website traffic.

Important Tip! For business purposes, you can share relevant information and personalize your “social” circles; thereby, targeting your message better for each group. It’s easy to share and rank (a combination of Digg and Facebook) content such as posts and messages. And there’s also a variety of sharing options like content, video, photos (similar to Pinterest, Flickr and YouTube).

With social marketing, it’s a matter of matching the content type to the most synergistic platform and audience. Social marketing may not be for every business. But I believe it’s certainly worth a strategic test. Just remember an old copywriting rule of thumb, which is “know your audience.” If you know who your target reader (prospect) is, then you can craft enticing messages and pick social platforms where those prospects are likely to congregate.

Most any social marketing site can be leveraged for marketing and business purposes. But make sure to keep your messages fun, entertaining, engaging and interactive. Because, after all, that’s what the “social” in “social marketing” is all about.

An ABC Introduction to Data Mining for Dollars: Slicing and Dicing Your In-House List for Profit (Part 1 of 2)

One of the best ways to build your online business is to build your list; that is, your “database” of potential subscribers, customers or prospects. This may not be as sexy as social marketing, as robust as mobile marketing or as challenging as search engine marketing … but it is a viable way to harness the power within your own “house file” to maximize your marketing ROI.

One of the best ways to build your online business is to build your list; that is, your “database” of potential subscribers, customers or prospects. This may not be as sexy as social marketing, as robust as mobile marketing or as challenging as search engine marketing … but it is a viable way to harness the power within your own “house file” to maximize your marketing ROI.

Today, I’ll show you how you can segment your database of names to boost sales, increase bonding and shorten conversion time. Data mining, list segmentation or strategic database marketing is basically the art of slicing and dicing your own in-house list of names for optimal performance. You do this to help increase the response of your promotional and conversion efforts.

You see, once you divide your list of names into smaller groups (known as segmentation), you can target your product offers and promotional messages to each of those groups. By customizing your marketing messages based on specific customer needs, you’ll be promoting products to people who are more likely to buy them. You increase your customers’ satisfaction rate as well as your potential conversion rates. And higher conversion rates mean more money for your company.

One data-mining model is the RFM method. It’s practiced by direct response marketers all over the world. “R” stands for Recency—how recently a customer has made a purchase. “F” stands for Frequency—how often the customer makes a purchase. And “M” stands for Monetary—how much the customer spends. Here’s how you can use the RFM method to help lift your sales.

Recency
Whether your house list is made up of people who signed up to receive your free e-zine or people who paid for a subscription, you can segment your database according to how long your subscribers have been with you. For instance, you can create categories such as: 0-6 months, 6-12 months, and 12-plus months. You would look at these groups as your hot subs (newest subscribers 0-3 months), warm subs (mid-point subscribers) and cool subs (those who have been subscribing to your e-zine the longest, 12-plus months).

Here’s one way you can put that data to use …

Let’s say some of your “cool subs” have lost their initial enthusiasm for your e-zine. You could cross-reference those names with their open rates. If most of these subscribers haven’t been opening your e-zine in six, nine or 12 months, you may consider sending them a special message asking to reengage them. These “inactive” subscribers are a great group on which to test new marketing approaches, new prices and new subject lines. Since this group is not responding to your current emails, why not use this as a platform to reengage AND test? Your “hot subs” are your newest, most enthusiastic subscribers. They are ripe to learn more about you, your products and your services. If you handle this group properly, you can cultivate them into cross-sell and up-sell customers.

For example, send your “hot subs” a special introductory series of emails (also known as auto responder series). This special series would encourage bonding and introduce readers to your e-zine’s contributors and overall philosophy. It could also tempt readers with specially priced offers. Sending an introductory series like this can not only increase the number of subscribers who convert to paying customers, it also increases their lifetime value (LTV)—the amount they spend with you over their lifetime as your customer. Hot Tip! Make sure to suppress the recipients of your auto responders from any promotional efforts until the series is complete to ensure more effective bonding.

If, instead of subscribers to a free e-zine, your house list is made up of people who paid for their subscription, the same segmentation process applies. You break your active subscribers into hot subs, warm subs and cool subs. You also break out “expires” (those who allowed their subscription to run out) and “cancels” (those who cancelled their subscription).

Cross-marketing to these lists is usually effective. The expires oftentimes simply forget to renew and need a reminder. And just because someone cancelled one subscription doesn’t mean they may not be ideal for another service or product that you provide. If they’re still willing to receive email messages from you, add these folks to your promotional lists. Once you’ve gotten these cancelled subscribes to open your messages, turning them into paying customers is just a matter of time. Most Internet marketers would have written these people off. So any revenue you get from them is ancillary.

Next time, I’ll go into Frequency and Monetary, the two other components of the RFM model. So stay tuned!

How to Select a Social Media Agency or Consultant

Social media agencies and consultants insist that following your customers into social spaces is a smart idea. Yet it’s actually an incomplete idea, unless you have a clear means to capture demand and convert it to sales. So, it pays to make sure you have a list of specific interview questions in hand when choosing a social media agency or consultant. That’s why I’m giving you some gems that really work.

Social media agencies and consultants insist that following your customers into social spaces is a smart idea. Yet it’s actually an incomplete idea, unless you have a clear means to capture demand and convert it to sales. So, it pays to make sure you have a list of specific interview questions in hand when choosing a social media agency or consultant. That’s why I’m giving you some gems that really work.

Remember, the answer to selling more with social media is this: Starting conversations that are worth having and conversing in ways that generate questions that you have answers to. The rest is occasionally (when relevant) connecting those answers to your products/services. This is how to generate customer inquiries using social media. Your agency, freelance provider (or employee) must grasp and practice this. Let’s find out how to make sure they do.

Question Your Consultants
Overzealous “digital rock star gurus” say the social Web has revolutionized everything. We’re told to listen to and engage with customers. But what do we do with what we hear … and when does engaging connect to sales? Does it at all? As David Ogilvy himself reminded marketers decades ago “we sell or else!”

The nature of your relationship with social media agencies and consultants should be to question. Why? Because so many are questionable in terms of the results (or lack there of) they deliver!

Be Sure They’re Producing Behavior
“You don’t sell someone something by engagement, conversation and relationship. You create engagement, conversation and relationships by selling them something,” says Bob Hoffman, (“The Ad Contrarian”) CEO, Hoffman Lewis.

Read that again and notice how it flies in the face of what we’re being told to do by most social media agencies and consultants. Notice how logical this simple truth is.

Agencies and consultants that are moving the needle are reaching beyond attracting customers for clients. They’re generating leads using three practical success principles. They’re aligning social marketing with sales by:

  • Solving customers problems with social media like Facebook
  • Producing behavior by designing each social interaction to produce it—always, without fail
  • Translating needs of customers and using insights to create more behavior, more leads/sales

It’s important to consider the current social media marketing activities of the agency or freelancer you’ll hire. Everything they’re doing to “join the conversation” (tweeting, blogging, posting updates on Facebook) must be talking with customers, not at them. They must be truly interacting. Making social marketing produce behavior is the first step. Your agency needs to understand what a call to action is and practice this approach.

Ask Tough Questions
Most importantly, press your marketing consultants, ad agency reps and employees to answer business questions first. Ask them to do it without using words like traffic, engagement or buzz. Make them squirm.
In the end you should be getting answers to the following questions:

  • Is the agency hiring employees based mostly on tactical skills or ability to create tangible results?
  • Does the agency ask the right questions of us? And are they embracing or avoiding our questions?
  • When they discuss successful client cases (in their past) are they interacting with customers intimately—or are the stories more about posting and tweeting into the ether?
  • If they’re interacting with customers/prospects is it organized and purpose-driven? Are their tactics working in harmony or apart from (competing with) each other?
  • What actionable information does each customer interaction produce and where does that information go?
  • What’s done with it (or not)? Do interactions produce actionable information? Do they connect to a lead nurturing or follow-up process?
  • Are their tactics connecting with a strategy that pushes customers down the sales funnel using the collected information?

Social media marketing is a necessary component of being online. But merely “being on Facebook and Twitter” won’t generate leads and convert sales unless you hire people who are focused on purpose-drive social media campaigns. Be sure to ask the tough questions when interviewing them. Good luck!

Best Online Marketing Practices For A ‘Bionic’ Business: Part I

For those of you who are Gen Xers or Baby Boomers, you’ll probably remember a popular TV show from the 70’s called The Six Million Dollar Man. The lead character was Steve Austin, also known as the ‘bionic man,’ as he had abilities to do things at an exceptional level, compared to other people. Well, the following are real-life questions I’ve received from readers, subscribers, clients and colleagues.

[Editor’s note: This is the first installment in a series of three blog posts.]

For those of you who are Gen Xers or Baby Boomers, you’ll probably remember a popular TV show from the 70’s called The Six Million Dollar Man.

The lead character was Steve Austin, also known as the ‘bionic man,’ as he had abilities to do things at an exceptional level, compared to other people.

Well, the following are real-life questions I’ve received from readers, subscribers, clients and colleagues. Little useful nuggets of information and best Internet marketing practices—all to help make your business ‘bionic’—that is—better, stronger, faster.

Today’s best practices focus on online press releases and social media marketing. Enjoy!

Question: When it comes to online press releases, I know that PRWeb.com has been the defacto standard. However, I just came across another one that appears to offer a very well-rounded option called: www.prleap.com. Have you heard of them? What do you use/recommend?

Answer: I try to use ‘free’ online press distribution services whenever possible. PRLeap used to be free, now they charge a nominal fee. They do, however, get good listings on the search engine results pages (SERPs). But if you don’t have a budget for press distribution and you’re looking for top notch free sites, check out www.i-newswire.com, www.prlog.org, and www.free-press-release.com. I use these all the time. Another great paid press release distribution service is, PRWeb.com. They provided added distribution to traditional media outlets, publication and periodical websites. Online PR is great tactic to increase your website’s visibility for SEO and traffic generation.

Question: What are some tips for getting the best results with online PR?

Answer: With online PR, the most important things are creating a newsworthy release which is keyword dense. It should also contain useful information for your target audience as well as media and bloggers. Releases that do well with pick up are usually about a company milestone, contrarian viewpoint, trend or forecast, important statistical data, launch of something (product, book, website) and similar information. The headline and sub-headline should have your top 5 keywords. In addition, your keywords should be sprinkled throughout the body of the release. There should always be a link to the longer version, which should be housed on your website in a ‘Press Room’ or ‘News’ section. And of course, there should be an ‘About’ portion of the release containing information or bio on the focus of the release. Having a call to action in the bio section is another great way to drive readers back to your site. For instance, having a ‘For more information or to sign up for our free enewsletter, click here now’.

Question: Can social marketing efforts be measured?

Answer: Yes, they sure can. Even better, the tools are all free and based off of good old fashioned direct response and public relations metrics—the 3 O’s-outputs, outcomes and objectives.

The tools are all free and based off of the 3 O’s:

  • Outputs measure effectiveness and efficiency. For our example, I’d look at Google Analytics for spikes in traffic and ezine sign ups the days following social media efforts.
  • Outcomes measure behavioral changes. For example, for this metric, I’d look at customer feedback… emails, phone calls, or website comments following social marketing efforts, and ‘likes’ or ‘shares’ on posted articles. Relevant Google Alert results.
  • Objectives measures business objectives and sales. For example: The most obvious and directly related metric is direct sales of the product that are tied to the editorial that may be linked to your social marketing efforts.

For each of the above, I would compare the current campaign data versus the year-to-date (YTD) average and year-over-year data to clearly illustrate pre- and post- campaign performance.

Question: Do I need to market my social media accounts? Won’t people find me with the right keywords.

Answer: Not really. You DO need to market your social media accounts. Sure the right keywords in your account profile and bio page will help, but think of your social marketing efforts as an extension of your brand and implement ‘social marketing branding’. Remember to include your social media account profile name, link, or icon in most everything you do:

  • Email auto signature
  • Ezine issues
  • RSS Feeds
  • Website home page
  • Business cards
  • PowerPoint Presentation cover page, footers and end slide
  • Press releases
  • Cross-market on other social sites

Is Blogging the Online Dinosaur?

A friend and fellow marketer said something to me recently that caused my eyeballs to nearly pop out of my head. Her comment was short and to the point: Blogging is dead. I beg to differ. 

A friend and fellow marketer said something to me recently that caused my eyeballs to nearly pop out of my head. Her comment was short and to the point: Blogging is dead.

When I asked what made her make such a profound blanket statement, she responded that with the increasing popularity of social marketing, as well as the inundation of free ezines (or free e-magazines), blogs have become the online dinosaur.

I beg to differ.

You see, each platform has its own communication style; thereby, attracting different types of readers:

  • Blogging is a more raw experience for the reader. Informal undertones which are unedited and uncut. Giving the inside scoop.
  • E-newsletters or similar still contain valuable information, but the content is more polished and editorial in nature.
  • Social marketing is typically a combination of short, pithy posts that are fun, friendly, or business-related. Sound bites that grab attention and allow followers see the writer as both guru and virtual friend.

When it comes to marketing, I never like to put all my eggs into one basket. I don’t totally use social marketing as my platform of choice. Nor do I totally rely on email marketing or blogging as a prime driver for sales or leads.

What I like to do is diversify my online marketing mix—similar to when you diversify your retirement portfolio—and deploy several means of organic and paid Web marketing strategies based on target audience, budget and business objective.

In addition, I like to use tactics that complement one another.

Know The Flow: Understanding “Push” vs. “Pull” Marketing
Blogging, social marketing posts, and free ezines/e-magazines (email marketing) are all conduits; that is, ways to communicate with readers albeit subscribers, friends, followers, or fans.

The initial goals of each are virtually the same: To provide information in exchange for a readers’ interest (bonding) and interaction. The information can be editorial, marketing or random thoughts. And the interaction can be in the form of a free subscription (email address), website visit, retweet, ‘Like’ or sale (cross-selling, affiliate or third-party ads).

With blogging and social marketing, you’re deploying “pull” marketing—you’re pulling people to your “home-base hub” whether it’s your blog, profile page or wall with “content nuggets.”

Once live, that content has become part of the Web and is now subject to search engine spiders and similar tactics that will help your nuggets get increased exposure in organic search results pages; thereby, pulling like-minded visitors from your “nugget” to your “hub” with more of that great useful, valuable, and actionable information such as SEO, SEM, article marketing, or what I call SONAR marketing.

Now, since these readers are seeking you out and visiting your “hub,” you don’t have a direct line of contact with them. In other words, you don’t have their direct email address and have permission to correspond with the user personally.

… Which leads to ‘push’ marketing.
E-newsletters and e-magazines are correspondence being “pushed” out to your audience. Since the direct message itself is going through an email service provider and then to a specific individual, it is not widely available on the Web for all to see (including search engine spiders) and will not show up on organic search engines results pages.

You already have the recipients’ email address, so the main purpose of your effort is typically bonding or cross-selling (via newsletter ads and solo emails in your sales funnel).

So you see, as long as there’s different ways to reach people and different ways people prefer to be reached, blogging isn’t dead. For some marketers, it may be on pause; but for smart marketers, it’s still part of the big plan.

I think, nowadays, marketers need to test all online platforms to see which one is right for their business, audience, and objectives.

Don’t rule anything out. Learn how to be strategically creative to satisfy YOUR specific goals and communication flow.

Getting the Most Out of Back-to-School Marketing

So, how should marketers redefine their back-to-school efforts to capitalize this time of year? To capture peoples’ interests during the active summer season, marketers must incorporate multichannel efforts to facilitate on- and offline engagement. Search continues to be a proven marketing channel, while implementing social and mobile marketing efforts has shown extensive promise, particularly for back-to-school retailers offering special deals and promotions.

As summer hits its peak, shoppers begin to think about heading back to school and retailers attempt to redefine the back-to-school season. Staples recently declared that the “official” back-to-school season starts on July 14, for example.

However, this time of year is less about defining specific dates and more about redefining ways to reach the right audience at the right connection points. Earlier this month, for example, Google reported that back-to-school queries increased 15 percent compared to the same period in 2008, and that searches on back-to-school shopping usually uptick in June with search activity lasting through late September.

The expanse in the back-to-school shopping season can be attributed in part to the 49 percent of back-to-school shoppers planning to spread out their purchases in order to distribute the cost over a longer period of time, according to a survey by PriceGrabber.

So, how should marketers redefine their back-to-school efforts to capitalize this time of year? To capture peoples’ interests during the active summer season, marketers must incorporate multichannel efforts to facilitate on- and offline engagement. Search continues to be a proven marketing channel, while implementing social and mobile marketing efforts has shown extensive promise, particularly for back-to-school retailers offering special deals and promotions.

In “S-Net (The Impact of Social Media),” a recent report from ROI Research, sponsored by my firm, Performics, when asked which types of content respondents would be interested in receiving from companies on social networks, 49 percent said they look for printable coupons on Facebook while 50 percent of those on Twitter seek notification of sales or special deals.

With these findings in mind, marketers should consider using social networks like Facebook and Twitter to promote special offers on back-to-school items to drive people in-store. Mobile marketing is another effective channel for back-to-school offers. It provides marketers with a more direct way to ensure purchase consideration through the use of text alerts or mobile coupons, in addition to complementary efforts in search and social marketing.

Performics helps clients prepare their back-to-school multichannel marketing efforts on a variety of levels. We recently teamed with one leading technology company to roll out its back-to-school marketing campaigns in early June, using some innovative tactics to capture audiences. For the first time, we implemented vanity display URLs and Google sitelinks in search campaigns to draw shoppers to the client’s back-to-school offerings. Our team also built a list of seasonal keywords around coupons, deals and discounts, supplemented by heavy social marketing campaigns promoting back-to-school products.

Another client, a popular apparel retailer, launched its back-to-school promotions in early July in anticipation of sales increases peaking at the end of this month. It offered shoppers the chance to receive a free smartphone if they purchased online or tried on featured clothes in-store. Advertising online via Facebook campaigns and paid search during back-to-school season, the retailer is coordinating on- and offline efforts by also offering free shipping and 30 percent off on back-to-school items.

Overall, marketers that successfully integrate multichannel efforts stand the best chance of getting the most bang out of their back-to-school buck. Marketers should look to engage back-to-school shoppers through various touchpoints throughout the season, not just at the end of August. Most importantly, manage expectations accordingly and measure marketing efforts often to reap the most reward.

Determining how shoppers respond to back-to-school campaigns and following trends throughout the season can also help brands set successful strategies for the upcoming winter holiday season. — Special thanks to contributing authors Andrea Vannucci and Maren Wesley.

Getting the Most Out of “Back-to-School” Marketing

As summer hits its peak, shoppers have begun to think about heading back to school and retailers are attempting to redefine the back-to-school season.

As summer hits its peak, shoppers have begun to think about heading back to school and retailers are attempting to redefine the back-to-school season. For example, Staples recently declared that the “official” back-to-school season starts on July 14. However, this time of year is less about defining specific dates and more about redefining ways to reach the right audience at the right connection points.

Earlier this month, Google reported that “back-to-school” queries increased 15 percent compared to the same period in 2008, and that searches on back-to-school shopping usually uptick in June with search activity lasting through late September. The expanse of the back-to-school shopping season can be attributed in part to the 49 percent of back-to-school shoppers planning to spread out their purchases in order to distribute the cost over a longer period of time, according to a survey by PriceGrabber.com.

So, how should marketers redefine their back-to-school efforts to capitalize on this time of year? To capture peoples’ interests during the active summer season, marketers must incorporate multichannel efforts to facilitate on- and offline engagement. Search continues to be a proven marketing channel, while implementing social and mobile marketing efforts has shown extensive promise, particularly for back-to-school retailers offering special deals and promotions.

In “S-Net (The Impact of Social Media),” a recent report from ROI Research, sponsored by Performics (my firm), when asked which types of content they’d be interested in receiving from companies on social networks, 49 percent of respondents said they look for printable coupons on Facebook while 50 percent of those on Twitter seek notification of sales or special deals. With these findings in mind, marketers should consider using social networks like Facebook and Twitter to promote special offers on back-to-school items to drive people to their stores.

Mobile marketing is another effective channel for back-to-school offers. It provides a more direct way to ensure purchase consideration through the use of text alerts or mobile coupons, in addition to complementary efforts in search and social marketing.

Performics helps clients prepare their back-to-school multichannel marketing efforts on a variety of levels. We recently teamed with one leading technology company to roll out its back-to-school marketing in early June, and turned to some innovative tactics to capture audiences. For the first time, we implemented vanity display URLs and Google sitelinks in search campaigns to draw shoppers to its back-to-school offerings. Our team also built a list of seasonal keywords around coupons, deals and discounts, supplemented by heavy social marketing campaigns promoting back-to-school products.

Another client, a popular apparel retailer, launched its back-to-school promotions in early July in anticipation of sales peaking at the end of this month. The retailer’s promotion offers the chance to receive a free smartphone when you purchase online or try on featured clothes in-store. Advertising online through Facebook campaigns and paid search during back-to-school season, the retailer is coordinating on- and offline efforts by also offering free shipping and 30 percent off back-to-school items.

Overall, marketers that successfully integrate multichannel efforts stand the best chance of getting the most bang for their back-to-school buck. Marketers should look to engage with back-to-school shoppers throughout the season, not just at the end of August, and through various touchpoints. Most importantly, manage expectations accordingly and measure marketing efforts often to reap the most reward.

Determining how shoppers respond to back-to-school campaigns and following trends throughout the season can also help brands set successful strategies for the upcoming winter holiday season.

Special thanks to contributing authors Andrea Vannucci and Maren Wesley.

What’s On the Minds of Email Marketers

I lead a chat session with attendees of eM+C’s Retail Marketing Virtual Conference & Expo late last month and enjoyed the dialog and all the questions raised. It’s clear that even though email marketing is a pretty well-established channel, it’s still not fully understood – or utilized – by the people tasked with generating higher response and revenue from it.
 

I lead a chat session with attendees of eM+C’s Retail Marketing Virtual Conference & Expo late last month and enjoyed the dialog and all the questions raised. It’s clear that even though email marketing is a pretty well-established channel, it’s still not fully understood — or utilized — by the people tasked with generating higher response and revenue from it.

Two questions came up repeatedly (perhaps you struggle with these issues, too, and will share what you’ve learned or offer other questions that challenge your program’s success):

1. What can email practitioners do to keep up with their brethren on the social marketing side, who seem to get all the attention and new resources these days?

Just because social marketing hasn’t killed email (all the dire predictions are well dismissed by now), it doesn’t mean that email marketers can rest on their laurels. You have to continue to innovate and improve the experience for subscribers. Email marketers must prove that the channel can grow revenue in order to get more funding and resources.

First, the solution is in smart segmentation, intelligent content strategy and the discipline to match message cadence to the needs of different subscribers. Automation and triggering technology is readily accessible from most email broadcast vendors. Be careful, however, because just sending more and more messages won’t build long-term revenue opportunities. (It might generate revenue in the short term, which is why too many marketers fall into that trap.)

Email marketers must send more of the kinds of messages that subscribers value — e.g., post-purchase offers or reminders; information that helps to make renewal decisions; or tips on how to improve productivity, lose weight this summer or look good in front of your boss (or kids). Try the following three ideas for improved results, higher customer satisfaction and more executive attention:

* Segment and customize content that’s regularly consumed on mobile devices.
If you don’t know what this might be, ask your subscribers! Optimize your mobile rendering by trimming out images and unnecessary links. Streamline your content by sending shorter bits of info more frequently than one longer message.

* Treat customers and prospects differently. They have different relationships with your brand. Even simple segmentation can make a huge difference in relevancy and response — and lowering spam complaints.

* Send fewer generic messages and product announcements in favor of custom content based on customer status, product ownership and recent activity. For B-to-B marketers, acknowledge products customers already own, and celebrate things like anniversaries and renewals. For B-to-C marketers, sitewide sales can be effective, but only if they’re perceived as being somewhat unusual and unique. Customize sales for key segments of your audience, even if that means just changing the subject line or which content is at the top.

You can’t earn a response if you don’t reach the inbox — something that’s becoming increasingly harder to do. Mailbox providers like Yahoo, Gmail and corporate system administrators are using reputation data pulled from the actual practices of individual senders to identify what’s welcome, good and should reach the inbox versus what’s “spammy,” unwelcome, and should go to the junk folder or be blocked altogether.

This creates both friction as well as opportunity. Email marketers must keep their files very clean, mailing only to those subscribers who are active and engaged. And to be welcome, they must create better subscriber experiences. Sender reputation is based on marketers’ practices and is the score of your ability to reach the inbox consistently and earn a response.

2. How do I break through the clutter of the inbox?

The inbox isn’t just more crowded, it’s fragmenting, becoming more device-driven and crowded. Only the best subscriber experiences will break through. The number one mistake email marketers make is forgetting about subscribers’ interests. It’s not about sending out “just one more blast” this week in order to make this month’s number. Do that too often and you’ll soon find your file churning and possibly all of your messages blocked due to high spam complaints (i.e., clicks on the Report Spam button).

Focus on building long-term relationships with your subscribers. Change your metrics to measure engagement and subscriber value, not list size or how many people bother to unsubscribe. What drives the business is response, sharing and continued activity.

Defy internal pressure to abuse the channel by sending only what’s relevant. Work hard to customize content and contact strategies to meet the life stages and needs of each key segment. Ensure that your email program contains content that’s right for the channel. Don’t duplicate with Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. Make each channel sing with some unique and powerful value proposition. If you can’t think of one for each channel, then you probably don’t need to be in that channel after all. Tie your business goals to subscribers’ happiness and success. They’ll reward you with response, revenue and long-term subscription.

Thanks to all who participated in the virtual event and my chat session! For everyone, let me know what you think and please share any ideas or comments below.

Melissa Campanelli’s The View From Here: Two Signs That ‘Traditional’ and ‘Social’ Online Marketing Are Becoming One

Two announcements were made this week that in my eyes signify a true integration of traditional and social marketing.

Two announcements were made this week that in my eyes signify a true integration of traditional and social marketing.

The first was the announcement that Omniture and Facebook have joined forces to provide online marketers with solutions to optimize Facebook as a marketing channel. The partnership builds on the Facebook analytics and Facebook application analytics capabilities Omniture announced last year.

This alliance is designed to help companies integrate Facebook as a marketing channel and connect to relevant conversations with the site’s 400 million active users.

Initially, “the two companies will focus on the most fundamental needs of online marketers today: the ability to automate Facebook media buying and access analytics that measure customer engagement on Facebook,” according to an Omniture press release.

The solution, for example, will enable advertisers to buy media and track media on Facebook through Omniture tools such as SearchCenter Plus. It will also enable them to generate reports designed to understand ad effectiveness of Facebook pages and other Facebook applications.

The two companies will continue to expand their partnership as marketers increasingly use Facebook to optimize visitor acquisition, conversion and retention, Omniture said.

The next announcement came from email marketing provider ExactTarget, which announced this week that it has acquired CoTweet, a web-based collaboration platform that allows companies to manage multiple Twitter accounts from a single dashboard, support multiple editors, track conversations, assign roles and create follow-up tasks.

The acquisition will enable ExactTarget to offer marketers a solution for managing communications across all interactive marketing channels, including social media, email and mobile.

A key reason for the acquisition was because ExactTarget was finding that while “organizations are moving quickly to try to capture the potential of social, they’re also discovering that it’s siloed and not integrated effectively with other forms of digital communications,” said Scott Dorsey, ExactTarget co-founder and chief executive officer, in a press release. “By combining the power of ExactTarget and CoTweet, we can provide businesses with a complete solution to tie together all forms of interactive communications and drive deeper customer engagement online.”

I’ll bet there’ll be more announcements like these to come in 2010, as digital marketing software and service providers really begin to understand the impact social media is having on consumers and marketers alike.