Exciting New Tools for B-to-B Prospecting

Finding new customers is a lot easier these days, what with innovative, digitally based ways to capture and collect data. Early examples of this exciting new trend in prospecting were Jigsaw, a business card swapping tool that allowed salespeople to trade contacts, and ZoomInfo, which scrapes corporate websites for information about businesspeople and merges the information into a vast pool of data for analysis and lead generation campaigns. New ways to find prospects continue to come on the scene—it seems like on the daily.

Finding new customers is a lot easier these days, what with innovative, digitally based ways to capture and collect data. Early examples of this exciting new trend in prospecting were Jigsaw, a business card swapping tool that allowed salespeople to trade contacts, and ZoomInfo, which scrapes corporate websites for information about businesspeople and merges the information into a vast pool of data for analysis and lead generation campaigns. New ways to find prospects continue to come on the scene—it seems like on the daily.

One big new development is the trend away from static name/address lists, and towards dynamic sourcing of prospect names complete with valuable indicators of buying readiness culled from their actual behavior online. Companies such as InsideView and Leadspace are developing solutions in this area. Leadspace’s process begins with constructing an ideal buyer persona by analyzing the marketer’s best customers, which can be executed by uploading a few hundred records of name, company name and email address. Then, Leadspace scours the Internet, social networks and scores of contact databases for look-alikes and immediately delivers prospect names, fresh contact information and additional data about their professional activities.

Another dynamic data sourcing supplier with a new approach is Lattice, which also analyzes current customer data to build predictive models for prospecting, cross-sell and churn prevention. The difference from Leadspace is that Lattice builds the client models using their own massive “data cloud” of B-to-B buyer behavior, fed by 35 data sources like LexisNexis, Infogroup, D&B, and the US Government Patent Office. CMO Brian Kardon says Lattice has identified some interesting variables that are useful in prospecting, for example:

  • Juniper Networks found that a company that has recently “signed a lease for a new building” is likely to need new networks and routers.
  • American Express’s foreign exchange software division identified “opened an office in a foreign country” suggests a need for foreign exchange help.
  • Autodesk searches for companies who post job descriptions online that seek “design engineers with CAD/CAM experience.”

Lattice faces competition from Mintigo and Infer, which are also offering prospect scoring models—more evidence of the growing opportunity for marketers to take advantage of new data sources and applications.

Another new approach is using so-called business signals to identify opportunity. As described by Avention’s Hank Weghorst, business signals can be any variable that characterizes a business. Are they growing? Near an airport? Unionized? Minority owned? Susceptible to hurricane damage? The data points are available today, and can be harnessed for what Weghorst calls “hyper segmentation.” Avention’s database of information flowing from 70 suppliers, overlaid by data analytics services, intends to identify targets for sales, marketing and research.

Social networks, especially LinkedIn, are rapidly becoming a source of marketing data. For years, marketers have mined LinkedIn data by hand, often using low-cost offshore resources to gather targets in niche categories. Recently, a gaggle of new companies—like eGrabber and Social123—are experimenting with ways to bring social media data into CRM systems and marketing databases, to populate and enhance customer and prospect records.

Then there’s 6Sense, which identifies prospective accounts that are likely to be in the market for particular products, based on the online behavior of their employees, anonymous or identifiable. 6Sense analyzes billions of rows of 3rd party data, from trade publishers, blogs and forums, looking for indications of purchase intent. If Cisco is looking to promote networking hardware, for example, 6Sense will come back with a set of accounts that are demonstrating an interest in that category, and identify where they were in their buying process, from awareness to purchase. The account data will be populated with contacts, indicating their likely role in the purchase decision, and an estimate of the likely deal size. The data is delivered in real-time to whatever CRM or marketing automation system the client wants, according to CEO and founder Amanda Kahlow.

Just to whet your appetite further, have a look at CrowdFlower, a start-up company in San Francisco, which sends your customer and prospect records to a network of over five million individual contributors in 90 countries, to analyze, clean or collect the information at scale. Crowd sourcing can be very useful for adding information to, and checking on the validity and accuracy of, your data. CrowdFlower has developed an application that lets you manage the data enrichment or validity exercises yourself. This means that you can develop programs to acquire new fields whenever your business changes and still take advantage of their worldwide network of individuals who actually look at each record.

The world of B-to-B data is changing quickly, with exciting new technologies and data sources coming available at record pace. Marketers can expect plenty of new opportunity for reaching customers and prospects efficiently.

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

3 Ways to Use the Spell of FOMO in Copywriting

FOMO: The “Fear of Missing Out.” Perhaps you’ve heard of it. Perhaps this particular fear describes you or someone you know. FOMO is a phenomenon reported by 56 percent of social media users, and it even has its own hashtag. This particular fear isn’t just of missing out on social media posts, it extends to checking email, phone calls and more. More importantly to direct marketers, the driving emotion of the FOMO is powerful and when properly used

FOMO: The “Fear of Missing Out.” Perhaps you’ve heard of it. Perhaps this particular fear describes you or someone you know. FOMO is a phenomenon reported by 56 percent of social media users, and it even has its own hashtag. This particular fear isn’t just of missing out on social media posts, it extends to checking email, phone calls, and more. More importantly to direct marketers, the driving emotion of the FOMO is powerful and when properly used, you can write copy and create messaging to leverage this basic human fear.

The term FOMO was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2013. The acronym may be new, but classically trained direct mail copywriters have recognized the power of the fear of missing out for generations. We can use it in our copy to effectively sell because of how our brains are wired.

With mobile technology today, it is genuinely possible to become addicted to social networks because of the fear of missing out. It’s now effortless to compare and evaluate our own lives against that of our friends.

A survey last year of social media users by MyLife.com and reported by Mashable suggests:

  • 51 percent visit or log on to social networking sites more frequently now than two years earlier.
  • The average person manages 3.1 email addresses (up from 2.6 a year earlier).
  • 27 percent check their social networks as soon as they wake up.
  • 42 percent have multiple social networking accounts (61 percent for those age 18 to 34).
  • 56 percent are afraid of missing something such as an event, news or an important status update if they don’t keep an eye on social networks.

These stats suggest you’re more likely than not to be in the spell of FOMO.

But the reality is this: We’re all wired to have basic fear. And without taking inappropriate advantage of your prospective customers, there are ways you can appeal to this part of the brain—the amygdala—with messaging to make your sales programs more effective. Here are three uses with FOMO in mind as you write copy and create message positioning:

  • First to Know: If you fear missing out, you must surely want to be the first to know of an important development, new product or news. And, when you’re first to know, you’re most eager to tell others you’re first to know, and pass it along (to your benefit).
  • Inside Story: People like to have the inside scoop combined with effective storytelling. Combine the concepts of revealing your inside story with a unique selling proposition, or positioning, and the sum is greater than its parts.
  • Limited Time: When there is a limited time a product is available, it intensifies desire to acquire it now. The challenge today, however, is that it’s easy for customers to check out competition and discover that limited time appeal has its limits.

These uses also create urgency in your copy. Writing copy and messaging based on this intense human primal fear will drive higher response. There can be no question that the spell of FOMO is real and a part of your customer’s minds.

New Developments in B-to-B List Acquisition

To reach cold prospects among business audiences, sales and marketing teams often begin by developing a list of prospective targets. Marketers can find just about every target company, title and job function they need from traditional list suppliers. Plus, the Internet has made possible the introduction of some excellent new opportunities for identifying prospects at various stages of the buying cycle. Let’s look at what’s new in B-to-B lists these days

To reach cold prospects among business audiences, sales and marketing teams often begin by developing a list of prospective targets. Marketers can find just about every target company, title and job function they need from traditional list suppliers. Plus, the Internet has made possible the introduction of some excellent new opportunities for identifying prospects at various stages of the buying cycle. Let’s look at what’s new in B-to-B lists these days.

Traditionally, the first step in list development has been working with a list broker who has experience in your target audience category. There are more than 40,000 business lists available for rent in the U.S., plus numerous databases and online data enhancement services to choose from.

Business lists can be divided into four general types:

  1. Compiled files assembled from directories, the Internet or other public and private sources, by such suppliers as D&B, InfoGroup, Data.com, NetProspex and ZoomInfo. In recent years, many compilers have been making their data available for rent via an online interface, vastly enhancing the speed and flexibility of ordering.
  2. Response files created as a by-product of other businesses, like catalog/e-commerce sales, seminars, trade organization memberships, or magazine and newsletter subscriptions. Response files tend to be more current and accurate than compiled files.
  3. Cooperative databases from multiple list owners, offered in either open format, where you pay for what you use (examples being MeritDirect’s MeritBase, InfoGroup’s b2bdatawarehouse and Mardev DM2’s Decisionmaker database), or closed format, where only members who put customer names in can take prospect names out (examples include Epsilon Abacus Cooperative and the b2bBase, a joint venture of MeritDirect and Experian).
  4. Internal databases populated from billing systems, lead management systems, and website registration systems. Many companies today use their marketing automation or CRM systems as their marketing databases, and populate them from a variety of internal and external sources.

A New Direction in B-to-B Lists
The B-to-B list industry has changed considerably in the last decade, with the proliferation of social networks. But the big new development today is the trend away from static name/address lists, to dynamic sourcing of prospect names complete with valuable indicators of buying readiness culled from their actual behavior online. Companies such as InsideView and Leadspace are developing solutions in this area.

Leadspace, created by a team of former Israeli intelligence officers, is a leader in targeted, real-time prospecting data for business marketers. Their process begins with constructing an ideal buyer persona by analyzing the client’s best customers, which can be executed by uploading a few hundred records of name, company name and email address. Then, Leadspace scours the Internet, social networks and scores of contact databases for look-alikes and immediately delivers prospect names, fresh contact information and additional data about their professional activities.

How LevelEleven Took its Prospecting to the Next Level
LevelEleven provides a cloud-based platform where sales managers can create fresh and compelling sales contests within Salesforce.com. For example, the Detroit Pistons recently used LevelEleven to organize a sales contest for skyboxes at their arena, and drove sales of over half a million dollars. In other words, 50 percent of the skybox annual sales target was closed in a mere six weeks.

LevelEleven’s target prospect is a sales manager or sales operations manager in any company that uses Salesforce.com as its CRM system. Today, LevelEleven’s sales team gets leads from four sources:

  1. The Salesforce.com AppExchange, where other Salesforce users search for partners.
  2. Conferences and trade shows, like Dreamforce.
  3. Registrations from content downloads at the LevelEleven website.
  4. Rented lists of prospects.

LevelEleven has tried a variety of list sources over the years, with mixed results. In the first half of 2012, the prospecting sources produced zero in closed sales. In June 2012, they began experimenting with Leadspace. In the second half of 2012, a full 30 percent of LevelEleven closed deals came from this source.

According to Bob Marsh, CEO, the power of Leadspace for LevelEleven is its close targeting based on the LevelEleven customer profile. “Leadspace helps us infer pretty accurately whether a prospect is using the Salesforce platform,” he says. “And they deliver to us a short list of highly likely contacts in the account, like the Salesforce administrator or the sales operations manager. Everyone on our sales team has a Leadspace license, and it is performing for us.”

It’s a good thing that the B-to-B list business is continuing to evolve in new directions. What new developments are you seeing?

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

4 Predictions for B-to-B Marketing in 2013

It’s that time of the year when observers can’t resist making predictions about developments on the horizon. I hereby take up that tradition, offering up four random prognostications for where B-to-B digital marketing is headed in 2013. My topics include Facebook, content marketing, personal branding and data hygiene—certainly an eclectic mix. I encourage readers to add their own.

It’s that time of the year when observers can’t resist making predictions about developments on the horizon. I hereby take up that tradition, offering up four random prognostications for where B-to-B digital marketing is headed in 2013. My topics include Facebook, content marketing, personal branding and data hygiene—certainly an eclectic mix. I encourage readers to add their own.

Facebook Is Ready, At Last, for the B-to-B Prime Time
It took a while, but Facebook (FB) marketing is now ready for mainstream B-to-B, in support of branding, lead generation and customer relationship marketing goals for enterprises of all sizes. There are several reasons for this—FB’s universality being one of them. But the critical driver is the recent arrival of the Facebook Exchange (FBX) ad platform, which will allow banner ad bidding and retargeting to specific individuals, based on data matching.

So, while I used to argue that Facebook should be at the bottom of a B-to-B marketer’s to-do list, I am revising my view for 2013. Talking to my pals at Edmund Optics, where I serve on the board of directors, I am hearing confirmation of these developments. Edmund’s target audience is optical engineers and others interested in science and technology. Years ago, I would have advised them to ignore FB and focus on more targeted social networks.

But now, EO has turned its Facebook page into an effective environment for engaging these guys, with weekly “Geeky Friday” offers, and the enormously popular Zombie Apocalypse Survival Guide at Halloween, where engineers were invited to design zombie-blasting tools using Edmund products. Facebook is now a top referring source for EO’s website, up 60 percent from last year. I stand corrected.

More and Better Content
B-to-B marketers were early to the content marketing game. In fact, I would argue that B-to-B has been a leading force in this area, in recognition of the importance of prospect education and thought leadership in the complex selling process. B-to-B marketers will continue to excel at creating valuable materials—digital, paper-based, video, you name it—to attract prospects and deepen relationships.

How do I know this? A new study from the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, which says that 54 percent of B-to-B marketers plan to increase their content marketing budgets in 2013. Their biggest content challenge for next year? Ironically, it’s producing enough content.

Personal Branding as a Way of Life
Business people and consumers alike are realizing that their online personas have a growing impact on both their everyday lives and their professional careers. Rather than letting their personal brands evolve organically, individuals will make more proactive efforts to build and manage their images online, benefiting from the guidance of an emerging community of personal brand experts like William Arruda and Kirsten Dixson. This means establishing unique brand positioning and developing a set of active and consistent messaging across Internet media, especially social networks, to explain who they are and what are their capabilities. Personal branding is no longer just for celebrities or the self-employed; with the rise of social media, it is for everyone.

Renewed Interest in Data Hygiene
Whenever I give a seminar on B-to-B marketing, I ask attendees to take out their business cards and look at them carefully. Then, I say, “Raise your hand if anything on the card is new in the last 12 months.” Invariably, 30 percent of the hands go up.

The high rate of change in B-to-B—whether moving to a different a company, a new title, even a new mail stop—is obvious. But only recently has it begun to sink in that addressing people incorrectly, or campaigning with undeliverable mail or email addresses, not only wastes marketing dollars, but also means lost business opportunity. So enough about big data. The focus in 2013 will be clean data.

And if you want some tips on how to keep your B-to-B data clean, have a look at my white paper: “Our Data is a Mess! How to Clean Up Your Marketing Database.”

So, those are my predictions. I hope readers will add some of their own. What do you think we’ll be seeing in B-to-B digital marketing in 2013?

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

3 Ways Social Communities and Engagement Will Redefine Marketing

The growth of social media provides many new opportunities for brands, including the ability to identify best customers and influencers, and to actively engage those influencers to grow brand advocacy and community. Naturally, it’s this prospect that’s helped fuel the enormous growth in spending across and within key social communities like Facebook, YouTube and more.

The growth of social media provides many new opportunities for brands, including the ability to identify best customers and influencers, and to actively engage those influencers to grow brand advocacy and community. Naturally, it’s this prospect that’s helped fuel the enormous growth in spending across and within key social communities like Facebook, YouTube and more.

But as always, marketers have been pressured to do more with less, particularly in today’s tough economy. That means even more pressure to track and measure marketing program success. For many marketers that success is increasingly defined by engagement and the ability to measure its value and impact on the brand. But what’s the value of engagement?

One of the best studies I’ve seen on this front was conducted by Aite Group. The study looked at the relationship between Generation Y and their banks. It dove into how the level of engagement impacted loyalty, influence, advocacy and sales. Specifically, Aite Group found that highly engaged Gen Yers are significantly more likely to use their debit cards, pay their bills online and receive email.

These users were also more than 3.4 times more likely to use their bank’s website and social networks to research products. Additionally, highly engaged Gen Yers were found to be high-value customers. Specifically, they were 86 percent more likely to open new accounts, 73 percent more likely to recommend their bank and 62 percent more likely to trust their bank.

While the value of engagement is likely to vary by industry and brand, one thing is certain: Social engagement is an important component to add to your integrated marketing tracking and it will have a profound effect on the way you plan, target, execute and measure marketing for many years to come. Here are some of the most important changes you’ll see as a result of realizing the enormous value of catering to highly engaged consumers who use social media and influence others:

1. Media mix allocation tools and research will include social channels. Social will take its rightful place in the marketing toolbox as media mix allocation tools and research include social media platforms and networks as viable options. Business goals, target audience, product type and targeting approach (e.g., geographic, behavioral, contextual) will be re-examined to help marketers prioritize and allocate budgets to appropriate channels, including social — e.g., when a new product launches.

More ambitious marketers will embark on customer research projects to customize these findings for their specific products and targets — i.e., prospects and customers — as social formally joins the budget and planning process.

2. Engagement filtering and targeting capabilities will emerge. The emergence and importance of engagement combined with the growth and increasing activity across social networks and communities will redefine how, who and when you target. You’ll see the emergence of next generation query tools that will allow brands to select and target consumers by applying channel and engagement weightings and filters based on the program or campaign objectives and goals. Highly engaged users will be tapped more aggressively to help launch new products and drive product adoption and sales across the social web.

3. Marketing plans and roll-out strategies will be reinvented. Product launch cycles will continue to be impacted by social channels and emerging technologies. Marketers will become better at not only identifying key influencers and highly engaged users across their respective communities, but also crafting more targeted messages to these audiences to encourage the desired behavior.

As a result, new product launches will be supported by a more formalized and sophisticated roll-out plan. Imagine a world where a new product launch will include a phased rollout. Phase one would include a roll out to key influencers where ideas are exchanged, feedback is collected and enhancements/revisions are made. Phase two would include a soft launch to loyalty or highly engaged users as advocacy and product education continues. Lastly, phase three would include a general or mass market-supported rollout. Communications and tactics within each of these audiences will also be customized to include various communication stages such as education, trial and feedback, and, hopefully, purchasing followed by advocacy.

There’s little doubt the emergence of social media and growth of social brand communities has impacted marketing as we know it. However, bigger changes are in store for marketers as communities occupy an increasing role and influence in the success of brands. This radical sea change requires new thinking and processes.

Marketers who can connect the dots by embracing these new channels and tying social interactions (i.e., engagement) to traditional CRM systems will be a step ahead. However, the real winners will be those that can leverage that data by implementing new strategies and tactics to support the social web and grow brand advocacy and marketing success.

Measuring the Impact of Facebook on Sales

There’s been a lot of talk about Facebook’s impact on commerce from industry pundits. “Will it be retail’s next Google?” asked one report from a leading analyst’s firm. While we’re still very much in the early stages of social media marketing, one thing is certain: In a world where people are increasingly turning to others for opinions and recommendations on the things they need, social commerce, specifically Facebook commerce (f-commerce), is something worthy of additional exploration. But before we jump into the numbers and opportunities, let’s examine what’s required to build a successful f-commerce effort.

There’s been a lot of talk about Facebook’s impact on commerce from industry pundits. “Will it be retail’s next Google?” asked one report from a leading analyst’s firm. While we’re still very much in the early stages of social media marketing, one thing is certain: In a world where people are increasingly turning to others for opinions and recommendations on the things they need, social commerce, specifically Facebook commerce (f-commerce), is something worthy of additional exploration. But before we jump into the numbers and opportunities, let’s examine what’s required to build a successful f-commerce effort.

First off, I’m a believer. (So much so that I recently joined the marketing advisory board of an f-commerce provider, Milyoni.) Some of the examples below, including Warner Brother’s experimentation with Facebook as an alternative digital distribution platform, are powered by Milyoni’s technology. Having said that, f-commerce doesn’t just happen.

I believe that all successful f-commerce programs start with creating engaging conversations and communities. Trust and advocacy flourish over time, allowing brands to develop programs that harness the power of the social graph. If done well, brands have the opportunity to build a commerce platform that not only stands on its own, but ultimately supports and amplifies existing marketing and sales efforts.

If you’ve spent time building your Facebook community and implementing channel tracking for promotions, you’ve probably already witnessed the growing influence social networks are having on your overall promotional efforts. For one of my clients, Facebook is now second to email in terms of rebate form completions and conversions. That’s a testament to the power of building a highly engaged community and its impact on sales.

Now for the data. If you’re still a skeptic, consider the following:

Sales: A recent report from consulting firm Booz & Company titled Turning “Like” to “Buy” estimates social commerce sales will reach $5 billion worldwide this year, with $1 billion coming from the U.S. This is expected to grow sixfold to more than $30 billion worldwide ($15 billion in the U.S.) by 2015.

Consumer acceptance: Booz & Company reports 27 percent of consumers said they’d be willing to purchase physical goods through social networking sites.

Brand acceptance — diversified and growing:

More recently, movie studios like Warner Brothers have shaken up the industry by experimenting with Facebook as an alternative digital distribution platform by offering five movies — “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,” “Inception,” “Life As We Know It” and “Yogi Bear” — for rental using Facebook Credits.

In fact, news of the test sent shares of Netflix tumbling by more than 6 percent or $650 milllion. Why? One, social networks offer studios a way to bypass services like Netflix, whose streaming digital influence continues to grow. Two, the ability to post comments and interact with friends opens up a host of new opportunities to not only tap into the social graph to create a unique experience, but to inform the studio and influence future development efforts.

In today’s world, brands need to be everywhere their customers are. So why not facilitate the ability to transact there as well? No doubt social commerce has arrived, but its definition will continue to evolve and expand. From traditional retail stores to an innovative digital media distribution platform, the power of Facebook as a viable social commerce platform is one of the big opportunities of the decade.

Turning Social Media Into Customer – And Shareholder – Value

Forrester Research reports advertisers will spend $716 million on social media marketing (including ads on social networks, corporate blogs, etc) in 2010, but that will grow by 34 percent to top $3.1 billion in 2014. The investment shift reflects changing consumer behavior and acknowledgement that customers increasingly learn about a brand through the company, its employees, other customers and even competitors.

Forrester Research reports advertisers will spend $716 million on social media marketing (including ads on social networks, corporate blogs, etc.) in 2010, and that number will grow 34 percent to top $3.1 billion by 2014. The investment shift reflects changing consumer behavior and acknowledgement that consumers increasingly learn about brands — e.g., their employees, customers and even competitors — via social networks.

While search growth shows signs of slowing, the conversations happening in social settings — which aren’t slowing down — drive search behavior. They reflect the sum of all strategic decisions that affect a brand’s ability to efficiently increase its value over time. In turn, proactive marketers and investor relations pros are making up for the slowing growth of search by leveraging social media for new growth. However, in order for social media to invite an emotional attachment and deliver tangible shareholder value, it needs to scale within an organization from the top down.

Networking solutions provider Novell is embracing social media as a strategic foundation on which it does business. According to John Dragoon, chief marketing officer for Novell, “The ‘social’ part of social media means that you have to get as many people involved as possible …” At a time when Novell profits slipped amid uncertainty, the company refocused on a clear sense of purpose and a mission to deliver unique customer value one step at a time. Social media helped the company communicate these accomplishments not just to customers, but to shareholders, its workforce and others.

For Novell and other companies that want to improve external communications, it only makes sense to embrace the efficiency and searchability of social media. Today, consumers create their own media schedules and can easily edit, copy, produce and distribute content. Furthermore, with internet television services like Google TV coming soon, it’s only a matter of time before C-level executives foster two-way dialogs with key stakeholders in searchable media.

Therefore, it’s best for companies to think about social media in the form of content and context.

Content:
Social media can complement formal press releases. It provides a forum for quality, two-way dialog with key stakeholders to evaluate where a company has been, where it’s going and other important topics of value to participants.


Context: Inbound links and topical content webs convey the strategic value of a product/service within the context of the business/marketplace. They answer critical, high-value questions like:

  • What do customers do with your product or service?
  • How does your solution solve a consumer pain point?
  • What’s unique and differentiating about your product or service relative to the competition?

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.