How the Impact of COVID-19 Is Changing Marketing

Well, it’s not as if we can start 2020 all over again — we’re already halfway through this year thus far. Yet, we can say one thing, COVID-19 and its recessionary impacts may be hanging around awhile. How may this have changed marketing mid-year, and possibly changed it permanently?

Well, it’s not as if we can start 2020 all over again — we’re already halfway through this year thus far. Yet, we can say one thing: COVID-19 and its recessionary impacts may be hanging around awhile. How may this have changed marketing mid-year, and possibly changed it permanently?

Such prognostications have kept The Winterberry Group, a marketing research consultancy, plenty busy since March: reading the tea leaves of government data, industry interviews, marketing dashboards, econometric algorithms, and the like. Principal Bruce Biegel told a Direct Marketing Club of New York audience this past week that indeed June has been better than May, which was better than April — when the U.S. (and much of the global) economy was in free fall.

So what’s underway and what’s in store for us midyear? Have we turned a corner?

Our Comeback Will Not Be a U-Turn — ‘Swoosh!’

When unemployment shoots up to 17.1%, and 40 million American jobs either furlough or disappear, there’s going to be a lag effect. The “wallet” recession is upon us, as consumers hang onto their savings, or eat through them, so there’s not going to be the same level of demand that drives upward of two-thirds of the U.S. economy.

New York City is a COVID-19 epicenter — and the commercial real estate market may take five to 10 years to recover, reports The Economist (subscription required). Knowledge workers will return, eventually. But densely populated urban centers, where innovations accelerate the economy, may look and feel different for some time, and that in and of itself could hamper national and global growth. Can other innovation clusters stave off the virus to protect collaboration?

And then there’s our world of advertising. Biegel sees digital being a “winner,” as traditional media continues to take a drubbing. Linear TV spending dropped by a quarter this quarter, and direct mail by half. Experiential and sponsorship spending has been slashed by 75%, as concerts, live sports, conferences, and festivals all took a public health-ordered hiatus. Yet, even in digital categories, Q2 has yelled “ouch.”

Email is the only channel to have held its own, though pricing pressure has cut margins. Social, search, and digital display all have posted drops from 25% to 40% during the quarter — and though all our eyes were home watching Disney+, Netflix, and the like, even OTT/addressable TV ad spending was down by 5%. With the Newfronts coming this week, it will be interesting to see what types of digital media may post gains.

So if June’s “recovery” in media spend is any indication, Q3 (sans Olympics) and Q4 (yes, we’re still having an Election, last time I checked) should be solid though not buoyant. Biegel says it may be a “swoosh” recovery — think Nike’s logo — down fast, but up again slowly, steadily and resiliently. Which begs the questions: Can ad businesses, business models, and brands cope with a new reality?

The “new normal” is about coming out of the COVID-19 crisis — and half of executives surveyed by The Winterberry Group aren’t expecting miracles:

Medium-Term Budget Cuts

IAB-Winterberry Group State of Data (2020)

 Q3 Will Start a Recovery … of Sorts

Source: Advertiser Perceptions, Pivotal Research Group (2020), as reported by Winterberry Group

And, Biegel reported, that it may indeed take to 2024 — with COVID-19 firmly in a rear view mirror — for a recovery to be complete, according to IPG Mediabrands Magna. It is predicting a 4.4% ad spend contraction this year, a 4% recovery next year, and “subdued” results thereafter until mid-decade.

So How Have We Changed — and Will These New Behaviors Stick?

Some effects, though, may indeed have permanence in how Americans consume media — perhaps hastening trends already underway, or creating a whole rethink of how we act as consumers. Consider these impacts:

  • Streaming to TVs more than doubled during COVID-19 crisis. Have we rewired our video consumption habits away from scheduled programming for good?
  • Mobile data traffic surged 380% in March alone. Consumers have taken to their smartphones everywhere — so how has mobile viewing altered consumer’s screen habits across devices, and will it stick?
  • DTC brands and catalogs know all about remote selling — and so do millions of consumers who have now come to love shopping this way.
  • Video game use is up 60% — opening the door to more in-game advertising opportunities. This may change the mix of brands seeking to engage consumers there.
  • In January there were 280,000 posted job openings in data analytics. There are 21,000 today. More than half of marketers expect predictive modeling and segmentation to occupy their marketing strategy concerns for the balance of 2020.
  • Tangible value matters. Consumers will be demanding more pricing benefits from brand loyalty, and less VIP experiences. We may be getting tired of lockdowns but we are steadfast in a recession, savings conscious mindset.
  • Business travel – yes, your clients may be returning to the office, but do they really want to see YOU? What can B2B marketers and sellers achieve virtually?

It’s ironic, Biegel said, that privacy laws and the crumbling cookie are making customer recognition harder in the addressable media ecosystem, just as consumers expect and demand to be recognized. Identity resolution platforms will evolve to cope with these new marketplace realities — both of which are independent of COVID-19 – but the solutions will bring forth a blend of technologies, processes, and people yet to be fully formulated. These are still open and important marketplace issues.

So assuming we’re healthful health-wise, we have some challenges ahead in ad land. I’m glad to have some guideposts in this unprecedented time.

Brands Need to Keep Engaging – Don’t Just Stop Because of Crisis

We are in extraordinary times – and it’s only prudent to recognize this. While the Fed may be doing everything possible to keep our economy afloat, we likely will remain in limbo until a public health victory is apparent. It’s time to take stock of what we do on behalf of our brands and clients, to immediate effect.

Among thousands of businesses these past two-plus weeks, many of us have effectively handed our marketing decisions over to finance and accounting. Which means, if you’re not producing an immediate revenue gain, you’re probably being cost-reduced to the bone, if not entirely out of work. Such is the illiquidous, flash-frozen effect of COVID-19 on our economy. We’ve lost more U.S. jobs in three weeks than we did during the expanse of the Great Recession.

Cash is in crunch, and though The Fed may be doing everything possible to keep our economy afloat (will it work?) we likely will remain in limbo until a public health victory is apparent. That could be months. It may yet take longer to resume growth – and who knows how business and consumer behavior may have changed by then? We are in extraordinary times – and it’s only prudent to recognize this.

It’s time to take stock of what we do on behalf of our brands and clients, to immediate effect. There is much work to do.

Marketing Must Continue … With Prudence

  • Every pharmacy, drug store, food store, and big-box retailer – and the agencies that support them – should proactively communicate store safety measures, and elevate “conveniences” such as shop-online-and-pick-up-in-store to the preferred method of distribution. This is an opportunity to build consumer and brand trust.
  • For financial marketers, the need to connect with consumers right now regarding savings, budgeting tools, and capital preservation should be a high priority. Make it happen.
  • On television, I’ve seen the messages of optimism from the likes of Walmart, Toyota, and Ford. (Post your inspired ad in the comments section below to share, please.) We need these messages right now. Beyond our own mortality, we will emerge on the other side of this. Brands need to be megaphones for hope and empathy. And certainly not insensitivity.
  • Perhaps TV spending is too steep for many brands’ budgets. In my email inbox, my favorite restaurants offer meals-to-go, my coffee house enables virtual tips for unemployed baristas and healthcare workers, and nonprofit organizations are postponing their live fundraising events with an online ask for the here and now. Needs don’t stop, in fact, the chronic has become acute. For those of us who can afford to help, there’s a collective mood to give. There are reasons to keep relevant communication appropriately flowing to audiences.
  • My previous post addressed data quality. Let me repeat: all those mobile and data visitors to your sites right now must not go unrecognized. Ensure you have a data and tech plan to identify (perhaps in the form of free registration, analyze, and engage accordingly.
  • Respond to the Census. Yes, do it for democracy. But we in the marketing business also know how invaluable Census data is to the economy, and the strategies we map for our brands.

So, yes, we’re all facing a flash freeze. And marketing-as-normal needs to be re-calibrated. So let’s re-calibrate … show our CFOs the likely payback, and let’s get going.

 

 

The Grand Reopening of the U.S. Economy Will Happen, Plan for It

We are in uncharted territory, much as we were in previous economic downturns and recessions. Yet, do know, another expansion will follow … eventually. There will be a grand reopening of our economy, and as marketers, we need to plan for it.

I love defaulting to optimism – even in the darkest of times. It’s been part of my survival mechanism through all sorts of crises. That being said, we are in uncharted territory in this new normal, much as we were in previous economic downturns and recessions. “The Great Recession” of 2008-2009 was largely Wall Street born and Main Street slammed. But remember, the Great Expansion followed. A possible recession stemming from COVID-19, however, would be largely reversed, with millions of livelihoods suddenly denied, and both Main Street and Wall Street being slammed in tandem. Yet, do know, another expansion will follow … eventually. There will be a grand reopening of our economy, and as marketers, we need to plan for it.

Listening to the U.S. President talk about getting parts of our country back to some semblance of normal by Easter may seem wild-eyed and some might say irresponsible. In reality, China is reportedly already back on line – after six-to-eight weeks of paralysis. Does this mean a possible “V-shaped” recession (very short), a “U-shaped” one (mild), or an “L-shaped” one (long term)? We don’t know.

It’s always dangerous to make prognostications, but we can learn from patterns elsewhere in the virology. With the United States now the most afflicted nation in sickness, we yet have a massive fight ahead to control viral spread. And doubt and fear have taken hold as two debacles have come about, one public health and one economic.

Unfortunately, there is no “on/off” switch for the viral crisis. Even when its spread is curtailed, which will happen, we’ve been shaken and edginess is going to remain. That’s only human.

Patterns of consumption will not resume as if nothing happened. Unemployment shocks will not reverse as easily as they came. So there will be a “new” normal.

However, a reopening is coming. You might say that’s my optimism, but folks – we are going to be okay in a time. It may not be of our choosing, as Dr. Fauci faithfully reports, but one that will be here nonetheless. As marketers, let’s get ready for it.

Look to Your Data to Prepare for What’s Next

Recessions are actually good times to look to the enterprise and get customer data “cleaned up.” The early 90s recession gave us CRM, and database marketing flourished. The end of the Internet 1.0 boom in 2000 brought data discipline to digital data. And the Great Recession brought data to the C-suite.

So let’s use this time to do a data checkup. Here are four opportunities:

  1. Data audits are often cumbersome tasks to do – but data governance is a “must” if we want to get to gain a full customer view, and derive intelligent strategies for further brand engagement. Quality needs to be the pursuit. Replacing cookie identification also is a priority. Understand all data sources to “upgrade” for confidence, accuracy, privacy, and permissions.
  2. March 15 might be a good date to do an A/B split with your customer data inputs – pre-virus and during-virus. What new patterns emerged in media, app usage, mobile use and website visits? Are you able to identify your customers among this traffic? If not, that’s a data and tech gap that needs to be closed.
  3. Customer-centricity or data silos? It’s always a good time to tear down that silo and integrate the data, yet sometimes healthy economic growth can mask this problem. Use the recessions to free up some time to actually get the work done.
  4. Test new data and identity solution vendors to increase match rates across your omnichannel spectrum – to better create a unified view of audiences, both prospects and customers. I’ve already seen one of my clients come up with a novel offer to analyze a subset of unidentified data to drive a substantive lift in matches.

As we work remotely, it’s important to understand that this current state of crisis is not a permanent state. Only once the virus is conquered, on its weaknesses not ours, can we really have any timetable to resume the economy. That being the health science, it just makes great business sense now to “stage” your data for that eventual Grand Reopening.

What I Hope to Learn in Orlando’s Magic ‘Data’ Kingdom

The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) inaugural 2020 Masters of Data and Technology Conference kicks off today. It will be interesting to learn how brands see themselves transformed by all the digital (and offline) data surrounding prospects and customers at this Magic Data Kingdom in Orlando.

As I get ready to embark to the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) inaugural 2020 Masters of Data and Technology Conference (beginning today), I’m very curious to listen in and learn how brands see themselves transformed by all the digital (and offline) data surrounding prospects and customers.  With CMOs telling ANA that this topic area is a strategic priority, I don’t think I’ll be disappointed this week in Orlando’s Magic Data Kingdom.

Are “they” — the brands — finding answers to these questions?

  • Do they have command of data in all the channels of customer engagement?
  • Are they deriving new sources of customer intelligence that had previously gone untapped?
  • Can they accurately map customer journeys — and their motivations along the way?
  • Are they truly able to identify customers across platforms accurately with confidence?
  • How do data science and creativity come together to make more effective advertising — and meet business real-world objectives?
  • What disruptions are shaking the foundations of B2C and B2B engagement today?
  • Are investments in data and technology paying dividends to brands and businesses in increased customer value? Do customers, too, value the data exchange?
  • Is there a talent pool in adequate to deliver data-derived, positive business outcomes? What more resources or tools might they need?
  • What impacts do barriers on open data flows — walled gardens, browser defaults, privacy legislation, “techlash” — have on relevance, competition, diversity in content and other business, economic and social concerns? How can these be managed?
  • Are “brand” people and “data” people truly becoming one in the same in marketing, and in business?

Admittedly, that’s a lot of questions — and perhaps the answers to some of these may be elusive. However, it’s the dialogue among industry peers here that will matter.

The mere emergence of this conference — “new” in the ANA lexicon — is perhaps a manifestation of where the Data & Marketing Association (acquired by ANA in 2018) hoped to achieve in its previous annual conferences and run-up to acquisition. The full promise of data-driven marketing — and “growth” in an Information Economy — can only happen when brands themselves (and, yes, their agencies and ad tech partners, too) have command of data and tech disciplines, and consumers continue to be willing partners in the exchange.

Imagination lives beyond the domain of the Magic Kingdom (where we all can take inspiration from Disney, nearby). Likewise, aspirations can be achieved. Let’s listen in and learn as ANA takes rein of this brands- and data-welcomed knowledge share. Growth is a beautiful thing.

 

10 PR Don’ts That Will Tarnish Brand Reputations With the Media

If you follow reporters on Twitter, inevitably you will encounter a frustrated post condemning the behavior of a PR pro or company. Experienced brand communicators should have enough understanding of journalism that they wouldn’t intentionally exhibit this behavior.

If you follow reporters on Twitter, inevitably you will encounter a frustrated post condemning the behavior of a PR pro or company. Experienced brand communicators should have enough understanding of journalism that they wouldn’t intentionally exhibit this behavior. However, lapses in judgment may be the result of colleagues or leaders disregarding the advice of the PR expert.

Here are 10 “don’ts” that will alienate reporters and put a company’s reputation at risk.

No. 1: Asking to See a Reporter’s Article Before It Publishes

If you’re lucky, a friendly reporter may let you review your quote. But if you’re interested in seeing a full article before it publishes, then your best bet is writing a contributed piece.

No. 2: Pitching a Story, Getting Interest, and Then Telling the Reporter That Your Spokesperson Is Unavailable

Make sure your spokesperson, or spokespeople, will be available to speak to reporters before you begin to pitch the story. If your subject matter expert is traveling, on vacation, or unreachable, make sure you have a backup plan or delay your outreach until the SME is available.

No. 3: Providing Misinformation

A spokesperson may not have every answer and that’s okay. In pre-interview preparation, instruct your spokesperson on how to handle a situation where they are unsure of a response. A spokesperson should ask if they can check on the answer and follow up with the reporter. They should never guess or provide incorrect information.

No. 4: Requesting a Correction on Something That’s Not Incorrect

A correction should only be requested if the information in an article is wrong. Asking for changes to anything else is an insult to the journalist. If the article is not what you wanted it to say, use this experience to inform your future PR efforts and strategy. Sometimes you just need to accept the outcome and move on.

No. 5: Asking Why You Weren’t in an Article About Your Industry or One That Featured a Competitor

You’re not going to be in every article and, of course, it’s frustrating and disappointing to be overlooked. However, instead of lobbing complaints at a reporter, use this experience as an opportunity to develop an education strategy so you’re top of mind the next time they write on the topic.

No. 6: Sharing Embargoed Information Before Agreeing With a Reporter That the Information Is Embargoed

This is not how embargoes work. You should reach out to the reporter, tease the announcement and ask explicitly if they would like the exclusive and/or embargoed announcement. If the reporter says “yes,” then you agree on the restrictions, such as the timeframe and exclusivity.

No. 7: Being Disrespectful

Treat reporters with respect and act professionally. You are a reflection of your company. Be on time. Appearances matter. Profanities are unacceptable.

No. 8: Following Up Too Many Times or Too Frequently

I find that one follow-up email or phone call is appropriate. As a best practice, give reporters at least 48 hours to respond, unless the news is time-sensitive. Reporters receive hundreds of emails per day and they can’t possibly respond to everyone. If you don’t hear back, they are likely too busy or uninterested. Move on, seek out other outlets, or look for a more compelling angle.

No. 9: Bribing a Reporter or Other Illegal Behavior

It’s shameful to offer money or other payment for a reporter to write about your company. Reporters will accept an invitation for a meal or coffee. But if you’re looking to pay for coverage, opt for an advertorial or sponsored article, instead.

No. 10: Confusing PR With Marketing

The reporter’s job is not to give you free advertising or marketing. They are reporting the news. A completely self-serving pitch is unlikely to generate interest. If you want to advertise your business, paid opportunities are more suitable.

Do Better

Public relations is all about relationships. Reporters have a job to do and so do PR pros. Let’s strive to make interactions mutually beneficial in 2020 and use social media to commend one another.

2020: A Big Year for Media Spend Will Underscore Data’s Role in Marketing Strategy

With the longest U.S. economic growth span on record, one might think the wheels may be about to come off of the economy — and marketing spend along with it. Not so, says Bruce Biegel, senior marketing partner at The Winterberry Group, during his annual forecast about marketing strategy.

It is the best of times.

With the longest U.S. economic growth span on record, one might think the wheels may be about to come off of the economy — and marketing spend along with it. Not so, says Bruce Biegel, senior marketing partner at The Winterberry Group, during his Direct Marketing Club of New York annual presentation, “The Outlook for Data Driven Advertising & Marketing 2020.”

marketing strategy
Source: Winterberry Group (2020), with Permission | Credit: Winterberry Group

Sure, there is caution. The Great Recession displaced many — and served to accelerate digital disruption from retail to finance to certainly marketing, forever. Perhaps businesses have never felt safe, sound, and secure ever since. One might call it “wise agitation.” And it really has been consumer spending that has served as the primary driver of growth, particularly in 2019.

Not the R Word …

Outside of business caution and flat earnings, where are the signs of another recession? They are hard to find.

Inflation and wage growth are hardly sputtering — even as the nation’s unemployment rates are at record lows. Trade rows and impeachment proceedings only appear to buoy the stock market. Even inside the world of marketing, privacy restrictions have not diminished the luster of data deployed for marketing and insight. And with the Olympics and a General Election this year, it should be times aplenty for many media channels, agencies, data providers, and tech companies — as these events are traditional hallmarks of spending.

So who are some of the winners in the current marketing and media environment?

… But plenty of D, Even Still

D, as in Direct: Biegel noted that “Buy Direct” is creating continuous rise and sale in DTC [direct to consumer] brands. The subscription economy is booming and traditional distribution channels — read, retail — continue with a “D” of their own, “disintermediation.”

“The five-year growth (through 2019) of DTC retail is four times that of the retail market revenues — 7.64% growth vs. 1.78%,” he reports.

That doesn’t translate to digital-first success, however, as such approaches are not scaling as rising costs in paid social, for example, are inhibiting customer acquisition.

marketing strategy
Source: Winterberry Group Spend Estimates (2020)

D, as in Digital: Online media spending overall grew by 19.1% in 2019 — compared with a 5.9% decline in offline media spending for the same year. Among all digital media categories in 2019, paid search grabbed the largest share — followed by display and paid social. Yet search spending “only” grew by 13.2%, compared to 21% growth for display, and 23% growth for paid social. For 2020, online media spending will continue to climb — reaching $166.4 billion in spending, while offline media will reverse its decline and post a 2.3% climb this year (remember, Olympics and Elections) to $223.1 billion.

D, as in Data: Data spending also posted healthful growth in 2019 — up by 5% — with another 6.2% growth expected in 2020. Is data working harder for marketers — as in, increasing marketing efficiency? Possibly. Spending on offline data dropped 5.5% in 2019 — while spending on email data and analytics posted 22.4% growth, and spending on digital media data and analytics (other than email) grew by 14.4%. Yet businesses are wholly satisfied with their own level of “data-centricity.” Biegel says, “Organizations are slightly more ‘data-centric’ this year than when asked in 2017 — on the whole, industry data-centricity is not progressing as envisioned.”

marketing strategy
Source: IAB-Winterberry Group Data-Centric Org (2020)

What’s Driving Data Strategy at Businesses?

Beigel reports three primary facilitators:

  • A desire to deliver better customer experiences;
  • Heightened regulatory compliance requirements and need to honor consumer preferences; and,
  • Increased demand to better leverage both first- and third-party data assets.

With a data-for-marketing marketplace in the United States now valued — both offline and online —- at $23 billion, those are three very important drivers that marketing professionals needs to get right. Or else our C-suite credibility may be diminished.

Artificial intelligence also has benefited from this reverence for data. Beigel reports that $11 billion has been invested globally in AI in the past five years — with 80% of marketers seeing AI “revolutionize” marketing in the next five years. Much of this investment is set on drawing insights from both structured and unstructured data sources.

And Where Are There Lingering Concerns?

Besides enterprise command of data assets, which could go either superbly or not, there are other concerns — both macro and micro, Biegel reports.

U.S. economic growth will likely slow to 1.9%, with global growth at pronounced risk. Corporate earnings may disappoint — leading to tightened purse strings. Tariffs may be reduced – nation by nation, region by region — but to what immediate impact? In short, Biegel says, “Limited tailwinds indicate that growth must be earned or bought.”

Among offline media there will be pockets of growth — outdoor, shopper marketing, linear and addressable TV — though direct mail will only squeak growth, with radio, newspaper, and magazines continuing their declines (even as their digital counterparts grow).

Search, display, and social will continue to dominate online media spend — but less mature channels, such as influencer marketing, digital video, and OTT [over-the-top] streaming, and digital audio will post rapid growth from much smaller bases. That portends good times for online data — but is it all rosy?

marketing strategy
Source: Winterberry Group Spend Estimates (2020)

For example, are customer acquisition and retention costs, though, declining in these channels? It may be that media inflation will eat into marketing efficiency, particularly if “targeting” data gets less precise and, as a result, relevance gets more elusive. Privacy restrictions, while well-meaning, are not always implemented in such a way that serve best consumers. Still, only 16% of businesses have reduced their spending and reliance on certain kinds of data as a result of new and potential data privacy regulations, Biegel reports.

So, come December 2020, will all of these predictions and concerns bear out? That’s one of the reasons I attend Bruce Biegel’s Annual Outlook at DMCNY each year. As great a prognosticator as he is and as on-target as his business, data, and economic models are — he’s always close enough to the market to say where struggles remain, where the work of data-driven marketing is hard, where hiccups happen, and the like. These are all of the many micro and macro reasons that any best of times can go awry.

His January 2020 predictions are now in the books — and we will all be back again in January 2021 — barring any hiccups.

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.”

Company Data Opens the Door to Data Business Success

The hype around creating data businesses is at an all-time high in the B2B media sector. With display ad revenue falling off a cliff and lead-gen business models becoming more challenged, there is a clear focus to diversify digital revenue further, and data models are a clear player in that picture.

The hype around creating data businesses is at an all-time high in the B2B media sector. With display ad revenue falling off a cliff and lead-gen business models becoming more challenged, there is a clear focus to diversify digital revenue further, and data models are a clear player in that picture.

But, as I talk to colleagues in the sector, many are trying to find their way on the data front. One obstacle in becoming a data player lies in the fundamental way media brands have their databases set up.

Most B2B media players tout that they have in-depth insights on users through their database. The problem with this approach is that it does not align with the way many companies want to start their data journey. While many marketers will look for one-on-one connections with people, the process of gathering data and gaining market insights often starts at the company/organization level.

There are many reasons why this is the case. On one hand, most of the data searches by a marketer start with trying to understand general trends across a market sector or region. While this data can be obtained at the individual level, it’s much easier to see these trends at the company level.

On the other hand, marketers are getting highly targeted at the companies they want to reach – at Edgell, we had a large technology provider come to us that wanted to reach only 300 companies at one point. While this can be done at the individual level, it’s much easier and more accurate to achieve with a company table structure in place.

Making Company Data Come to Life

Clearly, the lack of a company structure in today’s databases is hurting media brands in their data business launch efforts. But, how do we overcome this obstacle?

There are several ways to start. First, you need to shift your team’s thinking and culture. While capturing info on an individual is important, you have to put a structure in place where you’re equally collecting data at the company level.

Beyond the cultural shift, here are some tips that will help make your company table structure come to life:

Tip 1: Define what you need to capture

By adding a company table, you have a chance to bring valuable data elements to your database. So, you should use this as a chance to bring in data elements that you may not be capturing today. For example, you can bring in things like industries the company covers, overall company revenue, divisions, and other elements that you may not have in your database today.

Tip 2: Align data

The addition of a company table also allows you to align data across individual records. For example, in an audience-driven database, you can have one employee at company X that puts down divisional revenue while another puts down group revenue. Through the company table, you can use publicly available info from Company X’s financial reports or from tools like Hoovers to align all users from that company under a single revenue bracket.

Tip 3: Start with your top companies

Once you’ve built the foundation for the company table, you should develop a strategy for rolling it out to all of your audience members. But where do you start? The 80/20 rule is a good solution here. Take your Top 50 or Top 100 companies and roll the company table out to these organizations first. Likely, you’ll have the most contacts from these companies. That will allow you to create a good sample size for data collection/alignment and also a good way to build a plan for future migration.

Unlocking the Power of the Company Data

Once you’ve started supporting and collecting data, the next trick is putting the reporting tools in place to get value from the company data. Even more important is to have your company reports in place so your customers can leverage them for running market analysis reports, market trend reports, and more.

There are a number of options that can help on the reporting front. To me, one of the most powerful is the integration of a visualization tool like a Tableau or a Good Data. Visualization tools let you pull in different data sets, align them and create reports that can show the combination of data cross companies. This is extremely powerful when dealing with company data because you see trends around companies based on revenue, business/industry, and more.

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There is no doubt that many media brands are struggling to find their niche in the data business. While not the end-all solution, leveraging a company table in your database architecture is one way that you can better position your organization for data success.

Consider a New Direct Mail Strategy of Turning a ‘No’ to ‘Yes’

I read a book recently called “Never Split The Difference” by Chris Voss. It’s all about negotiating skills. It got me thinking about how some of those same strategies could be applied to direct mail.

Direct mail has been around for a long time, so there are many established strategies to get the best results. You have probably tried several of them.

I read a book recently called “Never Split The Difference” by Chris Voss. It’s all about negotiating skills. It got me thinking about how some of those same strategies could be applied to direct mail.

Direct mail is not a negotiation, but it is trying to convince people to buy from you. The better you are at convincing, the more response you will get.

So let’s take a look at one specific strategy that focuses on getting people to say “no” in order to get them to say “yes.” I know that you are thinking this is crazy. “No” is bad, and we don’t want people to say “no” to us. But hear me out. I think I can change your mind.

Why ‘No’

Simply because it works. Consider this, by allowing your prospect or customer to respond to a question with a “no,” you put them into a more confident position of being in control and decisive.

So by starting your direct mail messaging with a question that prompts a “no,” you will have more success getting a “yes” to them buying from you.

So how does this work? When people say “no,” they are now secure and confident. This leads them to take more action.

Let’s say you are a pest control company, selling your services to homeowners. To start with a “no” question, you could ask them: “Do you like ants in your house?”

Of course they will say “no.” Then you can follow up with some information about how ants get in. Then finally, finish with the real question you want them to say “yes” to; which is, will they hire you to remove bugs?

Why ‘Yes’ First Sets the Wrong Emotions

When your prospects or customers receive your mail piece, they know you are soliciting them. It’s not a big secret that you want them to buy from you. So they are already in the mindset of being wary and defensive. This is not the best mood to be in when making decisions that will be in your favor. By forcing them to answer your “yes” questions, you seed this mood within them more deeply.

In order to move them quickly to the right mindset, you should start with a “no” question. When you get someone to say “no,” you open them up to opportunities and to saying: “Yes, I will buy from you.”

In this context, “no” is a very powerful motivator.

Have you tried this tactic before? Many times, the strategy is to ask repeated “yes” questions, with the expectation that the final “will you buy from me?” question will then be “yes.”

This does work.

But starting with “no” can work better.

Because results matter, why not give the “no” strategy a try? You can run an A/B test one with your usual strategy and one that starts with a “no” question to see what works best for you. This “no” strategy scenario works for both B2B and B2C direct mail. Are you ready to get started?

Questions to Ask When Planning Direct Mail Campaigns

In order to create direct mail campaigns that ignite more response, you need to ask the right questions at the planning stage. Your ROI is dependent on the choices you make in your mail strategy. The wrong questions can lead to poor direct mail response. The right questions help us empower our team to think outside of the box and create better mail pieces.

In order to create direct mail campaigns that ignite more response, you need to ask the right questions at the planning stage. Your ROI is dependent on the choices you make in your mail strategy. The wrong questions can lead to poor direct mail response. The right questions help us empower our team to think outside of the box and create better mail pieces.

What questions should be asked when planning a direct mailing campaign?

  1. What are our goals? Make a list of each goal so that everyone on the team knows them and why they are important.
  2. What are the advantages from our last mailing? List any of the good things from the last mailing. This could be results, mailing list, images, etc. Make sure to be specific.
  3. What are the disadvantages from our last mailing? List anything bad about the last mailing, and be specific.
  4. What ideas do we have to improve? List out improvement suggestions. Do not filter any out at this time, just write them all down.
  5. What do customers expect from us? Make a list of your customer’s expectations of you and your product/service. If you don’t know, you need to ask them.
  6. What is our customer’s greatest pain? In order to solve problems for your customers, you need to know what they are. List them in order of biggest to smallest.
  7. How can our product or service fix that pain? Use the list you just created to solve the problem for each one.
  8. What are the most powerful benefits our product or service creates for customers? List all your benefits in order of most significance.
  9. How certain are we about whom our customers are? Are you just making assumptions? Find out how you know information about your customers and make sure that it is true.
  10. What are the design possibilities? Now is the time to get creative, list all the fun ideas you can. During brainstorming do not scratch any off the list, just compile all the ideas to whittle down later.
  11. What are we missing? There is always something lurking that we forgot. Make sure to take the time to try and find out what that is.
  12. What are our competitors doing? It is a good idea to sign up for the mailing and email lists of your competitors. You can do that under a different family name if you wish, but keeping tabs on what they are doing can help you shape your mail strategy. You can exploit their weaknesses.
  13. What resources do we need? Many times you will not have everything you need, having a list of all resources will help to ensure you stay on top of everything in a timely manner.
  14. Do we need help from outside the organization? Most companies are not able to execute a mailing campaign without outside help. Make sure you have trusted resources that can complete items for you when you need them.

After you answer all these questions and document your strategy, it is a good idea to reach out to your mail service provider to get their input. You may need to make some changes before you print and mail. They can guide you on postal regulations, as well as what has worked well for others. The better planning you do before you mail, the better your results are going to be. Are you ready to get started?