Creative Direct Mail for 2018

Direct mail has been around for a very long time. If you continue to do the same old pieces you have been mailing in 2017 you will see a drop in your response rates. You must create new, fresh and engaging direct mail pieces to get the results you need. Why should you continue to mail with all of the other channel options?

Bring Direct Mail to Life with Interactive ElementsDirect mail has been around for a very long time. If you continue to do the same old pieces you have been mailing in 2017, you will see a drop in your response rates. You must create new, fresh and engaging direct mail pieces to get the results you need. Why should you continue to mail with all of the other channel options? Here are two stats from the DMA 2017 Fact Book: Direct mail customer response rates increased year-over-year by 43 percent and prospect response rates increased year-over-year by 190 percent.

How can you best leverage these response rates for your 2018 mail campaigns? Know what your audience wants so you send that to them and use the tips below:

Engaging

There are so many creative ideas to get people to engage with your mail pieces. Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. So we have a few ideas that have worked really well for others. They do not have to be expensive:

  1. Paper — Look at the paper you are using, consider adding texture with either different stock or adding a coating to it. Using the sense of touch is a great way to draw people in and it can’t be done with digital marketing.
  2. Folds — Have you considered using creative folds? Folding requires interaction; your audience must open the folds. You can have short panels, multiple folds within a mailer and even endless folds, where you just keep unfolding panels with different messaging on each one.
  3. Technology — There are so many different technologies available now to enhance your direct mail pieces. Mobile devices are with us all of the time now, incorporate ways for people to use them with your mail pieces, such as augmented reality or near field communication. You can also add video screens to your mail pieces so they would not need a mobile device to launch your video message.

Eye-catching

Through the use of images, color and creativity, you can grab attention.

  1. Images — Don’t use boring stock images. Find fun images that stick with your brand and messaging, but are out of the ordinary. You want to make people curious and draw them into the copy.
  2. Color — There are so many color options you can really find ones that stand out in the mail box. This is not a time to be boring; grab attention right away.
  3. Creativity — Unique designs work best. Think of mail pieces you have done in the past and spice them up with new creative changes. You can use die cuts, metallic ink and so much more.

Response

For 2018, you need to offer many ways to respond. When you make it easy for people to respond, in the way they prefer, you get more responses.

  1. Phone — Provide a phone number for people to call. If you are able, use a special number to track your responses, if not, give them a response code that they will need to provide when they call in.
  2. Web — Create a special landing page just for this campaign. You can track who has looked at it, as well as who actually filled out the form.
  3. Email — Provide an email address that they can respond to.
  4. Text — Allow people to text to respond by providing a text short code.
  5. Come In — If you have a location, give people the option to come in and see you; provide an address for them to do just that.

Your 2018 direct mail should really pop if you use these tips. Of course this does not address your list and any information you may have on your customers and prospects. You of course need to send the right offers to the right people to get the response rates you want. Taking the time to set goals, get creative and track responses will help you create the best direct mail for 2018. Are you ready to get started? Have you had good success with a fun mail piece? Tell us about it.

The Web is Dying. Long Live the Web!

Will apps disappear as browsers became more capable? Or will apps supplant the Web as the dominant tool of the next generation online?

Email, Mobile and Social Media Marketing: Lessons from top-performing B-to-B and B-to-C brandsTwo recent articles (here and here) got me to thinking about whether “the Web as we know it” is dying or whether “single purpose apps are dead.” These arguments have been around since the iPhone became the next big thing …

And it’s no different in our office, where this has long been a topic of discussion. Will apps disappear as browsers became more capable? Or will apps supplant the Web as the dominant tool of the next generation online?

Clearly, mobile devices are a big part of the equation, since their smaller screens, among other things, all but demanded apps — particularly when the iPhone first came out.

But with the advent of HTML5 and the ability to do all sorts of things in a browser “natively” that used to require plugins and widgets, wouldn’t the apps disappear, replaced by little icons on our phones and tablets that link us to that game’s web page?

Perhaps, though I don’t think we’re close to answering that question. Browsers continue to add great functionality and apps continue to proliferate. Each has it strengths. For example, if you’re looking for a restaurant? You want an app. Whether it’s Yelp, Urban Spoon or something else, one or more of these apps has you covered.

And an app makes sense for most games, of course. Directions? App again, whether Google, Apple or Waze is your preference.

But what about a video? The obvious answer would seem to be the YouTube app, but doesn’t that come with an asterisk? Not every video on a particular topic is going to be on YouTube, even though the overwhelming majority likely are.

And that leads us to other instances where all the answers may not be in one place. For example, information on bike racks for your car? Amazon might list most of the available models, but that doesn’t mean that you’ll get the most comprehensive picture of the market through Amazon.

A search of the broader Web will find all sorts of sites with relevant information on bike racks that just don’t lend themselves to apps — bicycling enthusiast sites, sites that sell trailers and hitches and related car accessories, general fitness sites …

So perhaps the Web isn’t dying but continuing to evolve as a great generalist tool — an incredible repository of information. The place to go when you aren’t quite sure what the question is. Or when the answer doesn’t lend itself to being answered under the wing of a single marketer or other entity.

For us as marketers, this means we need to decide what will work best for our audience. That is true whether you’re considering creating an app as a marketing tool or considering advertising on app or Web networks. Your audience really makes this decision for you, and they make the decision based on what’s most useful to them.

Report: Mobile Apps May Be Peaking

The latest comScore report, “The 2016 U.S. Mobile App Report,” had me wondering if we had hit “peak-app.” Just how many apps can users crowd onto their smartphones and tablets? And while looking for such insights in the report, I learned quite a lot of other details useful for marketers. Did you now know that:

Deliver_Brand_In_Digital2-2(1)The latest comScore report on “The 2016 U.S. Mobile App Report” had me wondering if we had hit “peak-app” — just how many apps can users crowd onto their smartphones and tablets?

And while looking for such insights in the report [downloadable here], I learned quite a lot of other details useful for marketers. Did you now know that:

  • Digital Love, Mobile Lust — Over the past three years, our total digital media time has grown by 53 percent, driven mostly by mobile apps. Our actual time spent on desktop media during the past year actually declined by 11 percent. Mobile now represents two of every three digital media minutes.
  • App Share of Digital — Smartphone apps all by themselves account for nearly half of all digital media time spent, and three of every four minutes while on mobile.
  • Hours and Hours — Millennials love their apps: the 18-24 age segment spends 93.5 hours a month (June 2016) on smartphone apps and ages 25-34 spends about 85.6 hours. Baby Boomers spend 55.6 hours and posted year-over-year growth of 37 percent!
  • App vs Web — We spend seven times more time in mobile apps than we do on mobile Web – that’s actually remained steady, even as our tablet use had dropped off
  • Peak App? — Roughly half of smartphone users download one or more apps per month and half don’t download apps at all. Six percent download eight or more apps a month. Those who download five or more per month are largely ages 18-44, male and Hispanic.
  • Organizing Apps — Sixty-one percent of age 18-34 users organize their apps into folders, while just 25 percent of age 55 and older users do, primarily because Millennials download more apps and don’t want to have more than four screens with apps on them.
  • Pushback or “Push notification fatigue” — More smartphone users are rejecting app update notifications. Thirty-eight percent never or rarely agree to such notifications (up 31 percent last year) while 27 percent often or always agree to them (down from 33 percent in 2015).
  • Loyalty at the Top — Most smartphone users use 27 apps per month, but nine of every 10 mobile app minutes are spent with a user’s top five apps. Try breaking into that group!
  • App Herding — Millennials concentrate more mobile app time within “Top 10” ranked apps in their cohort than older age groups do.
  • Thumbs Up — My absolute favorite: Baby boomers are six times more likely as Millennials to only operate their smartphone with two hands. Of one-handed smartphone users, Millennials are most likely to position apps on their phones within “thumb reach.”

This report raises a lot of questions about designing, reinvigorating and reimagining apps. Can a brand break through? As bullish this current app report from comScore is, Gartner is foretelling a decline in app dominance. Whichever future holds, I foresee lots of thumb surgeries and reading glasses.

Channel Collaboration or Web Cannibalization?

Multichannel marketers experience the frequent concern that online is competing with, or “cannibalizing,” sales in other channels. It seems like a reasonable problem for those responsible, for instance, for the P&L of the retail business to consider; same goes for the general managers responsible for the store-level P&L. I like to do something that we “digital natives” (professionals whose career has only been digitally driven) miss all too often. We talk to retail people and customers in the stores, store managers, general managers, sales and service staff.

Multichannel marketers experience the frequent concern that online is competing with, or “cannibalizing,” sales in other channels. It seems like a reasonable problem for those responsible, for instance, for the P&L of the retail business to consider; same goes for the general managers responsible for the store-level P&L.

I like to do something that we “digital natives” (professionals whose career has only been digitally driven) miss all too often. We talk to retail people and customers in the stores, store managers, general managers, sales and service staff. Imagine that … left-brain dominant Data Athletes who want to talk to people! Actually, a true Data Athlete will always engage the stakeholders to inform their analysis with tacit knowledge.

Every time we do this, we learn something about the customer that we quite frankly could not have gleaned from website analytics, transactional data or third-party data alone. We learn about how different kinds of customers engage with the product and their experiences are in an environment that, to this day, is far more immersive than we can create online. It’s nothing short of fascinating for the left-brainers. Moreover, access and connection with the field interaction does something powerful when we turn back to mining the data mass that grows daily. It creates context that inspires better analysis and greater performance.

This best practice may seem obvious, but is missed so often. It is just too easy to get “sucked into the data” first for a right-brain-dominant analyst. The same thing happens in an online-only environment. I can’t count how many times I sat with and coached truly brilliant Web analysts inside of organization who are talking through a data-backed hypothesis they are working through from Web analytics data, observing and measuring behaviors and drawing inferences … and they haven’t looked at the specific screens and treatments on the website or mobile app where those experiences are happening. They are disconnected from the consumer experience. If you look in your organization, odds are you’ll find examples of this kind of disconnect.

So Does The Web Compete with Retail Stores? Well, that depends.
While many businesses are seeing the same shift to digital consumption and engagement, especially on mobile devices, the evidence is clear that it’s a mistake to assume that you have a definitive answer. In fact, it is virtually always a nuanced answer that informs strategy and can help better-focus your investments in online and omnichannel marketing approaches.

In order to answer this question you need a singular view of a customer. Sounds easy, I know. So here’s the first test if you are ready to answer that question:

How many customers do you have?

If you don’t know with precision, you’re not ready to determine if the Web is competing or “cannibalizing” retail sales.

More often than not, what you’ll hear is the number of transactions, the number of visitors (from Web analytics) or the number of email addresses or postal addresses on file—or some other “proxy” that’s considered relevant.

The challenge is, these proxy values for customer-count belie a greater challenge. Without a well-thought-out data blending approach that converts transaction files into an actionable customer profile, we can’t begin to tell who bought what and how many times.

Once we have this covered, we’re now able to begin constructing metrics and developing counts of orders by customer, over time periods.

Summarization is Key
If you want to act on the data, you’ll likely need to develop a summarization routine—that is, that does the breakout of order counts and order values. This isn’t trivial. Leaving this step out creates a material amount of work slicing the data.

A few good examples of how you would summarize the data to answer the question by channel include totals:

  • by month
  • by quarter
  • by year
  • last year
  • prior quarter
  • by customer lifetime
  • and many more

Here’s The Key Takeaway: It’s not just one or the other.
Your customers buy across multiple channels. Across many brands and many datasets, we’ve always seen different pictures of the breakout between and across online and retail store transactions.

But you’re actually measuring the overlap and should focus your analysis on that overlap population. To go further, you’ll require summarization “snapshots” of the data so you can determine if the channel preference has changed over time.

The Bottom Line
While no one can say that the Web does or doesn’t definitively “cannibalize sales,” the evidence is overwhelming that buyers want to use the channel that is best for them for the specific product or service, at the time that works for them.

This being the case, it is almost inevitable that you will see omnichannel behaviors when your data is prepared and organized effectively to begin to see that shift in behavior.

Oftentimes, that shift can effectively equate to buyers spending more across channels, as specific products may sell better in person. It’s hard to feel the silky qualities of a cashmere scarf online, but you might reorder razor blades only online.

The analysis should hardly stop at channel shift and channel preference. Layering in promotion consumption can tell you how a buyer waits for the promotion online, or is more likely to buy “full-price” in a retail store. We’ve seen both of these frequently, but not always. Every data set is different.

Start by creating the most actionable customer file you can, integrating the transactions, behavioral and lifestyle data, and the depth that you can understand how customers choose between the channels you deliver becomes increasingly rich and actionable. Most of all—remember, it’s better to shift the sale to an alternative channel the customer prefers, than to lose it to a competitor who did a better job.

Google Authorship Image Not Showing? Here’s What to Do Next.

Are your Google Authorship images not showing in search results? Are you seeing a drop in site visitor traffic or leads? Google recently pulled the plug. The results are in: Lower traffic for some social sellers, while others aren’t much affected. So what should you do?

Are your Google Authorship images not showing in search results? Are you seeing a drop in site visitor traffic or leads? Google recently pulled the plug. The results are in: Lower traffic for some social sellers, while others aren’t much affected. So what should you do?

Why Your Google Authorship Images Are Not Showing
Well, because Google says so. It decided not to anymore! It was just an experiment.

“In the early days of Google Authorship, almost anyone could get the coveted face photo in search by correctly setting up Authorship markup on their content and linking to that content from their Google+ profile,” says Google+ expert, Mark Traphagen in a recent SEOmoz blog.

“As time went on, Google became pickier about showing the rich snippet, and some sort of quality criteria seemed to come into play.”

In October 2013, Google announced a reduction in the number of photo images it displayed. In late June 2014 it pulled the plug completely on photo images in search results. Poof!

Says Traphagen, “It appears that the net result is no overall change in the amount of Authorship (appearing) in search, just an elimination of a ‘first class’ status for some authors.”

Author Images Actually Did Not Drive More Traffic
Everyone knows Authorship links with photos drove more traffic and leads to Web pages of authors, right? Eh, maybe.

“We never really knew for sure, and we never knew how much. Most importantly, there was never any proof that any CTR boost was universal,” says Traphagen, who’s done the research.

Many “studies” were conducted supporting the theory of Authorship links grabbing more eyes—and holding more perceived authority—than a “text only” link. But none of them hold much water.

Myself, I am running a handful of blogs for lead generation. After my author images were removed, I am apparently experiencing a drop in traffic and leads. But it’s not huge by any means. Why?

I’ve copywritten my Web page titles, blog post headlines, lead sentences and posts.

What You Should Do Next
Learn to copywrite. Already know how? Practice more. Most importantly, be sure you have the ability to have FULL control over Web or blog page titles.

To draw maximum attention from Google and prospective buyers make sure your Web page titles are balanced. Make sure they:

  1. are written to display a keyword phrase you’re targeting and
  2. create curiosity in the reader using copywriting.

Warning: Your blog platform may not allow you to control the Web page title freely. It’s common for blog software to take your blog (article) headline (that readers see) and place it in your Web page title (that Google and readers see in search engine results).

This is not optimal. You’ll have more ability to copywrite freely by having control over URL structure and Web page title.

For example, the structure of my blog post here is focused on the keyword phrase “Google authorship image not showing.” However, I do not have control over my URL structure or Web page title. The blog software takes my article headline and places it in the URL structure and Web page title.

It’s not optimal but I don’t cry much about it to the good folks at Target Marketing!

It would be better to have the option of editing the URL to “google-authorship-image-not-showing” and separately copywrite my Web page title to create curiosity in the reader.

Don’t Give Up (I’m Not)
“I’m done! Trying to please Google a waste of time. I’m going back to cold calling!”

I understand those who feel this way. Especially after discovering all your Google authorship images not showing. Whether you’re just starting to use B-to-B content marketing or have been investing for years Google can frustrate us.

But that’s precisely the point. It doesn’t need to be this way.

As someone who continues to generate leads online I can tell you definitively: You don’t want to depend on Google for lead generation. However, you do need to be online—capturing leads your competition will otherwise capture.

So what can you do today? The best starting point is to elevate social media copywriting as a priority. For example, what are posts to Google+, YouTube video or blog posts structured to provoke curiosity in buyers?

Creating curiosity that lures customers seems obvious. But are you doing it?

Manhandle Google With Good Copywriting
There is no silver bullet for generating B-to-B leads online. However, there is one habit that consistently brings my students, clients and by business more leads.

Giving customers a reason (in writing!) to click and take action—resolve or improve something important to them. It starts with Google and your Web page titles.

Once you take this simple idea and turn it into a habit you will continue to generate leads no matter what Google does next! You’ll forget about your Google Authorship image not showing. Won’t that feel good?

Let me know how you feel in comments.

6 Steps to Building the Perfect Landing Page

Today, I’ve decided to go back to basics. And in the world of direct response marketing, nothing is more basic than the landing page. Having worked in the industry for many years, I can tell you from firsthand knowledge that no campaign can succeed without a Landing Page that converts. This is an indisputable fact. Try launching an email or direct mail campaign with a kick-ass creative that sends people back to the homepage of your wesbsite and see what happens. Inevitably, almost all of your hard-fought leads will evaporate into cyberspace, lost forever, destroying any chance of achieving ROI.

Today I’ve decided to go back to basics. And in the world of direct response marketing, nothing is more basic than the landing page. Having worked in the industry for many years, I can tell you from firsthand knowledge that no campaign can succeed without a landing page that converts. This is an indisputable fact. Try launching an email or direct mail campaign with a kick-ass creative that sends people back to the homepage of your wesbsite and see what happens. Inevitably, almost all of your hard-fought leads will evaporate into cyberspace, lost forever, destroying any chance of achieving ROI.

Don’t believe me? Want to know how big of a difference a kick-ass landing page makes? Huge. Think about it like this. I’ve seen top-performing landing pages convert upwards of 10 percent to 20 percent of visitors into leads or sales. By contrast, a generic Contact Us page on a plain-vanilla website will typically convert anywhere from 1 percent to 3 percent. I’ll save you the time by doing the math for you: This means you’ll covert anywhere from three to 20 times more visitors. Do those numbers turn your head? If so, read on for some tips on how to build a landing page that kicks butt.

  1. KISS, or Keep It Simple Stupid—Generally, when it comes to landing pages less is more. Essentially, keeping visitors focused on the key message is the name of the game. This means eliminating all extraneous details not directly related to the campaign at hand. Links to other pages? Delete them. Fancy and distracting design. Change it. Lots of extra content about your firm? Gone.
  2. Headline—When visitors arrive on your landing page, you’ve got at most 15 seconds (and probably a lot less) to grab their attention. And nothing grabs someone’s attention better than a catchy and hard-hitting headline. According to Jeff Ginsberg (@mktgexperiments), landing page headlines should “emphasize what the customer gets rather than does and be customer-focused.” Couldn’t agree more. If you’re new to the headline game, don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Check out successful campaigns and see what they used. Get a sense of what other marketers are doing, and remember that imitation is sometimes the sincerest form of flattery.
  3. Call-to-action—If you spent your hard-earned marketing bucks to drive someone to your landing page in the first place, bet your bottom dollar it’s because you want them to do something—express interest in your products or services by filling out a Web form, buy your product by whipping out a credit card and clicking submit on a shopping cart, etc. With that in mind, make sure your landing page contains a clear, concise and effective call-to-action that encourages the prospect to follow through and close the loop.
  4. Form—Unless you’re running a branding campaign—in which case you wouldn’t even need a landing page, right?—at the end of the user-engagement process you want to visitor to fill out some sort of Web form. Call it what you will—lead form, shopping cart and so on—but the act of filling out or not filling out this one vital page element is what will ultimately be used as a Key (if not the Key) Performance Indicator (KPI) that determines how well your campaign performed. When it comes to Web forms, the shorter the better. Fact is, nothing turns off or scares away Web visitors more than a long and imposing Web form. So make it short, sweet and to the point. Oh, and if possible, using technology such as Personalized URLs (PURLs) that pre-fills as many of the form fields as possible. Remember, the less there is to do, the greater the chance it gets filled out in the first place.
  5. Advertise security—Nobody likes to submit information on a website they don’t trust. In other words, flaunt your security credentials. If your page is secure and encrypted (SSL), make sure the security certificate is displayed prominently on the landing page. And if there are other security features your firm follows, darn right you should display them, too.
  6. Build credibility—Similarly to the last point, prospects fill out forms on landing pages because they trust the vendor. This means that it’s your job to tell your brand’s story in a clear, concise and compelling manner. The trick to this point is that because we’re talking about a landing page, you don’t have too much real estate in which to tell your story. In other words, talk about what make your firms and its products unique, but don’t waste too much space or verbiage doing so. If you want to tell a customer testimonial or testimonials, make them short and to the point.

Okay, I guess those are my best tips for landing pages. So go out and build some good ones. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

The ‘A’ Word—Learn It, Love It, Live It!

I attended a seminar earlier in January held by the Direct Marketing Club of New York titled “Annual Outlook: What to Expect in Direct & Digital Marketing in 2012.” The main speaker at the event was Bruce Biegel, managing director at the Winterberry Group, a strategic consulting firm that focuses on advertising and marketing.

I attended a seminar earlier in January held by the Direct Marketing Club of New York titled “Annual Outlook: What to Expect in Direct & Digital Marketing in 2012.” The main speaker at the event was Bruce Biegel, managing director at the Winterberry Group, a strategic consulting firm that focuses on advertising and marketing.

For those of you who have never before attended an event where Biegel presents, I highly recommend attending one if you get a chance. He’s a highly engaging speaker with many interesting insights gleaned from years of experience in the field, and backed by the research and analytics of the Winterberry Group.

The focus of the presentation was a review of the marketing and advertising world of 2011, along with some predictions for 2012. According to Biegel, 2011 was the year in which many firms intensified their focus on reporting and analytics tools. For 2012, he predicted many marketers will finally begin to pursue true multichannel integration across their firms, driven by data, analytics and the quest for cross-channel attribution. He touched on the term attribution repeatedly, referring to it as the “Holy Grail” of multichannel marketing.

In a marketing sense, I define attribution—or the “A-word” for the purposes of this blog post—as the act of determining what marketing channel or budget was responsible for generating a particular action: be it a click, lead, order, etc. As a direct marketer, I just love this word. And you should, too. Attribution is where the rubber meets the road. Attribution is what separates the men from the boys, the measurable from the immeasurable, direct response from … well, branding. Not to disparage brand marketing, but I think I can speak for most—if not all—colleagues in the industry when I say that demonstrable attribution is really what has always separated direct response marketing from branding—analytics that essentially give us the ability to calculate the actual ROI of every precious marketing dollar we spend. Enough said.

But, let’s face it, there’s a dirty little secret in the direct response community that those outside of it might not necessarily be aware of. The fact is that attribution has not been all it’s cracked up to be over the past 10 years—and a far cry from an exact science, to say the least. We have the Internet to thank for that. To elaborate, let’s take a moment and turn back the clock around 15 to 20 years, and think back to a time in which the Web did not play such a prominent role in our lives. Back then, most direct response marketing was done via direct mail, catalogs and inserts, as well as DRTV. In this relatively simplistic world, customers could only really place orders using the return mailer or by calling a toll-free number. That was it. Since each piece was stamped with a keycode, attribution was as easy as: “Could you please tell me the five-digit code on the bottom right-hand corner of the order form” … and we knew with certainty why the sale originated.

Then along came the Web—and, with it, an entirely new channel for consumers to interact with their brands. And this is when things got confusing. Let’s say, for example, a consumer received a postcard or catalog from a company. In place of calling the toll-free number, he could instead go to Google and search for the website, find it, locate the products he’s interested in and place an order. Now who gets the credit for the sale? The direct mail team? The search engine marketing team? The catalog team? The email team? All of them? None of them? The fact is, there was really no scientific way to tell for sure. The gears of attribution broke down, creating a vast gray area of uncertainty where the worlds of traditional and new media converged. This was the direct marketer’s dirty little secret in the age of Web 1.0.

To deal with this mess, new techniques and technologies invariably emerged to bring some order to the chaos. Before long, many marketers turned to the concept of campaign-specific landing pages to send their cross-media (or cross-channel) customers to. At least this bypassed the regular website and kept and sales or leads it made in one bucket, separate from the home page and other Web traffic. This was a huge improvement.

Then other technologies like personalized URLs, or PURLS, entered the mix. Gimmicks aside, PURLs work because they are a tool for attribution—not because they give someone a link made out of their name. Sure, giving someone a personalized link is nice … but that’s only window dressing and obfuscates the real value of this cross-media technology. PURLs help marketers attribute activity to the direct mail channel. That’s it in a nutshell. Now of course, there are additional benefits, such as improved Web traffic rates resulting from personalized content, and higher website conversion rates due to a simplified workflow on a landing page that’s been optimized for this purpose alone. But the real value of this technology is attribution—and don’t ever let anyone else tell you otherwise.

Similarly, across other channels useful cross-media technologies emerged like QR Codes, which really solve in mobile the same issue marketers face on desktop Web browsers—namely, the inability to properly track and attribute cross-media actions resulting from their offline campaigns. When push comes to shove, sending individuals to purpose-built, mobile-optimized landing pages, personalized or not, enables precise tracking and measurement, not to mention a better overall user experience and, presumably, a higher conversion rate, too.

Looking forward, the next stage in attribution will most certainly need to deal with the advent of Web 2.0 and the world of social media. Seeing as firms are now making investments in social media strategy, CMOs are going to want to attach some kind of ROI calculation to the mix. Now, of course, you could pretty easily argue that it’s absurd to try to assign any type of ROI to social media in the first place. In that vein, Scott Stratten has a great blog post called “Things We Should Ask The ROI Question About Before Social Media” on UnMarketing that does just that pretty convincingly. But that’s an argument for another time and place. Regardless of whether you feel it’s a smart policy, I think it’s safe to say that where the marketing dollars go, pressure will ultimately follow to show value (ROI).

At the same time, regardless of what dollars are being spent and how these expenditures make CFOs hyperventilate, social media can and do generate sales for organizations. This is an indisputable fact and should not be up for debate anymore. What is in question is the ability of firms to track what happens in social media and attribute the activity to this emerging channel. As we speak, we’re starting to see the introduction of the first generation of effective tools (SocialCRM) that track social media interactions among pools of prospects or leads, and make them available to marketing teams for actionable analysis and follow up. Very cool stuff. But, of course, social media data are only one piece of a much larger puzzle, named “Big Data.” I briefly touched on Big Data in a previous post titled “Deciphering Big Data Is Key to Understanding Buyer’s Journey.”

Actually, on that note, I think this is a good place for me to call it a day. Not only am I running out of space for this post, but that last thought will make a great segue to my next post, which will address the amazing transformation that is taking place within many firms as they deal with the endless volumes of unstructured data (Big Data) they are tracking and storing every day. This wholesale repurposing aims not only to make sense out of this trove of data, but also to break down the walls separating the various silos where the data are stored, such as CRM/SocialCRM platforms, social media websites, marketing automation tools, email software, Web servers and more. Stay tuned next time for more on this topic.

Until then, I welcome any questions, comments or feedback.

How Evolving Mobile Behaviors are Raising the Stakes for Marketers

While none would argue that 2011 was the year of the mobile app, marketers have been hearing more noise about the mobile web as a cross-device alternative to apps that are downloaded and installed. The reality isn’t so clear-cut.

While none would argue that 2011 was the year of the mobile app, marketers have been hearing more noise about the mobile web as a cross-device alternative to apps that are downloaded and installed. The reality isn’t so clear-cut.

If anything, the division of the mobile smartphone space into iOS and Android, as well as demographic and usage patterns on these platforms, means that targeting and developing effective mobile experiences just got a whole lot harder. But this is translating into more options for mobile marketers in 2012.

When you look at actual user behavior on smartphones, you might wonder how the mobile web would effectively fit in at all. The focus for both iOS and mobile users is on app usage versus mobile web access. Apps have become so successful that they’re moving us away from the web in general. The reasons are rather straightforward:

1. Curated content apps have become primary experiences. Whether public or ad supported, curated content sources (e.g., NPR and The Wall Street Journal) have found the niche within application environments that move users away from the web and directly toward branded experiences they trust as either primary or authoritative sources of information.

2. Excerpted content typically satisfies curiosity. Even more popular apps don’t necessarily translate to more mobile web activity. This has always been the fear with content syndication in general, but combine it with a preference for a more focused and curated experience and you get a further erosion of mobile web traffic.

3. The ease of use and established reliance on app stores. The effectiveness of the app store model combined with mobile context to include desktop environments further reinforces the shift from the web search route as a first stop for function resources.

Websites are driving traffic to apps instead of presenting a mobile-optimized version of themselves. Many sites could take advantage of users visiting via mobile device to optimize their experience. Instead, you should drive them to download apps that provide a specific or focused subset of content and functionality. Focus on creating a controlled and curated environment for experiencing content.

Further complicating matters are the differences in demographics and behavior between iOS and Android users. Android users tend to be heavier app users than iOS users (by a significant percentage), according to recent Fiksu research.

According to a recent Hunch.com survey, gender balances, income levels, age ranges and other important segmenting criteria also differ significantly between audiences. Certainly there’s enough to merit taking a closer look at these considerations when designing mobile experiences for these platforms. Android adoption rates make it clear that supporting Android isn’t an option; it’s a requirement in order to reach as broad a mobile and tablet audience as possible.

Tablets are an important area where the mobile web, and the higher percentage of mobile web usage among iOS users, comes into play. Tablets offer a superior web browsing experience. In addition, differing usage patterns and behaviors mean that tablet-based experiences can be deeper and richer than mobile-optimized executions and will track close to desktop browsing.

What does all of this mean for mobile marketers and advertisers in 2012? Android’s broader audience and superior mobile ad performance will make it a focus for mobile display advertising efforts. Apple’s advertising formats are of primary interest within the context of specific applications where their inclusion and application usage merit the investment. In-app advertisement effectiveness becomes even more critical to understand and measure in this context, as those investments tend to be higher than broader mobile ad networks buys.

Social platform mobile integration efforts need to be watched closely. Emerging apps and potential ad integration capabilities are key focal points for marketers already heavily invested in social platforms or for those looking to leverage location-enabled social networks more heavily.

Tablet and touch-optimized experiences via the mobile web will be critical to support the heavier skew of browser usage among tablet owners. Give specific consideration to the ability to leverage touch-enabled HTML5 implementations and the superior browsers offered by these platforms.

2012 will certainly be the year when marketers’ attention will be firmly focused on mobile, but in reality that represents separate and to some extent distinct experiences — e.g., mobile apps, mobile websites and tablet-optimized versions of both.

Social Networking Suicide

No, I’m not talking about accidentally sending embarrassing personal information out through a “SWYN” link in an email.

I’m talking about Web 2.0 Suicide Machine. (Now just try to get Bruce Springsteen’s masterpiece “Thunder Road” out of your head!)

No, I’m not talking about accidentally sending embarrassing personal information out through a “SWYN” link in an email.

I’m talking about Web 2.0 Suicide Machine. (Now just try to get Bruce Springsteen’s masterpiece “Thunder Road” out of your head!)

In case you haven’t heard about it, Web 2.0 Suicide Machine, which launched in December, is an anti-social media site that lets subscribers “sign out forever” from social-networking services such as Twitter, LinkedIn and MySpace.

The idea behind it? That people are spending too much time on social media sites and it’s affecting the fabric of society as a whole.

“This machine lets you delete all your energy sucking social-networking profiles, kill your fake virtual friends, and completely do away with your Web 2.0 alterego,” it says on its website, where you’ll also see its logo, a pink hangman’s noose.

Here’s how it works: After logging in to the website and choosing which social network you want to be deleted from, the “Suicide Machine” servers begin walking through your targeted account, friend by friend, deleting your connections one at a time via a script.

It also changes your profile picture — to the pink noose, of course — and your password, so you can’t log back on to resurrect yourself.

Until recently, the service also let you kill your Facebook account. On Jan. 5, however, Facebook blocked the site’s access to its website.

“Facebook provides the ability for people who no longer want to use the site to either deactivate their account or delete it completely,” Facebook said in a Jan. 5 statement. “Web 2.0 Suicide Machine collects login credentials and scrapes Facebook pages, which are violations of our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. We’ve blocked the site’s access to Facebook as is our policy for sites that violate our SRR. We’re currently investigating and considering whether to take further action.”

I personally think Web 2.0 Suicide Machine is not a threat to the social-networking world — either from the consumer or marketer perspective. (After all, if you want to remove yourself from a social site right now, most sites let you do so by using the end-of-account tools on the sites themselves.) Instead, I think it’s really been created to send a message. And in that respect, it may be working. It got me thinking, for instance, about how much time I spend on social-networking sites — for business and pleasure— and what purpose that really serves in the long run.

Do you think you spend too much on social networking sites? Tell me about it here.

The Adobe/Omniture Merger: What It All Means

It’s not often that the geeky world of web analytics gets some sexy news, but that was the case on Sept. 15, when content creation tool provider Adobe Systems announced its intent to acquire Omniture, the web analytics vendor, for $1.8 billion.

It’s not often that the geeky world of web analytics gets some sexy news, but that was the case on Sept. 15, when content creation tool provider Adobe Systems announced its intent to acquire Omniture, the web analytics vendor, for $1.8 billion.

The goal of the merger, according to Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen, is to create a holistic way to develop creative content and measure the value of that content — be it video, web pages, mobile or social media — to “close the loop” in the content creation and content measurement worlds.

With optimization capabilities embedded in Adobe’s creation tools, designers, developers and online marketers will have an integrated workflow that’ll streamline the creation and delivery of content and applications, according to an Adobe press release. The optimization capabilities also will enable advertisers and advertising agencies, publishers, and e-tailers to realize greater ROI from their digital media investments, and improve their end users’ experiences.

While mergers happen every day, this one appears to be game-changing, at least according to the myriad of comments from vendors in the space that appeared in my inbox right after the announcement was made.

Russ Mann, CEO of Covario, said the merger is “a brilliant strategic move for Adobe, one that could change the rules of the game for digital media — from creation to measurement to monetization.”

He also offered specific examples about what the Adobe media world would be like. They include the following scenarios:
• Video developers and agencies will be able to build Adobe Flash creative with Omniture tracking codes implanted from the beginning, enabling them to track the views of creative across the web.
• Web design firms and e-commerce companies can create dynamic landing pages and rich internet ads via Adobe that have tracking and multivariate testing codes via Omniture. These codes will allow marketers to create pages and new forms of user-customized content.
• PDFs could be tracked, providing valuable metrics for the creators of such content.

Blaine Mathieu, chief marketing officer of Lyris — and former executive at Adobe Systems — said the acquisition demonstrates that the online marketing space is heating up.

“While the large enterprises that Adobe and Omniture serve will have the money and experience to understand the ROI of an integrated suite,” he said, “we believe this deal will also trigger marketers in midsized businesses to better understand the value of an integrated online marketing tool set.”

What do you think it all means? How will it affect your interactive marketing programs and strategy? Let us know by posting a comment here.