Article | February 29, 2020
It’s February, and I’m still seeing marketing thought leaders coming out with trend predictions for 2020. The problem with these lists is that they don’t really mean much to marketers who are out there pushing the send button every day, just trying to grind out campaigns and make their numbers.If you’re looking for guidance, though, I have three ideas that could get you started working on an email strategic plan that can integrate with your marketing efforts and help you see marked improvements by the end of 2020.
Article | February 29, 2020
Q.1. As more platforms become available, generating traffic and leads seem to get harder instead of easier. What should marketers do differently to increase leads and traffic?
A.1. Testing, tracking responses, and evaluating all lead generation methods is the best way to reduce your cost per sale. The increasing options for traffic and lead generation can do nothing but increase your opportunities for improving your effectiveness.
A marketers’ preference for using one tactic over another by eliminating the channels or not considering all available methods reduces your chances for making the most of your marketing spend. By deciding not to use email, direct mail, phone support, Google ads, social media, or any combination of these methods reduces your company’s effectiveness.
Above all, become channel agnostic. Even if it didn’t work before, continue to modify and test all channels during the height of your selling season. Do not prejudge any technique just because you and your team may be unfamiliar with it.
Channel and market fragmentation continue to challenge all marketers. This particularly aggravates the marketer’s ability to find a reliable attribution model by channel. That’s why the evaluation process has evolved to include campaign spend rather than channel spend.
Q. 2. For many businesses across various industries, there’s just not much room in the budget, and marketing is not a major priority. From your experience, what should marketers do to justify marketing spend, and where should they spend more money on?
A.2. Budget allocation has always been a challenge for marketers. Nothing new there.
Most companies budget according to the overall budget’s percentage increase. If a company spent $10,000,000 on advertising, then they might add 3% or $300,000 to the new year’s budget. There is often little to no correlation to the budget and net revenue growth plans. The whole thing becomes more of a political exercise than real financial planning.
In my opinion, marketing budgets should include all marketing activities. This includes
- inbound telemarketing
- sales, and
- customer support.
All such areas should integrate and become almost invisible to the customer.
All company marketing activities speak with one voice and exist to serve the company’s customer for maximum return on investment.
If this is done, then the company must determine an allowable marketing cost for each new customer, and possibly an allowable new customer acquisition cost by channel.
For example, if a company wants to add 10,000 new customers, and the allowable marketing cost per customer is $250, then the marketing budget becomes 10,000 X $250 = $2,500,000.
A similar approach should be applied to customer retention. Eventually, customer retention and growth are merged into a single budget.
This is all an oversimplification, but it shows the potential for taking the guesswork out of marketing budgets. Some client companies have used this approach for the last 40 years. I think this approach to budgeting leveraging today’s sophisticated big data should be used to reduce the politics and emotions driving budget decisions.
Q. 3. How effective are digital marketing campaigns in these times? Should marketers complement their digital strategy with SEO and social media?
A.3. Marketers should increase their budgets based on testing. Yet, evaluation relies on accurate sales attribution.
Social media, SEO, and mass general advertising, all require a long-term view when compared to direct response strategies using both digital and traditional advertising. Direct response is easily tested and evaluated in all channels. Social media, on the other hand, works like general advertising to support site visits, and leads from other marketing activities.
SEO is directly attributable to sales if the site is an ecommerce site. For other company websites, SEO is usually seen as necessary to support all other marketing activities similar to inbound sales support, customer support, and retail outlets.
Just like social media and general advertising, SEO budgets are not directly attributable to sales. Yet marketers know SEO drives considerable sales volume. SEO is not as easily evaluated as an ecommerce site, direct response mail, print, and broadcast. Yet SEO has become more important as overall web volumes increase the competition for customer views.
General advertising and social media do not work in a vacuum and should be supported with direct marketing strategies.
I think general advertising and social media should blend in with the overall marketing budgets and prove their worth by improving overall marketing performance.
Q. 4. What kind of content do modern consumers seek? Is there an ideal content mix you would suggest in terms of videos, infographics, and articles?
A.4. The content for all channels require what they have always required. The writer must answer these basic questions in clear and emotionally persuasive language (as appropriate).
1. What customer problem the product or service solves?
2. What are the customer benefits (not just features) from buying the product?
3. How is this product superior to competitors?
4. Prove that the benefits are real through customer testimonials and objective external evidence.
5. Make an offer as required to generate a sale or inquiry.
6. Use photos rather than drawings to support the product, or customers using the product.
7. Make minimal use of reverse type and only with short headlines.
8. Avoid small type and fancy font styles that are hard to read.
As for the mix, videos are hot right now. I think bloggers and social media should continue to test the length and impact of video, audio, and pure text.
Q. 5. How important is blogging in generating revenue for a company?
A.5. Blogging definitely builds website traffic if the content contains interesting information for the targeted market. As words continue to grow on the Internet the relevance is on the decline. This applies to many blogs.
Not everyone can write compelling copy or has sufficient subject matter knowledge to keep things interesting for the long term on a blog.
Blogs require a lot of time and consistency. Successful blogs may require more energy and company consistency than small companies can sustain.
I think that relevant blogs are almost impossible to assign to external bloggers without considerable customer input. The more complex the service, the more difficult it is to outsource successfully.
It always helps if the writer knows the subject intimately. Otherwise, the reader doesn’t gain much from reading the post.
Another challenge is the proliferation of posts, podcasts, videos, computer games, and the whole environment that competes with blogs for attention.
I question the long-term viability of blogs’ ability to warrant the writer’s efforts. But I continue the effort knowing that consultants generally get good response to their writings.
Q.6. What are the trends influencing the direct marketing industry?
A.6. I don’t really view direct marketing as an industry. Just like positioning advertising and public relations, direct marketing is a strategy. Direct response/direct marketing have always used all available channels well beyond direct mail. There is direct response TV, direct response radio, outbound telemarketing, ecommerce, mail order catalogs, direct mail fundraising, and direct response email. In fact, the Internet as a whole is probably 95% direct response driven.
The direct marketing strategy budgets have easily overtaken general or awareness advertising spending.
The trends that made this a reality is that companies are demanding accountability from their advertising dollars. This puts downward pressure on marketing activities that cannot be tracked such as general advertising and social media. In fact, sales for these strategies may never be attributable. The same applies to SEO even though the reality is that all of these activities are essential.
Marketers must discover more accurate ways to attribute actual sales by strategy, if not by channel. Showing accurate sales accountability for marketing activities has become essential in today’s highly competitive environment.
Q.7. What factors are used to test and optimize email marketing campaigns?
A.7.The greatest response predictors for email are the same as they are for direct mail. Here they are listed by priority.
1. The list source
2. The product’s ability to solve the customer’s problem
3. The offer
4. The creative execution such as benefit copy, promise support, format, and design
5. Ongoing testing of all of these elements singly, or in combination as A/B/C… splits
Once these basics are understood, implemented and tested, then the marketer is well into email optimization.
Beyond this, optimize email campaigns by overlaying support channels such as landing pages, outbound telemarketing to existing/high value customers, print, and direct mail.
Article | February 29, 2020
The rage of social media has led to the emergence of social networking. With that, the competition to engage the audience on online platforms and entice them has become fierce. Brands are adopting novel strategies to enhance customer experience and increase brand value. The advent of technology and a myriad of innovations has reinvented the marketing industry. Amongst many, artificial intelligence and augmented reality are an integral part of the digital marketing landscape. AI and its applications have not left any sector untouched, and its forms are far beyond mundane.
Article | February 29, 2020
We have always been familiar with various video conferencing platforms but the current situation of COVID-19 has put them at the top of everyone’s routine. Never before have video calling platforms been in so much demand. The current lockdown imposition in the world has forced all possible industries to give their employees work from home by default not by choice, and asked to contribute to stopping the spread of the Coronavirus disease.
A rare situation like this has caused the world to go online for important meetings, conferences, learning activities, and every other important work. During this time many companies have seen a spurt in growth and Silicon valley-based communication technology company—Zoom is one of them. The video communication software company has seen a growth in its user base from 10 million to 200 million daily visitors and has been recognized as the top choice from satisfied customer reviews on TrustRadius, Gartner, and G2.
With big customers in the pocket like Uber, Delta, HubSpot, Zapier, etc. the company has earned power when other companies started their businesses based on Zoom which is running quite successfully. Many businesses started building their services or products on Facebook, Slack, Twitter, Instagram, etc. and now Zoom is the latest hotspot around which new businesses are popping up. Let’s have a look at the newly started businesses based on the web conferencing software and how they have made use of Zoom features.
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Founded in 2018, San Francisco based Grain might be the first business to build entirely around Zoom, at least as a starting point. Let’s understand the core idea of the business.
According to co-founder and CEO, Mike Adams, the key idea is to extract and save the important content in Zoom calls. Further, the best part of the conversation can be shared across various platforms like Slack, Notion, Discord, Twitter, or even iMessages.
Suppose a student is attending a Zoom class and wants to take the notes for later use. This has been made simple using Grain. Without needing to watch the full lecture again a student can save or record the important part of what a teacher is teaching in the virtual class that he or she can share with other students.
There are many ways to save an important part of the video using Grain. You can convert the whole video call into the transcript and then pick up the part you want to share. This will automatically create a unique URL for the separate part of the video that you can share across various platforms.
You can save and share the highlighted notes that you can create alongside the call. Here you are given a facility to take notes during the call in a column that is provided by Grain and save or share it later on.
Similarly, Grain can be used for the office purpose where you can flag the most important bit of information from the meeting and share those clips with your colleagues to understand the complex or prime things in the call.
The limit is given to save and share the video clips ranges from 30 seconds to 10 minutes. You can also create sections of the best parts of the video to create a summary highlight and this has no time limit. You are also given control over who can edit the video later to avoid the illegal activity and stop manipulating the snippet.
Founded by two young and talented minds from MIT, Fireflies.ai is doing an excellent work of helping people manage their tasks using AI-based technology.
While there are so many things to do on the list, one can simply not waste time going through the past calls or chats to note down an important part of work. That’s where Fireflies.ai comes to help you.
It helps you save critical information that is being said and you won’t miss anything even after leaving the meeting room. And to do so, all you have to do is integrate Fireflies’ AI assistant by inviting it to the Zoom meeting. As soon as the meeting starts, it captures every moment by recording the call and sends you the transcript over your email once the meeting is over. It makes use of NLP (Natural Language Processing) algorithms to transcribe the audio call into the text format. Along with these features, it can integrate with dozens of apps like Salesforce, Slack, Zoho, Zapier, etc. They also have a Chrome extension for Google calendar that makes it easy to invite the AI assistant to the scheduled meeting.
This is how Fireflies.ai helps improve and accelerate the productivity gained from the Zoom meetings and unlock the hidden value in the voice data. It makes it easy to take quick notes with the help of high-quality recording while you pay attention to the live meeting.
The San Francisco based business is running quite smoothly and raised a fund of $5M in December 2019 from Canaan Partners.
Stream is a privately held, San Francisco based small company which started its business based on Zoom. It helps people host online events quickly especially the paid ones. It is not restricted to be used by office working professionals but can also be used by musicians, fitness instructors, content creators, private tutors, etc. and allows turning every physical event into a virtual event.
We use Zoom because it's what my 65-year-old aunt is familiar with. It's the tool of the moment. It is helpful to build a powerful, easy-to-use API. I'm surprised a lot of other developers haven't used it yet you can do a whole bunch of different things that you probably wouldn't think of.
Lan Paje, Co-founder and CEO, Stream
According to Stream, you can create a website to promote your virtual event and make money with tip donations or by charging people for entry to the event. This is the easiest way for event organizers to live-stream the event with just one click. The company is still taking baby steps and growing quite well.
The issue that Stream facing right now is uninvited guest appearances to the live events. According to the company, Zoom is lacking a security solution and preventing Zoombombers.
Otter is again a silicon valley based startup by a team of industry veterans who have working experience of development and technology in mobile, search, speech, and data analytics in leading technology companies.
Otter.ai offers a real-time voice transcript of conversations in a meeting. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the company has seen growth in its customer base and launched some new features. Earlier users would get the transcription after an hour or two after the meeting is wrapped. But with the recent partnership with Zoom, it offers real-time transcription and recording of a live video conference. The feature is available on the Zoom app and can be used on desktop or mobiles.
Once the meeting is wrapped, you can refer back to the transcript and highlight the important part of the long conversation. Additionally, you can also add comments and photos to meeting notes.
It offers security to group conversations giving each user a separate user ID and then group members can also highlight edit, and share notes with others. The software is usable for work, schools, and daily life.
With Otter.ai, transcription as long as 600 minutes is offered for free. It also offers paid plans with additional features that help to make your meetings more reliable.
Otter usage has been increased 5X with Zoom meeting over a few weeks of April and the company has observed new more sign-ups of students and employees working from home. Addressing increased use of generating rich notes with Otter’s AI-powered assistant, Sam Liang conveys the importance of Otter where everyone can search, play, edit, and share conversations on all devices.
Virtual meetings have skyrocketed during the COVID-19 outbreak as organizations recognize that high-quality voice meeting notes are a critical tool for employee productivity when collaborating within an office or in any virtual meeting.
Sam Liang, CEO, Otter.ai
By April 2020, Otter has transcribed more than 25 million meetings and has raised $23 million in funding from NTT DOCOMO, GGV Capital, Slow Ventures, Horizon Ventures, and others.
It seems Zoom is changing how remote working employees communicate and in the future, it might become a strong business tool. Growth of the video conferencing application pointing to more businesses built based on it. Isn’t that a way to go?