Article | October 16, 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 17, 2020
Every time you open Instagram, there are some new ads for you. All these ads relate to what you search for. You move to the explore section and can find thousands of related posts that interest you. But, how is that possible?
This is not just the story of Instagram but pretty-much every social media platform today. If you are somebody who has no idea how this is happening, you are probably unaware of the intervention of AI (Artificial Intelligence) into the world of social media. Nowadays, social media platforms are thinking and acting like humans as well as rationally.
Article | July 27, 2020
Retailers are hurting. In-store sales are experiencing double-digit declines with stores either completely shut or operating at limited capacity. Without foot traffic, brands that are reliant on in-store sales are forced to go where audiences are, which, in these strange times, is on social networks. A study across 30 markets showed a 61% increase in social media use during the peak of the pandemic and messaging across Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp have surged by 50% in countries hardest hit by the virus.
Article | July 17, 2020
Most websites visitors will not care whether or not a site they visit is decoupled. But they will care about whether or not the site is usable on their device. Over a decade into the rise of smartphones, many sites still have a poor experience across different screen sizes, device capabilities, and network speeds. In short, many websites struggle to compete with the native applications built specifically for the devices we carry. For the web to remain vibrant over the long-term, people need to regularly choose to visit them over native applications.
Decoupled architectures are often more likely to hold the attention of visitors for a variety of reasons. A site built with Gatsby, or another static site generator, is likely to respond nearly instantaneously when a person clicks from one page to the next. Pantheon's own Documentation site was recently rebuilt with Gatsby and it loads so fast that the people visiting are very unlikely to find their attention drifting because of a slow load time. Similarly the design and experience of a decoupled site is often more compelling than a monolithic site because decoupling can mean designers and front-end developers are more likely to be working with their preferred tools.