Tuesday, January 30, 2018

3 Ways for Marketers to Incorporate a Customer-Centered Mindset

In any business, a customer-centric mindset is essential. Because, with all due respect to mama, the refrigerator magnet should actually say, “If the customer ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” 
That’s the reality.

But another reality is how easy it is to forget the customer-centered mindset when the work really starts flowing. Especially for marketers who tend to have less client-facing time than the folks in sales and support. 

The irony is that it’s the many clients that create the work flow that keeps you so busy that causes you lose to focus on those very clients that live in the house that Jack built. 

It’s certainly something of a quagmire. 

So How Do You Maintain That One-Pointed Focus on the Customer?

Keep your eye on the prize. Not that we’re in the business of objectifying your customers, but they’re the “prize” in this case. 

To help campaigns resonate with prospects and customers, it’s absolutely necessary to employ a customer-centric mindset. This, in turn, will lead to increased sales and happier, more engaged clients. Put all of this together, and it’s going to differentiate you from your competitors. And by differentiate, we mean in a good way. A shiny way. A winning way. And what are you going to win?

More customers, i.e. the “prize.” So let’s begin.

#1. Take A Strategic Approach to Technology

How personalized is your correspondence with your clients? 

Get personal. And we don’t mean addressing emails with
“Hey there friend o’mine” rather than “To whom it may concern.” They’re both inauthentic. Especially the former, which borders on insultingly so.

But keeping it real with a high level of personalization takes time and effort. We get it.  

This is where technology steps in. You can scale using marketing automation. All sorts of marketing software can help you to automate those time-sucking tasks like prospecting emails, creating invitations to events or formulating on-boarding communications. 

This will free up more time for you to focus on delivering a personalized experience to customers while mastering Level 3,461 on Candy Crush. Ah, technology.

But wait! Here’s the caveat. You must be clear about your goals to develop a strategy with technology. Because with all of that smooth automation, your internal goals could quickly become your main focus - and at the cost of the customer experience. So don’t scale a task if there’s the risk it’s going to frustrate your customer. It’s not worth it.   

Which brings us to step #2. 

# 2. Communicate on a Human Level

With the convenience of texting and emails, nobody ever has to talk on the phone again. But that doesn’t mean nobody WANTS to. There are plenty of people who still want to do precisely that.

As we’ve moved into deeper into the digital age, we’ve had to start making sense of when and how certain types of conversations need to  happen. So with each interaction, ask
yourself, “Does this response warrant a personal touch, or can it be automated?”

When you get down to bare bones, business is still about human engagement. No existing technology can offer up the intuition and experience of a human. It doesn’t understand the competitive landscape. And it sure can’t forge emotional connections. 

When it makes sense, take the extra time for in-person meetings and phone calls to maintain those pathways of human connection.

#3. Remember That Your Customers Change

We all do.

But if you have long-standing clients for whom you’ve done the exact same service year after year because it’s what’s worked in the past, you can’t just write them off. They might not be as satisfied as you think.

It’s like that aunt who continues to buy you an airplane-themed gift every year for your birthday because you loved airplanes when you were, like, seven. You’ve even mentioned that airplanes don’t really do it for you anymore, but she just won’t listen. And frankly, you’re feeling pretty unvalidated.

Do you really want to weight down your clients with metaphorical airplanes?

Not only have you stopped listening to their needs, but you’re operating in the dark. You’ve also missed an important opportunity to validate who they are. You’ve essentially forgotten them. 

This is another reason you want to keep interacting with you customers. It’ll help you avoid turning them into categories. 

Consider customer focus groups. They can help you understand what clients need and which messages are hitting home.

Taking the Customer First Approach Is Not Limited to Marketers

And it shouldn’t be. We all gotta get along.

Project managers and creatives need to work together. Sales and marketing execs need to work together. CFOs and CEOs need to work together. There’s this whole working together theme here. 

But ultimately, success is achieved when EVERYONE works together to put the real people who matter first. 

And that would be, ahem, the customers. You know, the prize.  

So listen to them. Do the necessary work to solicit their input. Then bring that input to life. 

That’s the ultimate job of the marketer

Monday, January 29, 2018

Question of the Week: What Is the Future of Interactive Advertising?

Remember the days before interactive advertising? Back when you knew your cola was enriched with coca leaves and snake oil was all the rage?

Okay, it wasn’t quite that long ago.

But Interactive Advertising Did Not Start with the Internet 

It was already around - at a decidedly more rudimentary level - in the form of things like customer surveys, focus groups and Ovaltine.

Yeah, Ovaltine. Back in the (not so) glorious days of radio programs, they encouraged listeners to save proofs-of-purchase from jars of (not so) delicious Ovaltine to obtain radio premiums. Radio premiums, in this case, were secret decoder rings, badges or pins that the lucky obtainers could use to decode messages during Little Orphan Annie or Captain Midnight. 

You can bet the good folks in Bern, Switzerland - where Ovaltine is still produced to this day - used that feedback to “analyze” how they could improve upon their advertising. 

Of course, the definition of “analyzing data” in the late 1930’s/early 1940’s was about as different from its current definition as “happy returns,” which once meant “vomiting.”

Even so, it was the internet that really got people excited about interactive advertising and, more specifically, analytical data that could be transformed into actionable insights

Analytical Data Was Groundbreaking Stuff 

Customer surveys and lukewarm chocolate beverages aside, advertisers soon discovered they had this new superpower at their fingertips. Rather than using this power for evil, they got to work tweaking ad approaches, changing up colors, swapping out content and then soliciting feedback from their target audiences. 

Savvy advertisers could now give their potential customers a chance to interact with companies and their advertising, as opposed to simply being recipients of the pitch. This gave them some savory feedback.

But as valuable as that feedback was, it still took a backseat to the analytical data that tracked how those changes affected the ad’s performance. And soon enough, the wild world of interactive advertising was going beyond simple clickthroughs and banners to branch out to social media, branded games and polls and a slew of other approaches. 

What’s the Next Phase of Interactive Advertising?

While advertisers grapple with how to best wrangle the powerful animal that is interactive advertising, they’re also curious about where this dynamic, volatile creature is heading next.

There are, of course, varying opinions on the matter. But two components seem to be taking center stage:

New Technology and Content

And they’re in cohoots.

Advertisers are discovering how combining street campaigns with social media, innovative technology and powerful storytelling are coming together to create lasting effects.   

So the future of interactive advertising seems to be facing the challenge of how to integrate this shiny new technology, the internet and - perhaps most importantly - entertainment and good storytelling into advertising campaigns which consumers feel compelled to connect with rather than block.

It’s a big order.

But here’s what could potentially happen:

The creation of engaging content will boost the cost of buying ad space. This will have a domino effect on the quality of ads - meaning that they’ll also have to be higher quality. That means fewer ads. But those that are birthed will demand attention. Like a child with a temper tantrum. But far more entertaining. And that’s the operative word. Entertaining.

It Is Advertising Posing As Entertainment

Interactive advertising may just evolve into content that is
indistinguishable from regular entertainment. Yet it’ll be just as effective in leaving a lasting impression on consumers.

Ads that create a dialogue between the consumer and advertiser will be those that make a difference. The future of interactive advertising could just create a world where ads are enjoyable and advertisers are paid good money for great content, not spin.

Imagine that.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Question of the Week: Is Advertising An Art?

Hit the internet and you’ll find folks saying, “absolutely not.” Yet you’ll just as easily find folks saying, “without a doubt.” Then there’s a third and larger camp of folks that don’t take a definitive stand.

We reside in that third camp. We see this as one of those annoying questions that has no right answer. Like, “Is Kenneth a good name for a tree frog?” 

In other words, it's subjective.

But since the question was posed, we figured it was worth exploring a little. So let’s start by asking this:

How Does One Define Art?

Merriam Webster defines art as this:

The conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects.

Wikipedia - posing as a dictionary here - defines it as:

The product or process of deliberately arranging items (often with symbolic significance) in a way that influences and affects one or more of the senses, emotions, and intellect.

So given both of these definitions, it’s possible that advertising could be perceived as art. Then again, what we perceive isn’t absolute truth. Like when you’re in a non-moving car and the vehicle next to you is slowly inching forward so that you PERCEIVE that you’re moving backward. But you’re not.

Anyhow, without getting drawn into a philosophical argument on perception, we should look at the other important question here:

How Does One Define Advertising?

Let’s see what Wikipedia has to say now:

Advertising is how a company encourages people to buy their products, services or ideas. Advertisers influence our emotions by using techniques that include stereotyping and targeting the audience according to who we are. 

And as for Merriam Webster?

The action of calling something to the attention of the public especially by paid announcements.

Okay. So there seems to be some clear delineation between the two. 

Advertising Has A Definitive End Result

To encourage the viewer to buy. But that does that necessarily preclude it from being art? 

Have you ever been stirred by an emotional and inspiring
commercial that tells a story? Okay, so it’s a very short story and not a full-length art film. But does size really matter? The expertise and creativity required to produce it could have easily come from the same place.

The advertising as art question is difficult because it deals with the complexity of being human. So let’s simplify the human into three parts:

  • Senses/Emotions
  • Intellect
  • Will

When we focus on senses and emotions, we’re entertaining. When we focus on intellect, we’re educating. When we focus on will, we’re creating propaganda.

These three things rarely exist in their purest form though. As you trip through life, most of what you encounter will be some combination of these three things. Art and advertising included.  

But where art seems to deviate is that there isn’t as definitive an end result as there is in advertising.

Art Pursues A Higher Truth

In other words, that commercial that moved you in some way might just qualify as art if it conveyed a little bit of truth about the human experience and what it all means.

Then again, maybe not.

Yeah, most advertising focuses on entertaining the senses and emotions and then appealing to the viewer’s will to buy the product. There might even be a little education thrown in for good measure. And frankly, that’s considered really solid advertising. The kind that gets awards. 

But there is advertising that manages to touch on some existential truth and resonates through as art.  And, of
course, there have been countless times when advertising has inspired art. 

It did wonders for Mr. Warhol

So while it seems impossible to answer this week’s question, it’s always a hoot to keep the conversation going. 

Especially as the face of advertising continues to change. 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

6 Ways To Increase Email Subscribers

“The money’s in the list.” 

That’s the mantra in the illustrious world of email marketing.

And while all the new-fangled technology might have you thinking that email marketing has gone the way of bell bottoms and perms, it’s still extremely effective.

In fact, a majority of marketers have found that doing the work of crafting personalized messages for their audiences results in exceptional rewards. 

As such, they say they’re planning to increase their upcoming email marketing budgets. So there.

Grow Your Email Subscriber List

It’s so absolutely worth the time and agony effort to do so. Here are eight ways to go about doing it. 

1. Minimize Clicks to Subscribe

If you’ve got your opt-in form placed firmly on the home page of your site, you should be good to go.

You should be. But you’re not. Because if a viewer lands on another page and likes what s/he sees, s/he may not be willing to take the extra time to go to your home page to subscribe. Especially if some other shiny distraction beckons.

So be sure that opt-in form shows up on every page.

2. Offer a Little Something Extra to New Subscribers

Give them more than a simple “thanks for subscribing!” note. It’s so insincere. 

We’re not suggesting you up-sell here. You’re really just demonstrating your value to potential subscribers. For example, if you offer grooming services, you could include a 10% off their first groom on that thank you page. But not a puppy. That’d be overkill. And inhumane. 

This one simple edit to your thank you page could post a significant increase in profits.

3. Give Them A Content Upgrade

In the same spirit as offering something to new subscribers,
a free e-book is a nice idea. But unless it guarantees eternal health, there’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all e-book. 

You aren’t going to be able to create a lead magnet that resonates with everyone. 

Ask yourself this - What are the most popular posts on my site? Google Analytics can tell you. 

Take that information and figure out how you can enhance the informational value to those posts by including a content upgrade at the end. The extended information is offered in exchange for contact info. See what you did there? 

Plus, the contact info you get will be from people who are truly interested in what you’re saying/speaking/selling. It’s a great way to grow your list.

4. Cross Promote

Cross promote is another way of saying “get people from someone else’s subscriber list.”

It's not cheating. 

The idea here is to make a list of other companies who serve a similar demographic, but who are not your competitors. For example, if you sell workout clothes, you could reach out to gyms, yoga studios or the creators of Squat Magic™. 

Contact those companies to see if you can come up with a mutually beneficial agreement where you recommend each other’s products and services to your own lists.

They’ll wonder, “What’s in it for me?” So be sure to mention that you want to promote their products to your list at no charge. You can ask for something in return later. 

5. Make Your Submit Button Interact with the User

Once upon a time, a marketer decided to test a submit button with a red border that changed to green when the mouse was moved over it. It might be that red and green stirred nostalgic holiday memories for him. We’re not discounting that possibility.

But it turns out that, holidays aside, this conversion test resulted in a 40%+ opt in rate. 

That’s because color is a strong motivator. Think for a moment now. Where else do you commonly see red and green? If you said they’re the dominant colors of your chalet room, then good for you. Mostly for having a chalet room. But that’s not where we were heading.

Traffic lights. The color change from red to green visually and subconsciously moves the user from “stop” to “go,” motivating them to make that click.

Give the user a real connection. 

6. Let the User Be in Control 

Okay, we realize that this post is about getting email subscribers. But keeping them is part of the game too. So let them be in control of not only of what they receive, but when they receive it. 

Regardless of the psychology behind it, this isn’t as much about control issues as it is about sheer exhaustion from purging one’s inbox every twenty minutes. 

If you’re getting a bunch of “unsubscribes,” don’t automatically assume that they’re just not that into you. They just might no be able to keep up with you. 

So instead of asking, “Why are you leaving?” with obvious desperation, simply ask them if they’d rather change the frequency of emails or types of messages they get. It gives them a chance to say, “It’s not you, it’s me.” 

And it establishes you as a trusted sender who only wants to send information that’s relevant to them. 

One More Thing…

Not to completely negate what we said above about “the
money’s in the list,” but there’s something to be said for the quality of the list too.

Yeah, it’s the old quality versus quantity argument.

Because the reality is, lists with a few hundred dedicated customers can outperform lists of 10,000+ when they focus on building relationships rather than just connecting with freebie-seekers.

Certainly another angle to consider as you’re building those connections. 

Monday, January 15, 2018

Question of the Week: What is Native Advertising?

In a nut shell?

Native advertising refers to ads that have a similar look or feel to the content or design that surrounds it. This can include its color, shape, formatting, tone, location and/or contextual relevance.

Native Advertising Fits in with the Existing User Experience

And it’s available for advertisers to purchase at scale. The
only thing that makes it stand out is that it’s marked as “promoted” or “sponsored.” (Which you often don’t notice until that split second after you’ve clicked on it.)

As to what can be defined as native advertising and what isn’t, there is some debate. But when humans are involved, when isn’t there debate? Seriously. 

At any rate, the following sit under the wide spanning umbrella of what’s considered, to many, to be native advertising:

1. Sponsored Articles

If you’ve ever been on the hunt for content, you’ve likely been fooled by one of these. A sponsored article is one where an informational article is sponsored by a brand, but it doesn’t promote that specific brand.

For example, this article from the Onion entitled “Pile Of Dirty Clothes On Bedroom Floor Starting To Mix With Pile Of Clean Clothes On Bedroom Floor” could have been sponsored by the Institute to Promote Laundry and Eradicate Procrastination.

If it had been, the Institute would not be mentioned by name in the article. But you would have seen their logo next to the words “Sponsored Post” so that you’d immediately make the connection.

Your reaction might sound something like this: “I really need to do a load of laundry. Like, yesterday.” 

And then maybe you’d do it tomorrow before heading to the Institute.  

2. In-Feed Programmatic Native

These ads are unobtrusive in that they appear in-feed or in-stream as you scroll through organic content. Kind of like sitting by a babbling fresh water stream in Alaska and watching a piranha casually swim past.

And that’s the main criticism. The publishers of these ads will tinker some with the look and feel of these ads, but not so much that they completely fit in with the surrounding content. So yeah, they stand out a little. 

These ads are bought/sold through programmatic channels like Facebook, the Audience Network and other native ad OpenRTB exchanges. 

3. Integrated Native

The integrated native ad is more akin to the salmon in that Alaskan stream. It matches the look of the surrounding content (i.e. other salmon). Furthermore, it provides value through contextual relevance. 

These ads are employed by user-first brands like Facebook,Yelp and others with or without hugely recognizable names. And these native platforms are usually built in-house rather than using a network.

4. Content Recommendation Widgets

Those involved in the heated native advertising debate might want to turn a blind eye to content recommendation widgets as native advertising. 

These are the “Around the Web” rectangular ads on news and media sites that are visually and topically similar to the article you just read. But many consider them spammy. 

Plus, there are other issues with appropriateness. For instance, it’s pretty horrible to have a well-researched article on eating disorders be accompanied by a promotion for “10 Foods to Make You Skinny” at the bottom of the page.

As such, publications like The New Yorker has removed them from its website altogether.

5. Advertorials

Those involved in the even more super heated native advertising debate would ban the advertorial from donning the native advertising moniker altogether. And let’s face it - it’s a shifty poseur with a bad rap.  

You’ve seen one. It looks and reads like an objective editorial, but all the while, it’s really promoting a specific
product. So just when you are drawn into that editorial about dysfunction and feel at one with the world in knowing that you’re not alone, you’re being bamboozled into buying a product to fix it. 

Shameless. And that’s why a lot of publications have pulled these too.

So What’s the Value of Native Advertising?  

In cases where it looks authentic and is not involved in back-handed, dark alley trickery, people tend to trust it. Some people even like being drawn to a product or service hand-picked just for them.

It also increases the brand value of the advertiser, since it’s put on platforms which people are likely to trust.

Is it something you should use? Maybe. As long as you have advertising professionals to guide you and keep your trustworthiness in tact.  

Otherwise, you could be doing egregious things with piranhas. And nobody wants that.