Tag Archives: marketing

Smoke And Mirrors

I wrote last week about magic and distractions. Another magically-themed post today about the smoke and mirrors magicians use in their acts. That expression has come to mean something that’s deceptive or fraudulent, and a couple of pieces about the marketing business got me thinking about that term today. Even if you’re not a marketer (but who isn’t!), there’s something to take away.

One piece on Digiday dealt with ad-buying technology. You’re probably aware that the majority of digital ad buying (which will soon cover TV as well!) is done programmatically. No humans are involved other than to create the platforms on the vending end and choosing the ones to use on the buying end. The Digiday piece contains the following statements from an ad tech software developer:

I can say from first-hand experience that a lot of it is taped together stuff and nowhere near the sophistication that’s talked about…It is really easy to put up a website and mention “algorithms,” “machine learning” and a bunch of buzzwords. Nobody knows how that works. You can’t actually look into it, it is all just black boxes. But underneath, there is no real special sauce for a lot of these companies.

In other words, smoke and mirrors. Billions of dollars are spent this way and marketers are (finally) demanding to know how their money is really being spent. They’re turning on the lights and blowing away the smoke. Which leads to the second piece from MediaPost. It mentions “the terrible murky waters of rebates and contracts” and the same lack of transparency to which the other piece alludes. P&G is demanding more transparency, insisting that media agencies show that they are using providers that apply industry standards in measuring viewability and fraud. Ogilvy and Mather is reorganizing under a single P&L accounting structures for clients and thereby boosting transparency. Both of these moves are sending the magicians home.

We all need to ask ourselves about smoke and mirrors in our businesses. We need to challenge sources behind reports and assure ourselves that what we’re reading or hearing is rooted in fact and not someone’s fiction. A good practice outside of business too, don’t you think?

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Social, Smoke, And MIrrors

I’m frustrated. Some of the frustration is with myself because I can’t seem to explain why hiring certain people to work on your business is a bad idea when compared to hiring other kinds of experts. Some of the frustration is with businesspeople who don’t seem to grasp that the tools aren’t the business. In an effort to ease my aforementioned frustrations, let me vent a bit and, hopefully, in the process of doing so help clarify the issues.

With very few exceptions, a recent college grad is not an expert on how to use social media as a marketing tactic. I think the supposition is that since most of these kids have been on social media for a decade and are generally quick to adopt the next new thing that they’re qualified to lead your social media efforts. That is as ridiculous as assuming that I am qualified to repair my car just because I’ve been driving for 40 years. Rattling off buzzwords isn’t the same as understanding business goals. Doing things because they’re “cool” or because they appeal to the social media person isn’t a great strategy. Things are done because they serve the customer and in so doing, move the company toward one of more business goals.

The tools aren’t the business. We use the right tool at the right time for the right purpose in everything we do. We don’t decide “I’m going to use a hammer” when the goal is to cut meat. I’ve had discussions with potential clients who have no clue why they’re on Facebook or Twitter. I’ve had others who blast out a dozen pieces of content a day with no examination of their analytics to help refine the type of content they’re pushing, the frequency with which they do so, and the channel(s) they employ.

I’m open to suggestions for cutting through the smoke and mirrors. It’s not so much that my proposals to help aren’t chosen (and I know I’m speaking for several other senior consultant types here) but that the ones that get chosen are doomed to failure because they’re style over substance. This hurts everyone – platforms, clients, consultants, and ultimately customers. We can’t expect clients to invest in developing channels – particularly social – if we can’t produce results. We can’t produce results if we don’t understand the underlying business and its customer base.

Thanks for indulging me today. What’s on your mind?

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Digital Marketing 101

A friend and I were chatting about his business and he asked for my help in clarifying how he could do a better job of using digital marketing. Now while I’m not in the business of providing free consulting services, I figured I owed him at least a quick overview since I’d eaten a lot of his food over the years (and probably even more of his wine). Besides, I’m getting a blog post out of it, right?

We spent minute clarifying his business goals – what things did he want to improve and how could he make that happen? I asked him to tell me about his typical customers – personas in marketing terms – so we could focus his efforts a bit. I asked him to think about any research he had, customer lists, analytics, or even just his own impressions. Those two steps – goals and targets – lay the foundation for the marketing plan.

Next, we went through his current assets. Not the financial kind you’d find on a balance sheet. Instead, we filled out the three buckets of media – owned, earned, and paid. The first are things that are yours: your website, your social media profiles, a blog if you have one, etc. The second – earned media – are things that have been written about you – reviews, PR, word of mouth, etc. The third bucket is pretty obvious: what you are paying for at the moment, and includes things such as Search Engine Marketing, paid ads on social, etc.

After that comes the plan itself. I know that seems obvious but only about a third of businesses have a formal digital marketing plan. We talked about his business cycles and creating a marketing calendar that coincides with his needs. We put together a quick outline of a plan that listed priorities and the best channels to reach his target at the right time. Most important, we talked about how to measure the results and the need to adjust as you go. I stressed that measurement of things irrelevant to the goals we outlined was a waste of time.

I realize I just summarized an hour’s conversation in a post that took you a few minutes to read. I don’t mean to make all of this sound simple – it’s not –  but then again, what part of your business is? I can tell you that if you follow the process outlined above you’ll be a lot further along than many of your competitors. And, of course, I’m here to help if you need it!

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Don’t Better Deal

Have you ever been to a business function or a cocktail party where the person with whom you’re speaking is constantly searching the room with his eyes? They’re better dealing you. They’re trying to find someone more important (or interesting) who is a better deal than you. In a business setting, it’s usually a higher-up they’d like to impress but it’s generally someone who they think can make their life better than you can. I think that sort of thing is rude. Sure, you should have a general awareness of who is in the room but I think it’s important to be “present” in any conversation you’re having. If you want to end it gracefully and move on, so be it, but don’t nod your head and mumble “uh-huh” while scanning the room.

I can hear you thinking that you’d never do that, at least not unless someone was a boring, raging drunk. As it turns out, there is evidence to suggest that many marketers are better-dealing their customers all the time instead of focusing on what the customer is saying. How do I know? This from eMarketer:

HubSpot examined marketing priorities of marketers worldwide practicing inbound strategies (next-generation techniques that foster a two-way interaction and relationship with prospects and that aim for customers to come to the brand) and outbound strategies (more traditional marketing, in which customers are sought out and reached with general, one-way messaging such as TV, print ads or cold calls). Converting contacts and leads into customers was a marketing priority for 77% of inbound marketers and 68% of outbound marketers.

Increasing revenue from current customers , on the other hand, was only a priority for 46%. This despite the fact that it’s about 5x more efficient to retain a customer than it is to acquire a new one. Thinking of it another way, you would have to find five new customers to gain the same profitability as you would from retaining one. You have a 60%-70% chance of selling something to an existing customer and only a 5%-20% chance to sell to a new one. Which odds are more appealing?

You might think you’re giving yourself a better deal by focusing on the next conversation (finding new customers) but as it turns out you’re way better off devoting resources and staying focused on the current chat (your current customers). The odds are the “better deal” will still be at the party when your current conversation moves on. Make sense?

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Measuring What Matters

English: A business ideally is continually see...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I read an interesting report from the Forrester folks this morning. It is about business-to-business marketing but I think it’s instructive to any of us who are in marketing. It’s called “Metrics That Matter For B2B Marketers” and you can read it here. I’m a big fan of the premise:

B2B marketers must do more than measure activities like click-through rates and event attendees; they need to show how their activity directly affects business results. This report shows marketers how to provide insight on the things that matter most to their executive peers and the board — growth in revenue, profit, and customers. While marketers need to capture a wide range of metrics, this report focuses on measuring marketing’s contribution to revenue as a function of customer acquisition and installed base growth.

When I was in TV and marketing (which probably should have been called business development) was a relatively new concept (as opposed to sales which was there from day one), I always felt that part of my role as “the marketing guy” was to demonstrate that marketing was part of the revenue-generating part of the team. The only way to do that was to quantify how what I was doing was driving sustainable business.

Fast forward a lot of years. All of us in marketing are deluged with data. The problem, as the report points out, is that many folks take the easy way out and measure the easy to find stuff while ignoring the pieces of information that may be more impactful to the business but harder to discern. As the report says:

Marketers need to measure a lot of things to understand what is working and what isn’t. Unfortunately, most get stuck measuring activity, not value: More than half (61%) of the marketers we surveyed admitted that most of their data work went into reporting on how they did, not showing how marketing drives better business results.

Measure what matters. Measure quality over quantity. Don’t “manage to metrics rather than performance.” OK?

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Throwing Back The Small Fish

You’re probably a user of one free Google service or another. Odds are that you’ve used the search engine (probably at least once already today!). Maybe you get your email via a free Gmail account or watch videos on YouTube. It’s no secret that each of those services is provided to attract eyeballs (and usage data) for the ads Google sells.

Let’s think for a moment about the other side of that equation. How do those ads get there? Glad you asked! Google also provides a number of other free services to support marketers as well as other free services such as Google Analytics that provide data (to Google and others) about what’s going on in the web world. Lately, Google has been doing some things with those services that are instructive to the rest of us for our businesses.

What they’re doing is making those services less useful to marketers who don’t spend money with them. You might remember the outcry a couple of years back when Google stopped providing search term information in the free version of Analytics. At the time they said it would affect only a small minority of the data. The truth is that today nearly all of the search terms are (not provided), which is where Google lumps them when they don’t want to show them to you.

A few days ago, Google did it again. There is something called Keyword Planner which is used to plan search advertising. Google announced that “advertisers with lower monthly spend may see a limited data view in the Keyword Planner.” How much lower? No one knows.

How does this relate to your business? As you might expect, the response from the search marketing community has been outrage. This comment (and there are pages and pages of them on Google’s Advertising Community page) is typical:

First Google took your organic keyword data away. Now they are intent on impoverishing those without enough budget for the data.

There are many times more small accounts using Google for search than there are large accounts. Is it a good idea to favor the big spenders? Yes, it is, actually. Any good business rewards its best customers with perks. Those perks, however, shouldn’t diminish the ability of a small customer (or a new customer) to become one of the bigger ones. That’s what this change has done. Do I think it will drive marketers to another search engine? Maybe, but I’m guessing your business sector doesn’t have anyone who is as dominant in it as Google is in the search realm so you probably don’t have the luxury of not caring a whole lot.

The Boss wrote, “from small things, baby, big things one day come.” The only way to foster that growth is to provide support and tools, no matter what business we’re in. I think Google has taken a step in the wrong direction. You?

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Filed under digital media, Huh?

Rethinking Brands As People

If you’ve ever spent any time working in marketing you have probably participated in a couple of exercises. One is where you work on “personas” – models of personality. One is for the brand and there are others for various customer segments. It’s an attempt to humanize the brand and to make the customer less of an abstraction. It’s the former exercise that’s our topic today, and there is an element in the brand persona process that some research shows is overlooked.

I’ve sat in meetings where the room tries to figure out our business’ personality traits. What is our attitude? Where do our values lie and what are our strengths and weaknesses? A brand does this to make it easy for customers to relate to and bond with us. That persona is then used to create everything from messaging to packaging to customer service scripts. There are a couple of areas that are common to any brand, or should be according to some research by the folks at Edelman. They released The 2016 EARNED BRAND study, which is a global online survey of 13,000 consumers in 13 countries that examines the consumer-brand relationship across 18 brand categories.

The study found that brands globally and across many categories were failing to connect. Part of that might be reflective of the things the study measured: how the brand embodies a unique character, builds trust at every touchpoint, and invites sharing, inspires partnership. Generally, most brands come up very short on those traits and that prompted a thought.

Maybe instead of just figuring out what our brand is we ought to spend time trying to really humanize it by behaving in ways that a good friend ought to. Think about your closest friends. The three characteristics enumerated above and among those measured by the survey are probably things you’d say about your close friends. In business, it’s not just about who were are as a brand but how we present ourselves and treat our customers. As brands, if we want to be “people” perhaps we ought to start acting as good people do. Listen more, be memorable, do good things in our communities, and build trust.

Make sense?

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