How To Turn Your Customers Into Advocates – Part 1

It is no secret… it costs more to win a customer than it does to retain one. You may spend considerable capital to advertise your product or service to fill your pipeline with interested prospects, with only a certain percentage actually closing. After all that investment, effort and manpower to get the sale, doesn’t it make sense to do what you can to keep them spending with you?

There are many avenues of creating customer retention; loyalty programs, coupons, customer referral rewards, auto drafts, subscriptions, to name a few very effective ways. However, you may want to consider adding another tool for your arsenal: Communities.

Providing customers a place to gather, whether online or in person, will create a bond around a common interest. This is the best way to turn Loyal Customers into Advocates. According to Dictionary.com, to advocate is “to speak or write in favor of; support or urge by argument; recommend publicly.”

Wouldn’t it be great if an undecided prospect read, or was personally given, a recommendation by one of your customers? In Fred Reichheld’s “The Ultimate Question,”  he breaks down customers in to three categories; Continue reading

Tips on Marketing to Millennials

 

With graduations happening all over the country, another group of millennials are entering the workforce – which is already the largest portion of today’s working class. With over 80 million millennials (born between 1982 and 2004), they make up nearly a quarter of the population and spend over $200 billion every year.

If you haven’t already started, this is a group you want to target.

When searching online, you will find multiple surveys and articles written about this group. Elite Daily surveyed 1,300 millennials, looking at their buying habits and brand loyalty. Deloitte surveyed nearly 8,000 millennials to provide their outlook on society and their attitude toward their work.

What to take away?

Millennials are an incredibly important audience and there are several key factors to consider for your next targeted campaign.

Segment vs Demographic

As most marketers know, the key to successful ROI is segmenting your audience and not treating your entire target audience exactly the same. The same can be said for millennials. This is less a demographic you can sum up easily and more a diverse collection of individuals that range from young professionals to move-back-homes, and from partying singles to single parents. It is important to understand your specific audience before launching any marketing campaign.

That said, the following are common traits found in this generation you may want to consider when developing your strategy.

Multiple Channels. Gone are the days of “offline versus online” strategies. With the mobile revolution, millennials have grown up with the idea they are always connected wherever they are. Many use multiple devices simultaneously to stay connected, with 87% of millennials using two to three devices at least once every day. If you want to get their attention, you need to move quickly and use multiple channels to reach them. Constant communication will be key.

Hard Sell vs Content Marketing. When asked if a compelling advertisement would make them trust a brand more, only 1% of millennials surveyed said yes. Advertising is seen as promotional (and dated) and millennials would rather review content when considering purchases. Blogs and articles make a big impact in buying decisions.

While Content is Important, Authenticity More So. Content marketing is very important with this generation, however 43% of millennials rank authenticity over content when consuming news. If they do not trust the source, they will not even bother reading the content they produce. In fact, they often would trust peers over companies. Influencer marketing holds a lot of weight.

More Social than Informational. While Baby Boomers and Gen Xers may have preferred traditional news sources, millennials prefer to get their information through social media channels. While fewer than 3% of millennials rely on TV news, magazines and books to make a purchase, an impressive one-third rely mostly on blogs before they buy.

They Want to be Engaged. A whopping 62% of millennials say they are more likely to become a loyal customer if a brand engages with them on their preferred social networks. It is not enough to just be on the social network – millennials expect companies to engage with them.

Yes, Millennials Are Loyal. There is a common misconception that millennials don’t have brand loyalty and are easily swayed, suggesting they are wishy-washy. This may be because they are more likely to be loyal to ideals rather than a company logo and, if a company appears to lose those ideals, will move on. The fact is, they can be very brand loyal – 60% of millennials surveyed said they are often or always loyal to brands they currently purchase. It just may be harder to maintain that loyalty.

With millennials currently ranging between 13 – 35 years in age, your marketing campaigns are going to be keenly targeted on this group for decades to come. Like any marketing strategy, the key will be to communicate to your target audience with the content they want, in the style they understand, in the places they prefer. For millennials, remembering engaging, authentic content on multiple social channels will be instrumental in helping your brand get noticed and build brand loyalty.

Rick Verbanas has brought his passion for marketing to Fortune 500 companies, small businesses and not-for-profits. He strives to stay current in the latest marketing best practices, and provides a weekly roundup for your news and enjoyment. To subscribe to future blogs, please enter your email address on the left hand side of the page.

Mother’s Day Marketing Tips

This Sunday is Mother’s Day (Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers!). “Celebrating Mom” has become big business for many small businesses. While there are many stores and services hoping to bring in shoppers (and I’ll share some of my ideas below), there are some sharp guerrilla marketers looking to “ride the wave” and cash in on all the sentiment.

Build Traffic
You may wonder how you, who may not offer products or services normally associated with Mother’s Day gifts, can benefit from the holiday. The real question is, could your website benefit from more exposure, more traffic? If the answer is “Yes,” start considering ways to chat, blog or share about Mother’s Day.

Perhaps the easiest thing to do is post a question on your site, or in your e-newsletter – wherever you track customer responses. Buzz Accelerator suggests 50 Mother’s Day Status Updates for Your Business.They offer some phrases and questions you can post on your Facebook business page (which may also work well with your home website, twitter, LinkedIn Q&A, etc.) such as:

  • Like this if you grew up to be just like your mother.
  • Moms: Yay or Nay on breakfast in bed?
  • What makes your mom better than all the others? Tag her in a comment so she’ll see what you say.

The point is, you want to engage your readers. Give them something to respond to, or vote on, or “like,” or forward, etc.

Another way to drive traffic is to offer Mother’s Day content. Some companies encourage their employees to post heart-warming stories about their own mothers in an effort to give their company a more approachable face. You can blog about famous mothers (the more popular, the better) or, present real-life moms who make sacrifices every day for their children. The NY Daily News provides a look at the ten worst TV moms.

Whatever you do, make it about the mothers and not you. Unless you are a company that offers products or services their moms would like, readers will not take kindly to companies looking to make a profit by exploiting an institution revered as highly as motherhood.

Marketing Ideas
For those who do offer a product or service, here are some ideas to consider in addition to the above:

Continue reading

PR Formula Made Simple

What, exactly, is public relations? Throughout my career, this has to be one of the most misunderstood tactics I perform. To many I have spoken, “PR” is this nebulous service that is hard to define. Is it journalism? No, but one should be able to write for journalists if in PR. Is it publicity – Notice or attention given to someone or something by the media, as defined by the Oxford Dictionary? In a sense, yes. However, my definition strives to include more.

Public Relations is the art of building brand awareness through building reputation.

I have known Ken Hitchner, current public relations and social media director for the talented folks at Creative Marketing Alliance, for several years. We have worked together off and on in our career and he defines PR very simply:

Reputation + Relationships = Revenue

The goal for any marketing or public relations campaign should be to increase revenue. I cover how to measure the return on your marketing investment (MROI) here.

So, if the goal is to increase revenue, it is imperative you develop relationships with your target audience. Generally speaking, people purchase from people and/or brands they like. True, they may be swayed by other factors like price, but do you really want to build your business strategy on being the lowest priced? It makes better business sense to build brand loyalty, allowing price to not be the most important factor.

This brings us back to relationships and building your brand. If people purchase from brands they like, then who do people like? While the answer varies wildly, an underlying element usually includes trust. It is safe to agree, few people like what they do not trust.

Which circles back to reputation. Without a reputation you can trust, it is highly unlikely you will earn relationships with your target audience. And, without those relationships, it will be even more challenging to increase your revenue based on brand alone.

Third Party Influence
The question is, how does public relations build reputation? While paid advertising unquestionably has its place, the average consumer is bombarded with countless messages every day. These tend to be disruptive and it is widely understood the goal of the advertisements are to sell you something and, therefore, are biased. But, if your message is conveyed through a third party such as a news source, it tends to have more credibility and, if positive, will likely increase trust.

With so many different options, I will discuss best practices on how to produce a positive message through public relations Continue reading

How a Job Search is Just Like Dating

While I typically write about marketing, I thought I would take a pause from my current job search and offer this observation for your amusement. For clarity, I’m not single (sorry ladies). And, while this could apply to those seeking a new job while currently employed, I am saving the How a Job Search While Employed is Just Like Trying to Discreetly Have an Affair for those who know more about the topic than yours truly.

So, you have taken the plunge and are now back in the big wide dating pool. Perhaps it was by choice. Perhaps the choice was made for you. Nevertheless, here you are, ready to try something new.

But what will it be? You’ve done some soul-searching and, after evaluating previous experiences, have a better understanding of your type. Perhaps you are seeking a life-long commitment (but, does that even exist anymore like it did generations before?). Or, maybe you aren’t sure of what would be considered a good match and want to play the field and not be tied down, staying with someone for only months at a time (but secretly wondering if it will become serious at some point).

Well, there are many ways to find your match. While putting on your best outfit and simply getting out there and meeting someone cold could work, it is very time consuming physically going from place to place. Frankly, it can be a meat market.

So, it is time to turn to the internet. There are so many options. There are free services, paid services, professionals who act as matchmakers… But, to start, you should probably stick with the more popular free sites.

Your bio is key. While it is expected you will put your best face forward, it is considered a best practice to remain honest. Make sure to put your highlights at the top, because if you don’t grab them in the first few seconds, you may go to the bottom of the pile. If you are older, perhaps try Continue reading

Social Media Crisis Management Plan: Tips on How to Prepare and Execute

With United Airlines’ social media disaster going viral last week, many top executives are questioning what is the plan to avoid such an embarrassing public relations nightmare for their own company. Who is monitoring what people are saying about you and your business? And, what do you do when it is negative? What is your crisis management plan?

I spoke with Mike Moran, Senior Strategist at Converseon and author of “Do it Wrong Quickly,” who says it is essential to keep track of the chatter on the world wide web. “The first thing you need is awareness,” he said. “There are people out there who have something to say and they have many different ways to be heard.”

Blogs, Message Boards, Product Ratings… should all be tracked for any negative comments. “That can be challenging,” Moran admitted. “Once you understand the importance of listening to your audience, you need to develop a process to help you hear them.”

How to Be Aware of Potential Problems

To keep track of what is being said about your organization, I recommend implementing a Social Medial Monitoring (SMM) tool, also known as a listening platform. This allows you to monitor and track mentions of your brand, products and competitors. SMM tools provide many different ways to analyze, measure, display and report findings.

Some of the more popular SMMs: Continue reading

Ethics in Marketing – A Social Responsibility?

My Mass Communication professor climbed on to her desk, which seemed so small and far away in one of the large lecture halls at the University of Delaware. It was at that point Associate Professor Juliet Dee yelled something I will never forget. “If you remember one thing from this course,” she pleaded. “Watch television with your children!”

Her words did stick with me and I took them to heart while raising my own children years later. While at school, I did learn of all the studies done about the influence of media in our society. In fact, Professor Dee wrote books and gave lectures on the very subject and I wonder if she would be happy or disappointed with what I am about to say.

First, let me start by stating I believe media does influence both children and adults, both the developing minds and the most learned. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t be in marketing, trying to influence behavior through different types of media. The shows and movies we watch, the books and advertisements we read, and the songs and presentations we listen to all make an impact, no matter how small.

Want an adorable example of young minds mirroring what they see? Watch these two toddlers act out their favorite scene from Frozen.

As a marketing professional most of my career, I have seen all sides… B2B, B2C, mass media, social media, print, digital, public relations, crisis management, direct mail, e-mail, events, promotions… the list goes on and on. Since I believe media influences thought and thoughts influence action, should I worry about what message I promote?

Fast-forward ten years after the lecture hall to my early career as an Account Executive at an advertising agency. My clients were new and used car dealerships throughout the country. I was responsible for over half a million dollars in media budget and produced radio, television and newspaper ads, as well as direct mail and other campaigns. Each state had it’s own laws and each required different ways to provide disclaimers. No doubt, you are used to hearing the low, fast talking disclaimers at the beginning or ending of radio spots or the fine print at the bottom of television and newspaper ads. Some of my accounts would really stretch those to the point I started to question my career choice.

During a long road trip with my boss, Continue reading

Measuring Marketing ROI Part 4 – Not “ROMI Made Easy”

Continuing a series of blogs on Measuring Marketing Return on Investment (ROI):

Measuring Marketing ROI – Why Marketing is Not an Expense
Measuring Marketing ROI Part 2 – Tips to Overcome Challenges
Measuring Marketing ROI Part 3 – Developing ROMI Revenue Metrics

Activity Metrics: Measuring the Marketing Details

Executive management may or not may not want to hear the details about which programs or campaigns deliver the best results, but your marketing team certainly does. After all, your day-to-day program execution – everything from email and social media to webinars and web site traffic – provides the insights that ultimately drives your strategic revenue-building efforts.

The metrics that you can extract from email campaigns, web analytics, webinar attendance and other sources are too numerous to go into here. Since websites are such a crossroads and anchor of many other marketing programs, I’ll look at some website metrics. But first, there are some general Activity Metrics measurement criteria that you can use:

Benchmarking Metrics

Marketers track a wide variety of day-to-day program activities because they are easy to measure. These include benchmarks such as:

  • Email marketing and enewsletter open, click-through and response rates
  • Web site visits and page views
  • Content asset downloads such as white papers or published news stories
  • Web site form completion and abandonment rates

These numbers can be very useful. If your email open rates begin declining from the historical rates you’ve previously captured, then it’s time to examine your email campaigns for potential problems. The same is true for web analytics, especially when you compare current data versus historical trends for page popularity and page abandonment rates.

Social media mentions, connections, “likes” and conversations are similar to other softer benchmarking metrics; you’re often comparing your metrics against your own historical data and searching for trends.

The key here, as with benchmarking metrics, is not to confuse social media success with bottom-line impact. It’s one thing to celebrate a record number of Twitter followers; it’s quite another to demonstrate just how those followers convert into leads, opportunities and revenue for an organization.

Measuring Your Brand Power

Back when I first got into marketing in the mid-90s, Chick-fil-A started their campaign “Eat Mor Chickin.” I remember driving on a highway in Atlanta with my new boss and remarking on this billboard and how clever I thought it was. I’ll never forget his response, “Does it make you want to go eat at Chick-fil-A?” He then explained the difference in branding and call to action advertising. In the previous blogs, we’ve talked about call-to-action. Measuring branding is a lot more challenging.

Your marketing investment seeks to accomplish two main goals: grow sales and build customer perceptions of quality service and best-in-class expertise in your brand.

But how do you measure the brand power of your marketing programs in the marketplace? Continue reading

Measuring Marketing ROI Part 3 – Developing ROMI Revenue Metrics

Continuing a series of blogs on Measuring Marketing Return on Investment (ROI):

Measuring Marketing ROI – Why Marketing is Not an Expense
Measuring Marketing ROI Part 2 – Tips to Overcome Challenges

Developing ROMI metrics

Calculating ROMI is not a perfect science. In developing ROMI metrics, don’t let a quest for perfection be the enemy of good. Knowing something about your marketing ROI is better than knowing nothing.

By setting realistic performance targets and integrating the performance targets directly into your marketing objectives you will be able to stay on track. Establishing the right metrics combined with tracking progress will help you assess where improvements and adjustments are needed.

  • Establish ROMI goals in line with marketing and company business objectives
  • Design marketing program and marketing data metrics in tandem to reflect shared marketing program and ROMI measurement objectives
  • Design MROI metrics that speak directly to the bottom line; avoid soft metrics
  • Focus on metrics that provide evidence change and growth in revenue and profitability and, if successful, will improve future marketing effort

ROMI Metric Examples

Measurement of marketing ROI is driven by metrics. Part of the challenge of developing these yardsticks is that there are so many aspects of that effort that can be measured.

There’s no one-size-fits-all guide to determining which metrics are right for your marketing. The right metrics provide insight into performance, and help focus your efforts and refine your strategies.

Albert Einstein once observed:

“Not everything that can be counted counts.”

(I’ll get to the rest of the quote later)

Some of these potential metrics are soft, nice-to-know measurements – often referred to as vanity metrics – such as increases in Facebook “likes” or your number of Twitter “followers.” Unless a Facebook “like” converts to a completed contact form on your website, this metric otherwise has no impact on sales.

Others are good-to-know measurements of marketing department activity, response rates, website visits and PR editorial coverage.

The most important are essential- to-know metrics that gauge the actual ROI impact of marketing programs on revenue.

The good news is that you don’t have to measure every possible data point to build a successful strategy. In fact, the best course is to focus on a relatively small set of clear metrics that capture the most relevant and meaningful data.

Focus on two categories of metrics: Continue reading

Measuring Marketing ROI Part 2 – Tips to Overcome Challenges

Calculating return on marketing investment has been a growing battle cry at companies of all sizes. There is increasing agreement that measuring ROMI is an important and valuable task. Otherwise marketers and companies may be blindly throwing dollars at marketing programs that are not delivering sufficient bottom line value.

But there’s more a battle than a battle cry. As more senior marketers enter the age of marketing metrics and quantifying the value of marketing to the bottom line, many are finding it to be an uphill battle.

It’s easy to ask the question, “What kind of financial results do my programs deliver?”  However, determining the answers can be challenging.

Multiple touches

Measuring the ROMI contributions of individual tactics of a multi-tactic campaign can be another challenge.

I like to compare a multi-tactic marketing campaign to football. There are a lot plays that go into reaching the end zone. From a measurement standpoint, you have tactical teamwork – passes, runs, blocking – all working towards the goal of a touchdown. Even though one player ultimately scores, it’s hard to assign credit for the touchdown to one player – it’s a team effort.

So is an integrated marketing campaign. You’re running trade ads focusing on customer service innovation. The ads’ call to action includes requesting a customer service white paper. There’s ongoing trade PR. There’s a promotion – say, discounts for multiple shipments, which is supported by direct mail, your e-newsletter and Facebook. From a marketing ROI standpoint, as you successfully get leads and conversions, how do you measure the impact of the individual tactics on sales?

It typically takes multiple touches to convert a cold lead into a sale which can take place over months, even years. These cumulative touches can range from face-to-face sales calls and exposure to marketing communications to digital interactions. This fact can make it difficult to link an ultimate sale to any specific touch.

Solution: However, you are still left with assigning credit. If you are going to assign credit to individuals and not the whole, be consistent. Attribute all the ROI value to the tactic that originally brought the prospect to you – maybe it was a webinar. Or, assign all the ROI value to the last touch as the final marketing activity – perhaps it was a direct mail piece, that converted a prospect into a customer. The trick is, be consistent.

Knowing when to measure

The money you invest today will have an uncertain impact at an uncertain point in the future. Last month’s trade show may deliver results next month or perhaps not until next year, but marketers need to decide where to invest their budget today.

Solution: Start measurement at the beginning of a marketing tactic’s sales cycle and continue for at least a year. Don’t quit too soon. A common mistake is giving up on tactics before they are done bearing fruit. Sometimes, prospects don’t act on something for months. Continue reading