Aberdeen Shows How to Do Email Marketing Right

January 13, 2011

The new research report from Aberdeen Group “Email Marketing: Customers Take it Personallyhas some very interesting insights. They talk about how the increase in the number of available marketing channels coupled with the resource constraints of most marketing organizations is the toughest challenge for marketers to overcome. If you have just started your 2011 campaigns after battling the budget process, I bet you can definitely see some relation to your own company.

So with all these new channels available, why does email marketing continue to be a top choice for marketers everywhere? According to the research “email marketing’s ability to provide a high quantity of leads combined with direct revenue gains” is what makes it still an attractive channel. Even when compared with social media, the research states:

“83% of all companies surveyed indicate they will leverage email as a core tool in the marketing mix and at a rate 54% more than social media despite that channel’s growth and popularity”

This is definitely contrary to a lot of the predictions of email marketing’s death and the rise of social media as the main communications channel for marketing that we heard throughout 2010.

In their research they also classify companies according to their results in email marketing usage. The leaders of the pack, called Best-in-Class companies, follow some best practices you can also adopt at your own organization:

  • Remove opt-out members from database
  • Remove hard and soft bounce recipients from the database through email authentication
  • Deliver special offers to high value customers
  • Integrate nurturing of existing leads with campaign results
  • Have an organization structure that supports data capture and sharing
  • Measure the impact of email marketing optimization practices and changes
  • Share the activity history of an existing or net-new lead with sales team

And, they add that the real key critical factor is the personalization of content in your emails. They say that “companies that marry high value customers with personalized, specialized offers in their email campaigns produce far greater results on every tangible measure of effectiveness”. Content personalization is not an easy task but according to the research it will likely give you a 38% better open rate and 86% greater click-through rate than non-personalized email messages.

The lesson? Work your way through the list above and start playing with content personalization, even if only for a small segment of your database. It will likely pay off handsomely.

The report has more interesting stuff and  I suggest you spend a few minutes reading it. You can get it for free for a limited time here:

http://bit.ly/fxiUoz

 


What Makes a Great Creative Brief?

January 7, 2011

A similar question was posted on Quora and elicited a number of different but very interesting responses. It just goes to show that there is still a lot of controversy when it comes to creative briefs in marketing. If you come from the agency side, you are used to a certain format. Big companies and small companies have different needs, and so their briefs are also formatted differently.

From the discussion thread I liked two presentations that were shared, posted below. The first is an interesting research done by Jasmin Cheng (from Twist Image) about creative briefs in the industry, and the second is a presentation by Nick Emmel on how to properly write a creative brief. While they don’t settle the discussion, are good sources for inspiration nonetheless.

And, if you’re interested in looking at some different formats for creative briefs, check out this blog post on creative brief template review.


Marketing Automation Monday is Here!

December 8, 2010

On Monday I attended a Marketing Automation Monday event, put together by the Marketing Automation Association, a newly formed group of marketing professionals that discusses all things related to marketing automation and best practices. It was really fun and if you are interested in learning how other marketers are tackling their marketing, CRM, and even sales challenges this is the place to go.

Some of the issues discussed were:

  • Who manages and who owns the CRM system in your organization?
  • How do you setup your scoring system for inbound leads?
  • What is the hand-off process with sales?
  • How do you get a feedback loop established with sales so that you can get better at scoring your leads?
  • Buyer personas and content creation

The interaction was great and the fact that we had people from both SMB and large companies was great, we could hear both sides of the story and how different size companies work with marketing automation.

One of the interesting points raised during the discussion was about content creation. Sure, you can setup all the triggers, scores and processes in your MA system but nothing will matter if you don’t have the content to support it. Most companies start off with one track for their automation and nurturing programs and expand with time. Ideally, you want to match your content with the buyer persona and the nurturing/sales stage. I.E. one type of content is sent to the IT Manager who is evaluating vendors while another is sent to the Programmer who is trying to learn more about your product.

A recent chart from MarketingSherpa touches a bit upon the content creation challenge for email marketing (see below). In it they show how automatically sending email based on triggers is more effective than allowing subscribers to specify email preferences. Interesting also that according to their research the segmentation of email campaigns based on behavior (which is a big part of a Marketing Automation program) is also less effective than the sending of emails based on triggers.

Three dimensions of relevancy tactics

As always, you have to take all of this with a grain of salt. An important point raised during the Marketing Automation Monday meeting was that you should really analyze your company’s history and understand based on your historical data (i.e. which leads turned into closed deals, where did they come from, what programs generated more closed deals, etc.) what is working best for you and what patterns can you see in your history that will help you fine tune your automation programs.

Interested in learning more about Marketing Automation and how to take advantage of it? Join the LinkedIn group and attend the next event!


Marketing By Objectives

November 29, 2010

Objective-Action-Budget

In a recent article for the CMO Council’s Newsletter, Nicolas Watkis argues “Marketers won’t succeed if they don’t have objectives”. Right on, my friend!

As we have all heard before, marketers are now more than in any other time being measured and challenged to produce measurable results. Mr. Watkis then states “the most important activities for marketers are the establishment of marketing objectives, a plan for their achievement, a budget to support the plan, and the management of assets and resources to achieve the objectives”.

OK, I think we can all agree this makes sense, but then how do you go about coming up with a plan? His article argues that most marketers start with the budget and foolishly take that for a marketing plan while the right approach is actually quite different:

1. Set measurable objectives, both financial and marketing. The financial objectives are revenue, profits, return on assets (how much sales will the campaign generate? Is a valid question to answer in your objective) and although he doesn’t describe what the “marketing objectives” are, I would focus on lead generation numbers (how many qualified leads, for example) although other metrics such as “number of blog posts” or “twitter messages” could be valid objectives for social media campaigns.

2. List actions to be take for each objective, with completion dates, people responsible for each action and also think in terms of alternative actions (what to do in case the action is not successful). This last bit is important for factors outside your influence, maybe a contract that depends on another company has to be signed for the joint marketing campaign to start, or what to do if certain assumptions you’ve made when putting together the plan fail to materialize (i.e. what to do if mommy bloggers don’t pick up our story or offer right away as we hope they will do).

3. Profit and loss projection with a detailed marketing budget showing the allocation of resources. So here it is, the marketing budget, the final component of the marketing plan.

The methodology of OBJECTIVE -> ACTION -> BUDGET is logic, but why is it that so many marketers keep insisting on coming up with the budget before actually putting a plan in place? The “let’s copy last year’s budget” mentality is prevalent in many organizations because is the easy way out of a not so glamorous function. Maybe now is time for some change. So write “objective -> action -> budget”  down on paper, in big letters and stick it to your corkboard or use a post-it and glue it to your computer monitor. That’s what I just did 🙂


B2B Marketing Summit Shows Old Problems Persist

October 14, 2010

So it seems MarketingSherpa’s B2B Summit 2010 is over and from what I read in their wrap up post, the same old problems plaguing marketers for the last 5 years are still here today. First of all, what is this summit? According to their post:

“Last week in San Francisco, 211 business-to-business marketers spent two days sharing insights, case studies and advice on social media marketing, lead generation, Sales and Marketing alignment, and other hot-button issues on the West Coast swing of MarketingSherpa’s seventh annual B2B Marketing Summit.”

MarketingSherpa is known for quality content and I have attended a couple conferences (I was a speaker at the Email Marketing Summit 2008) and have always thought that the best you get from attending an event like this is more in the form of networking than in content itself. The other good thing about going to such a conference for me, is that I get dedicated time to really think through all the topics being discussed, without being interrupted for meetings, phone ringing and people walking in the office.

The many takeaways from this year’s B2B Marketing Summit (West Coast) according to MarketingSherpa, were:

  1. Begin with the end in mind
  2. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes
  3. Getting a lead is just the beginning…
  4. For successful lead generation and nurturing, you need quality content
  5. Use measurements that matter
  6. It all happens on the landing page
  7. Be strategic about presenting your campaigns and your vision to the C-level

None of the takeaways above strike me as particularly new or groundbreaking, but that’s how it always goes. Sometimes we just need to be reminded of the obvious so that we can focus on the essential.


Mapping the Social Media Landscape

August 11, 2010

Infographics, according to Wikipedia are “graphic visual representations of information, data, or knowledge”. It’s also a wonderful way to communicate your message. Marketers that manage to become good at visual data communication can positively influence their companies into taking the right approach or strategy. Talking with the CEO or other managers about what all those metrics mean is sometimes a challenge, especially when they are not on top of the latest marketing trends or technologies.

When it comes to social media, a nice chart can do the talking job for you. The problem is finding the right one. The internet is now full of infographics for the social media space and each has its own particular characteristic. Here are some of the more interesting ones I found that try to map out the social media or social networking landscape. Their creators vary widely, from bloggers, marketing companies, to nationally recognized magazines.

National Geographic’s “World Wide Friends” illustration:

National Geographic Magazine World Wide Friends Illustration

National Geographic Magazine World Wide Friends Illustration

Overdrive Interactive “Social Media Map”:

Overdrive Interactive Social Media Map

Flowtown’s 2010 Social Networking Map:

The 2010 Social Networking Map

Flowtown's The 2010 Social Networking Map

Information Architect’s Web Trend Map 3.0:

Web Trend Map 3

Information Architect's Japan Web Trend Map 3

Harvard Business Review “Mapping the Social Internet”:

Mapping the Social Internet

HBR Mapping the Social Internet

Mapping Social Media and Internet Trends

What I like about the maps above is that each one is a great representation of the data it is trying to communicate. The maps that follow a known pattern (subway lines, political map, etc.) tend to be easier to understand because they represent images we’re already familiar with. In general, if it takes you more than a few seconds to understand what the map is trying to say, then it’s not a good map. Your audience, of course, will be the determining factor telling you whether one type of map is more appropriate than the other.

Have you found a good representation of the social media space? Please share!


Lead Conversion Rates Demystified… Not!

January 26, 2010

MarketingSherpa recently published a nice chart about lead conversion rates (Note: they give open access to the full article only until Feb 19th). According to their research (147 responses) you need about 10 qualified leads to close one sale.

Lead Conversion Rates

When sharing the chart with my co-workers the responses were varied, from “Great! Now we have the baseline we needed to set our goals!” to “Gee, I guess we should change our lead generation plans” and even “What exactly does this mean?”.

All valid points, for sure, and before trying to interpret the chart how about asking:

  • What industries are represented?
  • Is it B2B or B2C?
  • What are the sales cycle of the respondents?

Those are just the 3 first questions I would ask, followed by a handful more. I did send MarketingSherpa questions trying to get more information and haven’t gotten any response yet.

And how about all the other metrics we see out there (a nice post from Market2Lead about Sirius Decisions Lead Waterfall comes to mind)? Should you take MarketingSherpa’s metrics as the de facto guide or combine them with some others?

The lesson here is to be very, very careful with data presented to you without any substantiating information. Nice charts abound on the Internet and you can find one to back any story you wish. So before you go start changing your marketing plans, calculating how you compare against the “industry average”, and spend countless hours pondering over the meaning of the data, remember that sometimes it just doesn’t matter.

If you can’t compare apples to apples, you might as well just eat the fruit and forget about it! 😉


Why Social Media Is Not For Everyone

July 21, 2009

While many are in love with the whole concept of Social Media as being the next big thing in marketing, the holy grail that will lift sales and enhance your brand, I have seen some detractors that insist in calling out the faults and dangers or adopting Social Media as part of your marketing strategy.

Taking the plunge into social media may not be the right thing for you

Taking the plunge into social media may not be the right thing for you

Social media is just another media

Experts, personalities and false prophets are all clamoring that social media is king. We’re told that if you have a good plan , if you follow a proven framework for rolling out your social media activities and integrate them with your sales efforts , then the ROI will be clear . That is, if you can translate all those additional site visits, downloads, and re-tweets into sales. Otherwise it’s just buzz.

Some blasphemous professionals on the other hand, caution us to be careful in our efforts, telling us we should really focus on those customers that love our product and not use social media targeting everyone. They caution us saying it could be dangerous to our business if incorrectly used and it’s only helpful to build relationships and goodwill .  Sales? Maybe not so much.

I don’t know about you, but so far it seems like Social Media is nothing more than just another media, another tool in the marketer’s arsenal. It’s like saying everyone should do email marketing, everyone should do podcasts, print ads and TV spots.

Choosing the right social media strategy

While some may say that since your employees are already using social media (facebook pages, tweeter accounts, linkedin posts, etc.) you should also jump on the bandwagon , I say there are several reasons for companies to be reluctant to embrace it wholeheartedly. The same questions you would ask before using any marketing tool available you should also ask of the Social Media tools. What is it for? Who is our target? What is our goal? What are our objectives? What resources will it require? Will we do it ourselves or will we outsource to someone with more experience?  Do we need to create rules or procedures for using it? How will we measure success?

At the company I work for we recently had an informal discussion about Facebook and Twitter, with people raising questions such as “why don’t we have a Tweeter page” or “let’s create a Facebook account and start inviting customers”. That is all nice and good, I said, but let’s first decide on why we are going to do it. Get people to buy our products! Tell them about a new release! And similar comments ensued. Yeah, but HOW do you do that? Just making sure you are Tweeting five times per day is not guarantee for success especially if you have nothing more to say that hasn’t been said already. As with any new tool or concept, it always seems easier said than done. Probably because it’s “free” (yes, you don’t have to pay for it but you do need to invest time), it is immediately implied that if you are not using it you are behind the times  and putting your company at risk.

Let’s put aside the fact that the press and the Internet in general are full of stories about how social media is transforming businesses and think in terms of marketing strategy. Why would you use a tool without first deciding how it will impact your brand, how it will impact your resources and how it will help you achieve your goals? I’m not saying that you shouldn’t use it but I am simply cautioning you to use it as part of your overall strategy. If you want to create a corporate blog that focuses only on your 10 most profitable customers and you have good reasons to do it, then don’t think for a minute that you are doing something wrong. If you need to Tweet about what you had for lunch because somehow this creates affinity with your prospects and will eventually translate into sales, then knock yourself out.  Nothing is purely good or bad

Social Media In Three Easy Steps

Step 1: Learn how to use it

Before judging whether something works and the best way to use it, first attend a course, read a book, talk to people that are using it. There are several free online courses and resources on the web you can use to learn more about it. Only then will you be able to really make a good decision.

Step 2: Learn how to NOT use it

Now that you know what the social media tools are all about and how they are supposed to be used, check out the myriad of examples of companies that are doing it correctly and getting returns and also check out how companies are screwing it up so badly it is becoming a public embarrassment (recent United Airlines fiasco , IBM’s IT failure debacle , and Habitat’s tweet spam come to mind). Learn from others mistakes and then you will be ready to commit your own.

Step 3: Teach and listen

With all that good info you now gathered at hands, bring this knowledge to your company and spread it around. Educate the CEO, the sales manager, your staff and everyone else that you think can help you shape your company’s strategy towards social media. Then listen to what they have to say, you may be surprised. And don’t forget to give them the option of doing nothing. Whatever works for your business is what you should do.

How did YOU approach social media at your company? Please share!


If you’re gonna copy, make it right

February 15, 2009

An interesting blog post by Jason Cohen at OnStartups.com  discussed why you shouldn’t copy other companies just because they were successful at what they do. He uses examples like 37Signals, Copyblogger, FogCreek Software, Zappos, and make a good case for trying to think for yourself instead of just following what others are saying.

His controversial post caused quite a stir whith some people taking it personal, others agreeing with him and even others that were lost completely as to what the message he was trying to say was. Why do I care? Well, for one I’m interested in controversy and believe that dissident voices can often give us great insight into what we thought was a certainty. How often have you presented an idea to your team or to the company’s senior management only to get asked questions you never yourself considered before? My second reason for liking that post is that I agree with what Jason said.

Let me explain. Although I admire Joel Spolsky and think he’s right on the mark 99% of times, I wouldn’t simply copy his business model or his ideas and try to use them in my own company. The simple fact that it worked for him doesn’t prove that it will work for everyone. Another person I admire is Jack Welsh (former CEO of GE) but I also wouldn’t be as ruthless as he was during his tenure simply because that is not my style. Can you be as successful as someone else without using the same methods? The myriad of companies out there that are successful and yet operate completely different (Southwest and JetBlue, Yahoo and Google, GM and Toyota, etc.) are the proof.

Did Jason take some stuff out of context? Maybe. But the overall idea was interesting and valid, especially for us mere mortals that look in awe at others that have been more successful (however you define the term) and have to be brought back down to earth and go back to work.

The lesson here translated into the marketing realm is that you should always keep an eye out for the competition, for your partners, for other similar companies, for what is said to be working and why. What is the best ad campaign you’ve seen recently? Which is the best website? Who in your industry is the king of PPC and SEO? This is all good food for thought but beware of simply copying what others are doing. You competitor may have a very good reason why he decided to create a blog on his website and why he spent thousands on that slick direct mail piece but it doesn’t mean you should follow suit. Watch, learn, absorb all the good and bad then translate it into your own context. 

Effectiveness doesn’t come from copying, it comes from making it right for your organization. Do what works for you, not what have worked for others.


Effective Marketer Principle 6: Focus on opportunities rather than problems

January 18, 2009

 

Have you ever run a marketing campaign that didn’t present any problems, hiccups, or unforeseen obstacles? Unless you are extremely lucky (or have been kept out of the loop on what was happening with the campaign) odds are you have had your share of, let’s say, interesting events. How you approach such ‘events’ has a profound impact not only on the outcome of the said campaign but also on how your team and other professionals perceive you.

The whole subject of having a positive attitude, of looking at the glass half full instead of half empty, is a big subject and not what I intend to cover right now. My suggestion if you want to get some interesting tidbits on the impact of having a positive attitude in your life (both professionally and personally) is to read “The Little Gold Book of Yes!”, by Jeffrey Gitomer (see link in my ‘books’ page). But let’s not digress. Peter Drucker talks about the principle of focusing on opportunities rather than problems as another good way of achieving results.

Problem solving, however necessary, does not produce results. It prevents damage. Exploiting opportunities produce results.” So if it happens that you encounter a problem as you execute your plans, instead of simply trying to fix it, think of what king of opportunity it brings. You probably heard of countless stories of how a company faced a crisis situation and was able to turn it around and come out even better than before (remember the Tylenol scandal? Johnson came out victorious after a well planned management of the crisis that could have cost the company dearly). So your job is to spot these opportunities and make the most out of them. Focus on Opportunities

Effective marketers are aware that focusing on opportunities rather than problems will yield better results. Next time you run into a glitch in your marketing plan, think how you can turn it into an advantage.


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