Don’t forget the marketing basics

marketing basicsIt’s so easy to be mesmerized by all the marketing technology around us and forget about the marketing basics. But whether you’re executing a traditional campaign or a digital one — the marketing basics matter.

My Italian grandma (who provided many marketing tips via this series) spent most of her time in the kitchen. I remember sitting at the table, watching her work her magic and her reaching for a huge jar of oregano. As she pointed the jar at me, she said, “You always need to keep the basics in stock. And no matter how fancy you’re getting, the basics still matter.”

I remember her words when I’m trying to re-create her spaghetti sauce and I remember those same words when working with clients. Because she was right. No matter how fancy we get — we need to keep reaching for the basics.

Sometimes we all get so caught up in what is the hottest, latest, and most buzzed about marketing fad that we lose sight of the cornerstone principles that make advertising and marketing work.

Here are some marketing basics that will always matter:

One ad/tactic – one message: Most people have a tendency to want to shove many marketing messages into a single ad out of fear that they might never get another shot at the audience. Of course we know that if the ad is ineffective – it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts.

Regardless of what marketing tactic you’re using – ask yourself this question: if someone could only remember one thing from this – what would I want them to retain? Now – write to emphasize that one point and nothing more.

You can’t time marketing: Just like the sage advice about investing – you should give up any hope of being able to accurately time your marketing. Very few businesses can predict with even a modicum of certainty when someone is going to become a customer.

Just like dollar cost averaging – you need to be making regular, consistent marketing “deposits” so that whenever the market rises/a prospect is ready to buy – you’re there and top of mind.

You need a plan and a budget: You cannot consistently market your business the way you need to without a plan and a budget. It does not happen by accident or happy coincidence. At best, you’re going to be hit or miss with your efforts. A plan helps you stay on course, even when you’re short-handed or swamped. For too many businesses, marketing is what they do when things get quiet or they lose a client.

Here’s a test that will tell you a great deal about your marketing. When you are crazy busy and couldn’t take another customer that day if you tried – are you still out there marketing? If your answer is no, then you either don’t have a marketing plan or you aren’t following the one you have.

Without a budget, you can’t really have an actual, executable plan. Let’s face it, if you had a million dollars – your marketing plan would look markedly different than a $5,000 one would look.

Your current customers need to be a primary audience: Everyone’s quick to chase after the potential customer and those new dollars. But what most marketers lose sight of is the fact that a good chunk of their new revenue should be coming from existing customers. Marketing plans are typically thin in several areas and the percentage of dollars and effort earmarked for current customers is almost always one of them.

We all know it’s a lot easier to get someone to buy for a second or third (or tenth) time than it is to get them to buy for the first time. And yet, we spend the majority of our time and money chasing after the toughest sale, not the easiest one.

Keep these marketing basics in play and watch your marketing efforts get stronger and deliver better results. My grandma knew what she was talking about!

How effective is your email marketing?

effective is your email marketingEmail is still one of marketing’s greatest tactics but how effective is your email marketing? It’s easy to understand the allure of email marketing.

It’s cost effective (but not free), it’s easy to plan and execute in advance and very few people don’t access their email every single day, so in theory – the audience is engaged with the medium.

So why do so many efforts fall flat? I think we almost take it for granted. We think just firing off an email without thinking through the steps will still be effective. But the reality is, there are many elements that can make or break an email campaign at each stage of the effort.

Is deliverability impacting the effectiveness of your email marketing?

Just because you click send doesn’t mean it actually gets into the recipient’s inbox. Here are some of the critical things to be mindful of as you develop your email.

List Quality: You can absolutely go out and buy a big batch of emails. But the best email list is going to come from actually building your own list by offering something of value that someone is willing to trade their email list for.

CAN SPAM compliance: If you break the rules, your emails will end up going nowhere. You need to be very familiar with the boundaries and requirements of this regulation.

Are opens impacting the effectiveness of your email marketing?

Getting it into their mailbox is the first step, but now you need to get them to actually read it.

Subject line: Like the headline of an ad, your subject line is the most important element of your email. You only have a few seconds to grab the recipient’s attention and entice them to click open.

Time Sent: The e-marketing company Mail Chimp did a study and found that Tuesdays and Wednesdays had the highest open rates throughout the week. They also found that 10-2 pm local time (so you’ll have to find some middle ground if you mail across time zones) worked best.

Are click throughs impacting the effectiveness of your email marketing?

While it’s great to get someone to open the email, what you really want them to do is click on something – to learn more, to buy something or to ask you to contact them.

Relevance: If your list or your content isn’t pretty targeted – your content may be off target. Even the best headline in the world isn’t going to make someone click on a link that is irrelevant to them. You need to know your audience well and write to them about things they will definitely care about.

Design/layout: I don’t care how exciting your offer is – if I can’t find it or can’t understand what I need to do to get to the next step, I can’t move forward. Make sure your email design is clean, easy to read and the calls to action are very clear.

Offer/Call to Action: If the offer isn’t compelling, time sensitive and a great value – it’s not likely you’re going to get a lot of takers. This is one of the most common mistake business owners make – they don’t sweeten the pot enough.

Is revenue (or the lack thereof) impacting the effectiveness of your email marketing?

Ultimately, you are sending out these emails to make money. Short of that, it was a valiant effort but it didn’t achieve the objective.

Landing page content/design: When someone is interested enough to click on a link – you sure want them to land on a page that only heightens their interest. Great photos, testimonials, video demos and very clean design with clear calls to action are what drive sales.

Check out experience: If you actually sell something from your website – you want to avoid cart abandonment at all costs. Make sure the check out experience is simple, fast and doesn’t ask the buyer to duplicate efforts or invest too much time.

If you want effective email marketing  — it has to be a well-orchestrated machine. So take the time to think it though, invest in good tools and test, test test!

Want to dig in a little deeper?  Grab this great (and free) ebook on ways you can better answer the question — “how effective is your email marketing” from the good folks at Copyblogger.

Creative versus strategy

Creative versus strategyCreative versus strategy. For as long as I’ve been in advertising and marketing – there’s been that age-old tug of war.  Should advertising and marketing tools be creative/clever/funny/pretty or should the emphasis be on strategically driving the sales message?

As you can imagine – the real answer is both.  An ad, website, brochure, e-book etc. that is visually interesting and has a compelling message is much more likely to have impact when it comes to trial or purchase of whatever is being sold.

But sooner or later, compromises need to be make due to budget, timeframes, or other considerations.

When it comes to the creative side of the equation, your materials need to be:

Aligned with the visual brand: Carry the look and feel of your brand through everything you do.  Don’t ask your consumers to try to play connect the dots.  You should use creative elements to link each piece back to your brand.

Professionally produced: Yes, I know you can make a brochure in Microsoft Publisher.  That doesn’t mean you should.  I can use a pair of my own scissors to cut my hair too.  But I think we can agree it’s going to look better if I let a pro cut it.

Using graphics/photos that connote quality and that you do this for a living: Unless what you sell retails for $3.99 or less, clip art isn’t going to cut it.  There was a day when it was new enough that people found it cute or quirky.  But today, it just screams cheap.

Attention grabbing:  If your ad look like every other ad in the paper – no one is going to look at it.  Whether it is with words or visuals – you need to pop from the page, whether that’s on the web, newspaper or trade show booth.

Everything should be on purpose: Think through every element of your piece from font selection to size.  If you can’t explain why an element has to be there or be a certain way – it should go.

On the strategic side of the equation, your materials need to be:

One piece, one message:  If there is a universal sin in marketing – it’s that everyone writes too much.  Cut the copy in half.  At least.  You can’t possibly tell the whole story in a single ad or marketing piece.  So focus on one core message and make your point powerfully and succinctly.

One piece won’t cut it: Consumers want multiple pieces, in multiple places so they can browse, download and review over time.  They’re going to be shopping you for a while, so don’t bore them with only one thing to look at.

WITFM:  Your audience wants to know how what you sell is going to make their life easier, better, etc. They need to know you’re credible so unless your brand is a household name, you do need to tell them a little about you. But they want the focus to be on them so think 80/20 and no, you’re not the 80.

Location, location, location:  If I can’t find you, you don’t exist.  And I want to find you in multiple places.  Being found on Google and the other search engines is mandatory today. But you also need to know where else your consumers go to look for you and be there with bells on.  Don’t assume that online is the only game in town.

Most B2C marketers tend to lean too heavily on the pretty (think the Super Bowl ads) and most B2B marketers are a bit like the old Dragnet’s Joe Friday – the facts ma’am, just the facts. (Think most niche B2B magazine ads).  The key is finding the balance between the two because at the end of the day creative versus strategy isn’t an either or.  You need both.

Love advice is not good marketing advice

Love advice is not good marketing adviceAs we celebrated Valentine’s Day this month – there were many a cliché uttered in the name of love. I want you to remember that in most cases, they don’t work as well as marketing maxims. Love advice is not good marketing advice.

In fact, in general I might suggest that you shun cupid’s advice when it comes to marketing your organization. Let me give you a few examples.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder: While this may be true in human interactions, buyers have a very short attention span. When your marketing is sporadic or worse – nonexistent, you can’t expect a prospect to think about you when they’re finally ready to buy.

Trying to reach our consumers, no matter what we sell, is a little like trying to time the market. The truth is – we don’t know when they’re going to be ready to pull the trigger. We do know that when they’re ready – typically they will identify three potential solutions and explore them. That’s why marketing’s job is to keep your product or service top of mind all the time so that when the prospect is actually ready – you’re in the short set of possibilities. Absence doesn’t make it more likely that you’ll get a shot at the sale.

Love is blind: While in human interactions it’s true that appearances don’t trump love…in marketing, love is definitely not blind. How you present yourself has incredible impact on your ability to capture and keep the attention of a customer. When it comes to marketing, this isn’t so much about attractiveness as it is about consistency and being true to your brand.

Adhering to graphic standards that represent and promote your brand is vital to growing demand and brand loyalty. Consistent use of logo and brand colors begins to create a subconscious connection with your prospects and repeat customers. Pretty soon – if you’ve honored your brand’s visual guidelines you can trigger a reaction every time you use the brand’s color palette or logo. Think how we immediately associate a red soda can with Coke or a brown truck with UPS. You can create the same effect.

Opposites attract: We all know couples that seem like they couldn’t possibly have anything in common who are deliriously happy with one another. Shows what we know. But that phrase doesn’t work so well when it comes to customers. The truth is – every business has what we call “sweet spot” customers. Those people who are the perfect fit to what we have to offer. One of the reasons they’re our best fit is because they see the world in the same way we do. They agree with how we approach our industry and the specifics of not only what we do but how we do it.

Many companies go broke trying to be everything to everyone. Instead of embracing their sweet spot customers, they chase after every dollar, no matter how bad the fit may be. The result of that is almost always a very rocky relationship that ends in an ugly crash. And then, that former customer runs around town (or your industry) telling people about their bad experience. You’re far better to

All you need is love: In today’s economic times – I don’t care how much fun you are to work with, if you can’t generate results you won’t get to stick around for too long. One of the marketing mistakes that many organizations make is that they don’t put the spotlight on the results and give them their due.

There you have it. I don’t want to rain on anyone’s Valentine’s Day fueled parade but when it comes to love clichés and marketing – it is definitely not better to have loved and lost. Remember — love advice is not good marketing advice!

Instead, market smart and keep those customers for life!

Use your inside voice – why your employees should be your #1 audience

employees should be your #1 audienceWhen people think about marketing, they typically think about external marketing – marketing tactics aimed at potential customers. But no business can afford to forget to actively and regularly market to its own employees.  In fact, your employees should be your #1 audience.

I’m not sure why business owners and leaders don’t see the importance of targeting their employee base, but it’s often either completely forgotten or it’s one of the smallest line items in the budget.

Why is marketing to your own employees so important? Who usually interacts with your clients?   It’s not you. It’s not the CEO.  It’s the front line employees. Typically, the employees who are paid the least and told the least – interact with your customers the most.

So, to your customers – those employees embody your brand. How confident are you that those employees even know what your brand is, let alone how they should deliver it?

There are some ways you can consistently market your core messages to your internal team.

Mission, Vision, and Values:  95% of companies use these tools incorrectly. They’re either too long, too full of jargon or so full of clichéd words that they are absolutely ineffective. If every employee can’t understand and recite them from memory — they aren’t going to do the job.

Just as a reminder – your mission is what you do best every day. Your vision is what the future looks like because you do what you do best every day. And your values are the guiding principles or beliefs that set the tone and boundaries for the work you do.

Employee handbook/orientation:  What you deem important enough to include in your handbook and your orientation speaks volumes. Don’t just talk about the functional aspects of the job. Talk about their role in the company and how they influence and communicate the brand. Also take the time to tell them how the brand came to be and give them some tangible examples so they can begin to connect in a real way to the ideals of the brand.

Employee recognition and reviews: If it matters enough to you to make it a part of an employee’s review or in the way you reward employees – they’ll understand that it must be pretty important. When you recognize an employee for something specific in front of the entire team – believe me, they take notice.

They should see everything first:  Most employees see their company’s new brochure, TV spot or website the same time the general public first views it. I’ve seen many a retail employee get blindsided by a coupon, special offer or sale that they didn’t know anything about. Make a commitment that you’ll find a way to give your employees first viewing rights to all your marketing materials.  Otherwise, they rightfully feel like an after thought.

Tell them the whole story in real time: Usually employees hear about a great marketing initiative after the fact. They hear about the record sales or huge product demand once the consumer has reacted.  Instead – unfold the story as it is happening. Tell your employees about the research and development discoveries. Show them the early comps of the packaging.  Depending on what you sell – let them be beta testers. You get the idea – bring them along on the journey so they’re better equipped to talk to your customers about the new offering.

Not keeping your employees in the loop is a little like buying an ad in the local paper or trade publication – and then not filling the space with anything. Your employees are going to interact with your best customers and most promising prospects. Do you want them to be full of accurate information or a blank slate?

It’s your call.

 

 

JWt’s trend report for 2015

This is always my favorite (and I believe most insightful) trend report that comes out around this time every year.

In JWT’s ninth annual forecast of trends for the near future, they explore how consumers are both welcoming and resisting technology’s growing omnipresence in our lives. For many, technology serves as a gateway to opportunity and an enabler of hyper-efficient lifestyles, but those who are most immersed are starting to question its effect on their lives and their privacy. One result is that more people are trying to find a balance and lead more mindful, in-the-moment lives.

Here’s their 2 minute snapshot of the findings.

 

If we want to drill down a little deeper — According to the JWT site, the 10 trends they identify and explore are:

1. IMMERSIVE EXPERIENCES: Entertainment, narratives and brand experiences will become more immersive and altogether more enveloping in a bid to capture consumers’ imagination and attention.

2. DO YOU SPEAK VISUAL?: We’re shifting to a visual vocabulary that relies on photos, emojis, video snippets and other imagery, largely supplanting the need for text. “Visual” is a new lingo that needs to be mastered.

3. THE AGE OF IMPATIENCE: With the mainstreaming of the on-demand economy and our always-on culture, consumer expectations for speed and ease are rising exponentially. As businesses respond in kind, making the availability of their products and services more instant, impatience and impulsiveness will only continue to increase.

4. MOBILE AS A GATEWAY TO OPPORTUNITY: In emerging markets, the mobile device is coming to represent a gateway to opportunity—helping people change their lives by giving them access to financial systems, new business tools, better health care, education and more.

5. TELEPATHIC TECHNOLOGY: Thanks to the rise of brain-computer interfaces and emotion recognition technology, brands are getting more adept at understanding consumers’ minds and moods, and reacting accordingly in a very personalized way.

6. THE END OF ANONYMITY: Thanks to an array of new technologies and a growing drive to collect personal data, it’s becoming nearly impossible to remain unobserved and untracked by corporations and governments. As anonymity becomes more elusive, expect pushback from consumers and a growing paranoia around technologies and services that affect privacy.

7. RAGING AGAINST THE MACHINE: As we move further into the digital age, we’re starting to both fear and resent technology, fretting about what’s been lost in our embrace of unprecedented change. We’ll put a higher value on all things that feel essentially human and seriously question (while not entirely resisting) technology’s siren call.

8. REMIXING TRADITION: With social norms quickly changing and a new anything-goes attitude, people are mashing up cherished traditions with decidedly new ideas, creating their own recipes for what feels right.

9. PROUDLY IMPERFECT: Imperfection and even outright ugliness—the quirky, the messy and the clearly flawed—are taking on new appeal in a world that’s become all too polished or mass-produced. The imperfect is coming to feel more authentic, and also more comforting and meaningful.

10. MINDFUL LIVING: Consumers are developing a quasi-Zen desire to experience everything in a more present, conscious way. Once the domain of the spiritual set, mindful living is filtering into the mainstream, with more people drawn to the idea of shutting out distractions and focusing on the moment. 

The report is over 100 pages of examples, marketing insights and suggestions on how we will see these trends come to life over the next year.  Whether you’re in marketing or just love to study cultures and people — you’ll find it a fascinating read.

This report is the result of quantitative, qualitative and desk research conducted by JWTIntelligence throughout the year. The report includes input from nearly 70 JWT planners and researchers across more than two dozen markets, and interviews with experts and influencers across sectors including technology, health and wellness, media and academia.

You can purchase the report here.