In marketing the constant is change

ChangeSwitchYou know, the annoying thing about clichés is that they’re based in truth, even though that truth may be a bit worn in places. And lately I’ve been very aware of the idiom “the only constant is change” as it relates to business and especially to marketing.

Maybe it’s always been this way and our parents and grandparents had to wrestle with constant change too, but it seems to me that the acceleration curve has gotten incredibly steep over the last 15 or 20 years.

For example, when I started my career, computers were certainly a part of the mix but we never showed a client a computer-generated layout. We’d take mock ups that were drawn in pencil and very rough. Today, we upload PDFs to our extranet and they look practically finished before we’ve even begun.

I get it…I’m the first one to espouse the convenience of our new way of doing business. I love that we can work with clients (and partners) from all over the world – digitally sharing files, ideas and collaborating.

So while I long for the showmanship of the old days, I do appreciate what we have today. But sometimes it also makes me a little tired to think about.

Here’s our reality as business people. It’s never done. No matter how successful your business is – it’s in transition. Every day.

There’s a new technology or a new consumer trend right around every corner. And to stay relevant and profitable, there’s no hiding from them.

Today and tomorrow, I am leading a marketing workshop and one of the things we’ll talk about is mobile and how quickly it became a key element in any marketing strategy. I know what I’ll see. While some of them were anticipating this tsunami of a trend, others were either not ready for it or aren’t looking forward to facing it.

So how do we keep up? How do we stay current and able to anticipate what the next change is going to be so we can get a running start?

Read. Do you know that most business leaders don’t read anything more than their local newspaper? Are you kidding me? Turn off the TV and read a book a month. Find the top ten blogs in your field and subscribe to them. Find the most controversial, far out there publication or blog in your industry an subscribe to that too. It’s better to anticipate too much than get blinded by something.

Attend. Trade show and professional development attendance has been dropping since the recession took a big bite out of everyone’s travel budgets. It’s time to put some money back on that line item. You need to go and listen to experts. You need to hang out with peers and share stories and resources.

Teach. One of the best ways to learn is to commit to teach others. Make sure your entire staff is ready for what’s coming. More important, teach them how to recognize the trends and track them, so you don’t have to be the only one doing it. If you know you have to conduct a class, even if it’s an informal one, you’re much more likely to keep sharp.

There are lots of ways to stay current but it all starts with the attitude of recognizing that it’s a part of your job and it’s one of the ways you keep your company relevant and profitable.

In our world…you either keep up or you quickly become irrelevant.  Don’t be the marketing pro who is still spouting off about the latest and greatest — from 5 years ago.  Find a way to stay current and keep your clients/business there too.

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How does your paper resume stack up to this?

The world has changed.  Things are different.  This is the new normal.  This ain’t your grandaddy’s marketing.

We can say it a million ways but some folks just aren’t going to get it.  Or at least not yet.

With the tools out there, the connections that can be made and the audience’s diminishing tolerance for being shouted at — there are many things we need to do differently.  Including finding a job.

Check out this slideshare (PPT) presentation that Lorenzo Galbiati sent me as he embarks on a job hunt.  (Email him here if you want to chat about career possibilities)


Imagine you need to hire someone.  You get a standard paper resume and this PPT.  You can only interview one candidate — who would you choose?

We need to re-think everything and there are plenty of sacred cows that need to be done away with.  If someone ever says to you — this is how it has to be done or this is the standard — ask more questions, think beyond the “usual” and remember that the world has changed.

The last thing you want to demonstrate is that you haven’t been keeping up.

 

Can’t see the PPT?  Click here to view over at www.slideshare.net

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What do consumers want from brands?

PromisesThat’s the age-old question, isn’t it?

When you think about everything we’ve experienced in the last decade and a half – from the Y2K scare to 9/11, Iraq and then the recession – no wonder that a certain level of insecurity about the future has become a permanent part of our psyche as we ease into 2013.

What today’s consumers want most today is security and contentment. No doubt these wants are being shared by people’s economic outlook and circumstance, which most categorized as uneasy.

Interestingly, here are some other key needs that our consumers expect brands to help them fulfill. If you can help make one or more of these needs a reality – you will earn their business and their loyalty.

Security: Food, shelter, keep my house, increase my savings, bolster my retirement plan, a corporate job, being part of a movement but not a sole anarchist

Control: Frugality, effective money management, black and white answers that come from scientific pursuits, own business/entrepreneurship, self reliance (especially younger Millennials)

Consistency: Stable employment, stay at college, complete college

Proving self-worth: Value through charity work, striving to get promoted, finding a way to leave a legacy (Baby Boomers), training/learning something new rather than leisure time, constant resume buffering (especially Millennials), aggressive pursuit of success (older Millennial males in the US)

Honoring my needs first: Protecting my health, making healthier friendship and relationship choices, spending more time with people who have my genuine interests at heart, valuing private information more (Millennials)

Respect for others (but only if they show respect for me first): Rejection of greed and self-serving society as demonstrated by governments and corporations, helping others through volunteer pursuits

Liberty: Personal independence, time for me (Baby Boomers), take control of my investments (Baby Boomers), not oppressed/restricted by others schedules or technology

Progress: Pursuit of scientific invention and learning, further education, choice of foundations, supportive of organizations who take society forward in some way

Both Millennials and Baby Boomers believe leadership brands that are sincere and transparent have the ability to encourage them to bring out the best of themselves and progress society. In the absence of strong government and other institutional leaders, people anticipate, and may even demand, that brands step in and play the role of cultural reformers.

Here’s my take on this. Our marketplace is asking us to be much more than a seller of stuff. They’re expecting us to step up and inspire our internal team and our customers to work together to take charge of the problems facing our world. Think of it as corporate social responsibility – but on steroids. It’s not enough to write a check anymore – we have to also be willing to give our ideas, our passion and our sweat equity.

Think about how this might change the way you communicate about your company and the work you do. Think about how you could build a community of raving fans who don’t just talk about what you sell but more important – talk about what you believe.

Interesting times ahead.

 

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JWT Intelligence — Trends for 2013

The end of the year = predictions for the upcoming year.  All of them are interesting but the one I really put stock in is JWT‘s annual trends report.  They invest a huge amount of time and money to explore and investigate our culture and I’m always impressed by the line-up of experts they reach out to, before they release their report.

Check out their trends for 2013 in this 2 minute video and then you can read a little from JWT’s Director of Trendspotting, Ann Mack as she answers a few of my questions about the trends and how they impact you.



The ten trends for 2013 are: (buy the complete 177 page report here)

  1. Play As a Competitive Advantage
  2. The Super Stress Era
  3. Intelligent Objects
  4. Predictive Personalization
  5. The Mobile Fingerprint
  6. Sensory Explosion
  7. Everything Is Retail
  8. Peer Power
  9. Going Private in Public
  10. Health & Happiness: Hand in Hand

I had a chance to ask Ann Mack (JWT’s Director of Trendspotting) a few questions.  Here’s what she had to say:

What trend surprises you the most?

It’s hard to pick, as I’m so close to these trends and find all of them interesting and significant in their own ways. However …

One trend I find really interesting is what we call Going Private in Public. In an era when living publicly is becoming the default, people are coming up with creative ways to carve out private spaces in their lives. Rather than rejecting today’s ubiquitous social media and sharing tools outright, we’re reaping all the benefits of maintaining a vibrant digital identity while gradually defining and managing a new notion of privacy for the 21st century.

Consumers are quickly coming to realize that ultimate control of their online privacy is out of their hands—even for those who diligently tweak the privacy settings on their profiles. With a few lines of code, Web titans can destroy carefully walled gardens, turning the task of maintaining the desired degree of privacy into an onerous chore. While Facebook users have periodically taken to posting privacy or copyright notices under the mistaken impression that these declarations will protect them, users remain subject to the social network’s terms of service.

It’s not just the Web powers-that-be that can toy with a person’s public persona, however—it’s also tag-happy, share-happy friends who don’t realize that just because something is public information or done in public doesn’t mean people want it publicized.
So the social-media savvy are finding ways to put some privacy back into their public lives, pruning friends lists, hosting photo-free “dark rooms” at parties to deter social media–sharing and creating Facebook pseudonyms to avoid the prying eyes of employers and others.

This is a compelling opportunity for brands, as they can amplify these existing behaviors. Argentina’s Norte Beer, for instance, found a clever way to ensure that “What happens in the club stays in the club” with an amusing innovation: a beer cooler that keeps drinkers safe from paparazzi-in-training. Distributed to various bars around Argentina, the Photoblocker emits a bright light when it detects the flash from a photo, making any images unusable. Nearby drinkers can safely party without fear of wide exposure.

If you were advising a business owner — which trend would you call to their attention first?

One trend we look at for 2013 which is important for business owners to consider is the rise of Peer Power. As the peer-to-peer marketplace expands in size and scope—moving beyond goods to a wide range of services—it will increasingly upend major industries, from hospitality and education to tourism and transportation. This is a culmination of a number of developments we’ve spotlighted in our Things to Watch over the years—from Couchsurfing in 2008 to Crowdfunding in 2009 to Micro businesses like Airbnb in 2011 to Crowdsourced Learning and P2P Experiences in 2012.

As P2P companies begin to disrupt major industries, many established players will turn to existing laws and regulations to limit their growth. But there are alternative (or parallel) paths that big brands can take that are less knee-jerk and more forward-thinking. For one, they can use the emergence of this new competitive set as an opportunity to rethink how they operate or position their B2C businesses in this growing P2P economy. And they can examine what kinds of new behaviors and expectations the P2P model is creating among consumers and start delivering against those.

Rather than fear or fight the encroachment of this new competition, established brands can embrace this development through a variety of means. Perhaps the easiest is to partner with peer-powered businesses in the same or related categories. BMW, for instance, took a minority stake in ParkatmyHouse through its i Ventures venture capital arm, which aims to extend the company’s range of products and services over the long term by investing in innovative mobile service providers.

Taking it one step further, brands can add a P2P element to their business or launch a business line that addresses a newly created demand or challenge to their industry. For instance, high-profile universities including Stanford and Princeton are participating in MOOCS (massive open online courses), via new ventures like Coursera, rather than fight the tide of free or low-cost online courses, many taught by amateurs.

In partnering with these upstarts or launching their own version of a P2P service, established brands can infuse freshness or modernity into their persona, broaden their appeal and/or get an existing consumer segment to look at them in an interesting new light. Initiatives such as this also provide the opportunity to learn more about the audience, inner workings, and strengths and weaknesses of P2P enterprises.

Looking at the trend list as a whole — what do you think it says about the last few years?

New technology continues to take center stage, as we see major shifts tied to warp-speed developments in mobile, social and data technologies.Many of our trends reflect how businesses are driving, leveraging or counteracting technology’s omnipresence in our lives, and how consumers are responding to its pull.


Looking back, which of the 2012 trends do you think fell flat or didn’t really come to fruition the way you expected a year ago?

Any trends with real significance can’t be assigned to just one calendar year. The trends we explore on an annual basis have significant weight and momentum, and indicate shifts that are likely to be with us for a while. That is why we track our trends from past forecasts on an ongoing basis. As for our 2012 trends, we continue to see them play out in new and numerous ways.

“Celebrating Aging” is one of those trends. Last year, we observed: “Popular perceptions of aging are changing, with people of all ages taking a more positive view of growing older. As demographic and cultural changes, along with medical advances, help to shift attitudes, we’ll redefine when ‘old age’ occurs and what the term means.”

This year we saw that development reflected in product development, marketing and entertainment. Earlier this year, for instance, MAC cosmetics launched a collaboration with 91-year-old style standout Iris Apfel. The collection is inspired by colors favored by Apfel, a longtime interior and textile designer who’s come into the spotlight in her twilight years. We also saw the critically acclaimed movie, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel—described by Time as “a charming celebration of aging”—become a surprise box-office hit. The film by director John Madden follows a group of British retirees moving to India to live in an old hotel and features acting heavyweights Maggie Smith and Judi Dench, both of whom turn 78 this year.

Another trend from our 2012 forecast, “Objectifying Objects,” continues to gain momentum. As objects get replaced by digital/virtual counterparts, we’re seeing more people fetishize the physical and tactile. This is giving rise to “motivational objects,” or items that accompany digital property to increase perceived value, and digital tools that enable creation of physical things.

This past year, for instance, we noted an increase in a range of new services that allow people to get to grips—literally—with their social media output, turning it into real-world items. MOO Inc. offers business cards created from Facebook users’ Timeline images and data, using the same fonts and layout; it includes the person’s Facebook URL. The Twitter Poster re-creates the customer’s profile picture using his or her tweets. And Stitchtagram is a service that crafts handmade pillows using fabric printed with the customer’s Instagram shots.

 

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Email open and click rates – are they rising?

(download full-sized infographic made by B2BMarketing.net)

Interestingly, the answer is yes.  And no.  According to a recent study done by Experian Cheetahmail (download the white paper) shows that open rates are up but click rates are down a little bit in the 2nd quarter of 2012. (As you can see by the infographic above, different studies reveal slightly different numbers but the interesting and important thing to notice is that they’re pretty darned close.)

According to the study, the total open rate for Q2 2012 was 21.9%, an improvement from the previous year, which was at 21.6%. Similarly, Q2 2012’s unique open rate of 15.2% was up from a year earlier (14.8%), but down from the previous quarter’s 15.5%.

A June report from Epsilon found the benchmark email open rate for Q1 to be 26.2%, up on quarter-over-quarter and year-over-year bases.

Most of the other metrics tracked by Experian Marketing Services saw year-over-year declines in Q2, yet many saw less pronounced decreases when measured on a quarter-over-quarter basis.

For example, Q2 2012’s click-to-open rate of 15.4% was a significant drop from 18.2% a year earlier, but represented a smaller decline when compared to Q1’s 16.3% rate. Q2’s unique click rate of 2.5% was down from 2.7% in Q1 and 2.8% in Q2 2011.

Other Interesting Findings:

  • The overall transaction rate dropped slightly from the previous quarter and previous year.
  • The average revenue per email in Q2 was $0.12.
  • Average order declined to $156.37 from $159.93 in Q1 and $160.27 in Q2 2011.
  • The bounce rate dropped to 2.6%.
  • The unsubscribe rate also fell, to 0.15% in Q2. The Q1 rate was 0.16%, while the Q2 2011 rate was 0.2%.
  • 55% of brands had statistically significant year-over-year increases in open rates.

Going back to the infographic — look at how the research tells us we can improve our own open and click thru rates:

  • A better subject line will increase opens by 40%
  • Personalizing the email will increase opens by 32%
  • If the subject matter is on target, you can increase opens by a whopping 55%
  • Sending your email from 10 am – 1 pm in the middle of the week (Tuesday is the #1 day) also will increase your odds of having that email opened

If you want to learn even more about smart email marketing, check out the brand new book by Jason Falls and DJ Waldow called The Rebel’s Guide to Email Marketing*

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*Affiliate link

Are you making one of these 7 content marketing mistakes?

It seems like everyone is talking content marketing these days, like it’s it hottest thing since sliced bread.

Of course, for many businesses — this is just a new name for something they’ve been practicing for eons.  They’ve been creating valuable newsletters or writing white papers for years.

Which does not mean that you’re doing it as well as you could or should be.  Are you happy with the amount of people and the kinds of people your content marketing efforts are attracting?

Bigger question — how purposefully are you weaving a content marketing strategy into your overall efforts?

I’m betting your company is not harnessing the real power of content marketing because of one or more of these reasons:

  1. It’s something that happens every once in awhile but not on a regular basis.
  2. You create some content but don’t promote it well across all of your digital and analog channels.
  3. You create content but you talk about yourself, your products etc. more than you should (you are selling, not teaching).
  4. You produce some content but not in a format that is easily shared by your audience.
  5. You do it in a silo, it’s not woven into all your other marketing efforts.
  6. You don’t use an editorial calendar so your production schedule and topics are usually by the seat of your pants.
  7. The visual presentation of your content is boring or worse — off-putting.

Recognize yourself in any of those issues?  This isn’t all new stuff.  MMG has been around for almost 20 years and we’ve always preached the power of content marketing –even before we had a name for it.

But thanks to our universal access to the internet and our ability to easily share files, visuals, etc. — this marketing best practice has taken on a life of it’s own.

If you’re not doing more of this than ever before — I think you need to ask yourself why.  And what it is costing you.

How are you implementing a content marketing strategy for your business?

 

 

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