Monday, February 22, 2010

Alphabet Games

By Dave Folkens
Anyone that’s spent any time studying marketing at all has heard of the four P’s: Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. Those simple letters set the foundation for marketing and differentiating products and services of all kinds. However, as we enter 2010, are consumers shifting to a new model that marketers must adopt in order to succeed?

With social media all the rage right now (via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and more) are consumers forever making the shift to a different set of expectations of brands? There are four new points that are making a great impact on the dynamic between corporate brands and consumers.
  • Influence - What type of reach does a brand have and how can it influence purchasing decisions. Think of top brands in social media like Zappos on Twitter or Dell which seeks influence in a variety of social media channels.
  • Interaction - Consumers are now expecting attention from the brands they love in real-time. Not via email in a day or two, not by waiting for a customer service call but actual interaction to get their questions answered or problems addressed. And, if you’re not responding, they’ll let everyone know about it.
  • Identification - Can customers identify with your brand online? Does your online personality feel like it’s something they can personally support? Are you fun or totally stuffy and corporate? Would your brand be the kind of “friend” they’d really want to know?
  • Individuality - While consumers are seeking to identify with your company; they don’t want you to be just like other companies either. Those that carve out an identity that provides some type of value add while doing so in a style that’s unique do well.
So, in the end, will social media and the four I’s replace long-standing marketing tactics and sales approaches that have been established to date? Absolutely not. Online engagement is a great new addition to the arsenal for companies and those that lead them, but social media should not be the singular focus of any organization.

If you run off to chase the latest technology out of fear for being viewed as “behind the times” or “missing the boat” and ignore your core competencies, you may lose customers that have brought you this far and risk tremendous damage to your brand. But you can’t deny the impact that online engagement has either. You need to be looking to add opportunities for consumers to get to know your brand and feel connected as well.

What’s the answer? A well-rounded strategy that is based on fundamentals with social media as a tool to enhance your brand…not replace it.

Dave Folkens is currently the Director of Communications for the Minnesota AIDS Project. He has previous experience with both small and large corporations as well as on the agency side of the PR business. He can be followed via Twitter @dfolkens.
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Monday, February 15, 2010

Should you Market in China?

By Jessica Egyhazi

Have you ever been curious about traveling, marketing, or operating overseas? If so, the January 26 event, Marketing in China – Trends to Adapt and Succeed in Today’s China hosted by Asia Business Consulting was for you! Dr. Lydia Price, Associate Dean at Shanghai’s Chinese European International Business School, enlightened attendees on the real China; a place where you have to wrap your mind around the enormity of “1 Billion” to succeed. One billion consumers. One billion opportunities for growth. And 0ne billion potential roadblocks for expanding US businesses. If you missed this event, or want to delve back into the topics covered, let me fill you in on some of the highlights.

To succeed in China, you need to do three things:
1) See Through Local Eyes.
Companies need to get a grasp on local markets and consumer behavior. Chinese consumers have yet to become brand loyal. While this is an exciting opportunity for companies hoping to capture some of the 11 trillion dollars of Chinese consumer spend (per Euromonitor, 2008), this also means that consumers are still surveying all of their purchasing options; Chinese consumers may buy a Porsche one year and a BMW the next. I discovered that Chinese consumer behavior does not function in the same was as in the US and that research – and trial and error – is needed to build brand loyalty from scratch.

2) Be Realistic.
Identify actual market opportunity. Markets might be much smaller (or larger) than you think. The life stage segments that marketers target in the US do not correspond to those of Chinese consumers. While I expected some differences between the life stages of US and Chinese consumers, I was amazed to see just how much our experience varied. A great suggestion for anyone looking to market in China is to not target products to specific age groups. If you do, your efforts will be obsolete in less than 10 years. Take a look at why this is the case:
Age ------------in US----------------in China
Age 64+ -- Retired -- Experienced Japanese Invasion/ China Civil War
Age 54-63 --Empty Nest --------- China Cultural Revolution
Age 42-53 --Kids in University -----Recovery, Mao to Deng
Age 30-41 --New Families ------ Open Door, SEZ, RuralReform
Age 18-29 --University, New Job ----One Child, Market Economy
Age 0-17 --Youth -------Internet, Consumer Society

3) Be Pragmatic.
The best way to succeed is to form a partnership with China to help them solve problems like rapid urbanization and an aging population. With increased urbanization comes abundant opportunity, but also great problems with infrastructure, resources, and overpopulation. As in the US, an aging population means that those entering the workforce cannot generate the income needed to support those retiring from the workforce. A great piece of advice is to set up your business practices to help the government achieve their goals and they will help you achieve yours.

Dr. Price’s presentation drove home the challenges and opportunities facing US businesses interested in China. More than I could’ve learned from a case study or a 2-week vacation. If you work at a growing company or simply enjoy gaining world perspectives, you would definitely benefit from similar events from the MN AMA or Asia Business Consulting in the future. I’ll be there and I hope to run into you!

Do you have experience with China or thoughts on this topic? Add your opinions and comments to this post now.

Jessica Egyhazi is a marketing and communications consultant and an associate principal with Misaki Marketing Communications.

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Monday, February 8, 2010

Market Research and Healthcare: SIG Event

By Laura Kalies

We use market research to inform product development decisions, gain insights about customer experience and drive initiatives that will impact the bottom line as well as strengthen our brands. Those who conduct market research in health care and medical device fields face additional challenges of a complex regulatory environment.

The MN AMA is hosting an insightful panel on Market Research and Health Care on February 18, 2010. Join Jack Militello, Director, Health Care UST MBA and a panel of industry experts from Boston Scientific, Fairview, Uroplasty, Nina Hale Consulting and User Strategy Group as they discuss the impact of market research on management decisions and share market research tools and business case examples. Join us for an evening of education, networking and appetizers.

What You’ll Learn:
• Effective use of market research tools
• Impact of market research on financial results
• Value add of market research in terms of branding and visibility

Laura Kalies has served on the MN AMA Membership Committee, Coordinated Annual Conference Volunteers and served on the MN AMA SIG for Market Research and Healthcare. Her work experience includes medical association management and business development as well as marketing and leadership consulting

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Monday, February 1, 2010

4 easy ways to localize your search engine marketing efforts

By Arik C. Hanson

Amid the flurry of 2010 trend and prediction posts I noticed last month, one theme emerged loud and clear: Localization.

Typically, this came in the form of hot new location-aware social mobile networks like Foursquare and Gowalla. But interestingly enough, the much larger opportunity for marketers may be on the search side of the equation. At least that’s the message I heard emerge at the MN AMA session on Jan. 19 at GLS led by Nina Hale of Nina Hale Consulting.

What’s a marketer to do? According to Hale, four simple steps can go a long ways:
  • Claim your businesses listing everywhere.
    Consider using a site like the Universal Business Listing, which standardizes your listings in all spots across the Web (and for only $30 a year).
  • Add your company’s physical address to your Web site.
    Might seem simple, but it will affect the way Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines rank your page.
  • Add location qualifiers to your social profiles.
    Make sure to add location and physical address listings to your profiles on sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Social content tends to rank quite high in standard searches (ever Googled yourself? Your social properties often pop up on page one) and you want to make sure that content is localized.
  • Add separate pages for each of your locations to your Web site.
    By adding these separate pages, you’ll increase the chances your company pops up higher on page one for any Google search. Also, make sure to use your location in keywords, page copy and meta code on each page.
Once you’ve covered those basic table stakes, according to Hale, start considering more advanced approaches. If applicable, think about what review sites impact your business. If you work with restaurants, maybe it’s Yelp or UrbanSpoon. If you’re a product marketer, maybe it’s epinions or C/Net Reviews . Whatever the case, make sure you’re officially listed on these sites and that your brand/organization is in the right category.

Or, maybe you want to consider paid search opportunities. Think about placing ads on Google that target only certain geographies (hyper-local advertising). Or, if you’re active on Facebook, consider a highly targeted ad campaign on the social network (you can also easily track and measure success on Facebook using the Insights tool). According to Hale, these pay-per-click campaigns can be very cost-effective.

Hale’s overall point is simple: Make sure you’re taking advantage of simple opportunities—that won’t take much time, mind you—to hyper-localized your search marketing efforts.

Arik C. Hanson, APR, is a savy and seasoned communications professional. He is a Principal at ACH Communications, a digital communications firm focused on serving as strategic thought partners to its clients. He can be found on Facebook or twitter. You can also find Arik blogging regularly at Communications Conversations.

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