Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Marketing Physical Fitness

Physical Fitness for marketing!  What?  Just like working out to keep our bodies toned, cardio up and cholesterol low, it benefits us to flex our marketing muscles to keep our mind sharp.  By keeping up with trends and staying mindful of traditional methods we can stretch our knowledge.  Here are some suggestions to keep you mentally fit.

1. Cross Train: V-A-R-I-E-T-Y!
What I love most about marketing is variety!  It is our job as marketers to provide it.  Step out of your comfort zone and sign up for a class, seminar or web-ex to mix things up and then keep mixing things up. 

Incorporate cross training into teams to prevent “Groupthink” and prevent reaching plateaus.  A good method for this is role playing.

  1. 2. Crunch Creativity: Be a kid again
Do we always have to think outside the box?  What about the box itself?  A box can be a fort, a race car, a robot, a castle or a boat.  It can be a boat sailing the seas with a crew looking for lost treasure – Aye Matey!

Keep a small notebook nearby for ideas or even just to doodle.  Letting your mind take a break and wander helps refresh us to let the creativity flow.

  1. 3. Strength Train: Lift your talent
We all have strengths but how often do we use them?  If you are one who doesn’t get to power lift your talents, there are options to do so, volunteering with the AMA MN Chapter is an excellent way to put your fine tuned skills into motion.

Ask to volunteer at work on projects.  This can work one of two ways.  One, you will have the opportunity to demonstrate your strengths or two, learn new ones. 

Moray Bonneville is a St. Mary’s University alumna.  She graduated with a double major of B.S. of Sales and Marketing and B.S. of Human Resources Management.  Her early marketing experience began at age sixteen as a samples marketer.  She participated on campaigns with MAC Cosmetics, Calvin Klein CK One and Yoplait Breast Cancer for the Cure.  Currently, she works full time as an assistant.  In her spare time she is taking classes to learn to play the guitar.
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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Using Charitable Giving as a Marketing Campaign

Barrie Berquist

Many companies support one or more philanthropic organizations.  By supporting various charities, companies demonstrate a willingness to give back to the community and create good will with their target market.  It’s also a great opportunity to get the company’s name/product/services in front of an audience without paying for advertising.  This is done in a variety of ways.  Grocery stores and restaurants often donate gift cards for silent auctions.  This helps bring the gift card recipient into the store and is likely to lead to additional spending.  Some companies give a designated percentage of sales back to the community. Linder’s Garden Center recently promoted a 3-day sale where a portion of the proceeds were donated to the Susan G. Komen 3-day for the Cure.  Other companies host events to raise money for a charitable organization while driving traffic to their establishment.   The Tae Kwon Do studio near my home hosts a board breaking contest each year to raise money for Autism Speaks.  It doesn’t hurt that many of the participants enjoy the thrill of smashing through a 1-inch thick board for the first time and enroll in classes to experience more.
The company I work for, Acosta Sales and Marketing, supports several charitable organizations but focuses most of their efforts on fundraising for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA).  We hold several events each year with proceeds going to MDA.  Last month, Wellspring Health Center came to our office and provided 10 minute chair massages for a $5 to $10 donation to the MDA.  By donating their services, Wellspring was also able to get numerous leads for potential future clients.  Last week, we had a BBQ event where a $5 donation to the MDA got you all-you-can eat brats, burgers, potato salad, cookies, and lemonade.  All the food products were donated by our clients (which are consumer packaged goods companies) and each donating company was acknowledged with signage.
Even television shows understand the importance of using philanthropy as a marketing campaign.  On the television show “Celebrity Apprentice”, celebrities compete to earn money for the charity of their choice.  Each episode consists of a task, with the winning Project Manager receiving the money that was raised on the task for their charity. 
Charitable giving offers a win-win situation for donating companies and the charitable organizations.   By supporting these companies, and their designated charity, we are helping our communities and in turn, ourselves.
What about you?
  • Which philanthropic organizations does your company support?  Do they align with your company's mission?
  • What kind of fundraising efforts/events does your company offer to raise funds for their designated charity?
  • What types of products/services does your company donate?  Who receives them?
  • How does your company market their philanthropic efforts, or do they?
Barrie Berquist is a Senior Category Development Manager at Acosta Sales and Marketing.  She has been a member of the MN AMA since 2007 and is a member of the MarCom Committee where she serves as the Career Insider Blog Project Manager.  She can be reached at barrieberquist@yahoo.com.  You can follow Barrie on Twitter @BEBERQUIST. 

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

4 Challenges to Improving Email Response (and How to Overcome Them)

Mark Price

Email is so inexpensive (compared to direct mail) that many of my clients are moving toward making it their primary customer communication vehicle.  Yet these clients discover that these emails, while still profitable due to their low cost, do not drive meaningful revenue.  In response, they email and email, trying to make up for poor performance with increased frequency.  But all that does is annoy customers and make them more likely to delete their emails in the future.

Yet, these same companies, in all their email blasting, are missing a fundament strategy that can change their results in a moment – customers love personalization.  Multiple pieces of research have shown that response rates to e-mail increase by up to 50% based on the amount of personalization that can be added to that e-mail.

If this research is true, then the question to ask is: why do marketers not personalize their email?

There are four reasons why smart marketers end up sending generic, “blast” e-mails to their customers – technology, time, data and measurement.

  1. Don't have the right technology:  In many companies, the software that marketers use to send e-mail does not permit personalization without coding and HTML manipulation.  Most email software tools have the capability for personalization; however, those personalization modules are often available as a surcharge, which many marketing organizations have not chosen to take.
  2. No time:  Personalization email requires time and planning, and most digital marketers are significantly lacking in those two areas. It is NOT that they do not know how to plan; it is just a tiny bit slower in order to achieve dramatic short-term and long-term benefits.  Instead, enamored of the speed of digital marketing, management just keeps asking for more and more, faster and faster.  As a result, most digital marketers I know are in danger of spontaneous combustion!
  3. Can't get the data:  In order to personalize communications you must know something about your customers.  It is not that the company lacks the data about customer behavior; it is that the data has not been analyzed and then provided to the marketers in a form that can be used in the e-mail tool.  Without good data, email marketers end up falling back on the same old blast, blast, blast.
  4. No measurement:  As digital marketers sprint to fill ever increasing management requirements in less time with little data, there is rarely enough time to set up measurement strategies at the outset and then follow through, measure the results and incorporate the learning in subsequent marketing efforts. Even the basics like Measuring Marketing With Control Groups and Champion/Challenger approaches fall to the wayside. 

The result of these challenges is an ever-increasing barrage of undifferentiated emails, teaching customers that the company does not care about their needs and leading to lower response rates and higher commoditization.

So what’s a digital marketer to do in the face of such challenges?  Find another profession?

If you are stuck in this situation, then No Excuses Marketing is for you.  No Excuses Marketing is a series of 7 common-sense, low-budget approaches to improving marketing in your organization, now. 

Two in particular apply to digital marketers stuck on the treadmill.  They are:
·      Use partners to add resources
Email software companies frequently have teams that can implement personalized email for you, on a trial basis, to demonstrate the economic argument for adding the personalization module to their software.  Leverage their teams to add additional, experienced resources to show your management just how much you can improve results with personalized email.
·      Work spreadsheets hard to move fast
Rather than conducting a complex analysis to determine which customers should be purchasing what products or services, simple queries can provide you with lists of past customers of those products.  Take those lists and run cross-sell programs.  Make sure your sales and customer service teams are ready and then measure the campaigns compared to the same campaign to a regular, undifferentiated customer list. 

There are many other nuggets in No Excuses Marketing, but these two can get you started making the business case for a planning data-driven approach email personalization.

Mark Price is Managing Partner of M Squared Group, a consulting firm focused on understanding and building customer relationships, and the author of the blog “Cultivating Your Customers,” where he writes about practical approaches to improve customer retention and overall customer value.

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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

How to Deal with Negative Comments

After helping dozens of small businesses take their first step into social media, I have a list of the most common questions and concerns business owners have about this critical venture. Two things almost always happen.

Won’t We Encourage Negative Comments?
If a business hasn’t yet established any social media presence, it’s is common for them to ask: “Isn’t it better not to solicit negative comments?” While nobody wants to solicit negative comments, giving an opportunity for feedback doesn’t mean all you will get are negative comments.

In reality, people are going to talk whether you’re online to find out or not. Social media is a way to connect with others and make a statement about your brand. 

How Do I Handle Negative Comments?
There are lots of things you can do to turn social media into a valuable asset for your business and avoid negative comment disasters.
  1. Plan: Before you jump into social media, plan for negative and positive comments. How will you use positive comments? Will you reward customers who love telling people about you? How will you respond to negative comments?
  2. Moderate: Part to moderate comments and discussions. Will you allow comments to post without approval? If so, how often (be realistic) will you be able to check on your various social media sites?
  3. Monitor: Use as many tools as possible to find out what is being said. Google Alerts, Email, WordPress, NutShell Mail, HootSuite, are some popular tools to be notified right away.
  4. Beat ‘Em To It: Address issues first and head-off potential negative comments. If there’s a known issue with a product, don’t wait for someone else to post about it. Take a pro-active approach.  People appreciate a business willing to “admit and move on."
  5. Accentuate the Positive: Good comments almost always outweigh the number of negative comments. If you have a happy customer who is stopping into your office to tell you about her experience, ask her to post her comments to Facebook. Negative comments will happen, but encouraging positive ones will bring balance.
  6. Beware of Spam: There are plenty of spam posts on social media sites, so be leery of rapid comments by someone who just started following you. If you aren’t sure, take the conversation offline (private message, email, phone call) and approach them to see what you can do to help. If you get no response, it’s likely not a customer with a legitimate concern. Delete spam comments.
  7. Patience: As hard as it is, having patience is key. Don’t post a “knee-jerk” response. I guarantee it won’t be the response you’d prefer later. Think about the comment, and formulate how you want to respond.  
  8. Allies: Allow others in your community to stick up for the brand they love. I’ve seen this happen many times. One unhappy customer actually generates responses from a plethora of other customers who are willing to help remedy the situation, defuse the comments, or completely negate the claims.
  9. Take Action: Explore the negative comment and see if it actually has merit. See if you can find a trend in similar comments. If so, discuss as a business what can be done. In some cases, you need to alert your customer service, IT staff, quality assurance team, or whoever can best look into matters

It’s never easy to hear negative criticism, but some businesses find ways of handling comments graciously and turning them into opportunity. If you have an example of how a negative comment was handled that you really can appreciate, please share it.

Beth Gasser is a Social Media Consultant for Vivid Image helping small businesses reach customers and achieve marketing goals using social media. Beth travels around rural Minnesota teaching and speaking on social media topics.  

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