Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Looking Ahead - Keep Your Clients and Prospects in Touch with Tomorrow

 If you have been reading my blog for awhile, you know that one of my strongest beliefs is that an agency should be more than just a "creater of ads".  They must help their clients build a bridge between their customers and their brand in all communication areas. 

Clients can be overwhelmed by the pace of change and the impact of new communications technologies.  Smart agencies can help to fill that role, and build client loyalty in the process.

One way to do that is to follow companies that look at future trends, like,  an "independent and opinionated (their description) trend firm, scanning the globe for the most promising consumer trends, insights and related hands-on business ideas."

Their monthly Trend Briefings are always fun and thought-provoking, and, from my experience, are usually on the leading edge of consumer behavior trends.Their most recent briefing report was a compilation of trends they have been observing over the past year. Here is a quick summary of what they feel are 12 trends that marketers should be watching closely.

1. Get ready for all-things China.
In addition to dominating manufacturing, Chinese tourists will reach 100 million by 2020. In 2012, department stores, airlines, hotels, theme parks, and museums will roll out the red carpet showering Chinese visitors and customers with tailored services and perks.

2. Consumers get personal about health with DIY monitoring and diagnosis.
During the coming year, expect to see consumers take advantage of new technologies and apps to discreetly and continuously track, manage and be alerted to, any changes in their personal health. New apps are being introduced almost daily designed to help you avoid a trip to the doctor, which may or may not be all that good. But it’s happening.

3. What's the deal?
In 2012, not only will consumers continue to hunt for deals and discounts, but they will do so with increased fervor and pride. Deals are now about more than just saving money: it’s the thrill, the pursuit, the control, and the perceived smartness, and thus a potential source of status that will drive sales in the coming year.

4. Recycling becomes a viable marketing tool.
In times of recession, economic interests have generally tended to overshadow eco-causes, but the quest for a more sustainable lifestyle will remain a pressing issue for years to come. One ‘green’ trend to watch in 2012 are brands helping consumers recycle by taking back all old items from customers, and then actually doing something constructive with them.

A great example is Nike’s trailblazing Reuse-A-Shoe program. Nike has collected and recycled over 25 million pairs of worn-out Nike shoes to-date. Old shoes are sliced, separated and ground up into a material called Nike Grind, which is then used in creating athletic and playground surfaces, as well as a variety of Nike products. Look for other brands to join this trend in 2012.

5. A cash-less society gets closer to reality.
We will continue our march toward a cashless future, as major players such as MasterCard and Google build a whole new eco-system of payments, rewards and offers around new mobile technologies. For consumers, the initial lure will be convenience, but eventually mobile payments will create an entirely new data-driven eco-system of rewards, purchase history, deals, etc.

6. Lower-income urbanites become a new marketing target.
Marketers are finally discovering the global opportunities for brands which cater to the hundreds of millions of lower-income consumers, a heretofore ignored target group. In 2012, expect more lower income consumers to demand innovation tailored to their unique circumstances, from health issues to lack of space to the need for durability.

7. Crowdsourcing will expand as a marketing and communications tool.
In 2012, count on the crowdsourcing trend to continue to shake up business processes and spawn  innovations in new areas. After all, being given a chance to contribute, or to be a part of something bigger than themselves, has always been popular with people.  Expect to see more initiatives in 2012 that make it simple (if not effortless) to contribute to anything, from pinpointing roads in need of repairs to finding signs of extraterrestrial life.

8. Brand transparency, and humanity, will be consumer favorites.
While 2011 saw new levels of consumer disdain at too many business' self-serving actions, stories of businesses doing good (think Patagonia and Ben & Jerry's) remind consumers that personality and profit can be compatible. In fact, in 2012 consumers won't expect brands to be flawless; they will even embrace brands that are are honest about their flaws (think Dominos), and support brands that show some empathy, generosity, humility, flexibility, maturity, humor and dare we say it, some character and humanity.

9. Touchscreen technology becomes “high touch”.
Thanks to the continued explosion of touchscreen smartphones, tablets, and the cloud, 2012 will see new touchscreen technology that is not only more pervasive, but more personal, more immersive and more interactive than ever. In 2012, we see touchscreens as an interface to a world where consumers will care more about the screen and what’s being accessed through it, than the brand.

10. 'Trading in' is the new black in 2012.
It’s never been easier for savvy consumers to resell or trade in past purchases, and unlock the value in their current possessions. In 2012, ‘trading in’ will continue to become an alternative to buying. Consumers have always resold large, durable goods like cars and houses; but in 2012, almost anything is ripe for resale, from electronics to clothes, and even experiences.

11. Risque becomes less risky and more accepted around the globe.
While cultural differences will continue to shape consumer desires, middle-class and/or younger consumers in almost every market will embrace brands that push the boundaries. Expect frank, risqué or non-corporate products, services and campaigns from emerging markets to be on the rise in 2012. Consumers in mature consumer societies have generally been more willing to handle much more honest conversations, more daring innovations, more quirky flavors, more risqué experiences, but in 2012, consumers in emerging markets will increasingly appreciate brands that push the boundaries.”

12. Consumers will demand instant visual information gratification.
The need and expectation for instant information and instant access to everything one wants to know is already deeply ingrained in the today’s consumer. 2012 will see a mix of apps and QR codes bringing information about objects that consumers encounter in the real world instantly. And like some other trends, it’s the rise of the smartphone that will fuel this full-blown access to everything.

As the authors of the latest Trendwatching briefing point out, "We’re not saying there are only 12 consumer trends to track in 2012; there are dozens of important consumer trends worth knowing about and applying at any given time of the year. We merely bring you a selection to get going."

I hope this recap gives you ideas on how to approach your clients and prospects.  Today's information overload and digital technology makes it imperative for someone to take the lead in understanding what changes marketers should be exploring today to be ready for tomorrow.

Is your agency ready to provide that kind of support?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Creator vs. Curator - Is this the future of the agency business?

I just read that Tim Williams has hooked up with 4-A's to offer a webinar entitled "Co-Creation and the Future of Agencies: Your Agency’s New Role as “Curator,” Not Just Creator"

When I first saw the headline, my first reaction was to scream "NO".  We've been touting the advantages of the agency as an outside creative resource vs. in-house agency for years.   And generally proving that creative talent with independent insight on consumer attitudes and behaviors produces a better product.  But the key to that independent insight is being immersed in the company -- its brand heritage, its aspirations, its competitive environment, etc.

To say that we should give up that position and embrace a role as a crowdsourcing "curator" just doesn't seem right.

I've been saying for years that agencies must rethink and re-define their role with clients to succeed, but my focus has been on broadening the agency role as a resource to guide the client through the maze of multi-channel marketing options available (and too often confusing) to clients.

This webinar will focus on a different aspect of being a resource for clients, based on increasing incidence of marketers going around agencies to work directly with the media, production companies, and even directly to creative talent via crowdsourcing. Apparently, Tim will argue that by embracing the ability of the World Wide Web to solicit and deliver creative ideas from across the globe, agencies can stop defending their position as the exclusive creators of content and also adopt a role as curators.

According to the registration materials, "an agency curating the best content on behalf of its clients is like a museum curating the best art on behalf of its patrons.  Several new unconventional agencies have built their entire business model around the concept of “expert sourcing” in an attempt to redefine the way “creative” gets done in the 21st century. We’ll show how agencies can create more value for their clients by exploring and embracing the many different forms of co-creation available to agencies today.  "

I'm all for providing the best content on behalf of our clients.  But, I'm sorry, I just can't wrap my arms around actively positioning the agency as a curator vs. a creator.  One of the best lessons I learned in agency management was to think about "unintended consequences" to my decisions.  If we embrace redefinition as simply a go-between coordinator, then how easy will it be for clients to say I can do that much cheaper in-house.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Can you hear me now? Highlights from the 2011 Mobile Consumer Report

If you company or clients have been slow about exploring mobile marketing, it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee.

According to a new report from Experian Simmons, almost 1 in 3 cell phone owners today believe that their cell phone will be their primary entertainment device in the future. But more importantly for marketers, this new study says that 30% of adult iPhone owners now say they want to use their phones to pay for purchases in stores compared with just 12% of non-iPhone owners.  That means a customer could walk into a store, research a product, but then buy from Amazon or another source on the spot.

Interestingly, those same would-be mobile payers appear to be very receptive to mobile ads.  23% of cell owners interested in making purchases with their phone also say they are “interested in receiving advertisements on my cell phone,” versus just 5% of all cell phone owners who say the same. Furthermore, 52% of cell owners interested in making purchases with their phone are also “willing to accept advertisements sent to my cell phone if I were to receive something of value in exchange,” versus just 12 percent of all cell phone owners who say the same.

The growth in these behaviors and attitudes cannot be ignored.  Here are some other noteworthy findings and conclusions from the Experian Simmons study:

227 million Americans own a cell phone: Over 9-in-10 adults, 7-in-10 teens and 1-in-5 kids
Cell phone ownership among American adults stands at 91%, up from 72% in 2006. The vast majority of teens, too, have joined the mobile revolution, with 74% of those ages 12 to 17 porting a portable phone, up from 59% in 2006. Even tots are getting into the act - 22% of kids ages 6 to 11 own a cell phone today.

The Experian Simmons study identifies five distinct segments of mobile consumers.
  • Mobirati (20% of users): Representing the mobile generation, they have grown up with cell phones and cannot imagine life without them. Cell phone devices are a central part of their everyday lives.
  •  Social Connectors (22% of users): Communication is central in their lives, and cell phones allow them to keep up-to-date with friends and social events. Their phone is the bridge to their social world.
  • Mobile Professionals (18% of users): Smartphones help them keep up with their professional and personal life. Their phone has become their all-in-one device for communication and information needs.
  • Pragmatic Adopters (20% of users): Cell phones came to being during their adult years. They are now learning that there are other things they can do with mobile phones beyond just saying “Hello.”
  • Basic Planners (21% of users): They are not into cell phones or the world of technology. Use of cell phones is just for the basics. The cell phone is just another communication device for these consumers.
While pictures are still the number one activity, web surfing and video are the fastest growing uses.
It’s not surprising that using a cell phone to snap photos is a routine, everyday occurrence (73% of cell phone owners say they have snapped a pic in the last 30 days).  The more important statistic for marketers is that web surfing is also becoming commonplace among smartphone owners.  56% of users now access the Internet with their phone at least once a month. That a 41% increase since 2008.  What’s the next big thing? Video: 18% of all cell phone owners now watch video either streamed or uploaded to their phone, up from just 10% in 2008.

Mobile phones are quickly becoming an indispensable shopping tool.
According to the latest data, at least 33.3 million Americans now use their cell phones for shopping-related activities. The most common mobile shopping activity is researching products and comparing prices, which 15% of mobile phone owners now do every month. The most common items consumers want to buy via their cell phones are: Tickets to movies/events; Travel services and Games/Toys.

There are many other findings on m-commerce in the study.  You can access the complete study here

Which I highly recommend if you have a client or prospect that can benefit from this knowledge.  With a little help from you!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Give your prospects new insights on their business to grow your business.

Now, more than ever, clients are looking for help. Many are confused about how to build and maintain customer loyalty.

They are unsure of how to use all of the new digital marketing tools now available to them and many are simply overwhelmed by the enormity of the marketing task ahead of them.

CMO’s know they have a limited life span, so they are desperate for an agency that can do something to help them grow the company’s business and make them a hero to their management. And the best way to do that is with new ideas and new insights about their customer or their category.

In a 2011 study published by RSW/US titled A Client's Look Ahead at Agencies, 77% of respondents cited "understanding of your market", 63% “understanding your company direction”, and 60% “offering something fresh & new” as critical factors in their agency selection. The quality of the creative product is still important (72%), but if you don't understand the client's business and offer new insights, then the greatest creative in the world won't win the account.

A few years ago, I spoke with Stan Richards, founder of The Richards Group, on what he considered the key ingredient in a new business pitch. Without hesitation, he replied that the ability to give the prospective client a new insight on their company or category was the key factor in winning new business. His business development team worked hard to find that insight, and then spent the majority of their presentation supporting that insight and its potential to grow the client's business.

In today's challenging marketplace, I would add the ability to help a client expand their marketing efforts into new digital frontiers is also a key factor in choosing one agency over another.

Clients are not saying to their agencies, "How can you help us make ads or a new web site?" They're saying, "how much do you understand about our business in order to help us build a bridge between our brand and our customers."

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A New Perspective on Building Brand Loyalty

One of my must-read blogs each week is Aaker on Brands, and this week's post offers some interesting new thoughts on building brand loyalty. The post is titled "Does Brand Love Really Exist", and recounts a recent study exploring what a person means by loving a brand or other object and a quantitative study to identity its underlying dimensions and the output or value.

The qualitative studies found that subjects identified these ten characteristics for brands they loved:
  1. The brand is the best in every way from value, to key attributes, to experience. 
  2. The brand connects to something deeper than its functional benefits. (e.g. Apple represents creativity and self-actualization.).
  3. The brand creates emotional benefits like being happy (e.g. “Pinkberry frozen yogurt makes me smile.”).
  4. The brand provides self-expressive benefits and high levels of word-of-mouth buzz.
  5. The brand generates affection and warm-hearted feelings. 
  6. There is a natural fit and harmony between the user and the brand they love.
  7. The brand stimulates a desire to maintain proximity to the brand and even feeling “separation distress.” 
  8. The brand engenders a willingness to invest time, energy and money into loved brands
  9. The brand is somehow involved in frequent, interactive contact with the consumer.
  10. There is a long-standing relationship history.
These findings were from a qualitative study, but a separate quantitative study by the same researchers found that the brands people profess to love predict loyalty, word-of-mouth communication and resistance to negative information.  As David concludes in his post "This, to me, is an impressive validation and elaboration of what had been basically a common sense analogy. Each of the 10 characteristics has implications about the creation, maintenance and measurement of loyalty."

So what does this mean for you and your clients, and the marketing programs you develop?  
Well, it is certainly a validation of the need to understand and communicate the emotional benefits, not just the attributes of your brand. But more than that, I think it says that brands should be treated as a  living, breathing extension of their users if they want to be "loved".

And if they want to have a loyal user base.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Latest Pew study shows 59% of smartphone users access social networking sites, and 55% using mobile or geo-location services

The Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project - 2011 Spring Tracking Survey confirms that smartphones continue to capture our imagination and our usage.

And if your company isn’t learning all you can about how to use mobile for marketing, you will be left behind.

In their study of over 2,270 adults (18+), more than a quarter of all American adults—28%—use mobile or social location-based services of some kind.

While the majority of smartphone usage is for texting (92% of users), photos (92%) and email (76%), these statistics stand out as it relates to mobile marketing:
  • 59% of smartphone owners use their phone to access social networking sites, and 15% use their phone to access Twitter.
  • 55% of cell owners use phones to get directions or recommendations based on their current location—that works out to 23% of all adults.
  • A much smaller number (5% of cell owners, equaling 4% of all adults) use their phones to check in to locations using geo-social services such as Foursquare or Gowalla. Smartphone owners are especially likely to use these services on their phones.
  • 9% of internet users set up social media services such as Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn so that their location is automatically included in their posts on those services. That works out to 7% of all adults. 
In total, 28% of U.S. adults do at least one of these activities either online or using their mobile phones—and many users do several of them. This is the Pew Internet Project’s most expansive study of location services to date. As smartphone usage continues to grow, I expect we will see these numbers continue to climb.

It’s time to get on board the mobile train (or at least get prepared to help your clients determine their needs and strategies), or be left at the station.

For a complete look at the Pew study, click here.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Help Your Clients Define What Business They Are In.

I just read an interesting article in the latest issue of Marketing Management that reminded me of the importance of knowing what business a company is really in. Looking at a prospect's business from that perspective offers an interesting ice-breaker approach to developing a new client.

The author began the article with these statements: McDonald's is not in the hamburger business, Mercedes-Benz is not in the car business, Clinique is not in the cosmetics business and Hush Puppies is not in the shoe business.

His answer is that all of these companies are in the solutions business, based on the Theodore Levitt quote from his 1983 book The Marketing Imagination (still one of the most influential books I have read) :

People don't buy things, they buy solutions to problems.

Levitt's answer at the time was that McDonald's should consider themselves in a broader context, i.e. the fast-food business, Clinique in the beauty business, etc. But that answer falls short in the reality of today's overcrowded business environment.

This means that McDonald's has to go beyond the broad stroke description of fast-food to realize they are in the business of convenience, entertainment for kids, family-friendly dining, quickness, efficiency, etc. Similarly, while Clinique may sell cosmetics, they are really in the beauty, self-image, self-esteem, age transformation, sex appeal business.

This isn't totally new thinking, but in today's "long tail" marketing world, where product specialization has become essential, companies need to revisit this line of thinking on a regular basis. Knowing what business you are really in opens up new thinking about marketing strategy, competitive environment, and new product development.

And for agencies and marketing services companies, it opens up a new way to reach out to business prospects with value-based thinking that can grow a client's business.

And that should be the business every agency is in!

Don Morgan is Head Rainmaker at Raindance Consulting, a business development and social media consultant in Seattle.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Harry Potter - Brand Wizard?

I've been thinking a lot about the Harry Potter phenomenon lately. I continue to be impressed with the branding strategy and the marketing tactics that have been used to sell this "brand" to such a broad audience.

I've been a fan of Harry Potter since the first book was released in 1998. I've read all of the books (some more than once) and seen all the movies. My wife has been bugging me to take her to Orlando to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, so we'll probably do that soon.

But whether you are a fan or not, there’s more to this story than movie magic and the storytelling wizardry that has sold over 400 million books worldwide. There are great branding lessons we can take away from the boy wizard .

Here are a few.

1. Great branding starts with a great product. Each book has taken its readers, young and old, into a fantastic world of heroes and villains. We were drawn into the “brand” by our fascination with the concept of wizards and muggles, the interplay of good and evil, and the supporting cast of characters. We developed an emotional bond with the three principal characters as well as the supporting cast that serves as a great lesson for marketers – it starts with the product.

2. Stay true to your brand. How many times have you seen a movie after reading the book and been disappointed that they changed the storyline or the characters just didn't come to life as you had expected them to do? Throughout this film series, each movie was taken directly from the book. There were no unexpected surprises to interfere with the development of the story. And the casting has been superb. Can you imagine anyone else as Professor Snape or Bellatrix Lestrange?

3. Have a long term plan for success. J.K. Rowling has said in numerous interviews over the years that while she never imagined the success the books have garnered, she knew that the story would progress and grow to its ultimate climax with Harry defeating Voldemort, and good triumphing over evil. During a prolonged gap between books five and six, she stated that she wanted to be sure she got the story right. There’s a great branding lesson in making sure that subsequent marketing efforts build on the brand premise and stay true to the brand’s personality. There’s also a lesson here about positioning your brand for long term success. Too many marketing managers have an 89-day focus based on the need to bolster quarterly earnings, and sacrifice the long term.

4. Make your brand a must have. Ms. Rowling was insistent that no advance copies of the book go out before the official on-sale date. She angered a lot of book sellers, but that tactic was a primary reason many book stores held midnight parties and lotteries for that first all-important copy. And, as mentioned in point #1, she didn't disappoint her audience.

5. Look for ways to extend the brand by continuing to surprise and delight the target audience. Harry Potter has become as entrenched in our pop culture psyche as Luke Skywalker, Batman and Superman. And The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at the Universal-Orlando theme park brings the story (and the brand) to life and allows readers and fans to experience the books. What a great case study for experiential marketing. You can shop for a wand at Ollivander’s, enjoy a butter beer in Hogsmeade, ride with Harry on a dragon and tour Hogwart’s. Creating an opportunity to experience the brand first hand is great way for any brand to build loyalty.

6. Look for ways to build new excitement to extend the life of your brand. Now that the book series is over, don’t expect Harry Potter to disapparate. Ms. Rowling is about to unveil, an interactive experience that she promises will be “an online reading experience unlike any other”. The site will offer exclusive insights, new stories, ebooks and even the ability for the user to be sorted into one of the four houses of Hogwarts. Pottermore will not launch until October, but a sneak peak will be available to one million lucky winners of an online scavenger hunt that begins on July 31 – Harry’s birthday.

At every step, we’ve seen one smart marketing move after another. And I suspect we’ll see a few more before it’s over. I, for one, can’t wait to experience

And along the way we’ve witnessed a great example of how to build and manage a brand. There’s really nothing magical about that. Or is there?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Circling the wagons. Can Google+ out-connect Facebook?

The Google vs. Facebook battle just got a little hotter. Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt has announced the introduction of Google+, their newest (and hopefully better than Buzz or Orkut) foray into the world of connections among friends. Or in this case, “circles" of user groups.

But according to Mr. Schmidt, this latest introduction is not an attempt to compete directly with Facebook. "Our social strategy is to take our current products, get users to give us social information and make our current products better," said executive chairman Eric Schmidt, talking to journalists at the Cannes ad festival.

It is obvious that the bigger opportunity for Google here is to harness the data about human connections generated by the social web and apply that to search and even display advertising.

Grouping your connections into "circles".
Google+ is different from Facebook in that you organize your friends into groups, such as family, work, friends, etc. This can be an advantage over Facebook if you want to share work-related information that your friends or family would not have an interest in seeing. Or if you want to share photos of a more personal nature that you don’t want your business colleagues to see.
Another difference with Google is that there are no friend requests. People do not need to agree to be friends with one another and can view updates without sharing their own.

Google + breaks down the Facebook data walls.
Even though search engines now crawl Facebook for links, the data about users and friends inside Facebook is not accessible to outside companies. Google+ could be a huge deal for Google if people are willing to participate in their network. Google+ will give Google a place for users to create their own content but will be searchable and information rich for Google. And you can bet they will monetize that data.

No one is talking about the impact of Google+ on advertising. Yet.
Google executives declined to say how Google+ will affect their advertising offerings, but as people spend more time inside controlled environments such as Facebook and mobile apps, Google loses its power to search and monetize that walled-off content. Google did confirm that +1, an icon launched recently as a counterpoint to Facebook Likes is integrated into Google+. Since +1 will be used as a tool to improve ad targeting, it seems safe to assume that Google+ will be used as a major part of their future advertising strategy, if it succeeds.

Google execs say more information will improve usability of all Google products.
Google executives said that getting social information on their users will improve Google products across the board -- by allowing personalization. Most of Google's most popular products such as search, maps and YouTube do not require a login, which limits what Google knows about its users.

Google+ may have more impact on mobile than social networks.
"It would take a seismic shift for people to take their social stuff to Google," said Deep Focus CEO and founder Ian Schafer, who said that the real earth-shattering use for Google+ is in mobile, not social networking. "The biggest implication for Google+ is mobile," Mr. Schafer said. "For example, for people to be creating content wherever people are and using that to deliver messages to them and close the loop on sales. The promise of Google+ is closing the loop on social CRM."
For advertisers and brands, the potential impact of Google+ is huge. "A connection made with a brand in Google+ can eventually be tracked to a purchase," Mr. Schafer said. "If we can create relevant brand engagements with people and give them an ability to purchase the product at a later date -- whether that's three, six or 18 months later -- this brings us back to social ROI."

I like the idea of being able to control my shared content to selected groups, but I’m not sure I want to stop using Facebook. So, to me, the real challenge for Google+ will be whether people will want to devote more time to sharing given the current time-compressed world we live in. It will be interesting to watch.

What do you think? Is this a brilliant strategy for Google, or will it fall flat?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Social Search is the new SEO buzzword.

Facebook has just announced they have over 700 million users, and this makes them significantly larger than Google as the most popular site in the United States. Google search is now estimated at 250 to 400 million search a day, but did you know that Facebook serves over 150 million search queries a day?

Twitter execs recently reported they their search function is now handling an average of 1.6 billion queries per day, and they recently upgraded with an improved search infrastructure with the aim of making the results as personally relevant as possible. “Our ranking function accesses the social graph and uses knowledge about the relationship between the searcher and the author of a Tweet during ranking,” the company explained. This means that Twitter’s search index will now incorporate dynamic information such as information about the searcher and how users’ interact with tweets.

Search engines have been forced to respond to the tremendous growth of social media. As the demand for real-time search results increased, it became clear that users would no longer be constrained by the limitations of search engines, which have to index sites on the Web before displaying them on their results pages. In December 2009, Google introduced real-time search, which incorporates news results and Twitter updates into search results.

Google's universal search (which displays content from YouTube and other networks) is another way social media content has been brought into search results.

Apart from the incorporation of social media content into search results, social networking sites affect search engine rankings in other ways. On his blog, search marketing guru Danny Sullivan recently posted some interesting answers from Google and Bing on how they are addressing this subject. He reminds us that:
  • Both search engines count referencing of a given piece of content via Twitter as an indicator of authority (apart from the links coming from those references).
  • Both search engines attempt to compute the authority and quality of an author and give that author's tweets preferential treatment.
  • Both track links shared within Facebook.
The emergence of social media as it relates to search results means that an article that a couple years ago generated 50 links might today generate 10 links and 300 mentions on Twitter and Facebook.

Now that Facebook has opened up their pages to be crawled and indexed, you should be looking for new ways to use social media to influence search results on Facebook and Twitter.

Ten years ago, SEO professionals told us that improved organic rankings were all about optimizing page-level elements -- keyword frequency, title tags, and the relevance (and inclusion of those keywords) in on-page copy. Five years ago, Google significantly altered the algorithm so SEO strategists added the importance of relevant inbound links that pointed to your website to their sales story.

Those things are still important today, but organic SEO results these days requires a well-designed and optimized website plus relevant inbound links and a strong presence across multiple sites on the Web.

That’s where social media has become so important to the search equation. A/B copy testing by several groups, including SEOmoz, have shown that the cumulative reach of Twitter can far out perform multiple inbound links. If you are not using social media to complement your search straegy, you are missing a great opportunity. A good search strategy is enhanced by the relevance and broadscale reach of your content, and that makes social media a major indicator of relevance to search spiders.

So how do your clients take advantage of the convergence of social media and search for their business?

Here are four things they can do right now:
1. They should market their content across as many of the major social media outlets as make sense and are likely to be frequented by their target group. The major search engines now factor in how many times their content is shared among Facebook users and retweets among Twitter users. The search engines assign a higher value of importance to a piece of content that is shared by multiple readers. So you need to encourage your clients to broadcast their content on Facebook, Twitter, and other sites that can reach their customers and prospects?

2. They should look for niche sites or bloggers that target the same audience as their prospects. The more places they can find to expose their content and build their web presence, the greater the opportunity for search spiders to find them and assign a higher PageRank. And they should always encourage the readers of their content to pass it along to other interested parties. If they can build a network of engaged followers on these social media sites, they will move up in the search rankings and stand a better chance of being found when someone searches for a keyword that includes their content. Be sure they have links to their Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn (if they serve B2B customers) pages on your website. Make sure you are helping your clients understand that they should also let their customers know they can engage with the brand via social media.

3. Encourage your clients to start testing Facebook’s PPC as an alternative and/or complement to Google pay-per-click. The Self-Serve Facebook Ad Tool allows you a lot of opportunity to test alternative visuals, headline and body copy. Use analytics and attribution to determine the effect of the impact on organic search traffic and continue to test until you find the best combination of ad message and targeting.

4. Keep a close eye on the progress of Promoted Tweets as Twitter continues to make strategic acquisitions to boost its advertising technology. The recent addition of AdGrok (similar in concept to Google's AdWords) and the purchase last year of Smallthought Systems, maker of a cloud-hosted Web analytics application, could finally give Twitter a legitimate revenue tool to create a self-sustaining business. Analytics software is critical to evaluate the efficacy of online advertising campaigns and make adjustments accordingly.

Both search and social media are here to stay, and the ever-increasing interdependence between these channels should be seen as an opportunity in any business category. The strategic use of both channels can result in increased marketing effectiveness, and now is the time to take the lead in getting your clients on board.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Importance of mobile marketing confirmed in new Google study.

A new study from Google, in partnership with IPSOS OTX Media CT, confirms the growing importance of mobile marketing and the need for your clients to capitalize on this new marketing tool.

According to Google, 79% of top advertisers don’t have a mobile optimized site.

This should be unacceptable to any advertiser, large or small, and represents a great opportunity for agencies to help their clients compete in today's digital marketplace..

The first thing agencies and marketers should do is read The Mobile Movement – Understanding Smartphone Consumers. This is a must read, with interesting and informative data on how smartphones are being used to help with our daily lives and our shopping purchase process.

Importantly, this study provides a great resource for agencies to convince their clients that the power of mobile marketing is simply too bid to ignore.

We all know there’s a mobile movement, and that smartphones are being used daily by millions of consumers. According to this study among 5,000+ adult (18-64) smartphone users, in the past seven days, 81% browsed the web, 77% used a search engine, 48% watched a video, and 63% stayed connected to our friends by visiting a social network.

What you may not know is the growing importance of the smartphone to our shopping behavior.
• 79% of users rely on smartphones to help with shopping regularly.
• 54% use smartphone to locate a retailer through directions, maps, or GPS.
• 49% compare prices to decide where to buy.
• 44% read product information and reviews.
• 40% look for promotions and coupons daily.

Smartphones are becoming an integral part of a multi-channel purchase process.
• 67% of users research product or service information on their smartphone and then buy in store.
• 23% research on smartphone, visit store to check out product, and then purchase online.
• 16% research on smartphone, visit store to check out product and then purchase on smartphone.
• 9% visit a store and then purchase on smartphone.

The Mobile Movement: Understanding Smartphone Consumers has a lot more information. For a free copy of the full report, go here. Or check out this video for a quick summary of the findings.

If you're one of those 79% of top advertisers don’t have a mobile optimized site, you need to read this report.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Social Media Spending Up; Facebook Likes Primary Goal

A new study confirms the growing importance of social media. According to a poll from Effie Worldwide and Mashable, an overwhelming number of marketers consider social media to be integral to their strategies this year. The poll was conducted in February among ad agency executives and marketers from major U.S. firms.

Key findings from the poll were:

* 87% said social media was “important” or “very important” to achieving their biggest marketing goal this year.
* 70% plan to increase their social media budget by more than 10% this year.
* The primary social media goal is to increase Facebook 'Likes".
* Study respondents reported that social networking would take 11.9% of their overall budget this year compared with 13% for TV. That figure may be overstated, however, since $68.7 billion was spent on all TV advertising last year, compared with just $26 billion for Internet advertising.

Much of that spending will go toward trying to find new Facebook fans, which 35% of respondents said is their main goal in 2011. “Increase our presence on mobile” was number two on that list, coming in at 22%.

Other findings included:

* Brands that were cited for “effectively getting their message across via social media” include Old Spice ( chosen by 15%), Pepsi (8%), Starbucks (7%) and Ford (6%).
* 50% of respondents said they use a mix of in-house and agency to handle social media outreach.
* 80% said they were planning iPad-based advertising and/or an iPad-based app this year, while 20% said they were “not planning much” of either.

This study illustrates an important opportunity for agencies to lead their clients. How social are your efforts?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Client's Perspective on Five Things Agencies Should Heed

The latest issue of Marketing:Your Business Connection has a great article from Rod Brooks, VP and CMO of PEMCO Insurance. Rod is well known around town and is well respected as a thought leader and exceptional marketer always willing to share his experience and marketing knowledge with others.

The inaugural article in his new series from the client side contains his personal perspectives and insights on advice to share with agencies. Here is a brief summary of his key points:

  1. Loyalty matters. It matters to Rod as he believes that there are advantages and opportunities that come from leveraging the experience and knowledge gained from long-term relationships with partners who understand the brand and its business. He also believes it should matter to agencies, suggesting that agencies should tout their long-term relationships as a reference in new business pitches. But he also reminds us that loyalty is a two-way street, and questions agencies that resign one account to take on a larger one in the same category.
  2. Commit to the journey. Rod admires agencies that know where the client is going, understand what it takes to get there, and work with the client to pull in the same direction. His advice here is to be proactive - don't wait for specific directions from the client. Be observant, engaged and stay in motion with your client.
  3. The brand is everything. This is a great tip from Rod. Focus all of your new business effort on understanding the brand. Do your homework - shop their stores, use their products, call their service centers, talk with employees. It shouldn't surprise you to know that clients don't care as much about you as you would like for them to, so don't focus on you in new business, focus on what they really care about - their brand. (SIDE NOTE: One of the best new business pitches I ever made was when we mystery shopped 100 stores that carried the client prospect's products, completed a short survey on each visit, and used a board with 100 business cards from the store salesman as the first chart in our new business pitch. The prospect was impressed with the effort, anxious to know what we had learned, and, most importantly, awarded us a $20 million business that day).
  4. It is not your money. Of course, it's not. But do agencies treat the client's money the same way they treat their own? Rod doesn't think so, and I'm sure he's not alone in thinking this. He also chastises agencies who "nickel and dime" their clients with petty charges like mark-up on copies, supplies used, and phone calls.
  5. There's no such thing as full-service. As Rod says, like it or not, fragmentation and specialization is a reality, and while it may be more difficult to manage multiple partners, he is convinced he gets better work from someone who is truly skilled in a particular aspect of marketing. His advice - take down the "we do it all banner above the door", and focus on your core competencies.
Rod makes good points on each of these insights, and agencies would do well to listen and heed this advice. Competition gets tougher every day. Not every client shares exactly the same philosophy as Rod, but I'll bet that most of them do!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Managing your client relationship doesn't have to be like herding cats.

Since agency training programs are almost non-existent these days, young people aren't given much guidance on how to handle client relationships ... especially tough situations. Here are some thoughts on what I've learned over the years that may be helpful.

How to say “no” to a client.
Most clients don't like to hear the word "no", but they aren't paying you to be a lap dog, they are paying you to help them grow their business. So there will be times when you need to convince a client that his idea is not a good one. It can be tricky...but it can be done.

I've always tried to look for is a left-brained logical reason for why it’s not a good idea, or can’t be done, or shouldn’t be done. Most clients won’t accept the “we just don’t like that idea” answer from their agency. If you can tie the “no” reason to financials, your objection will usually go down a little better with the client.

Another good strategy for saying “no” to a client, is to not react immediately. Rather, I prefer to say "let me see if that is possible" or "let me discuss that with the team and get back to you". In either case, you will demonstrate that you have taken their idea seriously. If you are still thoroughly convinced that their idea is not a good one, then you have also given yourself time to think through the options on how to present and sell your objection.

I once heard a story about Bill Bernbach that I never forgot. According to the story, Bill carried a 3x5 card in his shirt pocket and during client meetings he would often pull out the card, read it to himself, and then replace it into his pocket. The card read "Maybe the client is right". That's something to think about.

How to calm an angry client.
My first step is always to try to get the client to express the reason for his anger. If you can get him to talk about it, you can understand more about why he is angry.

My next step is to try to empathize with his situation. When an AE comes to me to tell me a client is angry about something, my first question is “why” and my second is “do you agree with him”. If they don’t agree, then I try to understand the AE’s perspective first. Then, I ask the AE to put themselves in the client’s shoes and try to understand why they are acting or overreacting the way they are.

A final step is to have myself or a senior executive at the agency call the client to let them know we are aware of the situation and take it seriously enough to have the boss call them. Sometimes, just knowing that we are listening to them helps.

How to build trust (and your business) with a client.
If your true desire is to help the client grow their business (not just yours), then you can do things to make sure the client knows you are sincere. Understanding all you can about how the client operates and makes money is a great start.

I have ridden on a bread truck at 3 a.m., made store checks at all hours of the day and night, made pizza, flipped hamburgers, toured chicken processing plants, and a bunch of other things I never thought I would do in order to understand the client’s business better. Then, I have some credibility when I recommend things that might generate more business for the agency.

One of the most powerful things an agency can do is offer a suggestion to the client on how to grow their business that doesn't involve advertising or any revenue stream for the agency. Clients have a lot of skepticism about agency recommendations and commitment to their business, and this has never failed to impress and win over a client.

If a client has multiple agency partners, you must never, ever denigrate the other agency or their work. You don’t have to praise it, but any criticism is a criticism of the client who approved the work or who hired the agency. And it seems petty and unprofessional.

How to generate selling opportunities for your agency.
The first step is similar to the previous one mentioned above - get inside your client’s head to understand what his business is really about. How do they really make money? What are their long term goals? Understand his problems, before you offer solutions.

Make sure you understand their personal or professional feelings on what you are trying to sell as a new opportunity. For example, if the client doesn’t really understand how to use Twitter, Facebook, mobile marketing or other social networking tools, you should pre-sell them through case studies or statistics on penetration and usage before you present your recommendations. There are numerous research studies available to show demographics and usage data on how their target audience is using these tools.

Sometimes, giving them new information about how a competitor is using a new marcom tool will stimulate their desire to think more about other options.

How to get more deeply involved in the client’s business.
I’ve already addressed a few of these in previous answers, but here are a few other things to consider:
  1. Volunteer to work with the field sales force. Or work in the store.
  2. Subscribe to all trade journals, and always be on the look out for articles of interest that you can send to them.
  3. Call the client every day. Make sure they know you are thinking about their business all the time.
  4. Buy stock in their company. It shows a real commitment on your part when you casually mention that you just read the Annual Report and were very impressed with it.

Using their products is another way to demonstrate your commitment to them. When I started my career at Leo Burnett, they were fanatics about this. I'll bet they still are.

If you were a smoker and preferred a brand other than Marlboro, you’d better not leave the pack out in plain sight. When I was there, the company brought in special coffee machines that only dispensed Taster’s Choice coffee. When Leo died, agency co-founder Phil Shaaf, told a wonderful story about Leo’s dedication to using his client’s products. It seems that Leo often had severe attacks of angina that could only be soothed by chocolate. Once, at a P&G meeting in Cincinnati, Leo had an attack in a client meeting, and was doubled over in pain. Someone said “Get him a candy bar”, and Leo shouted “Make sure it’s a Nestle”. I can tell you clients appreciate it when you are that dedicated to them.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Staying Ahead of Trends For Your Clients

For some time now, I'm been preaching that agencies should be looking for ways to add value to their client's business beyond simply being a creative vendor. With new marketing tools being introduced almost daily, it is difficult and confusing for many clients to determine the potential value for their business.

When I read some of the reports from this year's SXSW conference, I saw what may be a great opportunity for an agency to lead their client. SXSW has a reputation as a predictor of what's new and what's next in tech marketing, and if that holds true this year then Groupon, Living Social and the local-deals market are the next big thing.

Based on the success of Groupon and others, hundreds of local publishers have launched copycat Daily Deal products in the last six months, and this is just the beginning. According to reports from the conference, several big names and mobile marketers are going after a share of this newly-formed billion dollar market with new and innovative products, including Google, Bing, Facebook and a host of location-based apps.

Google was forced to confirm the existence of Google Offers in late January when Mashable broke the news, citing confidential sources. Marissa Mayer, Google VP-consumer products, officially confirmed the new product offering with a keynote speech at SXSW detailing the search giant’s plans to offer a prepaid deals program that would compete with local deals giant Groupon, which the search engine failed to acquire late last year.

In November, Facebook launched Facebook Deals, which lets businesses offer discounts to Facebook users. The world’s largest social network announced it will work with local businesses on a "Groupon-like offering", which presumably means daily deals and discounts. This marks another social networking area that Facebook wants to conquer.

In the coming weeks, Facebook will allow users in Dallas, Austin, Atlanta, San Francisco and San Diego to buy deals through Facebook and share them with friends. Facebook sales' team will bring deals to local merchants and will also source deals through third-party networks like Tippr, Gilt City and Pop Sugar City.

In early March, Microsoft announced the launch of a new Bing Deals section on its desktop and mobile website. Rather than offer any money-saving offers itself, Bing Deals will give users the convenience of single-site sourcing by aggregating 200,000 offers in over 14,000 cities and towns across the US.

The deal search feature on Bing’s mobile website is location aware via GPS, allowing users to find the best offers within a few blocks of their current location. On the desktop version of Bing, deals are linked to venues. Any location you search for that’s currently offering money off will display a green Deal icon, linking through to details. With so many daily deal services out there now, being able to search for them through a unified, user-friendly interface like Bing will offer a major benefit to time-strapped consumers. Yahoo launched a similar service in November last year.

According to daily blogs from SXSW, even the little guys are moving aggressively in the local deals area. Loopt introduced its new Push Deals, a service for local retailers to sell slow moving or overstocked inventory over the course of hours. While Groupon offers deals within 24-hour periods for use over longer periods, merchants can send out Loopt Reward Alerts to get customers to take immediate advantage and drive them to their retail location. This means that if you’re walking by a restaurant and it’s a slow night, they can hit a button to send out a notification to give you a deal to come in. This works on a network like Loopt (as opposed to Foursquare) because the app uses background location to keep track of you.

Another location-based app, SCVNGR, is also jumping into the market with a new service called LevelUp. These deals have different tiers -- everyone gets the same deal the first time around, but you can unlock a sweeter deal on the second visit and one that's sweeter still on the third. "The goal is to turn newcomers into regulars," said SCVNGR founder Seth Priebatsch during his keynote. SCVNGR touts the real beauty of LevelUp for its merchants as retention.

Their execs point out that Groupon has built a great tool for acquisition to get new bodies through the door, but that model has proven easy to copy. As they described their goal, the daily deals crown will likely belong to whichever startup can figure out how to get those bodies coming back as repeat customers at regular prices.

Retaining its own customers is already a huge focus for Groupon. They plan to keep merchants and customers coming back through old-fashioned service and CRM tools. Google Deals is also tweaking the model in an attempt to turn users into repeat customers. The first visit doesn't automatically turn on a discount or offer -- customers have to check in multiple times to gain "Regular," "VIP" or "Guru" status before they can claim the discount. The experiment is only during SXSW for now, but Ms. Mayer said Google plans to expand nationally.

Foursquare has offered merchants deals through its app for some time now, but new features also demonstrate their focus on retaining customers. During the conference, Foursquare has partnered with American Express to tie transactional data to check-ins and customer behavior. Conference goers can link their AmEx cards to their Foursquare accounts so that when they check-in to a participating Austin business, the credit card automatically loads with bonus cash to go toward a purchase. The deal also means merchants can see transactional data through their analytics tools. For example, they can see that the top 20% of customers tend to check-in most frequently, or like one type of deal over another.

How big is the potential for the daily deals market? Well, if Groupon’s rejection of a reported $6 billion offer from Google wasn’t enough for them, they may know something we don’t.

What do you think? Should daily deals be a part of your client's marketing planning?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

White Papers Can Be A Great Tool For Ad Agency New Business

If there has been one constant in the fast-changing world of Internet marketing, it has been that "content" is the key ingredient for success. The same is true for white papers. A well-written white paper generates awareness about a product, service or organization, and is especially valuable as it is often read while a company or individual is in the evaluation stage for a new purchase.

During the past few years we have seen an explosion of business white papers as B2B marketing and sales tools. But surprisingly, many ad agencies have failed to take advantage of white papers as a marketing tool.

White papers can be used in several ways by ad agencies:
  • As an awareness and lead-generation tool for new business;
  • As a thought-leadership and CRM tool for current clients;
  • To establish, or reinforce, expertise in a specific industry;
  • As a training tool for employees and clients.

Why should your agency use white papers?
That's simple, they work. Several studies have documented the importance of white papers in evaluation and decision-making. A study by MarketingSherpa on technology marketing reported that 70% of respondents said they visited the vendor website and 45% contacted the vendor for further information after reading a white paper from that company.

According to Information Week, 93% of white papers are passed on to at least one other reader and 86% say they are moderately or highly influential. Case studies have reported that white papers can significantly outperform banner ads and email as a lead generation tool for many businesses.

White papers can establish your agency as an important thought leader.
White papers provide a platform for an agency to demonstrate their expertise and the quality of their thinking. Whether the topic is general (e.g. branding), industry-specific (e.g. trends in healthcare marketing), or topic-specific (e.g. how to use social media), a well-written white paper can establish your agency as an authority on the subject. Importantly, studies have shown that executives read white papers, so a white paper can be that foot-in-the-door that you've been trying to establish but can't seem to get past the voicemail and spam blocker screens.

Some of the more popular ways to use white papers are:

  • Discuss trends (can establish the need for a change from the reader).
  • Identify problems (can build a rapport and affinity with the reader).
  • Provide solutions (can confirm your expertise, but must be seen as objective and not a sales message to have credibility with the reader).
  • Suggest what to look for (can also confirm your expertise, but again must not be seen as an overt sales message).

A good white paper must be reader-focused, not self-focused.
It is critically important to write white papers from an objective viewpoint so that they are seen as educational, not sales-focused. Too many marketers make the mistake of treating their white paper as a multi-page text ad for their product or service. That approach is a recipe for disaster. And rejection.

A well-written white paper becomes persuasive when the reader is presented with facts and charts to support the writer's viewpoint and avoids any claims about the company or its products and services. Most white papers tend to be 4 - 8 pages in length, which allows you to present a thorough case without too much effort on the part of the reader. In many cases, a white paper can be a stimulus to drive traffic to an agency's website for more information (or more confirmation of the agency's expertise).

Michael Stelzner ( , seen by many as the foremost authority on writing white papers, gave this illustration of a reader-focused vs. a self-focused white paper in a recent webinar:

Self-Focused: Groundbreaking TechWidget by XYZ Company Solves Time Management Dilemma.

Reader-Focused: Solving the Time Management Dilemma with Technology.

A white paper can carry more authority than other agency marketing collateral.
It is important to remember that a white paper carries a cachet of authenticity that other marketing collateral for your agency doesn't possess. To some readers, there is a perception (rightly or wrongly) that white papers are completely objective and factual, almost like a scientific paper that has been peer-reviewed. So be careful that you don't mis-use or abuse the white paper as a marketing tool. But it can, and should, be used by more agencies

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Do you really need social media?

For most companies today, the answer is yes. Social media not just the "flavor of the day" for marketers. There are real opportunities to engage with your customers to build a loyalty and commitment to your brand or company that can differentiate you in an increasingly commodotized world. And we now have real world case studies in almost every business category that prove its power.

But surprisingly, there are still some Luddites who haven't at least explored parts of the social media scene. And, I've spoken with more than one marketing manager lately who is questioning the value of social media for their company.

Here's a news flash folks. Social media won't work without a real understanding of what it can do for your company, a realistic plan for implementation, and the patience (and passion) to make it happen.

With humblest apologies to Will Shakespeare for my play on Hamlet's famous words, "to blog or not to blog" is not the right question. Let's talk about the real questions you should be asking before you launch your corporate blog, draft your next tweet, upload that video to YouTube, or whatever social media you want to use. Even if you are already using social media, it's not a bad idea to stop, take a deep breath, and really think through what you want to accomplish with the new digital marketing tools that are available.

Here are the real questions you should be asking about social media:

1. What is my goal for social media?
It is certainly logical to start with the big picture, but you would be surprised at how many companies say "we need a Facebook page" without a clear understanding of its potential value for their company and its role in an integrated communications plan. Just because everyone else has a Facebook or Twitter account is not a good reason for opening one.

If you are already using or considering how to use new technologies like blogs, podcasts, online video, wikis, widgets, etc. you need to make sure you know what you want to accomplish or you may end up using the wrong tool.

2. Who do I want/need to reach? Can social media reach that audience?
Technology has added a new dimension to analyzing and defining the optimum target audience. In addition to understanding their demographics and their psychographics, we also need to factor their technographics into the evaluation. How comfortable are they with using the new technology tools? Do they use their smart phone or their home computer most often? What new technology tools are they currently using? How would they prefer to interact with your company?

Good marketing still requires the basics of understanding your target audience, their media consumption habits and the benefits you can deliver.

3. What are the best strategies and tactics to reach this target?
This seems so basic, but is still a critical question that must be answered in order to optimize your ROI. Notice that I used the plural "strategies and tactics", not the singular. In most cases, you should be considering multiple social vehicles, but before you jump in you should make sure you have mastered one vehicle before launching another.

I believe that many companies that are failing or disillusioned with social media are simply trying to do too much at one time. They've launched a blog, added a Facebook page, YouTube page and Twitter account and are trying to monitor and evaluate, etc. with limited resources or without a realistic understanding and appreciation for the time and effort it takes to mount a successful program.

I recommend that you stop what you are doing and take advantage of the many free reports and white papers on social media for guidance on who's doing what. For example, a 2010 study concluded that Facebook is more popular for B2C, while LinkedIn is used by more B2B companies. But is that still the case? The challenge, and beauty, of social media is that it is continuing to evolve. Some have described the social media scene in the past as the Wild West. In many ways, that is still the case. So take the time to read current case studies that show the effectiveness of different options. And decide what is best for your business.

Internet search can help you gain better understanding of the best strategies and tactics to consider for your social media program. Just type "social media research" into your search engine and see how many hits you get!

4. What resources do I have available or need in order to implement an effective, on-going program.
Contrary to popular belief among many companies, social media is not a free alternative to traditional media. It will take time, money and patience to use social media effectively. Too many companies jump into social media without understanding how much time it really takes. Unlike Kevin Costner, you cannot assume that "if you build it they will come". That may be the most misunderstood element of social marketing. You can just set up a Facebook account and expect people to automatically LIKE you and visit regularly. You've got to give them a reason. And in many cases an incentive to do so. There are many tools to help you post, share and monitor your efforts more efficiently, but it will still require time on some one's part.

And it will require someone who understands the company and the audience, as every social media "expert" will tell you that content is king. So if you think you can just hand it off to that recent college graduate who is more comfortable with technology than some of your older staff, you should make sure they not only understand the technology, but also know how to write well and can represent your company brand.

There are many other questions that come up along the way, but these are the basics for anyone who is considering starting or expanding their social media effort. And if you've been using social media for awhile, it never hurts to stop, take a deep breath, and analyze what you've been doing based on these questions. Whatever you do, don’t make the mistake of putting the cart before the horse, as my dad used to say. Know the basics of who you need to reach and what you want to accomplish before you decide which new technology to explore.

And keep this thought in mind. Most of your customers don't want to have a relationship with your company unless there is some value associated with the effort that is required on their part. It's up to you to figure out how to engage them and keep them engaged. Good marketing still requires good marketing.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Mobile tagging. How creative marketers are turning smart phones into brand selling tools.

I've been saying for years that smart agencies recognize that clients are looking for leadership, not partnership. They want an agency that will bring them new insights and new ways to build a bridge between their customers and their brand.

After years of success in Japan, QR codes are finally beginning to emerge as a legitimate marketing tool in the US, and mobile tagging with QR codes is a great way to demonstrate leadership to your clients and prospects.

When Best Buy added QR codes to their product fact tags in all their U.S. retail stores last September, it made them the first national retailer in the US to acknowledge the future potential of mobile tagging. Since then, we’ve begun to see an explosion of new and creative ways to use the two-dimensional bar codes to enhance the marketing efforts of retailers and other businesses.

Some grocery stores are now using QR codes in the meat department to provide a wine recommendation for the tenderloin on sale, or to add a QR code with a recipe on an end aisle display. In both cases, using QR codes offers the potential to not only increase sales, but also to engage their customer in a way that builds brand loyalty without the façade of inflated price penalties for not using a shoppers card for that store.

The real estate industry is beginning to discover the selling advantages of replacing flyers on a lawn sign with a mobile tag that is never out of stock, and providing an on-site video tour wherever the QR code is placed. Tech savvy commercial real estate brokers are using QR codes to provide a 24/7 virtual salesperson to vacant retail storefronts. By scanning the 2D bar code, the reader is taken to a site with all occupancy, costs and local code details on the space

Now on newsstands, the 2011 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition contains QR codes throughout the issue that provide access to extras such as videos, outtakes from photo shoots, interviews and personal profile data on models as well as additional information on the swimsuits that are featured in the issue. Readers are able to share what they find through social networks. Readers can also download the Swimsuit Mobile application by scanning codes found in the magazine. The codes are also featured online through the various websites associated with the magazine. Time officials see QR codes as an opportunity to revive the print medium by offering a way to provide more versatility for advertisers than the iPad and other tablets, which many are hailing as the future of the print medium.

When the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools posted an abstract black-and-white square as its Facebook status update last week with no accompanying explanation, responses ranged from Huh? to Hurrah! depending on the users knowledge and use of their smart phone. In this case, the QR code led the smart-phone-savvy reader to an online schools survey.

QR codes to become an integral part of marketing in US.
Many tech experts and bloggers believe QR codes are on their way to becoming marketing and sales tools as ubiquitous as Facebook or texting and as familiar to US consumers as they already are to people who live in Japan and Europe.

MediaPost recently reported that 57 percent of Facebook and Twitter users said they have scanned a mobile bar code at least once in the past year, while as many as 40 percent had done so five or more times in the past year. A survey by Scanbuy found that mobile bar code usage jumped 700 percent in 2010 compared with 2009, with a big uptick during the Christmas shopping season when big-box retailers like Best Buy started adding the codes to their product packaging.

QR codes add another way for marketers to engage customers, but compatibility issues may hinder acceptance.
AT&T launched its own proprietary technology in August that requires the download of a free AT&T reader to scan. Microsoft has developed its own tags and compatible tag readers. A host of freebie websites have multiplied online that allow novice users to create their own unique alphanumeric embedded square bar codes by entering the data they want bar code swipers to be directed to.

With the resulting mix of codes and code-readers, and the variety of smart-phone systems — iPhone and Android, for example, are sold embedded with a different reader — one challenge of more widespread use is overcoming compatibility issues.

Robert Russell, AT&T's Atlanta-based mobility product management marketing director, said that global discussions are already under way to make the use of bar codes more standard. AT&T's scanner, he said, is able to read the three most widespread types of 2D codes.

"A lot of what's being discussed is how to make this ecosystem more standard," said Russell, speaking from Barcelona, Spain, where the Mobile World Congress was convening recently with standardization of mobile reading technologies part of the discussion.

Bar code information offers new potential for targeted marketing.
One advantage for marketers is the ability to gather even more data that will enable companies to keep tabs on who's using the bar codes. "Every time a code gets scanned, it brings 20 to 30 different metrics associated with the consumer, from the type of operating system being used (in the phone) to other things a consumer has voluntarily decided to enter into the scanner's settings," such as gender, age or other demographic information to create a user profile, Russell said.

Where QR codes go from here is limited only by the imagination of the marketer. Want more info and ideas? Dan Smigrod, CEO and Chief IDEAologist at GREAT!, a promotions agency in Atlanta, has several good posts on how to use QR codes. Follow this link to see his thoughts on ways to use this innovative technology to grow your business.

Helping your clients discover new ways to go to market is essential in today's agency environment. Are you leading your clients in exploring mobile tagging? If not, why not?

Friday, February 4, 2011

Is your website ready for mobile-access?

In my last post, I wrote about some of the reasons that many people feel 2011 will finally see mobile marketing become a mainstream marketing tool in the U.S. With more people accessing websites through mobile web browsers, it might be time to redesign your site or create a new one with mobile users in mind.

Millions of consumers and business professionals are ditching their basic cell phones in favor of more advanced cell phones and smartphones that combine the functions of a PDA, cell phone and web browser. The introduction of the Verizon iPhone and subsequent responses by AT&T will, most likely, help even more people switch over to a smartphone.

As reported last week, mobile phones and devices have increasingly become an integral part of our everyday lives, and mobile has become the “first screen” in many of our lives. When mobile first came on the scene, it was the third screen - behind TV and the Internet. Now with the advances in technology, and the ubiquitous use of text messages and apps, mobile has become the first screen.

Mobile web access is something your clients and their customers, no matter who they are, trust and use throughout the day. That was the main message presented by Brian Forth, President of SITECRAFTING, at a marketing presentation last week. His presentation and Q&A made a strong case for adapting your native site for mobile and featured real world case study examples of why “mobilizing” your website now is a good business move.

Is your website ready for customers that want to access it from a mobile device?
If it's not ready, now's the time to learn all you can about who your audience is and how they access your site. Work with your technology professional to analyze your traffic logs and see what types of browsers are accessing your site. Do you see mobile traffic? Take the time to poll some of your customers about the likelihood of them accessing your website and others on their smartphones. Once you've decided a mobile site is right for you, it's time to create one.

Native vs. a mobile web app may be the best way for many companies.
Brian made a strong case for developing a mobile version of your current native site vs. developing a mobile web app. He reviewed the time and cost to develop and maintain multiple app platforms for iOS, Android OS, Symbian, Windows OS, and RIM/Blackberry OS to be able to speak to all smartphones and tablets. Despite the well-publicized Apple App Store and its 330,000 apps, the iPhone only accounts for 32% of users. By contrast, adapting a native app requires one change that many can accommodate within their current content management system (CMS) and their content is available to all users.

Creating a Mobile-Optimized SiteIf you have a very large website with thousands of pages, it might not be necessary to configure your entire site for mobile access. A professional web developer can code your site so that when users access your main website, different content is served to web browsers depending on whether they're mobile. If you visit Google on your PC or Mac and a mobile web browser, you'll find two different screens. On your computer's web browser you'll find the full Google site. On your smartphone's web browser you'll find minimal content--a simple search box and not much more.

Brian showed an example of how Harrison Medical Center used analytics from their current site to determine the reason users were most often visiting their site. The data showed that wait times for various Harrison clinics were a primary reason for many mobile users to access their site. They simplified their mobile page to just present this important data but continued to offer the option to download the full site, if desired. It was a great example of how to quickly provide mobile users with the information they most wanted to access.

What's Next? It’s time to look for creative ways to appeal to the mobile user.This is a great opportunity for an agency to provide real value to their clients. Think about your client's business, their website and their customers. Consider whether they have--or should have--content that mobile customers would want to access. For example, Brian talked about the Starbucks Card mobile app and how it provides mobile users the ability to pay and replenish their card balance on their mobile device. Alaska Air is now offering a mobile boarding pass app where the user passes their mobile device across a scanner and avoids the need for paper ticketing and boarding passes.

Convenience in a time-pressed world is always needed and appreciated.QR codes offer convenience-oriented applications aimed at mobile phone users (known as mobile tagging) and will provide many new opportunities for creative ways marketers can build customer loyalty. Google's mobile Android OS and Nokia’s Symbian OS support the use of QR codes by natively including a barcode scanner. In the Apple iOS, a QR code reader is not natively included, but over 50 free Apps are available with reader and metadata browser URI redirection capability.

It’s time for marketers to recognize that mobile matters. It’s just too big to ignore. And it's time for smart agencies to help their clients determine if they need to “mobilize” their web content.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Is 2011 the Year that Mobile Finally Becomes Mainstream?

The cover story in the January 30 issue of Marketing News presents a solid argument that 2011 will be the year that mobile marketing finally becomes mainstream in the United States. For years, marketing prognosticators have been saying that mobile marketing would reach a critical mass, so when I saw the headline This Time It’s Different, I was curious as to why their editors felt that 2011 would be different. Here's what I found:

82% of U.S. consumers now own a cell phone, according to Forester Research. Tablets such as the iPad will reach 54.8 million units in 2011, according to Gartner Inc. and annual global tablet devices will reach 81 million by 2015 according to Juniper Research.
These are boxcar numbers that support their conclusion that 2011 will be different, but the real story is more than just about numbers. Mobile phones and devices have increasingly become an integral part of our everyday lives, and for many of us mobile is the “first screen” in our lives. When mobile first came on the scene, it was the third screen - behind TV and the Internet. Now with the advances in technology, and the widespread use of text messages and apps, mobile has become the first screen. It’s something your clients and their customers, no matter who they are, trust and use throughout the day.

The explosion of 3G and 4G devices, growth in data plans, and the resulting acceptance of smartphones are three key drivers for mobile growth.
According to recent comScore data, among mobile subscribers 13 and older, nearly half (48.9%) have 3G or 4G devices, up 23% from 2009. Their data also show that 33.4% of subscribers have some sort of data plan, and among those consumers, 83.9% have unlimited data plans. They now estimate that more than a quarter of U.S. consumers have smartphones, a 68% increase from 2009.

Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android are leading the charge on improving customers experiences on mobile phones, which will boost industry growth.
And we can't forget about RIM/Blackberry, Windows OS, and Nokia's Symbian OS. When you hear the phrase “there’s an app for that”, it’s true. There are now almost 300,000 third-party applications officially available on the Apple App Store, and last week Apple announced they had reached over 9.9 billion downloads. It’s becoming second nature to shop, do research on products and services, and communicate with your friends throughout the day because the new phones are so easy to use.

Spending on mobile advertising is expected to grow more than six fold over the next four years.
Spending is expected to reach nearly $2.55 billion, according to eMarketer, a New York-based digital marketing research firm. Along with consumer’s increasing mobile usage, growing ad spending on mobile will help to fuel its growth. Julie Ask, a vice president and principal analyst in mobile and telecom at Forrester Research, feels that “the larger screens have resulted in an increase in media consumption, and that generally leads to more advertising.” A recent survey by the Mobile Marketing Association of 200 executives found that 24% of respondents said they would more than double or even triple their investment in mobile advertising in 2011 compared with 2010.

Other factors cited include the growth in “tools you can use” to aid your marketing efforts.
Mobile payment technology, mobile gift lists and mobile gift cards will open more opportunities for savvy marketers to take advantage of mobile as an important part of their marketing plans. Many marketers are now experimenting with text messaging to alert shoppers to deals, and mobile apps have moved beyond games and GPS to include everything from recipes to tips for parents to teach their kids smart eating habits. Another growing trend is location-based marketing, and companies like Foursquare allow users to find special deals while in-store where they can make an immediate purchase.

Analytics will provide the final piece of the puzzle to marketers.
Michael Becker, managing director for the Mobile Marketing Association calls analytics “the connective tissue of mobile to traditional media”. The ability to track direct sales or indirectly influenced sales through mobile is expected to grow significantly and allow marketers to monitor sales activity in real time. With increased recognition of the valuable potential of having an interactive mobile device in the hands of consumers at a time when they are requesting support from your clients will entice more marketers to find ways to leverage that capability.

MMA’s Becker concluded the article with the statement that “mobile is where the customers are. It’s as simple as that. Old world marketing was about attitudes, awareness and usage. New world marketing is putting the focus on making sure that you, as a marketer, are there at a time of a consumer’s expressed need.”

With mobile marketing, a company can respond to their customers when they need them. No matter where they are at the time.

What about your agency and clients? If 2011 is, indeed, when mobile finally grows up, are you ready to take advantage of the opportunity?