Monthly Archives: November 2008

Lure Prospects With Free Info

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There are two primary ways to get leads – push marketing and pull marketing.

A push strategy consists of pushing your message to the market through advertising and direct response campaigns. A pull strategy involves pulling prospects to you through PR, free content, word of mouth, and referral programs.

Both methods can drive excellent response rates, especially when used in tandem, but in a down economy, pull tactics are particularly effective. Why? Because right now, prospects are carefully managing their budgets and don’t want to be “sold” to. Instead, they want access to valuable information that will help them make the right choice about where to spend their money.

So the best way to leverage the current market to your advantage is to make your website an oasis of knowledge that will pull prospects to you. It will pay off!

Courtesy of InfusionSoft.  Automated Follow-up Marketing.

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Using PR to Build Trust In Tough Times

Over the past several weeks and months, industry gurus have offered an abundance of advice about how to refocus and weather the current economic tsunami and keep management or clients from cutting back on PR programming.

If you think I’m going to suggest that PR and marketing are not where you should seek to belt tighten, you’re right. But what I really want to focus on is trust and “keeping the faith” with stakeholders and employees during these troubled times.

The challenges of building trust have never been greater. The Wall Street meltdown, bail out, and lowest all-time approval rating for our government have lead to a prevailing sense of betrayal felt by voters, consumers, customers, workers and investors. We are living in a unique time where an unfortunate confluence of economic, social and political issues has eroded people’s trust in companies and institutions.

Public relations is the communications discipline that is critical in this environment, because the most credible source of information about a company or brand today is coming from people talking to people – peer-to-peer dialogue among stakeholders sharing personal experiences. According to Dan Gillmor, director of the Center for New Media, smart companies recognize that “PR is the new advertising and conversation is the new PR.”

To read this full article, CLICK HERE. Courtesy of PR NEWS ONLINE.

Just Tell the Truth

schultz-starbucksThe media metaphors were flying after Starbucks’ latest quarterly announcement:

“Starbucks Cools Way Off”

“Starbucks Losing Its Buzz”

“Starbucks’ Bitter Results”

And yet, in the obligatory press release, CEO Howard Schultz put a positive spin on what was unequivocally a horrendous quarter. The big question, of course, is should he have done that or not? Let’s first take a look at his quotes from the release:

“With a re-architected cost structure at the close of fiscal 2008, we began the new fiscal year with a healthier store portfolio that will allow for operating margin expansion,” commented Howard Schultz, chairman, president and ceo. “Despite a global economic environment which shows no immediate signs of improvement, the steps we took in FY08 position us to deliver EPS growth in FY09.”

Schultz continued, “We appear to be more resilient than many other premium brands. And while we cannot call isolated signs of improving sales a trend, we are encouraged by our ability to drive increased traffic at a relatively low cost, as we did on Election Day. As we head into the holiday season and Calendar ‘09, consumers are looking for value and we’ve been pleased with the steady progress of our Starbucks Rewards program and the enthusiastic reception to the Starbucks Gold Card. I am optimistic we are well positioned to weather this challenging economic environment.”

While I applaud most of Schultz’s efforts, the last line of both paragraphs seems a bit over-the-top. I’m not sure any retail companies should be optimistic that they’re well positioned to weather this economic environment, let alone one that’s several quarters into an attempted turnaround.

In contrast, Fortune editor at large Patricia Sellers had this to say in her post “Starbucks’ Schultz needs to get real:”

“Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz needs less optimism and a stronger dose of reality in his brew.”

“The entrepreneurial optimism and clever marketing that Schultz used to create one of the world’s best brands now seems to be interfering with Starbucks’ turnaround.”

Investors didn’t seem to agree with Schultz’s optimism, driving down Starbucks’ already depressed shares another ten percent.

As a former marketing executive with more than his share of communications experience, I take a decidedly pragmatic view of positioning, messaging and spin. Of course, company and product positioning should be positive, but only if it meets these five criteria:

It must be true, omissions notwithstanding
It must be straightforward and crisp
It must be ethically unchallengeable
It must be credible, which means that big elephants in the room should be dealt with in a proactive manner or it won’t pass the laugh test
It can’t come back to haunt you later
Just to be clear, I don’t hold morals and ethics above business success. Rather, I consider them necessary for business success. In my experience, if positioning doesn’t meet these criteria, there is a high probability of it backfiring and actually harming the company’s brand.

Most executives have a relatively straightforward time with the first three criteria, but it’s the last two that trip them up.

In the case of Starbucks’ announcement, I think Schultz could have dealt more effectively with the elephant in the room – namely a prolonged and challenging turnaround during a brutal market climate. And because he didn’t, it might come back to haunt him later, depending on Starbucks’ performance in subsequent quarters. My tone would have been more on the neutral side, but that’s just me. What do you think?

Courtesy of BNET.

New Insights On Time-of-Day for E-Mail

The research from the Center for Media Design provides a customer perspective that makes the marketer in me start to salivate. No matter how many statistics we collect on response rates or how often we survey email users, we simply cannot collect the type of information that the researchers at Ball State have collected. They have a field research team that follows consumers for a full day and records how they interact with different forms of media in 15-second increments. Throughout the day, observers record what media participants are using, where they use it, and for how long.

This life-in-the-day view of consumers provides a new perspective on the time of day question that I believe is relevant as we think about what messages should be sent when. Here is a short list of the observations made about the way consumers interact with email throughout the course of the day:

 

  • Email engagement peaks in the morning. Many users, myself included, start their day by rifling through their email inboxes. Mornings allow email users to spend uninterrupted time in their inbox. 

     

  • In-out-in-out in the afternoon. As the day progresses, users tend to have more fractured interactions with email. Email is checked intermittently throughout the day between meetings and errands. Thus, in the afternoon, there are more email episodes (any time users check into their email inbox), but those episodes are shorter in duration. Between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m., users are likely to have five individual episodes of 3-5 minutes apiece, compared to the 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. period when users are more likely to have a single episode that is substantially longer. 

     

  • Overall time in the inbox is fairly consistent throughout the workday. Between the hours of 8 a.m. and 3 p.m., email makes up between 30% and 35% of the average user’s media exposure. This drops off during the late afternoon and early evening, only to peak again in the late evening (between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m.) as users go back to their inboxes to wrap up the day. 

    This behavioral view of how consumers interact with email at different times of the day may help us address what types of email messages are right for different times of the day. Assuming you send more than one type of email message (e.g., newsletters and promotional mailings) the best time for one is not likely to be the best time for the other. Fewer interruptions and more continuous time spent in the email inbox makes mornings a more logical choice for the delivery of newsletters and long copy emails that require more time for the subscriber to read. Alternatively, promotions or invitations to attend a seminar may make more sense later in the day as people are in “quick-hit” mode.

    While this information still will not definitively answer the question about the best time of day to send for your program, it is worth serious consideration as you start to design that next time-of-day test.

    To get a copy of the study along with the chart on email reach and episodes per day, grab a copy of the Messaging Behaviors, Preferences, and Personas Whitepaper.

  • 90% of US Banks Tighten Small Business Credit

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    According to the October survey of senior loan officers by the Federal Reserve,

    “…On net, about 95% of U.S. banks reported having tightened the costs of credit lines to large and medium-sized firms, while nearly 90% reported such tightening for smaller firms.”

    This on top of the substantial cuts made by most banks to consumer credit lines.

    To read the entire grim report, CLICK HERE.  As reported in the OC REGISTER.

    10 Strategies for Email Marketing in a Down Economy

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    SMART BUSINESSES KEEP MARKETING in down economies.  Many analysts are already reporting that dollars are shifting to the highly efficient channels like email, still the highest ROI channel and earning $45+ ROI for every dollar invested, according to the DMA (2008).  

    There is a dumb way to use email now, and a smart way.  The dumb way is just to send more of the same.  It’s certainly easier to do this — but mindless increases in frequency will not improve revenue growth in the long term.  Increased frequency usually leads to subscriber fatigue and increased list churn.  Then response flattens, while unsubscribe requests and complaints increase.  Inbox deliverability for all your email goes down.  Net effect: your entire program flounders and it will be very difficult to earn respect back from weary subscribers (and the ISPs who are blocking your mail due to high complaints).

    The smart way is a different strategy than the one most email marketers employ today.  The formula for success is simple:  Make each email count.  Consider these ideas:

    1.    Get the tone right.  Consumers and business professionals are worried about budgets and job security.  You don’t want to stoke that fear, but you can embrace it.  Fear is a great motivator.  In fact, messages that speak to those fears resonate.  Position your products and services in a way that connects with customers amid the new reality of our times.  Avoid frivolous promotions and glib subject lines.

    2.    Discounts are not the only motivator.   Email certainly has a history of offering lots of discounts — it can be hard to get relief from this when the subject lines that work best typically include a percentage-off offer.  But email also works great when providing value: Information, helpful tips and timely offers can boost response and protect margin.  How can you adjust or improve your Q4 offers based on current climes?

     3.    Add value.  Which of your partners would best help you offer a great “double the value” promotion this month?

    4.    Integrate channels.  Use email to start a conversation.  Sure, that conversation can continue in a social medium — a discussion forum, a Facebook Wall or a micro-blog series of Tweets from your board room or production floor — but it starts with the familiar and comfortable inbox.  Email is where we all turn first to get news, connect with friends and share our concerns.

    5.    Reach the inbox and break through.  Seasonality and recession pressure will significantly increase the amount of email sent.   In response, ISPs may throttle back delivery speeds, strengthen filters and lower volume caps to protect our inboxes.  Twenty percent of permission-based email never reaches the inbox.  If you can move your deliverability up even 10 points, think what that alone will do for your response rates.  If you have a good sender reputation, get credit for it by signing up for as many whitelists as you qualify for.

    6.    Ask for feedback in every email, after every ecommerce purchase and in every retail or phone transaction.  Make it a goal of your sales team to gather insights.  Monitor and participate in the right social networks.  Listen, and then be sure to communicate back. 

    7.    Be truly interested in helping.  Are some of your products more relevant when wallets are pinched?  Do your customers want smaller or larger volumes?  Can you help by pairing up certain products with another?   

    8.    Celebrate flexible terms. Make it clear if you offer delayed billing, loyalty points or higher service for certain order sizes or frequency of purchase.  

    9.    Thank your customers.  Send whitepapers, user tips or a coupon to good customers and new buyers.  This is a great chance to encourage them to tell their friends, too.

    10.    Test timing to increase relevance.  Test different cadence, rather than just higher frequency.  A cadence of three emails in one week when I’m in-market may be welcome, but not so when I’ve just purchased or am between contract renewals.

    These strategies take corporate will and discipline, but they’re what separate the smart marketers from the rest.   If you haven’t started shifting your focus from generic broadcast messages (aka: “batch and blast”), then now is the time.  The opportunity is high — but the bar for relevance is higher.

    What Obama Shows Us About Millenial Marketing

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    Photo: Tony Pettinato

    NEW YORK (AdAge.com) — Baby boomers and Gen Xers declared mass marketing dead long ago. We live in a world of fragmented media surrounded by cynical consumers who can spot and block an ad message from a mile away. But what Gen Xers and boomers may not realize is that the unabashed embrace of select brands by millennials, from technology to beverages to fashion, has made this decade a true golden era of marketing for those who know what they’re doing. And when it comes to marketing, the Barack Obama campaign knows what it’s doing. 

    Mr. Obama’s brand management, unprecedented in presidential politics, shows pitch-perfect understanding of the keys to appealing to the youngest voters.

    Perhaps inevitably, among the first apps introduced for Apple’s new iPhone — the latest success from another millennial mass marketer — was an Obama “Countdown to Change” calendar that ticks off the seconds until Election Day.

    To read the full story from Advertising Age, click HERE.