Why We Shouldn’t Confuse Real Time Marketing with Data Driven Marketing

When I was a teen, back in the 80’s – yes, I’m old – there was this bakery just off my local high street.

It was a family-owned bakery, and had a mix of fancies, pastries, bread and sweets (candy, in North America). While the goods being sold were a great mix, and kept the bakery successful, it was what the owner did to keep it that way that interested me (and probably instilled the first concept of marketing to my subconscious).

If there was a sports match on, he’d make small cakes in both team colours. Nothing new there. Except when a team took the lead, he’d quickly put little sad faces on the cakes of the losing team, and sell those at a discount to cheer the losers up.

It didn’t hurt that the bakery was two doors down from a pub, and he’d send his help into the bar to sell the new cakes, with the challenge to make the other team wear the sad faces.

When the game finished, he’d invariably give the remaining cakes away to the losers, and he’d have baked a bigger cake in the shape of the winning team’s mascot for them to eat for free when leaving the bar (for afternoon games).

This is just one example of some of the cool things he’d do on the fly. Royal weddings? Check. Huge charity events like Live Aid? Check.

For every major event, as well as local sporting ones, he and his bakers would be on the ball, making something essentially on the fly to take advantage of the occasion. Sound familiar?

Real-Time Marketing or Old School Initiative?

In February 2013, the lights went out at the Super Bowl. Oreo Cookie famously took advantage of it with a quick creative that they posted on Twitter.

Twitter   Oreo  Power out  No problem. ...

As you can see from the image, it received almost 16,000 retweets, and was favourited 6,400 times. It received praise from various publications, and was used by many social media consultants as the dawn of real-time marketing.

Except, it wasn’t really real-time.

While there’s no doubt it was a masterful stroke of quick thinking and marketing on the day, it was more than just that. The Oreo team and their social media agency had been strategizing for the previous 18 months on how to effectively use the medium, in order to celebrate the brand’s 100th birthday.

Cue the power outage, cue the result of being ready to act and the ensuing praise.

Yet as deserving as Oreo and their team was of the praise, it wasn’t the start of real-time marketing, despite the best efforts of those consultants trying to capitalize on the new darling phrase and charge clients more for the benefit.

Real-Time Marketing, Before Social Media

The funny thing with social media is it often makes marketers – or at least, digital marketers – forget there was ever a time before 2006, when the words “social media” and “marketing” were beginning to be used together more.

Yet for those purporting real-time marketing as the latest new child in the social media-led school of business firsts, they might want to look a little bit further back.

Over at the evergage blog, Rob Carpenter shares his thoughts on where real-time marketing first became more visible, based on search terms and traffic spikes on Google Trends.

Real time marketing web search

The blue line relates to “real time marketing” while the red line relates to “web personalization”, or the ability to personalize your business website based on traffic, demographic, cultural offers, seasonal specials and more.

As digital marketing via e-commerce and landing pages was growing (personalization), so was the need to be able to quickly put together offers that would initiate your desired call to action (CTA). This speed to create was the same as today’s real-time marketing, except today we have better tools to do it with.

As the blue line shows, there was a huge initial spike back in 2005, then a steady rise since 2007 (as social media filtered its way to the mass market).

Real-Time or Data Driven Marketing?

You only need to look at the clamour by brands to offer the coolest celebration of the Royal birth of Prince William and Duchess Kate’s baby to see how big the “business of real-time marketing” has become.

Yet the problem with real-time marketing – or at least, the version brands are trying to emulate but often failing at – is it’s too fast for its own good, and is simply trying to take advantage of a major news story without thinking through how that brand fits.

The beauty of the original Oreo tweet at the Super Bowl is it had been planned meticulously. Perhaps not the tweet itself, but certainly the message, the way it appeals to Oreo aficionados, and the execution.

Because it was based on data the brand knew about its audience.

And this is where the real value of real-time marketing comes into play, and has been used for as long as the first business owner thought on their feet on ways to beat their competition, and bring customers to their store versus a competitor’s.

It’s exactly the point David Meerman Scott makes in his book, Real-Time Marketing and PR, published in 2010. In both the book and on his blog, Scott shares examples of the best types of real-time marketing that don’t hype themselves by using the phrase.

Just look at how the airlines adapt to ensure there are rarely empty flights, and how they can change pricing on the fly to sell unsold seats. Or look at the way Amazon has redefined the customer experience to ensure every visit is optimized to offer products and services that truly interest the visitor.

This isn’t the result of some buzzword – instead, it’s taking years of data and research about customers, their buying patterns, their purchase life cycles, and their value to a brand, and utilizing it into offers and timely promotions that make sense.

It’s like my hometown baker with his winning cakes, regardless of the victor on the sports field that day.

There’s no doubt that real-time marketing, when done well, can provide a mix of viral buzz and sales success. But let’s not be mistaken that it’s a new tactic, nor is it the saviour of marketing today.

The saviour of marketing today, much like the saviour of any business strategy, is and will remain simple – know your customer, understand what makes them tick, use the data you have on top of the data you’re continuously gathering, and integrate all of that into something called “marketing strategy”.

You might be surprised at the results, real-time or otherwise.

image: evergage

The Sunday Share: Why Great Marketers Must Be Great Skeptics

As a business resource, Slideshare stands pretty much head and shoulders above most other content platforms.

From presentations to educational content and more, you can find information and curated media on pretty much any topic you have an interest in.

As a research solution, Slideshare offers analysis from some of the smartest minds on the web across all verticals. These include standard presentations, videos, multimedia and more.

Which brings us to this week’s Sunday Share.

Every week, I’ll be sharing a presentation that catches my eye and where I feel you might be interested in the information inside. These will range from business to content to social media to marketing and more.

This week, an excellent and insightful presentation from Rand Fishkin, founder of Moz.

Research and marketing today often relies on the “wisdom of the crowd” – if enough people say or think something, it must be true. Rand’s presentation shows why this isn’t the case, and why marketers must be more skeptical to succeed.

Enjoy.

image: drew beck

Is Your Marketing the PITS?

When I took my marketing degree back in 2001, part of the course was learning about the Four P’s of Marketing – Product, Price, Place and Promotion.

These terms have been the mainstay of marketing since the 1950′s, when Neil H. Borden published an article called The Concept of the Marketing Mix , although the actual phrase The Four P’s was coined by E. Jerome McCarthy in 1960.

Marketers have used the Four P’s to plan marketing campaigns, measure and gauge how well something will be received. Without using at least one of the Four P’s, you can pretty much guarantee that any marketing initiative will go tits up.

Yet as much as the Four P’s are still relevant when it comes to any kind of marketing (or advertising), one of the ways I like to create marketing plans is by something I call the PITS.

Persuasion

No matter how great a product or service you have, it won’t mean anything unless you can get people to buy it. Same goes for ideas – unless you get folks to buy into your ideas, they’ll fizzle out.

Not only that, but unless you have a physical product to show then you’re going to have a harder time getting that all-important buy-in (and this can be from an internal point of view as well). That’s where Persuasion comes in.

The best marketers know how to persuade people that their ideas are worth listening to. This isn’t just down to charisma and a nice suit, though – the best persuasion comes from solid information. Here’s just some that you can/should provide.

  • The unique selling point (USP) of the product or service (you better have one, otherwise just let your competitors continue winning).
  • What it means for the end user (ease of use, reliability, the “want factor”, loyalty).
  • Manageable logistics (what do I need to do and how will I have to do it).
  • Timescales and expectations (gestation period, launch period, return on investment period – and make this information realistic).

Having information that answers the questions you will be asked goes a long way to persuading your audience, whoever they may be. It’s not always money that nixes new campaigns.

Intent

Customers can usually be broken down into two camps – Consider and Intent. Those in the Consider camp will often look at a product or an advert and think, “That looks nice”, but never actually do anything else. Those in the Intent camp, however, are the ones that are more likely to move to the buying stage.

The trick is to make Considers into Intents.

Customer influence and advocacy

How you do this depends on your business and audience, but each method you use should be one that tips the balance from Consider to Intent.

  • A strong call-to-action. This can be replying to a text SMS message for more information or signing up for a newsletter.
  • Time-urgent details. Make a close-off date for an offer and stick to it. No-one’s fooled by “this weekend only” anymore.
  • The nature of desire. Sex sells. It doesn’t need to be physical sex – turn your customer’s mind on and make them desire you.
  • Relevance of the offer. If your product isn’t relevant to the audience, it doesn’t matter if you have the world’s greatest marketer in your employ – the product won’t ship, or your efforts will backfire. Just ask Shutterfly about that.

Every single thing we do, either in life or business, is a consideration. Even automatic reflexes happen because at one stage we had to consider whether we needed to react or protect from an action. Intent, though, happens because of the after-effects of consideration.

Show your customer there’s an after-effect worth having and the intent to discover it will be there.

Traction

If you look at some of the most successful products or services, it’s for one simple reason – traction.

The ability to take something new and ingrain it into the hearts and minds of customers and competitors alike is where real success lies. Traction in your customers relates to sales; traction in your competitors relates to being ahead of the game.

So how do you build traction?

  • Don’t always reinvent the wheel. It takes time, research and money to build from scratch. Can you take an existing product and add something that’s sorely missing?
  • Support networks. Regular readers of this blog know how much I love the Livefyre comment system. Yet it’s not the cool features that keep me coming back to Livefyre whenever I revert to native WordPress, or try other systems – it’s the stellar customer support that Livefyre gives to every single one of its users. Too many companies only offer that support to tiered accounts; treat every customer as important and you’ll see the traction build.
  • Open your gates. One of the most successful video games of all time is Half-Life. Released in 1998, it’s a first-person shooter with a great storyline too. But what set Half-Life apart is the level builder that developers Valve released, allowing gamers to build their own levels and share across the web, leading to a thriving product years after the first shipment. Adaptability is key to any success.
  • A solid engine room. The iPod isn’t the success it is because of design or geek love – it’s because of iTunes. No matter what system you have, iTunes just works – allowing it to change with you as your product preference changes too. It’s the iTunes engine room that makes the front-end so sexy.

Gaining traction is one of the Holy Grail’s of any business. How to get it should be one of your priorities in the planning stage.

Sketchability

When I was a kid growing up in the U.K., one of my favourite TV shows was by a guy called Tony Hart. Hart was an artist who took the scholastic approach to art and turned it on its head, allowing anyone to use any product and sketch something cool.

The great thing about Hart’s art was its ability to be changed on the fly and made into something completely different. It’s this sketchability – the ability to sketch an idea and then have the option to erase/amend and sketch a new approach – that turns a good marketing plan into a much better one.

Give everyone a pencil. Too many marketing plans silo themselves from other company inputs. But real insight can come from many places.

  • Customer service could offer great insights on frustration factors;
  • Distribution on realistic budgets and scale;
  • IT on network stability and how your site will handle extra traffic; and so on.

Simply put, give everyone a pencil and see what pictures get drawn.

I’m a huge fan of the Four P’s of Marketing. I know they work; I’ve used them for years. But I also know you need to adapt and have more than just the existing to compete in any market.

The PITS is one of these adaptations. How about you – how are you adapting?

image: loopoboy 2.0

5 Ways Business Owners Can Optimize Their Ads for Mobile

Seventy-two percent of small-business owners planned to increase or maintain their mobile ad spend, with 65 percent of these increasing their spending by up to 30 percent, according to a study by Borrell Associates of 1,300 small-business owners.

Add to that the fact that Google and Facebook are shifting more of their revenues to mobile, and it’s clear that mobile marketing, advertising and purchasing is more than just a trend—it’s a key factor in how consumers prefer to do business in today’s marketplace.

So how can your business maintain relevance and competitiveness within this new paradigm?

1. Create A Native Mobile Ad

One of the newest buzzwords currently doing the rounds in social media is “native advertising.” This form of advertising complements the website it’s running on, or the content it’s displayed beside, by being relevant to both the topic and audience.

Instead of the usual Google Ads that may or may not be related to the content on a page, a native ad by a phone accessory retailer, for example, will appear on a blog that has mobile phone reviews, which  encourages a warmer lead and better click-through opportunities.

A recent report highlights the increased engagement enjoyed by mobile native ads:

Celtra Mobile Native Ad Formats Performance in Q2 Aug2013

By finding and partnering with relevant blogs and news sites in your niche, you can create relatively low-cost ads and target a more receptive audience.

2. Use A Mobile Display Advertising Partner

If native mobile advertising doesn’t appeal to you, the immediate alternative is to partner with a mobile display advertising partner. (These include solutions like JumptapmMedia and Mojiva.) The benefit of these partnerships is that you can create an inventory of products for a fairly low cost; the hosting is taken care of by the partner.

These types of advertising partners can help ensure your ad reaches a wider audience than traditional forms of digital advertising by placing your ad across their communities. Additionally, features like contextual ads work much like native advertising and ensure only the audience that would benefit from your product or service sees your ad, offering a higher chance of click-through and activity.

3. Build A Foursquare Ad

Geolocation mobile app Foursquare allows users to “check in” at a physical location. This could be a restaurant, bar, gym or car dealership. By checking into the business, a customer has the option to share their location and buying preferences with their online connections on Twitter and Facebook.

This type of additional revenue from potential customers has resulted in many businesses joining Foursquare yet using it ineffectively. Companies reward “Mayors”—people who have checked in the most—as opposed to rewarding the wider customer base, and increasing loyalty in return.

A solution to this is Foursquare Ads. Instead of relying on your customers’ check-ins,Foursquare Ads are more akin to review sites like Yelp, and helps personalize local searches for consumers looking for the types of products and services your business provides.

Foursquare ads

Similar to Google’s PPC (Pay Per Click) model, Foursquare Ads only charge you when a potential customer takes an action. The difference is that it only counts when that person visits your store, thereby driving more foot traffic to your storefront.

Additionally the ads will appear for nearby users who have either visited a similar location to yours, or are searching for related services (pizza restaurants for fast-food diners, for example).

4. Take Advantage Of QR Codes

One of the most misunderstood and maligned forms of mobile advertising is the QR (Quick Response) code. Similar to the barcode on a grocery item that’s scanned at a supermarket checkout, QR codes are simple and effective ways to drive mobile advertising—if used correctly.

The biggest fault many businesses make with QR codes is not optimizing the experience when you scan the code with your phone, either by a built-in feature of third-party app.

Instead of optimizing for the mobile user, businesses are directing people to standard websites or poorly designed landing pages, where it’s almost impossible to take the desired action, such as making a purchase or signing up for offers.

To truly take advantage of QR codes, consider the following tactics:

  • Use real-time marketing with your ad. When customers scan the code, offer an immediate discount or, if in a restaurant, a free drink or appetizer when they present the code.
  • Drive the clicks to a simple yet optimized microsite. Have your offer of the week coupled with a simple “Text me when new offers go live” call-to-action to encourage sign up and use of the QR code.
  • Complement the experience. Recommend your favorite apps to enhance the user experience (a spa business could recommend the Spa Week app, for example). Provide a coupon or bonus discount for that week only.

There are several ways to take advantage of all the real-time and loyalty-building solutions QR codes offer. You just need to keep the mobile experience in mind at all times.

5. Think Local With Your Keywords

Perhaps one of the simplest and most cost-effective ways to benefit from mobile advertising is to “not advertise” at all and use local mobile searches as your form of organic advertising instead.

As smartphone users increasingly use GPS and apps like Google Maps, along with search terms to find local services and businesses, being optimized for these types of searches can benefit your physical foot traffic exponentially.

To give you an idea of how important local mobile search is to your business, consider these statistics:

With these kinds of numbers, it’s clear that simple SEO isn’t enough for your business—now you need to optimize for local mobile search, too. To take advantage of this shift in research patterns, your business needs to ensure your main website is optimized for these potential customers.

  • If your site is not already mobile-friendly, consider revamping its design now. Ideally switch to a responsive design that automatically resizes the screen and provides the optimal user experience for your visitor.

Responsive web design

  • If you have an e-commerce section, adjust keywords and alt-tags on images to target local searches (“buy the best seafood in New Albany, New Jersey” versus “New Albany seafood,” for example.) Also, ensure that smartphone users can make purchases easily.
  • Optimize your images by resizing them and using them as lead first impressions for mobile visitors, with relevant alt-tags, to ensure your mobile site loads quickly, avoiding possible penalties by Google for slow-loading sites.

These are just some of the ways you can currently make use of mobile advertising for your business.

Budget, resources and implementation will determine which ones work best for your company—but even adopting just one is better than no mobile ad strategy at all.

Turning Prospects Into Customers and 24 Other Tips to Help Grow Your Business

You Don't Need Fans You Need CustomersLately, it seems as if we, as marketers, have gotten lazy. We’ve stopped thinking beyond the easy, Marketing 101 prospecting that we learned when we started our profession, and happily hide behind numbers that don’t mean all that much.

  • Impressions;
  • Social proof;
  • Social shares;
  • Reach;
  • Awareness.

All good numbers, and useful if that’s the goal of your marketing endeavors.

But something that’s primarily missing from these numbers is the main reason we got into marketing in the first place – customers.

Sure, having a lot of reach can help you get in front of those prospects you want to turn into customers. And yes, without potential customers being aware of your brand, the prospecting factor diminishes immediately.

But we’re so much better than that – or we should be.

We have the most insane amount of data available to us that it’s almost criminal not to be utilizing that to market smarter. Today’s social web users are freely sharing their Likes, preferences, buying signals and, more importantly, who impacts them to make the decisions that matter – so why are we not using this data more?

  • Build your archetypal persona based on transactional and archival data, and combine with today’s wealth of information;
  • Identify where they live online. More importantly, identify who they live online with, based on their current needs and situations;
  • Use weighted keywords – placing more emphasis on the words that matter to your brand and that of your customer;
  • Filter the conversations around these topics and build secondary and tertiary filters around the people in your prospect’s immediate circle for these topics;
  • Drop your prospects into a CRM platform like Nimble, to connect the dots when it comes to the buying cycle and life events that impact their decisions;
  • Monitor, react, be pro-active, offer solutions;
  • Rinse and repeat.

Okay, so that’s a simple overview for brevity – but as simple as it is, it’s a strong foundation for truly understanding what it takes to move your desired customers from prospects to leads to acquisition.

It takes legwork, but the results are worth it. Unless you prefer to wallow in the lazy marketing pool, of course….

The above post is my contribution to Craig McBreen’s new eBook, You Don’t Need Fans, You Need Customers. It’s chock full of advice on finding the clients you covet from the likes of Gini Dietrich, Ann Handley, Chris Ducker, Shelly Kramer, Francisco Rosales and more. Best of all, it’s free! My sincere thanks to Craig for the invite – make sure you grab your copy here