Now that more than half of American’s who own mobile devices use smartphones, marketers are striving to gain real estate and mindshare on what is, more than all its predecessors, a true personal computing platform. Smartphones are the most powerful personal communications device invented yet. They are ever present in our lives. Those of us who own them likely have our mobile device on us or nearby throughout the day. How many times do you intentionally leave home without your smartphone? Probably close to never.
Given this reality, texting (SMS) has become a widely adopted marketing tool. We’ve all encountered promotions by businesses and non-profits asking us to text a series of numbers to register a vote, think American Idol, or donate money, such contributing to the Red Cross’ disaster relief, or take advantage of a special offer, like coupons from Target. These campaigns are more likely than not to involve only one or two types of mobile interactions.
It’s campaigns that incorporate the trifecta of phone, text and web/apps that allow smartphones owners to use their preferred means to interact with brands while leveraging the platform’s broad capabilities. These integrated approaches also position the marketed brand as highly accessible and approachable, which may enhance brand loyalty.
There’s a new technology gaining traction that allows marketers to utilize the smartphone’s trifecta while putting their brands front and center in the consumer’s mind. It’s called StarStar and it’s by a company called Zoove. StarStar goes beyond the SMS common short code direct response by offering vanity phone numbers that allows companies to secure a letter-based mobile phone number that reinforces a company’s brand.
For example, let’s say Target uses StarStar. (Disclaimer: I have no idea if the company does or not.) Target could rent “**Target” and incorporate the phone number into TV commercials. Viewers who dialed “**Target” on their smartphones could listen to a special offer, or receive texts with contest information. Since the service knows where calls originate from, callers could also be routed to regionally based web content, or watch a video that features the opening of a local store.
Listeners who dialed **WIN after hearing one of the eight daily promotions were entered to win $1,000. The call triggered a text message that every caller received inviting him or her to opt-in to receive offers from CBS Local.
The listeners benefited if they won the daily cash drawings. In turn, CBS Radio grew its opt-in database and reach.
The restaurant chain Omaha Steaks is another early adopter of the StarStar technology. Diners who dial **OMAHA or **STEAK hear a short message and can either speak with a representative or receive a text with a link to a special offer. Last season the NFL and Verizon used **NFL to drive people to download the NFL mobile app.
These established brands, with their larger marketing budgets, are likely to be able to accommodate the roughly $60,000 a year that Zoove charges for the vanity numbers. What about smaller businesses or individuals?
Zoove is now making it easier for consumers and smaller businesses to build their own brands through its “StarStar Me” personalized vanity phone numbers. For just $3/month, a person can secure her own “**” vanity number. The StarStar Me service shows up on the subscribers’ cell phone bill and can be cancelled at any time.
How might this work? Let’s pretend a woman named Matilda wants a vanity phone number for her company, Matilda’s Bookkeeping Service. All she has to do is go to www.starstar.me, select her mobile carrier, and then enter “**MATILDA” to see if her name is available. (The words must be 5 – 9 characters long.) Since as of this writing it is, she just confirms the name and then a few simple steps later she has her own vanity phone number.
Using the accompanying iPhone and Android apps that AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon all offer, Matilda can route **MATILDA calls to her smartphone or have them trigger the sending of a text message. The text can be used to market an offer, give the caller business-related information, or tell the customer when Matilda is going to be available.
Small businesspeople who rely heavily on smartphones to run their companies and want to make it easy for their clients to remember how to reach them should take a serious look at the StarStar service.
Amongst it all there were three marketing solutions that stood for me.
BUZZcard – For many companies, video has become an essential marketing tool. BUZZcard’s easy-to-use service helps small businesses easily create professionally branded videos without them having to invest in any editing or production software.
BUZZcard seems to be a very straightforward service. You provide your logo artwork to BUZZcard and any standard text that you’d like to appear at the beginning and conclusion of your videos. Then you film your video. Upload it to BUZZcard via the iPhone app. Select a music track you’d like to use. BUZZcard will add the branded animated wrapper that gives a professional and consistent look to your video. Next, upload your branded video to YouTube and post or share it on whichever websites you choose.
Founded in Australia, the company has recently relocated its headquarters to Silicon Valley. BUZZcard offers a 30 day free trial. The standard pricing is $9.95 per month for a one year subscription, or $14.95 for a month-to-month subscription.
Direct Mail for Mac – Marketers have many email marketing system providers to choose from these days. What makes Direct Mail for Mac unique is that it’s an app for Mac OS X that sits on the desktop and provides quick access to an array of email and newsletter templates.
Use drag & drop to easily insert images into the template of your choosing. Test to see what the email will look like in over 30 email clients and test the spam score before sending it. When you’re ready to push out the campaign, do so using the company’s high-speed e3 Delivery Service or use your own email server.
Pay nothing for the first 50 emails you send each month. Then, pay-as-you go, or sign up for a monthly plan depending on the size and frequency of your email campaigns.
iPresent – What company doesn’t want to help their sales teams sell as effectively as possible? It behooves businesses that have a suite of marketing materials to co-locate all their assets and make it simple for the sales teams to access them. That’s where iPresent comes in.
iPresent is a iPad-based platform with a Content Management System (CMS) backend that enables you to organize all your company’s sales materials in one place and have your sales team deliver presentations to prospects using an intuitive and attractive user interface.
Here’s how it works. The marketing team uploads sales tools and materials for the field to use into the CMS. The sales person downloads the iPresent app on her iPad. Prior to a sales call, she logs into the app and selects the sales materials, or sub-sections of them, that she wants to use at her upcoming sales call. During the meeting she presents the testimonial videos, product demonstrations, product specs, etc., from her presentation platform, the iPad.
Marketers who have had challenges getting salespeople to download the most current sales materials will like iPresent’s version control capabilities. They can easily push out newer versions of the white papers, product videos or other materials they’ve recently published through the CMS. The sales team synchs to get the updates.
iPresent offers a 30 day free trial for its subscription service. Pricing is tiered, with the standard level costing $21/month, the Pro level costing $30/month and the Enterprise level costing $50/month. All pricing is per user.
The drawing to a close of 2012 and start of 2013 is a great time to revisit and revise your company’s marketing plan. Use this opportunity to make sure that the marketing plan is attuned to your business’ realities and its objectives for the coming year.
Some companies use a quarterly rolling approach to marketing planning. Those firms formally modify and record their go-to-market targets and tactics on a regular basis in order to capture and adjust to buyers’ behaviors, track the performance and effectiveness of campaigns and ensure alignment with the corporation’s goals.
There are plenty of other companies that, if they’ve created a marketing plan at all, only work on the document annually. These firms dust off their marketing plans once a year and then attempt to accurately predict what will occur during the upcoming 12 months.
This is a sub-optimal business practice, for as economists and political pundits should acknowledge, it is incredibly difficult to correctly forecast what will occur over the course of a year. Refining and retuning should be done during as real-world events unfold.
Whether your company does its marketing planning frequently, infrequently or somewhere in between, take the time soon to revisit key sections of your plan and ask the following questions:
Corporate Objectives – Have the corporation’s goals shifted? Is the business’ priority to increase market share, enhance profitability, raise funding, expand its product line or something else? Has the market landscape changed due to the emergence or withdrawal of a competitor?
Revenue Objectives – Are new revenue targets in place? Have the quarterly numbers been adjusted? Do the sales forecasts support them? What is the probability that they’ll be met or exceeded?
Success Metrics – Is the marketing team testing, adjusting and measuring results? If the corporate objectives have been modified, should marketing put new metrics in place? Will new measurement tools need to be implemented?
Target Audience – Is the company still selling to the same buyers? Have buyers’ preferences and behaviors remained constant or have they changed? Are there new influencers in the market? Are the buyer and influencer personas that have been developed still accurate or should they be modified?
Marketing Objectives – Given the company’s current priorities, is the marketing team focused on the correct initiatives? Is the team going after the right buyers and influencers? What must marketing do to help achieve the revenue goals? Are new products or services being introduced soon? What tactics should be implemented to support their debut and any revised corporate objectives? Are the tactics tied to measurable goals?
Budget – Is the marketing spend aligned with the company’s objectives? Is it sufficient to achieve all that’s expected? Is it optimally allocated by quarter? If not, can the dollars be shifted around? Must some campaigns or investments be modified or pushed out to a later date?
As Robert Half, the founder and namesake of the staffing firm Robert Half International, once said, “Asking the right questions takes as much skill as giving the right answers.” So ask the questions listed above, arrive at the answers, modify your marketing plan accordingly and begin 2013 with renewed marketing focus, intent and drive.
When deciding which online properties to promote their brands on, companies should prioritize spending their resources on the sites that their customers and prospects frequent. It turns out that the top online destination that frequent social media users go when researching a product to make a purchase decision is….the brand’s website.
This finding shouldn’t be shocking, but it should be a wake up call. These days, some companies are so absorbed with their social media activities that they are de-prioritizing the attention they put into updating and growing their corporate websites. And yet, their websites continue to be the first stop most buyers make when contemplating a purchase.
The recent study by Edison Research sheds light on how buyers learn about brands online. Titled “The Social Habit,” the study primarily focuses on the online behaviors of the 58 million Americans, age 12+ years old, who engage in social media two or more times per day.
The study found that for 70% of these active social media users, a product’s website is the first or second place they go online to get pre-purchase information. One can presume that the frequency at which people who are not shifting their time online to social media activities visit brand websites when researching products is likely the same or even higher. Interestingly, 54% of the respondents cite online reviews as the first or second resource they check when conducting product research. Rounding out the list: 33% get recommendations from Facebook friends, 18% get opinions from people they follow on Twitter, 13% visit blogs and 13% check online message boards or forums.
Of the active social media users who follow brands on one or more social platforms, the majority turns to Facebook first when getting information about a product or company through social media. The study found that:
69% Consult Facebook Company Pages
19% Consult a friend on Facebook
10% Have never used social media in this way
5% Check a company’s Twitter page
3% Consult a friend on Twitter
3% Check a company’s Pinterest page
2% Check another social media platform
One of the main tenets of current day marketing is to constantly test, track and revise strategies and accompanying tactics. This is the right approach for gauging social media. Social media platforms will likely continue to play an increasingly important role in the sales cycle, with Facebook clearly at the top of the list. Testing social media strategies on a few platforms where your buyers spend their time to determine what works and what doesn’t is a prudent approach.
As the study showed, online review sites such as Yelp, Amazon and Google Places, have a very big influence on a buyer’s decision-making process. Companies should make sure to monitor relevant review sites regularly and not assume that opinions shared on social media are now the substitute for these forums. But, it is a company’s website that remains its greatest online asset and should continue to receive ongoing investment of time and resources.
A few months ago I wrote a blog post to help get marketers up and running on Pinterest. Since then, the social bookmarking company has continued to gain major momentum. In August, Pinterest ended its beta and now it’s open to everyone who wants to use it.
Pinterest’s popularity has soared, with over 23 million people and businesses creating boards and starting to pin. This social media phenomenon has spawned an ecosystem of tools and services to help individuals and companies manage and analyze their Pinterest presences. In this post, I feature tools that marketers who use Pinterest should know about and consider trying.
Pin Alerts – Use Pin Alerts to get notified every time someone pins an image from your website to Pinterest. Currently in beta, Pin Alerts sends an email to you when an image on your website gets pinned and you, in turn, can send an email thanking the pinner.
Pinalyzer – Pinalyzer positions itself as “Your best friend to enjoy Pinterest.” The service is “designed to increase your Pinterest experience, suggesting pins and people to follow.” It starts off with “Smart Suggest” which quickly analyzes the people who you follow and who follow you and then offers pins for you to post based on the custom social graph it creates. The site is a work-in-progress, since it is not yet calculating influence scores. A recent post by Pinalyzer on Twitter says that the founding team is considering a new design for the service.
Pinerly – Pinerly allows you to build campaigns on Pinterest and track their effectiveness from a central dashboard. Similar to Pinterest, you drag a “PinerlyIt” button onto your browser’s Bookmark Bar. Once it’s in place, you click on the “PinerlyIt” button instead of the “PinIt” button when you want to pin a photo onto your Pinterest page. Pinerly posts the image to your Pinterest board and adds on tracking code that allows you to monitor its popularity and whether it drives engagement. It is currently free.
Pingraphy – If you have Pinterest campaigns underway, Pingraphy could help your productivity and your sanity while ensuring that your followers don’t get overwhelmed by the frequency of your pins. Pingraphy is a Pinterest management tool that allows you to schedule your pins and then, once they’re posted, tracks their repins, likes and clicks. It is currently free.
PinPuff – PinPuff measures “Pinfluence,” which it defines as a “measure of your popularity, influence and reach on Pinterest. It also decides monetary value of your pins and traffic your pins generate.” Pinfluence scores are calculated and users are also given a Reach Score, Activity Score and Virality Score. In June, PinPuff was acquired by a Los Angeles-based incubator called Science.
Repinly – This Pinterest Directory helps you find the most popular pins, boards and pinners on Pinterest. Repinerly assigns Pinterest scores based on the number of followers and other metrics. It also tracks the top pinning sources, atop which sits Google. It is currently free.
Shares As Image – Find text online that you want to quickly turn into an image and post on Pinterest? Shares As Image to the rescue. A free version with limited font and color choices is available. Pay $6.99 to get the full featured PRO version.
Url2pin.it – Do you want to pin an entire website image on Pinterest? Since Pinterest only natively supports a single image, try out Url2pin.it. It’s a free tool that takes a screenshot of your website, which you can then share on Pinterest.
Are there other Pinterest tools that you use but are missing from this list? If there are, please share your suggestions.
Brands are assets. The more equity they have, the greater their value. Marketers are responsible for building their organizations’ brands. Doing so successfully takes time, dedication, a plan, foresight, consistency and some luck.
“He believed that a company’s brand works like a bank account. When the company does good things, such as launch a hit product or a great campaign, it makes deposits in the Brand Bank. When a company experiences setbacks, like an embarrassing mouse or an overpriced computer, it’s making a withdrawal. When there’s a healthy balance in the Brand Bank, customers are more willing to ride out the tough times. With a low balance, they might be more tempted to cut and run.” (Source: Cult of Mac)
This metaphor is brilliant. It’s easy for everyone in a company to grasp. For non-marketers, it demystifies, at a high-level, how brand building works. There are plenty of recent examples of companies that have very publicly made deposits into, and withdrawals from, their Brand Banks.
Brand Bank deposits and withdrawals are happening constantly on a company-to-customer level. Customers who have positive sales experiences, are pleased with their purchases, or have satisfying customer service calls will all make Brand Bank deposits. When company-to-customer interactions leave buyers angered or frustrated, withdrawals are made.
The Brand Bank framework is one that all CMOs and VPs of Marketing should adopt, regardless of whether they work at for-profit and non-profit organizations. Marketing leaders should anoint themselves “Chief Brand Investment Officers.” Whether they are building a lead generation strategy, developing a sales program or deploying a development campaign, Chief Brand Investment Officers must consider whether their initiatives are going to add to the Brand Bank’s balance and how to avoid triggering withdrawals.
The previous post addressed keys to preparing and promoting a webinar. In preparation for your webinar, you have clearly defined your goals, built lists of targets, sent the invitees well-constructed promotional emails and made it easy for them to register to attend. Now it’s nearly show time. The following are four additional keys to producing an effective webinar.
The Presentation – You are taking your audience on a journey. At the outset of the presentation, share the agenda and tell them what they should expect to learn by the time the talk concludes. Create a presentation that will captivate the attendees. Weave in stories as a way of delivering and reinforcing your main points. The more compelling the messages and delivery, the more interested they’ll be and the less likely they’ll leave. Make the presentation highly visual and legible. Use lots of imagery and minimal text. Insert polls to keep the audience involved.
Most webinar speakers create their presentations in PowerPoint (PC) or Keynote (Mac). But there are other options, such as cloud-based Prezi. As for webinar platforms, Adobe Connect, GotoWebinar and WebEx are some of the more popular ones. Most webinar platforms offer recording capabilities. But if you want to do your own recording, check out Camtasia (PC) and Screenflow (Mac).
Speaker Preparation – Practice, practice, practice! The live webinar should not be the first time that the speaker delivers the presentation. Hold one or two dry runs. So that the presenter is not distracted during his talk, have someone else advance the slides for him. Also, have a group of employees present in the room with the speaker so that he has eye contact with an audience. People are usually more comfortable, and their voice sounds more at ease, when they are presenting to others in person versus sitting in a room talking into a phone knowing that there are scores of faceless listeners out there.
Follow Up – Within a day, post a copy of the presentation and the webinar recording on your company’s website. Send the links to the attendees as part of a follow up thank you email. Write a separate email to the people who registered but did not attend and provide them with instructions on how to watch the webinar on demand.
Measurement – Ask your attendees to fill out a survey before they exit the webinar. This is the best way to get timely and honest feedback. Track how many drops occurred during the presentation and at what points people left. Pay attention to the business titles of the people who attended. Did you attract the targets you were after? If not, re-examine your promotional emails and the webinar’s subject to determine if they are best suited for your target audience. If this was a demand generation initiative, track each lead to determine whether the webinar helped move the prospects through the sales cycle.
A webinar can be a very effective marketing vehicle for generating leads, cultivating prospects and transforming customers into evangelists. Producing a successful webinar requires that you make the right planning choices and execute well. The following are keys to preparing for and promoting an effective webinar.
Your Goal – The first step in the planning process is to determine the purpose of the webinar. Who do you want to attract? What’s your target attendees number? What action do you want those attendees to take afterwards? The answers to these questions will help you select the appropriate topic and the ideal speakers for your webinar.
The List – You can only reach your goal if you get the right people to attend your webinar. Find them, or make it easy for them to find you. They may be in your prospect or customer databases. You may need to rent a list from a list service, a list broker or a publisher. If you plan to send out promotional emails, make sure that you rent a double opt-in email list.
Promotional Email – The promotional email should be inviting to the eye and easy to read. Make sure that the “Register Now,” or other call-to-action buttons, stand out. Highlight the date and time so that it pops for the reader. Make sure the copy states what the invitee will learn by attending the webinar. Have an attention-grabbing opening sentence or paragraph that engages the recipient. Do some A/B testing to help select the most effective email subject line. Also advertise the webinar on your company’s website and Facebook page, in industry e-newsletters, via Twitter, to LinkedIn Groups and through other social media channels.
Landing Page – The landing page’s purpose is to get an interested party to register for the webinar. It follows that the registration form should be simple to complete and process. To tie the campaign together, the look and feel of the landing page should be the same as what was used in the promotional email. If you have two competing layouts, do some A/B testing to determine which drives the most registrations.
The text’s font size should be large enough that visitors need not strain their eyes to read it. The copy should clearly restate the “what, why and when” information using the same text as the email, adding some additional details if needed. If there’s an offer, make sure to call it out.
Reminder Emails – People are busy. Reminder emails are proven methods of reducing no shows. Send one reminder email the day before and another one hour prior to the webinar start-time. Both emails should contain links to the webinar page as well as contact information for customer service in case they need assistance.
The next post will discuss the keys to ensuring that the webinar itself is done well and that proper follow through occurs.
Did you realize that Brand Ambassadors are working at your company? In fact, it’s filled with them. While no one at your business may hold that specific job title, every employee holds that role. The responsibilities associated with being a Brand Ambassador are unlikely to be listed in many, if any, job descriptions. Yet willingly or unwillingly, you and your colleagues have implicitly taken them on.
When you hear the phrase “Brand Ambassadors,” you may think of a celebrity who become the advertising face of a company, such as Mariah Carey for Jenny Craig, or Ashton Kutcher for Nikon. Or, perhaps you think of the marketing and sales people whose job it is to promote the company’s brand through campaigns they deploy and the interactions they have with customers. Either way, you are right. But these people are not the only Brand Ambassadors that a company has.
In this era of social media, people throughout a business are promoting their companies’ brands in ways they may not realize. Employees who are tweeting and blogging about company happenings are de facto spokespeople. The way that people represent themselves on Facebook, especially if they post about work, influences how their Facebook friends view their employers. Merely listing a company on a LinkedIn profile has an impact. Fairly or unfairly, the public’s perceptions about businesses’ brands are influenced by these mediums.
Brand perceptions are also shaped by every day interactions that happen between employees and people outside the company. What they say, the tone they use to say it, how responsive they are and the quality of attention they give to customers all impact brand perception. If a customer service representative is not helpful enough, the brand is tarnished. If a delivery person driving a truck with a company’s logo on it cuts someone off, the brand is tarnished. If a CEO falsifies his resume, the brand of the company that hired him is tarnished.
A brand’s perception has an endless number of vulnerabilities. That’s why it’s important to train your employees so that they understand the role of Brand Ambassador.
Hold a formal brand training class. Educate all employees that they need to embody the brand that they are representing. Make sure everyone internalizes what the brand stands for, including the brand promise, its essence and the benefits that it strives to deliver. Share email and phone protocols with them. Have them acknowledge that when they are wearing company logoed apparel, they are walking billboards for the company and that they shouldn’t act in a way that will damage the brand. Encourage them to embrace the role of Brand Ambassador and to travel wisely.
The ad:tech Conference was recently held in San Francisco. The show, which bills itself as “The Event for Digital Marketing,” was filled with companies promoting their digital ad networks and marketplaces, ad campaign management tools and services, affiliate marketing programs and payment solutions. Email marketing vendors were also at the show. This post highlights three email solutions that caught my attention for their abilities to help improve the effectiveness of email marketing campaigns.
BriteVerify – It doesn’t matter how large an email list is if it’s filled with junk addresses. Sending emails to bad addresses wastes a marketer’s budget and can lead to problems with ISPs. BriteVerify’s technology checks the quality of a company’s contact list before a campaign is sent out to make sure that the addresses are good ones.
To help prevent the “Garbage In, Garbage Out Principle” from happening, they also offer BriteForms. As a prospect types his address into a web form, the BriteForm service checks its validity in real-time. If it’s nonexistent, perhaps due to a typo or because it’s a spam source, the submitter is immediately asked to re-type the email address. Think of all the list cleansing time that can be saved by doing point-of-submission verification!
BriteVerify’s pricing plans are on-demand and volume-based. This means that companies can try it out without much risk. There’s no contract or minimum monthly usage required. I recommend that all email marketers using ESPs that don’t provide these services evaluate BriteVerify.
RapLeaf – Behind each email address is a person with unique demographic attributes. Yet, many companies send the identical email offers to each one of their subscribers. What happens? Recipients view these emails as irrelevant and their perception of the brand that sent them goes down.
RapLeaf helps marketers learn about their audience. The company is able to determine the age, gender, location, marital status and interests of the people whose email addresses are on a list. Using this intelligence, marketers can segment their lists and tailor the offers that they send to customers. If personalized email campaigns are properly deployed using this data, higher open rates, greater customer response and increased revenues are likely to follow. This is another service worth checking out.
MarketFish – Companies that are just starting out, want to reach a new audience or expand into a new market often rent email addresses lists from list brokers. It’s the same basic model that has been used in the postal direct mail business since the Mad Men era. Enter MarketFish’s cloud-based platform. MarketFish differentiates itself by providing a central hub for renting opt-in lists from its database of 200+ addresses that can be sorted by up to 250+ filters. MarketFish also serves as an ESP, giving its customers the tools to create, refine and schedule their email campaigns, as well as track and analyze the results. If your company is shopping for an email list source, consider MarketFish.