Importance of Gearing Marketing Content to the Buying Process

Who are your marketing messages created for?  Do you have materials for people in every stage of the buying process? Especially on your website, you should provide content to potential and current customers involved in each stage of the buying process.

A very simple flow of the buying process is:

  1. Awareness—where the buyer identifies the need or problem
  2. Consideration—research options
  3. Conversion—make purchase
  4. Post-purchase behavior—is the buyer happy? Will they purchase again?

Think about how you make purchases, both professionally and personally. If you find value in a company and are HAPPY with your experiences, you will hopefully think of them first as a resource the next time you buy a product or service that they offer.

Become the trusted vendor/partner who customers want to learn from, engage with, purchase from, brag about. Create evangelists who will share their stories in person, on social media, and even in comments on your website.

According to the Harvard Business Review, it costs 5 to 25 times to acquire new customers than maintain new ones. It also takes TIME to find new customers. So, once someone becomes a customer, with your content and outreach you should encourage them to stay engaged and make future purchases from you.

Future posts will walk through each step of the buying purchase.

C

Technology Changes: A Group Effort

Firm A: Technology specialist got a new email provider. Prior to this, there were no discussions with database management team of how to integrate this new service with their data platform. How would new or updated records be transferred, opt outs be managed, demographic changes be reflected?

Firm B: In an information services company, the marketing dept. signed a contact with a large marketing automation software company. They then turned it over to IT with the directive to implement this with their current database software. Since IT was unaware of this purchase until after the fact, no consideration had been given to if or how complicated this integration would be, whether this was a good fit, or the costs for building the data communications.

As our technology platforms multiply and get more complicated to integrate, it is imperative that teams work together to find the most appropriate, flexible, cost-effective, and user-friendly option BEFORE a contract is signed.

Multiple user groups should be involved in the final testing testing of a new system—users from events, e-media, subscriptions, membership, research. Listening to the pros and cons of this system from a variety of intelligent voices can help give a new perspective. Also, when others are consulted, I have found the buy-in to change improves. Why invest in a system that no one ends up using?

There should also be an objective project manager who keeps the process moving forward and looks out for the organization’s best interests. Often the different user groups will look at these explorations from how it impacts just their department. They are not aware how this change will impact the entire organization’s processes to hopefully streamline workloads, learn more about customers, and improve the bottom line.

The project manager can be an internal or external person. I have done this from a consultative role for several firms.  If you do hire an outside consultant, find out their relationship with the companies under consideration. While we are all familiar with different firms, I do not think that as consultants we should be financially or otherwise tied to firms we recommend, unless full disclosures are made.

And if you have yet to lay out your STRATEGY for a new database or technology platform, be sure to read my recent post on this topic.

The journey continues.   C

White Papers & Lead Generation-Part 2

Promoting white paper downloads helps media companies offer targeted leads to advertisers, increase their web traffic, and improve their own database. The first part of this 2-part blog post discussed what white papers are, how they are used, and why they are so popular today.

In doing research for that post, I visited many media web sites. I saw a huge disparity in the amount and types of data that firms are collecting for a free white paper download. Brands are asking a range of collecting no data (why? unless you are just looking for distribution quantity, but no ability to follow up) to asking for complete contact information and detailed demographic questions.

What information you require for download will depend on 1—what will help you identify an existing customer or capture a new one 2—what information you need to give back to an advertiser and 3—what demographics you deem imperative to capture for your database, for improved marketing.

One of the quickest registration starters is to ask for just an email address on screen 1.

FR reg p 1 2016-05-23 at 3.57.39 PM

CRN email only at 3.46.02 PM

If a customer is in your system, then the link where a customer completes contact information can be pre-populated. (ie. their name, company already typed in the boxes). If it is a new customer, then that person completes the contact information form. Below are the page 2 links for the previous screens:
FP contact demos 2016-05-23 at 3.57.29 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notice that above they are collecting some demographic information with the registration questions.  The form still looks short, since the demo questions have drop down options.

CRN addr 2016-05-23 at 3.46.24 PM

The quicker the process for your customer, the higher the chance they may visit your site again when they have an informational need.

Other questions to consider as you set up your forms:

What other information do you need to capture on the reg form, to make the lead usable for both you and the advertiser? This CFO form is very simple.

CFO simple reg 2016-05-23 at 4.08.43 PM

This one includes phone numbers, which I saw required on very few forms.  I wonder if they tested the form to see if that requirement impacted download rates.

CFO detail reg

Do you need a mailing address now? Or can a sales person ask for that data later, once the lead is captured?  That might improve response rates.

For existing customers, are there some demographics missing from their profile? Can you ask for one piece of it when they make a download?

Can you test the questions asked on reg forms? Testing often shows there is a balance of the amount of information collected and the value of the “free” download.

I think that you are limited in your form creation by your front end and back end systems, time to create and manage them, and your imagination.  This process is changing dramatically, driven by both user whims and advertiser demands. The fluctuations may decrease with in a year, but right now I think it’s a bit of the Wild West.  Testing, tracking, changing, test again.

The journey continues.

C

What is YOUR Database STRATEGY?

In a publishing or information services company, every department has data. A lot of it. In different formats. With a range of collected demographics. And wants to store and use it in a variety of ways.

Typical departments can include:

  • Audience development (for the magazines and e-newsletter lists)
  • Events
  • Membership
  • Events
  • Research
  • List Services

Each of these departments has a different view of the database, but those individual views may not be what is best for the entire company database.  If there is no central communication, I envision the blindfolded people around the elephant: each with a completely different view of the animal but no one grasping how complex the animal is.

When reviewing options for how to best house your customer information, it is critical to have someone looking at the STRATEGY of how you want to capture customer data, maintain it, use it in the future. You need that over-arching view as you consider technology options for what is best for the entire organization.

This is not an easy task today. Online customers drive how much information they will offer about themselves to interact with your sites, your offers, your products. And as I have said in previous posts, this can be at odds with the information that advertisers are demanding. Without a strategy, it can be cumbersome and frustrating for internal staff AND customers, who are continually asked for unnecessary data about themselves and sent offers they have no interest in.

There are some database management systems that have incredible front ends for data capture, but the back end of the system is not as nuanced as many business-2-business firms require today. There are some systems that can store and massage your data, but the front end for data capture is severely old-fashioned.

I have been involved in several recent database reviews. I am not sure there is ONE firm that best provides the superior front AND back end services for today’s multi-faceted information services companies. The online interactions and interests of both advertisers and customers are changing so rapidly, it is hard to keep up technology-wise. But, you can combine the services of more than one firm to reach your goals.

Be sure to involve an experienced database manager at the front end of your development process. She can help decipher the needs of the various departments, ask targeted questions to potential database firms, and help determine which systems might work best for your company today to market smarter and maximize revenue. And tomorrow.

The journey continues.

C

5 Ideas to Help you Provide Better Advertiser Leads Now

Niche Marketing. Target marketing.  Today, these long-used marketing terms are mingling with the word narrowcasting, which traditionally was known as the way that TV and radio media disseminate information to a select audience.  Narrowcasting correlates well with how advertisers are increasingly asking media companies to provide extremely focused lists to target with their marketing efforts or for specific leads sent directly to them.

My last post shared my prediction that narrowcasting will continue to become more important in 2016.  Since that post, it seems the demand for these services is growing even quicker than I thought. Last week I saw yet another press release about a larger b2b publisher offering targeted information services to their clients.

Even if you don’t have a budget to create and maintain this type of personalized marketing services today, there are some things you can do now to better serve the increased advertiser requests for detailed customer information. If they haven’t asked for it yet, they will soon.

  1. Keep your current customer and prospect database clean.  The more up-to-date it is, the more likely that your marketing efforts and leads you can provide will have accurate information. Capture demographic data from your website visitors in a non-invasive way. If you don’t have a breadth of customer knowledge, now is the time to start asking for information about them.  What you collect will vary by industry, and what advertisers are requesting.
  2. Provide ongoing, quality web content. Be the go-to website that keeps your customers coming back. The increased site visits give you additional opportunities to learn more about your repeat visitors. 
  3. Mine your data! What emerging areas of interest are on your website? Is there is a specific topic where people are increasingly accessing information? And is this an opportunity for a new focused product or a new segment of advertisers you can target?
  4. Give salespeople the tools they need to prep before they meet with an advertiser. Effective sales people today need to know who your most active customers are, what they respond to, and various ways you can slice up your customer list for more targeted offers. 
  5. Educate the advertiser on the buying process for your industry.  In my last post I mentioned how advertisers seem to all ask for leads of a very small, high level demographic group.  If you can demonstrate to your advertisers that a different or wider group is involved in the selection/buying process, that gives you a deeper pool of names to target. This broader audience will also help to avoid list fatigue.

Focusing on any or all of these item will teach you more about your customer, which will give yo opportunities to provide them with valuable information they can use in their business or personal life, which will help you to give advertisers those sought-after leads–at a premium–which will hopefully improve your bottom line.

The journey continues. C

5 Direct Marketing Predictions for 2015

It’s the time of year for predictions and wrap ups, promises and plans, hopes and new beginnings. Here are 5 business areas that I think direct marketers need to remain focused on in 2015, to help improve their marketing results and their organization’s bottom line.

  1. Lead generation. Advertisers continue to request more detailed demographics about their leads. These leads are lucrative, IF marketing companies have the information being demanded—employee size, sales volume, titles, business types, etc.
  2. Aging files. The opposite of what is needed above, many firms have older, outdated names on their systems. Trying to re-engage these people can be less expensive than continually acquiring new names. Do you have a re-engagement strategy designed?
  3. Data Integration. Many organizations still have data housed in multiple silos. Combining this information can help improve response rates, increase knowledge about your customers, and allow you to really see the aging on your database.
  4. Overloaded email inboxes. To improve response rates, market smarter! Test, measure, test again. Try smaller, more focused efforts to targeted segments.
  5. Responsive design. The move to mobile platforms will continue to increase in 2015. Are your websites and response forms easily viewed on tablets, iPhones, Android products, as well as laptops?

I think that focusing on each item will impact the others on this list in a positive way.

Have any other suggestions to add to my list? Feel free to comment below.

Happy New Year! I wish you success, positive growth, and movement in your career—forward, sideways, or stepping into a new role, whichever you choose.

The journey continues.

C

How–and Why- You can Create Simple Re-engagement Marketing Efforts

How much does it cost to acquire a new customer? While this cost can very depending on the product or service you are selling, some online research includes claims that it can cost 5-7 times the amount to acquire a new customer as to retaining a current customer.  Instead of always reaching OUT to find new customers, there are most likely some unused pockets of customers on your database who you can try to re-engage.

For media companies, there are often current and previous customers that fall into a variety of data silos. Possibly housed on separate databases. This list can include customers from a variety of sources:

  • Current and inactive magazine subscribers
  • Enewsletter subscribers
  • Online and in-person event registrants
  • Research and white paper downloaders
  • Website members
  • App downloaders
  • Social media followers
  • Reprint buyers

Corporate databases are expensive to maintain. And aging. Companies are paying to maintain names they may not be currently using in any efforts. Mine these pockets, find some hidden gold as the cliche goes. These customers were interested in your company in the past. Can you tell what they purchased, when they last engaged? Do you have demographic information you can use as a carrot to send them an offer for a targeted campaign for a magazine, an event?

Here are a couple general ideas other B2B marketers have used to engage older names that you can try.  This first one shows an embedded message in a segment of an enewsletter.

Retail Leader

This was an actual “last issue alert” email for an enewsletter.

smart briefs

Both of these efforts give the list owner an opportunity to see that there is a real person behind that email address.  Also, the link can be an great place to try and capture optional demographic data about the subscriber.

I think re-engagement going to be one of the hot marketing topics for the next 2-3 years, with overburdened inboxes, smaller workforces, and scattered attention spans. Marketers need to figure how we can keep our current customers active and re-engage with previous customers. I expect to write often about this, I think it is so critical to improving a business’ bottom line.

The journey continues.

C

P.S.  I will be expanding on this topic at  next week’s Midwest Circulation Association meeting, in Schaumburg IL.  Details for signing up found at  http://www.midwestcirc.org/

How I am Running my Business more Effectively in 2014

It’s hard to run a successful business. Whether you have 1-5-50-700-25,000 employees, there is always something to be done including the work itself, the innovation, the marketing, the social media, the accounting, the legal work, the networking, the social media.

My friend Naomi, who runs a thriving corporate premium business, and I recently discussed how difficult it is to run a business while trying to get all the actual work done. We work nights, we work weekends, we work vacations trying to stay on top of things.

I told her that I made a decision this year that running my business was actually PART of my business. I would do some of the operational work during the typical 9-5 hours, not always in the evenings. Surprisingly,I have found that I more focused and there are fewer distractions, as long as I turn off email and the phone.

“Don’t you feel guilty?” she asked.

Yes, I did at first, but I find I am using my time wiser. I have accomplished several work goals I established this year, including developing a new logo, this website and blog, and seeking out more speaking engagements, while keeping my clients happy. I still work at least 1-2 evening a week, but it isn’t overwhelming. And I can plan on less-brain-taxing work to do during the nights.

It seems like an oxymoron, but focusing on the business and not just the daily work has improved my work quality and efficiency. Writing this blog has definitely helped me to look at direct marketing, audience development, and business from an outside-in perspective.  And I have had more free evening/weekend time with my family and friends.

The journey continues.

C

Reviewing your Online Customer Touch Points, Part 2 of 2

My recent blog post discussed how and why you should occasionally review the string of web pages and messages that your customers see when they take an action on your website such as purchasing, subscribing, registering for membership or an event, downloading a paper.

While you are creating the flowcharts in the previous post for each of the customer interactions, look at the follow up messages (if there are any) for tone/format/look. Are the messages consistent? Current? Are you promoting other products?

So often we work in our silos, this is the perfect time to work with other departments. Work together to define a common message/tone to promote your brand the same way. Lay out for each channel the timing and messages a customer will get going forward. You can see a sample layout in the attached tactics slide .

Going through this exercise may seem basic, but it can create more vibrant and interactive thank you messages and follow ups. Here is a perfect example of a revised thank-you page that promotes other brand-related products.  These messages are focused on someone taking an action on your website, so they are already vested in your brand.

Screen Shot 2014-09-08 at 3.13.17 PM

Here is another up-sell sample of ordering the digital edition with bonus material, once someone subscribes to the print:

Screen Shot 2014-09-08 at 3.29.26 PM

Keep your customers engaged with your products.  As our days become busier and information more fragmented, we rely on our go-to brands and websites for information.   Your customers do the same.

The journey continues.

C

Reviewing your Online Customer Touch Points. Part 1 of 2

You create a website. Your prospects and customers visit (you hope) to learn, to buy, to engage. Once built, do you ever re-visit the pages where your customers can take some action, walk their keystrokes? Check the follow up messages that customers receive?

As a marketer, I think it is important to view the journey that our customers take. Enriching their experience, ensuring that we are cross promoting our other offerings can help increase response rates, introduce our customers to new products, improve communications between internal departments, and decrease list fatigue.

Even on an existing site, I think it is a valuable exercise to review the flow of the response-based web pages, for each of your channels (ie. magazine, events, enewsletters, members). There may have been changes made to the flow that we in marketing are unaware of—happens often.

Here is how you or someone on your team can physically document the flow of web pages that customers move through during the purchasing process:

  1. Set up a specific email address, to track follow-up auto-generated emails.
  2. Physically create flow charts, including screen shots and URL’s for each page in the flow—trust me that it will be difficult to keep track of the pages to make changes to, without capturing the URL’s.
  3. Create one flowchart for each marketing channel.
  4. Things to monitor as you go through the process:
    1. Does a “thank you” message pop up when you take a specific action (ie. register as a member)
    2. Keep track of how many follow up emails you get, and the frequency.
    3. Is there cross promotion for other current offerings from your company?

Now that you have these flow charts for each marketing channel, what do you do with them? This will be explored in Part 2 of this blog post, later this week. Know that Phase 1 can take a few weeks to complete.

The journey continues.

C