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

What’s in Your Mix?

How do you mix up your marketing efforts? Are you using all the tools available to you to maximize response rates and improve your cost per return? For all the elements that are components of controlled  (free) brands today, we need to market smarter to keep our customer engaged: magazines, webinars, research downloads, pay-per-lead collateral, newsletters.

People are still bombarding their email lists with non-targeted efforts. Doing that on a continual basis is going to tire those customers out.

Here are a number of things you can try to incorporate into upcoming marketing plans: (you do HAVE a marketing plan, don’t you? If not, read the basics now).

  1. Change up your email efforts! New creative, new copy, etc.
  2. How are you using your social media lists and platforms?
  3. For magazines, have you tried a tip cover? (cardboard stock covers to get people to renew/subscribe/engage). After dropping them, I have been finding success with them the past couple years. A future post will discuss some options for these covers.
  4. House ads, both in print and online format.
  5. Direct mail—too expensive for many b2b brands today, maybe you can partner an offer with an advertiser. Or send to their prospect list for some new names.

With so many self-built members on various social media portals, we should target them with focused messages. And test the timing/frequency/wording of our efforts.

How can you shake up your next efforts? Your customers might just respond to a new format, new time, new place for your offer.

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

White Papers & Lead Generation—Evolving Daily. Part 1

White papers are reports usually offered as free downloads. The content is a focused topic  that pertains to the creator’s business and that the downloader wants to learn more about. In return for the free white papers, people supply the hosting company with contact information, possibly some demographics.

White papers are a valuable part of the revenue steam and help with brand building, lead generation, and database building.  Many media companies have “white paper” sections on their websites.

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Manufacturers or service providers post white papers on their websites as well.

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However, they often want them posted on media company sites to be introduced to potential customers. By virtue of media companies’ heavy content, many have regular website traffic of people visiting them.

When posted on the media company’s site, the white paper leads are passed to the advertisers.  Vendors are finding these lead generation programs worthwhile, since these are pre-screened prospects. They can try to convert to future sales. Sometimes leads are downloaded directly to the advertiser websites, which can be a missed opportunity for the media company to build its database.

There are 3 main kinds of white papers, with hybrids as well. To keep it simple, I use the “advertiser” to represent the firm posting the white paper and “media company” to refer to the company selling the services and hosting the white paper.

  1. The advertiser writes its own white paper to put on a media company’s website.
  2. The media company does proprietary research with the advertiser to create and execute the white paper.
  3. The media company creates a white paper with its own internally generate content to help build its own client base.

I will ignore the 4th type , which is straight forward sales material. This is NOT a white paper and should be called what it is.

Perusing many websites recently shows that data collection for online white papers is like the Wild West—no protocol, no rules, firms collecting data points from nothing to way more information than people are willing to give for a free download.

Part 2 of this post will include a sampling of the wide range of data collection forms, with pros and cons for each.

The journey continues.

C

The Importance of Attending Events

Working for myself, by myself most days, it is often a welcome change to visit clients, meet with colleagues, and attend industry events.

Whether I am attending an event as a speaker or an attendee, I appreciate the change in venue and routine. Events can be a great way to broaden my knowledge of some aspect of the direct marketing/database management industry, expose me to a new subject or technology, introduce me to vendors and industry leaders, and keep in touch with contacts.

I consider a meeting worthwhile if I end up with 3 takeaways. These can be innovative ideas, learning something new, or starting a business relationship with one new person.

Networking is a needed but sometimes dreaded part of these meetings. It is not easy for me to introduce myself to others, but I think other people have similar feelings.  However, events are an excellent time to meet potential clients or have open dialogue with colleagues.  I have made some lasting acquaintances over a glass of wine, who I can now bounce ideas off of.

So step out from behind your desk, swallow those nerves, and go learn and interact a little. It can truly help your career.  And hopefully you might have a bit of fun.

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

Going Old-School

On our recent flight to FL, I watched the film All the President’s Men. Released in 1976, it’s a fascinating look at Washington Post reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward’s investigative research while uncovering the Watergate break-ins.

ATPM

Their work included no Google, no cell phones, no Internet.  Their tools were personal connections, rotary phones, typewriters, phone booths, hard-copy library check out cards, stacks of paper in offices, suits and ties for 2 am meetings, lunchtime Thermos drinks, Rolodex, smoking in offices-elevators-apartments- everywhere, searching through phone books of many cities to find a single phone number.

I thought of the contrast of the long-winded, connect-the-dots research and subterfuge with today’s always online, tuned-in access that we have available.  I truly believe that while all my screen time helps me in so many ways from research to work to finding a recipe, I think it also results in a loss of collaboration and personal connections.

While on our spring break cruise with five high school girl and moms, the cell phones and iPads were locked in the safe.IMGP0014 After our initial electronic withdrawal phase, the girls said they didn’t miss them. Going “old school”, they were able to spend time turning other teens into friends, make advance plans where to meet them after meals, have focused time with each other and us without scrolling through social site pictures of their classmates’ scattered vacations.

The majority of our group consciously stayed off-the-grid while on our trip. The time was spent connecting those around us, not watching on social media what others were doing, comparing experiences, or working.

That focused offline time is something I shall try to incorporate into my life going forward. I will try to turn off the online access for periods of the workday to remove distractions. Go old-school to forge ahead.

The journey continues.

C

P.S. Photo credits.  From movie, my.xfinifty.com.  Safe, from my photo archives, 2012.

Spring Cleaning Your …. Data

Spring, is a time when many people clean out their cabinets, basements, spice drawers, closets. It is a time of reflection, for letting go of some of the past while planning for the rest of the year.

I think we should do this at work too. Take some time to spring clean the data in your database.   While you may regularly look at the segments that bring you the best ROI or your most active customers, I bet you have many other contacts in your database—hidden names, useless names, forgotten names.

If your database cost is based on size, that is a great reason to get rid of old, unusable names. Even if it is not,  random blocks of names can add clutter and confusion as you examine what is in your database. And it can skew perceptions to how big, how usable, and how targeted your customers/prospects lists are.

Separate your data in 3 groups, just like when you clean out your closet. Here is a sample idea of how you can group your data:

The Keep Pile

  • Customers active within the last 2-3 years.
  • Recent prospect lists added to your database.
  • That email opt out list, as much as you might want to get rid of it.
  • Contacts that target any new products you plan to create this year.

The Giveaway (or clean up) Pile

  • Recent (within 2 years) contacts with missing demographics. This can be appended.
  • Contacts missing email or mailing address, or phone numbers. This can be added from outside sources.

Destroy Pile

  • 3+ year names with bad mailing or email addresses.
  • Segments of your file that you no longer serve.
  • Outdated purchased lists that you no longer have permission to use.
  • Duplicate records or data that cannot be merged.

The keep and purge pile definitions will vary based on your targets, your universe, and most importantly, your future needs. But this a simple start to really LOOKING at what is in your database.

Who knows? You may find lists you can re-engage through this process. Remember, it is cheaper to convert old customers into current ones than it is to replace them. It’s like finding that clothing treasure that you find in the back of your closet. Update it, re-purpose it, and it is usable again for very little cost.

The journey continues.

C

Yes, I am a Consultant. And a Business Owner.

I have been a consultant for 18 years. Long enough to know some people roll their eyes, think I only work 2 hours a day, or can make my own schedule around my favorite TV shows. Wrong!

I am a business owner whose clients depend on me to achieve our set-upon goals.   If I didn’t work diligently, honestly, and flexibly, I would not have some clients for 10+ years. Yes, still take the time to search out new and exciting projects.

As an audience development/marketing/database management consultant (the role changes with the project) on a daily basis I have to:

  1. Get work done on schedule.
  2. Listen to my clients’ needs, sometimes helping them to articulate their goals.
  3. Regularly communicate project status and ideas to current clients. Also attend in-person and phone meetings.
  4. Be vigilant to make sure that my customers respond to emails and phone calls, so projects don’t stall.
  5. Know a variety of vendors my clients can work with—email providers, telemarketing, database management, email, auditing firms, copy writers, others I can partner with on certain projects.
  6. Stay involved in the marketing industry by reading, attending events, and doing.
  7. Have experience working with different social media platforms.
  8. Keep abreast of changing rules impacting outbound and inbound marketing emails ie. CAN-SPAM laws , telemarketing, BPA, USPS with regards to mailing periodicals.

Plus, there is ongoing work to do to keep my business running:

  1. Have trusted professionals who help me with design work, accounting, legal, and financial issues.
  2. Seek out new prospects, put together proposals as requested. Revise pricing for current clients as projects change.
  3. Keep my blog updated, to communicate my business knowledge and perspective to clients and prospects.
  4. Keep up with billing, processing payments.
  5. Handle marketing, create a new logo and website.

Every year I think I learn to run my business more effectively. This year, for the first time, I have followed the lead of successful business owners and set aside weekly time on my calendar to focus on growing and honing my business. It’s too easy to spend all day on project work, not focusing on the business. This set-aside time has made me more efficient, given me some new ideas to try this year.

The balance of client-related work vs. running the business is delicate, yet important to manage. So yes, I am a consultant. And a successful business owner.  And proud of both.

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