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.

screen-shot-2016-06-08-at-12-53-48-pm

screen-shot-2016-06-08-at-12-54-11-pm

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

screen-shot-2016-06-08-at-12-55-04-pm

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

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

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

A Marketer’s 2016 Top Prediction

As an audience marketer, my #1 marketing prediction for what is HOT in 2016 remains what was my #1 2015 prediction, with a few twists. In January 2015 that was:

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.

The demand from advertisers to reach a very specific audience will continue to increase in 2016. They want us to pre-qualify leads before we send pass them along. Sample: we want 1000 leads of people in the C-suite (CEO, CIO, President) in $100 million+ companies. This is a typical request—but it seems like EVERYONE wants to each this group. Note– this group does NOT make all the purchase decisions! They may sign off on a contact, but it is the upper management who often vets and recommends vendors. Another topic for another day, since I could write reams about this subject.

The ongoing question is –how do we continue to capture and then fulfill these types of requests? Advertisers today often ask for targeted leads with email addresses and phone numbers. To continue to provide clean, active prospects, we need to first provide valuable web content that encourages prospects to give us their contact information. This can be an article on our website, a white paper, a free sample, a video, a webinar, a live event, a research summary, the list goes on.

We need to harness the power of our customers and our database.  At the front end we need targeted marketing efforts that promote these “carrots” to the correct audience. We then need to ensure we capture and turn around the contact information on a timely basis.

A lot to ask for, with today’s budgets and tight timelines, as well as customers becoming more reluctant to share personal information.  My next post will be some practical, inexpensive ways you can improve your target marketing efforts TODAY.

The journey continues.

C

Ad Blocking–It’s here. It’s growing. It’s going to impact your business.

THE trending marketing buzzwords for the 4th quarter 2015 right now are “ad blocking”. For the uninitiated, ad blocking programs allow the user to block ads from websites. Especially on mobile devices, this helps to decrease download times and page crashes.

Ad blocking is not a new phenomenon, since Google Chrome and other browsers have offered it for several years on the desktop. But, it has been pushed to the forefront by Apple’s iOS9.0 update. This update gives the tools to allow for creation of apps that can block ads on mobile devices.

Many recent articles—from Smartinsights to Google’s own data in The Verge—report that more people are using their mobile devices than desktops to search the internet/read their emails/spend their free time.

PageFair, with Adobe, estimates that in the US alone, blocked revenue is 2015 is estimated to be $10.7B. Ad blocking is currently more prevalent in Europe, but the global cost of ad blocking in 2016 is estimated at $41.4B.

This will have a huge impact on multi-media publishers. Many have an increasing portion of their revenue coming from on-line advertisements, which many of their targets will now not see.

Talking to clients, many are unaware of ad blocking or its impact on their bottom line. Some naively think this might not impact their revenue—it most certainly will impact all of them.

After sharing some statistics, the panic sets in. What can we do? How can we keep some of this lost revenue?

–For the current time, increasing “sponsored content” in lieu of ads can recuperate some lost revenue. So far, “sponsored content” is not being blocked. I have already seen editors formerly against sponsored content or native advertising quickly realize this is an option they will accept in today’s competitive market.

–Advertisers can also create “non intrusive” ads that will not be blocked. Whether the reader will respond to them as much as current ads has yet to be determined.

–Sales can try to convert some online ad revenue to other product streams—white papers with pay-per-lead, online and in-person events, research, magazine advertising.

–I think we will start to receive more “sponsored” emails with advertising content. This may work in the short-term, but I think it will fatigue already extremely overused email lists. If you do this, be sure to segment your list carefully to avoid overuse.  Here is a screen shot of one such ad I received today from Vanity Fair: Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 12.39.35 PM
Feel free to share any of your ideas or plans here.I am sure that there will be many other innovative ideas to block ads and to circumvent these ad blocking on mobile devices.

The journey continues.

C

Holiday Sharing

It is a gifting time of year.  We share sentiments, cards, gifts, money, time.  As a business owner, I think it’s important to show my customers special appreciation each holiday season.  Frankly, I am surprised each year that fewer of my suppliers say “thank you” at all, even via a card.  It is a simple way to strengthen relationships, market our companies, and stay front of mind for our current customers and prospects.

A small gift, for my readers, is a copy of my recent presentation given at both AAMP in LA and MCA in Chicago.  This presentation was on Better Using Customer Touch Points to Build Audience Relationships.  Several people have asked for a copy of the slides, so here they are.

MCA presentation 12-14

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to all my readers.

Tune in next time for some of my predictions of what I think the Hot Topics will be for audience development in 2015.

The journey continues.

C

Saying Thank You–and Meaning It

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. This is the time of year when we hear these words at the shops, in email, in person, in cards and gifts from our suppliers, our friends, our family. As a business owner, I think it is important that we remember to thank our customers when they engage with us. Not just once a year.

With the ease of online communications and the ability to set up automated messages, there are a plethora of simple ways and times we can thank our customers. Are you doing this with your customers?  Here are just a couple examples of when we can send thank you messages:

1. When someone signs up for a subscription, an event, makes a purchase, becomes a website member, etc, send them an immediate thank you email or pop up message.

Food52 thank you

The above thank-you for signing up for an e-newsletter discusses topics covered, social media where you can find information, and includes a coupon for additional purchased.  The one below for an online purchase also promotes other products and included a 10% off coupon.

Haymarket thank you email

2. Send a message when an already-placed order ships. The first email below was for placing an order.  The second was a notice that it had shipped.  Several companies I ordered from this holiday season sent multiple status emails, which I think personalizes the online ordering, as well as lets the customer know that the order is moving through the distribution channels.

Zazzle thank you email

Zazzle order shipping

3. A sample from Pure Wow!, and online enewsletter I receive, about changes in their website.

Pure Wow website changes

With overcrowded email in-boxes, think before you create–what is the reason for each message? All emails, including thank-you messages, should have a purpose.

If you choose to send out a last-minute holiday message, what are you promoting? Your company? Upcoming offerings? There is a cost to each email you send–so think before you send it.

And for you readers, thank YOU for reading my blog these past couple of months.  I encourage you to comment, like, share, and send me ideas to write about in 2015.

The journey continues.  C

Encouraging Growth for the Audience Development Role

“Where are all the young people?”

That is what I wondered too.

That was one topic of our table’s conversation at this week’s Midwest Circulation Association meeting, during our lunch. My client was attending his second meeting, and I was the featured speaker. Derek is in his 20’s, and he was probably one of only 2 people in their 20’s at the meeting.

Audience development (AD) is such a critical role in media companies today, but many of us take a circuitous path to end up in this job. As databases are aging, email response rates are falling, in 2015/16 this role is going to increase in importance. Companies need to know their database, be able to better mine their current customer files, keep people engaged, and target their marketing for better responses.

AD is a perfect job for someone with a curious mind who likes ALL the spokes in the marketing wheel. We get to create marketing strategies, work on the tactical efforts, delve into the depths of our database trying to find better ways to target our efforts, reach outside our organizations to find new prospects, measure which efforts are working (by list, effort, copy, design, timing, etc), then try additional efforts building upon previous efforts. It’s a look into the psyche of our audience, a challenging but exciting puzzle.

AD is constantly changing, but it can feel a little isolating, since many people don’t understand the complexities of the job. It is a marriage of creativity and numbers. I think that attending in-person events give us an excellent opportunity to ask and discuss with others who do similar work. Step back from our computer screens to get a new perspective.

I have been attending the MCA meetings for several years and am a former board member. I find that I learn something at every meeting, and they are great for networking. Even if you are an AD newbie, I encourage you to attend meetings/lunches put on in your area. It is satisfying to find out that you are not alone with the issues you face today. And hopefully you will come back energized, with a new idea to try.

The journey continues.

C

P.S. For more specifics on AD responsibilities in media related companies, read my earlier blog post about this.