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Folly from some not-so-great marketers versus what the real greats think

September 27, 2010 by Drayton Bird

Here's a strange story for you.

A few months ago I wrote an e-mail for a firm selling investment advice.

They took forever to get the damn thing out and never told us how it did, but one day sent us an e-mail asking us to adapt it for another firm's list with whom they had a deal.

By accident we saw two revealing insights into why so much marketing is bad.

An internal message said our e-mail was outdoing anything before — which would have been nice to know.

And note from the other firm said their new marketing chief was more interested in brand values than response, so could we make our e-mail shorter and less aggressive.

This reminded me of what the smartest guy with the biggest brand in the world said about marketing.

Sergio Zyman is the former chief marketing officer of Coca-Cola. In five years, when few people thought Coke could sell any more, he and his team increased its sales by 50 per cent, and the share price quadrupled.

You couldn't imagine anyone less like a direct marketer than someone who sells Coca-Cola. Or anyone you might think more dedicated to brand values.

What your job really is

Zyman could teach a lot of direct marketers who hanker after quasi- intellectual tripe about the realities of life.

He said in his excellent (and funny) book "The end of marketing as we know it" that marketers should be "the ultimate stewards of return on investment in assets".

Zyman’s wonderfully down-to-earth definition of the aim of marketing is this: "To get more people to buy more stuff more often at higher prices so the company makes more money".

He says a lot in his book about marketers' lack of intellectual discipline, and the way they fail to set exact targets, talking vaguely about "more" sales, "more" market share but never putting a figure on the increases — saying precisely how much more.

As I always say — though I probably stole it from someone smarter than me — if you aim at nothing, you usually hit your mark.

Boardroom folly

Zyman is particularly critical about the way marketers get into the boardroom and then start being more interested in what goes on there than their customers.

One of his best stories tells how he showed his first Coca-Cola ads in 1993 to his boss Roberto Goizueta, who said, "I don't like those ads."

"Look, Roberto," he replied, "If you're willing to buy 100 per cent of the volume worldwide then I'm happy to do the advertising that you like. Otherwise I've got to keep doing it to those damned consumers."

My favourite quote on this is from one of the great businessmen of the 20th century.

The architect of Sears, Roebuck's rise to become the world's greatest retailer was Julius Rosenwald. He once remarked, "My ambition is to stand on both sides of the counter at once."

I doubt if he ever used the phrase "brand values". He just knew that no matter how important such things may be, "Nothing happens in business until something gets sold."

Who said that? Thomas J Watson Jr. of IBM. Strange how the best people tend to say similar things, isn't it?

Don't make a meal of multi-channel marketing

September 23, 2010 by

This month John Lewis launched a new multi-channel marketing campaign aimed at promoting its new-look luxury womenswear department. For many small and medium businesses, however, marketing across different channels can be a challenge. Here are a few suggestions to help focus on the necessities. They won’t make it as easy as slicing bread, but they will help maximise the effectiveness of multi-channel communication, and help put bread on the table.

1. Be consistent

For a variety of reasons, partly historical and technical, different marketing channels are often handled separately, and sometimes by completely different people with different skill sets. Often, conventional marketing such as advertising and direct mail may be handled in-house, and hi-tech marketing may be outsourced.

To be most effective, it’s important to keep the branding and messaging consistent across all channels. Make sure that through web pages and emails to printed advertising and leaflets you maintain the same look and feel, with consistent messaging and corresponding calls to action. Don’t confuse the customer but be concise, be direct, and be memorable.

2. Co-ordinate

Make sure that ideas, plans and results from each channel feed into the others, and that lessons learned through one channel can inform future plans for all.

Think carefully about timing. You may want to kick off all your communications at once, for maximum impact, or stagger them, for more sustained effect. Before throwing everything at one strategy, try some small-scale tests and measure the effect.

3. Pay attention to detail

More channels mean more work, and the temptation is to cut corners, but assumption is the mother of many mistakes.

Make a list of the key elements that should appear throughout the campaign, and check systematically that they are included in every communication. Add them to regular communications like letters and email signatures. Rope in family and friends to help with things like proof-reading and testing web pages. Use financial inducements, free samples and offers of beer wherever necessary!

4. Track with caution

Do track each channel separately, with unique landing pages, response codes, 0845 numbers etc. But take the individual results with a pinch of salt, and judge on the basis of the overall campaign. Some channels will be more effective than others at triggering an immediate measurable response, but judging the overall contribution of each one over time is notoriously difficult.

Using social media to target your customers

September 20, 2010 by Howard Scott

Targeting customers through social media has become more and more prolific over recent years. Household brands through to much smaller start-up companies are using tools such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube.

However, it is vital that when selecting the social media tools you intend to use to target your audience, you are selected the correct ones. For example, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn users all have very different demographic profiles, so there is no point using a tool like Facebook to reach a target audience of professionals aged 40+, when statistics show that around over 80 per cent of UK Facebook users are under 40. 

Once you’ve decided which social media tool or tools you are going to use, decide how you’re going to approach it carefully. What are you saying and to whom? 

There have been numerous examples of major brands attempting to conduct social media campaigns or stunts, which have badly backfired and resulted in a consumer backlash, and ridicule aplenty. 

No brand can afford that kind of damage, no matter how large or small.

Always have the consumer at the centre of any social media activity, and think as they would. Add value for your consumer, and always think of how they will gain from your activity. For example, a Facebook page that offers discounts and information about your product or service is innovative and is likely to increase brand awareness virally.

Be different and try to make sure that your social media campaign is one that will get people talking and one they will remember. No matter how simple.

And last, but by no means least, encourage your consumers to engage with you through social media activity. Simply talking at them by posting regular updates sends out the wrong message entirely. 

Social media is all about engagement and interaction, and is not a passive process.

If you can actively encourage consumers to get involved in these campaigns, for example by posting suggestions for new products ideas as part of a competition, they will feel that they have some ownership of the brand, and this is vital.

Consumers engaging with each other through social media and sharing brand opinion has a favourable reaction, not only because these consumers feel they have ownership of the process, but also because they are more likely to relate to others’ opinions about the brand as they seem more ‘real’ than direct marketing messages.

Finally, don’t forget that many mobile phones today have powerful interactivity and will be linked to platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. You can take advantage of this by developing a downloadable application, which can be done on a relatively low budget and connects you directly with your consumer. Just remember that an app needs to add value for your consumer. That way it will make their life easier and cement their relationship with your brand.

 

Howard Scott is digital marketing director at Sequence Digital. The digital marketing agency’s clients include the BBC, S4C, The Welsh Assembly Government, Storm Model Management and Rachel's Organic.

Legislation? For or Against?

September 15, 2010 by Alison McDougall

I attend all sorts of events, personally and professionally. Inevitably I am asked what it is I do. I mention that I help individuals and businesses ensure their employees are aware of, and know how to apply current legislation when planning and managing an event.

The majority response is “Oh, you mean health and safety. Don’t you think it’s gone too far!” Often this statement is presented with an eyeball roll and a loud tut! 

As my first blog with Marketing Donut, I thought I would take the opportunity to answer that question here.

The laws affecting events are not just health and safety. Clearly, that subject matter is the most high profile, followed closely by data protection but it also includes copyright, licensing, working time regulations and so on.

So, has legislation gone too far?

I have been working in events since the eighties. I have witnessed incidents and accidents (mainly) during set-up and break-down that should have been avoidable. It is only because of the response of emergency services that I was not witness to a young man dying.  And that image has stayed with me for more than 20 years.

I know of at least six serious vehicle crashes that were probably caused by tired drivers who had been working all day and were then required to drive hundreds of miles to get home. And I know someone who got run over by a portable toilet on a show site!

I have witnessed delegate lists, including passport details, being thrown into a bin. And have seen copyright laws broken again and again.

I also know that in the nineties insurers were setting aside huge sums for injuries to event visitors. Around £5,000 if someone tripped and bruised their rear, between £15,000 and £25,000 for a knock to the head and up to £250,000 for a serious limb break. Insurance premiums went sky-high for the whole industry. Thankfully, the insurers started fighting back so the payouts now are more realistic.

So what has legislation made happen that was not being done before? For those that run their business without applying the laws, it has done nothing. These individuals assume the responsibility belongs to another person. They clearly do not believe anything untoward will ever happen, and if it did it wouldn’t be their fault.

If you are a business owner, don’t just purchase a folder full of policies and file it away. Get hold of the information and work out how it can benefit you and your business. Ensure all of your employees understand and embrace it too.

And what if you don’t? Keep your fingers crossed. Carry your lucky rabbits foot. Hunt around for that four leaf clover. And hope that you, your employees, your suppliers, your clients or members of the public don’t have an accident at your event.

Seven email marketing components to test

September 14, 2010 by Tink Taylor

Testing, testing, testing. It’s a word that every skilled email marketer knows well. The data available to email marketers means that, if used properly, campaigns can be honed and updated in real-time in order to deliver the best results.

So what are the components that can and should be tested in an email marketing campaign?

Here are the key ones to consider:

  1. Subject line – It’s an obvious one to start with and possibly one of the most important elements of an email campaign. I’ve spoken previously about how to write the best email subject line, but the only way to really be sure what will work best is to test!
  2. Call to action – The call to action is the component of an email that propels the recipient towards a conversion point, usually via a click-through. But which call to action works best for your recipients? Test different options to see if they impact results differently.
  3. Images – The issue of whether or not to include images in your email is one that divides opinion in the industry. If recipients are likely to have images turned off as standard then there is an argument for using images sparingly in your messages. However, if lots of your recipients have added you to their safe senders list, then you could get better results by increasing the number of images in your message. The only way to know for sure is to test. Don’t forget to segment your database depending on what you find out!
  4. From address – The ‘from’ address is another element that can have a big effect on open rates. Is it better to use your business name as the from address or does an individual, maybe your MD, work better? This latter option can be particularly successful for B2B companies, for example. Test a few different possibilities and see what gets the best results.
  5. Personalisation – Personalisation is an aspect of email marketing that has been overused to an extent in recent times. This means that its effectiveness is often muted and, at worst, can look spammy. Try using different forms of personalisation to see whether it works for your recipients.
  6. Landing page – What happens when your recipients click through? Do they then convert or does your landing page put them off? Try alternative pages for different segments and see whether this has an effect.
  7. Time of sending – The day and/or time of sending can have a big effect on open rates and conversions. B2B emails generally work better during business hours, whereas high street stores may want to send an email on a Friday to tempt buyers to visit their store the following day.

Every company’s audience or recipients will have different preferences or behaviours, therefore testing and segmentation really is the only way to find out what will work best for your business.

Dragons' Den digest - Week 10

September 13, 2010 by Anna Mullinder

If you missed last week's, catch up here and below you will find the highlights of episode eight.

Quote of the Episode: "I have a horrible feeling that you don't know how to make a profit." Deborah Meaden

Idea 1
Product:
Abiie Buggy (My Babiie Ltd) – buggy with an incorporated changing table.
Investment sought: £100,000 for 10 per cent equity
Handling: Straightforward pitch, stuck to the basic facts. Adam is clearly ambitious, and confident when answering questions about his turnover. Says he owns the company but when questioned it is revealed that Ken, who he works with in the USA, owns the designs and has worldwide distribution rights while Adam has UK rights on a three-year contract providing he meets sales targets. The Dragons aren't impressed by this. Before declaring himself out, Peter Jones sums it up by saying: "I don't believe in you".
Outcome: No investment.
Verdict: A promising start but things got more and more confusing after the questioning started.

Idea 2
Product:
GaBoom – online user-to-user video game exchange.
Investment sought: £60,000 for 11 per cent equity
Handling: Confident, calm, well-rehearsed pitch. She handles questioning well and with a smile. Claims her website provides faster exact search results than any other website, which Duncan points out is because it's the only site of its type! Peter Jones highlights a flaw in her business: physically handling every game will be very costly, especially as the business expands. The Dragons think she's a very promising entrepreneur and are confident she'll have a successful future.
Outcome: No investment but a potential job offer from Peter Jones.
Verdict: A confident pitch and a promising young entrepreneuer.

Idea 3
Product:
Media Displays – mobile advertising unit.
Investment sought:
£80,000 for 25 per cent equity
Handling:
Strong, polished presentation. Theo Paphitis encourages him to be honest about working from his home office and employing his son. Answers questions clearly and confidently until he shares a heated exchange with Deborah Meaden about whether the business is profitable. Theo points out that his business model as it stands doesn't work and declares himself out. James Caan isn't sure about the business but likes Ian Tayor, the entrepreneur, and believes that he could make it work so makes him an offer.
Outcome:
£80,000 for 45 per cent of the business (this amount will drop if certain targets are met).
Verdict: A good result after some tricky questioning from the other Dragons.

What did you think of the episode?

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