Category Archives: Marketing Strategy

How to Be a Marketing Rock Star During Annual Strategy Planning

As summer fades away and pumpkin spice lattes roll into town, one thing is certain – it’s time to begin your annual marketing strategy sessions for the coming year. In the most basic context, strategy is defining what your company wants to achieve and developing a plan to watch it come to fruition.

Anytime I set out to achieve a goal I schedule time to reflect and meditate on it. I need space to clear my mind and visualize the big picture behind the goal. The same is true when it comes to strategy planning. There are many benefits to having a solid strategy in order, but I advise taking a chunk of time to reflect before even jotting anything down on paper.

Effective planning ensures team alignment. The objectives are clear, which allows for everyone to prioritize their workload. This allows for the best use of resources across your team, particularly the time your employees are spending on projects. Once your team is focused on what matters the most, your company will see the results they desire.

As you plan your marketing strategy for the coming year, here are some tips to help you succeed:

  • Determine your top three marketing goals: As a company, you should know your top three goals. This can be part of your mission statement or culture, as well as financial expectations for the year. If these are not established, work with upper management to determine them. Once they are established, every single event, advertisement, social media post, press release, sponsorship, piece of content or any other marketing materials should ladder back up to one of these goals. If anything comes across your desk that does not align with one of these goals – pitch it. Stick to the plan as to not waste your time, budget or resources.
  • Review ROI from all previous activities: Now, just because something may align with one of your three goals, does not mean you have to proceed with it. Take a look at everything your company has done in the past. Are you able to show return on investment? If not, how can that change? ROI comes in many forms and I know firsthand that it is not always the easiest item to track. If you are just going for brand awareness versus leads, it is not always as quantifiable as you’d like. However, it would be easy to determine your ROI from a trade show by quickly seeing how much it cost and how many deals were signed and attributed from that show. Use this data to determine if it is worth the investment next year.
  • Establish your budget: Budgets are a reality. You have a limited pool of money to use that must accomplish a lot of goals. Take the time to block off a meeting and understand where your money will go and how to plan for unexpected needs throughout the year (include line items for this). It is not uncommon that trade shows, events and sponsorships arise throughout the year that I would not be able to send my sales team to attend had I not planned for these unexpected items. Also, understand where your costs will be split with other departments in your budget. For example, website costs might come from marketing, IT, sales and eCommerce departments.

It’s tedious to jump into planning mode, but it is worth it. Having everyone on your team aligned and ready to go as 2016 approaches is well worth the investment it takes to get there.

The Art of Nurturing

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about the power of connection between people. My group of family and friends is close and at any given moment we all have different wants from each other. Sometimes I rely on them for advice and sometimes they come to me for a listening ear. Over time these relationships have become very strong due to reciprocity, loyalty and consistency.

Each one of these friendships is strong not by chance, but because both parties invested the time necessary to build up something of value. At any given moment one friend might need more attention than another friend. In my mind I place them in different buckets based on where our relationships currently stand, as no two friendships are alike. Much like these friendships, the connections brands have with their ever-changing customer needs alter on a daily basis.

While one customer might be thrilled with the quality of service and personalized advertising/marketing efforts, another customer may feel as though you don’t know them at all. There is an art in nurturing to be able to assess where your customers are at on an emotional level to tailor messaging to them appropriately.

Here are a couple of tips to help you better nurture your customers:

  • Implement a Data Management Platform: You need a centralized hub to intake and store all of the data on your customer. This must be able to intake known/anonymous data from all sources, including offline, to help you have a 360-view of your customer before determining what data you need to collect.
  • Collect Relevant Data: You may find that you’re collecting data that doesn’t matter. If this is the case, pitch it. There is no need to collect data that doesn’t directly benefit the customer or you. Continue to monitor what is working and what you need to refine the data you collect.
  • Create Buckets and Segments: As you setup any campaign, you will want to have triggers that move people into appropriate buckets. For example, after a customer has made two online purchases in one month, you may want to move them to bucket indicating they are more likely to make online purchases than other customers. This can help with future targeting. As you go through all of your segments, begin to create logic on which bucket your customers should be in and how to craft strategic messaging around those buckets.
  • Measure and Test: Once you have success criteria setup, it becomes easy to measure whether or not you hit your goals. From there, you can refine your nurturing campaigns and adjust continuously as needed.

There is an art to nurturing your customers. Think of it like a conversation in person – you start by saying hello and then go from there. By keeping it real, authentic and genuine you have all of the makings to allow the conversation to grow organically, ultimately building a stronger relationship with customer.

The Top 3 Benefits of Exceeding Customer Needs

Two weeks ago I had an amazing digital experience. I went to the doctor’s office as I wasn’t feeling well and they performed some simple tests. Near the end of the visit the doctor said my test results, which would dictate if I needed a prescription, would be available online the next day. Before I even received a call from the doctor or access to my online results, Walgreens sent a push notification to my mobile phone alerting me that my prescription was ready for pick-up.

This is brilliant for many reasons. First, Walgreens was able to act on the data shared by the hospital faster than the hospital could relay it to me. Second, in doing so they also gave me the status of the test. Third, while I associate this brand with my health already, their actions continue to prove how much they value my health and me as a person (read: this makes me want to spend my money with them). Finally, all of this happened because they have a top-notch data management platform in place to effectively manage their consumer’s data.

You see, at some point I wandered into Walgreens to purchase an item. Upon checkout I signed up for their loyalty card, slowly giving them more information during subsequent visits. Eventually, I downloaded their app and synched it with my loyalty card. Then I logged into my online account to manage the entire ecosystem. And truthfully, this was not the first time Walgreens impressed me (you can read about my Connected Experience with them here).

But by merely sending me a simple push notification they have exceeded my expectations. By exceeding expectations, brands stand to gain the following:

  1. Customer Loyalty – My default location for all prescriptions is now Walgreens. This experience, along with previous experiences prove that they can do it – and they can do it well. They are loyal to making sure I’m happy and I’m loyal to them by returning every time to spend my money with their brand. With hundreds of other locations to fill my prescriptions, I choose Walgreens because they know me and they can execute efficiently and effectively.
  1. Brand Advocacy – When I have a good experience, I am a sharer. I like to tell my friends and family so they can also have good experiences. If the experience is particularly great I will socialize online as well. Not only does this generate positive news regarding the brand, but it also influences my friends to shop with that brand. I remember once reading a stat that a bad experience is shared 3x more than a good experience – something brands may want to keep in mind while mapping out customer journey experiences.
  1. Exploration of Other Brand Offerings – When a brand exceeds expectations in one area, there is a good chance they excel in other areas as well. In turn, customers will explore their other offerings based on the experiences they have. For example, I learned about the pharmacy app because of Walgreens photo printing app. Both continue to add value to my life and help me simplify. I’m sure I will continue to explore to see what other offerings they have for me.

Regardless of the consumer, everyone likes to be treated well. And the companies that understand the value of treating a customer well will continue to thrive in this ever-changing digital world.

Four Ways to Add Context To Your Marketing

This morning I woke up to 60 e-mails. I laid in bed and mindlessly went through my inbox deleting them, as I do every morning. By now I know that most e-mails I receive in the morning are editions of daily newsletters, promotions, etc. that I’ve been meaning to unsubscribe from because the volume seems overwhelming. It’s a lot to sort through first thing every morning.

This is a problem all marketers are facing. Not only are you spending hours to craft, curate and send the perfect e-mail or marketing message, you are competing against 59 others all trying to grab my attention at the same time…right when I wake up and am still a bit groggy as I begin my morning routine.

Yes – I did sign up for many of these, but because the companies do not know my preferences (or are not honoring my preferences) I find that they just end up in the trash bin. For example, I’m much more likely to read a marketing e-mail once I’m at work and seated at my desk as opposed to when I first wake up. Since I go through and clear out everything immediately in the morning, this would mean the e-mail would have to be sent after I get into my car and before I get to my desk.

When marketers think about context they need to think about the timing, mindset and overall experience of the consumer based on their current physical, emotional and mental state. Context is crucial because it takes into account all of these conditions and proactively designs a way to overcome them and get the message through on any channel. Here are four tips to help you boost the context within your marketing messages.

  1. Leverage Historical Time Data – Depending on the DMP you have implemented, you should be able to track the effectiveness of your marketing down to each consumer. As mentioned in the above example, if I am receiving a newsletter every day at the same time and the company sees I’m not opening it, it might be time to consider trying out a new time to make it more contextually relevant to my life. This can also include monitoring the times I follow-through on my purchases.
  1. Dig Into the Search Details – As I shop online and engage with different brands, everything I type into the search bar can be tracked (known or anonymous). Instead of looking for shoes, I’ve started typing in “blue shoes” and then “blue shoes size 12.” With each search I’m giving the brand more insight into my needs. At that moment I’m receptive to purchasing a very specific product. In your next promotion (which is hopefully quick), it should include blue shoes in my size.
  1. Leverage Cross-Device Use Patterns – The brands I’m engaging with should be able to understand how I navigate between my tablet, phone, laptop and desktop while engaging with their product. In fact, this is one thing I love about the Netflix. It is a seamless interaction that makes it easier for me as a consumer. I can navigate from my phone to my TV picking up exactly where I left off. Similarly with marketing, brands should be able to help me pick up where I left off to remain relevant to me. In fact, depending on the technology implemented – some brands can push me messages as I’m walking down the aisle of the product I need.
  1. Think Like a Consumer – Before planning out any campaign it is good to sit down and strategically think what you want to say. Work with your content developer to share the personas of your customers as a way to add contextually relevant content appealing to their emotions. Ask questions to better understand behavior. Depending on the amount of data you have available, you can message to them at a moment when they are most receptive by observing how they interact with your brand currently.

As you can see, context is important. Consumers are busy and they receive multiple messages on a daily basis. You can break through by understanding and adjusting your messaging to add context while honoring their preferences, time and mindset.

The B-Word: Budget

There is one thing I have learned during my time as a marketer – we love spending money. Come Q4 we get out our excel sheets, analyze yearly ROI, and put together our best proposal to have an increased budget for next year. Oftentimes, our hopes fall short and we must find creative ways to do more with less; an experience that is quite common across all industries, verticals, and companies. With an increased expectation for success and a limited budget, we must put together a solid business case as to why our marketing department deserves the budget to match the high demands of the company.

While at the Gartner Digital Marketing Conference I attended a session by Laura McLellan, VP of Marketing Strategy at Gartner, who spoke about ways to fund and justify incremental marketing budgets. The main gist of this presentation is that marketers need to take a closer look at their budget to see what functions they are supporting, how it aligns with yearly goals and what needs to be changed for success. Here are some top takeaways from this session:

Marketing Budgets Must Align with Corporate Goals: From one year to the next it is not uncommon for company goals to change significantly. With buyouts, mergers, acquisitions, new executive management and better internal alignment, the expectations of the marketing department can evolve rapidly. With changing goals, you need a budget to match. If you request a 25% increase in budget from last year, make it known exactly why it is needed to achieve the goals asked of you. Defend your budget.

Share Budgets with Other Departments: As you look at your budget in detail, note how many items marketing shares with other departments. A great example here is the company website as it is instrumental in helping other departments meet their goals, such as sales, customer service, IT, business/brand units, etc. Instead of taking all of the costs for design, implementation, execution, hosting, and necessary integrations/updates, make a case as to why this needs to be shared with other departments. This applies to all types of services, software, and platforms that may be currently paid for by marketing, but should be more fairly split across the board.

Prove Your Worth: According to the session, three items are needed for marketing to be effective. First, the success measurements must align with the c-suite. Make sure you understand exactly what is being asked of marketing and that you are reporting in a way that is easily understood by your executive team. Second, the marketing itself needs to be effective. The numbers and statistics do not lie. If a campaign is not providing you with value, drop it. Finally, scrutinize over the final level of detail. For example, do you have the ability to barter or partner with a company? Is it better to buy the service you need, or build it?

Just as marketers are guardians of the brand, we are defenders of the budget. I was always taught that you can have anything you want in life, you just have to clarify what you need, make a plan, and ask. While it may be difficult to begin the process of understanding the state of your budget, it is the first step down the path of securing the funds you need to achieve your goals.

Webinar recap: Which way to a less fragmented customer journey?

Your customers embark on a journey with your brand every single time they interact with it, in both the online and offline world. Collectively those experiences shape their perception of your offering and value proposition. If customers don’t rate each interaction in isolation, it’s critical that marketers join the dots to deliver a digital frontier that is meaningful and relevant, across every single touch point.

Last week, Brian Deagan, VP of Solution Consulting, hosted a webinar ‘What is a DMP and why do I need one?’. In this session Brian demonstrated how a Data Management Platform is the central nervous system that gives marketers the ability to deliver relevant experiences via actionable insights.

Packed with advice on big data, information on how a DMP revolutionises the customer journey, evidence of how a DMP results in incremental revenue gain and a roadmap to get started – your DMP journey begins here.

Watch the webinar recording here.

Your Guide to Developing a Winning Strategy in 2015

As 2014 comes to a close, it is my yearly tradition to sit down and reflect on the ups and downs I’ve had over the previous year. I do this to show gratitude for all of my experiences, positive and negative, as they taught me valuable learning lessons to carry forward into the New Year. With this reflection comes a focused meditation of the specific goals I challenge myself to achieve by the end of 2015. These objectives, often rudimentary in the beginning, require thoughtful strategies in order to see them come to fruition over the next year.

Much like my personal experience, it is important that brands take a moment to sit down and list out their top goals for the coming year. These goals require a well-defined strategy to serve as a road map on how they can be met. Too often as marketers we focus not so much on strategy, but the fire drills of quickly getting something out the door due to a change in messaging, product promotion, or the original plan. By putting a marketing strategy in place it helps keep the team aligned, especially in moments of ambiguity, to remind everyone how your goals will be met.

Here four key elements to remember when crafting your marketing strategy for 2015:

1. Include clearly defined goals: Gather your key players into one room and decide exactly what you want to achieve in 2015. Make sure to have all of the resources and data you need in front of you to avoid digging around for it during your meeting. Instead, remain focused on analyzing next year’s approach by evaluating the data you have with you. List out your goals and make sure that all members of your team have them handy. Without the top goals known and communicated, each member may be under different assumptions.

2. Foster a Proactive Culture: Being proactive is a having the ability to foresee and overcome an item that may become a problem in the future. There are many ways to encourage this type of culture, such as continued education, providing competitive industry insight, experience, and team coaching. I find that employees generally want to do their best when they come to work. By encouraging employees to be forward-thinking through new challenges, your company will continue to foster brand growth, saving resources for thought-leadership instead of disaster management.

3. Know Consumer Wants and Preferences: There is a lot of data your brand is collecting on a daily basis (search, display, social, web, email, etc). This data can be collected and analyzed to understand customer behavior, trends, and needs in the marketplace. The insights you can gather, both en masse and on a single profile, can start to reveal a lot about shopping patterns and consumer expectations with your brand and industry. Craft this understanding into your 2015 strategy to develop a winning plan that takes into account industry knowledge, patterns, and user actions.

4. Remain Adaptable: Even the best laid plan can change at the drop of a hat. I have been involved with many solid campaigns throughout my career that change due to new priorities and expectations arising. Incorporate a plan into your strategy indicating how you will handle the turbulent weather that will arise. Ask yourself why change is happening and if it will cause damage to the 2015 objectives you set with your team. Are you just trying to see a quick gain in the next quarter, or is the issue larger? By accepting that adaptability must be included into your plan, it allows you to fix these smaller issues while remaining on target to meet your goals for 2015.

My Connected Experience

Over Thanksgiving weekend, I needed to pick up a couple of items for a party I was hosting. I had just purchased a new picture frame and needed fill it with photos to replace the smiling models to hang on my wall. My friends spoke highly of the Walgreens photo app so I downloaded it, quickly made an account, then uploaded my photos to be picked up in a hour.

Upon checkout inside the store, I was asked to provide my loyalty card, which I did not have on me. (In fact, I probably had misplaced it years ago and don’t even remember registering for it.) The person behind the counter asked me to enter my phone number, then scanned a fresh card and handed it over to me. In the back my mind, I realized that I just added another item to my list knowing I would now have to sync this new loyalty card to my separate online account created just hours before. Full disclosure: This was something I knew I would never get around to doing until forced to do so the next time I wanted to order photos.

Within less than a week, I received an email from Walgreens saying, “We noticed you joined Balance™ Rewards, so for your convenience we’ve linked your membership to your existing Walgreens.com account.”

I was amazed by this simple act for two reasons. First, they were able to use the right information (probably my email or phone number) to link the two disparate accounts automatically. Also, they have a marketing automation plan in place to send this email out and alert me of their actions regarding this convenience. Nice work, Walgreens’ digital team.

This simple action benefited both consumer and brand in three simple ways:

1. Willingness to Provide More Data: Within less than one week, Walgreens proved to me that they are using my data in ways to make my life simpler. This builds trust. Instead of having disjointed, disparate accounts across their app and in-store loyalty card, they have identified me as one person, an individual. Because I found direct value and convenience in exchange for the little data I gave them, I am much more willing to provide them with more information about myself (and my preferences) in hopes of a highly personalized experience, i.e., content, specials and coupons.

2. Increased Loyalty: After this positive experience with their photo app, I decided to try having my prescription filled at the same store later that week. My doctor sent the prescription through digitally and it was quickly imported into my account. Since this was the first time I was viewing it online, I had to go through a verification process, which synced up with my insurance to pull in accurate co-pay information. Much like my experience with their photo upload and account merging, this process was simple, integrated and seemingly secure. In addition, I was alerted they were out of the medicine I needed (via phone call and email) but they would have it available the next day. These conveniences have directly increased my loyalty, as it saved me the hassle of heading there after work only to find out my prescription was not ready.

3. Experience, Exploration and Sharing: When I downloaded their app, I went strictly to the photo tab (and eventually the pharmacy tab). With all of these great digital experiences piling up, I started to dabble with their other service offerings which might add convenience to my life. Just moments ago, I made an appointment for my flu shot, scheduled from my iPhone in about 45 seconds. These positive experiences encourage me to explore and use Walgreens even more often. And obviously, I am a person who loves to discuss my positive experiences with people and will continue to tell my family and friends about how convenient this experience was for my sometimes-hectic life.

The most unique part about this experience is that Walgreens identified points of frustration across the customer journey and saw an opportunity to automate a few annoying steps, which made my life easier. They made the effort to connect their data to provide the consumer with a better user experience.  In fact, if you want more information on topic of Connected Consumer Conversations, here’s a link to a recent video we hosted in the topic: http://www.digitalmarketingsuite.com/webinar/access-playback.html.

Think about all of the data you may be sitting on and not using. List it all out. Start to draw up connections between web, display, mobile, search, ecommerce, online, offline and all other data assets you have. Use these connections to help connect and identify profiles to provide your customers with an experience like mine. The end goal is simplifying and unifying the customer experience.

The Future of Connected Consumer Conversations

As digital marketers, we are in the early innings of a whole new ballgame. Forrester Research calls it the Age of the Customer. I like to think of it as the era of Connected Consumer Conversations.

Behind the ability to link points of consumer-brand interaction is the ability to integrate marketing technologies as well as disparate data stores; however, getting to that level of integration – one that’s real-time and seamless enough to create the elements of a perceived conversation versus a campaign – remains a cloudy challenge for most marketers. So many touted technologies become integration projects instead integrated solutions.

But it’s early.

Not that long ago, brand strategy was based on messages pushed out to market where salespeople were the sole gatekeepers to product information. If you wanted details about an item, you had to get in touch with a salesperson or read a brand-provided brochure. Your perspective (the entire brand relationship) was shaped and controlled almost entirely by the company. Today that simply isn’t the case. With the abundance of content available online (details, videos, pins, reviews, forums, and more) and the adoption of smart phones to access product information at anytime from anywhere, the customer now takes control of the brand-buyer relationship. Overall, marketers have risen to the occasion, taking an omni-channel approach to make sure all the bases (and possible points of consumer interaction) are covered.

Unfortunately, this isn’t enough.

Now that the customer is in control, their expectations are quite high. While to some marketers “personalization” meant including the person’s first name token in a subject line, today it’s about relevance. Individuals want to be treated as such. “Show me you know me” is the gauntlet. Marketers must respond, armed with data and insights for a deeper understanding as well as the ability to execute on that understanding in real time to provide the level of engagement consumers now expect.

Omni-channel isn’t enough because it actually may be too broad. A better approach is to use your understanding of your audiences and connect specifically with them where they are in a manner that resonates, supporting both your brand promise and your customers’ needs in the moment.

It’s no longer about campaigns. Instead, it’s about having a coordinated marketing approach across touch points – from that first display impression to all interactions that follow. In fact, we’re hosting a special webinar on the topic on Wednesday, December 1st. We’ll take a deep dive into what these connected conversations look like, as well as provide you with specific tactics to get it right.

Get the registration details here: www.digitalmarketingsuite.com/webinar.