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Archive for June, 2012

Technology companies and marketing gurus have been touting mobile as the next big marketing thing for a while now. In fact, hum and hype around mobile marketing have reached a point where corporate marketers can hardly go a day without a new study or webinar invitation suggesting you’re woefully behind the curve if you’re not already well down the road with a “mobile strategy.”

Then again, for every statistic that says mobile devices are today’s happening marketing medium, you needn’t search far to find another which suggests mobile marketing’s momentum might be overstated.

In his recent presentation at BlogWorld (captured in this post by TopRank Online Marketing Blog’s Ashley Zeckman), Jason Falls, CEO of Social Media Explorer, encapsulated with three quick (loosely attributed) stats the conundrum mobile mania can pose for marketers:

  • 87 percent of people own mobile phones
  • Mobile devices account for only 9 percent of all website hits
  • It’s projected that one in eight people in the United State will use mobile commerce by 2015…which presumably means seven in eight won’t

Smart Steps Forward

It would be foolish to think smart phones, tablets, gaming devices (plus mobile tools yet to be invented) won’t be a major factor in marketing’s near-term future. Mobile marketing is real. It’s almost certainly “coming” for most of us. And it may indeed be already “here” for your business, depending on the geographies and demographics your company needs to reach, serve and engage. (Check out this infographic on mobile share of web traffic globally).

But if you’re just beginning to chart a mobile course, there’s still time to avoid a “ready, go, set” approach. While now is a good time to start moving purposefully down the road, you needn’t jam mobile activity into overdrive based on the latest hair-on-fire blog or e-newsletter headline.

Instead, consider these basic, but important, early moves:

1) Locate your customers within the landscape. Before you invest lots of time, effort and money, discover where they are in their adoption and use of mobile devices. If you do a satisfaction or needs survey regularly, include a question or two about mobile. Ask which devices they use for product research and decision-making support. Ask whether they want to interact with vendors and service providers via mobile, and which types of content or functionality they’d most like to access on the go. If you don’t routinely conduct a survey, consider commissioning one. Or, at least, poll your sales reps and ask them how they see customers using mobile devices.

2) Find your place along the road. Are you behind, ahead or in the middle of the pack within your category?  Study trade magazines and newsletters to see how much “ink” they’re devoting to mobile. Is it a hot topic at industry conferences? Your trade media partners might also have research and white papers to suggest just how prevalent mobile is becoming as a marketing and commerce channel.

3) Check out fellow travelers. If you care what competitors are doing, scope their activities. Are their websites mobile friendly? Do they have dedicated mobile sites? Does anyone offer a custom mobile app (and does it do anything meaningful for users)? Are they using QR codes — and doing so in an effective way? Decide whether where you stand with mobile, in relation to your competition, is consistent with the image and positioning your brand wants to own.

4) Check the numbers. If you haven’t paid close attention, start monitoring web metrics closely to see how much traffic is coming from mobile devices. If those numbers are minuscule and holding steady, it’s a sign you’ve got time to figure out an approach that’s smart for you and your audiences. If the numbers are starting to climb, dial up the urgency, by all means. But still, start by making it an immediate priority to find out which mobile experiences and content will best meet the needs of customers, prospective customers, or business partners and stakeholders.

Depending on your business, brand, industry and audiences, there might not be quite the rush to pursue mobile marketing full-throttle as some would have you believe.

But now is definitely the right time to start looking and driving forward in a thoughtful direction.
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What’s the best early move you made — or plan to make — when embarking on your mobile strategy?

This post, originally published on Hanley Wood Marketing’s Content Is Marketing blog, is cross-posted here for subscribers to Touch Point City. For more marketing ideas and insights from my colleagues at HWM, subscribe to Content Is Marketing.

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I might make this topic a continuing series. Sort of a public service announcement, every six months or so. The corporate marketing equivalent of reminding you to change batteries on your smoke detectors twice each year. Here goes:

Conduct a thorough audit of your communications touch points, asking as you do this important question:

Where in our marketing, sales and customer service continuum do our most important audiences encounter a content desert?


Oasis vs. Desert: You Get to Decide
What do I mean by content desert?

Last time I issued this warning, I described it this way:

Think about the process of providing relevant, useful or entertaining content as cultivating an “engagement oasis” for the audiences you wish to attract and serve. A welcoming place where they can derive value and feel nurtured by your business and brand.

Now think of doing the exact opposite, either purposefully or unwittingly. Allowing a place on that continuum where your organization makes little or no effort to provide information, interactions or experiences of value. Or, perhaps worse yet, where you bombard y0ur audience with purely promotional, “let us tell you more about us” messages.

In retrospect, I might have been wrong about the “worse yet.” At least pummeling your audiences with promotional messaging suggests you’re awake and interested in making some sort of connection. But when your brand and value are completely absent. When your audiences encounter the engagement equivalent of tumble weeds rolling across a parched, dusty landscape. Those might be bleakest, most arid content deserts of them all.

 

As Buzzards Circled Overhead…
Here’s my latest example.

Last Friday I called the headquarters of a large business. A global enterprise with nearly $7 billion in sales and more than 20,000 employees worldwide. I called to connect with a corporate marketing employee. But I could just as easily have been a customer or prospective customer, calling to reach a sales rep or customer service.

My attempts to pronounce the employee’s name so that it would be recognized and routed by the voice recognition software failed. Multiple times. So I pressed “0” in hopes of reaching a live operator. Fifteen minute later (yes, I get stubborn sometimes), I remained on hold. Throughout, the only communication was a recorded voice explaining “all representatives are currently busy, please stay on hold.” The only experience: Extremely lame, looping hold music.

Finally, I assumed there must be a technical problem. Or perhaps, because it was Friday afternoon, the phone operator(s) had closed early. So I called again on Monday. Same inability to sweet talk the voice recognition robot. Same hold message and music. After five minutes, I hung up. I can be stubborn, but I’m not stupid.

I know a content desert when I’m stuck in one.


Lead Your Thirsty Audience to Content
A quick check of this company’s website shows they offer a substantial portfolio of B2B services and solutions for a wide range of vertical industries. You’ll see some interesting videos over here. A webinar over there. Some how-to guides. Customer testimonials.

By no means are they pursuing the most robust content marketing strategy ever devised. But there is something of interest and value there. Something they might want to share and tell people about.

You just wouldn’t know it by actually calling the company. Approach via the wrong touch point — in this case, by phone — and it’s tumbleweed time.

Marketing a global enterprise is by no means easy. But in certain ways, it’s not always so difficult, either.

Audit those touch points.

Keep an eye peeled and an ear cocked for the sights and sounds of content deserts.

Then take steps to cultivate a more engaging experience, wherever your audiences find only dust and tumbleweeds.

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With all the channels and touch points now available to us and our audiences, the telephone might not be quite as important as it once was. But still, doesn’t a brand that wants to be relevant and attractive need to offer more than hold music? Any favorite examples of a content desert where you’ve felt stranded? Comments welcome.

This post, originally published on Hanley Wood Marketing’s Content Is Marketing blog, is cross-posted here for subscribers to Touch Point City. For more marketing ideas and insights from my colleagues at HWM, subscribe to Content Is Marketing.

Photo credit: www.freenaturephotos.com

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Here’s a question we hear often from corporate marketers:

Do we need to segment our content?

The answer depends (you knew I was going to say that) on a number of factors. Generally speaking, especially if your marketing ambitions and scope (e.g., portfolio of products and services, diversity of buyer and influencer audiences to be communicated with) are of significant size, the answer is probably yes.

As a starting point, let’s try to simplify the issue.

First, a sure warning sign that you’re going to want to start segmenting your content to some appropriate, audience-centric degree that is right for your organization. Then, a quick “ABCs” model for thinking through at least an initial plan for segmenting content in a relevant way. 


You’ll Want to Segment Content When…
Look at the website or microsite that is your primary distribution hub for value-adding content. See if you’ve categorized your content based largely upon the format of the various content assets.

In other words, does your primary navigation scheme feature category headings or tabs such as “Newsletters, White Papers, Videos, Webinars”?

If that’s your main way of organizing content, and maybe even of planning which content to create next, then it’s probably time to starting thinking about segmenting. Here’s why:

Organizing content based on the format in which the content is presented is the equivalent of organizing the shelves of a library under the heading Books. Or providing TV viewers with a schedule that lumps all the shows on a particular night under Programming. Or, maybe the best analogy, inviting shoppers into a grocery store where the signs above the shelves display words such as Bags, Boxes and Bottles.

In other words, it’s a relatively generic and not terribly customer-relevant approach. You’re labeling the content format, but not the content’s value and relevance. Thus, it gives visitors virtually no clue as to which content asset or assets will help them solve the problem or answer the question which brought them to your site in the first place.

Sound overly simple? We said it would be. But it’s a place to start when it comes to developing a segmentation scheme.

And it’s surprising how many content marketers miss this point. Or, who start out thinking they’ll eventually segment content in a more audience-relevant way, but never quite get around to it. The result can be a thicket of content asset types — piles of white papers and a voluminous number of videos. But almost no way, except perhaps a site search function, for users to determine which content assets might be most useful at the moment they come searching. 


Segmentation ABCs
Let’s say you need to organize a jungle of content assets in a more audience-centric way. Or, better yet, want to start out your content marketing effort so you avoid growing a dense thicket of content asset types. It’s likely you’ll want to segment your content by one of the following:

Audience
Who are the audiences you need to attract and engage? Maybe it’s both the CFO and the human resources director. Or the CEO and a purchasing decision-maker. Those specific job titles or audience “personas” are a great place to start in deciding how best to organize your content so each member of your audience can find content likely to be relevant to his or her concerns.

Business
What type of businesses or organizations does your company serve best? Are your primary “verticals” health care, education and manufacturing? That’s a great place to begin a segmentation strategy. And then, within that vertical segmentation, you might even categorize content by audience. Now you’re truly helping the user find the content that’s most relevant to them and their business.

Challenge
What are the major needs, pain points or business issues your products or services solve? Let’s call them “challenges.” Sometimes this is the easiest segmentation approach of all, especially if the challenges tend to be universal across business verticals.

Stage
Can you create and organize content in a way that speaks to decision makers at various stages in their consideration and buying process? Often the B2B sales cycle is long enough that it breaks down into major stages. You’ll know you’re fairly sophisticated (and being helpful to your users) if you create and organize content by audience, business and buying stage. When you have not just a white paper or a video, but content assets designed to inform a hospital system CFO at the early stages of considering a new patient admissions software system.

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What do you think? Is segmenting content important to your business? Have you found some particularly effective ways to plan and organize content that you’d like to share? Comments welcome.

This post, originally published on Hanley Wood Marketing’s Content Is Marketing blog, is cross-posted here for subscribers to Touch Point City. For more marketing ideas and insights from my colleagues at HWM, subscribe to Content Is Marketing.

Photo: FreeDigitalPhotos.net (http://www.freedigitalphotos.net)

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If building a corporate brand was ever a no-muss, no-fuss, “ivory tower” sort of exercise, where a marketer’s primary tasks were two — push out high-minded awareness messaging, and take pains to treat the logo consistently across all other marketing  touch points — it’s pretty much not that anymore.

Probably never was, come to think of it.

Two pieces of research, and one personal shopping experience, brought this to the forefront recently for me.

WPP’s Millward Brown announced its latest Brand Z rankings, highlighted in this AdvertisingAge article. As Jack Neff’s piece points out, the Brand Z rankings are among a handful of different (and often conflicting) methods currently being tried to place financial value on, and then publish rankings of, the most valuable corporate brands.

Neff quotes execs from some of the different brand-rankings publishers on how their methodologies differ. He also notes that the Marketing Accountability Standards Board has been working to develop an industry-standard valuation system.

To say brand valuation is a work in progress would be an understatement. In fact, after reading Neff’s article, @hwmarketing felt prompted to publish this alliterative tweet: “Is there any rhyme, reason or relevance to these rankings?”

–  The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project revealed new data, summarized in this eMarketer article, which shows just how “real time” consumers are becoming in using smart phones to seek information, solve problems and manage their lives. In the 30 days prior:

  • Half of all U.S. smart phone owners said they used the devices to coordinate a gathering.
  • 49 percent used their phones to decide whether to visit a business (e.g., a restaurant).
  • 47 percent used their phones to “solve an unexpected problem,” while 46 percent “looked up some information in order to settle an argument.”

I bought two shirts at a store inside Boston Logan airport. Reluctant shopper that I am, but with some time to kill and noticing a “sale” sign on a rack of shirts, I tried on a few and picked out a pair. The store associate (is “clerk” still an acceptable term?) offered to have them drop-shipped to my home, saving me the trouble of carrying them on the plane.

When I received the package, one shirt was missing a button. Straight away I went online to find a customer service number, then used my mobile phone to call and explain the problem.

This had all the makings of a brand moment of truth: I’d either get the run-around, or the person I spoke with (assuming I reached a real person) would pleasantly attempt to help solve my missing-button issue. Fortunately, a real person told me to either ship the shirt back for a replacement at no charge, or go to my nearest store and exchange it. “No problem.” I’ll make that trek to the store this weekend. Ideally, “no problem” will truly prove to be no problem.


Is Brand Value Macro or Microeconomic?

So what’s it all mean?

If according to someone’s rankings the brand from which I bought the shirt had a high valuation, that value would have gone to zero in the mind of this consumer if I’d gotten unreasonable resistance when I called to report the problem with my purchase.

That’s one reason why the true value of a brand is so relative, subjective, ethereal — and ultimately incalculable?

A brand, especially enterprise brands, comprise hundreds and thousands of interactions, experiences and information exchanges, happening every day, across multiple touch points. The website. Social media. The sales force. In-store experience. The monthly billing statement. The customer service operators. Oh yeah, and the product. Buttons or no.  

Presumably brand marketers know that where their brands rank on a list of valuation calculations is not really the point. Good for temporary bragging rights? OK. A macro measure of a brand’s strength among consumers, at least relative to other brands? Maybe. Sort of.

But how a brand performs in the micro — when someone picks up their phone or clicks through from their tablet, looking for answers and reasons to believe or buy — that’s still where brand value ultimately gets determined. Isn’t it?

The good and bad news for marketers?

According to Pew Research, these brief, fleeting opportunities to either demonstrate brand value, or diminish it, are likely to be coming our way more and more as time and mobile technology march on.
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Are you putting much stock in brand valuation rankings? How important is it to have a common, agreed-upon brand valuation methodology? Comments and discussion welcome.

This post, originally published on Hanley Wood Marketing’s Content Is Marketing blog, is cross-posted here for subscribers to Touch Point City. For more marketing ideas and insights from my colleagues at HWM, be sure and subscribe to Content Is Marketing.

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