Tagged by: Relevance

Product, Audience, and Solutions Marketing – Which One is Right for You?

What is Solutions Marketing Audience Marketing

Solutions Marketing is a buzzword used by marketers quite often. A buzzword not because it is not an important or a valuable concept, but because it has been both misunderstood and overused, like Big Data and Social Business.

Years ago I heard VP of Marketing at a large company explain solution marketing to his team as bundling two or more products. This is one of the worst, but also one of the most common definitions. When the concept is not understood it can result in very ineffective communications.

A very large technology company spent a significant amount of money to have a significant presence at a tradeshow where it introduced itself as offering “Enterprise Systems and Solutions”. Imagine an auto dealer introducing itself as a “personal transportation solutions company” instead of the much simpler and easier to understand “car dealer”.

What is Solutions Marketing?

Here is my definition: A solution is a complete offering what will solve a customer problem.

  • ‘A complete offering’ means it must include all the products, services, parts, training and any other element a customer needs to solve a problem. In many cases it will require including partner offerings.
  • ‘Will solve’ implies the company is standing behind the complete solution. It has tested it, and provides customer service and a guarantee for the solution as a whole and not only for its individual components.
  • ‘Customer’ in ‘customer problem’ implies solutions need to be defined by customers, independently of how the company is organized, how the products are defined or what are the company priorities.
  • Customer Problem‘ requires us to understand why customers buy our products, what is the intent, what are the complete requirements and the alternatives being considered.

Solutions Marketing is a buzzword used by marketers quite often. A buzzword not because it is not an important or a valu...

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8 Cardinal Principles to use Personas Effectively in Marketing

Best practices to make personas an effective tool to guide marketing activities by increasing customer understanding and empathy

A version of this post was first published on the OpenView labs blog.

The recent focus on content marketing has brought increased attention to personas. They can be a very effective tool for guiding most marketing activities by increasing customer understanding and empathy. But, like with every tool, you must get the fundamentals right to get maximum value out of it.

Despite all the attention on personas, many marketers find the concept somewhat ambiguous or confuse it with segmentation. making effective use of personas in practice has been often ineffective. In this post you will learn 8 ideas or best practices, to help you make personas a key tool that increases the effectiveness of all your marketing activities.

The concept of personas is not new. It was developed in 1998 by Alan Cooper, who also invented Visual Basic, as a tool to help with software interaction design. In 2002, Tony Zambito developed the concept of buyer personas to focus on buyer behavior and to guide customer strategies.

Best practices to make personas an effective tool to guide marketing activities by increasing customer understanding and...

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Welcome to The Age of Context – and Contextual Marketing

The Age of Context and Contextual Marketing

What is the future of technology? How will technology impact your business and how does it impact marketing?

The preceding two questions are very important. Companies that are not able to adapt to rapid changes in technology are left behind to die. Examples abound, even innovative companies that were ahead of their times in their use of technology such as Blackberry, Blockbuster, Circuit City, among others. Most business executives recognize the need to evolve, as do most marketers. After all, that’s why I named this blog the Adaptive Marketer.

My oldest daughter just turned 14. I have had to explain rotary phones, cassette tapes, film cameras and typewriters to her. Kids born today will have to ask their parents to explain what a music CD and a DVD are. The evolution of these technologies has created and destroyed entire industries who failed to foresee the importance and impact of these new technologies. Any business person should be asking: What is the next revolution? Where are things going? How will these changes affect my business?

I found many answers in The Age of Context by the dynamic duo: futurist & technology blogger Robert Scoble and writer and storyteller & writer Shel Israel.

What is the future of technology? How will technology impact your business and how does it impact marketing? The precedi...

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10 Marketing Observations from the 2014 Super Bowl Ads

Surprisingly, the Super Bowl is not the most-viewed sports event in the world. At some 150 million viewers, it represents a fraction of the estimated 720 million viewers for the FIFA World Cup final.  Despite this fact, it remains the largest advertising event in the world.

According to an informal survey we ran last week, over 60% of Super Bowl viewers claimed to watch the game just as much, or more for the ads.  Welcome to the Ad Bowl.

Why do people watch the SuperBowl

By now there are probably a couple dozen lists of top Super Bowl ads, and everyone has begun expressing their own opinions. In this post, I will share my observations on the marketing strategies of the brands and the effectiveness of their ads, as well as general advertising trends. Please add your observations in the comments section.

Surprisingly, the Super Bowl is not the most-viewed sports event in the world. At some 150 million viewers, it represent...

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Marketing Should be the Value Engine of your Company

Marketing the Value Engine of Your Company

This post originally appeared as a guest contribution in the Blog for the Austin chapter fo the American Marketing Organization

Peter Drucker, the father of modern business thinking, said that only marketing an innovation create value – everything else is basically overhead. He also said that marketing is the distinguishing function of an organization. Quite an endorsement about the Marketing function – but also a great responsibility.

In contrast, many people consider marketing to be deceptive, superfluous and buzz-wordy. Unfortunately, some marketing is one or all three of these. Unfortunately, marketers rank right next to used car salesmen in terms of reputation and trust. Interesting dichotomy.

What other teams in your company think about the marketing department: is it creating value for the company or spending money on funny ads? Maybe more importantly, we should ask ourselves, was Drucker wrong?

This post originally appeared as a guest contribution in the Blog for the Austin chapter fo the American Marketing Organ...

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The Online Marketer’s Quest for Web Effectiveness

Online marketers, like most other professionals, are expected to do more with less – especially in challenging  economic times. Onlinemarketers are trying to find out how to increase Web site and campaign effectiveness, which can be measured in terms of unique visitors, click-throughs or leads. Marketers in eCommerce companies have a bit more focused goals, focusing on conversions and average order value, often acheved via up-selling and cross-selling.

Key to meeting these objectives is to ensure people visiting your Web site or receive email communications from your company are presented with the most useful information and the most powerful offers for them. In this quest of finding the best message, the best offer, the best banner ad, marketers have tried a number of different tools from personalization to analytics to a/b testing. It is easy to get too exited about these tools, but at the end of the day, it is critical to understand these are only tools to improve relevance.

Relevance is the key to Web site effectiveness. But how to make your messages more relevant? Most studies show Web site visitors have very limited patience: if they can’t find what they need in three clicks, they are gone. This means you have one or two chances to give each individual customer exactly what he or she is looking for: the product they want, the answer to the question they have, the information they need. This post aims to provide an overview of the tools available to increase relevance.

The first step is Analytics. You can’t improve what you can’t measure. Analytics can tell you how many people are visiting each page or consume each of the resources that you make available  on your site, what are the most common click-through paths, exit pages and many other useful data points. Unfortunately, most organizations don’t have the people or the time to properly study the analytics data to derive business insight and to act on this insight. maybe because it is hard to show ROI for these activities outside of media and online commerce.

One of my favorite phrases is “Your opinion (as a marketer), while interesting, is irrelevant“. No matter how smart you are, you can only guess what will be most attractive for your customers. therefore, one of the fundamental principles of marketing communications is to test everything. In this age it is inconceivable to run a banner ad without at least testing a few messages. Testing multiple messages takes very little effort and, in my experience, the results often surprise you. When testing 4 or 5 different banner ads, it is not uncommon to find a 5x difference in performance. The same applies to direct mail, email promotions, etc.

But testing banner ads and messages manually is very time consuming, although certainly worthwhile for large campaigns. This is where a/b testing comes in. A/B testing tools automate the process of presenting multiple offers to customers, sometimes based on a specific segment, reporting results in real time and adapting your site to use the message that proved to be most effective in tests.

MVT Testing take this concept further by testing multiple variables: message, color, position, offer, etc. – and all their possible permutations. MVTcan be incredibly powerful to fine-tune offers and promotions in any website. As good as they are, adoption of A/B and MVT tools has been very limited, mostly in eCommerce companies. As with analytics, resourcing is part of the problem.

A/B and MVT have their own challenges: First, it is still for the most part a manual process. Second, you could be testing all the wrong things – the process still requires someone to decide what messages or what elements to test. Last, these tools require some time to run (the more variables in play the longer it takes for MVT to produce statistically-valid results) and they are focused on past behavior.

This is where a new breed of tools come in: Content Recommendations, offered by companies like Vignette, Omniture, Loomia and others. While there are differences between how these products work, the fundamental premise is the same: to observe customer behavior, and to automatically determine what is the most relevant content, product or offer for a particular customer based on what similar customers have found to be useful.

A short story to illustrate: An architect builds an office complex with multiple buildings a parking garage, a cafeteria and other services.  The buildings open to the tenants but there are no concrete pathways between buildings, the architect has left all the open space covered in grass. After a few weeks, the paths that people take to go from one building to the other are clear from the wear in the grass. Over time, the grass is gone in these paths. The architect then paves thee paths with concrete. He did not try to guess which way people would walk. He observed and acted on actual behavior. Recommendation technologies pave the path between website visitors and the content they want.

Now a specific example: An online tax service is trying to make their website more useful. During tax season, many customers would go to their site and look for “Form 1099”. Traditional search tools would use a keyword-based algorithm to find the web pages and documents where the keyword “Form 1099” occurred more often. Instead, Recommendations technology observes that most visitors who type “form 1099” in the search box actually end up opening, downloading and printing a file called IRS1099-A.pdf and then spend some time in a page labeled “how to fill your tax return”, so it presents these two resources at the top of the search results, even though the keyword may not even appear i the actual page or file. This scenario is what is being called social search.

Another advantage of Recommendations is that it can adapt in almost real-time to changes. Imagine a celebrity appearing on TV on a Friday afternoon wearing some very chic aluminum sunglasses. Everyone who is watching the TV show wants to buy these sunglasses. The first visitors to your eCommerce site would have to navigate a bit to find the exact product, but after a few visitors buy the item, recommendations technology “paves” the way for other visitors, a process that could take minutes. Your analytics person or campaign marketer could be asleep or on vacation and recommendations technology has learned from customers  and adapted the site to show the now very hot item in the most prominent position.

As with any new technology, there are differences between the offerings from recommendation technology vendors. There are a couple key aspects to consider when evaluating them:

  • The observation technology – it can go from the very simple (clicks-based) to te very advanced (some measure over 30 heuristics).
  • The algorithm to determine what to recommend – some call it the wisdom of crowds engine
  • How similar visitors are grouped – behavioral segmentation and integration with your explicit profile data
  • Content database – how it is organized, categorized and updated as items become available or are retired
  • Presentation model – how the recommendations are integrated into your overall website experience

This is very exciting technology that is likely to produce big results for most web sites who implement the technology but more importantly for customers in general.

Online marketers, like most other professionals, are expected to do more with less - especially in challenging  economic...

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How often should we email our customer base?

This is a key question every large company has two answer, especially when different groups want to contact customers with messages about training, events, new products, promotions, surveys, etc.

When I was responsible for the Developer audience at Microsoft, I tried to create communication channels that would carry all these messages: the MSDN site, MSDN Flash newsletter, sub-audience specific sites, blogs, etc. But there is always a need for more formal communications that would go via email. The audience owners had to approve any communications going out or any new channels to avoid spamming customers and having a massive number of newsletters. At some point many companies have a discussion about how often they should be sending emails to their customers.

I have seen companies who have a rule about not sending broad emails to the customer base more than once a week. Some companies think it should be every two weeks or every month. Some companies have no rules and every one is free to spam everyone who has ever opted-in. Defining a fixed cadence to contact customers misses the point altogether.

The key for customer communications, either via email, RSS, twitter, fax, etc., is relevance.

Yetserday at the Omniture Summit, Forrester Analyst Emily Riley was sharing how after two years she still enjoys the weekly email newsletter sent by BabyCenter and read it thoroughly because it is relevant – it has information that is useful for her becaus eit has been targeted based on her baby’s age.

But when I get emails from a similar site (to remain unnamed) those emails are spam. My two daughters are 7 and 9, I don’t care about pretty much baby anything, the communcation is not relevant. Now, if the company had a Pre-Teen Parent newsletter, I might be interested. After all, they have my information, my permission (I haven’t opted out, my bad) and the exact age of my two daughters. Whay wouldn’t these companies continue to provide relevant information to parents as they grow? from diapers to cell phones and college.

If I am a developer heads down on a project or trying to understand a technology, I will dig every piece of relevant, useful information you send my way. If the information is useful, I will be grateful for that information even if I get an email every single day, scoring points for your brand. But if you send me information that is not targeted, relevant and useful, then every email is spam even if I only get one every leap year.

Content is King, Relevance is the Crown that makes Content the King.

This is a key question every large company has two answer, especially when different groups want to contact customers wi...

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