THE MARKETING FORUM

An interactive forum for marketers to share their marketing hints, tips, creative ideas, and success stories.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

What is Your Worth?

I write articles about marketing and this blog contains information on hints, tips and marketing ideas. But, today, I want to talk about you. Yes, you. The person in the marketing department. Whether you are the VP of Marketing, CMO, product manager, or a support person. Do you know your value? Can you put a price on your worth? Well, I contend that you are a very valuable part of the marketing mix within your company. So, do you know your value or worth?

Too many times I think employees think they are just a small cog in this big wheel called a company and that their contribution doesn't matter to the overall scheme of things. Well, I'm here today to tell you that your contributions do matter. And they matter a lot.

That's why it behooves you to become an expert in your particular area of marketing. Visualize how your specialty fits into the overall picture of your company. In particular, ask yourself how do you serve your customers? How well do you serve your co-workers? How well do you serve management?
It's all about serving and giving back. So, next time you feel unimportant or that your job doesn't matter. Remember…. it does matter….and it matters a lot.

Here's a toast to all the marketing personnel. Know that you are very much appreciated.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Should you purge your Twitter follow list?








I follow quite a few discussions on various groups on LinkedIn and an interesting discussion came up. Should you or how often should you purge the people who follow you on Twitter. The person who posed this question got quite a few different responses. Her contention was that if someone you follow doesn't follow you back then you should stop following them. I think this is erroneous thinking and many of the experts who commented agreed. Should there be an equal ratio of followers to people you follow?

Twitter is all about disseminating information. If someone you follow provides you interesting articles that you get benefit from, I think it is perfectly okay to continue following them. However, I do agree that you should look at your list of who follows you and who you follow periodically. I typically review my list about once a month and get rid of anyone following me who is spamming. Then I also get rid of people I'm following if they haven't tweeted something in a very long time. I assume they have either gone out of business or don't have anything relevant to say.

Many people in the discussion thread recommended using ManageFlitter. It is a tool that has many functions that help you sort your followers/following lists by a range of criteria. It also helps you find new people to follow with their search capability. It can also track who unfollowed you on Twitter. They offer several different plans from Business to Pro to Freebie. Of course, each plan provides a different range of features.

Another tool that was mentioned is Tweepi to help manage Twitter follows. Someone else uses lists created on Twitter to help manage the follows. Others never purge. If the person posts great content, it doesn't matter to them if that person follows them or not.

So, as you can see, the opinions are all over the map. I always advise my clients to do what is best for their particular company. I would definitely get rid of any obvious spammy accounts that are following you and focus on qualified followers. Insofar as who you follow, I agree with the other experts that you should follow someone if they offer relevant content.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Native Advertising: What does it really mean?

















Have you been hearing a lot about native advertising? In particular from various trade publications? So, what is native advertising? 
According to Wikipedia "Native advertising is an online advertising method in which the advertiser attempts to gain attention by providing content in the context of the user's experience. Native ad formats match both the form and function of the user experience in which it is placed."

It's basically sponsored content. Remember the advertorial pages of print advertising where your advertisement looked like editorial content? Or a paid advertising supplement? Well, native advertising is similar but in an online format. It could be anything from videos, images, articles, infographics, or even promoted tweets on Twitter. Even LinkedIn has gotten on the bandwagon and offers Sponsored Updates. So how do you effectively use this medium?

An important factor is to ensure that you retain your audience's trust. You do not want to fool the readers that what you are promoting is actual editorial content. So you must have transparency. In fact, the IAB (Internet Advertising Bureau) recommends guidance and disclosure principles in "The Native Advertising Playbook" that was published in December 2013. 

According to the IAB, there are basically six types of ad units available for sponsorship:
  1. In-feed units - Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter
  2. Paid search units - Google, Bing, Ask, Yahoo
  3. Recommendation widgets - Taboola, Disqus, Gravity
  4. Promoted listings - Etsy, Foursquare, Google
  5. In-ad with native element units = Martini Media, Onespot
  6. Custom - such as Tumblr, Spofity, Pandora
For specific definitions of each type of ad, refer to the IAB Playbook.

Native advertising is a great way to engage your customers in a memorable way. It is gaining in popularity as the effectiveness of online advertising has dropped significantly in the past few years. Since it is focused on the user experience, it seamlessly weaves into consumer content. It appeals to the needs of the audience you are targeting.

Since native advertising is still in its infancy, many ad agencies shy away from it. It does have its challenges such as it must be tailored to each site where it will display. Right now it is non-scalable and must be customized.

If you have any experiences using native advertising, I would love to hear from you. Feel free to post your comments and share your examples.

Host-Beneficiary Marketing: How Does It Work?






















I've been interested lately in the health and wellness craze. So, I did some research on the Internet and found some interesting websites that provide some great information on weight loss, self-improvement, personal development, etc. Once I signed up for a company's eNewsletter or bought some of their videos or educational DVDs, my inbox was flooded with daily emails from the various companies.

However, I noticed that they were not just pushing products from their own companies. They were promoting other companies (not competitors) but affiliate companies that sold products or services that were synergistic with their own products or services to the same target market. For example, a company selling meditation lessons would promote a therapist who sells seminars on dream building. Or a medical doctor who is selling integrative medicine might promote a nutritionist. And that nutritionist might promote a company who sells protein powders. And so on, and so on, and so on.

I realized that this type of marketing is a wonderful way to gain access to a larger database of potential buyers. It is called host-beneficiary marketing and it is a fairly inexpensive way to deliver solid results for your marketing efforts. The beneficiary (your company) instantly has access to large numbers of highly qualified prospects with the endorsement of the well-established company. You get new customers and the other company gains goodwill. It really is about separate entities selling individual products to the same community. In this case, the wellness and healthcare community. The companies are not competitors. Rather their products and services work synergistically with each other.

So, I'm encouraging all of my clients to seek out companies that provide symbiotic products and services and cross promote their products and services in their marketing promotions. Here are a few tips to remember:

1) Of course, always target your audience carefully. Don't be vague. Be very specific about who you want to reach. The more you can segment your audience the better. And it will help you to better identify the companies you want to collaborate with.

2) Once you know who you want to reach, then target businesses that serve that market segment. For example, if you sell a brand of cosmetics, you might want to work with a salon owner to sell to his/her customer base.

3) So, now that you know who you want to reach and you have an agreement with several host companies, now what do you do? Develop a clear offer for your product or service and develop the materials for the host company to send to their database. This could be an email or an invitation to a webinar, for example.

The host-beneficiary marketing technique is a very effective way to attract new customers. It makes it easy to tap into a very targeted group of prospects. Both companies gain many benefits from this symbiotic relationship.

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6 Ways to Increase the Customer Experience at Trade Shows

















Are you tired of attending the same old trade shows? Is your booth looking a bit worn out? Are you having problems justifying trade shows as a tactic on your marketing plan due to the high cost of attending? Well, here are a few ways to help you interact, improve engagement, and increase your ROI at trade shows.
  1. Build quality booth traffiic with pre-show communication. Don't just send out emails to announce to your customers that you will be attending a show. Start the conversation and engage your audience with specialized messaging, setting appointments with key customers, and continuing branding and product messaging from product campaigns.
  2. Use mobile technology. Apps are becoming more and more popular at trade shows. In fact some trade show organizers offer sponsorships of their trade show app. However, you can also develop your own educational app to streamline communications between your company and prospects or customers. Try a survey or polling your customers, as well.
  3. Interactive Touch Screen Kiosks. You are probably already playing videos in your booth and most likely have no lookers. Why not pick it up a notch by using interactive touch screens to engage your booth visitors. Keep the touch screen simple and to the point. Don't crowd the touch screen with all of your product offerings. Customize it to the audience at each trade show. Keep it simple yet informative.
  4. Integrate your trade show strategy with social media. Create a hashtag specifically for the event so you can engage and interact with your visitors. Have your customers post a picture of your booth, a product, or some other interesting item on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. Create a contest for best picture submitted.
  5. Use inbound marketing strategies. Promote your attendance at the show on your blog and on your website. Create a specialized landing page that communicates all of the activities you plan during the show such as presentations, posters, press conferences, or other company events.
  6. Games. Develop a game to draw visitors to your booth but provide an educational flair to them that is relevant to your products or services.
People attend trade shows to learn so make your booth an educational and fun place to visit. Your company will be top of mind when the prospect is ready to buy.

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Monday, April 7, 2014

Is Your Marketing Communications Budget Adequate?


















How do you decide on how much budget you need each year to fulfill the marketing communications tactics that coincide with your company's marketing plan? Well, the typical approach is to list the tactics and then list the total cost. Then management looks at the total cost and says to cut somewhere. But where do you cut? While this is not the optimal way to create a marketing communications budget, sad to say, it is how most companies handle this task.

A better way is to develop a marketing communications plan synergistically with the marketing plan to ensure that the marketing goals and objectives are fully being supported. The marcom plan should also outline the key messages, branding messaging, and overall corporate image that the company wants to project. So, first of all, budget, then create your message and then issue your list of tactics.

Many companies use a percentage of sales approach. Consult your industry's main trade association to see if they have any research data available as to an average marketing communications budget for your particular industry. It typically will be represented as a percentage of sales. While this is a standard approach, you also need to consider where your products are in their life cycle. Are they mature? Is there a new competitor entering the playing field? Are you repositioning your product to grow market share? Is your industry growing or shrinking? Are you planning to market that product into other markets?

So, what should be included in the marcom budget? Strictly any promotional and advertising expenses. Your marcom budget should not include the salaries of the staff, travel expenses or other overhead expenses. The marcom budget should include all of the expenses to get a marcom project completed including design, printing, digital media, etc. Printing the company's letterhead and stationery, for example, should not be included.

If you are severely underfunding your marketing communications efforts, specifically compared to your competitors, then you need to decide if you are really serious about making your company successful.

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Keys to Developing a Creative Brief

Creative Brief

























Do you regularly use a creative brief when you are developing or implementing marketing programs? You may have had to complete this type of form if you typically work with an in-house creative services department or an external advertising agency. But did you know a creative brief can be very helpful to marketing personnel when you need to involve various groups within your company to develop marketing materials? Here are a few key items of information you should include in your creative brief.

Provide a brief overview of the project.
This is the big picture. You don't have to go into great detail at this point. Describe the main concept and what you want to accomplish with the project.

Describe the main objective of the campaign.
What do you want to accomplish with the campaign, marketing literature, advertisement, etc? Do you want to increase awareness of your product or your company? Do you want to generate leads for the sales organization?Do you want to educate your audience on a certain topic? You've probably heard of the SMART approach. Make sure the objectives are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.

Describe the target audience.
To whom are you directing the marketing program? Try to be more specific than just the usual demographics. State the current attitudes/beliefs and objections that your audience may currently have. Analyze why the audience hasn't purchased your product. Put yourself in the audience's shoes, so to speak. Better yet, do some market research if you don't know the answer to this question. The more detailed you can get about the audience, the better understanding you will have of what motivates the audience to purchase your products.

Describe the current situation.
What strategies are currently working? How do you need to modify your current marketing strategy to better communicate the benefits of your product to your audience? Why is this marketing project needed? What do you hope to accomplish by implementing the project?

What behavior do you want to change?
After assessing the current behavior, attitudes, and beliefs, describe the behavior you want to change and describe how you hope to accomplish this. Also add a measurement component so that you can measure the current behavior and then measure any changes that occur in a certain amount of time, whether that is 3 months, 6 months or a year timeframe.

What should be the tone of marketing piece?
Is this an upbeat, fun, or edgy tone? Or do you want to have more of an educational tone? Are you targeting very conservative individuals? Or do you want to convey innovation, youthfulness, or radical thinking?

Be specific on the key message of the campaign.
Please don't put everything but the kitchen sink into your message. Try to determine one key, succinct message. If you try to tell your audience too much at once, they won't understand your message at all. Basically, create an elevator spiel. In seven words or less, state your message. If you do need to have a secondary message, please don't have more than 3 key points. Studies show that 3 is the magic number.

Create a timeline.
Plan the entire project or campaign in detail. You can easily develop a spreadsheet with all of the details of the plan including graphic design time, approval deadlines, final drop dead date for materials. For example, if this is an advertisement, what is the drop dead date that the ad materials are due to the publication.

Gather all of the material you need to get started.
For example, media kits, market research reports, previous ads or brochures, competitive brochures, and key websites can be used as resource material. Compile a list of the team members, including their contact information, job responsibility for the project, approval level, etc.

So, why should you use a creative brief? It's a great way to keep all of the team members on track so that deadlines are met. It also helps to ensure everyone is agreement with the scope of the project, objectives, and strategies. So, the next next time you have a marketing project, try writing a creative brief, and you'll find that the workflow progresses more smoothly.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Be Passionate About Marketing

Have your marketing tactics changed in the last 5 to 7 years? If not, then you should get up to date on some of the new digital marketing techniques available.

Being classically trained in marketing, I know that some of you are probably having difficulty embracing the "new" marketing. It really isn't all that difficult. Just don't get overwhelmed. Keep trying new things, test, and see what works for you and what doesn't. But, above all, be patient. Here are some tips to help you get started:


  1. Your products and services are more important than ever. Social media like Twitter and Facebook, review sites like Yelp, and even industry blog sites where your products and services are mentioned should be monitored closely. Products and services are under a microscope these days. So, you should deliver the best you can at every touch point. You really can't take down a negative comment. But you do need to address any comments, whether positive or negative. Embrace the negative comments and learn from them. Negative comments will help you to improve your products or put new processes in place to better serve your customers. Learn from your mistakes. So join the digital conversation.
  2. Integrate your work group to be effective. I'm sure in most established companies Marketing, PR, and IT are all separate entities and rarely communicate with each other. To be effective in today's marketing climate, all of those groups should be integrated and communicate regularly. Provide each other feedback and share knowledge and data about customer interaction with your company. In other words, break down the silos within your company.
  3. Data, data, data. Understand your digital. Understand your data. Understand your customer. Gathering data can be as simple as using Google Analytics or doing a search on the Internet. But, know what people are saying about you and your company. Know your customer's buying habits. Find out what they look at, read, review. Distill down the data from your various marketing channels such as SEO, email, banner ads, loyalty programs or subscriptions. Determining the cost per channel will help you make more intelligent decisions on the best channels for your company's prospects.
  4. Test. Test. Test. Making a headline change in a blog article or online press release can make all of the difference in the world as to how many people will share your information on the various social media sites. Use adaptive design techniques to personalize information for each individual. Track what people are viewing and provide them the information they want.
  5. Content is king. Hire the right individuals for your organization. You will need people who can develop content. Provide value to your customers. Provide ebooks or definitive guides about your products and services.
  6. Push the boundaries. Be passionate about your products and services. You need that passion to drive the customer experience.

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We specialize in helping biotechnology, life science, medical device, and high-tech companies develop world-class, multi-faceted marketing programs. We work with companies like Beckman Coulter and Perkin-Elmer to 1) create powerful results-driven marketing tactics, 2) audit media and advertising plans, and 3) develop consistent branding messages. Let us show you how you can easily improve marketing efficiencies, reduce marketing costs, and develop targeted promotional strategies.

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