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2017 Super Bowl Ads: Stranger Things Happened Than the Pat’s Comeback

No football team had ever come back from such a large deficit. No QB had ever won five rings. No Super Bowl had every gone to overtime. The Patriots became, arguably, #GOAT late on the 5th in Houston. No wonder millions took the 6th off work and school!

Super Bowl commercials can also become historically significant, like Apple’s 1984 spot, yet most are only relevant for a moment or two, then disappear into the dusty record books. Sunday’s spots saw the usual mélange of mayhem and fun; movies and celebrities; and messages of purpose.

To help work through the laundry list of multi-million dollar commercials, I drafted my family to help separate the touchdowns from the touchbacks! I used emojis to indicate their reactions.

#CleverStuff

Tide managed to run interference on viewers with Terry Bradshaw’s ketchup-stained sideline snippet. This one goes down as clever audience insight: “the internet” loves to troll and are often distracted by minutiae.

Happy emoji for 2017 super bowl ads

Intel’s Drones were more technically clever but, wow, didn’t they work well as a backdrop to Gaga’s epic opening rooftop sequence?! 300 drones all meticulously choreographed with color and location…stunning visually and technologically.

Nerdy emoji for 2017 super bowl ads

But the winner of this opening quarter was National Geographic’s teaser for Genius, their upcoming anthology on Einstein. Creating a spot that could only have run after a Gaga Halftime Show, Albert plays Bad Romance on the Violin … simply but impeccably filmed and completely unexpected.

Surprised emoji for 2017 super bowl ads

#FamilyFun

Buick’s celebrity tie in with Cam Newton was trolled mercilessly on Twitter, given his SB50 performance, but nonetheless was a hit around our TV. Slapstick; embellishment on a theme; an homage to grass roots sports; it had it all!

Amused emoji for 2017 super bowl ads

Mr. Clean was my wife’s favorite spot of the night. The brand icon re-imagined as a CGI dancing domestic deed doer. Covered top to toe in a tighty-whitey onesie, he certainly was a hit with the ladies. He kept the fun going on social media too, though the engagement figures suggest there was less second-screen brand interaction that authentic audience reaction to be had this year.

Kissy emoji for 2017 super bowl ads

Our winner was undoubtedly the Kia Niro spot featuring Melissa McCarthy. Personally, I felt it was one gag too long, but the unexpected opening hit our wannabe Eco Hero took, set us up for a rip-roaring success. Casting an SNL favorite for your big game commercial is hardly groundbreaking thinking, yet it works spectacularly well here. Hit the spot in every way.

Laughing emoji for 2017 super bowl ads

#FailedHype

From hits to fails. A few spots just didn’t follow through on their pre-game promise. Snickers put an awful lot of effort into an awfully dull live commercial. Skittles gave the game away too early online to have any spontaneous reaction that night. And Wix, who featured ass-kicking duo Gal Gadot and Jason Statham, should have spent more money on their airtime than their A-listers—the 2-minute online version was vastly superior to the 30-second spot. Cut down, it was too visually confusing to follow.

Mixed emotion emoji for 2017 super bowl ads

#Powerful

THE most discussed type of commercial was from brands who tackled the current sociopolitical challenges being faced in the country today. Hyundai ended the night with a near-live spot, featuring live virtual reality broadcasts of military families watching the game with deployed love ones. Technically and emotionally challenging with purposeful use of real-time broadcasting and editing, this spot stood out for all the right reasons.

Surprised emoji for 2017 super bowl ads

Another group—that included Google, Coca Cola, Audi, Budweiser, 84 Lumber, and the NFLall touched us with messages of diversity and unity. It seems they, and the others, felt that the big game provided them with a platform. Brave indeed. Some were more forceful than others. 84 Lumber drove millions of viewers to their site to watch the unbanned and full story of Mexican mother and daughter as they seek entry to the USA.

Emotional emoji for 2017 super bowl ads

The standout in the category, though, was Airbnb. Their message of acceptance blew up the second screen social scene. What’s more, this spot felt like an extension of the company’s tone of action … after they offered refuge to those most in need. Up to 100,000 will be helped … “To help people around the world facing displacement, we’ll work with our community of hosts to find not just a place to stay, but also a place to feel connected, respected, and a part of a community again.” The commercial itself was simply constructed and sensitively handled. Made us all stop and watch in silence.

Emotional emoji for 2017 super bowl ads

#Teasers

Another established grouping are commercials teasing the release of blockbuster movies. Now though, new shows tend to get into the action too. And boy, did we get some excited reactions in our family! Ghost in the Shell, Transformers, The Fate of the Furious, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and more all had their time—but too often they were reworked versions of already-released clips. Not so, though, for the Stranger Things 2 trailer!

Starting with an eighties commercial for Eggo, before quickly spooking everyone out with fast-cut scary snippets of the stories to come, including the kids in Ghostbusters outfits and a glimpse of a very red, very angry looking Upside Down! We clapped, hollered, high-fived and generally couldn’t contain our excitement—until we saw it’s not coming until Halloween 2017. Seriously Netflix, what’s with that!?

Angry emoji for 2017 super bowl ads

Sadly, I don’t think any of these spots are entering the Hall of Fame along with the Patriots this year—just not enough timelessness, as the zeitgeist was favored often. Nonetheless, they added to the spectacle that was Super Bowl LI for our family and millions like us.

How to Create Ads that Grab Attention—But Not at the Cost of Relevance

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Attention has become more than simply an ingredient of advertising–it’s become the currency of success. In today’s digital age, marketers look to create ‘thumb-stopping moments’; unique periods of time where consumers see enough value in what they’re being shown to pause and fully absorb. Moments that deliver empathy-sparking cues; resonate with an individual’s humour or hit deep, emotional triggers hidden away in the brain’s hippocampus for years.

Understanding how these moments actually work, however, is a complex affair. Not least because they tend to be situation‐specific; with communication channel, messaging, sender, receiver, context all defining sometimes unique situations. What does it take to capture an audience and drive them towards a desired behaviour? Three key components, according to advertising psychology: content, persuasion and attention. The first two are relatively simple to achieve. It often isn’t until we get to attention, that we often discover the proverbial spanner in the works.

As advertisers, we approach getting ‘eyes on’ our content by either paying for an audience (e.g. through media purchases) or by earning it through organic activity (such as well architected websites, or sought-after video content). But getting an ad in front of someone is only the beginning. Duration is easy to track, but it’s a poor measure of true engagement. It’s the intensity with which someone views an advert that shows how interested they are as a viewer. We may drive an hour to work every day, but how engaged we are with what’s happening around us will vary greatly from day to day.

So with interest being the key to gaining attention, here are my top three areas to focus on:

1. ‘Reach’ on its own isn’t enough, relevance matters

With newsfeeds becoming increasingly cluttered, honing in on what an audience is looking for has never been more important. Paid media is now the norm so ads can be put in front of consumers with ease. But ensuring they resonate and are meaningful is what adds true value.

2. Minimum interaction for the maximum relevance

Repetitive. Forceful. Annoying. When the t-shirt you looked at once starts following you around every site you visit, you can quickly move from disengaged to outraged. Finding the triggers that sit in the key intersect between the interaction-relevance Venn diagram can be the difference between a browser and a buyer.

3. Respect what your audiences want

Actually getting someone’s attention is becoming increasingly rare, so when you do: respect it. A sales-focused message isn’t always right. Consumers don’t always want to be sold to – they want to be listened and engaged with. Creating a valuable message is just as important as defining the relevant channel to say it through. Get both right, and you’re on to a winner.

Customer Centricity Means Time and Money. Is it Worth It?

planning for customer centricity

Customer centricity, the customer journey and the customer experience are the big buzz in marketing. But customer centricity takes a lot of time and money. How can you be sure it’s paying off? You’re making changes, but are they the right changes? You have 1,000 priorities; what’s your best course of action RIGHT NOW?

You’re not alone in asking these questions.

I often see marketing executives that have good intentions around understanding and improving the customer experience. But in many cases, the financial business case isn’t formed enough or the success metrics aligned well enough to determine if the investments delivered an improved financial return for the company.

Senior marketing executives need a concrete, reliable method of getting from the idea of customer centricity to actually improving customer experience. And you’re playing against the clock. With limited budget and limited patience to wait for the ROI. Add to that, the need for new investments to be self-funding. No wonder it can be so difficult to get from the idea of customer-centricity to scalable business impact.

In my experience, there are four things you need to have in place to make sure your customer experience strategy and execution work can justify the investment and, at the end of the day, prove it worked:

  1. Data, insights and understandings that go way beyond NPS, clicks, calls and routine transactions.
  2. A more integrated plan and platform for technology and enablement tools to tie all the parts and pieces together.
  3. Skill and agility to create the content and assets required to fuel the myriad of conversations to be had with the customer and to make the experience contextually relevant and meaningful.
  4. Focus and diligence on things that significantly impact both the customer and the business in a positive, incremental and measurable manner.

Let’s take a closer look.

1. Data, Insights and Understanding

Marketers need to understand what the consumer is trying to accomplish at each twist and turn of the buyer journey and the customer lifecycle. What are they thinking? What are they doing? Why? What’s getting in their way? To customize your CX plan, you must use a whole assortment of data, insights and understanding that go way beyond the usual suspects like NPS, clicks, calls, etc. These metrics answer very specific questions about specific points in the customer experience but rarely tell the entire story about what the customer wants, needs, and why she feels and behaves in certain ways.

To better inform your decision making on what to invest in now, later or never, you should be relying on insights from your buyer journey diagnostic, voice of the customer research, data audits, and a variety of other inputs including your NPS and CSAT data. By combining these various data sources and types, you can begin to create a more complete picture of the customer. 1 + 1 can equal 3.

2. Integrated Plan for Technology and Enablement Tools

There are legacy systems in place across every business. Some are old and antiquated, some are new and shiny. Regardless, there’s typically a need to bring together data and technology in a different way to capture the right customer information—to ultimately make informed choices and to be able to execute on your CX ideas. For example, if you want to use info about a customer’s website activity to arm your customer service representative on an inbound call, you need technology integration that connects the website and the inbound call center and also surfaces the data to the rep in a meaningful way.

With thousands of technology options and tools, what are the right ones for your brand and your customer experience? You need the right combination of tools in place to capture and action data from or about the customer. The technology needs to enable a seamless and satisfying experience for the customer in way that creates economic value for your business.

3. Skill and Agility to Create Content

To really embrace and deliver on a relevant customer experience requires an abundance of content to be actioned in real time to deliver a relevant interaction and to keep the conversation going. Most organizations have a lot of latent content that’s created for different functions across enterprise, but rarely is it organized and catalogued in a way to fuel relevant CX. Frequently, I find that all of this content is more heavily situated in upper funnel awareness instead of deep funnel or nurturing content that helps in other stages of buyer journey.

It’s important to assess all of your current content, identify gaps and opportunities to improve it or more effectively use existing content, catalog it, and be committed to continuous process of content creation. You’ll need to be able to bring together many different bits and pieces in real-time or in batch around the customer and what they’re trying to do in each moment of the journey.

4. Focus on Things that Impact the Business

There’s lots of ways to go about delighting the customer. But just because you can do it, doesn’t make it the right thing to do. You need to evaluate each potential CX improvement in terms of its impact to the customer, as well as its direct or indirect impact to the company’s bottom line. You have to look at what’s good for the customer and brand simultaneously. If you solve too heavily for one or the other, it’s going to be a mismatch. If you solve for customer without worrying enough about business impact, you’ll find yourself at some point unprofitable. If you lean too heavily on what’s right for the business, the customer leaves you. You have to have the right balance.

This is difficult because customer experience is the accumulation of interactions that occurs over time. You have to take a longer and wider view of CX to truly evaluate how all of the actions you could do over time affect the experience over time—and to what extent the improvement in experience relates to an improvement in business results over time.

With so many options available, it may be difficult to decide which investments will provide the best bang for the buck. It is critical to evaluate and prioritize your options based on what delivers the best value for the customer at the proper level of resource and investment for your company.

Delivering Business Impact

If you have all four of these points nailed, you’ll have a more effective customer experience strategy and a much higher likelihood of being able to demonstrate and deliver business impact.

Top 10 Thumb-Stopping Moments at Social Media Week

Recently Bristol played host to some of the finest social media minds in the country with over 1,500 attendees participating in 50 fact-packed Social Media Week events across the city. Harte Hanks sent a team to investigate. 

social media week

With speakers from Facebook and Twitter at the same event we were never going to agree on everything. But isn’t that the best thing about social media? There is no magic formula, it keeps evolving. David Wilding, Director of Planning at Twitter UK summed it up well, when he said social media marketers need to be less PDF and more Google docs i.e. more open and collaborative.

We’ve put together a list of some of our other key takeaways from Social Media Week Bristol and, in the interest of being more Google Docs, we’d like to know what you think. Tweet us at @HarteHanks

1. Video is the biggest trend of 2016 – and live video is going to be huge

YouTube has 4bn video views every day, whilst Snapchat has 10bn daily views of its video content. Facebook video continues to grow in 2016 too, increasing from 1bn views in 2015 to 8bn in 2016 so far.

In a year when more people watched a woman in a Chewbacca mask than the Superbowl, and more than 10M people tuned in to BuzzFeed to see an exploding watermelon, it’s fair to say that 2016 has been the year that live video came into its own.

2. But when it comes to video, people have short attention spans

More than one speaker at Social Media Week highlighted the need to really nail the first three seconds of your video, whether it’s an advert or a broadcast. People have undeniably short attention spans in our modern day scrolling culture.

3. Twitter is a broadcast tool—more likely to be about Brexit than Breakfast

Did you know that Twitter is the #1 news app in 110 countries? David Wilding, Director of Planning at Twitter UK, made it clear that Twitter wants to position itself as the go-to source for information.

That’s not to say you can’t publish company messages on the site you just need to understand how best to communicate that message. Always be authentic and generous – provide something of value.

4. Instagram is a premium product–but Instagram stories allow more freedom

We all know someone who takes great care and pride in their Instagram feed, only publishing the most perfect awe-inspiring images into their feeds. The consensus at #SMWiBristol was that this is very much the approach brands should be taking when it comes to their company posts. Brands should seek to form a connection with audiences by focusing on their location, people and knowledge

Instagram stories, however, offer a bit more freedom and allow you to stop striving for perfection and give customers a real-life snapshot of your brand and happenings. As an added bonus your story will feature at the top of people’s homepages.

5. If you have a younger audience, you can’t ignore Snapchat

Snapchat has 10bn views on its video content each day. If your audience is under 25, your brand needs to be on Snapchat.

There are a lot of similarities between Instagram Stories and Snapchat Stories (especially given Instagram’s roll out of live video and disappearing photos) but they are not the same thing. It’s important to create content that works and is engaging.

6. Know your audience and meet them where they hang out rather than trying to do everything

In his talk titled ‘is my business too boring for social media?’, Paul Hajek spoke about the need for narrowcasting instead of broadcasting for the sake of it. Find your niche and connect with audiences on channels where they are most likely to need you and where they would prefer to read it.

Bristol24/7 editor Martin Booth echoed his sentiments saying “You’ve got to give people your product in the way that they want it.’

http://twitter.com/candiwrites/status/798922416546156544

“What story are you telling, who to, where will they prefer to see it? Don’t just use ALL the platforms” – Bogdana Butner

For instance, Bristol’s vast foodie network makes image-heavy sites such as Instagram a dream for this audience.

7. People’s lives do not revolve around your brand – give people something of value

Newsflash: people care more about how you can help them personally than they do about your brand. The sooner we accept this the sooner we can start creating real experiences for our customers.

Facebook’s Ian Andrew’s talked about the need to deliver relevance in order to form meaningful connections on social. He shared Lloyds Bank’s Facebook ads as a prime example. Lloyds want to be with you for every step of the journey and they use Facebook targeting to tailor advertising to be relevant to people’s life milestones (rather than spamming singletons with pictures of joyful newlyweds).

Content also needs to be authentic to form an emotional connection with audiences. At Social Media Week, they used the example of stock images of ‘women laughing alone eating salad’ being used to advertise anything from gym memberships to shopping malls (there’s a tumblr dedicated to it: http://womenlaughingalonewithsalad.tumblr.com). These image don’t work because they lack authenticity – nobody is that happy eating a salad! Be honest, be respectful and be generous.

8. Planning is the key to success in social media

The key to success in social media campaigns is planning. Whether you’re operating a social news room at an event or launching a new campaign, planning ahead of time can save you a lot of headaches.

What are the long term goals for the project? Attendees were urged to think beyond short-term wins and consider medium to long-term goals. If the impact to your business is gone after 6 months, has the campaign really been successful?

What are the goals of your social campaign? What are you trying to achieve? Who are you trying to reach? Just some of the questions you should be asking yourself before your campaign is live. Jessi Langsden, a strategist who had previously worked on the Obama 2012 presidential campaign, made a case for all stakeholders to agree on acceptable outcomes before kickoff:

‘Anyone who will be measuring the success of your work at any stage should agree to its objectives at the start.’

https://twitter.com/silodge/status/798482198533984256

9. Traffic is not the be-all and end-all

Increased traffic is often the Holy Grail of KPIs, and social media is seen as a playing a huge supporting role. Obviously it’s extremely important to have that goal in mind but speakers at the event agreed that it shouldn’t be the only measurement of success.

Decide on the metrics that are most important to your brand and incorporate them into your reporting.

https://twitter.com/ThisisZone/status/798911755653156865

10. Last, but not least: never stop experimenting, be prepared to fail

Everybody has taken a Buzzfeed quiz at one point or another, right? While some of the topics might seem light-hearted or jovial, Maggie Van Eijk revealed that often they served a much bigger purpose as Buzzfeed tend to use less serious topics to test out new content styles and formats – like quizzes.

What are your biggest social media learnings of the year? We’d love to hear. Tweet us at @hartehanks.

Experience Design. What’s It All About?

experience design

If you think effective design is just about getting the Pantone colors right and knowing your jpegs from your pngs, think again. Designing something that looks good is one thing. Creating something that people enjoy using again and again, that genuinely engages, and achieves the intended outcomes – that’s a whole different ball game. And one you might find referred to as ‘experience design’ or XD.

So, what actually is experience design?

Today, users aren’t just judging your products and services but the entire experience they have with your brand. Experience design is where insight and strategy comes together with creative. It’s design that goes far beyond just how things look and focuses on what people want at every touchpoint. Does the in-store experience match up with the quality of the product? Are users going to be satisfied throughout their journey? Will they want to keep engaging with your brand? Experience design incorporates behavioral data to create things that are much more likely to make people happy – and want to interact, use and buy again.

How does experience design differ from UX?

Experience design runs deeper than just your website, app or product and covers the overall brand experience across all channels and environments. It takes into account all of the different ways people interact with your processes, services and interfaces to design pre and post-purchase experiences that shine – and convert users into loyal customers. Take Benefit Cosmetics, for example. They do it brilliantly. From their awesome branded stores and quirky product packaging, to their boat takeovers and popular social media activity, every touchpoint on their customer journey is an experience. Or, in their case, an adventure.

But does it work?

It’s safe to say that experience design drums up powerful results. In an increasingly time-precious world, where every click, swipe and tap is a step in the user journey, frustrating or disappointing experiences are a sure way to disengage customers and wave goodbye to repeat business. Positive experiences trigger our emotions and memories which, in turn, boosts brand loyalty. Putting people at the center of design and taking every touchpoint into consideration sparks greater satisfaction. And greater satisfaction leads to greater sales. You only have to look at how design-led companies like Nike, Coca-Cola and IBM have outperformed competitors in the S&P 500 index by 219% to see that.

It’s just for creative agencies, right?

Wrong. Design is a powerful tool for solving problems and discovering the new. As such, many businesses are putting design first and using experience design to create brand experiences that are remembered for all the right reasons. So, here are four key takeaways that you can start applying to your work today:

1. Define

What’s the problem that needs to be solved? Pinpoint it. Understand it. Write it down. Defining this will be invaluable in helping you find the right solution and measure effectiveness more easily.

2. Explore

Don’t be afraid to question. To explore new opportunities. To think bigger. That’s one of the key things businesses can learn from designers. If you approach problems the same way every time, you’ll get the same results. Always embrace different perspectives too – the best answers often come from five people working on a problem for one day, rather than one person for working on it for five days.

3. Refine

Good ideas become great when they’re nurtured, tested and refined. How well does the solution stand up when interrogated against the brief? Will it solve that key problem? Here’s where insights and data can become super helpful in making sure that your ideas will hit the right notes with all the right people.

4. Execute

All agreed on a winning solution? Then it’s time to roll it out. At the end of this stage, your problem should be solved – or well on its way. And, the depth of this four-step method means that when it comes to execution, you should feel assured that the solution will glean brilliant results.

Want to know more about experience design and how we blend together insights, data and awesome creative to shape solutions that grab attention and exceed expectations? Let’s talk. We’d love to hear from you.

Customer Journey Mapping: What You Need to Know

The buyer journey and customer journey mapping are the big buzz in marketing. But do you actually know what a journey map is versus an experience map? Lifecycle map? Process map? Ecosystem map? To make the matter more complex, Forrester outlines four different journey mapping methodologies, each to be used for different objectives. AND each type of agency has its own objectives and processes for mapping.

This is a lot of maps.

What IS Customer Journey Mapping?

Customer journey mapping is the visual representation of the alignment (or lack thereof) of the organization to the customer needs. It is used to create relevant, engaging and rewarding experiences that connect the brand with the customer, and it illustrates the details of and opportunity surrounding all customer interactions, including:

  • Where the customer touches the brand
  • Where the brand touches the customer
  • Where they interact with each other
  • The multiple interaction points of a customers’ engagement with the brand
  • Why the customer is seeking contact with the brand
  • The customer expectations of their experience with the brand ­

Journey mapping critically examines the entirety of the customer experience—through the customer’s eyes—and provides suggested improvements. It is therefore essential to getting it right with the customer and delivering an impactful experience. It goes way beyond mapping the outbound marketing messages you send.  It also includes virtually every touchpoint, every moment of truth, every interaction between the customer and your brand across the buyer journey and the customer lifecycle. It also goes beyond mapping the buyer journey, which focuses only on the path to purchase.

customer journey map example 1

What Makes a Good Journey Map?

Journey mapping has changed over the years.  We used to call it touch point mapping, and would use bundles of post-it notes on a wall to capture and document each touch point.  But today, we recognize that the customer experience is a self-directed journey that utilizes a myriad of touch points.  It’s the interaction that matters.  The conversation that happens over time.  And if you did your journey mapping exercise a while ago, chances are that it’s now obsolete.  Consumers have changed.

A good customer journey map considers the following:

  • It provides a visualization of customer interactions through many filters (emotional/rational) organized by the customer’s perspective. This helps in communicating it throughout your organization.
  • It becomes a living document that evolves with the constantly changing organization it supports. And like every living document, it requires proper care and feeding to keep it healthy and accurate.
  • It provides a harmonized reflection of the Voice of the Customer, as well as the Company and the Employee. You need both perspectives to get it right with the customer.
  • It provides a level of detail that makes sense for the purpose. The customer journey map must be constructed with an end game in mind.

customer journey map example 2

What Do You Get Out of a Customer Journey Map?

The most important benefit of a customer journey map is that it allows for collaboration and sharing to get everyone in the organization on the same page and forms the basis of a longer term strategic plan to build customer value. Additional benefits of journey mapping are many, including:

  • Lets you see exactly where and when customers experience satisfaction or pain points, moments of truth and who is most impacted and how it affects your bottom line
  • Presents data/ metrics as well as the effectiveness and value of targeted member and prospect interactions
  • Supports prioritization to highlight what’s most important’ to your customers, and understand what creates or detracts from value & drives loyalty
  • Presents how actions, offers, redemption, accumulation affect members
  • Shows how operations and processes in one area impact the entire organization

Many maps fail in the execution phase, making it impossible to realize positive impact on the customer experience and the business. There are a few usual suspects for failure, such as: the map wasn’t informed by customer feedback, or the initiative didn’t have enough or the right level of sponsorship, or the map only looked at outbound channels. In other cases, the journey mapping effort was really only a marketing communication plan and doesn’t have enough “teeth” when thinking about the key moments of truth in the customer’s journey.

Seeing Bang for Your Buck?

With all of this in mind, you have several questions to ask yourself: Have you mapped your customer journeys recently (within 12 months)? Have you used the right methodology for your business goals? Were they done correctly? Are you seeing the value you expected from your mapping exercises? If you are unsure, or haven’t answered ‘yes’ to all of these questions, it may be time to take another stab at it—you might be surprised at what you uncover about your customers.

Stay tuned for our next post on how to map your journeys and the tools you may use along the way.

What Every CMO Needs to Know About the Buyer’s Journey

Everything you learned in school and early in your career about marketing and product promotion is now table stakes. It used to be enough to get it right with the product and you’d find buyers. Now, you must get it right with the product AND with the customer experience to be successful in marketing.

This is why the buyer’s journey and customer experience are the big buzz in the industry.

You’re probably doing a lot of research on your customers and attempting to understand what satisfies them with NPS, CSAT, voice of the customer and other types of surveys. But do you really know what makes your customers tick? And more importantly, how you can use this information to improve their experience in a way that positively impacts your business?

The reality is that many of these discrete measures of customer satisfaction answer a very narrow set of questions. They are all important.  But they should be considered inputs into a larger diagnostic assessment around a more holistic view of the customer that can be used to both improve the experience and reduce wasted efforts. If you’re focused only on the parts and pieces, you’re going to miss the big picture. It’s what the buyer wants that drives everything. In order to know what the buyer wants, you have to be crystal clear on the job the buyer is trying to do.

mapping the buyer journey

The First Step is Asking the Right Question

In the past, marketers have considered the buyer’s journey to be a linear process. We start with awareness and move through consideration, purchase, retention and advocacy. But the buyer’s journey is not linear at all—it’s a very convoluted, self-directed path based on what the customer is trying to achieve. It is a conversation that happens over time, at the buyer’s discretion. Think of it as a self-directed and opportunistic path through a forest.

The key to optimizing your buyer’s journey is therefore to first understand the problem the customer is trying to solve and how they measure the success of the solution. Every CMO needs to first and foremost be asking: What job is the customer trying to do? Once we know what job the customer is trying to complete, we can figure out what individual steps he/she must check off along the way and identify which improvements to those steps will have the most impact on the customer experience—and on your business. In other words, we can identify where customer needs are not being met and determine the value of working smarter to meet them. We can also identify where customer needs are being overserved and reduce spend in these areas, reallocating the budget to more impactful efforts.

A Closer Look at the Buyer’s Journey Process

Let’s take a closer look at how to uncover actionable gaps in your buyer’s journey through a diagnostic process. This four-step process looks at the journey of purchasing a product or service through the lens of the jobs-to-be-done theory. The same way you hire a drill to put a hole in piece of wood, a customer will hire a product/service that to do a specific job, and a positive buyer’s journey is one that allows him to research, evaluate and purchase most effectively.

1. Qualitative Research

While journeys do have distinct phases, every organization’s particular buyer’s journeys will have nuances. The first step is to conduct qualitative, in-person interviews with prospective buyer audiences to understand these nuances (what we call complexity variables). For example, the journey may be different for a buyer that is purchasing an item for herself versus a gift for her significant other or for her child. A B2B buyer’s journey may be heavily influenced by time and budget. The goals of this step is to understand the universe of potential buyer narratives that may be applied to the journey and to understand every single potential possibility that may affect the journey for that segment or product. 

2. Quantitative Research

Once you understand the entire universe of buyer narratives and complexity variables, the next step is to validate this qualitative data with a significant survey sample of your market audience. The data you collect from this survey will help you to understand which variables have the most potential for impact on your business. In other words, take your universe of possibilities and serve it up to a sample to understand which pieces are most relevant.

3. Segmentation

The next step is to use the data from your survey to determine which segments and variables have the most potential to positively impact your business. To do this, conduct cluster analysis to determine the most relevant variables and identify statistically valid segment groups. You’ll also use the data to document key variable identifiers for each segment and identify outcomes that are underserved within each segment.

For example, we conducted this exercise in the retail industry and discovered a subset of the retail audience that accounted for 38% of buyers yet was highly underserved. We were also able to determine which variables were causing the most friction for these buyers and could be improved to help them continue down the path to purchase. Learn more about the underserved audience we discovered in retail.

4. Strategy

At this point, you know which segments have the most potential for positive change and what variables affect their buyer’s journey. It’s time to select which segments to focus on and to and which variables to invest efforts against. Then, you need to develop content and marketing strategies to address these underserved segments.

It’s All About Impact

At the end of the day, this entire process is about understanding which opportunities will have the biggest impact on your business and how to best pursue them. The final output is a data-driven, step-by-step plan to optimize your buyer’s journeys, moving more people through the areas they usually feel friction along to the point of purchase.

Once you really know what makes your customers tick and what problem they’re trying to solve, you can use this information to improve their experience in a way that positively impacts your business. Just a little bit different than net promoter score, right?

IoT and Micro-Moments Marketing: Opportunities and Pitfalls

With the advent of smart technology, we are getting ever closer to the Orsen Wells imagined world of Big Brother oversight in everyday interactions…and many of us are starting to like it because it makes our decision-making easier, our lives more efficient and allows us to do more of the “fun stuff” we’d all rather be doing.

Marketers used to think about the “top of the funnel” with sales and marketing engagement strategies, but most consumers these days are starting their buyer’s journey quietly online through research using video, ratings and reviews and more interactive decision-making short-cuts. And they’re mostly doing it via their mobile devices. Tomorrow is fast-approaching though, as smartwatches mature and the need for “tethering” to a smartphone goes away, devices supporting e-SIMs that are able to tap into your cell network at no extra cost will magnify the Internet of Things (IoT) explosion of use and related data.

The popularity of wearables, especially fitness-related devices, has sky-rocketed over the last couple of years, with 39.5MM US adults using wearables in 2015, including smartwatches and fitness trackers. There’s an expectation that the number will double to 81.7MM users by 2018, or 32% of US adults.1

Wearable devices go way beyond the smartwatch and fitness tracker, with things like FitBark, activity monitoring for Fido, to Athena, a personal security wearable that may help save lives. Verily has a glucose-detecting contact lens and Google is set to use tech to target cardiovascular disease, cancer and mental health problems too. More devices are moving from the nice-to-have category to an integral-to-our-lives status.

With all of this cool, new tech, it’s the nature of marketers to want to use it to sell stuff.

And that’s where we, as marketers, want to caution our compatriots to take the highest marketing road. You can’t get any more personal than something you wear on your body, even sleep with. With great personal engagement comes great responsibility to ensure the consumer experience with your Brand is a beneficial – even trusted – relationship. In digital terms, a break-up takes only seconds. Marketing messages that are annoying in other channels have the potential to take on a new and amplified level of aggravation in personal, wearable devices…running the risk of customers divorcing themselves from your Brand forever.

Yes, new tech means new, small-data points resulting in a big (very big) data explosion measured on the zettabyte scale. (A zettabyte is a 1 followed by 21 zeros.)Finding ways to use that data in a meaningful, mutually beneficial way in micro-moments marketing will ultimately best serve both Brands and their customers.

Laura Watson is Strategy Director at Harte Hanks, and Korey Thurber is Chief Analytics & Insights Officer at Harte Hanks. Harte Hanks can help your brand utilize micro-moments marketing, contact us for a free assessment.

 

1 eMarketer
2 highscalability.com and the International Data Corporation

Customer Experience and the new Omni-channel Paradigm

imageAs marketers, we are all aware of the multitude of choices our customers have when they need to find information. Traditional advertising channels are delivering direct mail, TV advertisements, print and infomercials, while blogs, product reviews and comparative shopping sites can quickly deliver information via computer, phone or tablet. One of the biggest challenges is not only knowing who our customers are, but recognizing them across devices with seamless, consistent experiences. Recently a few Harte Hanks Sales executives took part in a Think Tank discussion about this topic with other leading B2C marketers and Frost & Sullivan. This article shares the highlights of that discussion.

The increasing level of buyer engagement across numerous online and offline channels makes it challenging to have the right touch points in place to create a unified customer experience. In order to build a well-constructed approach to omni-channel marketing, building comprehensive customer profiles of actual buyers is critical.

Some of the challenges that marketers face when building these profiles are:

  • Data and functional silos, and lack of alignment between customer facing teams and marketing teams
  • Difficulty identifying the online and offline channels customers are using
  • Lack of understanding about how these customers are moving from one channel to the other

It is important that marketers figure out how to communicate to the right stakeholder at the right moment. It is also critical for marketers to understand what relevant information the customer needs, when the customer needs it, and how the customer wants to receive it. So, how do you get started in creating this omni-channel customer view?

  1. Implement a cohesive customer experience strategy: Organizations must ensure that they are presenting a cohesive, customer centric customer experience, and that customer experiences are front and center of overall strategy. Ensure customer reactions are captured and communicated across the organization – don’t let siloes and bureaucracy prevent your business from being customer driven. You must be agile in responding to changing customer patterns. Read more about engaging your organization in a consistent CX.
  2. Create a unified view of customer data: Access to data is no longer an issue, with multiple in-house and third party data options. Data collected needs to be acted upon in real time or close to real time for it to be of any use. Make sure that your data is easily accessible to all parts of your business so that it can be easily acted on.
  3. Understand customer lifetime value: A single purchase customer is the worst for any business. Retaining a customer is more challenging because brands are only as strong as they are convenient from a purchasing decision perspective. Brand loyalty is being undermined by the convenience of other options being only a click away. Leverage your data to become more predictive and personalized – brands must ensure that they are delivering a relevant experience to drive lifetime value.

Though most companies are still far from the ideal omni-channel experience, almost all marketers agree that gaining a single view of the customer and having an omni-channel strategy is critical for survival.

Harte Hanks brings innovative thinking to create effective omni-channel customer experiences for the world’s largest brands. Deliver the right message at the right time with Total Customer Discovery. Manage your data and create accurate views of each customer with Data Refinery. Or, get in touch to schedule a free strategic assessment of your marketing programs.

A Wider Context for Content

Thumbnail for 6762Over the past five years, content marketing has become a major strategic theme occupying B2B events, editorials and analysts. Many brands have jumped on the content creation bandwagon – the internet is awash with blogs and white papers, infographics and video. And it keeps on coming.
 
I’m not disputing the importance or value of good quality content. There is an ongoing need for intelligence-led assets that talk to buyers’ pain points. But the trouble is, the sector has become content rich and effectiveness poor. Despite the surge of B2B content, Kapost claims that 65 percent of sales reps say they can’t find anything to send to prospects.
 
Assuming these sales reps’ marketing departments are in fact producing relevant, buyer-focused content; why isn’t it being harnessed effectively across the organisation?
 

Considered, connected content

First off, brands need to stop pigeonholing content in the marketing department. It might originate there, and naturally it plays an important role raising awareness, achieving engagement and supporting lead generation. But it also needs to infiltrate the wider buyer journey. That means finding ways to help sales teams leverage content in real-time whether they’re building relationships, targeting key accounts or addressing a specific buyer’s concerns. 
 
If you’ve gone to the effort of developing content that’s rooted in buyer issues, it makes sense to help people across the business access it easily. Creating an indexed content library that supports sales enablement is a good place to start. 
 
Rather than structuring a content library chronologically or by asset type, items should be classified according to the business challenges they address. Sales teams and buyers are not really interested in whether you’ve produced a white paper, infographic or e-book. They just need to know what pain points the content answers and the type of decision maker that it is geared towards.  
 
Used effectively, a content library can also enhance the lifetime value of prospects that have converted to customers. Account managers and customer service staff need to be trained and empowered so that they can continue the nurturing process. Signposting customers to bottom-of-funnel assets that help drive more value from your product or service can boost retention. It can also support upsell and cross-sell initiatives.   
 

Optimised content experiences

Marketing Automation Platforms and intelligent content are a powerful combination. But best-in-class brands go one step further, combining this with human-led interactions. They recognise it is the content experience – not the content per se – that delivers value. And they’ve learnt the benefit of enabling sellers to initiate highly individualised content experiences in the latter stage of the buyer journey.  
 
Ensuring content can be used systematically and reliably in this context requires a robust strategy. It involves buyer journey mapping, data driven insights and a sophisticated approach to persona development and management. This is where the art and science of content converge.  
 

Content is King 

Back in 1996, Bill Gates famously wrote an essay titled ‘Content is King’. He said that internet users ‘must be rewarded with deep and extremely up-to-date information’. And he anticipated ‘intense competition – and ample failure as well as success – in all categories of popular content’. 
 
Twenty years on, the B2B sector is still learning how to consistently deliver tangible ROI from content. Best-in-class brands are brave enough to risk failure, knowing that it can ultimately light the way to lasting success. 
 
Today, one thing is crystal clear: collaboration and cohesion are vital. The chasm between sales and marketing is an enduring thorn in the side of the B2B sector. Perhaps content is the glue that can finally bind them.
 
Harte Hanks understands that content is a key piece of your customer journey. Email us at lets.talk@hartehanks.com to set up a free assessment of your content strategy.

Seven Steps to Smarter Demand Generation

In our recent session at B2B Marketing’s InTech event in London, we considered how demand generation can be improved through a convergence of technology and people.

Think of it as ‘smarter’ demand generation. Human insight and expertise facilitates the creation of sophisticated personas and rich, individualised content tailored to buyers’ needs. Then marketing technologies ensure that content is served at the exact time of need.

Addressing these seven components can help ensure demand generation efforts deliver impressive results, in spite of an increasingly complex buyer ecosystem.

Social media
Building bridges between marketing and sales is a longstanding goal for many B2B brands. Social media can provide a shared territory where the two departments can collaborate in a meaningful manner. Empowering sales teams with robust social tools and frameworks can pave the way for a steady pipeline of inbound social leads.

Micro-targeting
Smarter demand generation facilitates better individualisation. This approach uses micro-targeting to enhance the buyer experience with relevant, precisely tailored interactions. It integrates data, tactics, people and technology to achieve a higher level of resonance than traditional personalisation.

Actionable
According to Kapost/Content Marketeer, 65 per cent of sales reps complain that they can’t find content to send to prospects. Marketers need to draw on data analytics to ensure content strategies are aligned to definite buyer pain points and areas of interest. Content should also be catalogued and shared internally to ensure all stakeholders can find what they need quickly and easily.

Relevance
Take time to build buyer personas and develop them on an ongoing basis. They should continually evolve and form a reference point throughout the content creation process. This ensures assets are finely tuned to address both enduring and emerging pain points. When content is relevant and of-the-moment, it helps to build advocacy and loyalty amongst buyers and prospects.

Technological
If you are in any doubt about the rise of technology in marketing, consider this: there has been a 1,767% increase in marketing technologies in the past four years. Such proliferation of sophisticated tools can be overwhelming, so it’s vital to keep the end-goal in your sights. Any technologies deployed in support of demand generation should be firmly geared towards enhancing the buyer experience.

Experience
Product differentiation has been usurped by customer experience as the battleground for organisations wanting to achieve standout. According to Gartner for Marketing Leaders, marketers are under pressure to ‘create exceptional branded moments at every customer touchpoint’. Linear buyer journeys have been replaced by a more episodic, multi-interaction buyer ecosystem. Every customer interaction is crucial and must be carefully planned, crafted and delivered.

ROI
Maximising return on investment remains the top priority – and a major challenge – for all marketers. At Harte Hanks, we typically see ROI ratios between 35:1 and 75:1 for best-in-class brands who integrate data, technology, people and tactics intelligently in their demand generation efforts.

Alana Griffiths and Alex Gill are Senior Directors at Harte Hanks, and have a combined 25 years of marketing expertise. To have one of our experts provide a free audit of your demand generation activity, get in touch by emailing us at lets.talk@hartehanks.com.

How to Individualise Your Marketing: Smarter Demand Generation and the Rise of Micro-targeting

 

“The importance of customer experience is on the rise; marketing is on the hook”. So said Gartner for Marketing Leaders in a 2014 research report. It predicted that customer experience, not product differentiation, would be the new battlefield for organisations wanting to achieve standout. And it said marketing would be expected to ‘create exceptional branded moments at every customer touchpoint’.

Two years on, the B2B sector is in the thick of this new reality. Linear buyer journeys have been replaced by a more episodic, multi-interaction buyer ecosystem. Every customer interaction is crucial and must be carefully planned, crafted and delivered. Traditional personalised marketing is no longer enough. We have entered the age of individualised marketing.

What is individualised marketing?
Micro-targeting is gaining increasing attention in the B2B sector. Drawing on data and analytics to better understand target audiences or personas, it enables real-time delivery of content tailored to buyers’ specific needs at the exact time of need. This is individualised marketing. It enhances the buyer experience via targeted and relevant one-to-one interactions.

Naturally, individualised marketing involves a highly customised approach to content creation and relationship building. Smarter demand generation is a critical enabler here. It goes beyond traditional demand generation to ensure all audience interactions are based on insight, tailored to the individual and deliver an impact. Achieving this requires sophisticated deployment and integration of data, tactics, people and technology.

Discover, Create, Act
So what steps can B2B marketers take to individualise their marketing through smarter demand generation? Grouping activities into three distinct but interconnected areas can provide a springboard for success.

Discover – The first step is to understand your current situation. That might involve defining your audience, developing more comprehensive personas, augmenting data and establishing the most effective approach to meet your goals. It can be beneficial to conduct a high level demand marketing audit which culminates in:
• a summary of the existing situation
• a gap analysis against best practice demand generation
• top line recommendations for change
• a roadmap of prioritised and sequenced activities and investments to make the recommended changes.

Create – Once the foundations are in place, marketing campaigns, assets and models can be developed as the basis for delivering individualised marketing.

Integration is an overused term, and often focuses on connecting systems or tactics. But it can be much more than that. It is about how the four dimensions – data, tactics, people, technology – are plugged together to create meaningful interactions. A truly integrative approach leverages insight to improve targeting, messaging and creative. It ensures multiple resources across marketing, sales, agencies, service providers and customer service work cohesively and responsively, drawing on a unified view of data, interactions and systems.

Act – Micro-targeting involves the optimisation of marketing technology to facilitate one-to-one conversations across an integrated set of channels and touchpoints. It’s important to ensure digital and human interactions don’t operate in isolation. Digital is the platform from which to plan, create and deliver many interactions with human input built in. Think of live chat, responsive one-to-one emails or social conversations: digital interactions delivered by humans. A central feature of smarter demand generation is the convergence of people and technology.

In today’s complex buyer ecosystem, individualised marketing can deliver significant, measurable pipeline impact. Alex Gill and Alana Griffiths from Harte Hanks explore this theme in detail at B2B Marketing’s InTech breakout session: Making Demand Generation Smarter.

Three Marketing Automation Myths That Need to Die

Marketing_AutomationAutomation is a fairly young, up-and-coming concept in the marketing industry, so it is understandable that there would be misconceptions in the beginning about what it is and what it does. As we start 2016 and “marketing automation” becomes less of a buzzword and more of a mainstream strategy, Harte Hanks wants to set the record straight on the facts about marketing automation. Here are three myths that we want to clear up:

1. Marketing Automation is for Scheduling Email Batch-and-Blasts

This is by far the most common myth, and misuse, of marketing automation. Email is just ONE tactic within automation. Most enterprise marketing automation technology platforms can incorporate landing pages, social media, personalized emails, gated content, videos, pay-per-click ads, and third party apps into your campaigns.

“59 percent of companies do not fully use the technology they have available.”Ascend2 “Marketing Technology Strategy” (August 2015)

The beauty of a marketing automation platform is its ability to respond differently depending on the contact. It can be integrated with your CRM and allow you to personalize all emails and touchpoints in a campaign based on this data. For example, a highly personalized email can be sent to a contact who has visited a certain page of your website, while simultaneously a more generic discovery email can be sent to another contact who you know little about or who has never visited your website.

Marketing automation is also much more “aware” than traditional email marketing. Automation tools are sophisticated enough to not only tell whether a customer clicked on a link in your email, but also which product-specific pages they visited after they clicked, whether they filled out a contact form, and even gather geographical and language information from them based on their IP address. Marketing automation tools can then take that user’s activity data and segment him or her into another flow of automated touchpoints (including additional emails, retargeting ads, high value content, etc.) that are specific to their interests.

2. Marketing Automation Means ‘Set It and Forget It’

While it’s true that marketing automation is great for scheduling emails and other campaign activities in advance, simply “setting and forgetting” is a sure-fire way to make sure your investment goes down the drain.

Many marketing automation tools offer robust functionality out of the box, but most are also cloud-based platforms that have new features added on a regular basis. Keeping a pulse on these updates, and participating in product improvement discussions, is important in making the most of your automation software. In fact, Eloqua will be rolling out a new UX experience this spring.

Another reason you should never “set it and forget it” is that with a healthy marketing automation program, your contact database will be continuously growing. Your customer insight will evolve as the system collects more data from your customers and their activities. And as you learn new things about your customers and their preferences, you can use that information to create more meaningful content in your campaigns.

3. Marketing Automation Stops After the Lead Converts to a Customer

Using marketing automation only for lead generation underestimates the power of the tool. As marketers, we know that the best lead source is always your previous customer. Repeat business and customer referrals will always give you the best ROI for your marketing budget. So why not make the most of that source?

“53 percent of marketers say continued communication and nurturing of their existing customers results in moderate to significant revenue impact.” (DemandMetric, Customer Marketing: Improving Customer Satisfaction & Revenue Impact, October 2014)

Luckily, marketing automation is not only a powerful lead generation tool, but it also gives you a platform to keep the conversation going with your new customer(s). When you properly sync your CRM to your automation tool, you can harness the power of segmenting by moving converted customers away from prospects into their own nurturing campaigns. These customer-specific nurturing campaigns open a two-way communication channel allowing your customer to become more engaged with your brand and to fully utilize your product or service.

For example, a customer-specific nurturing campaign can share content on best practices using your product (or service) via weekly newsletters, retargeted ads, and videos. Likewise, you can use those touchpoints to upsell products or services that complement what they’ve already bought. Automated campaigns can also be used to promote customer-only events via email invitations and trigger follow up phone calls from telemarketing or sales representatives.

You will never see the value in your marketing automation strategy if you don’t have a clear understanding of what it can accomplish. Marketing automation is more than the latest corporate buzzword. It’s a powerful marketing strategy and tool that allows companies to nurture prospects with highly personalized, useful content. It helps convert prospects into customers, and customers into brand ambassadors.

Harte Hanks is a full-service marketing agency that can support all aspects of your marketing automation program with minimal ramp up and faster go to market. Contact us for a free audit of your marketing automation programs at 1-844-233-9281.

How to Optimize Spend with Fractional Attribution

Database

 

When traditional “database marketing” first took off in the early 1990’s, marketing performance measurement and attribution was quite simple. We generated sales and direct mail campaign performance reports using a handful of dimensions. Attribution was easily derived through business reply cards (attached to direct mail pieces), phone numbers or tracking codes. We also used indirect attribution rules by making control group comparisons. We were fairly accurate and the process was easy to execute.

The Current State of Attribution

We all know that the marketing landscape has changed … and it continues to evolve with massive channel proliferation. With so much data and so many options regarding how to best apply a limited marketing budget, how can a CMO receive richer insight to influence tactical decisions that will improve media/channel performance?

Let’s first examine the various states of attribution from the viewpoint of the modern day marketer:

  • Direct Attribution: Still used widely today and still relevant. A specific customer behavior (e.g. a purchase) can be “directly” attributed to a given marketing stimuli via a unique code, landing page/URL, response device, etc. However, other marketing stimuli may have created momentum and been a significant contributor to the consumer’s ultimate decision to purchase.
  • Last Touch Attribution: Attributing the desired customer behavior to the last “known” marketing touch. Similar to “Direct” Attribution, but not always the same, here the marketer attributes the desired customer behavior to the last known touch. This method is very common when there are no specific tracking codes/tags that tie a desired customer behavior directly to a specific marketing stimuli.
  • Multi-Full Attribution: Channel proliferation has led to individual channel/media silos, each with their own unique attribution rules. The separation of traditional offline data and online data is very common. For example, direct mail data is stored in a traditional customer database, email data is stored with the email service provider, and online data is stored by various DMPs, by vendors/partners that are contracted to capture it, each often with their own siloed attribution logic taking FULL credit for the same desired behaviors.
  • Rules Based Attribution: Building on the “Multi-Full Attribution” described above, here marketers use what is often called a “common sense approach” to proportionally assign attribution to very siloed marketing stimuli. For example, a business had recently identified the large overlap between their direct mail and digital channels. For the overlapping purchases identified in both groups, 100% of a given purchase was attributed to direct mail, while simultaneously 100% was also attributed to a combination of digital channels. A rule was then quickly implemented to assign 20% of the attribution to the direct mail channel and proportionally reduce the attribution by 20% across the various forms of digital media. So, it is “fractional” by the simplest definition, but no real math or analytics was being used to assign the “fraction” to each media/channel.

Each of these options contains significant attribution bias towards channels/forms of media, that when taken for face value will result is less than optimal decision-making.

Database-1

What’s Next and What is Fractional Attribution?

Marketers must now leverage math, science and statistics to analyze and derive insight from large pools of data, much of which can now be integrated across channels to inform decisions across touch points during the customer journey. Fractional Attribution is a necessary tool for understanding campaign performance across a multitude of touch points.

Through advanced (and proven) analytic techniques, a weighting calculation is developed and applied to the various marketing touches during the customer’s buying journey. In short, you are attributing a portion of that customer’s purchase to each of the marketing touches that impacted the customer’s decision to buy.

Harte Hanks has a team of analysts that work with marketing organizations to create a fractional attribution model through a collaborative development process:

  1. Define the overall objectives and identify the behavior metrics you want to positively impact (e.g. response, sales, conversion, product registration, etc.).
  2. Define and implement the roadmap including identification of key performance indicators (KPIs) and setting the overall attribution approach. Companies have used both “quick start” fractional attribution solutions and more robust solutions that require dedicated data stores and data integration tools.
  3. Collect and compile the data.
  4. Execute the fractional attribution solution and create the scenario planning tool.

The “scenario planning tool” is what enables the user to optimize media/channel performance. Using the tool, the analyst or marketer can quickly run “what-if” analyses to estimate the impact of reallocating marketing spend across channel/media or removing a channel/media from the mix altogether. The end result is a much more informed decision that can result in significantly higher returns from your marketing budget. Performance data and insights from the optimization exercise are then used to calibrate and refine the attribution engine going forward.

Fractional Attribution rooted in proven math and statistical techniques is a critical tool to accurately improve and optimize the performance of an incredibly fragmented and complex system of channels and media, both online and offline.

database-2

It’s not perfect – no marketing science or advanced marketing analytic solution is. But a robust modeled attribution solution is proven marketing science, and those that leverage it appropriately will generate higher return from their marketing spend and outperform their competitors.

Has your company used fractional attribution to better analyze your marketing spend? Tweet us at @HarteHanks and share your experience with us.

How Pharmaceutical CRMs Can Lead to Healthier Relationships

Boosting physician and patient engagement

pharma CRM postCustomer Relationship Management (CRM) software offers a great deal of potential for the pharmaceutical industry. However, this is a complex sector, riddled with regulations surrounding sensitive data. It is not easy to find a solution that fits business needs while complying with relevant laws. This is especially true at an international level when different rules need to be observed for different countries.

Purchasing a standard CRM solution and trying to adapt it to various business and regulatory requirements is time consuming and difficult. Inevitably it involves compromise and hidden expense.

Instead, many pharmaceutical companies could benefit from international CRM programs that are purpose-built from the ground up by a marketing services provider.

Bespoke CRM for pharmaceuticals

A truly customized approach uses business goals as a starting point and builds a CRM framework around them. This ensures variations across different countries can be accounted for and embraced at an early stage, rather than being bolted on later. The result is a highly specified solution intrinsically optimized to meet business needs. It can have built-in scalability and the flexibility to handle international differences in data laws or standard practice, such as call centre versus nurse-led activity.

Ultimately, custom-built CRM offers better value and efficiency. Adapting existing systems is expensive, license fees can be high and product release cycles can delay the implementation of certain functionalities.

Using an MSP to build, manage and implement the solution brings multiple advantages. Since all aspects – from database management to phone calls, emails and SMS to direct mail – are handled by one organization, the program is more cohesive and affordable. What’s more, sensitive data is all held securely in one place.

Physician and patient communications

The best pharmaceutical CRM programs empower physicians and patients to make better, more informed choices – whether they’re prescribing treatment or following it.

Meeting physicians in person is becoming increasingly difficult for pharmaceutical companies. Physicians are often under pressure to see a certain number of patients per day, leaving limited time for meeting with third parties. Some countries also have complex regulations surrounding personal interaction between pharmaceutical companies and medical professionals. In many cases, direct marketing can play an effective role alongside or in place of face-to-face meetings. It enables physicians to keep abreast of the latest developments in treatments and processes such as pharmaceutical-led patient support.

Patient-focused activity varies depending on the nature of the patient’s condition, where they are in the treatment cycle, the level of data available and nuances of their country of residence. Naturally, when more is known about a patient, activity can be better tailored to their current needs and communications become more meaningful.

A central aim of pharmaceutical CRM should be fostering good relationships between patients and physicians. This means acknowledging the authority of the physician in prescribing drugs, while enabling patients to get more out of their appointments and the overall treatment. Ideally communications should operate progressively, supporting patients as they move from the initial awareness that they may have a certain condition, to actively acknowledging it, then learning to live with it. The latter stage is vital to boost adherence to treatment regimen and enhance overall patient outcomes.

Overcoming challenges

There are many challenges facing the marketing of pharmaceuticals today. However, deeper engagement rooted in custom-built CRM can help navigate many of them.

Direct alignment of patient and physician communications is complex from a data perspective, but with care and attention it can usually be achieved. Bespoke CRM programs can incorporate specific opt-in language to overcome many of the barriers surrounding sensitive data. This ensures that patients who are happy to share their data can access the wider support that is on offer should they need it.

Achieving buy-in from physicians and patients is not easy – nor should it be. Pharmaceutical organizations need to earn trust and loyalty over time. Striving for better, deeper engagement is a critical factor. An effective way to realize this in the short- to medium-term is through the empowerment of patients and physicians, arming them with knowledge and information so they can make informed choices. In the longer term, improved patient outcomes will speak for themselves.

 

Harte Hanks handles CRM programs for leading global pharmaceutical companies. Patient data is handled sensitively and an integrated approach ensures improved patient support and outcomes. Natalia Gallur has more than ten years’ experience in the sector.

 

Smarter Demand Gen Awakens

Convergence of Tech and People Will Amplify Demand Generation in 2016

UnknownThe B2B demand-marketing ecosystem continues to evolve at a rapid pace. It’s driven by emerging technologies, tactics and buyer behaviors, alongside other well-established factors that continue to shape the discipline.

Industry influencers and analysts such as SiriusDecisions and Forrester identified a raft of demand generation trends and requirements in 2015. These range from better use of analytics as a foundation for demand planning to buyer journey alignment and operationalizing personas.

The notion of operationalizing personas involves integrating persona intelligence into demand generation efforts. At a fundamental level, it involves dynamic delivery of persona-based content, messaging and offers across email, landing pages and websites. It was first mooted by SiriusDecisions in 2014, but began to take hold last year. During 2016 it will occupy a more central role as we enter the next stage of the journey: smarter demand generation.

Why do we need Smarter Demand Generation?

Many B2B organizations find their demand generation efforts are characterized by small pipelines, missed targets and failure to respond to the needs of today’s buyers. It’s not surprising when you consider the seismic shift in buyer behavior over the past few years.

B2B sales and marketing is becoming increasingly complex and far less linear in its nature. There are multiple influencers, decision makers and stakeholders. There are multiple online and offline marketing channels. And there are multiple interactions and conversations taking place.

In this fractured, multifaceted landscape we need to find a path to more effective, joined-up demand generation. We need an approach that embraces the complex realities of the B2B sector today and handles them with ease. Smarter demand generation is the answer.

What does it mean?

A central feature of smarter demand generation is the convergence of people and technology. This is true throughout the process. Human insight and expertise facilitates the creation and operationalization of personas. It also shapes the development and substance of programs that are augmented and delivered via sophisticated technologies. Finally, individuals at the receiving end of smarter demand generation are served with optimized, highly personalized communications. Content is relevant to their current and future professional needs and it is delivered at an opportune time via the most appropriate platform. The upshot is finely tuned buyer engagement and a more robust pipeline.

This might sound a world away from traditional demand generation. And it’s true that it requires a deeply analytical and intelligent approach expertly integrated with technical capabilities. But every journey begins with a single step. Marketers who set their sights on smarter demand generation can quickly realize benefits at a micro level that can later be replicated at a larger scale.

Exploring smarter demand generation with one segment of your target audience can be a good place to start. Integrating data, technology, people and tactics for the first time isn’t easy – but it is more manageable and achievable at a smaller scale. Ring-fence a project that leverages insight to improve targeting, messaging and optimization. Then closely monitor the results to track the impact on the sales pipeline. Spotlighting the effectiveness of smarter demand generation in this way, and sharing it at a Board level, can create an appetite for more. It might help secure investment in the technologies and skills required for a wider rollout.

The B2B sector has strived for precision marketing for decades. With the awakening of smarter demand generation, it is finally within reach.

 

Alex Gill explores this theme in a B2B Marketing webinar on 27 January: How to align your marketing for smarter demand generation and stronger ROI. Book your seat here.

Four Simple Ways to Amplify Your Customer Support with Social Media

Social Media-BlogSocial media is quickly becoming a critical factor in augmenting and enhancing your customer support strategy. Last week, I participated in an industry roundtable hosted by CRM Magazine on the subject. When businesses think of social media, it’s often in terms of marketing or public relations. And while social media is a great tool to help extend both, its impact goes beyond promoting and marketing your company. Increasingly, social media has become a powerful contributor to customer service and support. Customers are now powerful influencers. They take to social media to talk about brands and products – positively and negatively – in an attempt to influence their peers and the brands they buy from. So how do you influence the influencers, and utilize social media to enhance your customer service?

  1. Start by listening.

The first step in extending your customer support system through social media is to listen – and learn. Start by scanning social media channels for complaints, compliments and questions about your brand. Find out who is talking about your brand (customers, prospects, competitors?) and what they’re saying. You can learn a lot about customer pain points and perceptions that you might not learn through your contact center customer support. You will quickly identify areas of opportunity and then you can build a cohesive strategy, start to engage with your customers and prospects – and begin to influence the conversation around your brand.

  1. Set the rules of engagement.

Social media can be a bit like the Wild West – an unpredictable place where anything goes. As such, it is important for brands to devise a set of rules and operational goals. Who will be authorized to speak for your company on social media? How will they go about engaging customers? At what point should a public conversation be moved to a private conversation? Will you have a proactive presence as well as a reactive one? How will your social presence support your brand promise?

A defined social strategy is paramount. Social media is a free-flowing, casual platform that requires 24/7 resources. A single poor choice of words or an ill-timed post can damage your brand. As an example: If a consumer posts a message that your product injured them and you respond by apologizing, you may have implied guilt without knowing any of the facts. Your rules of engagement will ensure that your social customer support benefits both your brand and your customers.

  1. Ready, set, engage.

Your strategy is set, and you’re ready to go. Now it’s time to engage. Find someone who is talking about your brand and start a conversation through authentic engagement. It’s not unusual to find that customers are already reaching out to you using social channels. Whether it’s thanking someone who complimented your brand – or engaging with someone who is seeking assistance with your product or service – a simple conversation can go a long way in changing the perception of your brand. And you just might learn something you hadn’t previously considered. More often than not, the audience you engage via social media will be completely different from those who contact your customer service center. They may have a similar issue or topic, but they are approaching you from a position of influence. Consider it an opportunity to become an invited contributor into a public conversation. When handled correctly, social customer engagements can turn antagonists into fans who will spread the gospel of your brand.

  1. Inject helpful content.

Social customer support should be as proactive as it is reactive. Helpful content – like “how to” guides or useful tips about your product – will help you engage with your customers after the sale, positioning your brand as one that is consistently connected with and cares about its customers. When injecting marketing content into your social presence, be careful not to push hard sales messaging. Imagine social media platforms as a conversational dinner party. It is OK to talk positively about your brand, but hard sell tactics go against what is considered to be a good “social citizen.” Social media audiences can spot a pitch from a mile away and nothing will turn your community away faster.

The Harte Hanks contact center teams and agents utilize these techniques to manage social commentary and customer support for many of their clients. If you would like to dive deeper into how social can enhance your customer support, you can view our roundtable discussion on Destination CRM here.

Hello Reality, Let’s Go Virtual

VR

As marketers, digital savvies and media gurus, whenever virtual reality (VR) comes into conversation, it’s safe to say we can’t help but drop a bold reference to Minority Report, The Matrix or Back to the Future. These pop-culture films made technologies of the future sexy; or at least provided recognizable uses for them.

But what was once only a dream for the future, has become a reality for many of these technologies: gesture-based technology, video calling, social networking and mobile payments were all fantasy in Back to the Future but are now part of everyday life. And the latest to hit the headlines as 2015 draws to a close? Virtual reality.

Samsung Gear VR

Global mobile provider Samsung launched the Gear VR Innovator Edition last year to great success, which can largely be attributed to the fact it ran off the firm’s flagship Galaxy smartphones rather than housing its own built-in power unit. This design had two fundamental impacts on the market:

  1. With power driven by the Galaxy smartphone, the Samsung headset was significantly cheaper to produce. Its price was therefore significantly lower than rivals, who were building processing power directly into their headsets.
  2. Content could now be distributed through existing app platforms already established in the market.

And it’s the second point that makes the Samsung approach a success for today’s consumer. One of the smartphone’s earliest accolades came in Apple’s advent of the App Store which radically changed our notion of smartphones’ capabilities overnight. “Nothing like the App Store existed before, and it has fundamentally changed the world,” said CEO Tim Cook.

If we look at the evolution of media consumption over the years, we’re certainly in the smart era: smartphones, smart wearables, smart televisions – all have revolutionized the way we interact with content. And arguably fundamental to each of these technologies, are the content platforms they operate from.

It comes as no surprise therefore, that the launch of the latest Samsung Gear VR has been surrounded by a number of further content platforms springing up. Samsung’s own Milk VR store is just one of several platforms available at its launch; the popular video streaming service Hulu being the latest to join the likes of Netflix and Twitch on the Android platform.

In addition to content stores, one of the most exciting areas surrounding the launch has been the new optimized VR web browser, unique to the Gear VR. With 360-degree content, providers are now able to upload their content to Google’s YouTube and play live in Facebook’s newsfeed. Samsung’s latest move has further strengthened the Gear VR’s ecosystem, and positioned the firm as a pioneer in the mobile VR industry.

Virtual Reality 2016 and Beyond

2016 will see a number of brands launch their own VR products to rival Samsung Gear VR. But what Samsung has shown yet again, is their ability to build on what they’re good at; taking their flagship Galaxy smartphone series and expanding the universe in which they operate. To quote their latest video advertisement,  “Your Galaxy truly got bigger.” The technical evolution of these smartphones will continue, shifting to content creation, developing experiences that truly push the boundaries from the ordinary, to the out of this world.

What does virtual reality success hinge on for 2016? There are three key areas brands should focus on when pursuing the new realms of virtual reality:

  1. Pure simplicity

When everything is boiled down, consumers still want a product that simply (a) looks great, and (b) behaves as it should. Comfort, design, and quality of the physical device all factor, and their importance should not be underestimated.

  1. Compelling, personal and shareable content

As we discussed earlier, VR content itself must hit the mark. Users require quick and easy access to discover, view and share content with others. Content creators need to offer experiences that aren’t purely an extension of their smartphone or film experience. They need to provide access to truly revolutionary and immersive experiences that consumers have yet to witness anywhere else.

  1. Collaboration

What both Samsung and Oculus have done well is to open the VR window to a whole realm of content providers, making the technology openly available to those outside of their own respective worlds. Even Apple, probably the most notoriously introverted firms around, had to open their App Store to developers outside of their company in order to realize success; and the same applies to VR.

There is no question, this is an exciting time with the evolution of mobile and virtual reality. Evolving virtual applications open up new doors for content and present limitless ways to engage consumers in new ways. Hello, the future is here and it’s sure to be an exciting ride.

Watch the latest Samsung Gear VR launch video, produced by Harte Hanks, with content from Imangi Studio’s Temple Run, CPP Games’ Gunjack, Ustwo’s Land’s End, Aldin Dynamics’ Twisted Realms, Felix & Paul Studio’s Jurassic World, Samsung Australia’s Shark Diving in the Dessert, the New York Times Magazine’s Walking in New York by Vrse, and Mountain Dew’s Dew 360 Snow Experience.

Technology Is Not a Substitute for Creativity

Tech-Creativity

Marketing has always been a blend of art and science. But the rise of marketing technology has tilted the scales heavily towards the science end of the equation. This is not necessarily a bad thing – the digital revolution has armed marketers with information and techniques that drive more accurate, cost-effective campaigns. Essentially, technology has eliminated a good portion of the “guesswork” traditionally associated with marketing. Again, this is a wonderful development for marketers. Technology allows us to personalize our approach to better connect with audiences and do a better job of meeting their needs and desires. But too much technology can have negative effects – namely, the erosion of creativity.

Marketing automation programs are rapidly becoming “cookie cutter” strategies that rely too heavily on the medium of delivery. The “three emails and a landing page” approach can (and often does) work, but as marketing automation becomes more and more prominent, the impact of a “basic” campaign will quickly dissipate. The deluge of analytics available to the modern marketer is a veritable treasure trove of information. But too often, marketers are held hostage by data points, finding themselves afraid to venture outside of the established thinking.

Going forward, brand marketers must rely more on intuition and creativity to avoid becoming just another source of noise in the market. And brands must embrace creativity and avoid the “safe” approach of standardized campaigns. Great ideas have always been the bedrock of great marketing campaigns. Technology will never change that fact. Technology – if developed and implemented correctly – can help marketers amplify creative approaches. Real-time response measurement can quickly let marketers know what’s working and what’s not, allowing them to adjust and mold ideas into messages that get results – and prove beyond a doubt what consumers want to see, hear and, ultimately, buy from brands.

Marketing technology allows brands to paint a clearer picture of their audiences and develop a deeper understanding of their desires, needs and behaviors. Rather than playing it safe, marketers should harness this information to help them develop great ideas that make a lasting impact on audiences.

As we approach the New Year, my advice to marketers for 2016 is: be bold, lean on your intuition, and create smarter, more personal customer interactions.

Black Friday vs. Every Friday

iStock_000053625904_Full_MonotoneBlack Friday. The retail holiday that drives consumers by the masses into the retail marketplace for door-busting deals. It’s also the day that traditionally marked the first day of moving from “red” losses to “black” year-to-date profits for many retailers. It’s no surprise retailers put extra time, resources and effort preparing for this big day, but as retailers look to connect with their customers more frequently, is it surprising the day after Thanksgiving remains such a powerful customer engagement point?

“Black Fridays have become a cultural phenomenon, a bit of a marathon for many people”, says Kelli Hollinger, Director of the Center of Retailing Studies at Mays Business School, Texas A&M. “But things are changing. For example, prices are now guaranteed online so that the in-store price matches what is offered online. This gives consumers more choice and control over how and when to buy.”

“Consumer shopping behavior is shifting toward finding deals year-round, so the traditional ‘big sale’ days are somewhat less important,” says Steven Kirn, Ph.D. of the David F. Miller Retailing and Education and Research Center at the University of Florida. “Perhaps it started with ‘Cyber Monday,’ and then ‘Small Business Saturday,’ but it appears to be a larger trend to spread holiday sales over a longer period, which makes a lot more business sense.”

Despite the extension of holiday sales and desire to get the best deals everyday, Black Friday still generates a lot of buzz and excitement. It’s also one of the biggest days for retail operations such as inventory flow, staffing, security and logistics.

“At Harte Hanks we help our retail customers connect with their customers every day,” says Kevin Berthiaume, Logistics Lead for Harte Hanks. “But in preparation for Black Friday, success is about scale and execution. To date, our logistics team helped Kohl’s deliver 100s of millions of inserts. More than 10 million of those inserts needed to arrive timely in preparation for Black Friday. We understand the importance of delivering on that kind of volume any time of year, and the significant impact it has on our customer’s business.”

“Consumers are increasingly geared to shop for deals year-round,” Says Kirn. “They wait for sales and then buy. They generally think opening prices are set high so that the retailer does not lose money when they finally put items on sale. There is a difference between consumer attitudes and behaviors. Consumers will say they want everyday low prices, but their actual behavior is to prefer to wait for sales. JC Penney ran into this problem. They marked their prices down 40 percent, but sales dropped. Consumers interpreted the low prices as a sign of low quality. They wanted to buy when items were on sale and did not trust everyday low prices from JC Penney.”

In a recent conversation with Steven Kirn Ph.D., he shared some interesting shifts in consumer perception reflected in a survey released this week:

“Just a few years ago, shoppers said that 25 percent off was a ‘good deal’ and enough to influence them to buy. A new survey released this week suggests it is necessary to discount up to 60 percent to be considered a good deal.”

This increase is deal seeking further emphasizes the need to establish valued relationships with your customers in order to take them beyond price points to valuing the experience with the brand.

Ken Bernhardt, is the chairman of the Harte Hanks Marketing Advisory Board and Regents Professor Emeritus at Georgia State University’s Robinson College of Business. As Ken sees it, the rise of digital shopping together with increasing consumer procrastination have resulted in the Saturday before Christmas replacing Black Friday as the busiest shopping day of the year. Black Friday, however, remains important as the traditional start of the holiday shopping season and still represents more than $50 billion in retail sales.

“At Harte Hanks, we know every day is an opportunity to help our clients connect with their customers,” says Frank Grillo, CMO, Harte Hanks. “Black Friday will always be an important day for retailers, but so is every other day of the year. Customer expectations are increasing with proliferation of mobile, social and access to channels of communication. Sending out deals isn’t enough anymore. Now more than ever it’s important to engage customers in a memorable, meaningful experience at every opportunity.”

Savvy consumers are aware retailers gather information and preferences so it’s a real miss when a retailer fails to engage in relevant customer interactions. According to a recent study by Magnetic, 50 percent of consumers say they regularly see email with irrelevant information and only half of all retailers report they know what messages resonate with their customers.

From an operational perspective, the 2015 holiday season is a done deal. But data and research can be a North Star for your brand moving forward. It’s the perfect time to get your 2016 game plan together to take customer engagement to a new level, each and every day, including Black Friday.

The Campaign is Dead, Long Live the Campaign

HarteHanks_Campaign-is-Dead

The evolution of the customer journey from vendor-led to the modern, customer-empowered experience has all but killed the idea of a “campaign.” Marketing to today’s consumer is not a short-term affair – it requires a sustained effort that provides the consumer with relevant and useful information at the right time and place. This “long” approach has seemingly ended the usefulness of the traditional campaign, with the thought being that the modern consumer is acutely aware of when they are being marketed to and are turned off by campaigns. While this is partially true – consumers are more aware – the rumors of the campaign’s death are unsubstantiated.

Traditional Campaigns

When we think of the word “campaign” in the traditional sense, we think of short-term, targeted efforts and messaging designed to spur action, like voting for a political candidate or driving consumers to a holiday sale event. In the past, these campaigns were singular efforts, and while not completely disconnected from the brand, existed largely outside of the overall brand message. In essence, the customer journey was brief. Those customers targeted by the campaign were targeted specifically for the campaign, but not necessarily for an ongoing relationship.

It’s All About Semantics

The massive customer journey sea change in the digital age has painted the campaign in a negative light. But the rumors of the campaign’s demise are greatly exaggerated. The campaign is alive and well – if viewed as a tactic rather than a strategy. After all, “campaign” is just a word. Campaigns – no matter what you call them – do have a place in the modern customer journey. But they must be seamlessly integrated into a larger, more macro approach to customer engagement.

The Tactical Approach

To successfully promote your brand and its products or services, simply marketing to consumers is not enough. You must build relationships and build trust. Today’s consumer knows a pitch when they see it and tends to be turned off when approached with a purely sales-driven message, especially as an initial communication. Consumers are, however, receptive to individual campaigns within the larger context of an existing relationship with your brand. Those consumers who already have a level of engagement with your brand – particularly those who have shown increased interest by opting in to your communications – are likely to embrace a campaign for your product or service, or at the very least consider the message.

Consumer engagement communications should never be stagnant – simply promoting the same thing in perpetuity will eventually lead to message fatigue and a loss of interest in your brand. Injecting timely, targeted campaigns into your customer communications can breathe life into your customer engagement and drive revenue for your brand.

Marketing Technology: Where’s My ROI?

HarteHanks_MarektingTechnology_ROI

The modern customer journey is consumer driven and often fractured. Unlike the linear, vendor-led customer journeys of the past, the buyer is now in full control. With endless options – and a bevvy of information about each product or service readily available for consumers – marketers must devise new ways to attract customers and secure brand awareness and loyalty. A slew of new marketing technology, including CRM, marketing automation and inbound marketing platforms, have risen up to solve the new customer journey riddle. But despite the effectiveness of these platforms, too many B2B companies are reporting negative ROI for marketing technology investments. There are a number of reasons why.

Failure to Launch

The B2B sales cycle is a complex process. Unlike B2C products, there is no such thing as an “impulse purchase.” Buyers typically spend weeks, months and sometimes even years researching and deliberating before deciding on a purchase – particularly where big-ticket items are concerned. Marketing technology can help significantly simplify this process, but it isn’t a magic bullet. Marketing platforms aren’t plug and play; they are a set of interconnected tools for marketers to utilize as part of an overall strategy. Too often, B2B companies purchase marketing technology, but fail to allocate the resources necessary to realize their benefits. Marketing systems are a great delivery system, but engaging and strategic content that guides prospects along the customer journey must be created first. You can buy a car, but if you don’t fill it with gas and get behind the wheel, it isn’t going to move.

Scratching the Surface

Most of the marketing technology platforms available today come equipped with an array of features that justify their cost – intelligent analytics, A/B testing, easy integration, etc. Companies who fail to realize ROI on these products are often utilizing only a fraction of the features available to them. These features can significantly enhance the power of the platform and should be utilized whenever possible.

Stove Piping

With so many different types of technology available, B2B companies often have more than one system for sales and marketing. Failure to integrate these systems – particularly marketing automation platforms and CRM software – creates a confusing environment where systems are not communicating with each other and often duplicating efforts. In order to get the most out of marketing software and a favorable ROI, marketing platforms and CRM software should always be integrated.

Putting the Cart Before the Horse

Too many B2B companies dive head first into marketing technology – purchasing platforms without a full understanding of the system or a plan to implement it. B2B marketers often find themselves tasked with becoming technology experts trying to implement and integrate systems they know little, if anything, about. Additionally, systems are often purchased before a strategy has been developed to utilize them.

Boost Your ROI

To fully realize the benefits of marketing technology platforms, B2B marketers must view these platforms as an important tool, but as only part of the process. Creative campaigns, strategic plans and actual customer conversations are all an integral part of the modern customer journey as well. Before purchasing a new marketing technology platform, B2B companies should perform due diligence on the products they wish to purchase and have a plan in place on how they will be utilized.

And if you need help boosting the ROI of your marketing investment, Harte Hanks has extensive experience integrating marketing technology with marketing strategy. We’re here to help!

The Revolution Will Be Televised

B2B-Video_HarteHanks

Smart B2B brands have been learning from their B2C cousins about wrapping messages up in a more appealing way for years. Some B2B players have a clear vision of the role video needs to play and how to make the viewer experience both enjoyable and meaningful. Plaudits where they’re due!

However, some B2B companies have been slow to adopt video to attract customers or communicate effectively – due largely to inexperience and a failure to understand the financial and creative commitments necessary to produce video content that gets results. Whether it’s a B2C or B2B audience, humans typically respond better to – and retain more information from – video content. We’ve been hard-wired to respond to moving pictures and alluring sounds since we were all tiny humans. All B2B marketers must learn to adapt and create visual content in order to survive.

Learn From The Pros

There’s a good reason B2C companies are adept at visual content – they’ve been doing it since the 1940s. (The first paid television advertisement, for Bulova watches, was broadcast during a baseball game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Philadelphia Phillies in 1941). Since those halcyon days, the medium has expanded, changed, moved and expanded again. While few companies have the marketing budget to run a 30-second ad during the Super Bowl (estimated cost: $4.5 million), the barrier to entry for visual advertising is nearly non-existent. Anyone with a YouTube account and a smartphone can shoot and upload a video. But with expanded access comes immense competition. Simply uploading a video won’t move the needle on customer engagement. B2C marketers know this and dedicate the necessary resources for strategy, creative services and production to create engaging and entertaining video content. The rest of the B2B marketers must follow suit or run the risk of creating dull content that drives away viewers.

Plan For Success 

Before jumping into the video content world, B2B marketers must first devise a strategy. What is the goal of the video? How will it be implemented? For the most part, video content is not a “one-off” product, but a tactic to be implemented along the customer journey as the part of an overall strategy. The content and the style of the video should be determined by its place in the customer journey – top of the funnel, middle of the funnel, etc. Before creating content marketers must determine where and how the video will be best utilized.

Entertain and Engage

Perhaps the biggest mistake some B2B marketers make when creating video is the tendency to focus intently on product details. Minute product details are great for a buyer at the very end of the customer journey, but for most audiences these types of videos end up feeling like an excruciating PowerPoint presentation. Effective video entertains, engages and ultimately, wins loyalty. Dollar Shave Club – a three-year-old company now worth $615 million – launched its success with an irreverent and incredibly entertaining video that quickly went viral, garnering 19 million views. The 90-second video didn’t mention any details about the product itself (aside from calling its razors “f***ing great”), but it achieved its goal – it introduced a new brand to a vast audience, won their affection by entertaining them, and asked them to consider the company’s product without bogging the audience down with details. B2B marketers must find ways to deliver messages implicitly rather than directly, and wrap these messages inside attractive packaging.

If at First You Don’t Succeed…

One of the many benefits of marketing automation and content delivery platforms is the ability to evaluate and adjust content based on metrics. These systems give marketers at 360-degree view into content performance – which videos were opened, how long they were viewed and whether or not users clicked to learn more. By paying close attention to metrics, marketers can continually alter content to deliver more engaging and effective communications.

The Recipe

Creating engaging video content requires a thoughtful strategy, an investment in production quality and a hefty dose of creativity. Without all three, your videos may end up DOA!

Notes

YouTube – the world’s second largest search engine – has over one billion users. The site reaches more 18-49 year olds than any cable network. The number of companies running ads on YouTube increases 40 percent from year to year. The site has become the most important advertising platform in America and beyond.

Back to the Future: Predictive Analytics

Predictive-Analytics_HarteHanks

What if you knew what your customers wanted, when they wanted it? With predictive marketing analytics, gazing into the future is entirely possible. While predictive analytics is not a new concept – marketers have often tried to use past performance to predict future behavior – the dawn of the information age has amplified its effectiveness and usability. Predictive analytics allow marketers to focus efforts and maximize their budgets by identifying targets who are ready to buy and by eliminating those who aren’t.

Big Data

 To accurately predict consumer behavior, you need more than focus groups and surveys. The era of Big Data has armed marketers with a deluge of information on consumers – including engagement with marketing automation platforms and “intent” data from across the web. The technology to crunch this data and make sense of it is rapidly evolving, providing marketers with a roadmap to reach the right audience at the right time.

Data in Action

The Big Data era has produced an incredible amount of information about habits, desires and tendencies of consumers. Marketers who follow these digital footprints can optimize their marketing efforts to target individual audience segments and personalize messages to speak directly to potential customers. Predictive analytics can help create incredibly specific buyer personas – marketers no longer need to rely on broad demographic data and guestimates of what a particular buyer prefers. Enhanced buyer personas lay the groundwork for highly personalized messaging for nurture campaigns, which multiple studies show leads to significant increases in conversion and revenue. Predictive analytics also provide the benefit of targeted spending. Knowing what audiences to target and which platforms to target them through significantly increases the impact of marketing budgets.

B2B Adoption

B2B marketers have lagged behind their B2C counterparts in the adoption of marketing technology ­­– predictive analytics included. And while it’s true that personalized data from individual consumers offer a more clear view into purchasing habits and tendencies, plenty of data exists for B2B customers that can be utilized to implement more intelligent marketing tactics. Purchase history, for instance, is a great predictor of current and future behavior. If a customer has recently purchased a software system that won’t need an upgrade for three years, targeting that customer with marketing messages is not only inefficient, but could negatively affect that customers’ perception of your brand. Existing software licenses, log-in frequency, help desk calls and firmographics can also help B2B companies predict the need and desire for their products. Normally this kind of data will predict the type of customers that buy your products. Add social data sources to the mix, and you can predict customers that are ready to buy.

Implementation

Depending on the level of sophistication and budget resources, B2B marketers can deploy analyst-led solutions or automated “black box” solutions to perform predictive analytics. For larger, more comprehensive data operations, an analyst-led approach is preferred. Computers are wonderful, but a human touch – specifically when there are oddities in the data – can more accurately utilize the information output to design programs and messaging that take into account both the customer and the nuances of the company. However, there are various automated solutions that are more than sufficient for less sophisticated marketing automation programs. Both approaches have their own merit, but one thing is clear: predictive analytics allow businesses to focus on what’s important and discard what’s not, leading to amplified revenue growth – and happy customers.

 

Client Satisfaction and Smarter Customer Interactions: The Heart and Soul of Harte Hanks

HarteHanks-Recap-Post_000038375460It’s been almost two months since I took the role of President & CEO of Harte Hanks. In that time, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting our clients in Philadelphia, Burlington and San Francisco, amongst other locations. That’s one of my favorite parts of the job – talking to Harte Hanks customers, hearing firsthand about their successes and challenges, and coming back to our skilled team here to strategize innovative ways to solve their challenges, propel their successes and create smarter customer interactions.

Client satisfaction has always been and remains to be one of our top priorities at Harte Hanks, and it is my priority as CEO to see our clients succeed by providing value at every touch point. As a leader in enabling smarter customer interactions, we know that it all starts with being a trusted partner.

On our third-quarter earnings call this week, we outlined some of the areas of focus for the coming year, and I’d like to share them with all of you. In the next year, Harte Hanks will:

  1. Continuously improve client services. Our number one promise is to enhance the quality and integrity of our client commitments. Through a measured approach of accountability and promise-based management, we will continue to strengthen our account teams and delivery. From my various conversations over the past several weeks, it is clear to me that our customers depend on our multichannel services and believe in what we do. Exceeding their expectations through a trusted partnership, thought leadership and innovative new capabilities is how we will take Harte Hanks to the next level as a Company.
  1. Establish Harte Hanks leadership in smarter customer interactions through strategic GTM programs. It’s no surprise to anyone – especially our clients – that the digital marketing industry is continuously evolving. We see a particular area of need in the mid-market space to growth multi-channel customer content strategies. As a strong strategic partner that can offer advice as well as the latest product innovation and technology, our goal is to help these clients take their myriad data and translate it to insightful analytics into customer behavior for optimal marketing engagement.
  1. Introduce innovative new products to help clients connect with their customers. Innovation remains a major priority for Harte Hanks, particularly for big data and interactive capabilities. I’m pleased to say you’ve seen some of this in action this past quarter with the introduction of Total Customer Discovery, a solution that provides holistic profiles of customers across channels and devices, and Data Refinery, a standalone platform-as-a-service (Paas) to quickly and seamlessly tap into customer data in near real-time. Stay tuned – you’ll be seeing more market-moving products across data quality, cloud and self-service, through both organic growth and acquisition in 2016.

Leadership changes and organizational restructuring can be unsettling and difficult at times, and Harte Hanks is going through a period of transition right now. The bottom line is that our customers will always come first, and we will continually be looking at ways to improve and add value. There’s a lot to be excited about at Harte Hanks and a lot to be done. Here’s to the next quarter of client successes, strategic partnerships and smarter customer interactions.

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