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If Customer Experience Is the Battlefield, Mobile Is the Weapon of Choice

mobile customer experience

For most of us, our smartphone is practically an extension of our body. The vast majority of brands today, however, are struggling to orchestrate outstanding intuitive mobile customer experiences.

The smartphone is truly ingrained in our daily lives. As Google notes, 87% of us always have one by our side always, and 67% of us check it within 15 minutes of waking. Among other things, this means mobile technology is the primary channel in which we interact with brands, communicate with friends and family, read the news and restock our toothpaste (love you, Amazon app.).

In order to realize mobile’s vast potential, brands must create relevant, contextual customer experiences that simplify and enhance people’s lives. That’s where one-to-one, in-the-moment marketing comes in.

I’m not talking about mere personalization, which involves leveraging in-depth “descriptive” data about a customer (e.g. your name, favorite drink, buying frequency, or if you used a coupon) to deliver individualized messages and offers.

One-to-one, in-the-moment marketing goes a step further by also factoring in predictive data such as propensity to buy, time-sensitive variables (e.g. geo-positioning) and external variables (e.g. current weather and its impact on customer buying decisions). Or, as CMO Frank Grillo explains it, “The things that are driving me to buy and the way that I behave are very much impacted by who I am at that moment.”

Mobile is that connective element (or weapon) that enables marketers to deliver in-the-moment customer experiences tailored to “who you are at that moment.”

While 71% of marketers believe mobile is core to their business, many still struggle to bring it to life. So, what is the foundation upon which these one-to-one, in-the-moment experiences are built? Let’s take a look at the big three.

1. Connected, Accessible Data

Data is rarely the problem for brands. The challenge comes with connecting the data to extract intelligence and the accessibility of that data downstream at the point of customer interaction.

We’ve all researched a product on a retailer’s website and then walked into a store only to find it out of stock. Very frustrating.

Home Depot has tackled this challenge head on. Over the past eight years, they’ve built a foundation of data connectivity around inventory management and supply chain architecture to enable a single view of inventory. With over 2,000 stores and 35,000 SKUs per store, this is no small feat. And good for them, because a seamless customer experience both in-store and online, including universal visibility into inventory by store, is what customers expect today.

2. Insights and Intelligence

Okay, your data is connected and accessible. Now, what is your strategy to deliver intuitive, tailored customer experiences? This requires a combination of human and technology intelligence. Connected data fuels data scientists to build the right descriptive and predictive data cues to power the engagement models to drive business.

At the heart of these efforts is the explosive artificial intelligence (AI) market, which IDC projects will grow from $8 billion in 2016 to $47 billion by 2020. Furthermore, Forrester predicts enterprise investments in AI will increase 300% in 2017, compared to 2016. Brands must be able to connect their breadth of data and tie it to a single customer profile so they can then extract the insights and intelligence to transform the individual customer experience.

Need your coffee fix in the morning? Dunkin’ Donuts partnered with Waze to simplify this process. By elevating your coffee preference data tied to proximity to a Dunkin’ Donuts store, they can deliver in-app offers during that morning commute to help you scratch your caffeine itch. (Don’t worry; they only elevate offers when the Waze app identifies you have stopped.)

3. Ability to Deliver the Experience to the Customer

It all comes down to this: the last mile. Can you deliver an experience as unique as your customer in that moment?

This is the area where “mobile” takes on an ambiguous definition and gives marketers heartburn. Mobile can encompass mobile-optimized web, mobile-optimized email, SMS, beacon-driven notifications, mobile apps, mobile media and mobile-enabled commerce (including mobile payments). And with 80% of social media time occurring via mobile access, we might even consider social to be synonymous with mobile.

Very simply, I view your mobile strategy as your digital strategy: While it can include any of the above tactics, it is the culmination of connected data, in-the-moment consumer intelligence and the ability to deliver a tailored experience that makes customers say, “It’s like they know me!”

Let’s look at Starbucks — their commitment to their digital strategy, focus on innovation, ability to deliver and the resulting impact on their business. They understand the use of innovation to simplify and enhance the customer experience … and it’s paying off.

After launching mobile payments in 2011, Starbucks executed over 26 million transactions in the first year. And now, more than 21% of transactions at company-owned U.S. stores are executed via their mobile app.

Starbucks is now able to layer innovations such as voice-enabled ordering upon this foundational infrastructure to further simplify the customer-ordering process. Order simplification has been so successful that Starbucks last year reported challenges in physically processing preorders within their stores—a good problem to have.

Research has shown that simplified checkout, while convenient, can shrink transaction size by minimizing those spontaneous purchases. To combat this, Starbucks has committed to their AI/recommendation algorithms to elevate recommendations into the mobile app based on descriptive and predictive cues to deliver a true one-to-one, in-the-moment experience.

By continually gathering data on mobile interactions, you can refine customer profiles/preferences and in turn sharpen your understanding of their behavior and motivations. Data fuels relevancy, relevancy drives engagement, and engagement enriches data. This symbiotic relationship enhances our ability as marketers to better understand our customers in the moment and in turn orchestrate intuitive experiences.

Where Do We Go from Here?

Mobile is the key to creating one-to-one, in-the-moment customer experiences that are essential for success in today’s marketing environment. In future posts, I’ll examine what this means for:

  • In-app innovation
  • Mobile commerce
  • Mobile media

Please stay tuned!

How to Boost Both Awareness and Conversions with Facebook

boost conversions with facebook in digital funnel

How big of a role should Facebook play in your organization’s digital funnel and overall conversion process? Bigger than you might think.

I’ve spoken with a lot of marketers who think Facebook isn’t the right place to get in front of their target audiences. The assumption: spending money on Facebook ads won’t translate into conversions.

While that used to be the case, it isn’t anymore. In fact, Facebook has introduced some powerful tools that let you target people by job titles, company revenue and other variables. Both B2B and B2C marketers can leverage these tools to drill down and reach their most relevant audience segments.

Lookalike audiences (LALs) is one example of how Facebook allows you to do just that. Simply upload your customer list, and Facebook will analyze it to determine key characteristics, behaviors, demographics, etc. Based on the findings, you can develop personas and target people who are likely to be interested in your offer because they share similar attributes with your existing customers. We’ve found LALs to be a very effective way to get in front of just the right audiences.

Where Facebook Sits in the Funnel

Now let’s consider where Facebook should be situated within your digital funnel.

Facebook works wonders at the top of the funnel, where the focus is on exposure. It’s great for introducing your brand or product/service, with the goal of increasing awareness among your target audiences. Some of these users will translate into conversions right away (either through avenues like Facebook lead ads or by visiting your website). It should also be noted that Facebook has excellent retargeting options (custom audiences and website custom audiences) that we use liberally for both great direct response and for re-engaging past customers with upsells, renewals, etc.

What about the rest of those users? Well, they’re still going to keep your brand in mind. And later on, when they have an intention to buy, some of them will head to Google or Bing to search for what you have to offer.

Coordination with Paid Search

This is where a smart paid-search strategy will pay dividends. You need to buy highly relevant keywords so that people who can’t remember the name of your company, product or service will still see your ad on the search engine results page. That means bidding not only on your brand terms, but also on keywords related to your product or service.

By leveraging Facebook in tandem with paid search, you’ll ensure more of the right people know your brand — and are converted into customers.

For more on this topic, check out our free whitepaper, 3Q Digital’s Complete Guide to Facebook Advertising.

Navigating the Age of Digital Disruption for Retailers and Consumers

Before a snowflake has fallen or a holiday decoration is placed, retailers and consumers indices’ have already planned on the sales expectations they want to achieve. While the digital frontier shows no sign of slowing, now is the time to prepare for 2017.

A recent report by McKinsey Global Institute estimated that by 2025, digitization could add up to $2.2 trillion to annual U.S. GDP. Yet surprisingly, that very same report also revealed that the U.S. economy has only reached 18% of its digital potential as of today. This figure shines a light on the expansive opportunities that lie ahead, as well as the challenge of continuously adapting to fill the gap between the promise and the reality.

Mastering Digital Growth: Check Out the White Paper

Digital Blur and the Return on Attention (ROA) Methodology

While 90% of commerce still takes place in a physical location, it is increasingly difficult to differentiate between digital and physical worlds. This lack of distinction is forcing brands to re-think how they do business and how they can increase agility, innovation and responsiveness. Also, with more and more vendors competing for attention, consumers and retailers are turning to a new advertising metric called return on attention (ROA).  John Hagel helps shine light on this subject in a recent article in The Marketing Journal. It is becoming increasing clear that customers will pay for the opportunity to increase ROA and avoid the classic push model of advertising.

The Me-Me-Me Syndrome

The consumer’s expectations are all about “me.”  They look to their favorite retailers to enhance the shopping experience within a very complex and competitive digital world. In addition to being savvy shoppers, consumers expect a level of customer experience and brand quality that piques their interest, preference and ultimately their behavior to buy. Mindful retailers look for relevant, personalized marketing that consumers respond to and even brag about. Retailers have come to expect greatness from all the 2016 campaign efforts, but when they fall short, poor planning may be to blame.

Three Keys to Mastering Your Digital Growth Potential

Understand Your Organization:

When it comes to business growth, it’s easy to get hung up on external factors. But first thing’s first, you need to look closely at the internal landscape. Fragmented teams, intricate organizational structures and a lack of clarity on internal capabilities are all things that can make digital integration problematic and have a detrimental effect on growth.

Understand Your Customer:

The challenge to understand the customer gets harder with all of the digital noise out there. Customers are more than web visitors, more than the social media posts and more than coupon clippers. They are people with concerns and challenges, living in a digital flurry of myriad opportunities. They expect retailers to reach them at a deeper level­­–a personalized level, a level that helps them brainstorm, empathize and fill their needs. A good, solid understanding of your customers now and in the future is the heartbeat of delivering a perfect customer journey that gets brilliant results, on every platform.

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Understand Your Data:

As consumers create data at work, at home and on the go, businesses try to cope with the abundant change happening in a blink of an eye.  Disparate systems can hamper decision-making among retailers, and outdated IT architecture cannot cope with the huge influx of data–creating a siloed marketing effect. Marketers need easier ways to explore data, uncover new insights and make informed decisions instantly from any device. However, achieving this can be difficult for many organizations given the complexities of outdated IT infrastructures. If you are to leverage data properly and use it wisely, you will have to have a central point of truth that drives successful customer engagement.

Beating the Digital Disruption Dilemma

The pace and magnitude of the way we do business is known as “digital disruption.” With global competition on the rise, most companies are working towards the digital frontier–focusing on multiple digital channels to create a better customer experience. The increase of digital platforms is on the rise the thus increasing the importance of companies, of any size, from all over the world, being able to think outside the box and roll out products more quickly and efficiently than ever before.

This is the new digital frontier–the new age of supply and demand for customers. Are you prepared to meet the expectations of the consumer? Check out our latest eBook “Facing the Digital Frontier” to find out.

The Machines of SXSW Future

sxsw-600x379We’ve been urged (well, that’s maybe overstating a little) to follow up on the pre-SXSW evaluations post. In it, Alan opined that the three “tracks” most likely to get most industry attention were Wearables, IoT and VR/AR.

We’d say he pretty much nailed it. Well, except that (in our view at least) Wearables was usurped by discussions on AI and Machine Learning.

Not to say there wasn’t excitement about some of the world’s best start-up wearable companies demonstrating their products––particularly cool Korean firms like skin care and health device WAY and posture-adjusting wristband ZIKTO––but we were not as blown away as we’d hoped. Anyway, back to self-learning machines …

Artificial Intelligence
With the Google DeepMind AlphaGo triumphs against Lee Sedol fresh in our minds, we heard from the brightest and best in AI such as Siri co-founder Adam Cheyer and Allen Institute’s Oren Etzioni in a panel called “Can AI Systems Really Think?” We also saw Professor Pedro Domingos talk about “The Secrets of Machine Learning Revealed” which outlined the five tribes of AI scientists and their schools of thought.

Many others, including Dag Kittlaus (Cheyer’s co-founder in new firm VIV) and Pinterest’s Head of Commerce Michael Yamartino, discussed all the forms and factors in AI’s implementation in the current and future worlds of medicine, education, environment and, of course, marketing.

They all took it upon themselves to reassure us that the singularity is (most likely) still hundreds of years away. But if you simplify it down (and we had to so it all made sense) what they were describing was tremendously exciting. And this area of thinking is a very rich and fertile space for data-driven marketers.

You’ve probably seen IBM’s new branded point of view advertising featuring Watson. And you also probably know marketers are using Watson to (among other things) build predictive models for buyer trends and to build optimal customer journeys. A sandbox for the industry’s best analytic and strategy minds to test hypotheses and determine the most efficient sequence of touch points to create optimal returns––Watson consumes limitless amounts of unstructured data as it goes about its work.

And yet its still “just” a tool … a very, very artificially clever tool, but nonetheless completely controlled by us.

In the world of shopper experience, AI is helping to predict customer preference before they can even recognize their desire to purchase. Ecommerce sites like Zappos.com and parent company Amazon have created an art out of the science of personalized recommendations. AI can create the same level of customer service as a local storeowner who’s had the same customer for years … all in the blink of a cursor.

So learning machines are definitely going to feature in future SXSW Festivals.
But what about other machines and devices connected to each other, and us, via the Internet? We are referring of course to the IoT track…

The Internet of Things
Well, we heard many hours worth of discussion about connected cars, cities, homes and more. From demonstrations on the trade show floor to panels around Downtown venues, it was hard to avoid someone talking about the Internet of Things. We were keen to learn about people’s opinions on an ethical code for makers and coders building these connected experiences (from AppDynamic’s Prathap Dendi) and how connected devices should respect our privacy (panel including Intel and Microsoft representatives).

And we had many divergent conversations about IoT … a sure sign it’s already an embedded and popular topic. “Cognition Clash in the Internet of Things”; “Internet of Banking Things”; “IoT: A Thousand Touchpoints of Marketing?”; and more.

So. the Internet of Things will continue to spread into more niche conversations over the next few years which leaves us with our final forecast––VR/AR ubiquity.

Virtual Reality
And so it came to pass … VR was EVERYWHERE! The trade show stands were full of Gear VR and Google Cardboard devices encouraging everyone and anyone to be impressed … Sennheiser demonstrated Ambeo VR headphones that let wearers experience sound in 3D. SAP promoted their Digital Boardroom, allowing users to enter a shared space and review documents using VR devices. And of course many panels and sessions took the trend to heart as they vied for attendee attention.

With more mainstream devices making it possible for more and more people to access VR content, the question for marketers becomes: What stories make the most sense?

The VR filmmakers at the panel discussion “New Advertising Models for Virtual Reality” sought to answer just that. All agreed that no marketer wants their advertising associated with a VR injury––so creating TVC style spots to be consumed instantly is unlikely to become standard practice.

Rather, the best brand-in-VR experiences are when audiences are transported to an experience that fits your brand values. Perhaps even your product, it it’s relevant in the case of the film. If all else fails, brands that sponsor a VR film can grab some of the attention—even if they’re not the stars of the show. But curating and presenting content associated with your brand personality is at least one way of capitalising.

Across the various VR sessions, many agreed the New York Times had scored the biggest hit so far with its Google Cardboard collaboration, “The Displaced”—and according to the Times’ SXSW session, they’re planning to ramp up VR editorial features to around twice monthly.

The Times’ VR story played out so well because they solved two key problems: 1) They literally put Google Cardboard kits in the hands of their readers by delivering sets with the Sunday paper; and 2) with “The Displaced,” they told a story that resonates with their brand’s core value of providing exceptional journalism to its readers. By adding a VR component to this particular story, they transported readers into the lives of three refugee children displaced by war and persecution. An essential story brought to life in a format that delivers more than important information: It creates empathy.

The best VR, everyone agreed, isn’t what you see, but how it makes you feel. And, as the technology becomes more and more commonplace, the machines of the future that let you feel a connection on a more visceral level, will win the day.

 

Alan Kittle is Global Executive Creative Director at Harte Hanks, and Andrew Womack is Group Creative Director at Harte Hanks.

Pre-SXSW: Three Trends and Tracks That May Impact Your Marketing Plans in 2016

As I prepare for my second pilgrimage to Austin, to immerse myself in all that is emerging and mind-blowing in our industry, I thought I’d curate some of the information the organizers are now sending to registered attendees. There are three very important customer engagement trends, or “tracks” as SXSW calls them, that every marketer will want to evaluate.

The evolution of wearable technologies
An emerging trend last year will become even bigger this year, as more products enter the market. In 2015, Samsung and others showcased smart watches, VR headsets, fitness trackers, sensor clothing and so on. The Apple Watch launched post-event (their rumored SXSW pop up shop never did appear) and many, many other companies released products in a move towards a future where “quantifiable self” becomes a “thing”.

This year the big evolution seems to be a convergence between fashion, technology, art and other cultural influences. Within the SXStyle Convergence Track sessions and events, I’m hoping thought leaders answer a pertinent question for marketers everywhere, “What branded experiences are possible with emerging wearable technologies and what useful data can I collect to enhance my relationships with customers who have them?” Creatively, considering these devices as inputs and outputs for campaigns ushers in a brave new world.

And if you consider, as you should, that wearable technologies form part of the connected devices ecosystem that is the Internet of Things, then you’re already prepared for the next trend …

The potential of the Internet of Things
Ever-higher speed connections are creating opportunities for devices to converse with each other through the Internet. IoT means smart cities; connected cars; sensor and wearable technologies; connected homes and appliances; and so much more; speak to each other and can make decisions on our behalf. The on-going conversations about Artificial Intelligence, even in something as user-friendly as Google Now, also fuels conversation on IoT.

“The Internet of Things is nothing short of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.” – Jamshed Dubash, “Marketing and The Internet of Things: Are you Ready?”

The big data created can, theoretically, be used to create enriched experiences between brands and customers. Figuring out how to wield the data to do this, though, is very difficult … honestly, marketers seem to have given up trying to get their heads around “big data” as a topic and have moved on to IoT––hoping this will help make the real world applications of information more obvious and easier to get their heads around.

Brands taking advantage of third, fourth and fifth screens in fridges, cars and watches … building in unrivaled relevance and usefulness, will win the engagement game in the near future. I hope the sessions focussing on IoT help us all get our heads in the game. Speaking of games …

The explosion of VR and AR
360 content is everywhere, already. You can see it in your social feeds; on YouTube channels; through cardboard viewfinders and soon on gaming consoles. Global brands like Samsung are building technologies like the Gear VR headset and Gear 360 camera; Microsoft is waiting for the right time to launch their Augmented Reality headset, the Hololens; Facebook-owned Oculus Rift made VR accessible to everyone and days ago (at Samsung’s Unpacked event in Barcelona) Mark Zuckerberg proclaimed the growth in popularity will be exponential … his presence reinforced original statements made when they spent $2 billion when buying Oculus.

“This is really a new communication platform … We believe this kind of immersive reality will become a part of daily life for billions of people.”

So if you’re a brand built around an experience not easily replicated on a website, or in a showroom or through a telephone agent, VR content can create immersive experiences that genuinely offer a window into a world that your customers could live in. Harte Hanks’ David Chandler offers insight into how brands can harness VR effectively in this blog post.

Of course this doesn’t even consider the notion that the pure entertainment value of great advertising could be enriched with VR. Will someone be brave enough to create a VR Super Bowl LI commercial next year? I hope so.

So. There you have it. Just three trend tracks I’ll be engaging with in Texas. There’ll be more to follow from me, post-event. And a whole lot to keep your eye on over the next few years!

Are you planning on attending SXSW this year? Tweet us at @HarteHanks and let us know which tracks you think will draw the biggest crowds this year.

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.

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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.

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.

Marketing Technology: Where’s My ROI?

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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

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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.

The 4 Biggest Challenges Facing B2B Tech Marketers Today (Part 4)

Unifying Communication Strategies Across Channels Throughout the Customer Journey

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Over the past few weeks, we’ve been exploring the four biggest marketing challenges faced by B2B tech companies.

Whether you’ve been following along or just tuning in now, you can find the first three installments about utilizing all available tools and technologies, leveraging high-quality, real-time data and generating ROI with less budget and fewer resources on our blog.

For the fourth and final challenge, I will discuss the best strategies to unify communications across channels in order to drive the customer journey.

CHALLENGE #4: How do I unify communication strategies across channels to drive customers through the buyer journey?

Your brand is a powerful thing. Not only does it represent the essence and promise of your company, it also embodies the expectations and opinions of your customer as they move through their buying journey. Each touch point with your brand is a chance to enhance – or diminish – a customer’s perception.

That means that each piece of advertising, each call to your contact center and each visit to your landing page should work in tandem to convey a consistent message that represents your brand. Just one negative interaction can damage your customer’s perception. And it’s much more difficult to reverse a negative perception than it is to proactively ensure positive customer interactions from the start of a campaign.

So how can we ensure a single view of customer across their entire journey, with consistent brand touch points and a clear, unified message? Read on:

  1. Start with a clear definition of your brand. First and foremost, you need to clearly define what your brand represents. Your brand platform needs to be articulated and shared with everyone in the company, particularly the external-facing representatives. A marketing program is the creative output built on top of the brand, designed to build awareness and the desire to purchase.
  2. Decide what you are trying to achieve with your marketing efforts. What is your vision of success? What are you trying to do and why are you trying to do it? At this stage, it’s helpful to look at what Harte Hanks Creative Director Alan Kittle calls The Beautiful Intersection. Draw two intersecting circles. In one, write out what you or your client wants to say. In the other, detail what your audience wants to hear. The intersection of this Venn Diagram is your sweet spot – the message that will tell your story while resonating with your audience.
  3. Identify the necessary building blocks and work streams. After you define your end goal and key objective, work backwards to figure out what will get your there. Start with a solid strategist or planner. This individual or team should gather and interpret all available data, and determine how that insight into the customer will enable a connection with the brand. Data intelligence should help form creative briefs and build a campaign message that is highly measurable.
  4. Cut through with a single unifying thought. In a complex, multi-channel, multi-territory campaign, it is essential to have one unifying idea that all marketing efforts tie back to. In fact, the more complex the marketing campaign – the more channels, audiences, periods of time – the simpler the message should be. By looking at the whole picture, you can determine how all the pieces fit together throughout the journey: how an audience reacts to an email, then a phone call a few weeks later and a piece of advertising leading them to a customer landing page a few days after that.
  5. Create an ecosystem of collaboration and information sharing. It is essential that all agencies plug into the brand and work together in a creative, synergistic manner to tell the same story. Branding agencies need to work in tandem with creative teams – the strongest teams collaborate to make a greater sum of their parts.

By following these steps for a new marketing idea, or to increase the effectiveness of an in-progress marketing program, it is possible to unify communications across channels and create that single, unifying thought that weaves through the entire customer journey. Data helps inform and define this thought and to create a cycle of excellence: use data to create something with the best chance of success, then look at what to improve and start the process again.

Staying in Touch With the Zeitgeist

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Last week I had lunch with an incredible group of people: an Academy Award-nominated director, a 21-year-old nuclear physicist, and a New York Times columnist. Just another day in the glamorous life of a digital agency executive, right?

Not exactly.

The lunch was just a small part of the amazing parallel universe Google creates once a year called Zeitgeist, which Google describes as “a series of intimate gatherings of top global thinkers and leaders.” And a few lucky agency wonks, apparently!

On one level, Zeitgeist is Google’s version of the TED conference. The topics are eclectic, inspirational, and thought-provoking. This year’s speakers included an astronaut (from space, no less), Kanye West, a North Korean defector, a golf pro, two Nobel Prize winners, a civil rights lawyer, and so on. And, I assume like TED, the hallway discussions were equally if not more interesting than the amazing speeches. I personally chatted with two billionaires, a few Google executives, forward-thinking CEOs, and some great non-profit leaders.

So why does Google put on this lavish event? I’m sure there are many reasons. First, because they can. Google is doing pretty well as a company, so funding a modern-day Bloomsbury Group once a year isn’t going to put much of a dent in their numbers. More importantly, however, I think it reflects the intellectual curiosity of Google’s founders and executives. Remember, this is a company that could have sat back and counted their cash from AdWords but instead has set out to revolutionize everything from cars to diabetes.

And there’s a lesson here for the SEM community. Life is pretty comfortable for the average SEM pro these days. High-paying jobs are easy to come by. (Don’t like your current gig? Don’t worry, someone will no doubt offer you a 30% raise to come across the street to their company.) And whilst SEM continues to change, the industry won’t be going away anytime soon. So if you want to, you can put your head down and do SEM really well and have a great life (for the foreseeable future, at any rate).

Alternatively, you can take the Google path and decide not to rest on your laurels. You can learn Facebook advertising, attribution, mobile acquisition, and audience segmentation. You can experiment with Beacons and Bitcoin. Heck, you can even try to understand branding and out-of-home advertising (call me if you figure this out, because I certainly haven’t).

As an added benefit, expanding your expertise is a good way to maintain that comfy lifestyle you worked so hard to achieve. Some day – maybe even sooner than we think – SEM will decline and possibly disappear entirely. Learning new skills will enable you to effortlessly leave SEM in the dust and move into the next age of digital marketing. Intellectual curiosity aside, there’s strong business strategy behind Google’s forays into video, mobile, shopping, delivery, healthcare, Internet, transportation, and so on: self-preservation.

The tough part about keeping up with the Zeitgeist is that it is fickle and changes quickly and often unpredictably. Whether you’re a multi-billion dollar Internet giant or a really sharp SEM pro, staying on top of the vanguard of online marketing (and really, of the world in general) does more than keep your mind fresh; it is also just a smart business decision.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I believe a Google drone just dropped off my groceries on my doorstep!

Get to Know the Harte Hanks Team

Matt Schneider, Technology Manager

18115e8Matt has been with Harte Hanks for 16 years this December. He’s what you might call a Jack-of-all-trades in the digital world, managing everything from web and mobile offshore product development, HTML development, to Interactive Systems Development and QA teams. In fact, he’s the lead developer of this blog! Matthew lives in the Hudson Valley with his wife and two children and has an MBA from Marist College in Marketing.

Let’s learn a little bit more about Matt:

Q: Tell us what a typical day at Harte Hanks looks like from your perspective.

I am a technology manager and front-end developer focused on web and mobile related technologies.

I work remotely out of Upstate New York, in a role as a Technology Manager in the Technology COE. I am the lead developer of our corporate website and blog along with leading other web and email development projects. My days are a mix of calls, email, Skype messaging, screen shares, trying to stay current on the latest tech news/ trends and as much coding as possible.

Q: What is your role in making customer interactions smarter and how did you get there?

I started off as an HTML developer in a converted red barn in Woodstock, NY for a company called Spectral Resources that had just been acquired by Harte Hanks. Over the years I have continued to focus on creating and managing teams that create new and innovative web and email solutions for our clients.

Q: What is your favorite part of working for Harte Hanks?

Two things. One: working with a team of really highly skilled individuals. Two: working on projects for some of the most well-known and prestigious companies in the world. We are always learning and pushing forward to find the most current, leading-edge technology solutions for our clients.

Q: What about the future of marketing are you most excited about? Trends? Tools? Platforms?

As a web developer, I am particularly excited that the Internet Explorer web browser has been put out to pasture. Coding for modern browsers is such a pleasure without having to support old versions of IE.

As an email developer, I am excited about the interactive (kinetic) email features that we have been integrating into our email campaigns. These new features include interactive carousels and animation effects.

In terms of trends, the Internet of Things (IoT) – coming up with solutions to help users control and communicate with products such as their cars, washer, refrigerator, and door locks is an exciting and challenging trend. I cannot wait to test a web application on a fridge.

Q: If you could have the skills to do any other job at Harte Hanks not in your current department, what would you like to do?

Logistics. I have always wanted to drive a tractor trailer.

Q: What’s on your bucket list?

  • Drive a tractor trailer
  • Drive a Tesla
  • Play with my kids
  • Find good homes for all of our shelter kitties (My wife and I run a 501c3 non-profit cat shelter – www.cataquarium.com)

The 4 Biggest Challenges Facing B2B Tech Marketers Today (Part 3)

Maximizing ROI with Fewer Resources and Smaller Budgets

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If you’ve been following my four-part series on the biggest challenges impacting B2B tech companies today, you’ll have already picked up some tips on maximizing your tools and technologies and generating high-quality, real-time data.

In this post, I’m going to address one of the most pressing and urgent pain points that marketers face today: how to show an increased return on investment for marketing activities despite shrinking head counts and budgets.

CHALLENGE #3: How do I Maximize ROI with fewer resources and less investment?

With the rise of data analytics, there is more pressure to measure results and account for ROI on ever dollar spent. At Harte Hanks, we’ve found two complementary solutions that work best for driving ROI without hiring a team of marketers or straining existing budgets: Marketing Automation and Centralized Tele-services Programs.

Marketing Automation: Marketing automation platforms help plan, coordinate, manage and measure all of your marketing campaigns, making them more personalized, effective and efficient. The best part is they are executed just as the name suggests­­ – automatically, with minimal need for resource oversight.

Marketing automation has been a buzzword for a few years now, but according to Sirius Decisions, in 2014 85% of B2B marketers using marketing automation platforms feel they are not using them to their full potential. My colleague Anthony Figgins recently wrote about creating more relevant, personal customer interactions using marketing automation as well as some tips for getting started, which I’ve summarized here:

 5 Tips for Implementing Marketing Automation

  1. Pick the tools that best suit your business needs: Identify a tool that fits your goals and budget. We suggest tools that prevent unhealthy data and support better conversion rates, progressive profiling and social integrations.
  1. Select the right team: Because of the complex nature of many marketing automation systems, training will be crucial to success. Empower your team to know, understand and follow best practices and spend an adequate amount of time with vendors to fully immerse with the systems.
  1. Integrate your automation marketing platforms with a CRM system:Many brands use marketing automation solely as an email platform and then sync data with a CRM system. Your marketing automation platforms should work in tandem with your CRM to tell a holistic, cohesive story to and about your customers.
  1. Engage your sales force: Your sales team is the eyes and the ears in the field. They know what is happening with your customers. They can be an excellent source of knowledge about what is working and what needs to be re-evaluated.
  1. Have a plan, process and goal for your tools: Integrate and build processes early to ensure the success of your marketing automation systems. Take a crawl-walk-run approach: Start with an email, then test and refine based on real-time data.

Centralized Teleservices Program: While automating your marketing processes is a sure path to increase ROI, a complementary hands-on approach through a consolidated telemarketing program can also contribute to the bottom line. By simplifying engagement through a central point and single CRM, companies can drive and support both inbound response management to ensure quality customer experiences and outbound lead generation to drive new business.

I’ll give you an example. One of our B2B tech clients was challenged with a waning sales pipeline and declining brand awareness. They had a decentralized model with multiple local agencies, which led to inconsistent service, process, pricing, training, reporting and management. With all of these inefficiencies, the sales pipeline was clearly suffering and the customer experience was fragmented and inconsistent.

Harte Hanks collaborated with the client to design and execute a centralized telemarketing program. The new program offered marketing efficiencies and a commonality of process through a single CRM. Customer experience and sales ROI improved dramatically through simplified engagement with one central support system that drove inbound response management and outbound lead generation.

Through handling 128,000 calls and 30,000 customer and prospect interactions in a centralized manner, the client increased its sales pipeline 300 percent and qualified leads to pass to sales by 500 percent.

With marketing automation and centralized tele-services, marketers can save money and time while still driving ROI.

Join me next week for our final installation of this series: How to unify communication strategies across channels to drive customers through the buyer journey.

 

Global Patient Support Needs to ‘Think Local’

PharmaPatient support programs play a vital role in facilitating better disease management and treatment optimization. Traditionally pharmaceutical companies launched such initiatives on a local level. However, from a regional perspective, this sometimes resulted in patchy and fragmented support. Today, many pharmaceutical companies are driving centralized programs that benefit from a more sophisticated and strategic approach.

This approach brings many advantages around compliance, visibility of success and cost-effectiveness of implementation and maintenance. Yet centralized programs can be inherently complex and unwieldy. This is compounded by the fact that they often need to be coordinated at a global or area level to maximize infrastructure and management efficiencies.

Walking the line between global/regional efficiency and local effectiveness is no mean feat. Patient support is not a ‘one size fits all’ discipline; activity needs to be expertly tailored and carefully orchestrated.

At Harte Hanks, we believe five critical factors underpin patient support that is successful both at a global and a local level.

  1. Gather and leverage local knowledge

Understanding the nuances and intricacies of healthcare provision in different regions is essential. Ideally, you should have people on the ground who have in-depth knowledge of their local system and keep a finger on the pulse of any changes or developments.

Typical patient paths can vary significantly between countries for the same disease. Take the patient touchpoints and interactions for the U.S. healthcare system versus the UK’s NHS or Spain’s Seguridad Social. Prescription behaviours, drug dispensing and the length of time between specialist visits can be entirely different. There can even be differences in the role of healthcare practitioners during treatment, in terms of nurse interaction levels, nurse-led advice, pharmacist involvement and primary or speciality care.

  1. Create space for consultation and collaboration

Regional offices need to have clear channels of communication with the head office, and regular opportunities to report back on the local healthcare environment. They need to know that their observations are taken into account and actively used to shape the delivery of patient support in their territory.

At a strategic level, this collaborative approach enables program goals and objectives to be adapted to the realities of each country and healthcare system. It also needs to work at a tactical level, with regional teams of medical and regulatory professionals reviewing and approving materials before they are issued to healthcare professionals and patients.

Pharmaceutical companies often lack the time and resources required to give adequate attention to each country of a global patient support program. This is especially true when implementation needs to happen in parallel with a product launch or other internal deadlines. Working with a trusted third party can be a mutually beneficial solution for individual countries and the global program as whole. They can offer expert guidance as well as coordinate materials distribution and facilitate knowledge sharing.

  1. Ensure processes and training are water-tight

It’s vital that staff delivering the program, especially those with direct patient contact, understand indicators of pharmacovigilance events. Processes need to be in place to ensure that any spontaneous or solicited reports of adverse effects are handled appropriately and escalated in the right timeframes.

A centralized model can ensure that training compliance efforts are optimized and that all pharmacovigilance processes are managed in a cohesive way. A balance needs to be struck to ensure that training and reporting procedures meet certain standards, while respecting any elements or formats that vary between countries.

  1. Coordinated multi-channel communications

Using a CRM suite to facilitate patient and healthcare provider communications boosts efficiency and enables better control of patient support programs. For example, Harte Hanks can act as a multichannel one-stop-shop which is managed centrally but enables local offices to customize activity, such as:

  • Secure data management and hosting, in-line with local privacy rules
  • SMS, email and direct mail assets (drawing on print-on-demand and personalization capabilities)
  • Creation, development and hosting of personalized online portals for patients and healthcare providers, with self-tracking tools to support all digital communications
  • Advanced reporting and analytics to measure success and monitor progress

CRM and digital services should be flexible enough to accommodate multilingual communications and adaptations for the individual needs of each country. For instance, a global program will encounter various regulatory frameworks and the requirements of medical, legal and regulatory teams differ between countries.

  1. Continual improvement philosophy

If program goals and objectives are tailored to local regions, it follows that KPIs need to be tailored too. For measurement to be meaningful, successes or failures need to be considered in context. And they need to feed into the development of ongoing goals and objectives geared towards a cycle of continual improvement. To facilitate effective management at a macro level, it’s important to ensure global real-time visibility across the entire programme, from high-level KPIs to more detailed local perspectives.

The cornerstone of any successful patient support program is recognition that patients are people. They have their own lives, families, work and hobbies, as well as living with a disease or illness. They deserve to be listened to and helped to live their life to the fullest.

Treating patients as people within a program that operates on a global scale is complicated., but with an intelligent, carefully coordinated approach that draws on local knowledge, it is possible to achieve this. Communicating with patients at the right time with the right message via the most appropriate channel is half of the story. Ensuring information and interventions are precisely tailored to their real needs completes the circle, both supporting the treatment and enhancing the overall patient experience.

Harte Hanks handles patient support programmes 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. To learn more about the services we offer, take a look at our case studies.

The 4 Biggest Challenges Facing B2B Tech Marketers Today (Part 1)

How to Solve Them? With Smarter Technology, Of Course

4-biggest-challenges_illustrations_2-1_v02-01
Nearly every industry today is affected by our increasingly digital world and has had to make adjustments – or in some cases, complete business model overhauls – to stay relevant. It is more important than ever before to connect with customers using the technology and channels that are now so pervasive in everyday life.

One of the more interesting industries to look at in the digital paradigm shift is the tech industry itself. How are the companies who are proliferating the spread of marketing automation, software as a service and enterprise infrastructure technologies marketing and selling their own solutions? The B2B tech industry faces similar challenges to marketers everywhere, but there is perhaps a higher expectation to be on the forefront of cutting edge marketing services and data analytics.

Harte Hanks works closely with many B2B tech companies who sell services and products to other businesses, and we’ve seen some common pain points consistently arise over the past few years:

  • How do I build an ecosystem that makes the most of available tools and technologies?
  • How do I make my data high-quality, real-time and usable to drive sales?
  • How do I maximize ROI with fewer resources and less investment?
  • How do I unify communication strategies across channels to drive customers through the buyer journey?

This four-part blog series explores these common challenges and provides recommendations for solving them. Read on for challenge number one and tune in for challenge number two…

 CHALLENGE #1: How do I build an ecosystem that makes the most of available tools and technologies?

 It’s true what they say: technology never rests. New technologies are emerging every day, leaving brands struggling to stay relevant and make an impact. From marketing automation, to customer relationship management, to data management, there is no shortage of buzzwords and platforms, but the question is how to optimize all of these different tools and have them work together in the most effective manner.

For the B2B tech marketer, this means managing new and existing channels in different ways. It can be a complex undertaking to determine the best ways to integrate and create efficiencies, and often times there is a need to outsource or find tools and data to help. Many B2B tech companies list complexity as a core challenge.

How to solve it

We’ve learned over the years that it’s really important to make more of the sales, marketing and IT tools and technologies that companies already have by connecting them with other areas, such as analytics. By building those bridges between functions and technologies, B2B tech companies can build a technology ecosystem that makes use of all of the elements to underpin data quality, improvements and more.

We recommend implementing a solution built on top of the marketing stack components – for instance, Harte Hanks has a Marketing Cloud professional services capability. This solution focuses on the core areas that affect B2B marketing teams, such as campaign management, content & asset management and data management. To implement this, you need to consider the following steps:

Strategic Design: Define the business objective at hand, and design programs and processes that allow you to use the technology tools at your disposal to accomplish it. At Harte Hanks, we generally help take over tactical execution of marketing activities on a given tool, such as campaign execution, content distribution or audience activations.

Planning: The next step is planning out how a particular tool can help accomplish the program objectives. Once the requirements are defined, you can look in-house at what you have, and then procure, invest and outsource where you need to grow.

Implementation: This involves the implementation of the tools for tasks like campaign creation, lead scoring set-ups, audience creation, content workflows, reporting set-ups and more.

Integration: This is the most complicated step, but it is key in making everything work together in seamless harmony. Efficiencies are gained from using integration points that vendors have included in their tools. Some on these integrations may be pre-built by the vendors (i.e. Oracle’s app cloud), but more often the tools will require a programmatic integration through the use of product APIs. www.trandict.xyz This will require development skills that you can source internally, from the vendor or from someone like Harte Hanks.

With the Harte Hanks Marketing Cloud, we take it a step further and help our customers strategically design their cloud to support their customer journey requirements, implement existing components and integrate new components into their existing stack as necessary. The ultimate goal is to realize a more efficient operational environment that makes the most of existing tools by creating a technology ecosystem.

Tune in next for our second challenge: How do I make my data high-quality, real-time and usable to drive sales?

Predictive Spam or Predictive Revenue

spamAbout 50 times a day, I get an email with an innocuous subject line like “Wanted to Circle Back David” or “Lunch Tomorrow?” (these are the first two I found this morning in my inbox).

Given that these appear to be from people that I’ve apparently talked to or know, I open the email (in marketing terms, I contribute to the “open rate”). It’s only after I start to read the content that I realized I’ve been duped; these emails are spam in sheep’s clothing.

For example, the woman inviting me to “lunch tomorrow” is selling contact information appending and is based in Vancouver, Washington – a short two-hour flight away for our lunch date. The man circling back is selling an “automated communication” software to – you guessed it – enable me to create annoying emails just like the one he just sent. His pitch is here:

Repetition is the key to connecting with busy, important people like yourself.

Most salespeople stop after the 1st or 2nd touch.

When often the 5th or 8th touch leads to the most replies.

The key to our system is that we use a global workforce & technology to create smarter automated communication, for often less than an entry level wage minus the expensive benefit costs.

I can create a sample prospecting plan for no charge, if you have time next week to collaborate?

Yes, apparently spamming someone eight times is the golden ticket to success!

You might be tempted to believe this pitch – after all, if thousands of people are using deceptive subject lines and multiple “touches” as part of their email marketing plan, it must be working, right? The answer partly depends on timing and partly on your target audience. If your audience is “any business”, then I suppose that this strategy might work. This is a game of large numbers, so if you simply increase your delivery rate, open rate, and response rate, the odds are that you will drive more sales in the end.

If you are trying to sell an expensive or complicated product (think enterprise B2B) or reach “busy, important people,” then this this approach is destined for failure. How can you expect to build rapport with an executive when your initial communication is an outright deception?

I was first introduced to the concept of testing different “faux personalized” messages and then sending out the most effective ones at scale via Aaron Ross’ excellent book Predictable Revenue. The technique was quite successful for Ross, as he used it to scale SalesForce’s inside sales team to the point that it allegedly drove $100 million in revenue for the company.

It seems that I’m not the only one who read the book. Indeed, an unintended consequence of Ross’ success evangelizing his technique is the over-use and misuse of his principles. A recent blog post on his Web site warns that “95% of salespeople” make major mistakes with cold emails, which can result in “a declining open rate and in extreme cases, a tarnished reputation.” And this leads us to the second determinant of success: timing. When Ross was perfecting his predictable revenue methodology at SalesForce, he hadn’t written his book and consequently no one was mimicking his approach. Today, tens of thousands of Predictable Revenue readers are sending – and often spamming – the world with faux personalized messages.

The result is a classic “tragedy of the commons” situation, where “individuals acting independently and rationally according to each’s self-interest behave contrary to the best interests of the whole group by depleting some common resource.” The common resource at risk today is the trust of email recipients. Every day that I receive another 50 trick emails from people I don’t know trying to convince me that I do know them, my level of suspicion is raised. These days, unless I recognize the name of the sender, I just assume that the email is spam. Do I read it just in case? Sure – but there’s no way I’m actually going to respond to the email.

Getting back to those mistakes that 95% of salespeople make, one of the top four according to Ross’ blog is an “overproduced tone.” As the blog notes:

Make your email authentic. Email templates that look too fancy or overly modern end up just feeling fake and impersonal. The last thing you’d ever want is for someone to consider your email spam. This is why it’s really important to ensure your email feels human, not like something mass-produced.

This, however, is the problem – the more “human” the email feels today, the more I’m apt to conclude that it is spam. In some respects, I think I’m more responsive to emails that are clearly bulk email marketing messages – at least the sender is being honest about wanting to sell something to someone they don’t know!

The bottom line is that good marketing – be it cold emails, Google AdWords, or a roadside billboard – needs to be both authentic and original. Authentic in the sense that you begin your relationship with a customer in a way that is truthful about your brand and forthright in your attentions. Original in the sense of Seth Godin’s Purple Cow – creating advertising that stands out from the crowd. What worked for Aaron Ross ten years ago may not work for you today, because it’s no longer a purple cow and the tragedy of the commons has raised the suspicions of respondents. There are great testing and scaling lessons to be had from Ross’ book, but imitation alone is unlikely to replicate success.

Learning the Power of Marketing Automation

Marketing Automation-1Marketing automation is quickly becoming one of the most valuable technology tools for both B2B and B2C marketers. The right tools can save you time and money, and they can showcase ROI faster. However, like with any technology platform, there can be a steep learning curve. Here is what you need to know to get started.

The Power of Marketing Automation

First, let’s take a step back to define marketing automation and how it can improve your marketing efforts. Marketing automation is a platform you can use to plan, coordinate, manage and measure all of your marketing campaigns. Marketing automation technologies and software help brands more effectively streamline relevant and personal communications for customers. These touch points can span multiple channels, including email, social, websites and CRM.

Marketing automation tools can also help automate repetitive tasks and churn out and analyze data more efficiently. The benefit? Marketers can select criteria and outputs for tasks and processes, which the software then interprets, stores and executes. This leads to stronger data and reduces human error.

The tools used in marketing automation can range from email marketing to analytic services and can be software based or web-based. These tools provide reports, analytics and insights into the use of your marketing budget. And, as we all know, marketers are being pressured to show ROI on their programs more than ever before. Marketing automation allows you to showcase your value in actual sales dollars produced. This is the real power in marketing automation.

Create Relevant, Personal Customer Interactions

Marketing automation serves a basic marketing communication purpose, but it does so in a more strategic way—by providing more relevant communications. Customers want to receive personal information, and they want it to come to them instead of having to seek it out. Automation allows marketers to communicate with their customers strategically, and react to customers’ behavioral information in real-time.

It can also control the quality and quantity of information that customers receive, and reduce spam. We are making sure customers receive specific information and are able to control what, when and how much they are exposed to. It helps us lead the conversation with customers and help them form positive opinions about brands. And, because the messages are pre-programmed to happen in a certain way and flow logically, it allows us as marketers to focus on quality of message instead of quantity.

Check my next blog post on marketing automation in which I share insight into determining the right tools for your business, tips for getting started and how to define success.

Tips for Creating Smarter, More Effective Email Marketing

Email MarketingIt’s no secret that marketers have it tougher today than ever before. A saturated market place, overwhelming amounts of brand messages and shorter consumer attention spans are just a few of the challenges we face. Reaching your customers at the right time, on the right channel, with the right message, in less than 30 seconds isn’t exactly a walk in the park.

Email remains one of the most powerful marketing tools at our disposal. When used correctly, it can have a huge impact on your ROI and drive sales. According to a 2014 digital marketing strategy survey by Ascend2 and Research Partners, email is the most effective digital marketing tool and the least difficult to execute. However, given today’s challenges, marketers need to be smarter about executing email campaigns. Here’s what you need to do to elevate your email game:

1. Build your strategy around the right key performance indicators. Many marketers like to boast about strong email open rates. But open rates don’t provide us with important insights into what is resonating or working with customers; they tell us that images have been downloaded but don’t track behavior beyond that. On the other hand, click-through rates should be the industry benchmark we all consider while mining for data insights that will drive email strategy and results. This key metric tells us the consumer read the email and was intrigued enough to take action. Focusing on click-through rates may significantly decrease the volume of data you have to work with, but it also increases the quality of data you can leverage by providing you with actionable results. Click-through data can also help improve unsubscribe rates and create more personalized, relevant content.

2. Don’t underestimate a healthy database. A database with proper and current email addresses and contact information is of utmost importance for an email campaign. Why? Because it helps you segment lists and send hyper-targeted messaging to an audience that wants to be communicated to. The result? Higher-click-through rates, better data quality and insights that will drive your strategy for future communications.

3. Remember that content is king. Gone are the days of blanket emails to your entire database. Nothing will make your customers click “Unsubscribe” faster than generic, irrelevant content that’s been sent to 50,000 plus consumers. Use your database to your advantage and figure out what content is resonating with what segments and then target accordingly. Don’t be afraid to use relevant third-party content. White papers, blog posts and news articles can be leveraged in your email outreach to have a great impact on your program.

4. Make A/B testing mandatory. A/B testing, often referred to as split testing, determines which of two campaign options is the most effective based on open- or click-through-rates. You can simply distribute two variations of one campaign and send them to a small percentage of your total recipients. This provides insights into email elements—like subject lines, color, layout and link placement.

Email marketing truly is a science and, when done properly, it can drive sales, customer satisfaction and brand loyalty. Healthy and effective email campaigns will produce more relevant, personalized interactions with your customers. Taking the steps outlined here can make your brand more effective and maximize your marketing dollars.

Get to Know the Harte Hanks Team

Michel-1Michel Reid, Strategist

We sat down with Michel Reid, Strategist, who brings more than 15 years of human-centered solution design and client services experience to Harte Hanks, with a focus on communications strategy in both B2B and B2C across all mediums. With a degree in Mechanical Engineering and Engineering Design from Carnegie Mellon University, he knows how to create the most effective strategies using design and engineering principles. Prior to joining Harte Hanks, Michel was a strategist for Electronic Ink and Blue Diesel, working with some seriously impressive companies (name a high-end car company – I bet it’s on his list). Did we mention he’s also a Six Sigma Green Belt? Read on.

 

Q: Tell us what a typical day at Harte Hanks looks like from your perspective.

A: My day is spent developing new methodologies and strategic offerings; providing competitive analysis, multichannel strategic plans across multiple channels, including website strategic planning and customer relationships programs. I also spend time in consultation with our account management teams.

 

Q: What is your role in making customer interactions smarter and how did you get there?

A: I advise clients on omnichannel strategy and planning in both business and consumer verticals, including CRM, relationship marketing programs, websites, mobile, social media and e-mail relationship programs. I spend a lot of time reading research and analyses (both primary Harte Hanks and secondary) from a wide variety of sources in order to offer both a wide landscape view of the world and also enable Harte Hanks to provide a POV on how each client might move forward uniquely and successfully.

 

Q: What is your favorite part of working for Harte Hanks?

A: This is an easy one! My favorite part of working for Harte Hanks is absolutely the people. Working with very smart people who are just as passionate as I am to do great work for our clients is what keeps me going.

 

Q: What about the future of marketing are you most excited about? Trends? Tools? Platforms?

A: I am most excited about the trend toward truly relevant trigger-based conversation with customers. It brings marketing as close as I can imagine to having a real, human, one-to-one conversation with each and every customer. Maybe what attracts me is the inherent yin-yang of simplicity and complexity that such an endeavor implies….

 

Q: What is something about you that very few people know?

A: Not all of this is “secret” by any means, but still…I love cars and everything about them. I also love helping people fix their cars, even if they’re not broken, per se. I’ve been to Africa, Europe and Asia, but not yet to South America, Australia or Antarctica. My father is a world-class Jazz bassist, Rufus Reid.

How to Sell More this Holiday Season through Smarter Customer Interactions

sell more holiday marketingThe dog days of summer are quickly winding down. Back to school season is in full force, which can only mean one thing: it’s time for marketers to shift gears towards the upcoming holiday season.

Consider this: most retailers get about 20 percent of their annual sales during a typical holiday season (November through end of December). This presents an enormous opportunity to execute on holiday marketing campaigns that are highly targeted, relevant, and personal, and that can drive strong ROI and sales for your brand.

Use Trends to Your Advantage

I am sure holiday plans are nearing lock down; however, there are several “low-hanging” opportunities that every retailer should be considering. We have some recommendations to help you develop and execute these tactics quickly to drive as many sales as possible during this critical selling season.

But first, we can learn quite a bit from looking at some key retail trends from last year and statistics for the first half of 2015:

  1. According to the ShopperTrak, foot traffic continues to decline year-over-year for retailers. What does this mean for marketers? To no one’s surprise, more and more consumers are purchasing their holiday gifts online or through mobile applications.
  2. Additionally, Deloitte Research says that digital interactions are expected to influence 64 cents of every dollar spent in retail stores by the end of 2015. The ability of time-starved consumers to digitally research their holiday shopping and continue this digital research even in the store with their mobile device has changed the time spent shopping, the number of stores visited, and the knowledge consumers have in the store when they are engaging with store personnel. This means retail marketers need to evaluate all of their digital communications leading up to the important holiday shopping season and align important promotional and merchandise content with store associates.
  3. Lastly, consumers are demanding highly personalized and relevant messaging delivered to them whenever and wherever they need it.

Although sales were sluggish in the first half of 2015, the National Retail Federation (NRF) is predicting overall retail sales to grow at a more positive pace of 3.7 percent over the next five months.

Marketers need to be ready to strike while the iron is hot.

Here’s how to get your fair share of sales:

  • Remember that consumers are still looking for a deal no matter where they shop. Lower the purchase hurdle or remove online shipping fees as much as possible. Consider free shipping offers for your most loyal customers throughout the season, or introduce time-sensitive “flash sales” to create a sense of urgency, competition, and the “hunt for the deal” triumph that consumers love. If you have a loyalty program or credit card program, consider extra perks from November to December – double points, double rebates, etc.  These are your most valuable consumers and worth the investment.
  • Use mobile to help consumers locate and purchase what they want. According to Google, 82 percent of consumers consult their mobile device while in a store deciding what to buy. Be sure your website is optimized for mobile and offers your customers the same price and deals across all buying channels. There are many new services and capabilities, including those from our digital agency, 3Q Digital, that can help refine mobile marketing, mobile performance buying, optimization, app, and user acquisition strategies. Remember, too, that many consumers do research on mobile but complete the ultimate purchase on desktop (where the form fills are easier to complete). Mobile design needs to take into account the mentality of the mobile user (for more on how to reflect that, check out 3Q’s free whitepaper).
  • Review your search plan. For example, 3Q, whose clients include SurveyMonkey, Fitbit, and Eventbrite, conducts digital audits of search engine marketing to enable campaign management where the goal is to have 100 percent control of queries through the use of exact match, single-keyword ad groups, broad and broad modified match, and exact match negatives for mapping.
  • Leverage offline first-party data. First-party offline data represents a major opportunity for efficiently targeting and running online campaigns by opening the door to better retargeting as well as search, display, social, and look-a-like modeling. Data can enable improved conversions and personalization, and can help with programmatic display, landing page optimization, and engagement testing as well as inform an overall attribution plan for the holidays to optimize sales and insights.
  • Geo-targeting is all the rage. Proximal marketing is booming right now because it delivers messaging at the right place and times—when a consumer is physically close or inside a retail store. When implemented correctly, this can be one of the biggest sales drivers for the holiday season because it capitalizes on getting consumers who are near your store to go into your store.
  • Maximize your Facebook strategies as consumers spend more time on Facebook during the holidays. Note that Facebook is constantly updating its advertising features, targeting capabilities, and ad types – not to mention its News Feed algorithm – so make sure your creative, promotions, ad copy, and bidding strategies are tailored specifically for each audience.
  • Communicate via email throughout the holiday and do it often. Email is still one of the most powerful and cost-efficient marketing tools at our disposal. Use email at key days and times, including critical dates like Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and then conduct follow up campaigns one to two times per week during the remainder of the holiday season. Also, work with your team to give customers multi-channel offers. And don’t forget about January- give them ideas on ways to spend the gift cards they received!
  • Use timing trends to your advantage. Remember that Sunday and Monday of Thanksgiving week are amongst the top 10 shopping days of the year and offer some of the lowest prices of the season. Consumers are getting smarter about shopping early in the Black Friday week, so be sure to use strong email subject lines those days. Consider adding “deals of the day” for email and social channels – in fact, many retailers do a “deal of the day” for the 12 days of Christmas.

Your Pre-Holiday Checklist

Here’s a holiday checklist that can get your marketing into top shape for the holiday shopping season:

  • Optimize your search plan to ensure customers find your stores and website
  • Utilize offers like free shipping and flash sales to get your fair share of online sales
  • Use email throughout holiday to drive all sales channels
  • Consider developing an SMS strategy to create opt into holiday deals of the day
  • Use multi-channel offers customers want deals to use across all shopping channels
  • Evaluate your target audience and frequency strategy on email and direct mail to ensure reach and frequency at key times
  • Facebook is a channel that many of your customers will visit and interact with this holiday season, so make sure your strategy there is effective.
  • Have a strong measurement  plan that helps ID attribution so you know at the end of the season what tactics worked best
  • Lastly, don’t forget the stores!  Use all the above tools to drive both in store and online sales

With the right strategy, you can effectively compete and win this holiday shopping season. Be sure to capitalize on the trends, understand your consumer/customer base, and find a partner that can help you be smarter in the way you interact.

How to Get (and Stay!) Ahead of the Mobile Consumer: 5 Tips

mobile deviceSnapchat. WhatsApp. Tumblr. Instagram. It seems that every day, a new must-have mobile app is being downloaded on smartphones and tablets across the globe. In the fast moving world of mobile, it’s hard to keep track of where your customers are spending their time and how to connect with them across the plethora of social networks. Many brands now operate under the impression that it is easiest to develop their own app and have their customers interact with them there, rather than scatter their marketing budget trying to break through and engage on multiple social platforms.

Coupled with the rapid expansion of channels is the proliferation of devices. Smartphones, ‘wearables’ and sensors allow for a highly personalized customer experience because brands can now push content to the many different hardware sources for engagement purposes. Mobile technology moves the power into the hands of consumer, and it increases the demand for simplicity, contextuality and immediacy offered by ‘native’ experiences like Google Now, Uber and Twitter.

So how should brands adapt to the era of mobile disruption?

Five Tips for a Mobile-First Strategy

1. It’s still marketing, just with new channels.

It’s important to remember that the basic tenants of marketing still apply. You need a strategy. You need to identify your target audience. Ask yourself: where is my audience, how are they engaging, what do they want and need? Get to know your customer base by exploring and analyzing mobile behaviors. Only then should you decide on which channels you want to introduce your brand and interact, because you will know that your customers want to engage with your brand there.

2. Authenticity is key.

Mobile devices are inherently personal as they are with their owners 24/7 and reflect individual behaviors and preferences. To many people, their smartphone is like an appendage. Because of this personal, intimate connection that people have with their mobile devices, brands must spend the time to learn about how consumers interact with them. But there’s a fine line to walk, as you cannot be too intrusive. Intrusiveness can actually turn your customer off to your brand. By taking the humble approach and understanding how your brand can be useful to your customer through authentic and meaningful engagements, mobile can be the most effective channel there is to deliver your message and drive sales.

3. Think about your parameters.

When it comes to your mobile marketing strategy, think about how and where your customers will consume the information. The smartphone screen is relatively small – much smaller than a computer or TV screen – so be mindful of that. Your customers may be consuming your content on the go, so use simple language, preferably 12 words or less. You should also assume that your customer will consume your message in 1.5 seconds or less. Which leads us to the next rule…

4. Be compelling.

Conduct behavioral research and figure out how your target audience is using their devices. If you only have a couple of sentences, how will you demand attention and deliver your value proposition in an interactive and compelling way? Make it more visual with less copy, and make your language simple, eloquent and easily digestible. Be a minimalist. Remember, less is more with mobile.

5. Use data to your advantage.

Speaking of research, there is more data than ever before at our fingertips. Use that data to your advantage: track where your audience is, learn how they interact with their device and then use the power of data insights to your advantage. With real-time feedback and engagement, you can tweak your mobile marketing campaigns and make them more effective on the fly. Put strong call to actions in your message and see if they resonate. If your customer is not taking the actions you want, conduct more behavioral research, figure out why and then use that insight to reach your audience in the way that they want to be engaged.

We’re still learning a lot about mobile technologies and how we can leverage the data produced by devices to create smarter customer interactions. Following the five steps I outlined above can help get you closer to your consumer and utilize mobile technologies and platforms in a more meaningful and impactful way. The opportunity for marketers is huge now that most of the world is developing for mobile first experiences.

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