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Sunday
Dec292013

2014 Marketing Resolution #2: Get your customer data act together (or, embrace “Little Data”) 

Quick, your VP of Sales has requested your team to send out a year-end email promotion to prior customers with certain characteristics.

A surprising number of companies could not pull off this simple request, at least within a reasonable turnaround time. Why? Because they still do not have a consistent method for managing customer data based on simple profiling characteristics.

While much larger organizations have hired data-mining agencies to compile predictive customer models based on Google search behavior and other valuable data, many other organizations at the small, mid- or division level couldn’t pull a simple list to execute an email campaign.

Clean, coherent data is a cornerstone for digital and relationship marketing. Yet it’s an afterthought for many marketing leaders. Why?

Part of the reason stems from a poor understanding of what data to capture and manage and its connection to return on investment. There is an unlimited number of possible data types to capture, but which ones are most valuable for targeting and predicting new revenue?

  • Demographic – Age, income, gender, geography or other traits?
  • Psychographic – Beliefs, attitudes or values?
  • Behavioral – Search and social media activity? Distribution preference? Life triggers?
  • Recency – Recent buying or customer service patterns?

Typically it’s a combination of these factors, but the key is understanding the mix for your organization in your industry. That level of understanding only comes from a concerted effort to develop a process for developing a strategy, testing hypotheses, and committing to ongoing learning.

“Big Data” - finding meaningful trends in the mass of data trails customers leave behind in their daily search, social and sales interactions - is a big opportunity, but many firms need to get their “Little Data” in order to harvest the low-hanging fruit that simple customer insights provide.

Mythology can help you develop your data strategy and implement an effective targeted marketing engine. Contact us; we’d love to hear from you!

Resolution #1: Clarify your differentiation
Resolution #2: Get your customer data act together 
Resolution #3: Define and test compelling calls to action
Resolution #4: Build your digital marketing capacity
Resolution #5: Love and delight your current customers

 

Friday
Dec272013

Get Your Marketing in Shape for 2014: Five New Year’s Resolutions for Senior Business Executives

For the cynical among us, this is that time when people create lists of goals that will be ignored yet again just a few days into the New Year. For the more optimistic, the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is an exciting opportunity for reflection and commitment towards renewal and growth.

For senior marketers and top executives, this is certainly a time to strengthen resolve and identify opportunities to achieve goals. The top two methods for realizing business success include a) finding and growing customer revenue, and b), operating more efficiently to cut costs.

Over the next few days we’ll be sharing some worthy 2014 resolutions to fulfill the first part of that equation. Here’s #1:


2014 Marketing Resolution #1: Clarify your differentiation to drive distance between you and competitors (or, find that red penguin suit)

Each year, billions are spent on marketing that pushes out messages that are too similar. Think about how often you view an otherwise entertaining or interesting commercial, but then forget exactly which company is behind it? This is often because the organization behind the advertising has not a) crafted a truly different brand position in the marketplace, and/or b) failed to successfully attach that message to their creative.

This can be difficult for organizations competing in seemingly “commodity” markets like insurance or legal services. But by establishing a different position in the minds of customers via emotional and/or functional criteria, it can be done. For example, which of these auto insurance companies stand out not just for their creative (i.e., which animal or quirky spokesperson they’re using to represent them), but for the different type of value they offer?

  • Progressive
  • GEICO
  • Allstate
  • State Farm

Most industry observers give kudos to GEICO for the consistency and clarity of their value proposition, which is hammered home in every single ad: "15 minutes could save you 15% or more.”

"It is a simple, clean pitch," said Jeremy Bowler, senior director-global insurance at J.D. Power. "They clearly staked out their position and have maintained that position."

At Mythology we like to describe the “red penguin suit,” that unique, memorable quality that no other competitor can claim that helps you stand out in a sea of black tuxedos. Seth Rodin likes to call it the “Purple Cow.” Whatever colorful analogy you prefer, figure it out and your marketing will leap forward in its effectiveness and return on investment because it will not have to work so hard to achieve its goal.

Would you like to sharpen your differentiated value proposition in 2014? Mythology offers highly effective strategy workshops and market validation testing services to sharpen your message. Contact us, we'd love to hear from you! 

Read additional 2014 marketing resolutions: 

 

Resolution #1: Clarify your differentiation
Resolution #2: Get your customer data act together 
Resolution #3: Define and test compelling calls to action
Resolution #4: Build your digital marketing capacity
Resolution #5: Love and delight your current customers

 

 

Thursday
Dec262013

B2B or B2C – Does it Matter Anymore? Marketing Strategies for the Technology Industry

Back in the day (that is when I got my degree in marketing), there were unique approaches to marketing depending on whether you considered yourself a B2B (business-to-business) or B2C (business-to-consumer) organization.  B2C marketing was primarily product driven, with a focus on benefits and the target markets were large.  Brand identity focused on repetition aimed at emotional decision-making.

B2B marketing in general was relationship driven at smaller, more focused markets and emphasized structured and rational decision making.

An October 2013 white paper by Avanade suggests that the lines are now blurred. “B2B buyers are shopping at work like they do at home.”  According to the report, 61% of B2B buyers are consulting 3rd party sources such as social channels, business partners or peers before contacting a company’s sales force.   Perhaps more importantly, post-purchase, 42% reviewed the vendor on a third party website, while 32% posted a review on social media channels (such as Facebook or LinkedIn) and 19% posted comments on Twitter.

So what does that mean for technology companies selling an application or solution in the B2B space?

While the B2B buyer is now exhibiting consumer-like behaviors prior to purchase, marketing a new technology or service is still different than marketing a consumer product due to the risk involved with the purchase.  The solution could have a direct impact on business operations and is usually more costly and complicated.  In other words, the buyer has a lot more at stake.   The buyer may be investigating external feedback similar to consumer buyers, but the reliability and implied authority of that objective information that they seek out prior to the purchase is much more important.

Therefore, market adoption of a technology product is dependent upon helping customers reduce perceived risk. 

More emphasis on a differentiated brand. 

A great exercise is to compare several of your competitor’s websites with your own with an objective eye.  Is there anything different about your brand messaging that stands out?   Working with several technology service providers, when asked “what makes you different”, the answer is usually very similar:  “We have the brightest people” or “we aren’t satisfied until all of the customer’s needs are met”.  The response from application or software developers usually focuses on technical features of their product or solution instead of how it will benefit the buyer.

Thought leadership strategy that reinforces the brand

Whether through blogs, webinars, whitepapers, or customer references, establishing thought leadership should reinforce your differentiated branding.  The tendency is for technology companies to create most of their content with a technical emphasis, such as a demo of the solution and a list of specifications.  Certainly, this is important to deliver at the right stage, but what will elevate your company and create the social buzz that you need will be more thought leadership around industry trends or business benefits that cannot be delivered by your competitors. 

Calls to action

Every touch point should have an opportunity to elevate that conversation.  When potential prospects read your blog or attend your webinar, be sure to have a way for them to engage.  Whether that is as simple as creating social media sharing links, providing the ability to comment or a specific call to action, you want to create valuable information that will educate your audience, illustrate your industry expertise and stimulate further action.

Content consistency

This is a challenge that is not unique to the technology industry.  The time and actual material to continually feed the content marketing engine with valuable and relevant information to potential buyers is often where the marketing engine stalls.  This process can be facilitated by creating content calendars, with categorized topics assigned to multiple members of the organization to help share in the creation of content.

Technology companies should strive to build a marketing engine outside of their existing sales process with the end game of developing inbound qualified leads.  Instead of a B2B or B2C focus, think of person-to-person.  Create and continue conversations with potential customers that elevate your messaging to an authoritative position and focus on the reducing the buyers’ perceived risk with purchasing and implementing your technology.

Friday
Dec062013

An Inside Look Into Higher Education Marketing

As technology becomes more prominent in the classroom, higher education institutions must stay on top of their marketing efforts in order to keep up with newly integrated technologies. Additionally, changes in college demographics have continued to alter the environments of these institutions. Older adults are increasingly choosing to obtain college degrees. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the enrollment of students over the age of 25 increased a whopping 42% from the year 2000 to 2010. Colleges and universities must make the necessary changes that fulfill the needs of their evolving demographics.

In order to gain more insight into how higher education institutions adapt to change from a marketing standpoint, we interviewed Scott Castleman, Director of Communications at the University of Charleston. Mythology previously worked with U.C. to create a marketing plan for the branding of the University, as well as a recruiting plan for their admissions office.

 

Mythology: What does 'great marketing' look like to you?

Scott: ‘Great marketing,’ to me, is not as much as a look as it is a feel. There are a lot of things that can be considered great marketing, and they’re all completely different. It has to be something that strikes a chord in the customer. It invokes some type of strong feeling or passion and gets them to look more into the product or company. All kinds of things work visually, but the most important thing for marketers to do is to provide that special feeling in which customers can relate.


Mythology: What have you found to be the most effective marketing tool in your own business or industry?

Scott: We use a lot of different tools. UC still works with a lot of traditional media. We are recruiting different demographics, age wise. We’re still using direct mail such as newsletters and brochures, and we’re also using email, social media and phone marketing. The heaviest thing, cost-wise, right now is online advertising. Google, Facebook, Bing. The most important and effective tool in my opinion is just the personal aspect of being available when someone calls, or comes in for an in-person meeting. Making a personal connection with people is key, in my opinion.


Mythology: Prior to working with Mythology, what did you consider the weakest aspect
of your marketing system in need of improving?

Scott: Being a small school, the most difficult thing is having enough man power to accomplish everything we want to do. Being able to focus on the big picture items, what our campaign and messaging is going to look like, while also recruiting students and so on. Not having enough people to do the work necessary and to the best of our ability.


Mythology: What would you like your business to gain next from effective marketing?

Scott: Last year we made a lot of strides in the coordination of our marketing plan and building a strong look and feel of our brand. Next, it’s all about growing it into the next stage. I think building a strong brand message takes time. We want to continue to grow and spread our mission statement, “A life of opportunity begins at UC,” which we always try our best to share with students and show them what it truly means.

 
Mythology: What are the biggest needs, business wise, in your industry?

Scott: Higher education is experiencing changes in landscape. Almost all families are being hit by the struggling economy. Everyone is looking more closely at how much they’re spending on groceries and other necessities, to where they want to go to college. Now more than ever we’re looking at the importance of cost and being able to back up the added value in going to a small, private school. We have to show people why going to our school is valuable and what sets it apart from others.


Mythology: What marketing business process most needs improved, in your opinion?

Scott: The willingness to change and evolve in the higher education market. Students are 24/7 consumers now; they want to be able to get answers to their questions as soon as possible. Being able to think beyond the 9 to 5 work schedule and think beyond personal touch, and also coming up with innovative ways to recruit students online and through social media and so on.


Mythology: Have you received any insightful feedback regarding your business' marketing?

Scott: New campuses have been added and we’ve added to our staff in the marketing department. There’s been an added emphasis in sharing our brand through both traditional and online advertising. There’s been a lot of response through both of those methods. Since advertising has expanded, more students have looked into U.C. and we’ve gained a larger population. We have a Vice President of Marketing, I am the Communications Director and we have an IMC (Integrated Marketing Campaigns) team that works with all of the different offices.


Mythology: What would you say are the top 3 needs of your customers?

Scott: The biggest need in higher education right now is recruiting teenagers and adults. More adults than ever are going back to school-- not just teenagers. We are looking at two different demographics: Millenial and post-millenial. The millenials are the ‘me’ generation and we need to show them that the opportunities they are looking for exist here and why. Adults focus on graduating as quickly and conveniently as possible, so we are working on offering online and evening classes, and so on, to fulfill their needs. We have to show prospective students in both categories that we offer what they are looking for. Secondly, there is the need of being able to answer quickly, and be readily available to students. Students are more interested now than ever in shared learning and working in groups. Students are more tech-savvy than ever, expecting their professors to know more about technology than they do. Finally, the need for blended learning options: offering some courses online, others in classrooms, and integrating more with technology.

 
Mythology:  What would help other senior leaders in your organization understand and value marketing from a strategic perspective?

Scott: Susan Backofen is our Vice President of Marketing. She has shown great marketing through using metrics. For example, by investing a certain amount into our marketing, we get a specific ROI. The biggest help has been being able to show our return on investment.

 
Mythology: Is there anything that could have improved your experience with Mythology?

Scott: Mythology did a great job of producing quality work in a short amount of time. The work that was done helped us to build the foundation for our marketing team. We were able to pick up and take off right where we left.

 

Tuesday
Nov262013

Is Your Brand Image Hurting Your Recruitment Efforts?

One of the consistent challenges in the technology and professional service industries is the ability to acquire and retain the best and brightest in a very competitive marketplace.  Many organizations have invest in the use of social media, employee referral programs and technology to enable the screening, submitting and sharing of resumes.  But many fail to consider how their corporate brand is received by potential hires.

A recent Silkroad Report, “Recruiting Marketing Effectiveness," showed that 36% of interviews came through the company’s career website.  An organization’s career site is a key element in the recruiting process, and it should be easy to find, with detailed job descriptions and online processes for applying.

But the site should be more than just a list of job openings.  It is an opportunity to present the core brand of the organization and for applicants to evaluate whether they are a good fit for the culture.  Companies who want to recruit top people need to sell themselves.  Just as your company’s overall brand should communicate to your customers why they should choose your products over the competition, your recruitment brand should communicate to applicants why they would want to work for your company over your competitors.

When considering what your recruitment/employee brand should communicate, approach it in the same way you would any branding exercise, with the goal of attracting top applicants. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is our company’s culture?  How are our company’s values reflected through our employees?
  • What are the company’s strengths? 
  • What are the personal attributes that are most important for success once hired?
  • How will working at our company differ than at the competition?
  • How are we currently seen as an employer?  What do our current employees say about working here?  What do our customers think of us?

Viewing a corporate brand through a potential new hire’s perspective will create a recruitment brand that will attract the top candidates.  That brand should be visible at every touch point in the hiring process.  In technology and professional service industries, where the competition for top talent is ever increasing, make sure you are marketing to your future employees the same way you market to your customers.

How does your brand stand out, differentiate you from competitors and establish your powerful, unique value proposition for new hires?  A Brand Mythology Workshop can help you assess and strengthen your brand in ways that will show up in improved hiring and attracting the top talent.