Content Marketing: How to Engage with Your Target Audience – by Ardath Albee

Now that our Digital Marketing One series for CMOs reviewed the most critical know-how for a variety of channels, the focus shifts to digital marketing techniques.

You can apply these marketing techniques across digital channels.

And the first insights that I’d like to point readers to come from writer and consultant Ardath Albee on content marketing.

To paraphrase from Ardath’s article, the best content marketers have been able to:

  1. increase lead conversion rates (e.g. by 70%!!!)
  2. make it more likely that leads will respond to calls
  3. and – most impressive to me – increase average sales values!!

Yet,content marketers also have the Internet awash with bezillions of “Top 10 tricks” guides and bezillions of free webinars on every conceivable topic. So, it can be really, really hard to get good marketing returns on your content.

Ardath’s article provides golden advice to strategize on your content development in a systematic manner.

Ardath Albee Ardath‘s book, eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale was recently released by McGraw-Hill. Ardath is a B2B Marketing Strategist and the CEO of her firm, Marketing Interactions, Inc. She applies her business management and marketing experience to help companies with complex sales use eMarketing strategies to generate more and better sales opportunities.

I asked Ardath recently which industries (besides B2B) benefit from content marketing. Here was her response:

All industries can find benefit from content marketing. My focus just happens to be B2B companies with complex sales that require building engagement over time with lots of education and expertise and more than one person involved in the decision. Yet, the equivalent in B2C markets would be buying a house or buying a car or even life insurance or investing for retirement or to fund your children’s college education.

An example in B2C are Baby Center’s iterative emails for new parents who need to learn a lot to raise children.

I think the difference is really in the approach and type of content selected. For example, Lego would likely do well by creating content that engages kids in what they can build, creating interactive games, contests, etc. And, I’d even bet there’s a niche out there with adults who haven’t ever given them up.

To learn more from Ardath, check out the following:

How can You Increase Digital Marketing ROI and Accountability?

How can you increase digital marketing ROI and accountability? Isn’t that the question that keeps digital marketers and CMOs up at night?

The DigitalMarketingOne Founders Council has spent the last couple of months collaborating to gather cross-functional advice on this question. The result is a series of short articles from our Founders Council members. Bob Thompson, CEO of Customer Think is the editor in chief for the project.

What’s new here?

The cool and really remarkable thing here is that each author is an expert in a different niche within digital marketing.  And so collectively the articles will break across digital silos and show how the many puzzle pieces can be assembled into a digital strategy that supports the business.

Kicking it off with the Strategic Roadmap for Digital Marketing

As the chair of the Founders Council, I have had the pleasure to coordinate our collaboration during the project. And I have had the honor of kicking off the article series earlier this month with the strategic roadmap for digital marketing which has also been discussed on this blog before.

Now, on to the First Area of Expert Advice: Digital Marketing Channels

With the top level strategy set, the first set of articles summarize the minimum that a chief marketer must know about various digital channels. It is one of the most remarkable but also most challenging aspects of digital just how many channels there are (advertising, search, email, social, mobile, etc. etc.)

You can’t hope to increase ROI and accountability without channel specific know-how.

First Channel know-how Article: Ted Boyd on Interactive Advertising

So, with that I’d like to point you to the first article in the series that was published within the area of channel expertise. We are kicking of with Ted Boyd’s advice on Interactive Advertising.

There are two kinds of advertising online that have something to do with interactivity. Namely, targeted advertising on the one hand and directly interactive ads on the other hand that may for example include a little video or game. Ted’s key advice is focused on the latter kind of ad.

Key take away: Interactivity is the major strength that the Internet has over offline advertising. So, Interactive Ads are an opportunity that digital marketers must at least consider to do digital justice. Yet, a measurement strategy will be key so you can prove that the extra effort of making the ad interactive pays back.

A few words about Ted Boyd

Ted is CEO of 58Ninety Inc., a Toronto-based Digital Agency. 58Ninety helps clients create strategies and engaging experiences that span multiple technologies, platforms and media channels. Mr. Boyd is the founding President of the Interactive Advertising Bureau of Canada, a Director of The Audit Bureau of Circulations, Chair of the Audit Bureau of Circulations’ Canadian Digital Advisory Committee and a Director of CBC/Radio-Canada.

Read his article on Interactive Advertising here.

Online to Offline conversion – A real estate web site

(This post is part of a series on the state of multichannel metrics today, one year after the book came out.)

The previous post examined a B2B example of integrating web analytics into predictive analytics and the data warehouse for online to offline conversion optimization. Now, let’s look at one more example. This time from B2C at the hand of a nifty client of Unica’s in the real estate industry

For competitive reasons, the company asked that their names not be published. As you can tell from that, these analytics are of a caliber that helps this company compete on analytics.

What is a Marketer to do these days!

Marketers get flak from consumers when they spam or interrupt them at unwelcome moments.

And so a marketer may lean back from push marketing and switch to pull marketing, i.e. let consumers drive and self-service their needs.

But then it won’t take long before the marketer will get flak from the CEO for not being pro-active and driving as much business as they could.

Dammed if you do, dammed if you don’t, it may seem.

Intelligent middle ground

This real estate industry company is choosing a clever middle ground by feeding web analytics data into predictive modeling.

They are using web analytics (in this case Unica’s NetInsight in two ways:

First, the traditional way, i.e. reports and analytics to make web site and advertising better.

But secondly, web analytics at the level of individual visitors to their web site. Key behavioral data is accessed in the web analytics data mart including visitor:

  • recency
  • frequency
  • length on site
  • number of pages viewed
  • key site events that may signal significant engagement

This behavioral data is fed into Unica’s predictive analytics module.

Besides web analytics data, the predictive analysis is also fed with data from the customer registration database, e.g. stated real estate buying / selling intentions and parameters.

The sausage making

A linear regression model predicts the likelihood for each visitor to be serious about a real estate transaction in upcoming weeks. Rank ordering registered site visitors by this probablity allows the company to reach out to the top candidates at each moment in time.

More precisely, the analytics are used to prioritize who will be contacted by email campaigns vs. who is ripe for an outbound sales call. The sales force automation system used by the company literally bubbles hot and ripe leads up to the top so they get addressed first.

The results

The targeted approach makes both the customer service team and the outbound campaign management efforts that much more successful.

To be precise, the company achieved 22% lift out of their predictive models.

Multichannel metrics pay off in real Dollars (Euros, Yens, …).

The implementation phase

Let me finish with a big thank you to marketing services provider, Amberleaf, who were the services company that integrated multiple Unica products ranging from web analytics to predictive modeling, campaign management, and lead management.

Our real estate industry client has had access to a web analytics web data mart for many years already. But connecting the dots between web and customer analytics into marketing and sales management applications still required an extra step.

It took the combination of a visionary CEO and an experienced, yet affordable, systems integrator to pull it off.

Online to Offline Conversions

(This post is part of a series on the state of multichannel metrics today, one year after the book came out.)

Believe it or not, one of the downsides of the WWW is that it can actually produce too many leads that are unqualified.

Too many leads? How could that be a problem?

Well, …

  • How can Sales and Marketing sift through all the pebbles to find the nuggets, i.e. the serious and profitable buyers that they should jump on first without losing time to cold leads?
  • How to help the sales and marketing teams be more intelligent in what they are going to say to a hot web lead when they do get in touch?

Automobile industry was the original innovator here

As you may imagine, the car industry has been aching for a solution to these questions more urgently than anyone else. After all, the research shopping phenomenon is most pronounced here.

That is, almost everybody researches their next car online. But in all my tours throughout Europe and US I have only met two people who actually entered their credit card online and ordered their car for pick up in the dealership. The rest continued their shopping in the dealerships, i.e. offline.

Me too, I remember, I was up-sold and cross-sold the old fashioned way by a used car sales man in the dealership.

Back in 2006 already, some of the most remarkable presentations that I have ever witnesses at the eMetrics Marketing Innovation summit came from car manufacturers on this very subject.

Ford and Volkswagen

As presented by Ford and Volkswagen, their online teams struck a partnership with their sales and marketing teams for delivering better and more actionable leads.

Their efforts included many action items including wonderful traditional web analytics for improving advertising, landing pages, and web site experience.

But also included was an effort to listen to prospective buyers much more closely and turn the signals that buyers are sending through their click behavior into more intelligent responses offline.

The sausage making process

Through a patchwork of product solutions (from web analytics to data mining and sales force automation), web behavior data was fed into a profiling and scoring process:

  • Profiling
    • Based on their behavior (e.g. in the product configurator), does the buyer seem interested in the brand or already in a particular model?
    • Are there particular accessories that the buyer is looking for?
    • If the prospect is registered what did they specify about their current ownership?
    • Etc.
  • Scoring
    • Based on the online behavior (e.g. recency, frequency) how close does the prospect seem to a buying decision?
    • Based on the profile, how profitable a buyer do we have at hand?

Then Volkswagen would interpret the profile to send the brochure that would be most likely to be helpful, e.g. focused on attracting the buyer to the brand vs. providing more info on a specific model.

Likewise, Ford would aim to give an indication to the dealership how hot a lead seems to be so that they would time and prioritize their sales outreach accordingly.

Business Results

Volkswagen found very high correlation between those touched by their marketing effort vs. closed car sales. But at the time of their presentation in 2006 they had not done controlled testing yet. In other words, at that time they could not yet prove that the buyers wouldn’t have purchased anyway.

Ford found that leads ranked as “hot” were six times more likely to purchase than “cold” leads and still twice as likely as the average lead. So the business case for making the sales team more effective is very strong. The case for customers is strong too, i.e. the ones most urgently in need of assistance are likely to be served first.

The morale

This innovation made sense to many other industries as well. Namely, in all considered purchases where the sales cycle used to be with a live sales person before the WWW, but where the process now tends to start with self-service research online.

Offline, in the store, you used to simply watch shoppers’ behavior to assess their readiness and interests. Should you leave them alone or are they looking like they could use assistance?

Online, the same customer service idea applies. So why would you ignore all those signals that the clicks are sending!

In the next post we’ll go over two modern adaptations of this idea. One in real estate and the other in B2B high tech.

Competing of Data … for Competing on Analytics

For those about to compete on analytics – I salute you!

The reference to ACDC isn’t unfounded. After all … data rocks!

If you want to create competitive advantage for your company by using analytics more cleverly than your competitors, then the first question is:

What kind of data will you use for those analytics?

When it comes to customer data, most marketers today have many choices to to pick from. Their (unified or disparate) data marts contain everything from

  • transactions
  • to personal details
  • to marketing contact and response history,
  • and in much too few cases also the web site interaction history of individuals, i.e. web analytics at the personal level

Leaders have found ways of using some of this data to leave the competition in the dust:

  • Online marketers may think of Amazon, for example, or its cousin in the Netherlands: Bol.com.
  • Offline marketers may think of companies such as CapitalOne who grew rapidly thanks to clever direct marketing fueled by analytics (as documented in the book Competing on Analytics.)

Yet at many other companies the customer data unfortunately are sitting idle in the data mart, collecting dust, and are not getting leveraged as well as they could be.

With some imagination, you could visualize the idle data silos talking among themselves and scheming how to get out of their isolation and boredom.

You could say, the data are in a competition with each other to get adopted by the marketer first. For that, each data source needs to make the case that it is the best weapon for the marketer to take with her into the battle against the competition.

“Hey, pick me, I can help you more than the next data silo”

So in the hustle and bustle of the various data sources fighting it out with each other, you might catch following battle cries:

“I am the transaction data”

I come in many forms, for example, shopping baskets at retailers, call data records at Telcos, and account transactions at banks or credit card companies. Since virtually all companies study me already though, it is going to take some more ingenious analytics before you can differentiate yourself using me.

Such distinguished analytics can for example be behavioral event detection, i.e. the detection of changes in individuals’ patterns of behavior. For example, banks do this very successfully by flagging individual customers who may be ready for cross-sales or retention efforts. This may for example be the case when a customer has an unusually large deposit on their bank account relative to the individuals’ personal past deposit averages.

Companies that use me well have increased their marketing success rates 5 to 12 times. So you betcha you can compete using me!

“I am the marketing contact and response history”

Most marketers think of me as just a tactical “log” of past interactions. If at all, I am used for calculating a direct marketing campaign’s response rate.

accountant

But in today’s world of multichannel, interactive (or dialog) marketing, I have a much more strategic role to play. Namely, a marketer that doesn’t take me into account is like someone who is talking while turning a deaf ear to the conversation partners’ responses.

Therefore, I am the one who can help you go from mass marketing to interactive (or dialog) marketing. Since few marketers use me well today, you can really compete on analytics with me!

“I am demographics data”

Most companies have some form of me available.

I am often helpful for framing who is in the company’s target audience so that you don’t waste your marketing funds talking to people who won’t buy anything from you anyway.

But I have been around for such a long time, even I can’t remember how you could use me to create a competitive advantage. What can you do with me that your competition isn’t already doing?

“I am the customers’ permission and preference data”

I may seem like a bore at first — after all I represent the customer’s interests and not the marketer’s. But companies that use me well are able to continue the interactive exchange with customers while companies who ignore me lose their permission to market.

For example, leaders in email marketing offer their subscribers not just an “opt-out” but a way to manage for themselves when and how often they wish to be contacted about what. Ditto with RSS marketing. Instead of losing a prospect to an opt-out, you are given a chance to be relevant.

“I am the web analytics data”

Most web marketers package me into reports and good looking dashboards. They use me to make their web sites and advertising more successful.

But since I am used that way by almost everyone already, it is really tough for you to compete on me this way.

You have to be cleverer than that to turn me into gold!

funnel-to-individuals

A straight forward but rarely tapped opportunity is to make web analytics personal (download the whitepaper), i.e. to learn about each individual prospect or customers’ current interests as demonstrated by their most recent web site sessions, clicks, and keywords.

This can fuel behavioral targeting, event based marketing, or highly predictive analytics. Marketers can use me to send the right re-marketing, on-boarding, cross-sales or retention recommendation to each customer at the right time.

Companies that use me well today are the leaders in their space, e.g. Amazon, eBay, Verizon, and many others.

————————-

So, if you have so many data to choose from which should you pick?

This will depend on your business and your competition. Most likely you have many more than just a single opportunity. And just like any other marketing investment you want to forecast potential returns vs. costs of getting there.

You’d start implementing the opportunity that has the best potential. But you shouldn’t stop there. Rather, all initiatives that promise a lucrative ROI (above your hurdle rate) are worth doing and should be funded. That is the only way in which you will maximize total returns.

So, go ahead, make your business case and your CFO will get you the funds.

Yes, these days many budgets have been cut.

But just today I was hearing from a business intelligence manager at a large client of mine. She made her case for solving a long standing business problem through extremely innovative use of (web) analytics. This was a business problem that the company hadn’t been able to solve through any other means. And sure enough, three weeks ago she got the resources that she wanted.

For those about to compete on analytics, we salute you. You rock!


It’s a Predictable World! (Save 15% on the Predictive Analytics World conference)

These are great times for friends of business analytics. There are many telltale signs that after all these years, business analytics are still a rising star. Especially so, when it comes to advanced analytics such as predictive modeling.

Analytics, Superstar

In 2007 we were given the eye opening book Competing on Analytics by authors Davenport and Harris. While mostly a compilation of all the various kinds of analytics that have been used in the enterprise, its claim to fame is to motivate that analytics can be more than just rear-view mirror reporting.

Analytics can and should form the strategic basis on which companies compete.

The kind of math that Davenport and Harris find deserving of the name analytics are in fact predictive analytics, i.e. data mining and discovery of unexpected insights in data. In contrast, the kind of math used within most of today’s web analytics and business intelligence merely deserve the name reporting in Davenport and Harris’ description.

Enter: Predictive Analytics World, Feb 18-19 in San Francisco

For the very first time next month, conference chair Eric Siegel and team are bringing us the Predictive Analytics World conference. The timing couldn’t be better!

 Predictive Analytics World

Now more than ever, businesses require leadership from their analytics teams. We are all asked to do more with less. If predictive analytics are the top of the line, the kind of analytics that are most likely to form the strategic basis on which our companies can compete, then we all need to learn how, and we need to learn asasp.

In my Multichannel Marketing book I review

  • why it is so imperative for direct marketers to draw on predictive analytics for prioritizing their contact lists.
  • why brand marketers draw on marketing mix modeling to predict the effect of an extra marketing dollar spent on TV vs. radio vs. print, and even vs. online.
  • that web marketers can draw on predictive analytics for behavioral targeting
  • how central customer analytics teams at Wachovia (now merged into Wells Fargo) predict which of multiple promising offers should go out to each customer in order to make it most likely that overall results will be maximized.

But most importantly, I touch on practical challenges with getting predictive analytics right.

Why attend the Predictive World Conference?

I couldn’t imagine a better opportunity than the upcoming Predictive Analytics World conference for practitioners to learn first hand how to turn the theory into practice.

My personal prediction is that the math is the least difficult part of predictive analytics.

If nothing else, modeling software can take care of the math anyway and make it user friendly to Marketers.

What is much more critical however is to know how to apply the analytics for generating business value.

Of the many things you could analyze, where do you start and how do you go about it? Rather than spending 2009 doodling in the data, here is an opportunity to make predictive analytics a work horse for your company.

Are Predictive Analytics Worthwhile?

Companies that have competed successfully on predictive analytics include for example Capital One. They used to be a tiny, peripheral player and grew to be a dominant giant by getting predictive analytics right.

Take the survey

Predictive Analytics World starts being educational even before you attend. I encourage you to take the informal survey that they just put out. It doesn’t take more than 4 minutes but it will already teach you something, namely about more business applications for predictive analytics than you ever knew. I certainly learned something.

Plus, you can request to receive a copy of the survey results once the polls are closed. Then you will really know how your peers are using predictive analytics.

Get a 15% discount on Predictive Analytics World

The Predictive Analytics World organizers were kind enough to extend a 15% discount to readers of Multichannel Marketing Metrics. Use registration code

akinpaw09

when you get your ticket and save a big chunk of money.

Not a bad start!

America's Next Online-Offline Marketer

So you think you know what this “online-offline” marketing thing is all about? Forgive my presumptuousness–but I bet you don’t know the half of it!

The electronic Retailer magazine published an article in the October issue that I have been burning to write for a while.

America's next online-offline marketer

When I meet marketers from the online or the offline sides they both tend to come with ready made assumptions about the “online-offline” thing. 

Yet, from having had the chance to talk to both sides, I came to realize that both camps usually fall short in their views. They can learn so much from each other.

Hope you may find the article a fun read.

Akin

Is the "Long Tail" What It's Cracked Up to Be?

Media Post newsletter alerts us to following controversial article in the Wall Street Journal about Chris Anderson’s book “The Long Tail”: Study Refutes Niche Theory Spawned by Web .

There is something in there that is even more alert worthy than the study that disagrees with the “Long Tail” idea. Namely, the community of Internet Marketers is criticized for talking up amongst ourselves a biased view towards business.

Ross Fadner brings this concerning warning to the point in his Media Post summary:

 “He says the Long Tail theory flattered readers, who were mostly techies, into thinking that the Internet was changing everything. That group tends to have a “contemptuous” view of mass media anyway, he says, and was thusly predisposed to appreciating anything undermining its power.”

That is a bucket of ice cold water over our heads in the Internet space. 

Yet another wake up call that we should take off the blinders and look at the world from multiple perspectives, not just the online perspective.

Erwin Ephron on Media

The first master of multichannel marketing in this mini series was Hurol Inan. He is from the online marketing world. Next came Kevin Hillstrom whose background is from direct marketing. So, in the name of multichannel consciousness, it is high time now to pick a guru from the brand marketing world. Where is the Rosetta Stone for online, direct, and brand marketers?

Erwin Ephron is my favored guru and writer from that brand marketing world. I know Ephron only from his website EphronOnMedia.com. Watch out web analysts and direct marketers! This site is a dream come true with easy to read and understand articles that provide a glimpse into a media planners world.

Erwin Ephron is the father of modern media planning, as far as I understand. What does that mean? It means for example scheduling the frequency and intensity of advertising methodically so to drive up results. Given a budget constraint, should ads be scheduled frequently to hit viewers multiple times per week or should the budget be spread across the year so to reach as many first time viewers as possible?

Much research has been done on the topic. Ephron’s contribution seems to be especially in the area of analyzing the benefit of recency of ad exposures for driving results. He is sometimes referred to as the father of “recency planning”. Read how Ephron teaches tap to this elephant.

The TV channel still gets the most advertising dollars 

Media planning of course also means choosing the channels that will improve outcomes.  How is it done? With analytics of course! Multichannel analytics.

Clearly Ephron’s focus across his long carreer have been the traditional offline channels, TV, radio, print, etc. These are the ones he has written about. Not a bad idea, since TV is still  – today – the channel where marketers are spending the largest chunk of their budget, namely thirty to fourty percent.

Priceless Ephron moments include:

  • The Brittle Bones of Media where Ephron concludes that TV advertising can be made more effective by flighting radio ads in parallel. Especially today when viewers can dodge TV ads easily.
  • Quote from Ephron on Accountability: “Buying advertising is like buying a melon; you have to spend the money before you find out if it’s any good.” Hence the requirement for measurement!
  • Finding the Other Half: Were you always wondering whether those big commercials turn into sales? What was the product again they were selling? (It was a good chuckle and commercial though!) Well, Ephron has been wondering too, and looking into the databases.

Maybe as a sign of the traditional media from which Ephron comes, his site is not a blog. But you can subscribe to his articles by email, and I highly recommend doing so.

For these and many other excellent lessons that I learned on Ephron On Media let me humbly nominate Erwin Ephron for the Master of Multichannel Marketing award. Thank you for writing things down!

Master of Multichannel Marketing

Kevin Hillstrom and Multichannel Forensics

Everybody knows Kevin. His name is becoming synonymous with multichannel marketing. Almost anybody who fancies themselves a connoisseur of integrated marketing is reading Kevin’s blog at MineThatData.com.

Kevin is the author of Hillstrom’s Multichannel Forensics and Hillstrom’s Database Marketing. He is a veteran in the database marketing industry having worked at such companies as Nordstrom, Eddie Bauer, and Land’s End.

Everybody loves Kevin’s work. I certainly do.

His Multichannel Forensics method plows through data on customer transactions, channel by channel to shed clarity on trends of cross-channel behavior. Instead of stopping at short term sales analysis of campaigns (e.g. catalogs or website), Multichannel Forensics projects the multi-year impact of one channel on others.

Why?

Because, Multichannel Forensics provides clarity without getting sucked into what is probably the most dangerous quicksand in multichannel analytics. Namely, the impact of multiple touch points from various channels over time. Customers zig zag across channels, read a marketing message here, ignore it there, research on one channel, and buy on another. Hillstrom explicitly calls out his conviction that assessing the incremental impact of any one touch point is really difficult in today’s world.

So Multichannel Forensics produces a top-down view from bottom-up data on customer behavior. It creates a map that shows where customers are headed to answer questions such as:

  • Should you reallocate $x from one channel to another?
  • What is the contribution of marketing through one channel on purchases from another?
  • What would happen if you closed down the catalog division?

But there are many more reasons why we love Kevin’s blog:

  • He is a blogger with attitude. You can’t help but notice. His writing commands attention. (Everybody who has actually met him in person though says the nicest things about his character.)
  • Kevin is controversial. The only thing he seems to like better than to shoot down commonly held (but shaky) perceptions is to call out when technology vendors or consultants (“the pundits”) have no clothes on.
  • Kevin is blunt. He calls foul when shortsighted practitioners are kidding themselves, for example by neglecting to use controlled testing when measuring marketing results.

He instills trust by speaking as a practitioner rather than coming from a technology vendor’s background.

Timeless Hillstrom moments are some of the following blog posts:

I was trying to relocate many more older blog posts that were highly memorable. Yet neither the search box on the blog nor Google volunteered them back to me no matter what keywords I tried. Take bookmarks next time! Oh yeah, did I mention how prolific Kevin is?

For these and many other excellent lessons I would like to nominate Kevin Hillstrom as a Master of Multichannel Marketing.

Master of Multichannel Marketing