Strategy

Automated Marketing: It’s All About Targeting Your Customers

blogNot a day goes by that I don’t read an article about automated marketing,       re-targeting, or how large multinationals are re-tooling their marketing departments to make way for this new era in marketing. It appears that a new marketing game is afoot and we in the marketing field are all facing a shift in what will surely be the new norm.

At its core, automated marketing uses software to more effectively market your brand on multiple online channels like social media and websites and automate repetitive tasks. Whether through the use of cookies, profiling tools, database or sales platform integration, these automated systems provide the holy grail for marketers: specific details on your customers needs and wants, so you can specifically target them with advertising that addresses these needs. This type of marketing provides the customer with something you know they want.

Sounds amazing and it is, but it will require businesses to work more collaboratively with their sales and marketing teams, which is no easy feat! The more these two teams can be seamlessly integrated, the better able you are to develop strategies that receive increased ROI.

I know I consistently speak about the importance of strategy, but in automated marketing it becomes even more important because you are researching and mapping out your customers’ behaviours so you can target them with the appropriate type of advertising. Without a strategy of this type, your automated marketing will fail.

This is one of the greatest changes our field has seen in years, a chance for sales and marketing to really work together and focus our attention on what really matters—our customer.

Stay tuned for my next blog where I’ll share a few insights on getting started in automated marketing.

Has your company created an automated marketing strategy? What are some of your challenges?   I look forward to an active discussion!

Do You Have A Blog Strategy?

shutterstock_86238016When quickly scrolling through my emails, I came across an email from a business offering blog writing services.

The email proceeds to detail how they are a large business with a wide range of expertise in blog writing. The company extolled the value they offer and the savings they can provide, at $10 a blog! WOW! I dig a little deeper to find spelling errors, inconsistencies and learn that the company is based in India.

Although it would be fabulous to have blogs written for $10, you do get what you pay for. My thoughts then turned to my clients – what if they received this email? Would they be tempted to hire this company because they are affordable or would they know that a blogger must know a lot more about a company in order to write a valuable blog?

Being a marketing expert, I believe you can still hire an ‘experienced’ blogger but before you do, you’ll need to give them a blogging strategy. A strategy is important because it sets the stage and provides purpose for the blog. Without this, how could a writer know their objective and their audience? Let me share with you some key questions that must be answered through a well-developed blogging strategy:

  • What is the company known for?
  • What’s the brand of the company?
  • What is the tone of the blog?
  • Who is the target audience that will be reading the blog?
  • How long will the blog be?
  • Will there be several contributors?
  • From what perspective is the blog written?
  • Does the blog endorse other brands?
  • Is this blog a working partnership with other writers?
  • Is this a conversational or formal blog?

The answers to all of these questions set the stage for a valuable blog. By following the criteria, you can ensure that the blog is positively reflecting and enhancing your brand. This is your business’ voice, so ensure that the messages will be properly conveyed by those that really know your company.

Have you used a discounted blog writer in the past? Did you feel that there was value for the price? Do you have a strategy for your blogging practices? I look forward to a lively discussion!

Do You Know What Your LinkedIn Strategy Should Look Like?

building-your-linkedin-networkLinkedIn is the world’s leading professional social media website and growing at the rate of one new member per second. LinkedIn is increasingly used to connect businesses and develop connections amongst professionals. Unlike other social media platforms, LinkedIn serves as a useful business development tool.

Social media has become a large part of business marketing strategies all around the globe. I know that many of you have a strategy in place for your business’s social media, but does the strategy break down the different platforms?

Just as you wouldn’t use a net to catch a whale, you can’t use a Facebook strategy to engage your audience on LinkedIn. Different audiences require different strategies and being as LinkedIn’s is focused on connecting businesses, your strategy needs to be focused on developing areas of your business.

Start your strategy by outlining your objectives and goals – these could be financial, brand exposure, or even partnerships. You then should decide on who you are interested in connecting with – C-level individuals, influencers, etc. Once you know whom, then you might consider the vertical e.g. financial, insurance, manufacturing, etc. With the groundwork laid, then you will want to consider how you are going to engage with these individuals – via connections, invites, notifications, group discussions, referrals, etc.? Once you have made the connections, how do you plan to keep in touch with them? As a final step, you’ll need to measure your success against your objectives.

Having a LinkedIn strategy that is different from other social media strategies is crucial to developing your marketing success on this platform. Consider your current LinkedIn practices and explore how they could benefit from a strategy.

Have you ever considered the need for a specific LinkedIn strategy? Is it different from other social media strategies? I look forward to a lively discussion!

Is Your Brand Honest?

Men_HandshakeWe’ve all become aware of the recent media incident involving an employee of Hydro One acting inappropriately, resulting in his swift dismissal due to their code of conduct policies. Although it has raised several social issues, it has also given many of us pause to rethink the importance of brand honesty.

Strong brands are built on a business’s values and beliefs, and as a business owner in the marketing industry, I know how challenging it can be to stand behind those values and beliefs, particularly when faced with an issue in the public eye.

While it’s clear a brand exceeds far beyond just a logo, and integrates into the lifestyle of your consumers when they interact with the brand, we need to be mindful of and be committed to upholding our brand values even when it may not be the most popular thing to do. The public’s perception of Hydro One now as opposed to a couple of weeks ago lays bare just how important brand values can be and the role they can play with your audience.

McDonald’s relies on the public’s opinion and/or perception of them to sell their products. They are often in the media with bad press related to the quality of their food, which may be influencing a public shift to healthier fast food alternatives elsewhere.

To combat this perception, McDonald’s created the “Our Food Your Questions” campaign, which introduced a series of videos to address some of their customer concerns. The campaign features hundreds of video questions from actual “real people”, which are then answered from third-party suppliers to McDonald’s. Questions like “Is your McChicken actually made from chicken?” and “Is your burger 100% beef?” are posed, and are then answered by chicken and beef farmers respectively.

Although it appears that these videos are honest and unbiased, I am not convinced that they have changed customer perception of their food quality. I find myself wanting to believe but still questioning the sincerity of these farmers and testing labs.

Changing the perception of a brand is no easy task. Acting swiftly and with conviction as in the case of Hydro One sends a powerful message not only to their employees (i.e behaviour outside the workplace is just as important as in the workplace), but also to us as consumers. Regardless of how you feel about their decision, there is no denying their brand honesty – to stay true to their values and beliefs.

How do you think consumers perceive your brand? What challenges are there in changing the way people perceive a brand? I look forward to discussing this further!

The Rise of Digital Marketing

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 1.26.20 PMThe digital world is tied directly to data, and data is everywhere. When it comes to marketing, data informs marketers about audiences, their interests, intentions, and where they choose to interact. I believe that being able to analyze big data, create original content and having a sound digital strategy are three key factors a company should consider while aiming for success in the current digital climate.

Big Data

Because of the rise in available data, digital media has become an incredibly integrated part of consumers’ daily lives, and digital platforms are constantly updating themselves in order to provide the best user experience.

Being able to analyze and report data is a key component to any marketing strategy (at least it should be). Everything will be enhanced by the growth of big data – get ready!

Content

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “content is King”. When content is relevant and interesting, consumers cannot wait to read and share your brand’s content. This includes video content too (Instagram recently introduced a looping feature on their videos!).

Also, blogs are making a comeback because SEO matters now more than ever, and you need content to post on your social media sites – what better content than your own, right?

Digital Strategy

The changing digital landscape means digital marketing is constantly evolving, and marketers, like myself, are forced to learn how to use new software, how to use different platforms (including mobile), how to apply new techniques, and how to manage and optimize marketing efforts.

Location matters more now too. As the Internet grows at an incomprehensible rate, users are looking for more local experiences. We’ve seen the emergence of companies, like Uber and UberX, providing local goods and services at the push of a button. Being able to offer customers a local experience (that’s easily accessible via their smartphone – think convenience) keeps you relevant. This means we should see a rise in the amount of geo-targeted advertising, and social content created.

Content creation, SEO, and social media, shouldn’t be treated as specific departments, but rather as skills that exist inherently within your marketing agency (or internal marketing team).

What does this mean for businesses today?

Before you, or your company, settle on a marketing budget, I recommend you look at the latest trends and technology, and understand which of these your customers use so you can create a plan that leverages all available data. The success of today’s marketing campaigns largely relies on sound marketing strategies that have adopted new digital technologies.

If you’re unsure of where to start or if your marketing strategy is outdated, please contact me at info@creativeworksmarketing.ca to see how I can help your business.

Does your company have a digital strategy in place? What are your biggest challenges with digital marketing? Comment and share your thoughts with me!

The Basics of Branding

fierce-brandingBranding is one of the most important aspects of any business, no matter what type of organization you run. Having an effective brand strategy can give you an upper hand in today’s competitive market. You may be asking, “What exactly does branding mean?” “What is a brand strategy?” and “How do these two things help my business grow?”

Put simply, your brand is a promise you make to your customer. Your brand tells customers who you are, who you want to be, and what they can expect from your products and/or service.

Are your services expensive and serve a niche market? Ask yourself, is your service high quality at a high-cost, or, low-cost but high-value? You’re going to have to choose, because you can’t be both. Who you are should be based on what your target market wants, and who they need you to be.

What is a Brand Strategy?
A brand strategy is the what, where, when, how, and to whom you communicate your brand messages with. A good brand strategy differentiates your offering from your competitors’. In thinking about your brand, try answering the following:

  • What is your company’s mission?
  • What are the benefits and features of your products or services?
  • What do your customers and prospects already think of your company?
  • What qualities do you want them to associate with your company?

Learn the needs, habits and desires of your current and prospective customers. And don’t rely on what you think they think. Know what they think.

Brand Equity
Having a solid and consistent brand leads to strong brand equity (the intangible added value brought to your company’s products and/or services that makes it acceptable for your company to charge more for your products and/or services than what seemingly identical unbranded products charge).

Christian-Louboutins-red--007A great example of brand equity is high-end footwear designer Christian Louboutin. Louboutin launched his line of luxury, red-bottomed women’s shoes in France in 1991. The red-lacquered soles have differentiated Louboutin from other luxury shoe brands, and have influenced women all over the world into buying and wearing high-end shoes. People will pay more for the promise of luxury, quality, and the red-bottomed recognition that comes with wearing Louboutins.

Bottom line: the more recognized your brand is, the more real estate you take up in your consumers’ minds, and the more power you have to persuade your target market to buy your brand.

Defining Your Brand
Trying to define your brand is like a journey of corporate self-discovery. It can be time-consuming, difficult and at times uncomfortable – but in the end, it’s worth it!

Is your brand defined? Do you have a strong brand strategy in place? Do you understand the needs, habits and desires of your current and prospective customers? Do you rely on what you THINK they know rather than KNOWING what they know? Comment and share your branding successes and failures with me. If you are looking to define your brand and/or develop a brand strategy, please feel free to contact me at 416-653-3053, or info@creativeworksmarketing.ca.

Holidays, Giving, and Brand Building

philanthropy-charity-donate

Much like celebrities, your business is in the public eye, even if it’s a B2B business, so you probably receive requests for donations, and solicitations for sponsorships all the time.

How do you make the decision whether or not to respond to all of them? Do you cherry pick a few organizations to help, or go with your personal bias and choose a charity close to your heart, or do you choose based on what is right for your brand / business? Depending on your answer, you approach could cause you to miss out on opportunities to strengthen your brand through charitable efforts.

Compared to yesterday’s customer, today’s customer is much savvier and expects more from your company. Today, they have greater access to company information, so it’s pretty transparent when a business does a few good things to boost their reputation, versus a business that has put all their charitable efforts and resources into making a real impact on society.

As a business owner myself, I recommend shifting your business’s approach from obligation (something you feel your company should do) to opportunity (something your company might want to do).

To decide whether or not you should make that donation on behalf of your company, think about the following things first:

  1. Does this organization have relevance in your industry?

Support issues and platforms relevant to your industry. If you are part of the food industry, try getting involved with a charity that promotes healthy eating habits, provides meals… etc.

  1. Does this organization have community relevance?

Your customers are your community. Ask yourself, would your customers be on board with your charity of choice?

  1. Is this organization relevant to your target market?

By supporting causes your target market cares about, you gain their attention, respect and trust (something businesses can spend years and big money building). Align yourself with what appeals to your target.

  1. Does this organization have brand relevance?

By having your charitable efforts feed into your brand identity and positioning you will reinforce your brand message, and differentiate yourself.

To support an organization is a strategic decision, and if selected carefully, it won’t dilute your brand’s core values. If anything, selecting an appropriate charity communicates your goals and ideals more clearly to your target customers and partners.

Also, don’t forget – as much as donating to or sponsoring a charity is beneficial to your brand, it also just feels good to give.

Is your business involved with a charity? If so, why did you pick that charity? What was your approach, and what do you hope to gain (if anything) by involving yourself with that organization? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section!

Case Study: Scotiabank’s Social Media Strategy

Screen Shot 2014-10-14 at 9.47.25 AMCMOs and business owners are always asking to validate not only the effectiveness of social media, but also the necessity of having a social media strategy. This week I wanted to highlight an unlikely social media channel and how it has been able to target and grow its engagement amongst its key audience.

Enter Scotiabank. Its recent success with their social media strategy using Instagram has helped them specifically target university-aged students 18-24, an audience often touted as the most difficult demographic to engage.

Instagram is often thought of as the photosharing app used for family and friends only, but things are changing for business applications as Instagram now boasts 15 times more engagement than Facebook, Twitter or Google+. What was once a simple photosharing app is now being used as a key sales channel.

In the world of social media, Instagram is relatively new and as an emerging channel, it enjoys the same cache with younger Canadians that Facebook enjoyed several years ago.

With this in mind, Scotiabank, in a strategic yet bold move, launched its Instagram channel in 2013 and has garnered 897 followers to date and is still growing. The channel is unique in that is allows for the ability to tailor content to any kind of youth-oriented theme.

The decision to use this channel was based on the need to use a relevant and extremely flexible platform to reach their target audience. Scotiabank feels their decision really gives them a lot of opportunity in terms of their messaging and making their brand unique by being on the forefront of providing content in a medium that is relevant to them.

The ultimate flexibility of this channel allowed Scotiabank’s Instagram channel “Scotia_gram”, to introduce a series of “life hacks” for students headed back to school. They included tips such as storing necklaces in straws to avoid tangling, and using an old cardboard box to create a shirt folder.

As a result, “likes” for Scotia_gram’s posts have increased just over 99%, and comments have jumped 22.3% since the “life hacks” were first introduced. The account has also gained just under 300 new followers in the same period.

This case study is a great example of how sometimes we need to think a little bit “outside the box” in terms of choosing channels to deliver our strategy to specifically target our audience.

After reading this case study would you consider using Instagram for your business, and if so, how? Do you feel Scotiabank is on to something here, or would another social media channel have been equally successful for their strategy?

A Strategy for a Blog? Really?

BloggingBusiness owners ask me all the time whether they should have a business blog. My answer is always the same, let’s explore why.

Starting a blog is serious business that requires a huge time commitment, particularly if you are writing it yourself, so unless it is spelled out in your marketing strategy, you’ll need to create a separate blog strategy to determine its purpose and destiny before you start writing. In some industries you are only as good as your last blog entry, so make sure you can “commit” to this long term marketing tool.

I understand that many may feel a strategy for a blog is a bit “over the top”, but in fact by writing down your plan, you are more likely to commit to it, but also to see its value in the growth of your brand.

With over five years of experience writing various blog strategies for my clients, I have outlined a few key tips to consider when creating a strategy for your blog:

  1. Create a goal for your blog.

In other words, why do you want to have a blog? Is it to position you or your brand within an industry? Is it to provide guidance to your audience, or insights into industry trends? Or is it simply to provide tips to show your knowledge. Make sure you are very clear about the “why”, as it will help you determine the outcomes and direction of your blog strategy.

  1. Decide who your audience is going to be.

Who do you want to engage with and speak to with your blog? Are you trying to target C-level individuals, front line staff, or middle management? The more narrowly you define your target audience, the easier it will be to identify those people, cater to their needs with your content, and reach them with your messages. This audience should tie in to your key audience for your brand, so look to your marketing or branding strategy to help you determine audience.

  1. Content is still king.

Your primary and ongoing goal should be to continuously develop innovative content and put a truly unique spin on whatever topic you’re blogging about. Make sure your blog highlights your unique knowledge, voice and personality. Having a unique voice is one of the easiest ways to set it apart from your competition. Try to incorporate proprietary information, facts or research. The more unique and innovative your content and the better you target your audience, the easier it will be to build a following.

  1. Create an editorial schedule, and stick to it.

To build and maintain a steady audience, you’ll need to commit to a regular schedule for your blog. It has to be frequent enough that your audience expects it yet is not overwhelmed by it, so knowing your audiences tolerance is key here. Make sure you don’t over promise and under deliver as your audience could simply move on.

  1. Track and measure your success.

Most blog sites have great analytics, so make sure that you are tracking which blogs are giving you the best engagement and maybe consider creating a few blogs on a similar topic, or a series on the same topic. Always try to give your audience what they want and one way of ensuring this is tracking your analytics.

Do you have a business blog? What is your blog doing or NOT doing for you that you wish it would? Have you ever considered writing a blog strategy? I look forward to your comments and discussion.

Is a Company Mission/Vision Statement as Useful as a Marketing Strategy?

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Ideally, to be successful in business you need to have mission and vision statements, as well as a marketing strategy. They are all equally important as they are all powerful sign-posts to provide clear and succinct directions. The mission and vision statements are focused on the purpose and aspirations of the company, while a marketing strategy focuses on highlighting what is unique about your company to a targeted audience.

Unfortunately, mission and vision statements are often confusing or too generic, mixing values, aspirations, philosophies, strategies and descriptions. Let’s be clear about the difference between a mission and a vision statement:

  • A mission statement articulates the purpose of the company, why it exists, and what it does and for whom. It should serve as an ongoing guide that spells out what the company is all about. The mission should focus on the here and now.
  • A vision statement outlines the goals and aspirations for the future. It creates a mental picture of a specific medium-term target and should be used as a source of inspiration.

With those definitions in mind, I have outlined below what I believe to be the reasons why having all three of these documents written down and adhered to is essential to helping you clearly define your goals, objectives, audience and value both internally and externally.

Mission and Vision Statements are commonly used to:

Internally

  • Guide management’s thinking on strategic issues, especially during times of significant change
  • Help define performance standards
  • Inspire employees to work more productively by providing focus and common goals
  • Guide employee decision making

Externally

  • Enlist external support
  • Create closer linkages and better communication with customers, suppliers and alliance partners
  • Serve as a public relations tool

A Marketing Strategy is commonly used to:

  • Define what makes your service/product unique (besides price)
  • Create a Unique Selling Proposition
  • Define key target audiences for specific services or products you offer and where they are
  • Define what types of marketing tactics can be used to attract your key audiences
  • Define what your company values and how that relates to your audiences’ values
  • Define the frequency of the marketing tactics
  • Define measurement for each of the tactics for ROI tracking

I find that a good way to start the process of creating these key pieces of business documentation is to ask key people in your organization to answer the following questions:

  • For Mission (or Purpose): What is the core purpose of the organization? What do we do and for who?
  • For Vision (or Ambition): Where do we want to be in 5 or 10 years time? What are our aspirations?
  • For Marketing Strategy: What makes your service/product stand apart from the competition?

 

Do you feel your corporate mission statements and marketing strategy are useful, or do you disagree with me and feel (even well crafted) vision and mission statements and marketing strategies are not necessary/useful? Please share you views in the comments below!