Archive for the ‘marketing communications’ Tag

The “Small m” of Marketing

A manufacturer’s recall notice and a trip, make that several trips, to the dealership has me thinking about the need to transform employees into brand ambassadors.  It started the day our car went into the shop.  Although we had a scheduled appointment the service advisor told us our car might be in the shop a few days.  He told us there were many vehicles ahead of ours because of multiple recall notices.  Think about that for a moment.  Even if true, is that how a frontline employee should engage with customers?

In the world of marketing there is the Big M of marketing and the “small m.”  The formal process of communicating the value of an organization’s product or service is marketing with a capital M.  What I call the small m is the myriad of little things that “fill in the gaps” between formal marketing activities.  When done well the customer experience is very positive.  But when things fall through the cracks, opportunities are missed and customers can be left with a negative impressions.

After several days in the shop we received a call that our car was ready.  We returned to the dealership happy to have the car back in time for a short weekend trip.  Unfortunately we never got out of the parking lot before realizing the problem still wasn’t fixed.  We spoke again with the service advisor who apologized and offered to make things right.  He also offered us a loaner car to use until ours was repaired.

While our car was in the shop, the dealership’s sales department reached out to us about buying back our car and upgrading to a higher model.  Our car is nearly paid for and it’s in the dealer’s interest to keep the monthly payments coming.  So back at the shop, I’m expecting the service advisor to put us in a great ride for the weekend.  It didn’t happen.  Instead, we were offered a base model – opportunity missed.

Each time customers interact with frontline employees it puts to the test the work done by marketing, PR, and external communications.  But it’s not just frontline employees who are often seen as the “face” of an organization.  The work done by behind-the-scenes employees has the potential to make a customer feel more or less engaged with the company.  The same hold true for “virtual face” of an organization, the online presence that for many organizations is their only connection with customers.

So how can organizations maximize these customer interactions and win in the marketplace?  Organizations need everyone engaged in delivering the brand promise, whether it be face-to-face or through a virtual connection.  To make this work, managers need to be trained and empowered to do what is right for the customer – and for the company’s brand.

Five Steps to Building Effective Brand Ambassadors

1) Sharpen Marketing Message:  Corporate Marketing (Big M) should develop messaging for both managers and frontline employees.  This should include not only key marketing messages, but also the freedoms employees have to independently improve the customer experience.

2) Internal Marketing Communication:  Corporate Marketing must work closely with Employee Communications to keep key marketing messages and initiatives in front of all employees.  Including details of how individual employees, or groups of employees, played a part in major marketing activities is important in helping others model similar behavior.

3) Train and Empower Managers:  First line managers need to be trained in how employees can tailor the corporate message to ways appropriate to their team’s customer engagements.  The message won’t be different, but how the interaction occurs will depend on how the contact happens.  Each department will have different opportunities to improve the customer experience, a responsibility best handled by a manager closest to that engagement.

4) Train and Empower Employees:  Managers need to identify ways their employees can improve the customer experience.  Then, staff needs to be trained in how best to communicate the brand message and the range of authority individual employees have in helping create a positive experience for the customer.

5) Reward and Motivate:  When employees contribute to an improved customer experience it should be celebrated.  Employee Communications is a great channel for sharing success stories and motivating others to embrace the role of brand ambassador.

This process is about living out an organization’s core values and modeling the brand promise.  A great example is the Disney Company, masters of the customer experience.  Visitors to their theme parks are treated as if they are the most important person there.  From online engagement, to the parking lot, ticket gate, refreshment stand, to the closing fireworks, employees understand their role is to make or exceed expectations.  That’s what makes for a great customer experience.

Embrace the small m of marketing and empower your employees as true brand ambassadors.  Capture some of that Disney magic and get the most out of every employee-customer encounter.


Behind the Scenes with SAS’ Big Data Guy

The sun was barely over the horizon on a cold Saturday morning when a caravan of vehicles drove across the SAS campus.  The vehicles were full of camera equipment, lights, props, and the all-important catering supplies to keep everyone well fed.  Work was about to begin on shooting of a series of spots featuring Big Data Guy (BDG).  Before the day was done, equipment packed, and food exhausted, a crew from SAS’ Video Communications and New Media (VC&NM) team completed shooing three spots highlighting how SAS can help organizations take advantage of the massive amounts of data they collect.

Long before the last edit was made, before the first scene was shot, before the scripts were even written – there is the back story.  The project started as a challenge issued by Bill Marriott to his VC&NM team.  The challenge, each quarter come up with a unique idea for a project and drive it through to completion.  “We have a lot of highly creative people in our group, but the day-to-day work of the department often demands quick delivery on tight timelines.  This project was an opportunity to empower the team to do what they do best, create compelling content that delivers the SAS message.”

A Visit From Big Data

 As in most things, nothing happens until someone takes ownership.  Taking up Bill’s challenge, Brendan Bailey proposed creating a series of spots using the classic TV formula of Conflict & Resolution.  “Many commercials use this formula.  It provides an opportunity to pose a problem and offer a solution.  The issue of big data fits this model.  It’s a challenge, but also a great opportunity; with the answer being SAS.”

A series of brainstorming meetings followed which resulted in a dozen script treatments.  At that point the team ran into an impasse.  The outlines all treated the BDG character differently.  “We lacked a clear understanding of who we wanted this character to be,” explained Todd Johnson.  “So we spent some time debating the character and wrote a back story detailing who BDG is and how we want him portrayed.”

With a clearer understanding of the character, the question remained, how well would he work?  David Stephenson took the lead and drafted scripts for three initial spots.  “The character somewhat wrote himself.  As the scripts came together the creative team focused more on content and creating spots that were flexible enough to use in different ways.”

Big Data Knows That’s A Stolen Credit Card

 The team continued to debate how long to make each spot and if released to YouTube whether length mattered.  At the suggestion of Bill Marriott the team decided to work toward the length of standard broadcast commercials.  “Building standard length :15, :30, and :60 second spots added structure to the process.  The constraints of a blueprint can often help focus energies on the best way to make something happen.”

Scripts complete – check.  Locations secured – check.  Talent hired – check.  The day of shooting finally arrived.  It was time to see how well BDG would work in delivering the SAS message about big data.  From dawn to dusk the crew and on-camera talent wandered around the SAS campus collecting footage needed to create the spots.  Gary Peterson and Mark Lawrence managed the day-long shoot.  “It certainly wasn’t our usual day of shooting,” said Lawrence.  “Even though the final spots are short, they require a lot of material.  We had only the one day to get all the shots.  We knew we weren’t going to have the chance to grab extra shots later.  It had to be done right the first time.”

Now complete, the spots are posted to the SAS website and in use at customer events.  The response has encouraged the production team to begin work on another round of spots.  Given a blank canvas and creative freedom, it’s amazing what a creative team can deliver.

Social Media Meets Main Street

On Friday after Thanksgiving, Black Friday, stores open early and shoppers stay late.  For those not wanting to fight the crowds, Cyber Monday shoppers go online in search of bargains.  Now, enter a new retail holiday tradition.  The inaugural Small Business Saturday, organized by American Express, encouraged holiday shoppers to support small, independently owned local businesses.  In this, the season of miracles, a new tradition is born.

Small businesses fight year around for a share of consumer spending.  This is never truer than at the holidays.  Local merchants in the village of Southampton, NY have turned to social media to share some holiday cheer and remind area residents why they should shop locally.  On Facebook, Shop Southampton, NY, promotes shopping events, sales, and the village’s picturesque setting.  Looking for other ways to promote local business, a group of merchants helped with production of a promotional video featuring local kids dressed as elves frolicking through the village and its quaint shops.  Posted to YouTube, the video has been well received by area residents.

Here’s hoping your holidays are bright and as cheerful as that of the Southampton Elves.  Click through to YouTube and share the magic of where social media meets main street.


Structure an Effective PowerPoint Deck

PowerPoint is the tool marketers love to hate.  At least that’s what I hear at almost every conference, seminar, and workshop.  At a conference I attended this fall, the moderator of the two-day event declared it a “PowerPoint free zone.”  Within five minutes he called up the event agenda… on a PowerPoint chart… so much for a PpT free zone.

There is a lot of good information on-line about PowerPoint design principles.  Here’s a tip about how to structure a good PowerPoint chart deck.  Use the onion approach, build content layer-upon-layer.  This approach can be especially helpful when as a presenter you may not be in control of your time on the agenda.

Chart 1 Title Slide: Often thought of as a placeholder, this could be the most important chart in your deck.  Use it to own the topic.  If this is the only chart people see from your presentation, it should convey your organizations expertise and leadership.  It should include your name and contact information as the thought leader on the topic.  If presentations are made available following an event, the only chart from your presentation some people might see is the title slide.  Make it good, capture attention, and take ownership of the topic.

Chart 2 Presentation Summary: Skip the agenda and bio slide, make this chart the elevator pitch.  Everything the audience needs to know about your capabilities should be summarized on the second chart.  That doesn’t mean using 3 point font and cramming in dozens of lines of text.  All the rules of effective design still apply.  (Large font, limited words per line, etc.)  Use images and bold text.  Drive home a single take away message about: 1) Features or Background; 2) Benefits or Opportunities; and a 3) Call-to-Action.  I’ve been in meetings where the audience (usually a group of executives politicking for advantage) has interrupted the presenter who never got past the second chart.  Structure your talk so that if your time on the agenda is hijacked by others in the room, you can still deliver the central message.

Charts 3-5 Key Points: Expand on the three points from the second chart.  If time is running short, these three charts provide a bit more detail and can quickly highlight your most important take way messages.  If time is not an issue, they can serve as an overview for details to be discussed later in the presentation.

Charts 6-20 Main Talk: If as a presenter you’ve reached this point in your talk, time on the agenda is yours.  Use the remaining 15 charts in your presentation to finish your talk.  In most cases, 20 charts should be enough to cover your topic.  Remember, the charts are not your presentation, you are the presentation.  Charts serve to illustrate and reinforce your message.

Charts 21+ Supplemental: If your talk is very technical in nature you may want to have a collection of charts that provide a very detailed, deep dive on the topic.  These can be helpful if the presentation ends with a closing Q&A.  They can also be useful information if the chart deck is provided in PDF following the conclusion of your talk.

PowerPoint is only a tool.  In my workshop I have hammers, saws, wrenches, and a lot of tools I have no idea how to use.  I don’t hate my collection of hammers.  When I need to drive a nail a hammer works quite well.  When used correctly, it’s the right tool for the job.  It’s not much different with PowerPoint.

The Buzz on Viral Video

Working at a high technology company often requires me to provide very specific, technically-detailed answers.  This is particularly true when a technologist wants information about what they consider the soft field of marketing.  It’s important to answer in their language in order to get your point across.

In a recent meeting about an upcoming marketing campaign, several people asked me how to go about creating a viral video.  We talked about this for awhile but I sensed those in the meeting were looking for more.  Later, back in my office I thought about the elements of a successful viral video.  I thought of the 4 Ps of Marketing and then offered the team a formula for creating viral videos.  My suggestion was:  (.60Product + .10Price) + .10Placement + .20Promotion = Opportunity.

There are all kinds of viral videos, but for purposes of brevity this post looks only at the creation of viral video for B2B and B2C companies.

Product ‑ Delving into the formula, 60% of the effort in creating a viral video should go into creating the Product.  That is the content as well as the production.  It’s critical to keep in mind that a viral video does more than deliver a singular message, it represents the company brand.  There are many creative ways to create viral content, but not all fit well within a brand framework.  Common themes for viral video content often include: humor, surprise, interactivity, and of course sex.

  • Humor:  Everyone enjoys a good laugh and comedy is a frequent component of many successful viral videos.  Of course humor is very subjective and requires a deft touch when used within a corporate brand strategy.  The Mac vs. PC ads went viral because of the passion Mac users have for their computers and the clever use of humor to drive home the message.  Including Brazilian model and actress Gisele Bündchen added to the effectiveness of the spot promoting iMovie capabilities on the Mac.
  • Surprise:  The wow-factor that makes viewers want to share a video with friends and colleagues.  In the interest of fair play, Microsoft scored on the viral video charts with their fake Greatest Slide Stunt Ever video developed for Microsoft Germany.  Who cares if the stunt was fake?  That’s not the point… it’s all about the buzz.
  • Interactivity:  Many sites offer users the ability to dynamically insert pictures or names into an animated presentation for sharing with others ‑ turning themselves into virtual brand ambassadors.  Think Jib-Jab and the famous Elf Yourself campaign.  Office Max’s 2008 holiday promotion proved amazingly popular and was the viral hit of winter 2008.
  • Sex:  It sells, but won’t work for all organizations.  The Carl’s Jr. ads featuring a scantily clad Paris Hilton washing cars while devouring a burger created a lot of buzz, drove million+ web views, and the scorn of many.  What it did for burger sales, I have no idea.

Price ‑ Coupled with Product is the element of Price.  Developing outstanding creative content most often comes with an associated cost.  Producing a viral video may involve an outside creative agency; will require crew, equipment, and other below-the-line costs; and could involve celebrity talent.  A forewarning, in discussing viral video, someone is sure to mention a video created in 10 minutes, without a budget, and using low end equipment.  They’re out there, usually involving animal or pet tricks, cute kids, or a “thank goodness it’s not me” video.  The question you must answer is, would such a video reflect well on the company brand?  In most cases the answer is no.  As the viral video market has matured, you can point to a growing number of successful viral videos that both deliver impact and support brand attributes.

  • Creative Concept:  Viral videos can be conceived internally, or may require hiring an outside agency.  The key is the big idea, something perceived as remarkable and that communicates your message.  Dove’s Self Esteem campaign is one of the most successful web-based viral campaigns.  Web video, combined with a comprehensive website, provides thought-provoking, confidence-building programs and messages that embrace all definitions of beauty.  For Dove, it’s not a product pitch, it’s about brand association.
  • Production Expenses:  Some believe that web video should have a decidedly low-cost look – inaccurately often referred to as a YouTube video.  My suggestion is to push back with reference to more traditional media.  A client would never permit their “official” product brochure to be written by a brilliant technologist from R&D, illustrated by someone’s kid known for drawing nice pictures, and printed on the copier down the hall.  The product brochure is viewed as a key sales tool, and production quality reflects on the product as well as the company brand.  The same holds true for a viral marketing vehicle.  Keep in mind the old adage, “Good, fast, or cheap – pick any two.”  How much time, effort, and money did T-Mobile spend in driving 20M+ web views of their highly choreographed dance number shot at Liverpool Street Station?
  • Celebrity Talent:  A viral video does not require celebrity talent, it’s a tactical decision.  But people are fascinated by celebrities.  There are countless websites devoted to following every aspect of a celebrity’s life and which will embed these videos and help extend the audience.  The cost of using a celebrity can be a major expense item, often beyond available budget.  And to prove that celebrities never go away, much as would like many of them to fade away, advertisers have turned to wrestling icon Rick Flair to WOOO state lottery players with jackpots of mega millions.

OK, it’s entertainment time.  The hottest viral campaign currently running is the Old Spice ads featuring a shirtless Isaiah Mustafa showing off his six pack abs.  The campaign is an excellent example of strong product and illustrates the issues of price as a component in delivering a viral video campaign.

Millions of views and major brand buzz

Placement – Viral videos appear in many places on the web.  Each media channel has unique attributes and publishing requirements.  The critical element of placement is less about the channel than it is about how you describe (tag) your video.  Tagging information is the metadata that search engines and viewers use to locate your video.

  • Title & Description:  Your video title and description should be both descriptive and engaging.  Review carefully the visible word count in the description field provided by each media channel.  Then limit the description to the visible information field.  Anything accessible only from the <More Info> section of the description will seldom be seen.
  • Tagging:  Add tags… lots of relevant tags.  The more keywords used to describe your video, the more likely your video will appear within search results and be found.
  • Single Posting:  If the video is part of a series of presentations, each should be posted to a single page with its own title, description, and tagging information.
  • Embedded Links:  These enable other content authors to link directly to your video.  The best example is the use of embed code from YouTube.  (As I did above in posting the Old Spice video.)  Many of the views of your video will be driven by blog posts, included in emails, circulated via Twitter, and on and on.

Promotion – Videos posted to the web with compelling title, interesting descriptions, and rich metadata tags have a head start in the battle for eyeballs.  Promotion takes work and is not an overnight process.  It involves multiple elements and communication tactics.

  • Thumbnail:  The major media channels all show a visual from within the video, along with the title and description.  Unfortunately, each media channel handles this in different and unique ways.  It’s well worth the investment in time to understand the unique way each video sharing site determines the thumbnail image deployed with your video.
  • Channels:  Of course there is YouTube…  and there are other channels as well, Google Video, Yahoo Video, Facebook Video, specific industry websites, and of course your company’s own website.  Publish to as many sites as are relevant and that you can support with follow-up communication.
  • Social Networking:  Create communities of interest for your content and share regularly.  As you befriend more people ask them to invite others to subscribe as well.  Reach out to bloggers and others of influence and allow them to help spread the news.  Send them the embed link along with some unique information (previously unpublished) and you may gain access to an audience you might otherwise not reach.  Promote your video project and keep the video front and center in as many communication opportunities as possible: blog, Tweet, post, comment, email, advertise… above all stay engaged.
  • Bubble Up Ratings: Videos that create a buzz (comments, ratings, views) will move to the top of the search listing.  Ask for comments and respond to those comments.  These actions not only drive views, but move your video higher in the results list.

So that’s my formula for a successful viral video.
(.60Product + .10Price) + .10Placement + .20Promotion = Opportunity.
I would like to hear your thoughts and comments.  What’s been your experience?  Comments welcome.

For more ideas check out the post Make Me a Viral Video and Super-Size It!

Effective Crisis Management: Avoid Flawed Response

Last week I visited the pharmacy to buy some Tylenol for my mom.  Unfortunately, the shelves were empty of all McNeil Consumer Healthcare products because of a product recall several months ago.  At the time, Tylenol was front page news.  Months later, store shelves remain empty.  But news about Tylenol was pushed from the front page, first by Toyota’s problems; then by the crisis facing residents of the Gulf Coast because of the oil gushing from BP’s undersea well.

Waiting for another crisis to remove your organization from the 24 X 7 glare of the media spotlight does not substitute for an effective Crisis Management Plan (CMP).

In all three cases, this spring’s product recalls by McNeil and Toyota and the BP oil disaster, three elements of crisis management are obvious: 1) a clear threat to the organization; 2) the sudden emergence of an unanticipated situation; and 3) a very short window for making decisions and to react.  How organizations respond in a crisis is largely dependent on a comprehensive CMP.

Risk and Crisis Management Response

One of today’s hottest business topics is risk management.  Although related, risk management and crisis management are different.  Think of risk management as the process of identifying, assessing, and finding ways to avoid risk.  Crisis management is the formal process of dealing with threats after they occur.

In a growing number of organizations you’ll find the new position of Chief Risk Officer (CRO).  In some cases the CRO is responsible for development and execution of an organization’s CMP.  My belief is this responsibility properly belongs to a Chief Communication Officer (CCO).  Regardless of how responsibility is established, identifying risk and crisis response requires a comprehensive team with representation from all parts of the business: risk management, corporate communications, legal, operations, human resources, sales & marketing, and security.

Despite the best efforts of a risk management team, it’s not possible to eliminate all threats to the integrity, reputation, or survival of an organization.  That is why it’s essential to have a written crisis management plan and drills to practice responding to a crisis situation – because every organization will face a crisis at some point.

Crisis Management Best Practice

The unyielding spotlight of media attention requires organizations to respond quickly and effectively.  Along with traditional public media, the explosion of new social media channels complicates how organizations respond to a crisis.  Your CMP should include:

Executive Leadership.  In any crisis, leadership is essential.  That doesn’t mean the CEO must always lead the response or be the public spokesman.  Not all crises are equal.  A crisis of global significance, such as what’s facing BP, requires leadership from the very top.  The type and level of crisis will determine response.

Organizational Identity:  One of the most challenging issues in effective crisis management is protecting organizational reputation.  When a crisis occurs, everyone within the organization must understand the potential impact to the organization’s identity in the minds of the public.  Everything that is said, done, or not said/done, creates a public impression.

Coordinate and Connect:  The CMP should define how departments within an organization respond to a given crisis.  Each team has a role to play.  Stay connected.  When in doubt, pick up the phone.  Practice drills are the time to establish relationships, not during a crisis.

React Quickly:  In a connected world moving at “Twitter speed,” act quickly.  The public reaction to Toyota’s recent problems was exacerbated by their slow response to a growing list of problems.  The public can accept updates and clarifications, but delays always send the wrong message.

Communicate Constantly:  The nature of a crisis will determine how communication should be handled, and the channels to be used.  The old stand-by, the news release, is only one tactical element of a crisis management plan – and no longer the most effective.  Traditional media, along with social media channels, should be part of the plan to reach both employees and the public.  Web communication can be a vital link.  When other communication channels fail, the web is often the most accessible.

Direct Involvement:  Never underestimate the value of a physical presence.  Nothing will reassure customers, or the public, more than direct communication.  How much more effective would BP, and the Obama Administration, have been had they been present, on the ground in the gulf region as quickly as possible?  Employees with direct customer contact can be a critical component in restoring confidence during a crisis.

Language is Critical:  Spokespeople must be trained and sensitive to balancing legal and economic language against the public’s need for emotional and empathic expressions in all public statements.  This is always a fine line and a source of potential conflict between an organization’s legal department and others on the broader crisis management team.  Executive leadership is essential in communicating a message that strikes a balance between an organization’s legitimate concerns and the needs of the public.

Communicate Clearly and Openly:  Monitor news, information, and rumors across all media channels.  Even if the news is grim, communicate honestly and transparently.  You need to be perceived as the most credible source of information concerning a crisis.  Use your website to maintain an open channel of communication and to avoid having spokespeople responding to the same question multiple times.  Address rumors and misinformation as quickly as possible, using all available communication channels – including employees with direct customer contact.

Team Support:  Crisis response can be an incredibly stressful situation.  Some situations may last months or longer.  Make sure those on the front lines are well trained, provided a constant flow of up-to-the-minute information, and supported in every way possible.

There are many examples of organizations that have done an excellent job managing perceptions, and the business, during a time of crisis: Johnson & Johnson, Mattel, and Pepsi to name a few.  In each case the companies responded immediately and with a well-defined plan.  At no time are an organization’s mission and values more challenged, than during a crisis.  When the corporate brand aligns with actual behaviors, trust and goodwill result from shareholders and the public – even in a time of crisis.

Cut the Bull: Avoid Idiot-Speak

The paradigm shift empowering leading-edge advantage towards world class leadership is building momentum for… cut the bull, plain English please.

We’ve all read endless streams of corporate-speak: jargon-filled, filtered, and antiseptic ‑ rendering real communication all but impossible.  For communicators it’s a slippery slope.  While every industry has a unique language, accepted acronyms, and technical vocabulary, the trap for communicators is when we yield to company-speak and avoid the battle for clear, concise, communication.

In the wonderful book, Why Business People Speak Like Idiots, authors, Brian Fugere, Chelsea Hardaway and Jon Warshawsky offer a compelling alternative.  For those of us working in the communication trenches, the book is a valuable reminder of the slow brainwashing that over time can influence the way we choose to communicate.

And yes, it’s a choice.  If your ambition is to serve as a mid-level bureaucrat using Mad-Libs fill-in-the-blank jargon for your next assignment, you will be well on your way to an all but invisible place on the org. chart.  While remaining hidden behind fact-free, mind-numbing bulls*it seems a safe place to remain unseen, in a difficult business environment it’s also a sure way to an unceremonial pink slip.  In a tough business climate, organizations need communicators who help strengthen the business, create compelling dialogues, and develop innovative ways to influence people.

The book exposes several common traps that can transform the unwary communicator into a boring business stiff:

1.      Businesses focus on themselves over their audience
Too often those creating business communications aim to impress, not to inform.  Rather than using plain, simple language everyone understands, business communicators fall back on the use of jargon or insider phrases.  The authors describe it as becoming “a kind of intellectual powerhouse, generating concepts that are too lofty to be expressed in something as mundane as English.”  We too often fear that straightforward language might make us look dumb.

2.      Business people fear concrete language
Avoiding commitment, and thereby liability, has evolved into something of an art form.  The problem with this approach is that through “vagary and verbosity,” the credibility of whatever follows is reduced.  In short, people recognize B.S. and give up looking for meaning.  Remember, for communicators the bottom line is to connect, convince, and help the organization move ahead.

3.      Business is boring
How can you not purchase a book with a chapter titled “Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll for Business People”?  The authors offer a hilarious look at why business-speak is so ridiculous.  They remind everyone in business that connecting with an audience, any audience, is about gaining their attention.  “Make it relevant.  Make it vivid.  Make it compelling.  Whether you like it or not, you’re in the entertainment business.”  This admonition applies to everyone within an organization, none more so than those responsible for crafting communication messages.

The authors offer this key take away, “bullshit eats away at your personal capital, while straight talk pays dividends.”  Make the wise investment, fight the bull and make clear, compelling communication the hallmark of your personal success.

Drive Click-Through Rates with Video

The numbers are almost meaningless… ≈ 170M unique web viewers/month, 14B streams/month, time per viewer up nearly 60%.  The bottom line is that the growth of online video has exploded and will continue to grow ‑ becoming as ubiquitous as text on the web.  Don’t believe this?  Ask any IT manager responsible for data storage and content delivery.

The explosion of video has been driven by user generated content; commercial content distribution; and web-based video/multimedia, much of it supporting promotional campaigns.  The naysayers point out that for promotional campaigns, overall advertising click-through rates are disappointingly low.  Point taken.  But, those websites and marketing campaigns that customize ads and multimedia content to fit individual customer interests have demonstrated markedly higher click-through rates.  Two of the most well know examples of successfully tailoring content to the interest of their users are Apple, with the iTunes Store, and

 As video has become an accepted part of the web experience, marketers are looking for ways to exploit the engaging qualities of video.  Video has the unique ability to convey a story through sound and motion – creating a more powerful emotional response among users.  Results of recent studies by DoubleClick show that when used for direct-response online advertising –the click-through rate– online video ads perform extremely well.  The data shows online video ads deliver click-through rates ranging from 0.4 to 0.74 percent depending on the online video format.  By comparison, click-through rates for plain GIF or JPG image ads ranges between 0.1 and 0.2 percent.  Given these data, it’s no wonder that in the troubled economic climate of the past year, marketers have rushed headlong to enrich their websites, direct mail campaigns, press releases, and corporate communications with various forms of digital multimedia.

 A recent industry report from StrongMail Systems highlights the trend.  As reported in BtoB Online, Kristin Hersant, StrongMail’s director of corporate marketing, the “2010 Marketing Trends” survey finds that online marketing spending will be up in the coming year, with video a key driver.  “We also think that marketers will be able to increase relevancy by using video in e-mail,” Hersant said.  “Video is going to make it a lot easier to promote the things that their customers are interested in, such as webinars, training, and product education.”

A report from the Interactive Advertising Bureau and PricewaterhouseCoopers LLC released US results for the first half of 2009, showing that online ad spending continues to experience robust growth, increasing 38% from the same period a year ago.  As online advertising continues to draw spending away from other forms of traditional advertising, spending for online video is projected to reach nearly $500M in the US during the first half of 2010.  In a similar report from Forrester Research, video advertising will grow to account for one-fifth of European online display ad spending – nearly €1 billion in 2012.  Forrester Research also issued their US Interactive Marketing Forecast 2009 – 2014, showing 60% of marketers plan to shift marketing dollars away from traditional channels in favor of interactive marketing initiatives.

This move to interactive multimedia-supported marketing is not the sole province of big companies.  In Chapel Hill, NC a local wine, coffee, and tea merchant is taking advantage of the click-through promotional power of video.  3CUPS is a business dedicated to bringing high quality products to their customers while stimulating them to learn more about what they sell… the really good stuff.  They recently began adding video promotions as an element to their email marketing and on their website home page.  “Using video allows us to show what it’s like to come into our store and learn about our business,” says Badi Bradley a partner at 3CUPS.  The first promotion to include a video element delivered 600 views in the first several days.  Following the success of the first video, 3CUPS has released three more videos and has five projects underway.  Lex Alexander, owner of 3CUPS, believes video offers a unique way to differentiate the business.  “Video allows us to entice customers with a story that demonstrates we are very knowledgeable about the items we sell.  People don’t read as much these days; they’ve become accustomed to TV.  It helps us personalize the business.”  The video was produced in HD by Jim Fink of New Century Digital Media and shot and directed by Ken Peterson, SilverLight Productions.  The HD Flash video is hosted by NCDM.  According to Fink, “We support the concept of a full television experience that people have become used to in their home.”  Fink provides clients with more than just production and hosting, he also provides access to stats on the performance of each video.  “Clients have direct access to a lot of data about their videos.  It allows them to better manage the use of video as part of their overall marketing activities.

 For a business like 3CUPS, customizing the content of promotional video as part of their direct mail advertising has proven effective.  The high engagement factor of video, combined with better customer targeting and improved Internet tracking capabilities, offers advertisers a highly accountable way to improve response rates and deliver bottom line results. 

Marketing to the C-Suite

Everyone in marketing and sales wants in to the C-Suite executive.  Marketing and selling at the executive level has long been a favored business strategy.  But as marketing communicators, how well do we assist sales with messaging that truly resonates at the C-level?

Marketing deliverables must support sales initiatives at multiple stages of the customer buying cycle.  That’s why we create ads, glossy brochures, webcasts, white papers, and all the tactical deliverables required to move a prospect over to the sold column.  But what about messaging for the C-level?

In the book, Selling to the C-Suite, co-authors Stephen Bistritz and Nicholas Read address the issue from the point of view of sales strategy.  For those of us in marketing, the book is a valuable guide on how to support sales in their efforts to sell at the highest levels.  The heart of the issue is that C-level executives have different priorities from others in their organization.  For any proposed spending, C-level executives have multiple options.  They can choose to buy your product or service; they could buy from your competitor; maybe they could achieve similar financial results by hiring more sales people or increasing staff training.  The C-level perspective is not about the widget or servicing the widget, it about how for a given investment, the organization can derive most benefit – and often in the shortest amount of time.

People who make a career in sales understand this.  As marketers, support for C-level engagements must be less about the widget, and more about return on investment.  Next time you are asked to develop marketing support for C-level engagement, stay focused on quantifiable business impact.  It’s the “elevator speech.”  Hold subject matter experts responsible for laser-like focus on the issue of bottom line business impact.  Far too often content-gathering conversations start here, but quickly devolve into performance details, technical specifications, and the standard Features & Benefits information that can be found on any organization’s website.

For a moment, think of yourself as having the big corner office – maybe it’s your favorite chair in a corner of the kitchen.  If you receive a profit-sharing bonus, a tax refund, or a Nigerian email scam actually sends you money (OK, the last item may be a stretch), as family CEO what do you do with the available funds?  You could pay bills, make some home improvements, put money down on a car, or buy a vacation… you get the idea.  Business leaders make similar decisions about projects to fund or activities to support.

Make it Effective:

  • Focus less on product/service and more on value
  • Don’t use jargon, messages should focus on outcome level
  • Enable sales to personalize the assets to individual C-level executives
  • Content must be relevant, engaging, and, focused on the industry sector
  • Create conversation starters: interesting data about industry trends, success stories, etc.

Such a strategy proved effective for business analytics software leader SAS.  Last year, a series of thought leader events was held in about a dozen cities across North America.  The events featured analytics consultant, author, and educator Tom Davenport, and focused on how companies can use analytics to drive business results.  Tactical marketing support included print, an online presence, advertising, and live event support.  All of the tactical deliverables focused on business outcome and value.  For the SAS sales staff, the events were a great way to engage prospects and customers while building stronger relationships.

Your marketing support activities may only get one chance to assist sales in making an impact at the C-level.  Keep the messaging focused on what your organization offers that can help a senior executive deliver results demanded by the board of directors.  This will help establish your sales team as trusted advisors to your customers and open new opportunities for your business.

Twittering Away

To tweet or not to tweet ‑ dats d Q: Whether ’tis nobler to twitter away… and be all my tweets remembered.  With apologies to the “Bard of Avon,” I read with interest one of this year’s many yearend lists.  The Global Language Monitor has announced that Twitter was the top word of 2009 in its annual global survey of the English language.  “In a year dominated by world-shaking political events, a pandemic, the after effects of a financial tsunami and the death of a revered pop icon, the word Twitter stands above all the other words,” said Paul JJ Payack, President of The Global Language Monitor.  Enjoy the list.

Top Words of 2009
1.  Twitter
2.  Obama
3.  H1N1
4.  Stimulus
5.  Vampire
6.  2.0  (my take on Web 2.0)
7.  Deficit
8.  Hadron
9.  Healthcare
10.  Transparency
11.  Outrage
12.  Bonus
13.  Unemployed
14.  Foreclosure
15.  Cartel 

Top Phrases of 2009
1.  King of Pop
2.  Obama-mania
3.  Climate Change
4.  Swine Flu
5.  Too Large to Fail
6.  Cloud Computing
7.  Public Option
8.  Jai Ho!
9.  Mayan Calendar
10.  God Particle