A simple direct mail campaign can sometimes have as strong of an impact as the loudest, most impeccably articulated digital campaign.
Why? Because, as consumers, we experience some of the best websites, digital content and emails on a daily basis. Having that perfect website, social presence and a focus on website usability is important and increasingly "expected", but, are no longer a differentiator.
A well orchestrated direct mail campaign is an effective marketing tool and can cut through online chatter while complementing the digital programs you have in place. In their 2012 Channel Preference Survey, ExactTarget found that 65% of consumers who received direct mail either made a purchase or engaged in other calls to action.
Direct mail is an old method of reaching out, but it isn't outdated. How can you use it in new ways?
Use Data (big or small) to Personalize Your Work.
Make your work feel relevant to the user. Go beyond just personalizing their name. Tweak the content, offer and design to connect with the user.
If you plan on following up, acknowledge the initial message and build upon it. For example, if you know someone responded to a newsletter on bee-keeping you can add that knowledge to the content and design of your follow-up direct mail. E.g. "We would like to invite you to an upcoming honey-farming event in your community."
Take Advantage of Tangibility.
One awesomely simple point one of our Performance Marketing Experts made was to incorporate interactive elements, different textures and new design ideas to add a sense of discovery to the experience. "If it looks good, feels nice and screams for interaction, I am more likely to open it", says Nimisha Asthagiri.
Blend Across Channels.
If direct mail offers the first touch, digital channels drive long-tail interaction. Choose the appropriate channels to further engage your prospects. E.g. You can add QR Codes to direct mail and drive them to a personalized landing page, your website, video portal or your Facebook fan page for further interactivity.
There is really no limit to what you can do with direct mail. Invest some time to make it stand out through creativity & interactivity. Your direct mail campaign may not reach prospects through new technology, but it will definitely be different.
Come, meet Our Direct Mail Superheroes
We utilized the ideas featured above in a recent direct mail campaign that featured elements of fun, interactivity and personalization.
Our Founder, Nirmal Parikh, came up with the idea of using an Avengers inspired activity set to bring out the inner Marketing Superhero in our prospects. The package included a superhero cutout and markers, themed tattoos, a personalized letter and a copy of the Avengers comic book. The actual "gift" from us was about them, and encouraged fun. The idea was to help prospects envision themselves as this superhero character.
Yes, marketing is a serious business – but really what creative marketer wouldn't be tempted by the opportunity to color a superhero that represents them?
We blended across channels by creating a landing page with an invitation to connect via social networks. These were the next steps in the communication process. So, we offered them additional information on our call to action while restating the promotions and encouraging social engagement.
The Marketing Superheroes effort was simple in its delivery.
Sure the landing page added an online element, but its main entrée was paper, markers and a business card placed in a package. Yet, we all agreed that it was a unique way to reach people. The kit has been very well accepted and we've (until now) received a 47 percent response rate and a few (well-deserved!) praises from prospects who loved our approach, creativity and effort!
So, don't rule direct mail out just yet. Give your customers the opportunity to have a simply "them" moment to be creative, open a personalized "gift" and think of themselves as a Superhero. After all, it does take a superhero to handle the marketing demands of today's world! And, wer'e here to help.
It's the Ads on their smart phones that people dislike. It's the tiny message that you can't seem to quite read, let alone digest and respond to the call-to-action. Which car company was that? Who cares?
Let's face it. Those tiny ads just aren't working. Very few people click on them, some even accidentally, and surveys show that 4 out of 5 dislike them. According to a recent study done by Azullo, an Ad solution company, only 21% of people even remember seeing an Ad on their phone in the last six months. And, of those who did remember, only 14% said it made them want to buy what was displayed. That said, mobile accounts for 10% of people's time spent on media and that percentage is only going to grow because mobile devices are always-available, instantly-on. There's no login screen, no lengthy boot cycles, or taking your computer out of your briefcase. Smart marketers know this but are still struggling to figure out how best to use this channel for their brands.
In the view of Sunil Gupta, Professor of Business at Harvard Business School, among others, the future of mobile is in Apps not Ads. Observe how people use their smart phones. A lot of time on these devices is spent on calling, emailing, texting and browsing and yes also on apps for games and entertainment, social networks, utilities, discovery and brands. Games and entertainment and social networks account for 73% of the time spent on one's phone. That doesn't leave much air-time for other categories which includes brands.
So the key is to create Apps that stand out just the way an Ad has to stand out on television or radio. The list of ways to do this revolves around strategies that deliver convenience, unique value, social value, offer and entertainment. And that is where the holy grail for your brand is i.e. to create the right combination of these strategies into an App that fits the product category and delivers the brand's value proposition. Brands like Nike (Nike+ Running, Nike+ FuelBand, Nike+ Basketball, etc.) and Coke (Coke Drink, Coca-Cola Freestyle) are already doing it but the list is small and non-existent in many product categories.
At the end of the day it's about relevant content presented in an engaging manner that smart phone users go back to again and again.
So, what will you bet on? Apps or Ads? Give us your feedback here or join the conversation on our Facebook page.
How can you keep your email marketing relevant this year?
The rise of mobile and social media has changed the way consumers view content. It has also elevated our users' expectations. Just like marketing tools have adapted to the way consumers view and receive content, email marketing will make way for an increasingly mobile and more personal user experience.
Let's start with the facts:
Over 80% of people are using their smartphones to read and send email (Google 2011).
In the second half of 2012, 40% of emails were opened on a smartphone or mobile device (Knotice).
Two-thirds of businesses will integrate social media and email marketing this year (Strongmail).
Increasing subscriber engagement was considered the top email marketing initiative by 50% of businesses.
It's clear that email is becoming an increasingly mobile experience. It is also a tool for marketers to engage their readers and build relationships via social media integration.
Here are four keys to forward focused marketing:
- Email marketing should be MOBILE friendly
Because of mobility, content should be USABLE
To increase engagement, content should be PERSONAL
The user experience should be SIMPLE
It is likely that your customer's relationship with your company will not only evolve online but also through mobile. Mobile content should create a positive experience for the user every time they interact with your brand.
For email, layouts should be optimized for mobile reading. Send emails that are device agnostic and responsive to screen size. Mobile also means time sensitive. Create concentrated content, allowing users to hone in on key aspects of your message and easily engage in calls to action.
Because of mobility, email should also be highly usable. Create links that are designed for touch screen capabilities (larger buttons, larger font). If the email is linked to other websites or landing pages, ensure that those destinations are also optimized for mobile.
The email should not be fully dependent on graphics or outside links. There is often a lag time between opening the email and the images loading.
Provide more than an email personalized with a name. With the rise of social media, users are searching for a company that can deliver messages more personal and relevent to them.
Tailor the message to targeted segments. Make use of data that provides information on who your readers are and what they are interested in. Use these insights to create content that is meaningful, relevant and informative.
Don't let the impact of social media overshadow your efforts, but use it to your advantage. Integrate social media into your emails, including social links and create opportunities to share content using chicklets or widgets. This allows users to connect with you on their preferred channels while expanding your reach.
To paraphrase, "A designer has achieved perfection when there is nothing left to take away."
We love things that make life simple. Keep your message clear. Keep the call to action obvious and minimize distractions.
Nothing like seeing good practice in action, check out these 10 Simply Awesome Examples of Email Marketing from the Hubspot Inbound Marketing Blog.
Responsive website design is more than just delivering pretty eye candy. It's creating an experience that delivers maximum usability agnostic of the device that the user is consuming your content with. Learn why responsive design is important.
Does this sound familiar?
While searching on your phone Something Interesting! shows up and you decide to click on it. This leads to a minuscule website requiring a combination of creative mobile gestures (press and zoom, swipe, drag, tilting the phone a different way) to help you sift through content. You zoom in, "No, that's too close." You move up, "Argh, that's too far up." After a while you have already forgotten what the Something Interesting! was and an incoming text message reclaims your attention, leaving the hard-to-navigate website in the dust.
This is where responsive design comes in.
Responsive design is an adaptation to the way we use devices. It presents users with a consistent experience whether they are viewing content on a laptop, smartphone or tablet.
A website featuring responsive design will adapt to the appropriate size and layout depending on the device being used. While apps provide a way for companies to produce mobile-focused content, responsive design offers an optimum browsing experience on each device. Instead of having to download an app, or come up with creative gestures, you get instant access to highly usable content.
Why is Responsive Design Necessary?
Why is this important? Consumers are buying a variety of devices and using these devices to access online content.
As of January 2013, 87 percent of U.S. adults own a cell phone, 45 percent own a smartphone and 31 percent own tablets. (Pew Research Center)
Tablet sales are expected to reach 100 million by the end of this year and eventually exceed notebook sales by 2016. (NPD)
Tablet shipments are predicted to have a compound annual growth rate of 28% over the next five years.
Consumers are also using their mobile devices as they would a notebook or desktop computer.
Close to 60% of tablet owners prefer to read news articles on the web rather than through an app. (Pew Research)
31% of mobile phone owners go online almost exclusively with their mobile devices.
Mobile internet traffic makes up 13 percent of all global internet traffic. (KPCB)
When searching on a PC, the difference between a responsive site and a non-responsive site can be seen when adjusting the size of the browser. Here is a comparison of Mashable's responsive site and The Wall Street Journal. We adjusted the browser to fit the screen resolution of a laptop, tablet and mobile screen.
From the Mashable website you can see that content adjusts as the shape changes. The narrow mobile model has an entirely different layout, so a user can browse by clicking a pull down menu and view article previews by swiping.
The Wall Street Journal site simply cuts off content when the size and shape of the browser window changes. Only a corner of the website shows up on the mobile model. And if opened on an actual phone, the site shows up as a tiny - less usable version.
We live in a world where people want to access information on any device, at any time, from anywhere. The purpose of a responsive design is to create a seamless transition between these devices. Having a responsive site will ensure that your content keeps people engaged via a device of their choosing.
Want to test the limits of responsive design for yourself? Check out some of our favorite responsive sites.
Making your website look all cool and fancy is important but may we suggest that you pay even close attention to usability. After all, if it looks good, but no one can use it, what good is it?
Case in point: Lufthansa
Lufthansa's current website (as of 1/31/2013) features a nice layout with good use of hero images. Unfortunately, it's the same use of those hero images, that's making the Search feature on their site un-usable.
How so? You might ask. Well, the person in charge of website content obviously did not pay any attention to the fact that the "search" feature (in black text) was layered on top of the hero images. So, while those hero images of ski lodges in Switzerland, business class cabin or the temples of India work on a standalone basis, they practically blend in with the backgground image to make the overlaid Search feature on the Home Page practically unusable.
A great example of why design & usability go hand in hand.
So, if you are using a green background on your site, that green "Go" button might look great in Photoshop, but it will do a David Copperfield and disappear from the page if you aren't careful!
Here are 2 screenshots from the Lufthansa site. You be the judge. Do you think it's easy to spot the options for Search?
The folks from Google (Anthony Phalen and Michael Hawkins) recently shared some very interesting data around mobile (audience, devices, behavior, usage, etc) at the 2012 NEDMA Marketing & Technology Summit that furthered my knowledge and cemented my understanding of the mobile platform, devices and landscape.
Mobile is already here and is the future of marketing. That's where some of your customer interactions are taking place now, more will take place in the next 2 years and most will take place 5 years from now. Considering that Apple has almost a MILLION apps in the App Store and Google is activating almost a million Android devices on a daily basis it is almost certain that mobile is where you will first interact and engage with your customer in the (very) near future. It will be a huge (and rude I might add!) wake up call for anyone who thinks or says otherwise.
I'll use a bunch of infographic-style graphs that will do the "talking" for me. BTW, I am always happy to talk/discuss/brainstorm and share ideas around this topic as I am personally extremely passionate about it. So, feel free to ping me (@BOSMarketer or @nirmalp) or join the conversation here. I look forward to hearing your thoughts!
Here's a neat little ticker that tracks the # of Android devices in the world! PS: Doesn't work in Firefox. Sorry.
So, we'd all like to believe that we make rational decisions most of the time. Right?
Well, last week at FutureM I heard Aaron Reid and Nancy Harhut talk about the science of decision making and they tell us otherwise! In fact, only 5% of our decisions are based on a rational thought process. The other 95% is based in the sub-concious! Decisions already made by our mind, only to lead the other 95% to believe.
So, what factors influence our decision making process?
It's been scientifically proven that avoiding pain is peceived to be 2x more beneficial than gaining something. Hence subject lines, like those defined below, work well in getting people to open their emails.
"How to avoid..."
"Don't miss out!"
"What never to eat on airplanes"
"7 E-mail Marketing Rules To Follow Before Hitting Send"
One thing is for certain. When people are uncertain they follow the lead of others they know. Including testimonials has shown to increase order value by an order of 80%! Why? Because people believe in other people. And, worldwide a whopping 92% of the people trust earned media (like testimonials and recommendations) more than anything else.
Creating a sense of urgency and exclusivity is another way to nudge customers in making decisions. If your customer feels your're going to run out of inventory they are more likley to act fast and complete a purchase. Everyone from Amazon to Travelocity is employing this tactic.
Exclusivity has a similar effect. I mean, who doesn't want to belong to an exclusive club, right? If it's your last chance to respond to get a sneak preview at something, chances are you will. Think daily deal sites like HauteLook.com (Nordstrom) and MyHabit.com (Amazon) that bring you exclusive member-only offers!
Eye Magnet Words
Eye-magnet words are designed to draw your attention, increase engagement and generates more responses. And the big daddy of them all is FREE.
Remember the days of the "old" web when you clicked a Submit button to submit a form? If we know our conversions would get a boost by just changing that button to "Download the Free Whitepaper", then why not?
Examples of a few more eye-magnet words are:
New, Introducing (exclusivity)
Guarantee, Proven (removes risk, social proof)
Easy, Quick, Improved
Personalization is another way to boost your response rates. Research shows that personalization with a name that sounds like or is similar to the user's name increased responses by 56% while a generic name resulted in a 30% increase. Not bad for 2 extra words!
Writing something down increases the level of commitment from your users. Once you have something positive in writing from the person, they feel tempted to demonstrate this commitment and are less likely to change their purchase behavior. Think of all the testimonials! People who provide testimonials to your product or service are less likely to purchase from a competitor.
Yesterday, I had the pleasure to hear Gopi Kallayil, Chief Evangelist, Google Social for Brands, speak at FutureM in Boston.
First, a few stats that he shared.
- Cellphones have become a part of our human body. He labeled it the 79th organ!
- There are 6 billion mobile devices in the world right now. I didn't realize how apt the page we've created was in this context! How many Android devices in the world? (sorry: works on Chrome and IE only)
- We're 16-digits of separation from any other person in the world. At first, I thought he was talking about IP addresses but quickly realized he was talking about phone numbers.
- There are 1.5 billion people on Planet Social (most of them on Facebook, of course!)
- Google+ had 400 million users and 100 million monthly active users who spend 12 minutes/day
He also outlined Google's social vision as "creating a social layer across all of Google's products". And that includes all google social properties like Google+, Search, YouTube, Hangouts, etc.
Here are the 5 insights he shared. If you are looking for specific examples on how to drive conversations and engagement, read the stories that appear below this list.
1. Face-to-face Conversations
2. Human Connections
3. Connect with your Fans
4. Deepen Engagement
5. Know your Brand Influencers
Google+ enabled President Obama to connect with ordinary citizens at his State of the Union address. Every person who wanted to ask a question had to record the question and upload it to YouTube. They received 250,000 questions from all across the US!
President Obama fielding questions via a live Google+ Hangout
Google+ enabled Jaxa, the Japanese equivalent of NASA, organize a hangout between a Japanese astronaut Aki Hoshide and the citizens of Japan to engage and educate the audience about Japan's space program (forward to 40 minutes)
Google searches now feature "Social Extensions" that let you see if a hotel or airline that you are considering has been "+1"d by a friend or a colleague. Since recommendations from friends are a source of high-quality information, these extensions are improving clickthrough rates (CTR) by 10-15 percent.
Google+ Hangouts is taking people around the world through Virtual Photo Walks and how it was deepening engagement. Virtual Photo Walk page on Google+.
And, Google+ is letting you drive and measure engagement by connecting with your fans who share your content via Google+ by displaying profiles of people who've +1'd your content or have shared it amongst their circles. If you are a brand influencer for a company it is important to know and engage with these influencers.
More stats on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in case you are interested.
The coming of the cloud has transformed how people store, access, engage, manage and deploy information, hardware and services.
As a user of hosted email or an app, you might be wondering what else is hosted out there? Well, here's a list to get you started.
AaaS - Application As A Service
BaaS - Backend As A Service
BaaS providers take aim at the fact that even developers want an easy way to access and manage data stored in the cloud. BaaS providers offer developers easy access to multiple clouds enabling them to focus on deliveirng the best user experience and functionality and creating rich internet applications. These services are extremely niche and cater to and are collectively referred to as Developer Platforms.
Examples: Parse, Kinvey, StackMob
HaaS - Hardware as a Service
IaaS - Infrastructure as a Service
In the IaaS model an organization outsources all of its hardware including storage, servers and networking components. The provider owns and manages the equipment and is responsible for housing, running and maintaining it. Pricing is based on a utility pricing model i.e. you pay for what you use. Turn on the lights and you pay. Leave them off and start saving. It's also sometimes referred to as Hardware as a Service (HaaS) Network as a Service (NaaS).
Examples: Sungard, Cisco, Rackspace, Amazon
MaaS - Music as a Service
You've got thousands of songs that you want to listen to. Some more, some less frequently. But, don't want to pay $18 for a CD or an album featuring only 2 of your favorite songs. Of course you don't. Everyone gets that. So, now you can create your custom album on iTunes or sign up for a subscription and play all the music you want (and more) from (almost) any device.
Examples: Rhapsody, Spotify
NaaS - Network as a Service
PaaS - Platform as a Service
PaaS is a category of cloud computing services that provide a computing platform and a solution stack as a service. Along with SaaS and IaaS, it is a service model of cloud computing. Companies creates the software using tools and/or libraries from the provider. They also control software deployment and configuration settings. The provider is responsible for offering and manaing the networks, servers, storage and other (optional) services.
The PaaS model facilitates the deployment of applications without the cost and complexity of buying and managing the underlying hardware and software and provisioning hosting capabilities. The provider's job is to deliver reliability, scalability and speed for deploying applications in the cloud. Again, this service category is catered to developers.
Examples: Xtium, Engine Yard, AppFog, Heroku
SaaS - Software as a Service
This is the most common service model and a one that people are most familiar with and connected to. This model has widespread applications. There's no specific niche. It is replacing traditional applications that came on CD/DVD, required installation and upgrades or security patches every so often. They are all moving to the cloud.
Most feature a free, freemium or a premium pricing model. Some require commitment, others don't. Either which way, they are for the masses. From document processing to complex applications, everything is literally available under the cloud!
Most companies are now building software platforms that can be accessed, maintained, secured and managed easily using a single point of interface with their users via an authenticated login. Salesforce.com was a pioneer in this SaaS delivery model.
Examples: Salesforce.com, Google Apps, Microsoft Office 365, Adobe Creative Cloud
VaaS - Voice as a Service
This category of providers focuses on enabling voice-based services for your existing website or applications. Live chat or "talk-back" apps are an example of apps in this category. They enable easy integration of voice-enabled services within your platform and are paid for as a subscription. It's quite popular amongst retail sites that sell products that are usually more complicated but we've seen them being used on B2B service sites as well. They are often used to provide live support instead of a phone call.
Examples: BoldChat, LivePerson, Volusion
Starbucks Coffee - Dude! You’re buying an Apple product. Dunkin Donuts ain’t gonna make the cut.
Any Apple product - iPhone, iPad, iPod, Mac. You certainly don’t want to be seen with a Samsung Galaxy running Android!
Toiletries - Do everyone else a favor. Stock up before you hit the lines. And, use often & generously.
A comfy "camp" chair - since you will be camping out. A one with a footrest is recommended.
Soup - Any soup will do. Unfortunately, you’ll have to go cold turkey on this.
A place to temporarily call home - It’s either a tent or find someone who rents one on Airbnb.
A portable "throne" - Unless you have a really (really!) large bladder get one of these. You could charge the guy next to you. He isn’t moving either.
Classic PB (J optional) sandwich. Insist on Pepperidge Farm. Store brands won’t cut it unless its from Whole Foods.
Some Benjamins - A couple of these should come in handy. The more the merrier.
Portable heater - Unless you live in Phoenix or Apple exclusively launches its products in El Azizia, you’re gonna need one.
"Steve Jobs" himself - Sorry. No Kindle. Paperback only.