Tuesday, March 19, 2019

AI, Data, Culture Impact Incentive Products Trends

Incentive and recognition products marketers should take a look at The Incentive Research Foundation’s “IRF 2019 Trends Study” for tips on where the market is headed this year. With economic growth and optimism strong, companies are continuing investment in incentive and recognition rewards, with considerable room for market expansion for product suppliers: 84% of businesses are now using non-cash rewards, but past studies show close to 60% of merchandise and gift card rewards are still sourced through retail versus specialized agencies or providers. One factor pushing the recognition market is the trend to “talent culture” creation by C-suite executives, with “The Incentive Marketplace Estimate Research Study” finding more employers than ever offering non-cash rewards aimed directly at building relationships, encouraging inclusion and knowledge-sharing, and promoting engagement. Why? IRF’s studies as well as academic research are finding that when executives combine economic incentives with recognition and well-designed non-cash rewards, they promote “corporate citizenship” behaviors and work environments that attract and retain top talent. So overall use of merchandise rewards is expected to increase, per IRF, particularly among corporate audiences, with a net increase of 33% compared to a net 20% of suppliers and third-party providers. The use of logo’d brand-name merchandise dominates, with 75% of corporate programs using these items as rewards. Other popular rewards are electronics (63%) and clothing/apparel (59%). Meanwhile, gift cards continue to be a popular option within reward and recognition programs, with open loop cards (that can be used anywhere) and brand-specific cards both enjoying high utilization, and e-gift cards gaining momentum. Of particular note, IRF's most recent study urges reward program designers and suppliers to understand how predictive analytics and AI are changing the market: "In the incentives field, predictive analytics and machine learning are helping program designers understand who is drawn to which types of rewards, and how those rewards should be shaped and presented to produce the best outcomes on an individual basis." For more, see https://www.acculistusa.com/ai-data-talent-culture-boost-incentive-recognition-impacts/

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Promo Products Trends: USA-Made, Retail Quality

The “2019 Ad Impressions Study” by the Advertising Specialty Institute has many nuggets to help AccuList’s promotional products marketing clients woo targeted buyers. For example, promo products purveyors can point out how their items beat other ad media not only with high ROI, thanks to a cost per impression as low as a tenth of a cent, but also high impact, with consumers under age 55 preferring promo products over all other mediums for advertising, including newspapers, radio, magazines, television, internet and mobile. In fact, consumers are nearly 2.5 times more likely to have a positive opinion of promotional products compared with online advertising, per ASI. When it comes to consumers’ favored promotional products, ASI’s study shows the highest ownership for writing instruments (89%), drink ware (88%) and T shirts (80%). But winning even with a popular category means keeping up with trends. Among the latest spotted by Promo Marketing Magazine at the 2019 Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) Expo is the boost in re-usable, environmentally friendly products now that cities and states are banning single-use plastic bags and straws. A return to natural and vintage is not surprising in this anti-plastic mode, with a rise in the popularity of wooden pieces, from cutting boards to awards. Plus, multi-function items continue to grow in popularity, with suppliers adding tech functions to classic promotional items, so that water bottles double as Bluetooth speakers and business card holders can be used to prop phones.The marketers at Delta Marketing Group (DMG) get even more specific about trends in design. As more retail brands become available as customizable promotional products, even non-brand items are starting to emulate the retail look and feel, the agency points out. Quality over brand-logo-blasting also is taking hold, for example with branded apparel using small embroidered patches, subtle custom tags, and understated tone-on-tone colors instead of large logo imprints. Creative materials and refined finishes are forecast to come to the fore in 2019, with bright colors, matte and soft-touch finishes, and heathered and burlap fabrics. Plus, the made-in-the-USA trend stays strong, per ASI’s study. About 53% of consumers have a more favorable opinion of an advertiser if the promotional product is made in the U.S. versus elsewhere, and that sentiment is especially strong in New England, where 73% of consumers prefer buying made-in-the-USA items. For more, see https://www.acculistusa.com/watch-for-2019-promotional-products-to-embrace-re-use-multi-use-quality/

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Fundraising Challenged by Gen Z, E-mail, AI

For nonprofit fundraising, 2019 will be another challenging year. Successful direct marketers will need to adapt to changes in demographics, technology and donor targeting, to name just a few trends recently cited by the Donorbox Nonprofit Blog. For example, Donorbox is sounding the alert ahead of the next demographic wave. While the Millennial generation is still the biggest cohort in the workforce, Gen Z is arriving. Born after 1996, they now make up an estimated 27% of the population and will account for 40% of all consumers by 2020. How are they different? The "2017 Global Trends in Giving Report" found that Gen Z members are interested in giving to many different causes, especially those involving youth, animals and human services. But to win the attention of these digital natives, messaging must be concise and engaging, offering an immediate experience that cuts through the marketing noise they routinely filter out. Gen Z is also the first mobile-only generation, so website, e-mail and donation forms must all be optimized for mobile. Meanwhile, remember that today's donors expect a personalized, targeted approach that takes into account demographics, giving history, etc. That means segmenting donor and prospect lists for specialized messaging to account for generational differences and other demographics. It means tailoring the "ask" to the prospective donor's income and giving history. It means refining giving/donation pages to highlight projects and wording that will resonate with the target donor group. E-mail is a channel that can be easily personalized, and despite its recent bad rap, a revisit of e-mail strategy is worthwhile. Research shows that donors willing to donate through e-mail rose from just 6% in 2012 to 28% in 2018. Second, low-cost e-mail has an ROI of 122%, much higher than direct mail, social media and paid search. Finally, fundraisers need to make more use of Artificial Intelligence (AI), perhaps by creating a chatbot to interact via messaging services like Facebook Messenger, Slack, Telegram, etc. to handle donations, register members and distribute information about programs and services. AI also can personalize donor journeys based on real-time behavior to encourage contributions and can weaponize data for more cost-effective donor development. For example, a donor's giving and volunteering history, event attendance, affiliations, relationships, and data from wealth screening tools can all be analyzed to predict a potential donor’s likelihood to give a major gift. For more, see our website blog at https://www.acculistusa.com/fundraising-challenges-include-gen-z-e-mail-ai/

Thursday, February 28, 2019

SEO, Mail, Experiential Tactics Can Spur Events

Per the latest industry surveys, trade show and conference marketers can look forward to solid event industry growth in 2019--along with potential marketing strategy shifts in an increasingly competitive landscape. Event software firm Bizzabo's survey of over 1,000 mid- to senior-level marketers at major companies in 2018 found good news for the event industry: Most respondents (41%) consider live events to be the most critical marketing channel in achieving business outcomes (out of 9 possible channels), a 32% increase from 2017. Business execs are also doubling down on live events. Between 2017 to 2018, the number of companies organizing 20 or more events per year increased by 17%. Additionally, the vast majority of respondents (95%) believe in-person events provide attendees with a valuable opportunity to form connections in an increasingly digital world. This reflects a 12% increase compared to 2017. Meanwhile, Eventbrite, an online event management and ticketing firm, surveyed 1,200 event professionals last year to see how marketers are likely to spend in 2019. Word of mouth, an effective tactic for 63% of event marketers, is bolstered by investments in social media marketing, which 49% of event creators placed among the top three most effective drivers of ticket sales. E-mail rounded out the top marketing channels per those surveyed, with 38% of event professionals relying on it. However, with 89% of attendees using search for purchase decisions, Eventbrite foresees a necessary expansion of SEO efforts. There's definitely room for growth, with almost half (46%) of event professionals saying they aren’t using SEO. And, while e-mail is cited among the favored marketing channels, direct mail continues to turn in higher response for the 41% of event pros that use it. Eventbrite thinks the 50% who cite competition as their biggest challenge will want to reconsider the edge offered by adding mail to their arsenal. Meanwhile, experiential marketing is a hot new trend, engaging attendees by using branded experiences at an event, as part of an event, or in a pop-up activation not tied to any event. Yet Eventbrite found that close to 60% of event creators are not using experiential marketing, so innovators will have the edge. For more, see our website blog at https://www.acculistusa.com/for-2019-edge-event-pros-shouldt-overlook-direct-mail-seo-experiential-marketing/

Friday, February 15, 2019

Digital Trends Lead Insurance Marketing Change

Digital marketing dominates professional advice for insurance marketers this year, from e-mail to social media to online search. However, whether insurance marketing via digital or traditional channels such as direct mail, there are some general trends affecting success in 2019, per the American Agents Alliance. First comes the continued value of cultivating brand advocates with testimonials, referrals and word of mouth. Quoting Forbes magazine, "the top four most-trusted sources of advertising are people you know, branded sites, editorial sites, and reviews." A myopic focus on impersonal advertising will miss these important lead drivers. The personal touch needs to extend into offering targeted, personalized digital and print content that is useful and engaging, as well as client interaction that is real and humanized, not generic and automated. Insurance agency/broker marketing agencies like EaseCentral and OutboundEngine offer some advice on where to focus digital marketing energies more specifically in 2019. Start by revisiting e-mail strategy. With an average $32 return per $1 spent in 2018, e-mail remains an attractive direct marketing option especially because it also offers opportunities for the forwarding, social sharing, and referral business in line with the general trends noted above. Another tried-and-true digital driver, paid and organic search engine ranking, still matters, but search strategy needs an important tweak this year to cater to growth of voice searches. EaseCentral points out that ComScore forecasts close to 50% of all searches will be made through voice search by 2020. Plus, due to the increasing use of voice searches, Google and other search engines are beginning to factor it into their algorithms. Mobile optimization will play a big role in effective leveraging of voice search since these searches occur mainly on mobile devices. Social platforms offer some unique advantages for insurance marketers looking for a way to humanize and personalize, say with personalized customer service via Facebook and LinkedIn. Opportunities for direct marketing with promoted posts and social ads can use social media platforms' increasing ability to target zip codes, professions and other demographics to hone response. Finally, video is now a proven response driver in digital marketing for almost all industries, with online video projected to account for 80% of all web traffic in 2019 per Cisco research. For more detail, see our website blog post at https://www.acculistusa.com/digital-options-lead-2019-insurance-marketing-trends/

Monday, February 11, 2019

Business Periodicals Retain Marketing Clout

A recent blog post from B2B marketing agency Weidert argues that trade publications remain vital to B2B marketing. Whether online or in print, trade magazines retain reputation and authority with their vertical audiences, and many people trust information from these niche publications more than any other source, says Weidert blog author Tammy Borden. Borden notes that while circulation and ad spending for printed magazines may have dipped, digital editions are thriving. That contention is borne out by the latest PwC ad spending forecast, which sees an upward five-year path for trade magazine ad revenues from 2018 to 2022, albeit slight at 0.6%. The overall positive trend is because digital ad growth (9.3%) will offset print losses (-8.4%). In fact, PwC predicts that the digital ad spend will overtake print spending this year. Borden cites the multiple attractions of digital publications for business marketers, such as growing readership: According to the 2018 Mequoda Magazine Consumer Study, 42.4% of U.S. adults read at least one digital magazine per month — a 15% increase in three years. Plus, there are also now digital magazine marketplaces like Magzter and Zinio that allow readers to access thousands of B2B trade titles in one place, further expanding audience reach. For content marketers, digital content is especially appealing because it can not only link to websites but can be SEO-optimized to leverage online impact. Borden still touts the marketing value of printed trade periodicals as well. She points to a survey finding that more than 32% subscribe to one or two print magazines compared with only 18% for digital publications. Plus, the print version of a publication (like direct mail) offers a richer sensory experience (visual and tactile) and a shelf life unmatched by digital. With the option to place advertising or content in both print and digital versions of a respected business periodical, marketers can maximize audience preferences and reach. For more, see our website blog post at https://www.acculistusa.com/business-periodicals-retain-digital-print-influence/

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

B2B Gifting Survey Finds Keys to Gift ROI

We recently ran across some interesting data from a study by Knack, a Seattle gifting company, that should help both corporate gift suppliers to craft the most appealing packages and business gift buyers to maximize their gift effectiveness. The good news from the Knack "Business Gift Satisfaction Survey" is that corporate gifting works well when it is done well: 57% of respondents said that "gifts can impact their opinion of a business partner both positively and negatively." In fact, over 80% of C-suite executives surveyed said they believe that business gifts generate measurable positive ROI in addition to intangible benefits. Since there's a huge investment involved annually, with the market for non-cash business gifts estimated at $125 billion, getting the most positives and fewest negatives is clearly vital. Return-on-investment for a business gift to high-value targets, such as C-suite executives, is highest if the gift tells a story and facilitates a deeper personal connection, per the survey. Quality is more important than the quantity spent to achieve that personal connection; the survey finds that the right amount to spend per gift is between $50 to $150. What defines quality? The best impression comes from good presentation/packaging and the kind of personalization that logo items and gift cards lack, per gift recipients. A memorable gift will seem selected just for the recipient; will include a personal message and will have "value attributes," such as a handmade/artisan item or a gift supporting an appropriate cause, such as ecological sustainability or made-in-U.S.A. For a checklist of fail-safe business gifting tips, see our website blog at http://www.acculistusa.com/b2b-gifting-survey-finds-personal-memorable-score-roi/