Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Is Your Marketing Ready for the E-commerce Surge?

Pandemic lockdowns across the nation have turbocharged e-commerce, with online sales growing by triple-digits. Is your marketing ready? Most marketers are not, according to a recent Profitero and Kantar survey of 200 brand executives, which found that only 17% believe their organizations are leading competitors in e-commerce. E-commerce marketers need to quickly prioritize strategies, advises a recent post by Forbes magazine’s CMO Network contributor Sarah Hofstetter. A problem identified by the Profitero and Kantar survey, for example, is that only 11% of organizations have functional-level e-commerce goals in place. Hofstetter urges making e-commerce a part of everyone’s job, from building e-commerce KPIs into bonuses to content accountability on retail websites to overcoming silos with cross-functional goals. Next, marketers should boost online profiles and product discovery efforts. That includes targeted SEO and SEM, strong ratings and reviews, engaging targeted content, and aligned multichannel outreach. Third, shift from offline to speedier online tactics, such as algorithmic matching of competitor price changes and real-time tailoring of product assortments and promotional strategies by audience. Fourth, boost online agility. Note that 63% of brands do not test and optimize their content to improve sales impact (Profitero and Kantar survey). So brands that digitally test new products, new traffic-generating variables and new marketing messages gain an edge. Janet Balis, a principal of Ernst & Young LLP, recently penned a Harvard Business Journal article offering more advice.The nuances of creative messaging have become more delicate, she notes, warning that while exploitative brands will not fare well, organizations that promote doing good, from food bank donations to repurposed manufacturing, can enhance brand image as long as contributions are seen as material and not solely for commercial benefit. Next, since the mix of preferred media platforms has changed, marketers may want to modify the media mix, for example with more ad-supported premium video streaming for spiking digital entertainment, or ads around peak news consumption. Finally, marketers will want to put a greater emphasis on behavior trends and response tracking to better adapt messaging and targeting. Small, less sophisticated retailers can take advantage of Google tools, such as using Google Trends, Google Alerts  and retail-category metrics for Google Search and Shopping campaigns to spot shifts in demand. They can frequently update Google Ads, customer-facing websites and Buyer Profiles on Google Maps and Search, and can enable automatic item updates in the Google Merchant Center to keep product data current. For more, see https://www.acculist.com/has-your-marketing-adjusted-for-the-current-e-commerce-surge/

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

In Virus Disruption, Direct Mail Offers Advantages

As the majority of American adults hunker down at home, with all but essential businesses closed or working remotely because of the COVID-19 crisis, AccuList reminds marketers of the unique advantages of targeted direct mail, which takes promotions right into homes, has the highest response rate of any channel, and has the ability via print technology to connect with digital, too. A post by direct-response agency SeQuel Response notes that since the majority of American have responded to the crisis by increasing online shopping, many direct marketers have flooded the digital zone with new e-commerce sites, digital advertising, social media promotions, and e-mail. With online channels overcrowded, direct mail offers a way to reach consumers in their homes and rise above the noise. The agency provides some good tips: 1) Ensure creative elements and messaging align with consumer sentiments for positive brand awareness; 2) reconsider mail frequency and timing if warranted but make sure not to lose touch with the audience; 3) solidify existing customer relations, with increased focus on retention and brand awareness to help survive on the other side of the crisis; 4) integrate direct mail with digital marketing, a proven way to boost response and reduce CPA, including use of print technology, such as QR, AR and VR; and 5) plan for the post-crisis world, recognizing that a campaign takes six weeks from list development to mail drop, to make sure messaging can evolve post-crisis. Given current disruption of buying processes, “optichannel” campaigning, meaning supporting a customer’s buying process via the channel best for them, becomes essential for ROI. Direct mail adds special advantages to an optichannel mix, especially when combined with modeling and digital integration, argues a recent Target Marketing magazine article. Among the article’s examples is Galileo Learning, which operates children’s summer camps in California and Illinois. The company used response-lift customer modeling to identify higher-response prospects on external lists and then put the resulting savings toward even better creative. As a result, response surpassed expectations by bringing in 155 new campers and $66,000 in new revenue. In another Target Marketing case study, Meals on Wheels, in the Diablo region of California, mailed a holiday donor appeal that garnered $230,000 in donations and 43% new donors. The charity attributes the 75,000-piece mail campaign’s success to, first, defining more-responsive list segments for existing donors, lapsed donors and prospects via demographics and customer-look-alike modeling, and, second, adding targeted digital advertising (e-mail, social and online display) that delivered a 600% increase in campaign impressions over the mail-only control. For more, see https://www.acculist.com/amid-virus-disruption-direct-mail-has-optichannel-advantages/

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

COVID-19 Crisis Alters Fundraising Tactics

As the coronavirus crisis alters the social and economic landscape for nonprofits, fundraising tactics will need to alter, too. In a recent NonProfit PRO post, two Orr Group fundraising agency executives suggest some quick tactical shifts. First of all, don't panic and cancel events, they advise, but reschedule or repurpose. If an event can be postponed, a nonprofit may be able to transfer tickets/table buyers to the future event instead of refunding, and can add touchpoints along the way. Or, the fundraiser can switch to a digital event, perhaps with livestreaming. Indeed, this is an opportunity to go digital in multiple targeted ways, starting with more social media ads, paid search ads and SEO efforts. For example, now is a good time for a digital forum, such as a virtual “fireside-chat” with a subject matter expert discussing COVID-19 impact on the mission. Or the nonprofit can pen an article to post on social media as well as e-mail to donors and prospects. And don't forget nondigital communications, such as direct mail and phone calls. The authors suggest building out a phone-call list of top funders, for example. Michael Wasserman, CEO of the stream fundraising platform Tiltify, uses another NonProfit PRO post to stress how the crisis should push fundraisers to boost social media use. The potential audience is huge: almost 80% of the population uses social media, with Facebook and YouTube having over 2 billion users per platform. Even newer sites like TikTok boast 500 million, Discord gets 250 million, and Twitch attracts 15 million daily visitors. Note that the Facebook Fundraisers tool has already raised over $2 billion. So charities that still use elementary fundraising pages with a simple donate button, some text and an image are missing big opportunities. He urges nonprofits to focus more on enticing content, such as video, which can leverage YouTube, the No. 2 search engine in the world with 2 billion registered users. Nonprofits should also consider livestreaming events for fundraising, he argues, to raise big sums in a few hours, citing the example of a group that raised in a week the amount it costs to run St. Jude Children's Research Hospital for a day, which is about $2.7 million. What about the impact of "social distancing" on traditional face-to-face connections with major donors? Suzanne Hilser-Wiles, president of philanthropic consulting firm Grenzebach, Glier and Associates, offers some tips in a recent piece in The Chronicle of Philanthropy. Start by showing you care and reach out quickly to ask how the donor is faring and discuss how the nonprofit is responding. Enlist top executives to communicate plans; e-mail can quickly provide a direct but formal assurance, while social-media platforms offer a more human touch. Ad hoc “investor calls” may be appropriate for smaller donor groups. In messaging, highlight the nonprofit's expertise and how gifts support efforts relevant to the COVID-19 crisis. And don't abandon events; get creative with virtual format substitutes, such as a conference call or webinar. For more detail, see https://www.acculist.com/covid-19-crisis-alters-tactics-for-fundraising-success/

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Nonprofits Can Weather Pandemic's Donor Impact

Nonprofit fundraising faces a novel crisis as the novel coronavirus pandemic shuts down business-as-usual across America and threatens recession. Based on fundraising experience in previous crises, such as 9/11 and the 2008 recession, AccuList urges nonprofits not to cut back on fundraising efforts during this critical period. Indeed, since event fundraising is likely to be cancelled or postponed, now may be the time to shift resources into high-response workhorses like direct mail. And for some causes directly impacted by pandemic issues (humanitarian appeals such as food banks, homeless shelters, elder care, emergency health and medical supplies), fundraising messages may be especially resonant and effective now. Yes, philanthropy has trended at 1.5% to 2.5% of GDP annually since 1978, and it’s pretty clear GDP (and thus fundraising) is going to take a hit in 2020. But as a NonProfit Pro magazine article by Craig Depole, president of direct-response fundraising agency Newport ONE, warns, organizations that pulled back and stopped soliciting after 9/11 and the 2008 recession took years to recover from their losses, "while organizations that continued to solicit their donors with messages of need and impact emerged stronger and healthier." Depole’s NonProfitPro article goes on to outline a number of steps to make fundraising outreach more successful during a national crisis: 1) Double-down on stewardship of donors (more thank-you phone calls, impact reporting, staff engagement); 2) Keep talking with donors and share compelling stories, with humanitarian charities especially able to cite the transformational impact of donations; 3) Acknowledge the fears of donors who are watching stock portfolios decline and engage with them as partners rather than ATMs; 4) Review messaging for relevance, clarity and appropriate tone; and 5) Have alternative plans ready to go, say in case your mail shop or creative team is quarantined, or you need to substitute for promotional supplies from China. As a Network for Good blog post by Kimberly O'Donnell stresses, "In uncertain times, one thing is certain with fundraising—the more you plan, the better off you will be. Successful fundraising during a recession is two-pronged: 1) Focus hard on donor engagement and retention, and 2) Use intelligent prospecting techniques to recruit new followers and supporters." A poll of fundraising agencies by The Nonprofit Alliance similarly offers cogent responses to how agencies are preparing nonprofit clients for the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic. One respondent advises, "As this unfolds, my advice will likely be the same as to every other major disruption, including 9/11: 1) Acknowledge the crisis and state how the organization is helping solve it; 2) Stay the course, (and) don’t cut back on acquisition and renewal efforts." For more see our website blog post at https://www.acculist.com/how-nonprofit-fundraising-can-weather-pandemic-impacts/

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Experiential Marketing Turns to Non-Event Options

What happens when experiential marketing—the strategy of engaging customers in branded live experiences—faces a world where events are being cancelled or postponed thanks to novel coronavirus fears? The blow to b2b experiential marketers is significant. Back in January 2020, the Demand Gen Report found that 53% of U.S. B2B marketers surveyed rated in-person events and tradeshows as their most effective channel for driving lead conversions, above digital-only efforts such as e-mail and the company websites. Of course, that was before the coronavirus began to scuttle plans. The event drought doesn’t mean that the power of experiential marketing vanishes, but marketers do have to adapt. As experiential agency Fake Love’s CEO Alanna Lynch explained in a recent AdWeek article, since there’s no doubt experiential marketing will be affected, "particularly around large-scale events with a global audience," the company is "proactively thinking about how our approach to branded experiences may need to evolve in the short term, more specifically, how physical activations could be experienced virtually and then shared virally." In a ClickZ post, Gretchen Scheiman reminds experiential marketers of the potential power of online experiences, ranging from gaming like Fortnite, to educational platforms like Kahn Academy to McDonalds restaurants, where parents who might hesitate to send children into crowded Happy Meal Play Zones can visit happymeal.com for downloadable coloring pages, activities and interactive games. Jillian Ryan at eMarketer likewise urges pandemic-deprived marketers to "go digital and be nimble" as virtual conferences replace physical events, creating digital touchpoints whose content and engagement can still influence the intended audience. Indeed, event cancellations can provide a great opportunity for marketers to A/B test whether their physical event presence is as crucial to conversion as presumed, Ryan notes. Plus, experiential marketers have some good old-school options that have been technogically enhanced for interactive engagement. Ryan urges consideration of direct mail as an experiential tool, for example. In addition to its visual and tactile engagement, direct mail can be highly targeted and personalized, and now, thanks to digital print technology such as QR, VR and AR, digitally interactive as well. Similarly, ClickZ’s Scheiman reminds that targeted e-mail is another great way to create a direct line of communication with people around an event or experience, physical or virtual, with links to interactive digital. For more, see our website blog post at https://www.acculist.com/b2b-experiential-marketers-have-options-to-pandemic-cancelled-events/

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Managing Marketing in the Coronavirus Crisis

The global spread of the coronavirus already has caused significant disruptions in supply chains, corporate profits, economic growth and government policy. No one knows how bad things will get before they get better, but marketers need to be prepared. Certain industries are more likely to be significantly affected as people shun travel and large gatherings: airlines, cruises, events of all kinds (perhaps even the Tokyo Olympics), business conferences, hospitality, and even retail venues. Supply disruptions also could affect sectors ranging from auto manufacturing to high tech to promotional products. A general slowdown could cut advertising spend initially, but experts believe it is more likely that there will be a reallocation of dollars to cater to quarantined or self-isolating consumers via mail order, digital marketing and e-commerce product sales; via online video and gaming options; and even via streaming of sports events instead of stadium venues. In a recent blog, AI and data tech company Appier suggested tactics to leverage this rise in online consumption, for example by using online data to identify coronavirus concerns and deliver targeted relevant content and advertising via keyword segmentation, which is especially relevant for health, wellness, medical, and sanitation sectors. Companies can also develop more branded online apps, games, and videos to compete for the expanded online audience. Plus, it will be important to use AI and audience data for contextual targeting and proper placement of advertising to avoid creating a negative brand impression. Because companies may face logistical delays, they need to commit to transparent multichannel communications on product shortages and estimated delivery times, as well as timely response to questions and complaints, advises Appier. At the same time, increased engagement via website, e-mail, social media, push notifications or in-app messaging can bring customers closer and help reduce frustration levels. Appier also stressed that marketers need to set the right messaging tone for an anxious audience, avoiding the hard sell in favor of customer and community support. In a PR Week interview, Priyanka Bajpai, regional head, Southeast Asia, SPAG Group, promoted the company's 3E approach to messaging during the crisis: Empathy to show cautious optimism and trust in the future ability to work together and find solutions; Engagement of internal and external stakeholders to inspire confidence; and Education using multiple channels to outline the criticality of the situation and steps taken by the brand to support stakeholders. Brands may also want to highlight corporate social responsibility efforts such as nonprofit donations to address the pandemic but should avoid marketing around those donations. For more, see our website blog at https://www.acculist.com/managing-marketing-during-the-coronavirus-crisis/

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Personalization, Omnichannel Drive 2020 Direct Mail

Direct mail marketers embrace a channel that, despite perennial death notices, continues to outperform in terms of response, but mailers need to rely on evolving strategies for success in 2020. Research consistently shows that personalization bumps up response. Most recently, in a 2019 NAPCO Research report on direct mail personalization, 44% of respondents saw personalized print marketing campaigns increase response by 16% on average, while Canon Solutions research found that adding a person’s name and other personalized database information can increase the response rate of direct mail campaigns by up to 500%! So it's no wonder that the recent Printing Impressions article by senior editor Toni McQuilken finds a number of leading marketing and print industry leaders stressing that data-driven personalization is the route to 2020 direct mail success. For example, Maureen Powers, president, Direct Marketing Group at RR Donnelley, asserts, "Personalization is more important than ever before, including with direct mail...We are using the direct mail channel to drive the customer experience through communications such as coupons and personalized offers. We’re also changing how we help our clients message their clients based on individual customer preferences and their point in the customer journey." Likewise, Jim Andersen, executive chairman of IWCO Direct, stresses the shift toward variable data printing of smaller runs of targeted, personalized direct mail with digital tie-ins: “Today’s direct mail is more effective, relevant, and timely thanks to more sophisticated audience selection and segmentation. This technology uses digital print to personalize every component of a mail piece, including letters, inserts, cards, and call-to-action reply devices that connect the physical mail to an online, digital marketing experience." For Andersen, mail personalization must be part of the omnichannel approach that customers demand today: "One of the biggest opportunities in the direct mail space is providing effective and efficient solutions to consumer demand for personalized, relevant messaging integrated across all channels. Insightful use of data, combined with the flexibility of digital print production, allows marketers to seamlessly integrate tactile marketing in their omnichannel campaigns." Summer Gould, of Target Marketing magazine, has cited three already-proven ways to combine mail and digital: 1) online display ads that match direct mail data files to an IP address to target specific people by displaying cookie-free banner ads on web pages; 2) Facebook ads that match direct mail data with Facebook data to send targeted ads; and 3) e-mail matched with direct mail audience targeting to keep offers fresh, deliver response reminders and make added special offers. These trends to more personalization and omnichannel integration rely on quality marketing data for segmentation and targeting, of course. For links to AccuList Digital2Direct programs combining mail with e-mail and Facebook, as well as data-quality strategy advice, see https://www.acculist.com/personalization-omnichannel-strategies-drive-2020-direct-mail/