Shopping

A look at holiday shopping trends: What’s “in store” for 2014

Everyone loves a good bargain, especially during the holidays when the pressure to find the “perfect gift” is at its peak. By now, many consumers have planned their shopping strategies and it’s not just about getting the best deal, it’s also about how efficient or expedient they can be. Retailers, of course, are maximizing all the data they’ve been mining in hopes that they can significantly increase revenue.

Looking back on 2013, there are a few things to remember:

  • The shopping season was very short — only 27 days. Most shopping seasons are longer, including this year’s — which is music to any retailer’s ears.
  • Black Friday’s importance is diminishing in lieu of a broader period of savings (starting on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and going straight through to Cyber Monday).
  • Mobile shopping realized a huge increase in 2013, accounting for 14% of total online sales, with a peak of 26% on Black Friday.
  • Tablets outperformed smartphones by converting at a much higher rate. Smartphones were primarily used for immediacy — to check prices and availability — while tablets were used more often in making actual purchases.
  • Social media played more of a role as an influencer in 2013 than in previous years and even though referral clicks logged in at about 2%, a whopping 36% of consumers said that they consulted social media for a good portion of their holiday purchases.

Tactics aside, one of the most valuable strategies for a retailer to employ is to make sure that ads and emails are mobile responsive. Consumers want and expect this, yet many retailers still ignore using this format.

In short, mobile phone use makes reviewing/purchasing quicker, more efficient, and easier due to the device’s ability to pinpoint the best current sales and a product’s or service’s availability. There is no question that smartphones have had a positive effect on the in-store/retail industry. It is important for every retailer to make sure that all communications — whether it’s an ad, e-blast, sale, new product promotion, etc., are mobile responsive and optimized for the best viewing experience.

Looking at 2014 and beyond, “omnichanneling,” a term used to define the many interchangeable paths to purchase, will likely be the norm. Customers can comparison shop, order, and return in several ways, and that is exactly what they are doing; so it is more than a good idea to have a seamless customer experience, it is essential for retailers.

And even though consumers will still be using cash and credit cards for purchases in 2015, mobile payments will probably rise. According to Forrester Research, they will reach $90 billion in the next few years.

So how do retailers navigate the complex and ever-changing tides of marketing/sales?

  • Communicate often and keep messaging consistent across all channels.
  • Continuously monitor what consumers respond to — buying habits change over time — as consumer insights are invaluable.
  • Create a seamless and enjoyable customer experience throughout the entire purchasing cycle — make things easy for your customers.
  • Know your customer and be a good listener — read those reviews, both positive and negative, and respond to them.
  • Keep social media promotions relevant and timely.

The future looks bright for those willing to adapt and be agile. Consumers may change their buying habits and strategies, but one thing remains the same over time, they want to have a good experience, and when they do, they share it with the world. Just remember, the reverse is also true.

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Winning Big With Micromarketing

Media buying has evolved greatly in the last decade, with micromarketing receiving a lot of attention. But what exactly is micromarketing?

Investopedia.com defines this type of marketing as:

“A marketing strategy in which advertising efforts are focused on a small group of highly-targeted consumers. Micromarketing requires a company to narrowly define a particular audience by a particular characteristic, such as ZIP code or job title, and tailor campaigns for that particular segment. It can be a more expensive technique due to customization and lack of an economy of scale.”

It is true that micromarketing does involve segmenting your audience based on finely detailed demographics and/or psychographics, so that your message resonates better with these individuals who would purchase your product or use your service.

However, we’ve found that micromarketing isn’t necessarily more expensive. It may have a higher cost per thousand (CPM), but, with each dollar working much harder, you may be able to enjoy a lower out-of-pocket cost, or a higher frequency against your target.

On the flip side, traditional mass media such as network television may be a good fit for some marketers looking for broad reach, and/or high volume of response, or the targeted reach of an individual cable TV network or programming block. With a broader target audience, “waste” is limited, and casting a bigger net can be most cost-efficient, deliver results more quickly, and yield sales expanded beyond the core target.

Of course, as you read about micromarketing, you may be thinking the concept sounds at least vaguely familiar. That’s because not too long ago “niche marketing” was all the rage. Micromarketing is the logical evolution of niche marketing, utilizing today’s tools to target even smaller market segments.

To utilize micromarketing, you can turn to narrowly targeted traditional channels such as local radio, local TV programming, and local cable TV; addressable TV (delivering your ad only to homes where your specific target resides); community newspapers; or one of many specialized magazines. However, most of the buzz around micromarketing today is regarding digital channels. Millions of websites, blogs, emails, smartphones, and even our online social relationships are all accessible to the micromarketer. Need to reach a mom with 2+ children (under the age of 4) in Kansas City with a median annual income of $75K who’s also “green enthusiast” and frequents DIY websites? No problem! Prior to digital marketing, reaching her would likely have resulted in some amount of wasted time and resources.

Today, you can place display banners on environmental websites, demo-/interest-targeted Facebook newsfeed ads, or online video before infant/child product reviews—all while still geo/gender/age targeting. This allows you to deliver a very specific message through a one-to-one communication, instead of one-to-many.

While creating multiple executions of more-targeted advertising may mean higher production costs, that still doesn’t mean it’s more expensive overall. Remember: you are only purchasing your target audience—not a much larger group, most of whom won’t buy your product or service. This would save a significant amount of media dollars and create a much higher ROI.

Micromarketing isn’t limited to just media strategy either. Many companies are also finding success by more narrowly targeting their sales force, including the unnamed tech company mentioned in this Harvard Business Review article:

“…in recent months sales volume had plateaued…It [a leading chemicals and services company] diced its seven U.S. regions into 70 “micromarkets” and zeroed in on those with the greatest potential. It then pulled reps away from overserved territories, created sales “plays” for the newly identified hot spots, and redeployed the sales force. Within a year the sales growth rate doubled—without an increase in marketing or sales costs.”

However you’re thinking of utilizing it, if you’ve heard the buzz about micromarketing and would like to know more, just give us a call!

Content Marketing

Content Marketing for Medical Devices

Did you know that 60% of business decision makers say that digital content helps them make better buying decisions when it comes to products?*

Decision makers are relying more and more on “company” content to guide them through the buying process. So, medical device companies need to create company content on their websites that is engaging, insightful, and well-produced to help buyers through the following phases and gain a competitive advantage in the process:

Awareness

This is the phase of the process when decision makers are informed and educated about companies that might help them. Instead of pitching products, the content that is developed delivers information that assists medical professionals in making informed decisions; the content makes them more intelligent. Tailor the right content to your potential customers, and you can position your company as a thought leader. This can be accomplished via blogging on popular industry websites or on your own website, email campaigns, and eBooks. The goal is to create content that resonates well with your target audience—content that may lead decision makers to consider your company when they advance in the sales cycle. The most relevant content results from a strategy of focusing more on your target audience’s interests and less on your company.

 Consideration

During this phase of the process, potential customers are preparing to make a purchase and are evaluating options from one company to another. Content development at this stage provides your audience with details on your products and how well those products deliver benefits that align with customer objectives. Content here may include existing customer testimonials, research/case studies, white papers, product brochures/videos, and “how-to” webinars. Comparative product information is highly relevant because that is what prospective customers are looking for at this stage.

Decision

This is the phase when your potential customers have gathered all of the necessary information and are ready to make a purchase. This is the time to present them with content centered around pricing and detailed product specifications. This may be accomplished by having sales reps deliver live product demonstrations or perhaps by using eBooks that include product demos or tutorials.

Content development is an ongoing process that requires a sustained commitment, but it can be leveraged by integrating it into your overall marketing strategy. If you deliver consistently valuable information to potential customers on an ongoing basis, you will “outsmart” your competition—and you will likely be rewarded with new customers and their loyalty.

*Roper Public Affairs Survey

Crisis Communications

Are you ready to communicate during a crisis?

 Natural disasters, scandals, product recalls, work stoppages; there are a multitude of crises occurring constantly. A crisis is simply defined as a major occurrence with a potentially negative outcome.

In a crisis, emotions run on overdrive, minds race, and events happen so quickly that writing a plan amid this situation is impossible–just following one is hard enough.

Crisis management is a process of strategic planning for a crisis–one that removes some of the risk and uncertainty from the negative occurrence and allows an organization to be in greater control of the outcome.

Crisis communications is defined as the dialogue between an organization and its publics prior to, during, and after the negative occurrence. The dialogue created is intended to minimize damage to the organization’s reputation.

Effective crisis management includes crisis communications, which not only can alleviate or eliminate the crisis, but also can sometimes bring an organization a more positive reputation than it may have had before the crisis.

There are various public relations programs that can be utilized during a crisis. They include media, community, employee (internal), consumer, government, and investor relations.

Research indicates that companies with ongoing two-way communications often avoid crises or endure crises of shorter duration or of lesser magnitude. Research also shows that companies with a crisis management or crisis communications plan generally come out of a crisis with a more positive image than companies without a plan.

Crises typically go through distinct phases. The first is detection. The detection phase—or prodromal phase—may begin with the appearance of warning signs. Some crises have no noticeable prodromes, but many do.

When an organization in the same or similar industry suffers a crisis, that can serve as a warning sign. The Tylenol tampering case was a prodrome to other over-the-counter drug manufacturers. Most heeded the warning and converted to tamper-proof containers.

An organization should watch for prodromes and make attempts to stop a crisis at this initial stage, before it develops into a full-blown crisis. A corporate culture conducive to the positive and open interaction of stakeholders can minimize the effects of crises, as can the inclusion of crisis management in the strategic planning process.

Depending on the type of organization, crisis prevention tactics can involve many actions, such as safety training, a whistleblowing policy, and ongoing community engagement.

Crisis preparation is necessary for dealing with crises that cannot be prevented. For example, Pepsi had no way of anticipating the scare in which hypodermic syringes were being found in some cans of Diet Pepsi. The crisis communications plan is the primary tool of preparedness. The plan tells all key people on the crisis team what their roles are.

Containment, the second phase, refers to the effort to limit the duration of the crisis and keep it from spreading to other areas of the organization.

The third phase is recovery, which involves efforts to return an organization to “business as usual.” In addition to restoring normalcy, recovery can involve restoring public confidence.

The fourth and final stage, learning, is the post-mortem phase; this is where procedures are analyzed in order to make the event a lesson for the future.

One way to look at crisis communications is to dissect it into three stages: prevention—preparing before a crisis occurs; management—communicating during the crisis; and recovery—communicating post-crisis.

Prevention involves planning and preparing communications procedures before a crisis occurs. Research and preparation in this first stage are key. An organization’s main goals are to anticipate and prepare for potential crises, and attempt to prevent them before they occur.

The second stage of crisis management is managing the response and communicating it to all interested parties. Time is of the essence in responding to a crisis effectively. A delayed response can be devastating to an organization’s reputation.

The third and final stage of crisis communications is recovery—communicating post-crisis. This look-back stage begins immediately at the end of a crisis.

Post-crisis communication is what an organization says and does after a crisis. In this stage, an organization will attempt to salvage its reputation, while gathering key learnings and undergoing the healing process.

Today’s instant communications environment places a higher premium on crisis management; unprepared organizations have more to lose than ever before. The factors that increase the need for effective crisis management are an increased value of reputation, stakeholder activism through communication technologies, negligent failure to plan, and broader views of crises.

Martino Flynn can help your organization prepare a crisis communications plan. Contact Ray Martino, rmartino@martinoflynn.com, or call 585-641-4540.

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SM4B2B

SM4B2B? That’s social media for business-to-business, and yes, it absolutely exists. Social media has grown from a person-to-person, or business-to-consumer voice and is now a top channel in any integrated, strategic communications plan. With social media driving brand awareness, boosting your website and company’s SEO rankings, platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are tools that cannot be ignored. Ready to get started? Here are a few tips to keep in mind.

Identify your audience.

Even as a B2B company, remember that you’re talking to a person. There are typically a few folks who weigh in on any purchase decision, so make it a point to know who those people are, what they like, what they’re interested in, and what channels they are on. Once you know who to target, take it a step further by using nominal advertising dollars to target your message so it is seen by those decision makers. By putting some dollars behind key posts, you can be sure that your message is being delivered to the people who need to see it.

Reaching your customers on Facebook.

If your business plans to maintain a Facebook page, it’s important to keep in mind that the platform has evolved into a pay-per-play channel, and you’ll need to invest in “Like” campaigns to grow your following. Additionally, Facebook’s “EdgeRank” algorithm heavily sensors business page content and delivers only about 1% of published content to a fan’s timeline. The lesson here is that your company will need a mix of organic (nonpaid) and sponsored (paid) content. That is, in addition to engaging, incentive-focused organic content, a consistent cadence of promoted posts will guarantee that content will be seen in your fan’s timeline.

Using Twitter correctly and effectively.

Now that you know who your audience is, get your Twitter page up and running. Whereas targeting people on Facebook can be viewed as intrusive (because it’s a lot harder to do as a business page), Twitter makes it easy to find, follow, and engage people in a more professional way. In the beginning, find, follow, and listen to your target audiences and industry thought leaders’ tweets. Jumping in right away without fully understanding your audiences will turn them off. Re-tweet content relevant to your brand or business to get on their radar without a direct introduction.

Think about it like dating. Initially, you need to get to know each other first before you introduce him or her to your parents. So long as you have fun, engaging content, you’ll build a following (see below), but even though the ultimate goal is closing a deal, don’t forget to be human.

Using LinkedIn as a resource.

A strong network on LinkedIn can go a long way toward building relationships between businesses and employees, and businesses and potential customers/clients. B2B marketing is built through word of mouth; therefore having shared connections makes it that much easier to establish new online relationships. Ask customers and clients for reviews and reciprocate. Post blogs and relevant third-party articles a few times weekly to populate your newsfeed. This way, when prospects come to your page, they will see an active, engaged, and referred business.

LinkedIn Answers is a place where your sales team executives and reps can establish authority in your field by answering questions from prospective clients and/or customers. You’ll quickly build online rapport and relationships as you have more discussions. Many businesses have seen success in the form of sales leads after continually engaging in discussion and offering business services via LinkedIn.

Content, content, content.

Similar to the “location, location, location” real estate mantra, content is king online. Until your business has reached an iconic state on social media (i.e., millions of followers), simply posting content about your products and services will only achieve one thing: alienation. We all follow that one person on Facebook who posts about the same stuff over and over. It’s annoying and we probably hide their posts. At Martino Flynn, we generally recommend an 80/20 ratio of content: 20 percent original, branded content and 80 percent other (lifestyle, industry trends, etc.). Ask questions, provide data and insight, create original content like product videos and blogs, and offer incentives. Give your fans a reason to come to your page. Think about the business pages you follow. What gets you to type in those businesses’ name in the search bar to see what they’re up to?

Monitor, measure, and follow up.

Are people responding to your content? Social media monitoring is a full-time job. Not only is staying up to date with what’s being posted everywhere online incredibly important from a content and relevancy perspective, it’s also vital to be in the know on what people are saying about your company, industry, and competitors. Set up alerts using a search engine or media monitoring service, cater your content to what’s popular, and monitor engagement on your social channels. Respond to everyone you can and build those relationships.

Once you’ve figured out a posting and monitoring strategy, set benchmarks to work toward. Using website analytics, you should start to see when your social communications make a difference. Trackable (and shortened links) help to monitor traffic, and ad platform analytics on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn will show you what’s working and what isn’t.

Does it still seem like a lot to handle? Martino Flynn’s team of social gurus can help get your social pages up and running, and we have the capacity to fully manage your platforms.

The Official Blog of Martino Flynn