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How to achieve ‘consumer-first martech’ – and how the marketing clouds don’t quite stack up

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If you’re going to invest in marketing technology, then it needs to have the customer experience at its heart. While this may seem a self-evident statement, new research from the CMO Club argues more can be done in aligning a consumer-first approach to marketing technology.

The study, which polled 69 chief marketing officers and was put together alongside Selligent Marketing Cloud, noted that both sides of the brand-consumer relationship was frustrated. Two in three marketers polled said their primary goal in terms of marketing automation was to speak to customers in a more relevant way.

Not surprisingly, the problem of data was brought up. You may have tons of data, you may have the desire to get tools in place to make the most of it – yet it is not that simple. For respondents who were customers of the main marketing cloud players, access to data was consistently the key issue. One Salesforce customer bemoaned having to ‘bolt on’ Google Analytics, as well as an external loyalty app, alongside the expenditure for its Marketing Cloud suite.

Almost half (47%) of those polled who used marketing cloud tools said they had issues with data, compared with only a quarter of other respondents. 42% of those polled overall said customer data management was the most difficult element of their implementations.

This is by no means the only piece of research which goes through such a conclusion. According to Walker Sands’ 2018 State of Martech report in August, almost two in three organisations planned to up their spend on martech in the coming year. Yet while the majority of those polled said the marketing landscape had evolved rapidly over the past 12 months, just over a quarter (28%) felt the same about their usage of marketing technologies.

The report notes a four-step metric to attain a consumer-first technology approach: identify consumer needs first; assign value to those consumer needs; use consumer value to make decisions – in other words, don’t put a project together based on a new toy – and use data as currency. “With this list in mind, a marketer can vet each option and determine the relative cost of achieving a consumer-driven goal compared to the relative value of hitting that goal,” the report notes.

“As a CMO, the frustrations brands experience is clear,” said Nick Worth, CMO at Selligent Marketing Cloud. “Technology providers need to remain focused on personalisation tools that help marketers close the gap between what customers expect and what experiences they want to deliver.”

You can read the full report here (pdf, no opt-in required).

Interested in hearing leading global brands discuss subjects like this in person?

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CRM & Loyalty

If you want to start a loyalty program – avoid these six common mistakes

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Starting a loyalty program can lend a major boost to your customer retention efforts — and your bottom line. But it’s a complex undertaking that demands time, strategic thinking and teamwork. To make sure your efforts pay off, get started on the right foot by avoiding these six common loyalty program mistakes.

Mistake 1: Thinking all loyalty technology providers are the same

When it comes to loyalty platform vendors, one size does not fit all. Besides basic differences like price and experience, every vendor likely has a particular specialty or area of expertise, as well as differing levels of customisation available. Understanding the over-arching differences between vendor categories can help you narrow down the vast list of possibilities to those that most closely align with your company’s needs.

Start by reviewing these five categories of providers:

  • Point-of-sale (POS) technology vendors provide a basic infrastructure for customer data collection with their POS technology. Some also offer CRM/loyalty modules, although most have limited program functionality
  • Database marketing solutions are focused on hosting marketing database platforms. Several also supply strategy, analytics and engagement tools. The functions available in these platforms are often customised, but few offer robust loyalty functionality
  • Enterprise resource planning vendors offer a broad range of capabilities for CRM and loyalty programs. They do it all and sell it all. But they may not always be nimble enough to respond to retailers’ fast-changing needs
  • Marketing services providers/service bureaus support a full suite of marketing solutions, including loyalty programs and customer data utilisation, and offer a broad range of services — with a corresponding price tag
  • Loyalty niche vendors are the newest players, some rapidly gaining in market share. But they often require clients to share technology — which means you may lose your competitive edge

Mistake 2: Not fully researching your customers

Most loyalty marketers incorporate periodic customer feedback into their plans. But when you’re trying to develop new benefits or program features, the traditional quantitative survey may be too limiting. Often, it’s an issue of simply not asking the right questions or inadvertently skewing response by providing limited answer options. And then there’s the fact that customers always want that 100 percent discount, which makes it difficult to get truly good feedback on value-oriented benefit suggestions.

How do you get around those barriers? Using the right research approach in the right sequence is key to developing new ideas. For instance, you may start with more qualitative approaches, such as focus groups, one-on-one interviews or bulletin boards to build a potential list of program enhancements.

You can then prioritise this list according to your own internal criteria. Then take your top priorities back to your members in a more traditional quantitative survey. Adding a chat feature so that online moderators can join the survey in progress and ask additional questions from a cross-section of your members can help you continue to drill down on ideas and even generate a few more.

Incorporating a multivariate aspect to your quantitative research can help you determine the nuances of value-oriented benefits. For example, you can test whether a 3% program funding rate will actually outperform a 5% program funding rate.

Mistake 3: Copying the competition

When establishing or revamping your loyalty program, you may be tempted to look at what your competition is doing and follow their lead. But that could set up your program for failure.

First, you can’t simply assume that what the competition is doing is working. For all you know, it’s a failing test program that they’re about to abandon. Or it could be a flawed program that continues to run — despite lackluster results — because it’s the CEO’s pet project. Maybe it’s a great program for the company, but simply the wrong type of program for your business — or, more importantly, for your customers.

Second, not investing the necessary time and research to custom design your loyalty program could derail your efforts. Here’s why:

  • A generic or “borrowed” program doesn’t respect your unique customers and what will resonate with them in regard to your brand
  • You miss an opportunity to stand out from the crowd and distinguish your brand by doing something different
  • You lose the opportunity to make your program an interpretation and amplification of your brand

The solution? Start with a clean slate. Do the homework. Listen to what your customers are saying and get insight from your frontline employees, like your store managers and customer service reps.

Whatever you do, always stay true to your brand. It’s the only way to form a solid foundation that accurately reflects your business and your customers — and successfully works to build real loyalty.

Mistake 4: Taking reward selection lightly

Like the structure of your loyalty program itself, your rewards shouldn’t just be hand-me-downs from the competition. Nor should they simply reflect your personal favorite perks. When you randomly choose incentives, you’re taking a shot in the dark that those rewards will motivate members to take action, keep coming back and stay passionate about your brand.

Here are a few methods you can use to uncover the rewards your members really want:

  • Employ statistical modeling. For instance, CCG’s Statistical Loyalty Program Optimization™ model quantifies the reach and desirability of existing and potential program benefits, using multivariate and Total Unduplicated Reach and Frequency (TURF). With it, we can help you define the optimal mix of benefits for each of your key audiences, while factoring in ROI, operational efficiency, support of brand drivers, and aspirational impact for non-members and lower tiers
  • Ask your customers through surveys, focus groups, social media polls and other feedback forums
  • Learn from their behaviour by analysing customer data regarding their response to promotions, offers, rewards, messaging, channels and other variables to see what’s motivating customers to act and, just as importantly, what isn’t
  • Ask your team what they’re hearing when customers contact customer service and on-floor sales reps with questions, complaints and kudos

The bottom line: Knowing is better than guessing. And you’ll enjoy the payoff when you do the necessary homework to develop an effective incentive plan that will keep your customers coming back for more.

Mistake 5: Leaving operations out of the loop

Imagine this scenario: You’ve poured blood, sweat and tears into creating the most perfect loyalty program possible. Kick-off celebrations are planned, and you can’t wait to flip that final switch on implementation in a few short weeks. But then Operations raises a red flag, and suddenly your scheduled launch date is at risk.

Maybe you’ve planned for training that doesn’t fit the stores’ schedules. Maybe the customer handling procedure for enrollments is too lengthy and threatens throughput times. Or maybe you did everything right — except for ticking off Ops by excluding them from the planning and development process.

These are all real examples of issues that pop up when your Ops team isn’t looped into your loyalty program planning right from the start. And if you’ve already invited them to participate — say, in a best-practice, cross-departmental team — make sure they understand participation isn’t optional. Here are three reasons why:

  • Training isn’t just a once-and-done event. Partner with ops for ongoing training and store contests to keep program awareness and understanding high among existing and new employees. Make sure your efforts are reaching associates and incenting them based on your program KPIs
  • Ops knows the customer and directly influences the customer experience. Yes, everyone in the organisation shares in keeping customers satisfied. But ops gets more face time with customers than anyone. They can provide invaluable input on what’s likely to work (or not), from motivational benefits to enrollment ease
  • Ops always has an opinion. That input can be invaluable upfront — or a roadblock if it’s too late. Take time to understand ops’ concerns and address them head on. Probe into specifics and be willing to modify based on what you learn

One of the best ways to create a true partner is to ensure that ops has a stake in the program. For instance, make enrollments and capture rates part of the store ops compensation plan. By creating incentives for engagement, as well as the opportunity to be involved in planning and development, you stand to create a true advocate, as focused as you are on the success of your program.

Mistake 6: Overestimating your customers’ loyalty

When it comes to loyalty, best customers are more cat than dog. Think about it: A good dog is unabashedly loyal and wants nothing more than to spend all day, every day with you. Cats, on the other hand, tend to be a little stingier with their affection. Sure, they’re loyal and loving, but it’s on their terms, in their time.

In that very cat-like fashion, your best customers may love your brand, but that doesn’t mean they want to spend all their spare time with you. The reality is, even the most engaged customer only has a sliver of attention to spare for your brand. If you ask for too much of their time, you might just send them running the other way.

To hit the mark, take a step back and critically review your loyalty program from the customers’ perspective. Consider:

  • Is enrolment easy and quick?
  • Is your value proposition compelling — and can people “get it” in five seconds or less?
  • Are your communications useful and interesting — and can customers state their communication preferences?

When you’re respectful and courteous of your customers’ time and interests, you’re far more likely to enjoy a long-term love affair.

Enjoy your own rewards

When you bypass these mistakes, you’ll give your new loyalty program the best chance to win customers, maintain long-term relationships and build profits for your company.

What mistakes have you seen or experienced in developing and running a loyalty program that we haven’t mentioned? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Interested in hearing leading global brands discuss subjects like this in person?

Find out more about Digital Marketing World Forum (#DMWF) Europe, London, North America, and Singapore.

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Transforming customer experience into an actionable marketing strategy: A guide

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The workforce as we know it is changing and companies must be ready to adapt to fast change as we become ever more tech-centric. However, despite the digital noise there is one element that will always remain a constant requirement for success; delivering an excellent customer experience (CX) and maintaining a well-received brand image.

In our highly connected 'always on' digital world, CX combined with word of mouth is potentially one of the most powerful marketing tools for brands today, backed up by a study that shows 92% of consumers believe suggestions from people they know over any other form of advertising. Advancing technology is now allowing for these opinions to be voiced on a global scale across the likes of social media and review sites. With this opportunity to reach a wealth of potential new customers, brands which make themselves personable and their service customer-centric can work to set themselves apart from competitors, without the need for extremely elaborate marketing strategies.

CX at its best

Some successful brands are where they are today through the power of word of mouth alone, as opposed to costly advertising. One clear example is online clothing and shoe retailer, Zappos. The company has developed a reputation of having excellent service and with its ability to please customers achieved through first hand customer insights. The website has ensured that consumers are now loyal and return to buy products – ultimately driving customer retention and an increase in profit.

Ensuring customers enjoy experiences with a brand, the way businesses market themselves as well as the way they develop customer care campaigns can all help to create a sense of understanding and community amongst customers. For example, taking the time to make communication unintrusive, human and resonate more personally can be a key driver of quality CX. According to a survey on content marketing, the majority (80%) said delivering personalised content, for example personalised emails targeted to suit individual experiences is more effective than delivering ‘unpersonalised’ content to visitors. As a result of this, the customers that receive personalised content will most likely continue to use your product/service and endorse your business to others.

A great example of this executed effectively is Netflix’s email campaigns. Despite being one of the largest companies worldwide, Netflix has mastered the tactic of personal recommendations and suggests shows that are similar to what their customers have previously watched. As long as the brand has enough data to provide insights on this, this is a great way to be proactive in making the customer experience efficient, easy and seamless, which ultimately helps to nurture loyalty, as well as short-term sales.

Turning CX into actionable insights

Social media now also plays a particularly crucial role for brands looking to market themselves through good customer journeys. For many, it is now a core marketing channel with the potential to reach a wealth of new customers and can also be used as a research tool for understanding the problems in the customer journey and improving their experience. However, the solutions readily available to businesses now mean that these satisfied customer insights can now be taken one step further, to be measured and then developed into new ways to market their service.

The sheer volume of conversations taking place on platforms like Twitter and popular review sites make them an effective way for marketers to not only reach customers, but also enables for positive customer experiences to be published and interacted with. Integrating tools into these channels then also allows these insights to be turned into a research opportunity, highlighting customers pain points and allowing companies to improve overall experience.

The more customer insights a business receives about their product or service, the more you learn and understand your customers patterns and trends associated with your business. With customer insights coming through as data in a variety of forms – mainly structured and unstructured, businesses can put the insights together, whether it be big or small and gain a clearer picture of your customers’ way of thinking and how they can dramatically enhance and boost customer experience.

There are however, some challenges that brands can be faced with when it comes to using customer experience to inform their marketing strategy. Companies can often spend a lot of time gathering and measuring customer insight data they receive and meticulously mapping all customer pain points to try and tailor their marketing to overcome these customer perceptions. Using solutions to make this process as efficient as possible can help brands to maximise the opportunity to turn CX into new avenues for growth.

Through the likes of analytics tools, which offer insights into the sentiment of direct engagements with a brand from the public across various digital channels and customer relationship management (CRM) systems, companies can gather and measure their interactions with current and potential customers, understand them more effectively and ultimately use organic insights of endorsement and satisfaction to fuel their marketing approach.

With technological advancements increasing daily, it is becoming a lot easier for companies to weave in their customer insights and turn this into an intelligent marketing strategy. Brands must now realise the influence that customer experiences has on consumer decision-making today, if they are to succeed in using it to market themselves in our increasingly digital world.

Interested in hearing leading global brands discuss subjects like this in person?

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How to create clickable Pins that will actually get you results

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Pinterest bamboozles a lot of marketers and brands. It’s clear that brands can get amazing results on the platform, but they don’t always understand how.

Pinterest, after all, is so different from other social media platforms, and with audiences using it in different ways, businesses need to adapt in order to get results. The best way to do this, hands-down, is to create clickable pins that users are excited to view and save.

Still feeling a little intimidated? Don’t sweat it. By the end of this post, you’ll know exactly how to utilise Pinterest and how to create clickable, engaging pins that will actually get you results.

What makes Pinterest so different from other platforms?

This can be summed up in one sentence: It’s idea saving, not idea sharing.

Users come to Pinterest to either find products, ideas, or content or to save it for themselves for later use. They typically aren’t trying to broadcast ideas or recommendations like on other platforms; this is purely about saving content for their own usage.

This means that Pinners are using Pinterest for different reasons; they might be just browsing in categories they’re interested in or actively looking for something specific, like a recipe or Christmas decoration inspiration. Either way, this is a consumer-based site, and people are here and ready to discover new things.

It’s no surprise that Pinterest has outstanding selling potential as a result. And when we say outstanding, we mean it. Consider the following data provided by Pinterest:

  • 60% of pinners research buying decisions on Pinterest, compared to 48% on search engines and 35% on other social media platforms

  • 72% of pinners say that Pinterest actually encourages them to shop, even if they aren’t looking for anything

  • 70% of pinners discover new products on Pinterest

Simply put, if you aren’t marketing on Pinterest and your audience happens to be there, you could be leaving a lot of money on the table that your competition will scoop up instead.

What your pins should do

One of the biggest mistakes that businesses can make is thinking that Pinterest is just another version of Instagram because of the visual focus. While there is an enormous focus on the images in Pinterest, the images really are more about conveying ideas or products instead. It’s the content and the value behind the pin that matters.

On Instagram, for example, someone might be happy to see a picture of a yard full of Halloween decorations. They’ll like it and not give it a second thought. On Pinterest, however, users may want to click on that same picture to see how to make the decorations, where to buy them, or ideas on how to set them up.

Your pins should be valuable, and they should immediately let users know that they’re valuable. This will be important if you want to get clicks or saves (or even better, both!) on your pins.

How to create clickable pins

Pinterest is so different from other social media platforms, and that means your pins will need to be created specifically for this platform if you want to get results. Let’s take a look at five ways you can ensure that your pins will not only grab attention in a cluttered and sometimes overwhelming feed, but go a step further to get you results.

Choose Pinterest-recommended ratios

An important part of getting your content pinned is to get it noticed, and creating pins that fall within the ideal aspect ratios will be a big part of that.

Pinterest itself has done a lot of research into what pin ratios perform best, and they’ve found that the ideal ratio is 1:2.8. Not only does it look great on mobile, which is essential, it’s also easy to view and stands out well in the feed.

Focus on visual first

Pinterest is an exceptionally visual platform, and when users are browsing through their feeds or their search results, it’s the image or video that’s going to stop them while they’re scrolling.

There are a few best practices that you should keep in mind when creating the visual components of the pins, including:

  • Add text overlay if necessary. The pin above is a great example of how adding brief text overlay explains the value behind the pin and tells users exactly what they’re looking at. This can help stop those scrolling thumbs and get them to click early on. Text overlay, after all, might get noticed before the descriptions themselves.

  • Test different pin styles. Sometimes, compiling multiple images into a single pin (also like in the example above) is another great way to showcase diverse value and encourage clicks.

  • Be straightforward. Now is not the time to go for the abstract. Make your product the focus of the pin itself, whether you’re showing it in use (think makeup tutorial) or just a picture of the product alone (the makeup itself).

  • Add your logo. Placing your logo in the corner of a pin isn’t intrusive, and it helps to establish brand awareness and recognition.

Optimise your descriptions

While the visual is going to be what gets people to pay attention, the descriptions will still help people find the content in the first place, and then get them to click and save.

You should optimise your pin descriptions for two different things: searchability and readability.

When it comes to search-friendliness, it’s important to utilise keywords in your pin descriptions. This will ensure that you show up in relevant searches, increasing the likelihood of having your pins seen by users who are actively seeking them out. This is a big opportunity you don’t want to miss, especially since so many pinners use the platform to make buying decisions.

While you want to feature keywords in your pin descriptions, however, you don’t want the entire description to read like keyword stuffing. Instead, make sure that it’s written for pinners first, with a keyword or two dropped in somewhere in the middle.

Ideally, pinners often want to see descriptions that are:

  • Brief and easy to read

  • Clear about what the pin is and the value it has to offer

  • Authentic, and don’t seem overly promotional or “sneakily” trying to sell something

Create content users want to see

This is really the last piece of the puzzle that needs to fit into place if you want users to click and save your content. All the other steps were required to enable users to find and notice your pin; this step is what will determine what users do next.

Remember that Pinterest is an idea-saving platform, which means that people are here to purchase and research and save some ideas for a future or current project. Because of this, you’ll need to create pins that are more content-based and value-based in many cases.

People are interested in products, but they’re more interested in ideas. So instead of just featuring a product on a pin, you could focus on how to use the product. Highlight that in your description, and you’ll be good to go.

Value is key here. People may scroll through wedding photography, for example, but they typically don’t do this just because they’re hopeless romantics. Many brides and photographers do this to get ideas for poses they want on the big day. Wedding photographers’ best bets are to use this to their advantage by advertising compilation posts or how-to, like “6 posts to ask your wedding photographer for.” People are more likely to not only stop and look but save these pins for the future, which is the ultimate goal on Pinterest.

Keep an eye on your analytics

Pinterest marketing, like all other types of marketing, will involve a little trial and error to see what works for your brand. The trial and error period will be a lot shorter if you use your Pinterest Analytics to get a good idea of what’s actually working.

Pinterest’s native analytics is available for all business profiles, and it will give you a crystal-clear view of how your audiences are engaging with your pins. In the analytics, you should be looking at a few essential metrics, including:

  • Your impressions, to get an estimation of which pins are getting the most reach. Look for trends in keywords or subject

  • Your saves, which showcase relevance and value to your target audience

  • Your clicks, telling you how many people were interested enough in the pin to view it up close

In addition to getting a look at all of these numbers individually, you’ll also want to see how they interact. Do certain pins have insanely high impressions, but they don’t seem to perform well in saves or clicks? Do certain topics have higher ratios of engagement or saves? Look for trends and patterns, and focus on creating more high-engaging content.

Automate your posting

Did you know that scheduling and posting content to Pinterest accounts (especially if you have many) has become so much easier with the help of social posting automation tools? Tools like Buffer and Social Media Poster will help you plan and schedule your Pinterest content for months ahead and automate your posting routine.

For example, here’s how it works with SEMrush: once you connect your account, the tool will automatically find your Pinterest boards, so you can choose the board you’d like to post to in the dropdown menu. You will then be able to post your content immediately, schedule it for later, or save it as a draft:

There are Google Chrome extensions for both Buffer and Social Media Poster.

Conclusion

Pinterest is different from all other social media sites, but that’s exactly why you take notice. Different use cases, after all, mean different sales and marketing opportunities if you know how to tackle them. One principle, however, holds true across all platforms: produce strong, engaging content that’s tailored to the platform and your audience on it.

Follow these best practices to create clickable, savable pins that your audience is looking for, track their performance, automate your posting, and you’ll start seeing the results in no time.

Interested in hearing leading global brands discuss subjects like this in person?

Find out more about Digital Marketing World Forum (#DMWF) Europe, London, North America, and Singapore.

All copyrights for this article are reserved to their respective authors.

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