My first real experience with creating web pages was in the mid-90’s with the Purdue University Graduate School.  They knew they needed a web site, as it was the next big communication medium.  So I took their existing application forms, converted them to PDF, and added all the fields so an applicant could fill it out online, print it out and mail it in.  That seems crazy now, but that’s the best we could think of at the time.  They were just doing what everyone else was.  It’s not really a lot different from how most companies use video, social media and other new media today.

Granted, there are a few companies doing great things with these channels.  And we can learn a lot from watching them.  But until you can create something that is really adding value to your clients and prospects, just jumping on the bandwagon is probably not the right answer for you.  As your mother might say, “just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean you need to.”

That may seem blasphemous to most marketers today.  You should always be exploring new channels.  But you can waste a lot of time and money doing things just to blend in with the crowd.  What you really want to do is stand out from the crowd.  What if you bucked the trend and creatively used some “older” techniques?  What if you were the only company in your industry sending out hand-written letters?  What if you were the only one taking your product samples door-to-door?  What if you didn’t attend that industry trade show but instead hosted exclusive dinners of your own in cities around the country for those who couldn’t go to the show?

Yes, you need to make sure that you are doing efficient and effective marketing, but you may find that you can stand out more by looking for things that everyone else is not doing.  And if you happen to come up with a creative way to use social media or email to stand out in the meantime, go for it!  Just don’t limit your channel choices to only the latest and greatest trends.

Advertisements

Clickthrough rates on email are notoriously low.  With all of the emails that you get in your inbox everyday, it’s easy to see why.  There is just so much stuff out there to consume.  But just because overall clickthroughs will always be low on email, that doesn’t mean you should dismiss a low rate on your emails.  Here are five reasons people might not be converting from your emails.

  1. Low relevance.
    This is a biggie.  If the text and offer aren’t relevant to me in the buy cycle stage I’m in – then I’m never going to pay attention.  Make sure you are customizing your text and offers instead of taking a one-size-fits-all approach.
  2. The call-to-action is buried.
    I often see marketers get so caught up in setting up the call-to-action that they don’t notice how buried it becomes.  Don’t put it in the middle of a big paragraph – put it all by itself in larger, bold font.  Put it in a couple of places in the text and maybe even use a graphic button to make it stand out.
  3. Unclear or multiple calls-to-action.
    If there are too many things to do or I’m not quite sure what I’m going to get, I’ll give up quickly.  I have enough other emails in my inbox to deal with.  Make sure your calls-to-action are simple, direct and stand alone.  If all I do is read the call-to-action in your email, it should be clear where I’m going.  And don’t give me more than one choice within the email – save the choices for later once I am engaged with a webpage.
  4. The call-to-action is not compelling.
    Downloading your product data sheet is not compelling.  What is compelling is saving time or money, making more money, getting a great deal, learning more about a challenge I am facing, etc.  Focus on what I need, not what you are trying to sell me.
  5. Too wordy and/or wrong focus.
    I combined these two because they always seem to go hand-in-hand.  If you find yourself writing several paragraphs for your emails then you are probably focusing on the wrong thing.  Often it’s how great your company or product is.  I don’t care.  Think about it this way – when you walk into a store to buy something, do you want the sales associate to start selling you a product or brand, or do you want them to ask you what you want and talk about your needs?  Same applies with email – you will catch my attention with short (and easy to skim) copy that focuses on my pain points.  Once you draw me in you can tell me all about your company or product at the appropriate time and I’ll listen.

As someone who has been on both the consulting and client side of marketing for many years, I know how quickly you can become overwhelmed with everything you should be doing.  Marketing tactics are constantly evolving, technology is moving at the speed of light, keeping up with social media is a full time job and since you know that next marketing department re-org is right around the corner, you are also constantly fighting to make yourself relevant, knowledgeable and valuable to your employer.  And that doesn’t even count doing your day job.  How do you balance all of this and still get some sleep at night?

First, I would recommend that you choose your battles.  You can’t do everything, so you need to decide what is most important.  There are two dimensions to this.  First, what is most important for your employer?  What will help you meet your company’s goals as well as your marketing department’s goals?  What is going to get you the best return, get your company or product’s brand recognized, or sell more?  What are your customers concerned about?  What will make your boss happy?  Second, you also need to think about what is important for you and your career.  Pick an area you love and nurture that.  Maybe it’s social media or technology or data.  Dig into that a bit and you will quickly find new skills that will help you advance your own career as well as give you personal satisfaction.

Second, I would recommend you prioritize your efforts.  It’s kind of the same as choosing your battles, but really it’s more about figuring out how to do one thing well then moving onto the next.  When you know how to do something well, it takes a lot less time and effort than those things you don’t know how to do.  So prioritizing your efforts will help you tackle that list in no time, whereas fragmenting your efforts across too many things at the same time can just lead to frustration and failure for the whole list.

Finally, don’t be afraid to enlist some help.  No one can do all of this alone.  Maybe you need to work together with your marketing team to share the load better.  Maybe you need to hire a person or agency with the skills you are looking for to learn from.  Maybe you need to join a group or go to a conference to learn more.  In any case, take the time to do it and ask for help.  Going it alone will not lead to more fame or fortune for you or your marketing department.  The world is changing quickly and you just can’t keep up with everything on your own.  No matter how much experience or education you think you have, there is always something else to learn.

If you’ve been following the News Corp media ethics inquiry, you may feel just as frustrated as I do about Rupert Murdoch’s continued stance that he is not really responsible for the actions of his company.  Nobody wants to hear excuses.  If you are at the top of the chain of command, you are expected to take responsibility for the whole chain.  We don’t really care whose fault it is – that’s your problem.  There are some good examples that I can think of in B2C products where the company took responsibility even though it wasn’t their fault – the 1982 Tylenol incident and the more recent Enfamil issues come to my mind.  I’m sure there are a thousand examples.  The ones who take responsibility see the issues go away quickly and those who don’t (like Mr. Murdoch) just see it grow into a bigger and bigger issue.  It’s Public Relations 101.

There is a lesson for marketers in there, too.   If you use a marketing automation tool of any kind, you probably know how easy it is to screw up your marketing campaign.  If you don’t, I’m sure you’ll soon learn.  You might mix up names on personalized emails, send the wrong emails to the wrong list or at the wrong time, or have a link pointing to a wrong or dead location.  It happens to the best of us.  When I did my very first marketing automation campaign, I had set up the automated workflow wrong.  My list (thankfully it was a small one) got the first email requesting them to download something.  They immediately got a second email saying “We noticed you didn’t download that yet – you really should do that.”  I didn’t setup the timing right so it waited a week and then checked the responses before sending out the reminder.  Doh!

So how do you respond when you screw up?  In my case above, we decided not to do anything because it was a small list and chances are no one would notice.  They would take more notice if we drew attention to it.  In other cases, it’s best to just take the blame (no matter whose fault it is) and send out a correction.  If you don’t, you may leave your prospects with the impression that you can’t even get a simple email right.  But if you do correct it, they are usually very forgiving and you haven’t done any harm to the campaign.  Make sure your correction is simple and straightforward.  No one cares what happened or why.  Just simply state that there was an error and give them the corrected version.  Or if you sent the wrong campaign or to the wrong list, just simply state an apology for the error and ask them to ignore the previous email.  You’ll be amazed at how quickly the issue will go away!

**After a long hiatus to get some work things under control and have a baby, the Chasing Marketing blog is making a comeback!**

When I work with B2B Enterprise companies, I often find that they are very uncomfortable with social media as a marketing tool.  Working with social media is often buried as a PR task if it is used at all.  And when we start talking about using it for marketing purposes, I get a lot of push back.  The reason is often that they don’t think their customers are using social media or they can’t clearly justify the spend with ROI.  The underlying cause, though, is usually always a lack of understanding and therefore comfort with social media and how to use it.

I read a great article in Forbes recently that talked about how social media is becoming more mainstream for Enterprise companies.

It’s no longer about early adoption. The social enterprise is here. You’re now competing with companies that are collaborating on sales opportunities, tracking their brand on Twitter and Facebook and delighting clients through social customer service. They’re also building loyal communities of customers and empowering them as a marketing force. Mobile, social and the cloud are essential business technologies.
The Social Enterprise Becomes a Reality, Forbes 4/23/2012

As your executives become more comfortable with social media, corporate resistance to social marketing tactics should become less of an issue.  And B2B marketers who don’t jump on this bandwagon could miss a big bet.  The window of opportunity is opening up.  Marketing can become the hero for finding successful social marketing tactics that drive awareness, leads and ultimately, business.  And not taking advantage of this opportunity could have some big downsides.  Your competitors could easily jump ahead and make you into a social follower instead of a social leader in your industry.  This can lead to losing more business to the competition which will ultimately make you look like an unsuccessful marketer.

How can you become more comfortable with social media?  For starters, get out there yourself.  Get to know the channels and how they are being used today.  Start monitoring how and where topics related to your company’s products and services are being discussed.  Once you get more comfortable, how to jump in as an active participant to drive awareness and leads for your company will quickly become clearer.

As marketers and salespeople, we love to talk about ourselves.  We can’t seem to stop talking about our company and what we do, our great products and the great value we bring to the marketplace.  We seemed to be programmed to do this.  After all, that’s what we were hired to do, right?  The problem is, talking about ourselves seems to be working against us when it comes to meeting our goals of generating leads, selling product and creating revenue for our company.

Why?  Because people are, by nature, self-centered.  It’s a survival tactic to be concerned about yourself and think you are one of the most interesting people in your life.  Sure we focus on helping others, but if we have a choice between helping others and helping ourselves, we will generally choose the latter to ensure our own livelihood (the major exception being focusing on our children above all else!).

So no one wants to hear about you, they want to hear about themselves.  The interesting exception to this is that we are more likely to listen to a third-party reference.  We feel it is more objective and it doesn’t feel like a decision between talking about you or talking about me.  We don’t mind that it’s all about you as long as it comes from someone besides you.

How does this translate to leads and revenue?  Simple – let others tell your story.  On your website, if you have lots of copy talking about your company and products – ditch it in favor or some testimonials and blogs.  You may still need to keep the product sheets and some description of what you do – but once you get beyond the elevator pitch, no one is listening.  Same goes for your emails, direct mails and all other marketing materials.  I’m most likely to pay attention to what you have to say if either:

  1. You are adding value to my life (giving me tips, information, education, etc.); or,
  2. Someone else is saying it for you (testimonials, references, case studies, blogs).
So next time you create a marketing asset, ask yourself if you would care about it coming from any other company than your own.  If the answer is no, it’s probably a little too self-centered.

I read a blog post the other day talking about how Cloud Computing is no longer the next big thing – because it is now a reality and part of our daily life.  It is an accepted and understood way of doing business.  IT managers no longer need an explanation of what cloud computing is.  Now the conversations are around what should be run in the cloud, how to standardize, and how to ensure security of applications run in the cloud.

Marketing automation, on the other hand, has been much slower in getting into the mainstream.  I think one of the reasons is because it requires such a change in the way we do business.  It requires new processes, new skillsets, and a new way of doing marketing.  If you treated implementing a marketing automation tool like implementing any other software, you are likely still using your MA system like a fancy email broadcast tool and not seeing the real value in it.  Companies that have really implemented marketing automation well have gone through a long journey that required a lot of change and a lot of reality checks along the way.

Additionally, the MA industry itself is struggling to figure out the right feature set and the right way to talk about itself (excellent blog post on MASG about that here).  No one has clearly defined the space and the competition is still pretty fierce.  So to some extent it feels like companies are sitting back trying to figure out whether VHS or Beta is going to shake out as the standard before they buy.  And many are still trying to figure out if they need  a VCR anyway since they’ve been getting along just fine for so long without one.

All of that doesn’t change the fact that marketing automation is still, in fact, the next big thing.  It isn’t going away anytime soon and it will become the standard way of doing business, just like cloud computing.  You do need to take the time to figure it out and figure out how it fits with your business.  Just don’t expect that to be an easy plug-and-play process.  Be prepared for a lot of change and be ready to re-tool the entire way you market when you jump into this journey.  But don’t let that stop you from jumping in with both feet!