Data Strategies that Work

My data is bigger than your data is not good enough.  The challenge most professional services firms face is that they do not have a proactive data strategy that helps inform the right business decisions.  Sets of data are often silo-ed and controlled by multiple people who are not collaborating on higher level objectives of the organization.  Typically, one set of people are focused on the firm’s compliance aspects of data – their goal being reducing downside risk and ensuring integrity across the firm.  Another set of people are putting their attention towards more client-facing data that works to ensure engagement, revenue production and profitability.

Balancing each side of these data needs is crucial in order to properly support the firm’s overall data strategy.  Tactics often collide when these two sides of data controls are not working together collaboratively.  Simply having data does not translate into information that provides understanding.   For instance, a single referral rate percentage simply supplies a fact but if you incorporate that number into historical data; look at industry benchmarks; and add geographic factors – this becomes information that you can interpret into your firm’s decision making.

Often firms have multiple data sources that are relied upon for the firm’s business intelligence.  Having a single source of data is the absolute best approach to aligning compliance and client-facing information.  Bringing together the stakeholders to develop the data source with shared, unchanging practices is key to making a data strategy successful.  This method provides consistent facts while allowing for functional information extraction from the data, which ultimately provides business intelligence.

If you think that having a data strategy is not important to your business, think again.  Data traffic will likely double in the next four years.  Technology is already providing and developing data management capabilities.  How a firm uses the technology they have access to and interpret the data from those systems could create a competitive advantage through informed business decision making.   As always, start with your WHY.  Understand why you are looking for certain information and connect that need to a firm level business objective.

When you want to understand your data – start strategizing.

Conversion Through Retargeting

Have you ever visited a website and then ads about what you looked at appear on your browser?  This is an example of retargeting.  The strategy of retargeting has level set the field for brands.  It enables even the smallest of brands to more effectively compete with large competitors.  Retargeting keeps your brand in front of a self-directed prospect and increases the chances of their moving further down the funnel.  We know that a visit to your website does not typically convert.  In fact, only about 2% of first time visitors convert but by retargeting to those visitors you’re:

  • increasing brand familiarity with people who have already expressed interest
  • honing your message to demonstrate your value proposition
  • accelerating their move down the funnel

You’ll want to consider how your retargeting works on different devices.  From a desktop, retargeting relies on cookies and tags.  These cookies and tags enable you to track browsing behavior but don’t allow tracking of any personal information.  You can also use uploaded lists to your retargeting program.  The upside is that you’re able to track behaviors based on email addresses but this does require more maintenance of lists which must be updated regularly.

Mobile retargeting is a little tricky because mobile devices do not use cookies.  Instead it tracks multiple non-personal data points like IP addresses, location, device types, etc. and uses an algorithm to accurately identify the target audience.

As with every marketing tactic we discuss, understand your why.   There are six types of retargeting – CRM (list), Search, Web Site, Email, Mobile, and Dynamic.  Before you even choose the retargeting method that is most appropriate, you’ll want to understand what you’re trying to accomplish.  Are you trying to:

  • nudge prior visitors to explore more?
  • Increase your brand awareness?
  • reinforce your value proposition?
  • sell value-add products or services?

Answers to those questions will help you identify which type of retargeting is best for you.  Retargeting isn’t a one and done tactic.  You should consider retargeting as a long-term marketing strategy and part of your overall marketing plan.  There are many unseen, backend steps associated with retargeting, so if you’re making a commitment to using this strategy you should understand the time investment associated with it.

In the end, retargeting can be incredibly powerful.  It provides you with a platform to re-engage, personalize, and convert your target prospect.

When you want conversion – map your plan.

Authentic Brand Culture

Today’s customers don’t just want to buy a product or sign up for a service.  They want to be part of something.  They want to experience something.  They want to influence something.  This active engagement with a brand product or service calls companies to think beyond their brand’s external image.  It calls companies to be authentic from the inside out.

A person’s culture typically gives them a way to identify themselves with a part of society – to be part of something larger than themselves.  It’s a connection and part of human nature.  Today’s society allows for an individual to reach beyond their traditional culture and through processing information and making selections, they can decide who they want to be.  Individuals today are drawn to reassess and redefine themselves through choices.  With the access to information at our fingertips, individuals delve into this decision-making through research and vetting.

Brands now need to project an authenticity that customers can connect with beyond a consumable level.  Brands become some of the pieces of the puzzle of self-definition.  A good example of that would be the Air Jordan which is the icon of basketball shoes.  There are plenty of basketball shoes out there that are arguably just as dynamic as the Air Jordan but the authenticity of what an Air Jordan represents keeps the brand synonymous with the basketball culture.  Another example is TOMS’ shoes.  In my opinion not the most stylish shoe, but the philanthropic work that is the cornerstone of the company’s culture created a fan base of consumers that had those same beliefs.  From a service side, practicing what you preach through outreach can create huge brand value.  It can be built into a growth strategy that brings in top talent who in turn serves the client at the highest level and sets your brand apart.

Your brand means more to your customers than a symbol, product or service.  Brands today become how an individual identifies with themselves and others.  Authenticity in your brand is no longer a “nice to have”.  It is a crucial way to differentiate yourself in the marketplace.

When you want to transform your brand culture – explore more.

The Science of Marketing

Clients almost always come to us with a specific want or need.  I want to start a podcast.  I need a social media presence.  I want to start using video.  I need better SEO – etc., etc.  At that point, it’s important to pause and ask the obvious question.  Why?

In no uncertain terms, the WHY always dictates the WHAT.

As a society, we’ve become accustomed to getting straight to the what and expect immediate returns.   Marketing is a science.  The scientific method directly correlates to how to determine the appropriate marketing strategy.  Scientists like marketers are naturally curious about the world.  Determining what is worthy of additional thought or investigation is the first step. Asking the right questions about engagement, client interaction, or a process could uncover information that helps you make decisions that set you apart in the marketplace and get you to the why.

Start by creating a hypothesis.  As an example, we might hypothesize that there will be an increase in client engagement with educational content if we use the podcast channel as an alternative to a blog.  We might base this on research that shows a certain age demographic is increasingly engaging in podcasts or that podcasts are more easily accessed because the listener is not required to be connected to a screen. Marketing hypothesize should always be backed by data, benchmarks, trends, and purpose.

Following the hypothesis is the experiment.  This is the implementation phase of the marketing method.  Creating a plan and understanding what success looks like creates a roadmap and timeline for ROI analysis through thoughtful measurement and will help you determine your hypothesis’ success.

Finally, a conclusion.  Noting results along the way should dictate success or failure.  It should inform commitment to the marketing strategies for the long-term or force change in strategies to a better end.  Ultimately, with the ever-changing environments associated with marketing channels, its paramount that shifting your marketing strategies is not a result of a want.  Shifting marketing strategies should only be done once you have a good understanding of your why and even a better understanding of the how.

When you want to connect your why to your want – experience success.

Media Outreach Strategy

If content is king, then visibility is queen.  You can produce all the thought provoking, educational content in the world but if no one is reading it and sharing it – it just doesn’t matter.  Let’s talk about how to effectively build a successful media outreach strategy to drive your brand expertise to your target market.

Improving your media outreach through more strategic planning can help move past the stale pitch and release mentality.  Start by understanding your target client personas.  Understand their typical backgrounds, goals, and challenges.  Ask yourself how your services connect with their priorities.  Once you know your target client inside and out, you can utilize that research across all your business strategies.

Now that you know who you are trying to reach, it’s important to identify specific publications that engage that audience.  Then begin building a relationship with the writers and editors.  Follow the publication and writers on their social sites.  Comment on their articles with thoughtful insight or opinion.  This may seem time consuming in the beginning but ultimately it pays off in establishing mutually beneficial relationships.

When you’re ready to pitch your story, the most important item to ensure that they open your email will be your subject line.  Your subject line will need to stand out among the typically hundreds of emails that journalists receive every day.  Make sure your subject line matches your journalist’s style of writing.  Help them envision the story before they even begin to read it. Your story now begins to take shape.  Be sure to clearly demonstrate how the story is of value to their readership.  A short bullet list of this value can grab attention and focus the journalist on what is most important.  Add images or supporting assets that can be linked and that add additional support to your pitch.

Above all, make sure your content is credible, trending, and relevant to the audience you are trying to reach.  Building a media outreach strategy and executing on that strategy may seem time consuming but once you begin to build momentum, you will see results.

When you want to be seen – start here.

Push & Pull in Social Media

Even though digital marketing is constantly changing at the speed of sound, we’re now able to dive deeper into studies to understand how brands are affected by social media interactions – particularly “likes” and “follows”.   It’s important to zero in on the cause and consequence of social engagement.  A recent study on Facebook advertising did just that; and the results could have a huge impact on how resources are allocated in social media.  The study looked at endorsing and engaging brands on Facebook.

It found that organic engagement (following and liking) was not enough to have any impact on buying behaviors because the endorsement of a “like” did not carry the same weight as a real-world recommendation.  Yet when a “like” indicated real-world use or interaction, the likelihood of that transfer of trust increased and buying behaviors shifted.  Connecting the digital and real world made a big difference.

In fact, just getting past Facebook’s algorithms put businesses at a distinct disadvantage to being seen at all.   Cue in good ole’ fashion advertising.  A repeat of the study found that the same group of people who experienced ads from a brand on these social platforms were more likely to take action associated with that brand.  A combination of push and pull marketing is needed to garner the behavior sought.

Measuring the effectiveness of social channels is still tricky and ultimately comes down to understanding why you’re utilizing the social platform in the first place.  Is it to create a forum for customer feedback and conversation; build brand awareness; extend the reach of educational content; or further engage an already invested client base?  Once you answer that question, you’ll be able to identify what measurements dictate success.

When you want to reinvent your social plan – get focused.

Purpose Driven Marketing

It always amazes us when business leaders still put marketing into a traditional “marketing” box.  We once heard someone describe that struggle as – “they treat me like a secretary with crayons”.  Marketing has evolved in ways we could not have ever imagined.   In the last century, it has progressed far beyond behavioral predictions and from inward to outward thinking.  Even in just the last decade, the evolution has quickly shifted to relationship and social marketing all while keeping pace with ever-changing digital channels of communication, increased production level expectations; and societal shifts.

Today’s marketers are a team of trust builders, brand advocates, influence and value builders, talent engagement specialists, and culture evangelists.  The current marketing team is experienced in capabilities like business strategy, quantitative analysis, creative vision, behavior science, digital analytics, and more.

One thing is certain – change – and the speed in which change happens accelerates every day.  Planning your marketing efforts while being current and keeping up with change is hard enough.   We always bring our clients back to the fundamental question – what is the purpose of your marketing efforts?

When you have a purpose and laser focus on driving to that purpose, you can eliminate the distractions that change can bring.  You can be agile in your approach. You can hone in on what’s most important for your business and select the right marketing strategies to reach your goals.  Our number one tip to anyone reading this.  Don’t skip the purpose part.  Don’t just do the newest and brightest thing without understanding why and if it’s important.  Be flexible when flexibility is required but keep your eye on the prize.

When you want marketing with a purpose – ask us how.

Blogging Alone is NOT Enough

Outreach is the name of the game.  Blogging can play an important part of your overall content strategy but great content does not necessarily translate to great readership and results.  Creating a blog platform that develops loyal readership and advocacy to your knowledge and brand is no small task.

Spending your time in the right places can mean the difference between a blog that gets you results and a blog that is well written but no one sees.   Here are two tips to get you started.

Start with the rule of time management.  20% of your time should be spent creating great content and 80% of your time should be promoting that content.  Connecting your blog to your client experience workflow, social media plan, email marketing plan, and business development workflow can substantially increase the rewards you see from your efforts.

Let’s not forget about backlinks.  The role of backlinks is to expand your reach and build credibility.  Start by researching and understanding the readership of the channels that you’re targeting.  Build relationships with those channels by reaching out and pitching your authority through powerful proven content.  Follow-up and share as much as possible.  Most importantly, be genuine in building those relationships and make sure they are reciprocal.

Ultimately, successful blogs do more than write interesting content.  Successful blogs incorporate that content into your overall marketing strategy.

When you want a successful content marketing plan – connect with us.

Innovation Beyond Logic

As exciting as new ideas can be, they often pull us out of our comfort zone and require change.  Relying on data and logic to feel more comfortable in our decision-making around innovation often means that we are also looking at the past and not the future.  This can stall or completely nix the road forward.  We start questioning the validity of the innovation in the first place because we don’t have past data to back it up.

This is the reason nimbler start-ups typically with a driving passion to innovate often disrupt larger organizations with years of history or data.  Applying design thinking can bridge the emotion and drive of belief with the logic of data.

Innovation is not just about the new product or service.  Innovation is about buy-in, internal and external.  It’s not enough to meet the needs of the client/customer but it can be just as important to gain the confidence of the internal stakeholders.  How do you bridge emotion and logic through design thinking?

  • Create an agile process
  • Be collaborative in your approach with stakeholders
  • Focus on the client/customer experience and test it
  • Take a phased approached versus all or nothing
  • Plan the internal intervention as much as you plan the innovation
  • Build data (logic) along the way

When you want successful innovation and change – read more.

Price Perception Can Override Price Itself

Companies are using lowering pricing as an avenue to obtain market share and in many industries, the price wars are on. However, lower prices don’t always equal an increase in market share. Ignoring other factors like enhancements to products or services, can create a negative opinion thus reducing the effectiveness of the decreased price. Price perception and value perception go hand in hand.

When you want to show your value – read more.