What Marketing Tactic is Most Important to Prioritize in 2013?

At the start of a new year, many businesses assess their marketing efforts and decide what they will do differently this year. Small businesses especially don’t always have the marketing resources they need, so I’ve asked some local marketing experts to give you advice, by answering this one question:

Considering your limited resources, what marketing tactic is most important to prioritize (or learn more about) in 2013?

Answer #1 by Skip Shuda

Photo of Skip Shuda, Philly Marketing Labs

Skip Shuda is co-founder and marketing strategist at Philly Marketing Labs. He practices Aikido (the art of harmony) on the mat, in his business and in his life. Follow him on Twitter at @skipshoe.

Know your target buyer and walk in their shoes.   By creating a detailed marketing persona (a description of your typical buyer), you can better position all of your marketing to serve them and meet them where they are.

Answer the questions:

  • What does my typical buyer look like?  Knowing typical demographics of your buyer can help you identify potential clients faster.
  • Where does my audience hang out?  Whether digital or real world, you can meet buyers in their preferred venues.
  • What is the mindset of my typical buyer when they are ready to buy?  Position your offer to maximize value to them given how they think.
  • What are the values of my audience?  Your prospective buyers will look for community service, activities and values that resonate with theirs. Make sure your brand and website reflect those values.

Answer #2 by Natalia Morais

Natalia Morais photo

Natalia Morais, social media manager at Moving Targets, and presenter and organizer of the Bucks-Mont Online Marketing Meetup. Originally from Brazil, Natalia is a lover of arts and crafts, visual communication and advocate of great customer service. Follow her on Twitter at @NatMoraisBR.

I have to say social media and email marketing. These two channels not only allow business owners to reach a very targeted audience – customers who already like their services/products and will be more likely to buy – but also give businesses the chance to build a personal relationship with them. With so many options to choose from nowadays, having a great relationship with customers has become a very important part of running a business and the best way to stand out from the competition.

Answer # 3 by Liam Dempsey

Liam Dempsey, LBDesign

Liam Dempsey, director + designer, LBDesign. Liam is a strategist, graphic designer and copywriter. He also likes quirkiness, as evidenced by chickenmonkeydog.com. Follow him on Twitter at @liamdempsey.

Consistency and patience are two key factors often overlooked in marketing campaigns of limited resources. For 2013, small businesses should focus on consistently implementing their marketing strategies for the entire duration of the campaign. Don’t get distracted, overwhelmed or disappointed by initial results! A developed sense of patience will ensure that small businesses give their marketing efforts time to root, germinate and grow. Business development takes time; patience enables small businesses to give that development an opportunity of success.

Answer #4 by Carla Wilson

Carla Wilson, Wilson Media ServicesCarla Wilson, owner of Wilson Media Services, is a self-proclaimed digital media junkie.  She helps her clients strategize ways to repurpose their existing content into audio and video for their Internet marketing efforts. Follow her on Twitter at @WilsonVA.

Even with limited marketing dollars, consistently creating short video (like a “tip of the day” or “2 minutes with a coach”) is a great way to extend your reach and expand your marketing efforts.  Typically, folks already have the equipment they might need to create video – a smartphone or web camera on a computer – to produce content that educates, engages and builds rapport.  Video can be added to a YouTube channel, website, and pushed out on social channels. And, here’s a tip: the shorter the video, that easier it is to produce.  The easier it is to produce, the more likely you are to continue the effort.  Also, short videos are more likely to be shared.

My Two Cents

I think we’ve gotten some terrific answers here. If you’d like to add more, feel free to comment below. And, also, know that these four marketers are all great at what they do. So, use the links above if you want to contact them.


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FedEx Delivers—Why Can’t You?

Photo showing FedEx trucks

On Christmas Eve, I had one more gift I was waiting for to arrive. I had two packages coming from FedEx. The gift for one of my nieces was due to arrive at 10:30 a.m., or so the tracking site said. The other package, which was a gift for me, was due to arrive at 4:30 p.m.

At around 10:40 or so, I checked the FedEx tracker again for the gift I cared about. Under “Scheduled to Arrive” it now said “N/A.” I called FedEx and talked to a cheery Tim, who put me on hold and then said they’d check with the driver and someone would call me. An hour and a half later, there was still no package and no call.

At about 1:30 p.m., just as I was thinking “Well, it’s not the worst thing in the world if the gift is a day late,” a FedEx truck pulled in my driveway.

Another cheery man, whose name I didn’t get, popped out of the truck with both my packages. I was hoping that would happen—that their systems would show I have two packages coming from two different places—so only one driver had to make a trip out.

“Oh great, you have both packages,” I said. “I don’t really care about that one,” I pointed to the envelope from the Gap. “But that was the one I was waiting for because it’s a gift.”

He said, with a knowing smile, “Ah yes, everybody wants these packages.”

As he was walking away, I wished him a Merry Christmas and said I hoped he didn’t have to work too late. “I only have an hour left,” he said with so much enthusiasm I couldn’t help but smile too.

If people working on Christmas Eve (probably dealing with a lot of cranky people waiting for their packages) can be cheery, why can’t people at every company?

I worked retail for years, so I know how nasty customers can get. It’s not always easy to stay cheery. But, here is one day—Christmas Eve, a very important day—and this company left me with such a positive experience.

I didn’t have to wait long for a person to answer the phone. I didn’t have to wait long when Tim put me on hold (yet he thanked me for my patience and apologized for keeping me waiting). My two packages arrived courtesy of a friendly FedEx driver. And Yolanda from FedEx’s Memphis office called me an hour later to make sure my packages arrived, and she was also super-friendly.

As a bonus, the Amazon items I ordered a few days ago were delivered in the mail (four days early!).

Be nice to your customers. Wow your customers. It’s the simple things that make us happy, so deliver—like FedEx does.

Personalization is Not About Data—It’s About People

Personalization, for e-commerce websites especially, is easy—at least, it should be. So why are so many sites so creepy in their tactics?

An online store is still a store. Too many business owners forget this.

Think about the way you’d treat a customer who walks into your store. Are you going to follow them and lurk around trying to overhear intimate details of their lives? Are you going to approach them in a loud and disingenuous way with a hard sell, sell, sell?

I hope not.

As a customer, don’t you love going into a store where the salespeople know your name? Where they can help you pick out things you like, with little effort because they’ve gotten to know your tastes and shopping habits so well?

This is the way online shopping should be. The technology is there now. The problem is owners are so focused on getting the right data, they forget there’s a human at the other end and that the goal is to build a relationship of sorts.

Am I simplifying this too much? I don’t think so, and Adobe’s 2012 Digital Marketing Optimization Survey results suggest I’m right. Lets take a look at some of their findings:

Most websites are designed to be relevant for a majority audience, but they are largely irrelevant to the individual visitor. Personalization technology enables marketers to understand the motivations and different interests of their audiences so that they can serve up the most relevant content and offers.

Most brick-and-mortar stores, especially big-box ones, are not relevant to the individual visitor—like websites. But the good ones make themselves relevant. The salespeople get to know the customers and are able to make their shopping experience more efficient and enjoyable so customers want to return.

Websites can do the same thing. Consider this next point from Adobe’s report:

Returning customers convert at higher rates when presented with targeted content that takes into account past purchases or browsing history. However, if the personalization is gimmicky or forced, then it can also disconnect those same consumers from the process.

Uh, duh. In person we’d react this way immediately, but online we somehow forget that we’re still dealing with the same customers—only the location has changed.

A customer walks back into a store after being there a few times, and the salesperson who has been paying attention during these previous visits says, “I have just the things for you. You’re going to love them.” And the salesperson gets the items and the customer likes them and gets out of there quicker. Plus, she refers her friends later.

Bloomingdales, Nordstrom’s, Amazon and Zappos. These are examples of stores that get it right. Emulate them.

Nordstrom Personal Shopper ad

You don’t want to be that cheesy stereotype of a salesperson and push your customer away with insincere sales-y slobber. And that’s often what happens on the web when you rely on data from another source.

Be patient. Gather organic data at your site and get to know your customer. If you’d like to hurry the process a bit, think about offering your customers a “serve you better” survey, in which you ask relevant questions about what types of decisions they make regarding products or services similar to yours. If you frame the survey as for their benefit rather than yours (which it is), more people will be willing to take it. (Just remember…be short and relevant.)

As Adobe says, “You can create the most relevant experience by leveraging expressed and implied information about an individual’s intent and interest that continues to evolve throughout a customer’s journey.”

What were the most important words in that quote?

If you didn’t say “relevant, evolve and journey,” go back and read this blog post again.

When Gen-Y Doesn’t Buy, You Have a Choice—Adapt or Die

Text - Y Not

What happens when the next generation is not interested in your product?

A thought-provoking article (“The Cheapest Generation“) in the September edition of The Atlantic explains how Millennials (Generation Y) are not interested in buying cars or homes. Let’s imagine for a second, they don’t want your product either.

What do you do?

You have three choices:

  1. Adapt
  2. Give them new reasons to be interested
  3. Fold

Folding isn’t much of a choice, so let’s look at the other two.

Adapt

Ford tried to get the young market excited first (giving the market new reasons to be interested), by rolling out a fun little Fiesta and giving the car away to Gen-Y bloggers. Sales spiked at first and then bottomed out. Kids don’t want to buy cars. What next?

Next, they got smart and paid attention to what this audience wanted and what they were already doing. Ford’s research found Gen-Y was more into sharing rides. With this knowledge, Ford contracted to provide cars for Zipcar, with the thought that once this audience is ready to buy cars, they’ll be more familiar with and more likely to choose Ford cars.

Television and cable are facing similar issues right now. That’s why you see televisions turning into giant computer screens—“Smart TVs.” As for the major players in cable and fiber optic providers, they are still trying to figure it out.

Adapting, though it may cost you financially and be uncomfortable at first, is actually the easy part. Finding new reasons for this market to buy is much harder.

Give new reasons to be interested

Marketers are used to having to create interest, but now you must be better than ever at giving people more reasons—new reasons—to be interested in your product. How do you do this?

You can’t just come up with reasons. This is important—Your reasons they should want your product don’t matter.

What are the reasons your audience would want your product?

First figure out why the audience does not want your product. Do some market research and then ask and answer these questions:

  • What are the advantages to them for their choice?
  • What does the product or avenue they chose instead have as an advantage over your product?
  • Can you conquer that advantage? How?
  • How do you convince them of that?

I can’t give you the answers. You have to do the work to find that out yourself. But I have given you the right questions to ask, and that’s a start.

Just remember, you’re looking at this from your audience’s perspective. Can you think of any more questions to ask?

Rules are Rules, Right? Not If You Want to Keep Your Customers Happy

Marketers, business owners, retailers and service professionals should know, it’s the little things that count. Making exceptions is sometimes the rule if you want to serve your customers well.

Zappos knows this. With their extreme focus on providing the best customer service possible, they don’t let any little things stand in the way of a positive customer experience. You can see how committed CEO Tony Hsieh is in the video below. In it, he even explains why they will help a customer buy through a competitor at times.

Banana Republic (at least my store) does not seem to quite understand this type of customer-focused philosophy.

Banana Republic Loses Appeal

Much of my wardrobe is from Banana. I shop at the outlet store near me and get fantastic deals. Plus, most important, their clothes fit my style and my long legs. In short, I am a fan.

On Friday, I hurried up there so I could take advantage of the 30-percent-off coupon I got through e-mail. I knew my weekend was busy, so I squeezed in a visit because I still needed more business and interview wear.

I found a ton of stuff! When I went to check out—waiting patiently I might add for a solid five minutes or more while one customer had a problem sorted out and another opened a charge account. No problem, I noticed belts and found the dressy brown belt I’ve been needing. Productive waiting—not bad.

My turn came and I handed the coupon over only to be told I couldn’t use it. The coupon was only good for August 4 and 5. My bad. I honestly thought that Friday was the 4th. Who can keep track anymore? The cashier gave me a choice:

  • I could buy the items and come back over the weekend with the coupon for a credit;
  • I could place the items on hold and come back the next day with the coupon to purchase them; or
  • I could open up a Banana Republic credit card account and get 30 percent off my order right then.

After a bit of conversation I asked, “Isn’t there any way you can give me the discount right now?” I did make an honest mistake, which was quite obvious by the look on my face when she told me I couldn’t use the coupon.

Turns out the cashier was also the manager. Even the manager can’t make an exception? Come on now. I’ve been a retail manager. I know it can be done.

The kicker is that she could give me the discount, but only if I opened a Banana Republic credit card. That’s what makes it so aggravating.

You cannot buy something in a store these days without someone trying to get you to open a credit card account. Irresponsible and annoying. Does no one learn lessons from our recent economic turmoil? These stores care more about their credit card promotions than they do their customers. Some stores even announce how many applications leading associates got as a sort of competition among the employees. Ever ask yourself what customers think of those announcements?

But I digress.

Notice how the burden of all those choices were on me? Three of the choices included an extra trip back—a huge inconvenience when I already had plans for the weekend. The fourth choice involved me adding another card to my credit report, wasting my time and the waiting customers’ time so I can give the proper information so Banana Republic can make out.

What were they willing to do for me—a regular customer? Nothing.

Do You Know How Your Customers Feel?

So, here’s the result. I felt very disappointed with my favorite store. I felt lied to and patronized by the manager (whether she was doing both or not doesn’t matter—this is how she made me feel).

Driving back the next day, I felt even worse. Yes, it’s my own fault for screwing up the dates, but the manager had a choice to do something about it and chose not to. I will remember that.

As she had to re-enter every item over again, I said to her, “See, it would’ve been easier for both of us, if you had just given me the discount yesterday.” I hope she realized how true that is and chooses differently for someone else next time.

Will I stop shopping at Banana Republic? Probably not. It’s hard for me to find clothes that fit. But, I won’t be in a rush to go back and will most likely check other stores first.

Remember the Little Things

Ask yourself, how does your customer feel after doing business with you? If you don’t know, then ask your customer. You don’t want them walking away feeling like I did.

It’s the little things you do that people remember. Look for opportunities to make your customers feel appreciated in every transaction. It’s worth it, and it’s easy!

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Speaking of little things, all retailers should stop putting those sewn in tags on skirts, pants and other clothing. No matter how you remove those cardboard tags, they leave holes. Not good!

Banana Republic tag on a skirt

Holes in skirt left by tag