Four possible future outcomes of digital marketing

Candice So Candice So Published: 08/20/2013
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com

With all of the emails, texts, and social media posts going into digital marketing everyday, consumers may be suffering from marketing fatigue – and your business’ marketing strategies may be to blame.

That’s according to a new survey from Aimia Inc., a marketing company specializing in brand loyalty. Last summer, researchers from Aimia polled respondents from Canada, the U.K., and the U.S., speaking to 2,000 consumers from each country to ask about their attitudes towards digital marketing. Questions ranged from asking consumers about the brands they followed on Facebook and Twitter, to whether they enjoyed receiving special offers via text messages and emails. The survey also explored whether consumers were interested in incentives and rewards.

What researchers found was that consumers are willing enough to connect with brands online, with 31 per cent of Canadian respondents saying they liked or followed between one to five brands on Facebook and Twitter. But once a consumer agrees to like or follow your brand, says report author Martin Hayward, marketers need to preserve relationships with their customers and not destroy their trust. He says we’re currently at a “fork in the road” when it comes to establishing what digital marketing should look like.


An interview with Aimia’s CIO, Susan Doniz, about technology’s role as a business enabler.  

“It’s quite an interesting point we’re at, really … [we can] really get great relationships between companies and consumers. Or if we’re not careful, we can abuse [customer] data and over-message people and make a right mess of things,” Hayward says.

The survey found while many consumers like receiving offers and deals online, some feel they’ve been oversaturated with the missives marketers are sending out everyday. Twenty-two per cent of Canadian consumers said they regretted liking a brand on Facebook, while 24 per cent regretted registering online with a company or brand Web site.

If marketers refuse to consider consumers’ wishes, Hayward anticipates four possible future outcomes in online marketing.

1) Offer anarchy
For consumers checking their email or browsing their social media accounts, it can seem like a deluge when marketers flood them with messages about their promotions. This is what Hayward calls “offer anarchy” – when marketers get over-enthusiastic about using all of the online tools at their disposal.

“What tech has achieved for us over the last few years is that it is now, theoretically, for marketers to both understand the potential customers out there … and it’s also much easier for marketers to contact those consumers,” he says, adding that wasn’t the case when marketers could only advertise via TV commercials, in the newspaper, or on the radio. But he cautioned marketers to be wary of overdoing it.

Among all of the survey’s respondents, 86 per cent said they received marketing emails, with 46 per cent of them saying they feel they receive too many. Among the 28 per cent of respondents who get marketing texts, 44 per cent said they get too many. This was also apparent in Canada, where half of the people polled said they felt getting 20 or more emails each week is overkill.

Twenty-two per cent of Canadian respondents said they have regretted liking a brand on Facebook.
Twenty-two per cent of Canadian respondents said they have regretted liking a brand on Facebook.

Hayward anticipates at some point, consumers may become so fed up they refuse to engage in further dialogue with marketers, shutting down the conversation by unsubscribing to their email lists and social media pages – a worst-case scenario for anyone hoping to build a connection to a consumer.

2) Pay to play

While marketers want to feel in control of consumer data, in the future, consumers may not want to give out something considered valuable for free.

Hayward says he can picture consumers becoming mercenaries, selling their data to the highest bidder, especially with the media and governments paying closer attention to how companies are storing and using consumers’ personal data.

Marketers want to monetize data, but consumers aren't as eager to share it.
Marketers want to monetize data, but consumers aren’t as eager to share it.

“Ultimately, the idea is that individuals become the custodians of their personal data, rather than at the moment, there’s a lot of data about you and some of it is owned by Apple and some of it is owned by Google and you have no control over it,” he says.

“We may very well see higher-value consumers who will say, now hang on, that’s my data … and only allow companies who will pay me to see what I’m up to and what I’m interested in.”

For example, a consumer may demand compensation for sharing information, like whether he or she is about to purchase a new car, Hayward says. Companies who have bought that information can then sell it to auto companies, who will then try to gain direct access to that consumer.

3) The hunt for affinity

Failing a more mercenary type of consumer, it’s possible consumers may someday jump from brand to brand.

Right now, many marketers are considering offering behavioural pricing, which means they target prices to individual consumers based on looking at their past shopping and browsing habits.

But if a consumer sees a friend has gotten a better price for something, he or she may jump ship and hunt for another brand that will also go lower on the dollar. Consumers will eventually become increasingly jaded and not want to engage with any particular brand or company, Hayward says.

4) Real relationships

In Hayward’s mind, this is the ideal outcome for the future of digital marketing.

“I think the best thing marketers can do is work with their consumers, to make sure that what they’re doing is the right answer, [which means] working with consumers and understanding what their preferences are, which data they’re happy to share, and what are their privacy concerns,” he says.

“We have to use technology to do for things for and with customers, and not do things to them, which is quite an important distinction.”

Four possible outcomes for the future of digital marketing.
Four possible outcomes for the future of digital marketing.

For Hayward, that means marketers need to get away from throwing deals and offers at customers, and instead focus on clearly defining their brand so consumers know to expect a high level of service from it.

This all applies to small to mid-sized businesses (SMBs) as well, Hayward says. With today’s technology, many of them now have a similar reach as bigger companies, without needing as big a marketing budget.

He adds it’s as simple as asking what customers want – whether they would like to be contacted, what kinds of messages are they interested in, and how often they can be contacted. For SMBs, it may be as easy as sending an email out to its customer base, while a larger company can create a page on its Web site for consumers to list their preferences. Marketers should also be transparent about what they plan to do with customer data, Hayward adds.

So with many consumers on the cusp of marketing fatigue, and governments poised to legislate how businesses take care of personal data, he says this is the time for marketers to patch up “broken relationships” with consumers.

“[Technology is] a fantastic step forward for our ability to talk to and understand consumers … but it’s so easy to overdo it,” he says. “We need to tread very carefully.”

CMO & CIO partnership crucial for data that drives revenue growth

Brian Jackson Brian Jackson Published: 12/05/2013
CMO-CIO-roundtable-good_feature

If Bill Clinton was gunning to be a chief marketing officer in 2013 instead of running for President of the United States in 1992, he might have quipped “It’s about the data, stupid.”

Marketing executives must collaborate with their organization’s chief information officer (CIO) to make sure they’re getting the quality data needed to meet their goals and understand how to use it effectively and appropriately, a group of senior business leaders heard at a roundtable discussion sponsored by IBM Canada and hosted by ITBusiness.ca today in Toronto. Future business growth will be achieved by targeting individuals as opposed to segments, the executives agreed, and do to that you not only need clean data, but a proper data governance structure.

“The world is changing, there’s plenty of devices, there’s social media, and there’s an explosion in the amount of data,” said Bob Humphreys, country leader for demand programs and digital strategy at IBM Canada. “What’s a CMO to do?”

There’s three things for a CMO to focus on, he says:

  • 1. The opportunity to get both structured and unstructured data to help with individual targeting of consumers and customers.
  • 2. The customer journey being provided and teaching customers about the value you’re providing to their life.
  • 3. Unifying your organization’s brand with company culture and recruiting employees to act, talk, and fulfill that brand promise in their activities.
Campaign manager James Carville made these three slogans well known among staffers on the 1992 run for Bill Clinton.
Campaign manager James Carville made these three slogans well known among staffers on the 1992 run for Bill Clinton.

Importance of clean data

To get started with focusing on these initiatives properly, the CMO and CIO need to work together on making sure good quality, clean data is available to them. There’s no use in targeting a customer if you have an incorrect address for them, or a spelling mistake in an e-mail address, after all. Roundtable attendees discussed how there are two opportunities to ensure clean data – when you first collect it, and afterwards when you review it.

“Many CMOs focus on the shiny object,” Humphreys says. “They’re not thinking about the data trail being left behind.”

Canada Post is taking a unique approach to eliminating typos in its collection of addresses online, says Alexis Zamkow, general manager of data and targeting solutions at Canada Posts Digital Delivery Network. Recognizing that postal addresses are often used for data quality measures, the postal company wanted to eliminate the biggest problem in collecting clean data – human error. Between 15 and 25 per cent of forms completed online or over the phone contain errors, she says.

“Let’s try and get human error out of the picture and let technology offer them a suggestion,” Zamkow says. Using other information about the customer, Canada Post can ask them to verify a pre-formatted address. “We’ve eliminated humans from typing and making mistakes, and using technology to get clean data right up front.”

At customer loyalty programs logistics firm Aimia Inc., which runs Aeroplan, customers are allowed to edit their data at any time and do a good job at correcting any errors if they are motivated, says Susan Doniz, CIO at Aimia.

“They want so much what we’re giving them that they are self-correcting the data themselves,” she says.

Other executives around the table used outsourcing services to clean up their databases, weeding out duplicate or inaccurate information. Some had built-in processes for catching incorrect data, such as at property manager Tridel Corp., according to its CIO Ted Maulucci. All returned mail is bar coded and scanned, he says, and other information collected about residents is used to verify identity in the backend.

“You have to do both the scrubbing on the backend and making efforts to collect clean data,” he says.

Building internal support

While CEOs are asking their CIO and CMO roles to work better together, they are not always giving them their due, Humphreys says. Both roles can be minimized – the CMO as the mere sales support function and the CIO as the ‘keep the lights’ on utility operator. To get enough political clout within an organization to actually effect changes, its likely the CIO and CMO will not only have to form a partnership, but a team that includes other executives and other company leaders.

At human resources services firm Morneau Sheppell, the IT department has a good relationship with the marketing branch, says CIO Michael Lin. As a result they are able to explore data classification towards the goal of doing context-aware, independent targeting of messages. Since the company deals with internal private data, enterprise data, and client data, classifying it appropriately is important to treating it properly and ultimately how it gets used.

“Our organization is starting to make it a mandatory requirement,” he says. “Its something we live and breathe now, every line of business is actually tied to data at this point, the cultural shift is happening.”

There’s opportunities for IT to work with every line of business – not just marketing – to find efficiencies and drive growth, he adds.

At CIBC, the marketing focus has been on shifting brand image, says Mike Yeates, director of service and platform management governance at CIBC. So IT has been focused on facilitating the most effective channels for that communication to take place. For example, it’s in the process of setting up an internal social network that would be 100 per cent unmoderated.

“The intent is that as employees of the bank, we’re also customers of the bank,” he explains. “We’re making a lot of steps to bring in information not just from sources external to the bank, but from sources internal to the bank.”

It seems that if executive teams want to be successful in putting data towards better marketing, then they should take heed of another 1992 Clinton campaign slogan – “change versus more of the same.”

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com

CIOs and CMOs meet in the middle at ITBusiness.ca event

Christine Wong Christine Wong Published: 11/21/2013

Why can’t IT and marketing just get along?

They can, but it’s going to take a lot more than just awesome digital technology. That was the takeaway from a roundtable of Canadian marketing and IT executives held in Toronto this morning.

Members of Canada’s CIO and CMO ranks came together for a frank discussion on how they can best collaborate on digital marketing opportunities arising from newer technologies like big data, analytics, social media and mobile. Two hours of talk culminated in the conclusion that technology is only one part of the collaborative solution.

“Many would suggest that it’s a big nut to crack and they haven’t really been able to figure it out yet,” said Bob Humphreys, country leader for digital strategy and demand programs at IBM Canada, which sponsored the ITBusiness.ca event.

All eight executives – hailing from the insurance, retail, healthcare, telecom and non-profit sectors – agreed new technologies allow them to collect more data about individuals than ever before. The goal is to use that data to create personalized marketing content for all of those individuals: emails, flyers, ads and calls targeted to the specific habits and tastes of each customer. The question is, how? For a start, IT and marketing have to start working on it together, said Humphreys.

“It’s very unlikely to happen unless the CMO engages the CIO,” said Humphreys. “They both have to have skin in the game.”

Some organizations are simply encouraging better communication between IT and marketing on such matters. Others are creating new positions like Chief Digital Officer to encompass parts of both departments. Some are taking a top-down approach that sees the CEO imparting the importance of digital marketing opportunities throughout all parts of the entire company. It’s a seismic shift in corporate roles and culture that’s still evolving.

“It’s a large opportunity but also a large issue because it’s so different from how organizations behave today,” Humphreys said.

Other barriers to CMO/CIO collaboration include an overwhelming volume of data, integrating new data with old, legacy IT systems, a lack of business skills on the IT side and a dearth of technical depth on the marketing side. There are privacy concerns over collecting and harnessing all that personal data, too, not to mention worries about turning off consumers with an onslaught of unsolicited marketing messages.

Those challenges echoed a recent 50-page report released by the Canadian Marketing Association. The study, prepared by the Conference Board of Canada with support from IBM, features case studies of Canadian organizations grappling with the very same issues surrounding CMO/CIO collaboration.

As the two hours came to a close on Thursday, roundtable guests from both the IT and marketing streams agreed to work more closely on the issue. Some parting advice came courtesy of Gary Davenport, VP of IT at Allstream Inc. Work together, he advised, but don’t try to tackle the whole ball of wax in one go.

“The old saying is, ‘How do you eat an elephant?’” Davenport recalled. “One bite at a time.”

Hashtag Bubble

Marketing with Twitter: Kirstine Stewart at Digital Day 3D

Candice So Candice So Published: 10/23/2013

When Twitter Inc. announced it was setting up shop here in Canada back in April, that was a doozy of a news item. But equally big was the statement it released simultaneously – that it had hired Kirstine Stewart of the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.(CBC), to become its managing director.

With Stewart taking the helm at Twitter Canada this summer, there has been a lot of speculation about what that means for the social media giant. She took the opportunity at Digital Day 3D, a conference for digital marketers, to explain her hopes and goals for Twitter’s Canadian iteration.

One of her first surprises? The furor she created when she left her previous position as executive vice-president of English services at CBC.

“I was surprised to see the conversation would soon follow me. It wasn’t about me personally, but because it said something about the state of traditional media,” she said in a keynote address.

Stewart made the comparison between the CBC, a national journalism institution, and Twitter, which she described “essentially as an app with 140 characters.” However, she was quick to tell people she doesn’t see Twitter as a disruptor to traditional forms of media like broadcasting.

Instead, it complements and amplifies what traditional media already does, since it makes it easier to reach out to people, she said. But more importantly, it gives marketers something they never had before – the chance to know what people are talking about, without having to guess.

(Image: Twitter). Kirstine Stewart's Twitter account.

When she was working at the CBC, her main job was planning programming. Typically, she had to guess what people were interested in watching, and what time slots would work best for particular shows.

Now, just by following different hashtags, as well as tracking metrics, it’s easier for marketers to find out what people are interested in.

“Twitter turns marketing on its head. It tells you what people want to watch, and how,” she said. “It’s like the water cooler or town square.”

And of course, that works both ways – marketers use Twitter regularly to get their messages out, Stewart said. She gave the example of the hashtag #hungry, something regular Twitter users might use to tell their followers about their status.

But it can also be a buzzword for marketers. If a marketer works with food, for example, he or she could take advantage of the #hungry hashtag, checking to see when it’s most active and when it’s a good time to jump into the conversation and use it as well.

Some brands have been very creative with conversing with users, Stewart said. For example, Justin Timberlake’s team has used it to not only interact with fans, but to also promote the pop artist’s new song and album, all within on tweet. Stewart showed an example of a tweet that had an album pre-order link embedded right in the text of the tweet, while also containing a video link as well.

Still, the biggest challenge in being head of Twitter Canada is making people aware of the social platform’s possibilities, Stewart said.

“Before, there was no one here [in Canada] to talk about sales. So the challenge is just getting this out there,” she said. “Twitter’s engineers are constantly coming out with new versions of what you can do with Twitter.”

Her hope is to make the social network more accessible and useable – and ultimately, to leverage it to reach as many people as possible.

Marketers lack confidence in their digital marketing skills, Adobe survey finds

Candice So Candice So Published: 09/24/2013
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com

Digital marketing has exploded in the last few years, with more tools out there than ever thanks to advances in tech. But many marketers lack confidence in their abilities – with some saying they’re not always sure they can leverage digital marketing to reach customers and forge relationships with them.

In a study of 1,000 U.S. marketers released on Monday from Adobe Systems Inc., only 48 per cent of digital marketers said they felt highly proficient in their profession, with more than 80 per cent saying they didn’t have any formal training and learned all of their trade while on the job.

Tied to that is their lack of faith in their ability to track whether their campaigns were working. For 82 per cent of marketers, their biggest concern was reaching their customers, with another 79 per cent of respondents saying they wanted to know if their campaigns were having any effect. Still, just 40 per cent of respondents said they felt their company’s marketing is effective, with another 40 per cent saying they felt their team and co-workers were skilled at digital marketing.

(Image: Adobe). Click to see larger version.
(Image: Adobe). Click to see larger version.

Even so, 68 per cent of marketers feel their companies pressure them to show return on investment (ROI) and to demonstrate why it’s worth budgeting towards marketing. And the problem is, only 44 per cent said their marketing departments had a lot of influence over their company’s business strategy.

Only nine per cent said they strongly believed their digital marketing was working, though almost half said they did think their marketing had some effect.

While the numbers don’t necessarily translate to Canada, marketers south of the border face many of the same challenges as the ones here. In the U.S., 76 per cent of the marketers surveyed said they felt marketing has changed more in the past two years than in the last half century.

Most of them would argue marketing has value, with 81 per cent of all marketers saying it delivers value that can be measured. Yet 61 per cent also reported feeling as though digital marketing is all about trial and error, especially since it has changed so rapidly.

That leaves many of them as unsure on what to focus on in the future, with some saying social media marketing should be the top priority. Others said personalization and targeting were key, while still others named digital advertising, e-commerce, or marketing measurement as contenders for the most important area in marketing.

Still, many agreed that reaching customers was still the number one focus, followed by measuring campaign effectiveness and showing their company there’s a real ROI in marketing.

“Marketers are facing a dilemma: they aren’t sure what’s working, they’re feeling underequipped to meet the challenges of digital, and they’re having a tough time keeping up with the pace of change in the industry. What’s worse, no one hands you a playbook on how to make it all work,” said Ann Lewnes, chief marketing officer at Adobe, in a statement.

But she added that marketers can’t afford to miss out on opportunities and need to be willing to experiment.

“Marketers who are bold in their digital marketing efforts and investments, who are taking smart risks, and who are training their teams to be more ‘digital ready’ will be in a great position to capitalize on digital’s full promise.”

Two paths to prepare for CASL: Express and implied consent

Candice So Candice So Published: 09/30/2013
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com

With the enactment of Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) around the corner, it’s hard to know what kind of message your business is allowed to send to reach customers, and what kind of message is taboo – especially with the threat of a sizeable fine.

Penalties for non-compliance can reach up to $1 million for individuals, and $10 million for businesses, with statutory damages of up to $200 for each violation of the prohibition. Just one email or text can count as a violation. So with those stakes on the table, how do you ensure you mitigate your risk and comply with CASL?

On Sept. 29, Toronto lawyers Adam Kardash and Joanna Fine held a workshop for 60 attendees from organizations from all over Toronto, explaining who the laws will apply to, and what kind of messages will fall under its scope. Kardash and Fine, who specialize in privacy and information management at Heenan Blaikie LLP, supplied us with more details on CASL, unpacking what it means for businesses.

What kinds of organizations does CASL apply to?

“CASL isn’t meant to stop legitimate business activity. It’s meant to stop rogue spammers,” Kardash said during his presentation. He said CASL will apply to any organization sending commercial electronic messages, focusing on cutting down on spam and preventing Canadians from getting unwanted texts and emails landing in their inboxes.

However, there are exceptions to the rule. During the workshop, one attendee asked whether CASL targets foreign spammers.

“This legislation will have no impact on someone sitting overseas firing off unwanted spam messages,” Kardash said. “What it will do is provide Canada, the last G8 country to get this, with anti-spam legislation … dropping a hammer on someone sitting in Toronto or Montreal. This provides a very clear hammer.”

What kinds of messages does CASL apply to?

CASL isn’t limited to just emails or texts, Kardash said. It can apply to any commercial electronic message sent through any means of telecommunication, including sound and voice messages.

It also includes emerging forms of electronic messaging, meaning in the future, something built “by a guy in his garage” could still be covered under the law. Basically, any form of electronic messaging that encourages the recipient to participate in a commercial activity falls under CASL, Kardash said.

So how can businesses contact customers?

When CASL comes into force, there will still be some exceptions for Canadian businesses. While the rules are very clear about whether businesses can send messages to consumers, those rules are waived when consumers give express or implied consent to receive them.

Express consent can be either in verbal or written form, but it has to be an action on the consumer’s part. They need to know what the consent is for, and they have to be provided with the sender’s contact information. They also need a statement indicating they’re allowed to withdraw their consent at any time. Given the benchmark for express consent is a high one, prechecking boxes saying “I want to receive information about the sender’s offers” doesn’t truly count as consent, Kardash said.

However, obtaining implied consent is a little easier. This happens when two parties already have an existing business relationship. For example, if a recipient has purchased goods or services, or signed a contract with a business, they’ve given their consent to be in contact with that business. Yet this form of consent is time-sensitive, only counting for two years after a purchase has been made or two years after a contract has expired. If a customer has submitted an inquiry or application, the implied consent is only valid for six months, Fine said.

Beyond consent, are there any other opportunities for businesses to send messages to customers?

Businesses still get the green light to send messages that answer customer queries, or that provide quotes or estimates. Those kinds of messages are also OK under CASL when they simply confirm a commercial transaction, Fine said. However, the messages still have to comply with CASL’s consent and unsubscribe requirements, giving recipients a way to say they no longer want to receive those kinds of messages.

What’s also unclear is how CASL will handle cases of businesses running contests. Fine suggested those may be considered as implied consent, with contest entrants agreeing to receive messages from a business for up to two years after the business names a winner. Still, legislators may need to clarify how that will work by the time CASL rolls around next year.

Want better content marketing? Just ask

Candice So Candice So Published: 12/05/2013
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com

At a time when marketers everywhere are talking about gathering data on consumer behaviour, it seems almost counter-intuitive to do something as simple as just asking consumers what they want. Don’t marketers already know what their customers want, judging by their buying preferences or reading habits?

Not so fast, writes Colleen Jones for the Content Marketing Institute. The power of the ask is a beautiful thing, and it works really well when marketers take the trouble to survey their customers and find out what they’re really thinking.

What behavioural data can’t do for you
Behavioural data can be very insightful for figuring out the numbers – how many people watched your video, how many people opened your email, etc. But what it can’t do is tell you the “who”s “how”s and the “why”s.
For example, who is watching your videos? Why are they watching them? Why is this article getting more page views than that other one? Why did people come to look at your content anyway? What did they decide after viewing it?

And although many marketers might say survey data is all qualitative, without the benefit of numbers to back up its findings, Jones says she feels surveys can also have strong quantitative methodology when done right. Others might say survey data can’t be trusted because people aren’t always honest when they say they engage in certain behaviours. She responds by saying no one should try to predict the future based on survey data – instead, they should try to understand why something happened, users’ roles, demographics, preferences, expectations, and the impact of your marketing on them, if any.

They also work well when used with blogs, digital magazines, on white papers, demos, and within email newsletters, she adds.

She shares three tips for pulling together handy, informative surveys:

1. Don’t ask people about their future choices.
Too many surveys ask, “what will you do if X” or “what would you do if X.” Unfortunately, people may say they would buy a product, but for whatever reason, just not bother to pick it up. That’s why it’s better to focus on questions about past behaviour, Jones writes. For example, “Did you recommend this product?” is always a better question than, “Would you recommend this product?”

2. Stick to closed questions, rather than open-ended ones.
As nice as it is to be able to ask open-ended questions, if you want your survey to deliver quantitative data, you need to ask closed ones, Jones says. “What do you think of our digital magazine?” is not ideal, as it might provide too many wide-ranging answers. The better question to ask would be, “Which statement most closely matches your impression of our digital magazine?”

Beyond netting more quantitative data, you’ll also get more structured results, making it much faster to analyze what you’ve got in front of you.

3. Make sure the timing of your survey is right.
The most effective time to ask people to complete surveys is when they’ve had time to consume content on your site. It’s also helpful to ask people who’ve actually opened your emails, Jones says. And as an added bonus, consumers will take note if you ask them their opinions of your content – showing you care about what you’ve generated and that you want to be a handy resource for them.

Setting up a CRM: from marketing to IT

David Chabot David Chabot Published: 09/18/2013
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com

Customer relationship management systems (CRM) are at the heart of a company’s commercial activities and are an essential tool in the implementation of its products. CRMs contain your database, or marketing intelligence; it’s your biggest corporate capital. But who should you contact to set up a CRM in your own company? After all, CRMs require marketing to support sales, and this is all supported by technology.

Recently, the vice president of a manufacturing company asked me if Salesforce.com was a good alternative to his internal CRM. The latter has met with development challenges when attempting to meet the needs of its mobile and tablet users. Moreover, it requires a certain number of resources for its updates and maintenance. This vice president also had projects requiring that his CRM support the company’s distribution network and more marketing automation options.

Feeling that his project required more than a migration of company data towards another system, and to help his IT department meet his needs, he contacted a firm specializing in B2B that has detailed knowledge of marketing and sales operations and of the processes related to the use and performance of a CRM.

CRMs at the heart of sales and marketing integration

With marketing as with sales, a customer relationship management system (CRM) is essential. For these departments, both the CRM and its social version, the SCRM, are at the centre of sales and marketing integration, and their close collaboration, all while preserving the mission of each one.

At first glance, the reasons that motivated this vice president to ask me this question seem obvious. He’s looking to:

  • Reduce maintenance costs and update his internal CRM;
  • Respond to information access needs on smart phones and tablets;
  • Facilitate the work of the sales force.

In doing so, he’ll have the following advantages:

  • An optimization of the sales process
  • Updated information
  • The consolidation of the company’s information in one coherent base

Setting up a CRM is a very strategic move

Will Salesforce, like other solutions, be a good tool for the sales force of a company? The answer is yes, for Salesforce or any other commercial solution.

Yes, but with an important warning. Setting up a tool like this one should be done when revising business processes and strategic planning in terms of growth objectives, as well as a fundamental understanding of the sales, marketing and customer service departments.

Don’t underestimate the importance of consulting various users during the analysis phase, to train them and to implement procedures for updating information. It’s also important to consult the IT department in order to consolidate the implementation and/or to coordinate its connection with other systems in the company. These elements are often processed once the tool has been chosen, although this should be done beforehand.

Strategic planning and revising sales, marketing and customer service processes will all lead to a series of selection criteria and features sought after in a CRM. This exercise will also guide the implementation, the need for extension modules (plugins) and the customization of the preferred solution.

The importance of preparing for any unforeseen events

On a more technical note, it’s important to remember that your CRM is at the heart of your business activities. Make sure you have a backup plan in the event of an extended service failure if the solution lies in the clouds. If the solution is local, don’t forget to regularly, completely and reliably have backups.

CRMs are strategic tools. They are at the centre of your commercial and marketing activities, and are the driving force behind them. Strategically plan and review your business processes with the help of marketing and sales experts that understand the ins and outs of integrating these two departments. Then, consult technical experts, but only after discussing with sales and marketing teams. This way, you will have the solid bases necessary for your business development.

Setting up a CRM is hell if not implemented properly! If done right, it’s heaven!

Inbound marketing: how to fix your leaky bucket

Brian Jackson Brian Jackson Published: 11/07/2013
(Image: ConversionXL.com)

Entrepreneur and self-proclaimed “conversion optimization” junkie Peep Laja should know that inbound marketing is best driven by experiments. After all, even his name is an experiment, he tells the crowd at Toronto’s Mesh Marketing 2013 conference on Nov. 7.

His last name is pronounced with a silent “j” as in “Jaomir Jagr” and that’s what he tells people. But when he hands them his business card, they read his last name and always prounce it with the hard “j” as in “Jarome Iginla.”

“People trust their eyes more than their ears,” says the face of ConversionXL.com. Then he gets to his real message of the day: “All the money you’re investing in SEO, SEM, content marketing is being wasted. You’re not investing in conversion optimization.”

Laja and his ConversionXL firm specialize in taking visitors to a website and converting them. Not to a religion, but to whatever it is your business is selling them – perhaps products via an e-commerce site, or a piece of research you’d like to educate them about. It’s what marketing experts refer to as the sales funnel – tracking users from the point of catching their attention at the wide-reaching mouth of the funnel on Google search, for example, and guiding them along all the way to your action goals.

The practice of conversion optimization is now a must, Laja says, because pay-per-click pricing has become saturated, making it expensive and hard to acquire additional website visitors. So it’s time to convert more of your visitors into buyers.

Laja demonstrates how to start thinking about conversion optimization with an example of what not to do on your Web site, targeting Nebraska-based Continuum Financial.

Continuum Financial

  • The cheesy stock photo looks fine at first, but does nothing to express what this brand is really about or connect with the audience any personality.
  • You don’t need to state “Welcome to our website” because there is really not any Web site that one is not welcome too.
  • Hitting the customer with your company’s philosophy on the main page isn’t very compelling. It’s not the way to win them over.

Instead, aim for a landing page that is more like mobile payment solution Square’s:

Square landing page

  • The message of “Start accepting credit cards today” instantly communicates what the product does.
  • The image visually reinforces exactly what the product does too.
  • An easy-to-complete form and actionable and clear button with the word “free” in it makes it very enticing to convert.
  • The 2.75 per cent fee information answers a key customer question right away without requiring them to dig for it.

If your current Web site is more like Continuum Financial and less like Square, don’t feel like you have to schedule all the changes to take place at once, Laja says. The average company redesigns its site every five years, but that leads to a lot of lag time when its site is under-performing. In other words, just because your bucket is leaky, the answer isn’t necessarily replacing it with a whole new bucket – try putting a few patches in place first.

“When was the last time Amazon had a revolutionary design of its site?,” he asks. “Never.”

Instead, do iterative changes of your Web site and treat each one as an experiment. Set up a test of different versions with user groups and look at what the data tells you about their effectiveness.

But what if your company doesn’t have the resources to invest in conversion optimization? Well, Laja has an answer for that too. “Take the ad budget and put it into conversion optimization. You’ll convert more and have more money to buy ads,” he says.

Are you converted yet?

 

 

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