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Making Trade Shows Pay Off

People at an ExhibitionMany trade shows fail to provide a positive return on investment, even before the booth is shipped. Here’s why:

  • Poor pre-show planning: entice potential customers to your booth, don’t just hope they walk by and stop in. Many trade shows will provide a list of attendees to vendors. Contact them three or four weeks ahead, try to set up a meeting or attract them by offering a personal demonstration of your product or some other incentive. Follow up with an email blast a week before the show. Good pre-show planning also provides the opportunity to build your company’s awareness and credibility by arranging speaking opportunities (needs to be done months or even a year in advance) and setting up interviews with trade media at the conference.
  • Wasting money on expensive paper brochures: Most end up in a trash can. Go digital. Offer your information on a thumb drive; better yet, offer to send it digitally after the show, but customize email communications so as not to appear generic. This type of follow up can be even more effective if you can identify the attendees’ needs while talking with him or her at your booth. This also allows you to collect business cards at the show, which can be added to your marketing database.
  • Lack of post-show marketing: It’s amazing how many trade show leads are dumped in a file with nobody following up. Assign one person to ensure every lead is contacted within days, no longer than a week after the show, which will convey professionalism and efficiency and, many times result in sales. Otherwise leads go quickly cold.

Provide an experience at the show, don’t just invite attendees into your booth to talk.

If possible, allow them to interact with your products or experience your services which leads to customer engagement. Touch screens and interactive demonstrations generate interest and attract people to you booth.

Finally, measure return on investment after the show and you have followed up. This will help you determine if the show is worth attending next year, or, you have to refine your marketing approach.

Contact Anthony Casale at 609-683-9055 ext. 202 or email acasale@imsworld.com

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Anthony Casale
CEO, Integrated Marketing Services

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Consumer or B to B; Companies Gain Advantage Through Social Listening

iStock-500395310Right now, there may be dozens, hundreds or even thousands of your customers and potential customers sharing information and experiences about your products and services; and about your competitors.

There is probably no more useful information than customer feedback to develop effective marketing strategies, gain competitive advantage and increase customer satisfaction. And, it's right in public for you to see—online.

More companies are listening online to monitor customers and competitors, but most are a long way from taking full advantage of social listening to increase satisfaction, build market share and develop competitive advantages.

If you’re not engaged in social listening, or not using it to its potential, you’re not only missing what customers are saying about you, your products, services and competitors, but also opportunities to:

  • Understand customers’ pain points and needs to create more actionable marketing strategies
  • Build customer engagement and satisfaction, even among those currently dissatisfied
  • Identify and reach key influencers, particularly important to business-to-business companies
  • Build credibility, and be perceived as the leader in your industry
  • Better position against competition
  • Evaluate marketing and promotional programs
  • Understand “unmet” needs, key to developing new products and services
  • Understand your image, and the image of competitors

On the other hand, competitors are also using social listening to learn about your company, and developing their own strategies.

Social Media: The New Intelligence

Marketing today is increasingly driven by customers, true for both business-to-business and consumer companies. They have more choices. Shopping information sources are soaring, allowing companies and consumers to evaluate these buying choices before they are made.

Consumers and customers constantly talk with one another online, sharing experiences, perceptions and recommendations, both pro and con.

According to research by American Opinion Research:

  • After email, social media usage easily rates as the No. 1 Internet activity
  • Almost two-thirds of adults search social media before shopping or making a purchase decision, higher among millennials (adults between about 29 and 36)—a must-reach group for many companies, consumer and business-to-business

In addition, the vast majority of social media users rate “user generated content” as extremely credible, more trustworthy than advertising. They’re listening and paying attention to each other.

Social listening is now a must, not an option.

Developing a Social Listening Program

iStock-534428933_smSocial listening is not an end onto itself. Social listening is an extension of your branding and marketing programs designed to provide timely, actionable information to help defend and extend your brand and build sales and market share and customer satisfaction.

Data is just data unless it is analyzed and presented in a way that’s timely, useful and actionable. By analyzing comments you can gain vital insights and identify trends affecting your company and your industry.

There are, however, important, and often missed, nuances to building a successful social listening program.

  • Use social listening to understand your various customer groups

It's vital to segment comments by various audiences.

Whether they realize it or not, most companies have more than one audience. The most effective social listening strategies develop, understand and analyze strategies to reach your multiple target audiences.

  • Focus on customer intensity

Understand intensity of social media comments; what drives customer action, as opposed to just talk. The more intense, the more important it is to take immediate action. There are very accurate approaches to measure intensity.

  • Analyze emotion

Emotional comments often reveal drivers and pain points that prompt satisfaction and dissatisfaction with your company. Measure, understand and act on emotion.

  • Take action

Social listening is just an exercise unless you do something with it. Social listening gives you the information to revise your marketing plan, if necessary, tweak promotions, develop strategies to turnaround dissatisfied customers, etc.

They key is do something.

For more information, contact Lois Kaufman at 609-683-9055 ext. 203 or email lkaufman@imsworld.com

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Lois Kaufman, Ph.D.
President, Integrated Marketing Services

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Part 2: Retaining Readers; It’s Not Too Late

Strategies that won't break the bank

Part 1 of this article focused on some of the most important, but lesser known, reasons consumers are leaving newspapers:

  • Newspapers need to do a better job differentiating their products; many consumers are confused what they’re offering, what content they provide, and on what platforms.
  • Many newspaper brands have deteriorated; most consumers don’t consider printed newspapers, or their websites, as their primary sources of local news; which is a fact but wrong.
  • Newspapers not only do less marketing than many other industries, much of what they do doesn’t engage consumers, focusing more on product features than reader benefits; which are much more important.

Fortunately, there are strategies to increase reader retention and frequency without breaking the bank. Digital may be the future, but print still pays the bills, so hold onto as many readers as long as you can.

Our findings are based on thousands of interviews conducted in markets across the nation by American Opinion Research (AOR), of Princeton, N.J.

Everything Old Gets New Again

iStock-496277488A large majority of former subscribers, and about half of current subscribers, believe printed newspapers and their websites provide pretty much the same information. And, sometimes they do right down to the lead story. This perception is costing newspapers print readership and digital usage.

One solution: develop a content plan to differentiate your platforms and exploit the benefits of both.

Years ago, when I was Deputy Managing of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Times Union in Rochester N.Y., afternoon newspapers like ours faced a constant challenge: how to cover the news when the morning newspaper or television often had it first.

The same is true today for the vast majority of newspapers; they are rarely the first source for breaking news, even local news.

Like the afternoon newspapers of a generation ago, printed newspapers today need to be creative in developing “second day angles,” content that is more timeless, but still timely. Even feature stories should have a “news peg,” a reason why they’re in the paper that day.

And, that requires a new plan for coverage.

Even the venerable Times of London is cutting its breaking news coverage and moving to other types of content, including on its website. Early results look positive.

“People don’t come to us for breaking news; they can go to the BBC and Twitter for that, which is free,” said Alan Hunter, head of digital for The Times, in an Editor & Publisher article titled, “The Times of London is swearing off breaking news.”

“They come to us for the authority of our reporting, opinion and analysis.”

Devising a content plan, just like a business plan, allows you to develop the most effective strategies, based on reader needs, carefully identify opportunities and, perhaps most important, make sure everyone on your staff is on the same page.

The two most important questions in developing a content plan:

  • What information can you provide that consumers can’t get elsewhere; the single-best predictor we have of readership and reader frequency
  • Provide content that’s useful in their daily lives, the second-best readership predictor

One suggestion: people are looking for ways to enhance and improve their lives; AOR research shows that's what is most important to them. Newspapers have generally reported actions and issues, not answers, which feed the perception that newspapers don’t provide unique information and don't care, and, probably, adds to the appeal of television.

You can change that, but you need a content plan that goes beyond brainstorming. That's not that difficult, but is something most media companies have not considered. This should help differentiate your products, an important priority mentioned in Part 1 of this article.

Identify Unmet Needs

When working with non-media companies, our research often focuses on identifying the “unmet needs” of their target audiences. Many newspapers take a different approach: looking for an audience that wants what they have to offer, rather than developing products people want to buy.

Newspapers can distinguish themselves and be perceived as providing unique, useful information by identifying consumers’ unmet needs and providing that information.

There are different ways to identify unmet needs. One approach we have found successful:

  • Measure the importance of very specific types of content consumers say they "must have".

(Identifying specific content is a must; not just local news, for example, but what types of local news. We also base the analysis on “must have” topics. Simply measuring interest usually doesn’t measure intensity.)

  • Identify the primary source of information for each specific topic consumers must have (including print subscribers)

In a surprising number of cases, consumers have no one dominant source, even for content they care most about. This represents an opportunity.

  • Determine on what platform, print or digital, consumers are most likely to read or access this information, and how best to bundle content so print and digital platforms complement, not duplicate, each other

Do What We Tell Advertisers

Newspapers tell their advertisers to market harder when times are tough. Most do just the opposite.

There are many ways to market and promote without relying on expensive, external marketing plans. And, even those often tend to be poorly positioned and unproductive.

A large New Jersey newspaper once ran an extensive, and expensive, radio campaign promoting the backgrounds and experience of its editorial staff members. The concept: build credibility in the people who bring them the news.

Nobody cared, and it didn't affect image or readership.

iStock-502510376Consumers care what’s in the newspaper for them. This is the most important element of any successful marketing program, internal or external.

Tell people why they should care.

Upcoming and same-day content promotion in the newspaper can help retain subscribers and increase reader frequency among single-copy buyers and former subscribers, most of whom still read at least occasionally.

For almost every product, in almost every industry, frequency equals loyalty.

I’ve run several newsrooms and visited more than 100 others as a media researcher and consultant. The vast majority either don’t appreciate the importance of in-paper promotion, or need to do a more effective job.

Just a few strategies:

  • Same-day content promotion: focus on what’s in the newspaper that day to entice readers to spend more time with it, an important predictor of readership
  • Upcoming content promotion: Build anticipation about the unique and useful information that’s going to be in the newspaper, tomorrow, the next day, Sunday, etc.

Clearly, this won’t be breaking news, no longer the strength of newspapers anyway. But virtually every newspaper plans some content in advance. Focus on content that is useful, local and unique, and you can cut churn and increase retention.

If you can’t identify any, there are bigger problems.

Here are some guidelines in making internal marketing more effective:

  • Make a compelling promise there is helpful and useful information inside the newspaper

I remember seeing a magazine cover promoting the story, “The best place for you to invest your last $5,000.”

How would many newspapers promote this story?

Maybe something like, “Personal finance, Page 5d”; no direct promise of personal benefits, useful information and certainly not very compelling.

  • Be short, to the point and engaging; again, promise personally important benefits. Start looking at magazine covers. Most are very good at this, because they live and die on discretionary readers which are more like newspaper readers today.

These strategies are relatively inexpensive, but will be successful if done correctly—with the reader in mind.

Perhaps the best advice I ever received about selling newspapers came from my old boss at USA Today, the late Al Neuharth, USA Today’s founder and then Chairman and CEO of The Gannett Co.

Al walked over to my desk in the USA Today newsroom one evening, handed me a piece of paper and said, “Every one of our stories needs to answer this question."

The question, "Why should I care?”

He was right.

For more on American Opinion Research, click here.

Contact Anthony Casale at 609-683-9055 ext. 202 or email acasale@imsworld.com

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Part 1: Retaining Readers; It’s Not Too Late

Hold on to readers because print still pays the bills.

iStock-176596184A significant percentage of subscribers are leaving print for news websites.

No surprise here, except that many of these websites don’t belong to newspapers.

You might be surprised, however, by other factors feeding churn.

Lack of time is generally the primary reason quitters give for cancelling their subscriptions. But that’s just a top-of-mind response they give circulators on newspaper stop studies. Dig deeper, and we find that time isn’t even close to being No. 1.

Cost is also frequently mentioned, but price has even less impact than time.

In-depth probing of former readers and subscribers by American Opinion Research (AOR) shows other, more fundamental reasons subscribers quit. These are costing you readers and revenue. Digital is probably the future, but print still pays most of the bills, so it’s vital to keep as many print readers as possible for as long as possible.

There are ways to make this happen that won’t break the bank.

Why Readers Quit

The reasons many people quit have more to do with what consumers think of printed newspapers and their websites, and how they perceive them.

Newspapers need to follow the lead of most other industries (automotive, for example) and do a better job differentiating their products, and then promoting the differences and benefits of each.

MediaWP1_Chart1_rev2

Take a look at the chart (above), based on interviews by AOR with more than 3,000 adults from across the country.

  • Almost two thirds of former readers say they have already received from other sources news that comes in the printed newspaper by the time they received it; and, almost as many say print contains the same information as the newspaper website.
  • Perhaps more concerning, fewer than a third say the printed newspaper has news and information they can’t get elsewhere – one of our best predictors of readership and loyalty.
  • A relatively small minority say newspapers provide up-to-date news and information.

Although not as dramatic, there are similar perceptions among current readers, which indicate the potential for an even more accelerated erosion of print readers.

  • Almost half say they have already received news in the printed newspaper by the time they receive it; and, almost as many say it contains the same information as its website.
  • Only one-in-three current readers say the printed newspaper has news and information they can’t get elsewhere.

Consumers are confused what you’re offering, how and on what platforms. It’s possible to convince some to read the printed newspaper and access your websites, but not the way they are now perceived.

Editors have told me their practice is to continually update digital content (which they should), and then use the final version in print when the paper hits its deadline. That’s great for work flow, but not so good for building use of, and loyalty toward all your products.

If your printed newspaper and website aren’t working together, they’re not working.

Yet, almost every day I go online and compare newspaper front pages with their websites. And almost every day, I see front pages and websites that not only lead with the same content, but sometimes even the same headline.

Local News: Newspapers Are Losing Their Edge

We’ve known for a long time that local news (defined in a variety of ways) is the No. 1 benefit newspapers can provide their communities.

Yet, as shown in the following chart, consumers say they now rely on television for local and community news more than any other source.

MediaWP1_Chart2_rev1

Newspapers rate well behind.

Does television really provide better local news content?

Absolutely not!

But, that is the perception of consumers across the nation. It’s probably true in your market.

Some reasons:

  • As stated above, newspapers need to do a better job of differentiating their products. We’re talking with some newspapers on how to use research to develop new content strategies to exploit the unique benefits of each platform. It’s extremely unlikely printed newspapers will ever be the first with the news anymore, but there are other ways you can provide unique, useful information to retain readership.
  • Television is very good at promoting itself, something newspapers (and their websites) need badly to improve. Unlike television, and most other consumer companies (and newspapers are a consumer product) when newspapers do promote and market they tend to promote their products, not the benefits to consumers of using those products which is all readers care about.
  • Newspaper marketing budgets are not only dramatically lower than most industries, many marketing plans need to be better conceived and executed. Many simply don’t engage consumers. We provide suggestions in Part 2 of this article.

It’s Time for Newspapers to Re-invigorate Your Brands

For decades, newspapers have talked branding, but most branding programs have achieved very little.

Consumers today are increasingly “expectation driven;” that is, they will use a service, or buy a product (including newspapers and access to newspaper websites) based on their expectation of what they will receive from it.

They want personal, demonstrable benefits in exchange for their time and money.

A brand is not a logo or a tagline, it’s the way you want consumers to think of you. A strong positive image will result in customer retention and increased reader frequency among former subscribers and single-copy buyers, many of whom still read the paper occasionally.

As seen above, however, the image of most newspapers is not strong.

Most consumer companies spend years building an effective brand image. Newspapers don’t have that patience. Many newspapers rely on Spring and Fall campaigns, with very little marketing in between.

These are just some of the reasons printed newspapers are losing market share; but, they are little discussed but most important.

Check out Part 2 of this article, and we’ll suggest some cost-effective strategies to change these perceptions and increase reader frequency.

For more on American Opinion Research, click here.

Contact Anthony Casale at 609-683-9055 ext. 202 or email acasale@imsworld.com

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If Your Newspaper & Website Aren’t Working Together, They’re Not Working

Increasing unduplicated reach print and online is an effective way to build reach; yet:

  • About half of print readers say the newspaper website is essentially the newspaper online
  • More than four in 10 online users say the printed newspaper and website have about the same content

One result: lower readership and use of both. This is particularly true of younger adults, a vital audience if you are to build use of digital products.

Our suggestion: audit content on both products to ensure they are complementary not repetitive; then, promote these differences on each platform.

Future IMS Updates will discuss how to do this.

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Suggestions for Using Integrated, Cross-Channel Marketing

Our new research shows 90 percent of Americans use the Internet, 70 percent own a smart phone, almost six-in-10 use at least two social media sites, and more than half still read a printed newspaper.

With the changing media environment, the need for integrated multi-platform marketing is vital to the success of virtually every program and campaign. This is particularly true for reaching younger adults, the vast majority of whom rely on digital devices for all types of news and advertising information.

Some suggestions:

  • Make your marketing program synergistic; make sure your message is clear, concise, consistent across all channels, and includes a compelling call to action
  • Know your target audience, what they use, when they use it (consumers use different channels at different times of the day); relatively inexpensive online research can answer these questions

Understand that consumer behavior varies by channel; they often use one to research a product or service, and another to buy.

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A New Mindset to Building the Media Business

New research from American Opinion Research (AOR) indicates that newspapers, magazines, websites and other media need to look at things differently today to add readers, users and build market share.

  •  Readers and users are in command now

Consumers can acquire information about almost any topic, where they want it and when they want it. We need them more than they need us.

  • AOR Research shows uniqueness rules

Where your products are perceived as providing information unavailable elsewhere has become a primary predictor of readership and usage; something to consider when selecting content and developing marketing and promotional campaigns.

  • Focus on building reader and user frequency; worry less about the hard-core customer, and the hard-core non-customers

Attracting hard-core non-customers is expensive. You already have market share among hard-core customers. Target those in between. Research can tell you which is which.

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Three Practices to Keep In Mind When Writing SEO Content

Strategies for effective Search Engine Optimization have changed significantly over the past several months, but one thing that has remained consistent the importance of well written, relevant content. Relevant content is king when it comes to the search engines. It is the most important factor Google and Bing look for when deciding where your website ranks in the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). It’s important to consider several things when writing high quality, relevant, SEO-friendly content for your website.

  • Know your keywords and phrases you’re targeting. This will allow you to write specific and relevant sentences for each keyword and phrase
  • Use precise headings for each section; it's more effective if you use your targeted keyword or phrase in the heading. Headings are used to indicate what people will find in the content and also search engine crawl bots will know what a searcher will find. Always keep in mind the primary reason people go to search engines is to find answers to questions, needs and interests. Also, remember the Heading Tags are for Headings Only. It’s easy to forget while using the WYSIWYG tool in WordPress or any other content management system (CMS) that headings have a specific purpose and are not to just change your font size
  • Make your internal linking interesting. Think beyond the simple “click here” or “learn more;” think relevant informative “anchor text.” This will indicate exactly where a person will land within your site and also ensure crawl bots know exactly the page.

Keeping these three simple practices in mind will lay the groundwork for writing great SEO-friendly content for your website.

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