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Effective Content Has to Hurry

EffectiveContent2A major U.S. newspaper once marketed itself by promising readers “an economy of words, a wealth of information.”

We took the same approach when I was involved in starting USA Today. Why tell a story in 1,000 words when you can tell it in 500? This helped differentiate USA Today from other newspapers, and readership took off.

An economy of words is dramatically more important in creating digital content now that marketers have only a few seconds to get their messages to buyers, business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C); that is, unless you’re selling to a goldfish.

It has been estimated goldfish have an average attention span of nine seconds, according to research by Microsoft. Humans lose focus after about eight seconds.

I’ll bet attention spans are even shorter among busy executives, those who generally make the decisions whether to buy your products and services—procurement officers, brand managers, department heads, marketing directors, and many others.

From the Associated Press:

  • Attention spans have declined by 50 percent over the past 10 years
  • 90 percent of adults watch a product video for 19 seconds or less; again, it’s a safe bet viewing is even lower among B2B target audiences
  • 17 percent of page views last fewer than four seconds

It’s almost a certainty reaching your target audiences digitally will become more difficult; but, it’s also almost a certainty developing effective digital marketing content will be more important to your success.

More than six-in-10 corporate buyers say their purchasing decisions are significantly determined by content they see on social media, a significant increase over the past five years.

This is particularly true in the “weeding out” phase, when buyers decide which suppliers to consider.

Digital users can access, in seconds, information from almost every part of the world, including online product reviews, references and customer experiences, on which more than 60 percent of B2B buyers base their purchasing decisions.

Here are some suggestions used successfully by Integrated Marketing Services to engage buyers in your messages before they move on.

Don’t waste your first eight seconds.

As stated above, that’s about all you have to make an impression.

The most common way to waste this time, talk about your company and products. Nobody cares!

Buyers want to know, “What’s in it for me? How is this going to help me or my company.” Tell them immediately before they move on, or they will.

When I was national editor of Gannett, CEO and USA Today founder Al Neuharth gave me a plaque that read “Why should I give damn?” The idea: tell people why a story is important to them personally, and they’ll read the entire thing. And they did.

At Integrated Marketing Services we have seen thousands of digital content posts that began, “Introducing a new technology (or approach)…”

Again, buyers don’t care and aren’t impressed. Would you promote an old technology?

Don’t waste your next 22 seconds.

Even if you hold a viewer’s attention for the first eight seconds, you probably still only have 22 seconds left.

Research shows that 30 seconds is the average maximum time a digital user will stick around.

Build on the first eight seconds by focusing on tangible benefits products or services provide, and not on the product itself or its features.

Content should be short, simple and active and not passive. Some marketers think they need to be cute. Cute doesn’t matter. Convey a direct promise of something important to users.

Remember, buyers are people, too.

Buyers’ personal emotions play a key role in up to 60 percent of B2B purchase decisions, according to a wide variety of research.

Conveying trust, security, ambition, aspirations, gratification, and others goes a long way in determining if people read your content. Appealing to these personal emotions also goes a long way in driving sales.

(“Nobody ever got fired by buying IBM,” was a common saying when IBM dominated the electronics market. It represented security.)

Create “stopping power.”

Many digital marketing campaigns start with emails. Most are just a waste of money because they don’t stop users scanning their screens.

Here, for example, are just a few email subject lines I received in one day:

  • “Introduce you to...”
  • “You would be interested in...”
  • “Explore all we have to offer...”
  • “A lot has happened since...”
  • “Introducing our new technology...”

No stopping power here. No compelling promise of value. No hint of personal or corporate benefits.

Unlike consumer marketing, the goal of B2B marketing content is to generate interest and credibility, as opposed to direct sales, although that occasionally happens.

Your goal is to get on the screen and “make the cut”.

Keep your content short, simple, to the point and focused on customer goals (personal and corporate), priorities, needs and concerns. There’s time to focus on one or two key points; get right to them.

That is, unless you’re marketing to goldfish.

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Anthony Casale
CEO, Integrated Marketing Services

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Nothing Good Happens When a Brand Loses Its Way; Is QVC Next?

WhenBrandLosesItsWaySears, once the largest retailer in the U.S., has shrunk to about 1,000 Sears and Kmart stores, compared with about 3,500 in 2005; and plans to close more, according to CNN.

Sears, in my opinion, failed to understand that younger consumers wanted trendier merchandise. It became viewed as stodgy and old fashioned. Sears also added unrelated businesses to its stores: insurance, optical, and others. It also sold off two of its most trusted brands—Kenmore and Craftsman. Customers became confused by Sears’ merchandising strategies and went elsewhere.

There are lots of reasons given why such iconic brands as Sears, Lord & Taylor and JCPenney, all more than 100-years old, have hit the skids and are closing stores.

Online competition is, of course, one reason. However, a fundamental cause: each lost its most important asset—its brand.

Whether Business-to-Consumer (B2C) or Business-to-Business (B2B), brand differentiates a company from competitors. Brand is how a company wants to be seen. It’s also how customers view them.

Could QVC, the popular home shopping network, be next? I think, maybe.

In just hours, thousands of shoppers may buy just one item. Then, thousands of others may buy another.

I have always marveled at the marketing savvy of QVC. Take, for example, clothing. QVC promised viewers well-known brands and designers at prices average consumers could afford. Hosts and brand reps keep viewers up on trends. Shoppers can see an item from every angle, and how clothing looks on different body types.

Such famous clothing designers, as Isaac Mizrachi, Dennis Basso and Bob Mackie would explain to viewers how to style their clothing, help them imagine where and when to wear them, creating an experience with top designers previously rarely available to everyday consumers.

Jewelry designers, such as Judith Ripka, create affordable jewelry using simulated stones, matching diamond necklace styles affordable only to a small group. Shown side-by-side, few people can tell the difference.

Canon and Apple offer products with value-added accessories at good prices, with the opportunity to pay over time.

Programs are educational, informative, brilliant.

Now, I’m wondering if QVC is repeating some of the brand mistakes as Sears, Lord & Taylor and JCPenney.

What’s happening at QVC

Mizrachi, Basso, Mackie and Ripka are still on QVC, but gone are such popular brands such as Oryany, Mark Zunino, Rachel Zoe, and Marc Bower (now on Evine, another shopping network).

Some of their places have been taken by well-known celebrities, showcasing their clothing lines. But they do not have the design expertise of the Mizrachis and Bassos, cannot provide the same insights to viewers, and cannot fulfill QVC’s brand promise.

QVC also continues to launch its own fashion clothing brands such as Cuddli Duds and Du Jour (along with its long-standing Denim + Company line), presenting its own designers as if they are on the same plane as Mizrachi and Mackie.

No offense, but they are not.

Confusing the QVC brand

QVC always had an ownership stake in another televised shopping channel, Home Shopping Network (HSN), and purchased it outright in 2017.

QVC and HSN marketing, promotions and brands had always been unique because they appeal to different audiences. The image, from my viewing, was that QVC served a more upscale audience than HSN. Brands sold on HSN tend to be less popular and less well known, also reflected in its promotions.

HSN’s motto: “It’s fun here”. Colors and promotions were a little louder and, in my opinion, a little less classy and more in your face. Most recently QVC hosts have adopted the word “fun” in their presentations and mention how much “fun” they are and how much “fun” it is to watch QVC, using HSN’s playbook.

Not long after its acquisition of HSN, QVC began introducing HSN brands, and HSN started marketing QVC brands. Viewers flipping from one channel to another might see the same product on each shopping network.
It also seems that QVC and HSN have now combined their marketing and promotions.

QVC buyers used to receive a simple , “Thanks for your order” after purchasing a product. HSN sent “Start getting excited…your order has shipped.” QVC buyers now receive an email with large italicized bright orange script proclaiming “Hooray. Your order is confirmed,” or, “Exciting! Your order has shipped,” very similar to HSN.

In the past, QVC programming (including its popular PM Style), were intended to reach fashionistas, with higher-end fashions. During events such as fashion week, consumers would be glued to their TVs, mobile device in hand to order items before they were sold out.

Today, PM Style still includes some well-known brands, but also items that are anything but high-end such as Quacker Factory, wearers of which are encouraged to say “Quack Quack” to other “Quackers”, they see wearing the line.

Not exactly high end. I have nothing against Quackers, but marketing them with higher-end products on fashion shows confuses viewers.

And, QVC is now including its own brands more and more in the higher end fashion shows, once reserved for higher-end fashion designers. Introducing a product from QVC’s clothing lines on a higher end fashion show is ok. When QVC starts including more than one or two of these items in the same show, that’s not. The brand promise begins to weaken, and loyal viewers lose interest.

After adding a second channel to both HSN and QVC after the HSN buyout, program planning got less interesting. Shows started mixing various items from gadgets to pajamas, to fashion to beauty items in one show. And often shows that aired on the first QVC channel also aired on the second channel.

In the words of one QVC viewer from a recent chat room, “I am hoping they stop showing the same item on both (QVC) channels at the same time. What a waste of air space.”

So limited number of designers, mixing and matching audiences and brands, and then airing shows more than once either on the same QVC channel or on an HSN channel—just plain boring.

Qurate Retail, Inc’s stock fell nearly 27 percent after the company announced a decrease in revenue across its brands (including the combined QVC and HSN. “ The Philadelphia Inquirer, May 21, 2019.

I think QVC has some work to do to find its way back.

Lois Kaufman, Ph.D., President of Integrated Marketing Services, has over 40 years experience creating brand strategies, launching products and building brands for companies, services and products.

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

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Solving a Top Marketing Mistake

MarketingMistakeAggressively pursuing a target audience is not a marketing mistake; pursuing too many is.

As product and options continue to grow in virtually every industry, you can’t be everything to everyone. It’s vital to precisely identify which specific target market segments will yield the greatest return on investment.

It’s better to own three segments than be an-also ran in 10. Then you can think about expanding your marketing efforts.

Here are some things Integrated Marketing Services and our wholly-owned research company, American Opinion Research, have learned about finding the audiences with the most potential.

  • Market research is the most used and most effective approach to identifying your best target audiences. Research will pinpoint the unique groups which represent the greatest sales potential. Focus on those, and you’ll be investing your marketing dollars where they will produce the best results.
  • Determine what really motivates these targeted customers to make purchase decisions. Sure, productivity, cost, prior experience, referrals, product features, etc. are all major considerations. But motivations are often emotional as well as practical; security and insecurity, confidence, pride, etc. In fact, a wide variety of research has shown that emotional benefits often outweigh products or services when making a purchase decision. Again, research can identify these hot buttons.

Use this information (with your agency, if you have one) to develop precise targeted marketing messages that will motivate customers in each segment, but all under the umbrella of your overall brand positioning.

  • Strategic marketing starts with choosing segments with the most immediate sales potential, then developing and conveying marketing messages that resonate with buyers. But you can’t stop here.
  • Continue to prove and support your leadership in the segments you’ve chosen. Developing white papers, partnering with key opinion leaders on articles and projects, sharing industry research, media outreach, etc. all help build credibility paid advertising cannot.

In other words, aim the arrow at the bullseye.

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

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Recapturing former customers; some not gone for good

FormerCustomersThink about the customers you’ve had and lost over the past five years. Then think about what it would mean to your business to recapture just a small percentage of them.

That’s often the result of a good customer reacquisition program. It’s generally faster, less expensive and more efficient to reacquire an old customer than develop a new one.

Here are some approaches we’ve found:

Review five years of your customer lists; determine which are the best former customers to target, those with the most potential to win back

Give preference to those with which you had a good relationship.

Don’t forget about the rest, but focus first on those which you have the best prospects of reacquiring.

You also have to ask yourself a hard question: do you want this customer back?

We all want to win as many customers as possible, but some are very difficult to work with, and can even disrupt the morale of your staff. Others demand more work than the budget justifies, sometimes, it’s just a bad fit.

Find out why they stopped buying your products or services

“Stop studies” among former customers can determine why they really quit (not what they say top-of-mind) and how to get them back. Often the reasons have nothing to do with quality and service, or even price.

Competitors may have been more persistent at staying in contact, or the customer doesn’t sense you considered it important to your company. Very often you simply haven’t differentiated yourself from competitors:

If there was a problem with your products or services, fix it, visit the former client, apologize and explain how you have corrected the problem. Ask for another opportunity.

If possible, think of something you did or shared…” What was the name of that restaurant we…” or, “I was talking to…and your name came up.” Or, simply say you haven’t worked together for a while and you want to see how to get back together.

You may have to take a few small projects or orders to start rebuilding your relationship.

Regardless, targeting former customers may be one of your best strategies for attracting new ones.

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Anthony Casale
CEO, Integrated Marketing Services

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Keeping public notices in print; it’s what citizens want

LegalNotices

People in your state want public notices to stay in printed newspapers, not moved to government websites. Market research from American Opinion Research (AOR) proves support for keeping legal ads in print is overwhelming.

LegalStats™ research from AOR has been used in a dozens of states to sway state legislators and local lawmakers away from moving public notices from print.

LegalStats™ research shows:

AORLegalStats_charts

LegalStats™ includes:

  • A powerful, ready-to-use presentation of results
  • A free-of-charge*, presentation of results to your members, state and local officials
  • A press release and materials to promote results

In addition, LegalStats™ measures the use of newspaper products in your state (daily, weekly and online), proving they have the greatest reach.

Customize your research to your specific needs

You have the option of adding other topics that, in every state, have shown:

AORLegalStats_charts2AORLegalStats_charts3

  • Consumers consult newspaper advertising most before shopping
  • More than any other source, consumers make actual purchases based on newspaper advertising

Newspaper advertising provides the most “effective advertising reach” of any medium, including radio, television and direct mail

Choose the LegalStats™ program based on your needs and budget:

Number of interviews: 400 (accurate to within plus or minus 5 percentage points), 600 (+/- 4 pp), 800 (+/- 3.5 pp), 1000 (+/- 3 pp)

Interview lengths: 15 Minutes (average length of LegalStats™ research); can expand to 20 minutes and 25 minutes

AOR will design the study that best fits your needs.

 *Except for out-of-pocket travel expenses

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Anthony Casale
CEO, Integrated Marketing Services

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The Origin of Five Amazing Marketing Ideas

The Marlboro Man: Great Cowboy_websuccess, but with a downside

The iconic Marlboro Man marketing campaign, considered one of the most successful ever, began in 1955 to convince males that smoking filtered cigarettes was not feminine (they were first introduced as a woman’s cigarette). The ads originally used a number of different characters, but the rugged cowboy image stuck. Ironically, four men appearing in the Marlboro ads died of smoking-related causes, according to the Los Angeles Times, but not before several appeared in anti-smoking commercials.

watch_webWhat time is it really?

Although there are some variations, watches in advertisements are generally set at 10:10. One reason, the hands resemble a happy face.

Why wear jeans on Fridays?jeans_web

Although generally considered a relatively new development, dress-down Friday actually began about three generations ago as a way to boost worker morale. It really took off in the 70s, when clothing manufacturers began promoting it as a way to increase sales.

ring_web1Diamonds weren’t forever

Before World War II, diamond engagement rings were relatively rare; now, they’re almost the rule. What happened? Sales took off when the De Beers® diamond cartel launched a huge campaign linking diamonds with engagements, according to the BBC. The campaign was specially aimed at women and even suggested the ring should cost two-month’s salary. Not sure if that works today.

A sweet campaign

The legend of St. Valentine has been around for more two thousand years; the tradition of giving candy is much more recent. In the mid-1choc_web800s, Richard Cadbury, of the Cadbury Candy Company, launched a large marketing campaign tying chocolate to the celebration of Valentine’s Day to help launch a new company line. Cadbury also designed the first candy box, including the elaborate boxes in which Valentine candy was sold. FYI, in Japan, women sometimes give chocolates to men.

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Anthony Casale
CEO, Integrated Marketing Services

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Increase Sales By Tapping Into Customer Emotions

iStock-542821252_webIt used to be said “nobody ever got fired for buying IBM.”

IBM wasn’t really selling business machines, although those were its products; it was selling security. IBM was then considered “the best”, and purchasers felt nobody lost their job for buying the best.

  • Geico isn’t selling insurance, it’s selling piece of mind
  • Mercedes isn’t just selling cars; in addition to other benefits of driving a Mercedes it’s selling self-worth and prestige

Mercedes current campaign, “The best or nothing,” plays into these emotions.

To help increase the sales of SUVs among females, an automaker once ran a commercial showing a woman at home alone with just her child. It was dark and rainy but she had to drive to the hospital, bad weather or not, when her child suddenly became ill.

The commercial showed a video of the SUV in her driveway in the rain, and the voiceover asked, “What would you like to have in your driveway tonight?”

The commercial was actually selling safety and security.

How many cell phone ads have you seen promising to connect users. They are appealing to the emotion of “belonging”.

Psychology is defined as “the science of mind and behavior,” and few things are more important in marketing than motivating customer behavior.

Understanding the psychology of buyer groups allows us to understand and tap into their emotions. In fact, a wide variety of research shows that emotions play a more important role in a purchase decision, business-to-consumer or (as with the IBM buyer above) business-to-business.

American Opinion Research (AOR), a division of Integrated Marketing Services, once conducted research for a company targeting healthcare professionals and institutions to increase sales of its medical device. In a research study of doctors and buyers, AOR asked, “What brand of (the specific type of equipment) would you want if a friend or relative were on the operating table?” and why.

The results provided vital insight into customers’ emotional hot buttons, and formed the positioning for a very successful marketing campaign.

Integrated Marketing Services has coined the term “emotional engagement,” to describe this marketing approach, which also usually results in more satisfied, loyal customers.

Emotional engagement is important regardless of the marketing channels you use and whether your company is selling business-to-consumer or business-to-business. Your consumers and potential customers all have emotions.

Here, based on our experience, are some ways to build emotional engagement:

  • Start with market research; most successful campaigns do

Sure, you can learn something by simply talking with customers, but the vast majority have a difficult time expressing their feelings, and almost never articulate how these feeling turn into emotions.

Traditional focus groups are also ineffective; placed in a room with other people participants often lean toward conformity.

Today’s, more sophisticated market research techniques go well beyond measuring customer wants and needs, using more advanced psychographic analysis to pinpoint emotional messages that will motivate buying decisions. We can then segment audiences into mutually exclusive groups, each of which respond to different messages whether they are user groups, procurement officers, C-suite executives or others.

This type of research can also identify potential new products and services.

  • Focus on the results of using your products or services, and not the products themselves. There’s nothing emotional about most products
  • Despite what many marketers believe, it’s ok to be negative

Negatives prompt such emotions as fear, anxiety and insecurity. Providing a positive alternative or solution to a negative can change these emotions to peace of mind, confidence, security – all buying motivators and differentiators for your products and services.

Remember the Federal Express commercial showing an employee being reprimanded by his boss because an important package wasn’t delivered on time. The commercial then showed the FedEx logo with the voiceover, “When it absolutely, positively has to get there overnight.”

That's security!

The message also differentiated FedEx from competitors.

  • The right images can help convey your message

But, be very selective. Avoid the common mistake of choosing a visual because it’s pretty; make sure it advances your message.

  • It’s particularly important to incorporate an emotional appeal in digital marketing, which tends to be more impersonal

Videos with an emotional connection are shared more often than those that don’t, but they need to be short and to the point. Online testimonials focusing on the impact of a product can spark an emotional response, including belonging, surprise, and others.

Based on Integrated Marketing Services’ experience, a few of the emotions which have proven to affect business buying decisions include, confidence, self-respect, fear, security and insecurity, envy, compassion, hope, disapproval, optimism, annoyance, anger, aggressiveness, optimism, trust, apprehension, and others.

The trick is to determine which of these emotions, or one of many others, motivates your target buyers.

Contact Anthony Casale at 609-683-9055 ext. 202 or email [email protected]

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Anthony Casale
CEO, Integrated Marketing Services

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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 [email protected]

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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 [email protected]

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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 [email protected]

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