social media

Measuring Relevancy: A Three Step Approach for Linking Content and Behavior

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Various studies over the years have examined the relationship between content relevancy and behavior. Almost everyone would agree that content must be relevant. But what is relevance? According to Wikipedia: “Relevance describes how pertinent, connected, or applicable something is to a given matter.” A thing is relevant if it serves as a means to a given purpose.Image

In the context of this discussion, the purpose of content is to positively influence customer or employee behavior, such as increasing purchase frequency, purchase velocity (time to purchase), likelihood to recommend, productivity, etc.

When we ask marketers and others how they measure content relevancy, we often hear, “We base it on response rate.” If the response rate meets the target, then we assume the content is relevant; if response doesn’t meet the target, we assume it’s not relevant.

Clearly there is a relationship between relevance and response. Intuitively we believe that the more relevant the content, the higher the response will be. But measuring response rate is not the best measure of relevancy. Many factors can affect response rate, such as time of year, personalization, and incentives. Also, in today’s multi-channel environment, we want to account for responses or interactions beyond what we might typically measure, such as click-throughs or downloads.

So, what is the best way to measure relevancy?

The best-practice approaches for measuring relevancy are many, and many of them are complex and require modeling. For example, information diagrams are an excellent tool. But marketers, who are usually spread thin, need a simpler approach.

The following three steps provide a way to tie interaction (behavior) with content. It’s critical
that you have a good inventory of all your content and a way to define and count interactions, because once you do, you’ll be able to create a measure of relevancy.

The process and equation include the following:

1. Count every single piece of content you created this week (new Web content, emails,
articles, tweets, etc.). We’ll call this C.

2. Count the collective number of interactions (opens, click-throughs, downloads, likes,
mentions, etc.) for all of your content this week from the intended target (you’ll need to
have clear definitions for interactions and a way to only include intended targets in your
count). We’ll call this I.

3. Divide total interactions by total content created to determine Relevancy: R = I/C
To illustrate the concept, let’s say you are interested in increasing conversations with a particular set of buyers. As a result, this week you undertook the following content activities:

• Posted a new whitepaper on a key issue in your industry to your website and your
Facebook page
• Tweeted three times about the new whitepapers
• Distributed an email with a link to the new whitepaper to the appropriate audience
• Published a summary of the whitepaper to three LinkedIn Groups
• Held a webinar on the same key issue in your industry
• Posted a recording of the webinar on your website, SlideShare, and Facebook page
• Held a tweet chat during the webinar
• Tweeted the webinar recording three times
• Posted a blog on the topic to your blog

We’ll count those as 17 content activities.

For that very same content, during the same week, you had the following interactions:

• 15 downloads of the whitepaper from your site
• 15 retweets of the whitepaper
• 15 Likes from your LinkedIn Groups and blog page
• 25 people who attended the webinar and participated in the tweet chat
• 15 retweets of the webinar
• 15 views of the recording on SlideShare

That’s a total of 100 interactions. It’s likely that some of these interactions are from the same people engaging multiple times, and you may eventually want to account for that likelihood in your equation. But, for starters, we can now create a content relevancy measure:

R= 100/17 = 5.88.

Using the same information, had we measured only the response rate, we might have counted only the downloads and attendees—40 responses—so we might have had the following calculation:

R = 40/17 = 2.353

As you can see, the difference is significant.

By collecting the interaction data over time, we will be able to understand the relationship between the relevancy and the intended behavior, which in this example is increased “conversations.”

I strongly encourage you to consider relevancy as a key measure for your content marketing. By tracking relevancy, you will be able to not only set benchmarks and performance targets for your content but also model content relevancy for intended behavior.

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Embracing Sustainability to Boost Sales

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Sustainability. Green. Environmentally-friendly. However we refer to it, it is top of mind.Sustainability is about how your company and its products are affecting, and trying to achieve balance within the economic, social and environmental systems. This isn’t just an issue for the “big” companies. Regardless of size, every company and its leadership team needs to be exploring what green and sustainability means for the company and its products. Because strategic planning incorporates opportunity identification, risk management, talent development, and financial strategies, all of which fall within the domain of the C-suite, sustainability which affects all of these should be the concern of the company’s leadership team. Practical green and sustainable solutions can help reduce risk, meet compliance, and create market opportunities.

There are many ways for a company to integrate green into their strategic plan.Image For example in October of 2007, P&G announced a corporate strategy around three goals: developing and marketing $20 billion in sustainable innovation products; improving the environmental footprint in operations; and the social sustainability area of increasing the number of children in need that they reach. Fast forward 6 years-the results? $52 billion in sustainable product sales as of 2012, a 68% reduction of waste disposed, and over 400 million children helped that were in need.

Goals are good, but implementation is where the rubber meets the road. So how did they accomplish surpass their goals set in 2007? P&G has a VP of Global Sustainability responsible for operationalizing each of these goals. Companies have found that this issue
is important enough to appoint someone as a champion of their sustainability initiative.

Green encompasses many factors. These factors can range from developing and manufacturing new green products, to looking at ways to make existing products more “green” by reducing their carbon footprint whether that’s in terms of the raw materials they source, the suppliers they use, how the product is packaged, the energy the company uses during production to the types of lights in the office. Whatever your approach, as you explore your company’s route to sustainability you should also discuss marketing the “green” aspects of your company to your customers

While being green is quite appealing, the journey takes time, investments, resources and commitment. You will want to establish performance targets and success metrics to help monitor the return on this investment. Is it worth the investment? The research suggests that it is. Sustainability is beginning to impact a company’s reputation. According to the firm, Conscientious Innovation, more than 70% of consumers link social responsibility to a company’s environmental behavior. Given the trend, sustainability in all its forms is becoming a necessary part of the way a successful company does business. And a recent study by Forrester revealed that 63% of US adults claim that they are concerned about the environment as a whole, and these concerns translate into spending changes. As this trend continues it will be important for every company to have a green marketing strategy designed to boost sales and increase loyalty. These two metrics – sales and loyalty – should be used to determine the success of your efforts and the return on your investment.

To get started you will want to create a roadmap to “sustainability” that identifies the strategies and tactics you will deploy.This roadmap should be integrated into your strategic, operational, and marketing plans. It might help to provide some examples of companies who have already embarked on the journey and what they are doing.

Steps every company can take:

1. Establish a Chief Sustainability Officer or a similar position to head your effort. For Mitsubishi, this is their President and CEO, Ken Kobayashi. When the CEO is the Chief Sustainability Officer, it signals the important of environmental and green considerations within the company. At P&G, Len Sauers serves as the Vice President of Global Sustainability.

2. Create a cross-functional team. Herman Miller has what they call an Environmental Quality Action Team (EQAT) which is composed on employees from across the company who address all the multiple components of the green strategy.

3. Assess your carbon footprint. The first thing the team should do is assess your current carbon footprint. The carbon footprint is a way to measure the impact your organization’s activities on the environment in terms of the amount of greenhouse gases produced. Every aspect of your carbon footprint needs to be inventoried from activities having to do with how the company uses energy or the quality of your customer database in order to reduce direct mail waste. For example, Gwen Migita, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility recently reported that at Harrah’s Entertainment, which operates 51 casinos worldwide, and significantly leverages direct-mail after a substantial database cleaning efforts was able to cut its mailings to the 40 million customers in its database, saving the company $3.5 million. Often one of easiest ways to start down the sustainability path is by focusing on how to reduce your environmental impact from the extraction of raw materials, the production of goods, the use of those goods and management of the resulting wastes.

4. Develop new opportunities: Reducing your carbon footprint is one side of the equation the other is developing new initiatives. These new initiatives can take the form of new products, which is what Home Depot is doing around their Eco Options products or be in the form of take back programs where companies will for example take toxic chemicals back. If new initiatives are not something you can tackle solo, consider looking for a partner or making an acquisition, which is what Clorox did by buying Burt’s Bees.

5. Integrate your strategy into your business. The best way to approach green is to look for ways to integrate it into what you already do. For example, Armstrong International, Inc., is looking a number of ways to modify what they do today. This includes exploring how to return hot condensate to be reused, installing double-pane windows and low-fluorescent lighting, using gas fired hot water heaters to heat their buildings, monitoring air quality in the welding area, reducing trash by 10 percent annually, increasing the amount of recycling, eliminating the use of Styrofoam cups, reducing storm/sewer water discharge, and saving carbon dioxide by replacing travel with videoconferencing.

6. Develop a Plan: The carbon footprint reduction is a good measure of progress but the ultimate goal is to have these investments result in cost savings and revenue growth. Trying to tackle everything can quickly become overwhelming. Apply the concept of Pareto analysis in your decision making. Select a limited number of things you can address that will produce the most significant overall effect – things that will increase sales, garner more customer and employee loyalty and the right return on investment. Develop the plan to address these items and how you are going to:

A) Communicate this plan and status internally.

B) Communicate this plan and your achievements to customers, prospects and other external stakeholders.

C) Measure and report on results.

This means your sustainability officer and the company’s marketing leadership will need to join forces. While the sustainability officer/department may be looking into the processes, practices and products that enable the company to become “more green” and manages the technical expertise; it is the marketing organization that is responsible for building and communicating the strategy. Your marketing organization needs to communicate how the end-user can be environmentally sustainable through the use of your products as well as the company’s progress with its sustainability initiatives.

7. Establish a company culture and align the business plan. All the best laid plans can go awry if the company’s business values and culture don’t support the effort. Part of the process will require you to set policy, implement changes, review successes and failures. Hold periodic sustainability milestone meetings to demonstrate your commitment, address issues, and measure progress. CEO Mike Duke of Wal-Mart takes this approach. Wal-Mart’s sustainability department runs lean with the focus on integrating sustainability into the overall business.

8. Measure and report results: Sustainability and green are new ways for a company to
demonstrate its social responsibility and serve as good community citizens. However, companies and organizations are in business to see a financial return. So where should you expect to see the results of your green investments and marketing initiatives? On the increase sales side your efforts should pay off in faster product adoption rates and an increase in the rate of growth in your category. And on the customer loyalty side of the equation, you should expect to see increases in share of wallet and referral rates. Using your performance today as your baseline, monitor the changes in these numbers as you ramp up your sustainability efforts and your promotion of these
efforts to track the degree of impact.

In summary, getting your customers to use your sustainable products to help them become more sustainable themselves achieves three key things. First, it boosts your sales and helps build stronger brand loyalty. And it helps your customers become more sustainable in return, creating a ripple effect making your efforts extend beyond just your company

Need to Engage and Connect With Prospects and Customers? Marketing Automation to the Rescue (Maybe)

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Today, a suitable marketing automation platform is available to meet just about any company’s requirements and budget. These platforms often include systems for managing digital assets, allocating resources and tracking marketing expenditures, automating Imagecampaigns (online and offline), measuring marketing activity and demand generation, and managing Web content and leads.Many companies invest in marketing automation platforms as a way to make their marketing organizations more efficient. Though marketing automation can achieve that objective, two key benefits of these systems is that they help you connect better with prospects and improve the opportunity to engage prospects and customers.

What Marketing Automation Isn’t

Marketing automation isn’t magic. Success requires taking a methodical and disciplined
approach to segmenting, defining the customer-buying process, establishing agreed-upon
definitions of stages, creating personas, establishing common metrics, and committing to
faithfully using the system

.Marketing automation allows you to tailor your content and interactions to enhance how you connect with and engage prospects and customers. As a result, you can positively affect the conversion rate and sales cycle. And, in these tough times, who wouldn’t want to see higher and faster conversions?

Take a Customer-Centric Approach to Configuration

Such benefits alone present a good business case for marketing automation. But for a system to “be all that it can be,” it must be properly configured and deployed. Proper configuration and alignment require and enable stronger alignment between Sales and Marketing.

Many companies configure their systems around how they might sell and evaluate an opportunity (e.g., whether they’ve identified a budget, project, or need). However, before you deploy, take an outside-in view and configure the system around how your customer finds, evaluates, selects, and buys products in your category.

For your investment and that approach to pay off, Sales and Marketing need to agree on how the customer buys, the buying stages, and what constitutes a qualified opportunity, in terms of both fit (segment, budget, size, etc.) and buying behaviors. This approach allows you to use fit and behavior to create a lead-scoring schema.

Create and Measure Four Customer Interactions

Marketing and sales teams are typically proficient in connecting at the beginning and end of the conversation, but the real challenge is managing the middle of the conversation. The middle conversation is when prospects and customers are in the “in-between”—between initial contact and interest, on the one hand, and the short list and final selection, on the other.
A properly configured and deployed marketing automation system enables you to manage the middle. How? It makes it possible to cost-effectively sustain a dialogue with qualified
opportunities until they are ready to buy while enabling you to monitor the interaction between those opportunities and your organization.

You’ll want to set performance targets for these four kinds of interactions, and then use your marketing automation system to create, measure, and monitor them:

• Connections
• Conversations
• Engagement
• Consideration

Think of connections as those contacts with whom you have established communication and rapport and who have agreed to be “touched” by your organization. A connection doesn’t necessarily result in a conversation. Connections are just that: two entities that have a link between them.Think of how many people you may have in your LinkedIn network that you are connected with but don’t necessarily have conversations with. Conversations suggest an exchange—the sharing of ideas, opinions, or observations. Consider how many people you “talk” with on a variety of 3 topics on any given day. Though some of those people might be interesting, they may not necessarily be the right people—or they may not be ready to move the relationship forward.

Ultimately your marketing efforts aim to create engagement, and you want your marketing automation system to support those efforts. Engagement consists of interactions that indicate the strength of the relationship.

Finally, you want to produce and measure consideration because it is the precursor to conversion. Consideration simply refers to those prospects and customers who are actively “shopping” for the products and services you offer and are considering your offer among the options.

If You Build It, They Will Come

The premise of marketing automation is that it will help Marketing increase the number of
business opportunities for your company, deliver sales-worthy and ready leads to Sales, improve your visibility into the pipeline, and enable your marketing organization to focus on efforts that will drive the highest conversion rate and the lowest cost.

The value proposition is that marketing automation will shorten your sales cycle and help
improve your forecast accuracy.And it’s all possible with this one caveat: Marketing automation is only as good as the effort you make in using it. To use it properly and realize the kinds of results you want will likely require changing processes, addressing Marketing and Sales alignment, and improving skills.

Research suggests that when marketing and sales processes, skills, and systems are aligned, an organization can see a five-fold improvement in revenue. If you are willing to make the necessary investments, you can realize the benefits of implementing a marketing automation platform.

Big Data Promises Marketers Big Insights

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By: Laura Patterson, President

The amount of data being generated is expanding at rapid logarithmic rates. Every day, customers and consumers are creating quintillions of bytes of data due to the growing number of customer contact channels. Some sources suggest that 90% of the world’s customer data has been created and stored since 2010. The vast majority of this data is unstructured data.

vem big data 2It is not surprising, then, that study after study shows that the majority of marketers struggle with mining and analyzing this data in order to derive valuable insights and actionable intelligence. A recent report by EMC found that only 38% of business intelligence analysts and data scientists strongly agree that their company uses data to learn more about customers. As marketers we need to learn how to leverage and optimize this flood of data and incorporate it into customer models we can use to predict what customers want.

Big Data

Many marketing questions require being able to perform robust analytics on this data. For example, understanding what mix of channels are driving sales for a particular product or in a particular customer set or what sequence of channels is most effective. These types of questions often require large sets of data, or what is being referred to as Big Data.

Big Data isn’t new; it’s just gone mainstream. A recent study found that almost half (49%) of US data aggregation leaders defined Big Data as an aggregate of all external and internal web-based data, others defined it as the mass amounts of internal information stored and managed by an enterprise (16%) or web-based data and content businesses used for their own operations (7%).

 But 21% of respondents were unsure how to best define Big Data. IDC defines big data as: ‘a new generation of technologies and architectures, designed to economically extract value from very large volumes of a wide variety of data, by enabling high-velocity capture, discovery, and/or analysis.’

Holistic Approach

Big Data incorporates multiple data sets—customer data, competitive data, online data, offline data, and so forth—enabling a more holistic approach to business intelligence. Big data can include transactional data, warehoused data, metadata, and other data residing in extremely massive files. Mobile devices and social media solutions such as Facebook, Foursquare, and Twitter are the newest data sources. Most companies use Big Data to monitor their own brand and that of their competitors. The use of “Big Data” has become increasingly important, especially for data-conscious marketers. Big Data is a valuable tool for marketing when it comes to strategy, product, and pricing decisions.

Big Data offers big insights and it also poses big challenges. A recent study by Connotate found the top challenge with Big Data was the time and manpower required to collect and analyze it. In addition, 44% found the sheer amount of data too overwhelming for businesses to properly leverage. As a result, many companies aren’t maximizing their use of Big Data.

The effort however associated with managing Big Data is more than worth it. The promise of Big Data is more precise information and insights, improved fidelity of information and the ability to respond more accurately and quickly to dynamic situations.

How to Handle Big Data

So while Big Data might seem a bit daunting, these steps will help you navigate using Big Data:

  1. Clarify the question. Before you start undertaking any data collection, have a clear understanding of the question(s) you are trying to answer. Using Big Data starts with knowing what you want to analyze. By knowing what you want to focus on, you will be better able to better determine what data you need. Some common questions asked are ’which customers are the most loyal’ and/or ‘which customers are most likely to buy X‘? Big Data is about looking beyond transactional information, such as a click-through data or website activity.
  2. Clarify how you want to use the data. Will you be using the data for your dashboard, to define a customer target set for a specific offer or to make program element decisions (creative, channel, frequency, etc.)?
  3. Think beyond the initial question. Invariably the answer to one question leads to more questions. If you’re not sure, hold a brainstorming session to explore all the ways the data could be used and potential questions the answers might prompt. Structure your data in a dynamic way to allow for quick manipulation or sharing. Aggregate data structures and data cubes aid with this step. Construct your data cubes so that
    they contain elements and dimensions relevant to your questions.
  4. Identify data sources that need to be linked. Once you identify the question and how you want to use that data you will have insight into what data you need. To run analysis 3 against data you will need to consolidate and link it. More than likely you will need to collect the data from disparate data sources in order to create a clear, concise, and actionable format. It may be necessary to invest in some new tools so you can pull and analyze data from disparate locations, centers, and channels. These tools include massively parallel processing databases, data mining grids, distributed file systems, distributed databases, and scalable storage systems.
  5. Organize your data. Create a data inventory so you have a good understanding of all your data points.
  6. Create a mock version of your data output. This is a key step to helping you determine the data sets. It will also help you with thinking about how you will convert the results into a business story.

Smart marketers use the data to tell a story that will illuminate trends and issues, forecast potential outcomes, and identify opportunities for improvement or course adjustments. They use the data to gain big insights into customer wants and needs, market and competitive trends. Tackle Big Data and tap into big insights that enable you to take advantage of market opportunities, deliver an exceptional customer experience, and give your customers the right products when, where, and at the price they want.

Four Reasons Why Social Media is Not Research

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By Julie Schwartz, ITSMA and Laura Patterson, VEM

We recently completed a three-city road show to deliver the results from the 2012 ITSMA/VEM marketing Performance Management Study: The Path to Better Marketing Results. A question that came up during the discussion in all three cities was this, “Do I need to do customer research when I have access to so much social media and web data?”

We hate to break it to you, but YES! Social media listening is not research. That’s because:

  1. It doesn’t ask the questions you want to ask
  2. It doesn’t come up with a hypothesis and get the data to support (or refute!) your hypothesis.
  3. It doesn’t comprise a representative sample
  4. It doesn’t tell you what might happen in the future; rather, it’ a window into the past

Sentiment analysis, content analysis, and Twitter search are not the same as doing research. Don’t get us wrong; listening is definitely good and you can learn a lot from hearing what your critics and supporters say about you. However, social media listening is not the same as identifying the questions you want to ask and getting the answers. Relying on the voice of the customer as it is expressed online is a reactive, rather than proactive, approach. Further, social media does not necessarily offer a representative sample. Therefore, how valid and reliable are the results?

While Social media listening cannot replace the rigor of the traditional scientific method, it can still play a role in customer research. Social media can help:

  • Provide qualitative insights. Many companies have successfully used crowdsourcing and targeted online communities to garner insights into customer wants and needs.
  • Reveal unmet needs. Further, the qualitative nature of social media enables listeners to uncover potential unmet needs and learn things they never thought to ask about.
  • Test ideas in real time. Once choices have been narrowed down, floating trial balloons on a social media network or community can offer immediate feedback.
  • Collect data. And there is nothing to stop market researchers from using a social media-based data collection tool within the rigors of a well-designed study.

ITSMA’s How Buyers Consume research shows that the market for complex B2B solutions has bifurcated into B2B social buyers and traditional buyers. We now have a business generation gap. Younger, B2B social buyers are online participating in blog and community conversations, yet there remains a still-large contingent of more traditional buyers. Companies have to be relevant to both audiences, and research—the proactive, objective, scientific kind—is an excellent way to gain meaningful, relevant insights into different market and customer segments.

The bottom line is this:  Social media listening, although an important tool, is not going to give you the insights into customer behavior that you need to innovate and gain competitive advantage. With social media listening, you’ll know exactly what your competitors know. Nothing more.

Today’s marketers need to remember that one of their primary jobs is to provide the rest of the company with a window into the customer. This takes research.  Marketers need to reexamine their priorities and determine how they can best allocate their resources to retain and grow their business with existing customers and provide deeper insights into buyer behavior.  Social media listening is but one view of the customer and will not provide this insight. Social Media listening does not replace research.