Friends and colleagues,
My 5’ 2” grandmother was whip smart, wickedly funny and legendarily profane. She cursed like a sailor who’d sat on a bed of barnacles. My three brothers and I adored her. She was a chemistry professor with a sharp tongue and even sharper teeth whose second marriage was to Woodrow, a mathematics professor at Penn State. When we’d visit for Sunday dinners or stop by after school (they lived in the same town I grew up in), she would goad him into hilarious arguments on a wide range of topics, occasionally looking over at us and winking. In a lather of pique he would often yell at her, “Do you hear me, are you listening?” and punctuate these questions with combinations of expletives that I don’t think my computer will even let me type. She would reply, “I hear you, I’m listening, but I don’t understand.” And quite often she didn’t; he viewed the world as an equation to be solved; she saw more complexity, nuance. So what, you may be asking, is my point? It is this: We spend a lot of time trying to hear our customers and prospects. And heck, most of us are listening, some more attentively than others. But how many of us really understand what they are saying, why they feel that way and what we should do about it?
Ok, having served up that hot plate of food for thought, let me quench your thirst for knowledge (and yes, understanding) with these well-hydrated tips submitted by our archers.
Tips and Topics
- Try purpose-built sitelets. Even as website development is increasingly viewed as a commodity offering, it has become more complicated and expensive for the “vendors” and internal development teams tasked with the care and feeding of these mission-critical digital storefronts. The number of tools, platforms, aspect ratios and search engine algorithms which need to be considered has multiplied exponentially. As a result, the process is more costly and time-consuming; at the same time, clients want it to be cheaper, faster, easier. One solution: sitelets, skinny websites consisting of five to 10 pages that are 100% focused on a specific objective such as providing education to a new audience of prospects, or moving previous responders toward direct engagement. These are not only much less expensive and easier to develop, but also consistently test better in engagement tests. Across a range of vertical markets, attention span-challenged audiences say they get highly relevant information faster. And that, as my elfin grandmother might have said, is $%^$*&^ awesome.
- B2B fear and B2C hopes. Some testing we’ve done over the last 13 months confirms again that messaging driven primarily by prospects’ fear, uncertainty and doubt almost doubles response and engagement vs. messaging driven by business’ hope for a better future. Interestingly, the converse is true for B2C campaigns where aspirational campaigns outpace FUD by more than 40%. I’d like to tell you I knew exactly why, but I don’t and I’m both afraid you’ll judge me and hopeful you won’t.
- Empower a benevolent board of directors. People love to be talked up to, be it business or personal context. They love to be asked to share their experience and point of view. In short, we all like to talk about ourselves (see email intro above). So why not leverage this anthropological insight by inviting targeted segments of your customer and/or prospect base to serve on Advisory Panels or Boards and tell you what they think about issues in your industry, planned upgrades for your product, whether your marketing campaigns “work,” etc. I’ll bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised at participation and engagement rates. More importantly, you’ll likely find that these newly empowered stakeholders will go out of their way to advocate for, endorse and recommend your brand.
- Create content criteria to cut confusion. We’re all spending huge amounts of time developing content. Whether it’s long-form, short-form, multimedia, infographical, inadvertently pornographic or Mandarin, we’re all focused on sharing our perspective and establishing thought leadership (how Orwellian is that?) This is good and smart, but I think we’d all agree this effort can, and often does, run amuck. Pieces get developed that lack personality, relevance or worse, a clear, ownable point of view. They don’t inform customers, educate prospects or activate influencers. They’re the digital equivalent of Unisom. So how do we spend our content dollar more efficiently? I’d suggest establish scoring prospective content against these five key attributes: Relevance, Timeliness, Readability, Distinctiveness, Cost/Value (cost relative to potential value). Use a 1-5 scale to determine which pieces go to the head of the class and which are relegated to reform school.
- Embrace an outsider. We all get up talking shop to others in our industry, in our market, in our geography. And when we look for new staff or outside resources, we look for people who sound like us, look like us, know what we know. It’s understandable. It makes sense, but here’s the problem: sometimes what companies badly need, especially now, is someone who isn’t like everyone else, who looks at things differently, who brings a different perspective and experience to bear. Some of the best work we’ve done was in industries where we had no experience, no preconceptions, no idea how things had always been done. In fact, we’ve won several “pitches” by telling prospective clients that they’d flatlined their own revenue potential by using recycled ideas and funding me-too campaigns. Those that didn’t give us a security escort to the front door found thinking different opened up new markets and opportunities.
- When you can STOP marketing. Skepticism about the value of marketing is high right now. Attribution remains elusive. Technology choices are manifold. There are too many agencies and consultancies offering undifferentiated solutions. It’s all so damned complicated and expensive. You could be putting all the money toward free snacks or a company retreat in the tropics. So when can you just stop the madness? Here’s what you need: a) Unchecked, organic demand. b) A better mousetrap. c) The only mousetrap. Make sure you have no competition. d) Evangelically enthusiastic customers who will tell everyone they know that your product is not only life-changing, but even life-sustaining. Even one or two of these statements describe your situation? Then get yourself a vault and book a charter to Anguilla. You can stop this complicated marketing tomfoolery asap. Not the case? Then I will take tongue out of my cheek and suggest you link arms with and put faith in your internal and external teams.
- Jack Russell Terrier pilots Amazon drone to Rhode Island. A reminder that without creatively crafted headlines and subheads, body copy doesn’t get read. Think about how you choose which articles to read online or off. The headline probably drives 65% of that decision; accompanying imagery the other 35%. So spend as much, if not more, time making these words the equivalent of a flashing yellow traffic sign.
News and Work
We’re working on some fascinating projects for clients who are trying new things:
- Introducing an intelligence gathering capability that makes social media listening look simply old fashioned and inadequate. Crossbow Sentiment Indexing, Tracking, Moderation and Activation will help you identify and track the audience and prospect segments driving discussion around your industry, market and brand. It provides context and meaning vs. keyword mentions and pie-charted reports. You’ll get actionable intelligence derived from truly “big data” (over 350 million data sources), allowing you to pre-empt competition, respond to emerging customer personas, tailor messaging in real time and much more.
- We’re re-positioning and re-launching a technology solution that is addressing a need that a high % of their prospect don’t know they have. That will change soon.
- Integrated launch campaign for Converted Organics:
And Well, You Know…
…that ellipses are like bread crumbs left on a trail. You may find yourself following them some place.
As always, if I can do anything for you – listen to a challenge you’re facing, make a connection, receive any baked goods you feel compelled to ship to us – please let me know.
Thanks again for patient indulgence. Have a great day!