Monday, August 13, 2012

Marketers - Stop Spamming Your Customers!

Spam is more than a problem: it weakens the bond between you and your high value customers. When I conducted marketing survey for a class project at Northwestern University, I have heard a lot of complaints from customers. Every day people's email boxes are filled with at least 10 unsolicited, random, and irrelevant messages from sloppy email marketers. Obviously, opening email box in the morning has already become a headache for our customers. I know none of us want this to continue, we need to stop it.
According to DJ Waldow and Jason Falls' book The Rebel's Guide to Email Marketing: Grow Your List, Break the Rules, and Win, the era of email marketing has changed. The breezy “one-size-fits-all” way doesn’t apply any more. To get breakthrough results, marketers need to align every facet of the email campaign with the target market. Focus is not only on the contents, but also on the names, subject lines, calls to action, social network integration…everything! According to Waldow and Falls, great companies could achieve breakthrough results by “breaking all the rules”. Using real case studies, they demonstrate how companies can make the right decisions about different email attributes and optimize every component of an email marketing message.

Here are the four items that a good email marketer should consider:

1. Get Permission

Without permission you not only risk losing customer goodwill but also could end up blacklisted by ISPs that refuse all mail coming from your domain. Permission is not difficult to get. Offer something of value (eg. a coupon or promise of special discounts, a whitepaper or informational newsletter) in exchange for the customer agreeing to receive your messages.

2. Work with a Clean, Targeted Database

Work with the cleanest permission-based list you can find that is targeted to your industry and your offering. Do some research to ensure they will reach your targeted demographic and the lists are maintained. For instance, allows its members to send broadcast emails to its database of some 50,000 targeted subscribers and members have the opportunity of selecting subsets of addresses categorized by insurance type such as commercial, health, life, and auto.

3. Let Readers Drive Design

A well-crafted newsletter should be more than just a summary of your resume or company history. Personalizing the contents and adopting an intriguing subject line can make a big difference. Many companies offer both plain and rich text email editions, giving customers the option of registering for the html edition on their Web sites. In those editions, design becomes especially important.

4. Have an Exit Strategy

People who gave you their email address did so because they wanted to hear from you. But that can change and often does. Always add a link to unsubscribe to the email. You should always let your customers know you are always their ally but not their headache when they open their mail box every day.

After all, email marketing is about what works best for your audience. Sometimes it’s necessary to break the rules and test to better engage your customers. It all starts from developing a thorough understanding about their demands and customizing the email contents toward that demand.

Qing “Sunny” Tian is studying Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern's Medill School. Her concentrations are Direct & Interactive Marketing and Marketing Analytics. She has marketing experiences with Fortune 500 Companies in finance, consumer packaged goods, and automotive industries. Follow her @SunnyTian and connect with her on LinkedIn: Qing Tian.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Brazil: Surfing the real-estate wave

Favelas, the longtime feared Brazilian slums that were traditionally known as some of the most dangerous neighborhoods on the planet, have transformed into the diamond in the raw for real-estate. Today, there are many American companies who are finding it harder and harder to compete in local markets, but have not realized there are interesting opportunities in emerging markets that are yet to be discovered. As a graduate student at Northwestern University's IMC program, I have developed a special interest in Brazil and the emerging markets of Latin America. My international background, and experience launching products and brands in these areas, have given me a unique perspective on the broad range of opportunities that lies ahead for those wanting to explore new territories.

A good way to start is by taking a look at companies like GTIS, who have figured out a way to profit from Brazilian growth. By gathering investment from the outside, GTIS is funding growth and profiting from it as well. Today, they have offices in New York as well as Sao Paulo. As seen in an article by the New York Times, there are many opportunities to be taken advantage of by those who see them.

Metropolis like Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, and northeastern cities like Recife are experiencing unprecedented growth. The slums of these cities, which are scattered close to proliferous neighbourhoods like Rio’s Leblon and Ipanema, have begun acquiring new value as land becomes scarce. Finding these types of opportunities may be more than half the battle when it comes to investments. Today, with foreign money being injected into the country, not only have inhabitants of the favelas increased their purchasing power, but the land around them is increasing in value. Favelas are often located close to some of the most sought after neighborhoods, creating a great opportunity to become a part of the imminent real-estate wave.

However, it is not all reais and dollar bills. For those willing to take the plunge and put in the effort, it is important to understand that the Brazilian real-estate market operates very differently than its American counterpart. Making assumptions can be the death of any well-intentioned business venture, in a market as different and fast paced as this one. I recommend you surround yourself with experienced people, and stay up-to-date with the news. Understanding the Brazilian culture and market dynamic can be a difficult task for foreigners, but learning how to do it is well worth the effort. The United States Department of Commerce, for instance, is a good place to get started. Finally, going to local experts such as Connection Consulting, and finding the right alliance to help you in your efforts to penetrate the Brazilian market.

Background: Laura Lozano is a student of Integrated Marketing Communications at Medill, in Northwestern University. She has experience working with international brands from a broad range of industries, ranging from fast-food to real-estate.

Skype: laura_loz
Twitter: laura_lzo


Learn To Target...Like CPG Does

As a graduate student in the Nortwestern Medill IMC program, I have been studying best target applications by social marketers. In the past decade, the lack of face-to-face interaction in the store had been a challenge for the consumer packaged goods (CPG) folks. But things started to change with the expansion of technology and tools. In the face of intensifying competition, digital channels will be critical in keeping your brands relevant to the consumer. To be specific, the CPG industry has been hit hard by the economy in recent years, and as a result, private labels are gaining more popularity. There is no better time than this for brands to start embracing social media as a form of trusted, earned media.

It is important to understand your competitors’ strategies (obviously leaning towards social and interactive now) in order to stay ahead of the pack. A research conducted by dunnhumby reveals that shoppers who already had a history of brand purchase are more effective in social media marketing. CPG firms would need to do more to take advantage of retail data by looking for shoppers with high frequency of purchase in their brands and locate them on social media platforms. Building authentic voices will help influence other consumers and eventually drive sales, creating a strong foundation for a profitable growth of the company.

The social marketing program will be heavily reliant on shopper marketing data. In addition to the frequency of purchase (most likely an indication of loyalty), CPG firms will need to target demographics profile while also  considering their customers’ social influence scores (e.g. Klout) in order to find the right advocates for the brand. My recommendations include:

1) Observe what people think about your product – finding what customers have been sharing online e.g. uploading product picture on Facebook wall, or writing reviews on the latest items they purchased on Amazon. This way, CPG marketers can monitor real-time user experiences and obtain feedbacks promptly. There is also a possibility of improving product design by finding what they might have missed out during product testing via observing discussions around the brand.

2) Improve in-store experience – letting some of the more socially-engaged customers do their job, for example, customers sharing experiences via their smartphones while also being able to research similar offerings online, or scanning the QR codes to deepen their purchase experience right in the aisle. 

3) Share what your customers care – posting the latest trends on social media. We can do extra research and analysis to find out what the consumers really want to stay ahead of the competition by, for example, observing the meals people prepared and shared on Pinterest to learn what they are looking for in the grocery stores in terms of convenience and creativity.

4) Activate the dialogue – creating a space where customers who have a history of purchases can tell their personal stories and share their expertise. We already know that word-of-mouth and personal recommendations are one of the biggest drivers to purchase in the CPG category.

Yet, the biggest mistake is to let the advocates run the program themselves. We need to provide guidelines and activities to keep these consumers engaged and motivated, hence the need to strike the right balance between over-monitoring and letting the social marketing program run itself.

Arisa Kulpiyavaja is a graduate student in the Northwestern Medill IMC program. She is a marketer with a long passion in the consumer packaged goods industry, specializing in branding and marketing analytics. You can reach Arisa on or follow her @arisaimc.

Web Analytics Revolution: from Quantity to Quality

Are you struggling with which web analytics software you should use to measure your new website? Forget about it. They are all the same. As a marketer, what you really should think about is what to measure and how to best take actions from those measures. As a graduate student in the Northwestern Medill IMC program, we have studied web analytics and how they can be used to improve your business. And we have some tips to help you turn data into qualitative information.

                                        Picture Source:

Ron Person, Director of Analytics for Sitecore, said in his great great article Why Engagement Analytics Trump All Others that “we should be measuring marketing quality.”So far, most web analytics are measuring marketing quantity such as visits and clicks. However, to predict consumer behaviors and determine the gaps, marketers should focus more on marketing quality rather than quantity. The quality here refers to engagement, which is mainly measured by conversion rate right now. However, conversion rate may not be a good indicator of engagement since different behaviors require different levels of engagement. For example, an email address and a complete registration certainly require different levels of commitment from consumers. Even if they share the same conversion rate, they would not have the same level of engagement.

Ron introduced a simple method to measure engagement. He assigns different engagement values to different transaction points based on the communication, trust, and commitment required. The values will be accumulated. For example, clicking on a web page has a value of 5; e-mail signing up is 10; registration is 25. Then if a person clicks and signs up, he will have an engagement value of 15. In this way, marketers will be able to calculate the value of each visit rather than only the number of visits. More importantly, they can even compare the value to their other marketing efforts across different platforms and even with competitors. With this simple method, marketers will be able to avoid wasting their marketing budget on those ineffective marketing events.

The method above sounds simple and effective. However, to actually measure engagement, here are a few steps you need to go through.
  1. Map out the customer purchase funnel. Purchase funnels vary from business to business. To map out the specific funnel for your specific business, you need to observe what your customers are doing on your website. You can simply use a website monitoring tool to help you track each movement your customers make. Carefully analyze those movements. Find out all the turning points where the traffic decreases significantly. Each turning point will become each stage in your funnel.
  2. Categorize funnel stages. Although traditional Awareness-Interest-Desire-Action (AIDA) model may no longer accurately reflect how consumers actually behave, it is still a good indicator for determining engagement levels. Categorizing each funnel stage into AIDA will help you easily assign engagement values later. For example, browsing the website belongs to Awareness while requesting for more information goes to Interest.
  3. Assign engagement values. After categorizing the stages, You now only need to evaluate the engagement levels of the four categories and assign each category an engagement value rather than assigning every funnel stage. In this way, you do not have to re-assign engagement values for different purchase funnels. The engagement values can be determined once and for all.
  4. Measure the quality of each visit. After you assign engagement values, you will be able to add up the value of each funnel stage a customer goes through. A higher value stands for a better visit quality. This is a much more effective way to measure the effectiveness of your marketing campaign than merely monitoring the traffic. Additionally, you will be able to compare the effectiveness of one market event with your other marketing events.

Simply follow the above steps; you will be able to measure quality and make a huge difference. The earlier you take action, the more money you will save on your marketing campaign.

Yiqiong "Jessica" Xu is a graduate student at Northwestern University's Medill School. She studies Integrated Marketing Communication and concentrates in Direct & Interactive Marketing and Marketing Analytics. Follow her on Twitter(@xuyiqiong) and LinkedIn(Yiqiong Xu).

Monday, August 6, 2012

Marketers Leverage Unexpected Sources into Revenue

As a CMO or marketing manager, you see the consumer is changing and expectations of advertising are changing, as well.  Marketing that was once new and different has become commonplace and expected.  Finding a new way to market to the evolving tastes of the consumer has become more challenging in a market where most consumers believe they have ‘seen it all before’.  To meet that challenge, CMOs and Creative Directors need to tap into assets they may not realize they have.  They need to look outside of the marketing world in order to develop non-traditional marketing strategies.  These non-traditional strategies are those that move the success of the campaign to the consumer.

Picture Source:
In his interview with AdAge, Trevor Guthrie, East Cost director of OMD’s Ignition Factory, talks about deliberately constructing a team of people from places other than advertising and media, looking for those who “who see things differently, who travel around looking for inspiration or ideas”.  His team developed a billboard baseball drop to promote Showtime’s new program “The Franchise”.   As people checked into the show’s billboard through Foursquare, they got a free baseball.  Dropping 3,000 baseballs meant 3,000 check-ins at a single billboard, and each of those check-ins were immediately broadcast to all their friends.  Using this non-traditional media, the Ignition Factory got consumers to start spreading the word to each other through these broadcasts.

Having consumers spread the word themselves is the key to the success of non-traditional advertising.  Most consumers brace themselves against traditional advertising, whereas they are more receptive when the message comes from a friend.  In order to get those consumers to start spreading the message, marketers need to start thinking like the consumers who will eventually deliver their message.  It is because of this that the most effective sources of non-traditional marketing will not come from the marketer’s brain, but rather from the mind of the non-marketer.

Here are a few tips for using non-marketing sources to develop powerful non-traditional marketing:

11.)    Don’t limit who you hire.
Guthrie talks about him being more interested by a potential employee who has studied dolphin brains, than by one with traditional marketing experience.  As the consumers have more control of the market place, companies need employees who don’t think like marketers to reach those consumers.
22.)    Don’t be held back by technology.
As a CMO or Creative director, as soon as you start putting constraints on what can be done with your non-traditional marketing, you will constrain how effective it will be.  Technology is moving so quickly that even if a platform doesn’t exist now, it can probably be built.
13.)    Keep sight of what is relevant 
Stay focused.  Just because it is new doesn’t mean that good non-traditional marketing abandons everything the consumer already knows about your product.  Any marketing, traditional or non-traditional, is not going to work if it doesn’t align with what the consumer thinks of you.

There is a risk in using non-traditional marketing, as it puts the more control in the hands of the consumer.  The evolving consumer makes this risk worth it, however, because they are looking for that control.  The concepts above will help in developing the best possible - revenue generating - non-traditional marketing.

Ryan McGuire has spent five years in media execution and is currently a graduate student in the Northwestern Medill IMC marketing program.  Follow or contact him @RyanIMC  

How to Measure Your Social Media Ripple Effect - Today!

Justin Bieber has 45.5 million Facebook fans.  Skittles has 22 million.  Taco Bell has a little less than 9 million.  So whose post worked the hardest for them?  Taco Bell.

When every dollar counts in todays economy you need to make sure you can show social media impact.   While studying effectiveness measures in the Northwestern Medill IMC program I found this simple, easy way to show the ripple effect of social media posts and how they work hard for your brand or business.  This blog will take you through an easy calculation to show your organization what impact social media posts are making and how you measure up against some of the big players in social.

Socialbakers, a social media company, has developed one measure that takes into account all available social media measures to come up with one deterministic score – engagement rate.  Engagement, to them, measures if your social media move did something – someone changed their behavior because of it and others will see the message as a result.  In essence how many social ripples took place in response to your post.
Image courtesy of

The measure is simple:  Count the number of reactions (tweets, likes, shares, comments, replies, etc.) you get per day divided by the number of social media moves you made, divided by the number of followers or fans you had that day X 100. 
This analysis works because it is not all about one single metric, like fans or retweets.  It measures real actions.  The best part – all metrics are publically available so you can track not only your own brands but any brand.

Let’s do the math.  Skittles made a post on July 22.  Doing the Facebook calculation the engagement rate is 0.051.

Taco Bell made a post on July 19 and doing the same calculation the engagement rate is 0.141. 

Justin Bieber wrote a post after the Teen Choice Awards which only received an engagement rate of 0.074.

All fan pages have impressively high numbers but the best engagement was seen after a post from the page with the lowest number of fans.  The post worked for them on that day.  The Taco Bell post had the most impactful ripple effect.

This engagement rate measure is so easy you need to start tracking today.  Score your social media work.  See how it stacked up against the brands you consider competitors.  Are you winning? 

Here are three simple action items that you can do right now to show the effect of your posts:
  1. Calculate, calculate, calculate and find brands that are scoring high in engagement.  They could be direct competitors, peer companies or just cool brands or people.
  2. Track their social media posts and see what posts score high engagement numbers.
  3. Look at what they are posting about (questions, surveys, photos, funny tidbits), what time of day, what fans are saying and how they are sharing and try it with your brand.  
If your scores are lackluster you have all the information you need to become a social media marketing star.  Find comparisons and measure - constantly - to show effect.  Northwestern's Medill IMC program primes its students to measure the value of our work and this calculation is the best example of how you can refresh your measurement tools with a dynamic, value-added analysis.

Nancy Slivoski is currently a graduate student in the Integrated Marketing Communications program at Northwestern University.  She worked for over ten years at The Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company in Communications and Analytics.  Nancy is looking to make her passion for analytics the focus of her next position.  She reads and posts information on Marketing and Social Analytics via her Twitter account @chgonancy.

Four ways Sports are cashing in on Social Media

Companies often think having a social media strategy means “let’s use Facebook and Twitter more and get more followers and likes”, but how is that helping you to reach your business objectives? You need to figure out how to use those channels to get measurable results, and use those metrics to justify your investment and to estimate the return you’re getting from those activities.

The Sports Business Journal mentioned 20 great uses of social media in sports, and I’ve grouped most of those uses, and added a couple more, into four categories that will give you bottom line ROI:

1. Driving TV viewership or engagement

Of course ratings bring ad dollars, and there are a few ways to get people to watch your event through social media. The most popular one is creating awareness about it, and MLB is very good at this. During the All Star Game on July, they promoted the hashtags #HRDerby and #ASG and got more than 800,000 comments about the game across social media platforms, according to Bluefin Labs. They also allowed players to tweet during the event, a tactic first used by the NFL on their last Pro Bowl in January. UFC is not only allowing, but actually rewarding their fighters with cash for tweeting. SPEED channel created the SPEED Social Tracker, where they had several on-air personalities answering fan's questions in real time and analyzing NASCAR's Sprint All-Star race in Facebook and Twitter. 
MLB has effectively accomplished business objectives
through social media (Photo Getty Images)

Snappy TV, a platform to record, edit and share short videos from live streaming and TV broadcasts, could also help to drive viewership. "The best ad for watching a game is the game itself", says its CEO Mike Folgner. The Tennis Channel used it for the 2012 French Open and got almost two million views.

2. Reaching the target segment

You should also try to get exposure in social media channels of people with influence over the segment you're after. Famous snowboarder Shaun White constantly tops Q Score ranks among athletes, appealing especially to young demographics, and companies have recognized that value. Oakley has given free sunglasses through White's Twitter and Facebook accounts, and Red Bull built him his own half pipe so they could -of course- get credit for it not only on his website and social media channels, but on all the media coverage about it as well.

Teams will also help you accomplish the same objective. Jet Blue has partnered with the L.A. Dodgers, Boston Red Sox, Orlando Magic, among many other sports organizations, which the airline uses to give away special deals for their followers and fans on Facebook. 

Finally, let people bring more people. Cleveland Indians senior director of cummunications, Curtis Danburg, says they're "creating new brand ambassadors" by having the Indians Social Suite in their stadium, where they invite their Facebook fans to watch games. New Jersey Devils are also trying to use their fans as marketing vehicles with their Mission Control project.

3. Providing added value to the fans

Don't just tell people "like us on Facebook" or " follow us on twitter", give them a reason to do so. NASCAR developed Race Buddy to give fans alternate camera shots and chat rooms during races in their Facebook app. EA Sports has build a social media component to its FIFA video game where you can share your progress and accomplishments on Facebook, Twitter or Google+. SPEED Social Tracker (explained on item number 2) also adds value to their Facebook site.

NASCAR added value to their social media channels
with their sponsored app Race Buddy

How to monetize this added value? you could find sponsors for those extra-features (Race Buddy's alternate cameras are "brought to you by UPS, Goodyear and Coors Light", for example), or you could grow your users base to take advantage of the next and last item:

4. Selling the product

The most logic tactic here is offering tickets and merchandise through your social media channels, which is why it's so important that your followers/fans base is locally grown. A 'Like' on the Yankees' Facebook page is more valuable when it comes from somebody who lives in New York, as opposed to one who lives in London, for example, who can't attend to games and is also less likely to buy merchandise from the official site. Another idea that has proven to work is offering promotions and special deals on your social media channels, because fans feel they are receiving a benefit for being there, making them more likely to respond. This is no secret, as most professional teams are already doing it.

You could also get creative here, like the Philadelphia Wings did in the National Lacrosse League, being the first professional sports team to put twitter names instead of last names on players jerseys. That way they are able to sell additional merchandise, while driving engagement from fans at the same time.

The takeaway of the post is that if you're not getting a measurable return from your social media strategy, your'e not doing your job. So sit back and think about which of these four categories fit your business better, roll a couple of initiatives and, finally and most importantly, measure its performance so you can make better decisions in the future.

About the author
Carlos has worked in the sports industry for the last six years, first as a baseball journalist/columnist, and later as an entrepreneur in sports marketing. He's currently an advisor for 9 Stars Sports Management, and he's getting his Master's Degree in Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern. He's from Venezuela and lives in Chicago. You can follow or contact him at @CarlosDRunner.

Social Media: Your New Permanent Exhibit

Source: Meghan Jordan
Do museums breathe with human stories and life?  Or are they stale, dusty and deliberately out-of-touch with the present?  The brutal truth is that people under 30, high value consumers who prefer easily digestible, digital and interactive infotainment, will probably think the latter.  Social media offers museums a unique opportunity to bridge the perception gap between museum lovers and those who unfairly judge the cultural institutions as dormant, ancient artifact libraries.

The nature of social media communications should not be an alien concept to the museum community.  The brief, concise language used in social is similar to the ways in which curators distill long histories and boil them down into meaningful, single-paragraph exhibit placards.

Several institutions have successfully tackled the digital challenges facing museums, including The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Indianapolis Museum of Art and The Brooklyn Museum.  According to an article published in the New York Times in March 2011, “The Spirit of Sharing," these museums have harnessed social media and technology to engage their visitors more meaningfully and personally, while still remembering to "keep people in a heads-up mode, to make sure they are looking at art.”

Social media can enable museums to more deeply fulfill their most fundamental mission: to bring stories directly to the public in an interactive, meaningful and memorable way.

1. Tell your story - sometimes in 140 words or less Post stories about your collection to your blog, Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook.  Use Pinterest to create virtual, sharable exhibits.

2. Embrace technology Social media is not only a tool for reaching outside the walls of your museum, but for engaging with visitors who are there right now.  Work with your technology department and curators to creatively incorporate social into exhibits.

3. Get people talking It seems obvious, but really and truly understand that social sharing is nothing more than the digital form of word-of-mouth.  Get people excited to share something they learned from you!  Encouraging social participation among current visitors will help make their friends want to visit themselves.

By leveraging their long-standing ability to creatively convey complicated stories in a limited amount of space, museums have the potential to be among the savviest and most effective social media users in the business community.

Meghan Jordan (@mjIMC) is a marketing communications professional currently pursuing an M.S. in Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University.  Meghan enjoys traveling, history, cooking, swimming and music.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Foodservice & Social Media - Tips for Succcess

Marketing through social media is essential these days, but how do you know if you're doing it right?  As part of my studies as a grad student in Northwestern's IMC program, I found this great article on understanding the role social media should take in your firm - no matter the industry.  The author outlined some great, general points on how to make social media efforts successful:
      Provide an identity for your company/products
      It can serve as a way to communicate with your peers and customers
      You cannot depend just on Social Media as your marketing platform
      And, the Importance in keeping a consistent message

I thought it was a great article but wanted to share my take on her points and some thoughts of mine provoked by hers … and ultimately, explain how it might relate to the foodservice industry. So, from this article and my examination of effective social programs, here are my thoughts:
Have a consistent Brand Image – create a social networking image that’s fresh, but also ties in nicely with your current brand position.  Too many times there’s a disconnect with the brand image in traditional forms of marketing compared to how it’s portrayed in social marketing – it should be one consistent message across an entire marketing platform.  Remember, social marketing is important and effective if done right, but is only a piece of your integrated marketing plan.  However, different marketing techniques are better for different things.  In the foodservice industry social marketing is a great way to introduce new products, solicit feedback, and to encourage visitation through apps/couponing. 

Understand your Audience – Know exactly who your audience is and, more importantly, know who the influencers are.  Everyone is at a different stage in social media “sophistication” and should be treated as such.  It’s your responsibility to segment these groups and engage them accordingly.  In the foodservice industry, trends change so quickly so it’s important to know what your target is saying, who is listening, and how that can affect your business.
Engaging Content – make sure your social media platform is engaging and is managed on a daily basis.  It should have interactive technology that encourages dialogue between organizations, communities, and individuals. Pictures are a must in the foodservice industry as we "eat with our eyes" - no matter what you say about your product, the picture conveys what you want the consumer to see about your brand and/or products.
If you take nothing else out of this blog, take these three action steps:
  1. Keep the brand image consistent so there’s no wasted time in your customer’s mind on whom the message is coming from.  It should be fresh, but should also fit within your brand current brand position.
  2. Know your consumer! This means knowing the topics of conversation, sites they’re visiting and participating in, and ultimately how influential they are to others.
  3. Change and update your content regularly to avoid it becoming ‘stale’ to your followers.  This will encourage more frequent activity and ultimately increase engagement – which can lead to stronger loyalty among your audience. 

Even if it’s a small piece of your overall marketing platform, social media is a necessity and is expected.  I know, if done smartly, marketing through social media can successfully expand your reach and engagement with consumers, especially in the foodservice industry.

Carrie Phelps is a current graduate student in the Northwestern Medill Integrated Marketing Communications program, with 5 years of work experience in Marketing Research within the Foodservice Industry. Follow her @cphelps16 and connect with her on LinkedIn: Carrie Phelps.

Maximizing the ROI of Your Email Marketing Program

In my years as a marketing communications professional - and especially as an email marketer - I'm constantly told that to maximize results, I need to be constantly testing content, copy, images, and layout to multiple test audiences. In fact, Internet marketing and advertising news publication ADOTAS says it’s one of the things you simply cannot ignore if you want to have a successful email marketing campaign. But in the real world, it’s just not always possible. At many companies, writers and layout artists are stretched too thin and can’t possibly create that many messages.

So where to start? Email Marketing firm iContact has some great ideas about things you can test that won’t take up too much time but will still get results. 

  • Subject Lines - If you do nothing else, make sure you’re testing subject lines. If you can’t get people to open your emails, any other content testing you’re doing won’t even be seen. And let’s be real—it takes almost no time to write two or three subject lines.  
  • Images - Similar to subject lines, it’s not difficult at all to pick two masthead or main images and see which resonates more with openers. For examples: if you’re selling hotel rooms, test hotel exterior image vs. guestroom shot or spa vs. restaurant. If you’re selling men’s clothing, how about pants vs. shirts or clothes vs. accessories.
  • Call to Action - Test text or colors. Does “Book Now” or “Save 20% in Cancun” work better? Orange or blue text? Any of these are easy to change and can get instant results.
With just these simple steps, you'll immediately begin learning more about what tactics will get results with your audience. And even better, if you can prove that you get results with just these simple steps, you’ll have numbers that will back up your efforts and could lead to you convincing superiors to give you more resources.

Pete Roccaforte has been a marketing communications professional for nearly 10 years and is currently a graduate student in the Integrated Marketing Communications program at Northwestern University’s Medill School. Follow him at @proccaforte or on LinkedIn.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Marketers! When It Comes To Bi-Cultural Markets, Do You Really Know What You Are Doing?

There are 50+ million Hispanics in the United States. Think about it. 50+ million. I stand proud as one of those millions. I was born in Mexico City, Mexico and have had the privilege of moving between the U.S. and Mexico all of my life. As a native-Spanish speaker, this experience has made me incredibly aware of what it means to be Bi-Cultural in the U.S. in the 21st Century. Currently, I am a graduate student in the Northwestern Medill IMC program with a deep interest in the impact that this continuously emerging market will have across all industries in the U.S. and abroad, particularly in terms of marketing opportunities. If you are a marketer attempting to reach this target (or even someone seeking to expand your efforts to promising target markets), what does the significant growth of the Hispanic population in the U.S. mean for you?

In a recent blog published on the Huffington Post, Chris Cummings (CEO of Curiosity Media) notes that “the growth of the Hispanic population has translated into a powerful consumer base with buying power estimated to exceed 1.3 trillion by 2013.”

This growth (and spending ability) carries a need for:

A) Bilingual services which permeate every industry in the U.S.

B) (For marketers,) a careful analysis of what it means for this population to be labeled with a pan-ethnic label like "Hispanic" or "Latino".

We run the risk of failing to create powerful connections with these consumers by pigeonholing groups of people—which otherwise are vastly different culturally—under an overarching umbrella like “Hispanic” or “Latino” solely because they share a common language. Ignoring how sensitive definitions of identity among Hispanic groups are can severely compromise the effectiveness of your marketing campaign for Bi-Cultural markets.

In April 2012, the Pew Hispanic Center published a report titled “When Labels Don’t Fit: Hispanics and Their Views of Identity,” meant to showcase a conversation about identity facilitated by Latino/Hispanic journalists, scholars, and civic leaders in the U.S. A nationwide survey of Hispanic adults found that 51% of Hispanics say they most often identify themselves by their family’s country of origin; just 24% say they prefer a pan-ethnic label. Furthermore, 69% versus 29% of survey respondents say that Latinos in the U.S. have—often—varying cultures and not a single common culture.

Are you catching what I’m dropping?! As a marketer seeking to reach Bi-Cultural markets, this is the best time to think outside the box and not limit your efforts to the obvious—literal translations to Spanish. Your goal should be to speak fluent culture successfully with your target markets. Meeting these cultural needs will positively impact ROIs for companies seeking to maximize profits within markets that attract Spanish-speaking populations (remember that “1.3 trillion by 2013” spending power?).

This is obviously a multi-layered issue (my favorite part of this conversation) and finding the “sweet spot” will not be easy.

A good place for you to start is to consider:

1.   Who comprises your Bi-Cultural target market? For example, are they primarily U.S. born Hispanics or Hispanic immigrants? Chances are these two groups behave vastly different. The same is probably true for differing generations.

2.   Testing. Try varying translations or messages with all of your communications. As a resident of Chicago, so often I see ads which I can recognize were literal English translations to Spanish. They work—but they read (or talk) insincere and would be so much better if they carried a cultural nuance to them. I promise you your consumers will respond better if they can tell you were thinking in Spanish the whole time.

3.   Immersing yourself in a little bit of Hispanic pop culture. Particularly, search for content directly from Latin American countries (or Spain). It can be anything—read the major newspapers (i.e. El Universal de Mexico), watch TV in Spanish (Azteca streams online), watch the latest movies, or listen to music in Spanish. This will help you get a feel for conversational language, and will help you reach your target markets in a way that is fresh and that is familiar to them.

Marketing to any target market is about relationships. Hispanics need stories they can relate to and that make them feel understood in an environment they don’t necessarily call home. Get this right, and the sky is the limit in terms of how much you can achieve with this group!

Karla Del Angel is a part-time graduate student at Northwestern's Medill program, studying Integrated Marketing Communications. Currently working at Northwestern’s Office of Alumni Relations and Development, she is very interested in brand strategy for bi-cultural markets and hopes to follow this career path upon graduation. Follow her @kdel87 and connect with her on LinkedIn: Karla Del Angel.

Become the Expert by Going Social: 4 Tips to Getting Started


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Some companies think that because they don’t have “customers” (in the traditional sense of the word) they don’t have a huge need to go social. The problem with that thinking is that you are missing out on a huge opportunity to reach other stakeholders who influence your business and the bottom line.

As a corporate communications professional, I'm currently developing a social media strategy that will support our efforts to be a thought leader.  As I learn about new channels in my Direct and Interactive Marketing class in the IMC graduate program at Northwestern's Medill school, I'm finding new ways to go social and various considerations for the strategy I'm creating.

Here are a few things I've learned through my research and plan to use as I develop my social media strategy focused on thought leadership.. 

#1 Setting the Stage

Before you even step foot onto the social landscape, identify what you want to achieve as a thought leader. Do you want to be the voice of the industry? Do you want to influence policy? Do you want to establish your brand in the minds of consumers? Who do you want to be part of your following?

Define your audience (be selective!) and determine what you want to achieve. Focus your goals so that you can truly measure engagement and sentiment over time. Don’t get lost on the day to day numbers.

# 2 Role Reinvention

In times like these, few companies have the luxury of hiring new staff and engaging in big contracts with new agencies. Think about how your key communicators are spending their time and how they can adjust their efforts to leverage social channels to promote the key messages – and experts – of the company to a broader audience.

The media relations team can think of themselves more as brand journalists and how they can start repurposing content to attract more readers by making it more compelling and personal.

# 3 Think Outside of the Site

While your website is often thought of as the destination for your key audiences, they are often times using other sites as resources for industry information and expertise on various topics. Publish your rich content on sites such as slideshare and YouTube to cast a wider net.

"The social platform [slideshare] is much more than the Web’s largest archive of presentations, PDFs, and videos. It’s also a vibrant, mobile-friendly, Google-indexed community frequented by reporters, buyers, and senior executives.” – Joe Chernov, Mashable 05/07/12

Contributing white papers and blogs to sites with established audiences within in your industry can help you reach more people while using the rapport of the host site to build your credibility. Reddit’s Ask Me Anything (AMA) is also a great way to have meaningful conversations with your audiences and help them understand the inner workings of your business and industry while putting a face to it.

# 4 Shameless Cross-Promotion

Once you have created the content, posted it on your channels and others, don’t forget to use your social channels such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook as well as your established communication channels such as your website, enewsletters, and collateral to promote your work. These cross-promotions will help reinforce the messages while building a captive community.

Moving Forward
Even though we don't have customers, in the traditional sense, it has become obvious to our leadership that we need to become active in the social media world.  I know that connecting our social media strategy to our business goals will be a huge selling point and the thought leadership angle will do that.  What advice do you have for someone starting out?

Jennifer Chulski is a full-time marketing communications professional with more than 10 years of experience. She currently leads branding and digital efforts of a Fortune 100 brand. Jennifer is also a part-time graduate student in Medill’s Integrated Marketing Communications program at Northwestern University. As a proud Chicago transplant, Jennifer never grows tired of all that the Second City has to offer. @JenniferChulski

These thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Thursday, August 2, 2012

What Chief Content Creators can learn from TV Development

Creating captivating content for a brand isn't as hard as it looks - just flip on your television sets and watch some factual programming. As a television development manager, I've always found that what's true is what rates, and brands can use this knowledge to leverage compelling content for all their channels. By putting aside traditional marketing scripts and finding the truth behind your brand, content will drive value.

In a recent Fast Company article, “How Chief Content Officers Can Resurrect Marketing Communications, the idea of creating “not boring” content was hailed as a revolutionary idea. As with most flashy new buzzwords in marketing, the article focused a lot on the “why” and very little on the enigma that is the “how-to.” So, if you’re one of those C-suites that they were talking about in the article and are still scratching your head – I’m here to fill in the gaps.

As a television and film development manager I have often found myself on corporate websites/social media for products and brands thinking how they missed the mark with corny or cliché content yet again. To better understand content creation and how to apply this mindset, the basic tenants of my own job should be explained; it’s one part journalist, one part subculture interloper, and one major part storyteller. If you can encourage those on your content team to think in this mindset, you will captivate your audience.

  • Journalist: Scripted is unbearable if done badly, and that happens more often than not. If there is an opportunity for your company/brand to tell a real story with real characters and real drama, conflict, and story arc, tell that story! The kind of content that touches the most emotional side of an audience does not come with airbrushing and professional lighting.

  • Subculture Interloper: I’m not talking tattoos and anarchists – what I mean is the sub-communities and pre-existing cultures that are worth exploring. Your team can find these by exercising a healthy sense of curiosity, meeting as many new and different people as possible, and even asking friends and family about their lives. Content about subculture isn’t limiting the audience to that particular group – quite the opposite, the most powerful content transcends demographics, and can speak to any viewer.

  • Storyteller: At the end of the day, you have to remember your content is only as powerful as the story behind it. This content shouldn’t sell the consumer on a product; it should act as a conduit that pushes a consumer into a mindset, whether that’s inspired or infuriated - that is up to you as the storyteller to convey. Once you’ve primed your customer, bring in the marketing side and give them a way to take action based on that story.

Don’t just try to be “not boring,” try to be authentic, true, and daring in your content. Don’t hire just marketing professionals, look to journalists, writers, and film people to add to your mix. If you follow those steps, real content can turn into real business. 

Meghan Cassin is a part-time graduate student pursuing a M.S. in Integrated Marketing & Communications  at Northwestern University. Meghan began her career in television development for National Geographic Channel and is currently at Siskel/Jacobs Productions.
Follow Meghan on Twitter or LinkedIn

Your customers are talking...are you listening?

Every tweet, blog, post about your company or product is available at this moment on the world wide web. Not only are these discussions happening, they are being monitored by your competition. Right now you could be aggregating this information into useful insights in which could help you improve performance and capitalize on the wants and needs of your customers. As a graduate student in the Medill IMC program, I have had the opportunity to become exposed to social monitoring methods and business applications such as Radian6, NetBase and Social Mention that play an integral role in facilitating an effective social presence.

According to the 2011 Nielson Social Media Report, 53% of adults follow a brand on social media. It is apparent that social media is currently impacting your brand whether you want it to or not. Social media is not going away and now is the time to embrace it and get involved in the communities your customers live in. With the help of smart phones and quick access to social platforms, the people advocating your brand are now setting the tone. Read more about the impacts of social influencers.

With social monitoring and analytical tools you can lead the next wave of marketing by communicating to your customers in their environment. If you're not ready to join the conversation just yet, start with listening to customer conversations and you will be surprised at the valuable insights you may find from key influencers, popular discussion topics and overall sentiment of your brand. Compiling the conversations and dissecting the discussions for insights can positively impact your knowledge on the customer perspective and invigorate you to develop a more customer centric product. Listening to the chatter and taking the high profile topics to appropriate teams (ex. product development, sales, marketing) in your company can reverse loses and allow you to better allocate your budget to a suitable facet of the business.

How Do I Start Getting Insights?

1. Research to find the right social monitoring tools.  

There are dozens of tools available to corporations that will gather data and help your team interpret the findings. To get started check out some simple and free applications such as Social Mention, Listorious and Alltop. If you have the bandwidth for more strategic research go straight to the advance tools: Radian6, NetBase, HootSuite, or Sprout Social

2. Hire and train your team.

After you've found the right tool, set up a training session with your team to become fluent with it's capabilities. If you do not have available resources to tackle social media monitoring, consider hiring a social media expert to manage the analysis. Learn more about staffing a social media team.

3. Build a Social Marketing Program with ROI.  

It is important to distinguish social marketing from social media. At Northwestern, we effectively apply social monitoring to enhance social marketing efforts. Get started with sharing insights across departments in your company. You too can start conversing with your customers and you may discover a boost in brand sentiment once customers are aware there is a real person listening and responding to what they have to say. Develop recommendations that can take insights to business resolutions and product growth. Now watch for results.

Kim Schick is a graduate student of Northwestern's Medill IMC program. She specializes in digital and email marketing with a passion for social marketing strategies. Follow her on Twitter @KimSchickIMC and connect with her on LinkedIn.