Monthly Archives: September 2011

How to Find the Online/Offline Balance in Marketing

Written by Ted Rubin

With the ongoing emphasis on maximizing marketing campaigns by using online communication and tools, we need to remember that consumers still exist – and often still operate in – the bricks and mortar world. Marketers/Brands must carefully blend both online (i.e. professional blogger) and offline interactions to effectively communicate on the path to purchase.

There is a great television bank commercial that highlights this issue. In case you haven’t seen it, it shows a couple approaching a roped off entrance of a bank building, where they are stopped by a gatekeeper asking what they think they’re doing.  The couple replies that they want to go inside and speak to someone… and the gatekeeper laughs and says something like “but that’s what the Internet is for!”

Technology is definitely becoming more integrated with our daily activities, but it has not replaced consumer’s needs for face-to-face interaction and bricks and mortar experience. The challenge then for marketers is to find the appropriate balance between online and offline channels for their specific consumers.

 

Chances are your consumers will use multiple channels and switch in and out of those channels several times through the purchase process.  They might see a television ad that references a social media channel for those with a specific interest or need.   They then spend time using social media to build connections with other people sharing that interest/need, and – if the marketers are wise — with brand representatives.  From there, they may take coupons, deals, or recommendations from brand advocates and purchase either online or at a physical location.   Follow-up might go back online to social media as consumers share their purchase experience.

There are, of course, many different ways to leverage both online and offline tools and interactions, so how should marketers decide what combinations to use?

Follow the “Lose, Gain, and Give” process:

1. LOSE your assumptions

You know what they say about assuming…. (hint: it includes the first 3 letters of the word).  Do not assume that you know your consumers’ preferences.  Assumptions quickly lead to marketers telling consumers what to do and even forcing them down a particular communication or action path – a sure way to lose the consumers you are hoping to attract.

2.  GAIN understanding

Without your assumptions, you can now pay careful attention to your consumers to gain an understanding of what they really want and need.  Build an ongoing relationship with them by asking them questions (social media is a great tool for this), listening to their answers, then asking more questions for clarification.  Not only will you gain understanding about your consumers, you will also gain trust – a key ingredient in consumer purchasing decisions.   When you give them the chance, your consumers can help you find the right online/offline balance for them.

3.  GIVE consumers what they need, want, and are asking for

Action is the external proof of understanding.  Consumers want to be heard and understood, and the way to prove that to them is to take their feedback and implement changes to your marketing campaigns, products and services accordingly. Consumer-influenced action quickly builds brand advocates who are so delighted by their experience of your brand that they can’t wait to tell their networks about it.

No matter what tools and tactics you choose, make sure your message and the consumer experience is consistent across all points of contact and interaction.  Your online customer service needs to be as good as your face-to-face customer service… and vice versa.  What you promise online needs to be the experience you actually give consumers offline…and vice versa.

Consumers’ online and offline worlds are becoming more and more integrated, and the purchase path they follow will be the one that meets them both online and off.  Where will your brand be when shoppers step on that path??

How Social Media and Blog Marketing Can Generate Real $$$

Written by Ted Rubin

Yes, social media can generate business dollars — very real and measurable dollars.  As I said in a recent Tweet,… Awareness=Revenues. Differentiators=Margins. Authenticity=Loyalty. ALL measurable.”  Utilizing blog marketing within social media is key.

The concepts are similar to traditional media marketing, but they each have a different twist when you add in the social factor.

Awareness = Revenues

Obviously, if shoppers don’t know your products and services exist, revenues will be hard to come by.  What is not so obvious is the way awareness is created through social media – it’s all about building relationships and connecting to people and networks in meaningful ways.

The first step of awareness is recognition – which means you need to catch someone’s attention more than once.  When focused on building relationships, you will naturally be providing repeated exposure to your brand through ongoing interactions with consumers.

Awareness breeds familiarity… familiarity breeds relationships … relationships breed trust … trust breeds recommendations… and recommendations breed purchases.  Therefore, awareness=revenues.

Differentiators = Margins

What sets your brand apart from others?  I’m not asking what you SAY sets your brand apart from others, I’m asking what ACTUALLY DOES set your brand apart.  Social media has flooded the cybersphere with words, so the only way we can prove we are different is to BE different.  Shoppers need to have a good (or great) experience with your brand, whether it’s with your product, your customer service, or any other interactions shoppers have with your brand.

When you are able to truly set yourself apart from your competition, you can price your products and services accordingly.  A high quality product that works better, holds up better, meets a customer’s needs better, and also addresses their wants, has higher shopper perceived value and allows greater profit margins.  The key, though, is to price within your own knowledge of the product value or shoppers will sniff out the price-gouging… a huge hit to your credibility.  Remember, negative differentiators don’t get you very far with shoppers (or anyone)!

Authenticity = Loyalty

Social media has given so many people quick and easy access to so much information that shoppers no longer tolerate sales pitches, empty promises, or anything less than a genuine brand message of quality, consistency, and authenticity.   If their experience with your brand suggests that your words are selling something more than you can deliver, they will go elsewhere in a heartbeat.  There is no such thing as a captured audience any more!

Loyalties only get built when shoppers know you are being honest with them and are willing to engage in authentic conversation with them (even if it means hearing things they don’t like about your product or service!).  Before they will “tell it like it is” you need to model that behavior to show them you are willing to take the risk of openness in order to better understand and address their needs and wants.

Authenticity is worth the risk because loyalty in this social media world can quickly grow from one person believing in – and purchasing from – your brand to entire networks supporting and recommending you.

Earn awareness through authentic differentiators, and your reward will be a clear Return on Relationship (ROR):  increased revenues, margins, and loyalty – all measurable directly, or in resulting sales as dollars on a spreadsheet.

It’s time to turn your social media results into a line item; don’t settle for less!