Skeptical of Marketing Tech Buzzwords? You’re Not Alone

To help support direct marketing clients, AccuList USA tries to keep up with the latest in marketing technology and tactics, and so we’ve been bombarded along with clients by advice on how to seize opportunities with personalization, “big data,” omnichannel, real-time marketing, and, most recently, artificial intelligence (AI). Marketers struggling to find room in real-world budgets often worry that they’re falling behind in an escalating martech arms race! New research by Resulticks—a survey of over 300 marketing pros across industry verticals—offers interesting perspective.

Big Expectations: Big Data and Personalization

“Big Data” was the hot topic at the 2013 DMA Annual Conference, with 50% of marketers enthusiastic about investing. But making practical sense of those data torrents turned out to be more difficult than expected. Resulticks finds that only 16% of today’s marketers have fully implemented big data solutions, 20% have given up on the concept, and just 27% rank big data as a top priority now. Part of the problem is overhyped, underperforming martech platforms, per the survey, with 21% of marketers complaining that vendors overpromise and underdeliver. In contrast, personalization—meaning targeting that goes beyond basic attributes such as name to deeper parameters such as purchase history and online behavior—has done better in fulfilling expectations, with 60% of today’s marketers reporting full or partial implementation. The only fly in the ointment: Tech investments have not always kept pace with enthusiasm, and only 20% rate their software ability to deliver personalization as “excellent.”

Technically Challenged: Omnichannel

Back in 2014, one study found almost half of retailers saying they were going to commit to an “omnichannel” approach. Unlike multichannel marketing, where marketers touch customers at multiple points on their journey, the ambitious goal of omnichannel marketing is to create a seamless customer experience across all channels. Resulticks finds that only 9% of today’s marketers describe their approach as omnichannel, compared with 63% who use a multichannel approach. Technical barriers explain omnichannel’s failure to thrive. Only 35% have fully or partially implemented the required software platforms for omnichannel, and, among those who have bet on platforms, 58% rank vendor execution as “poor” to “fair” (compared with 13% who give their omnichannel software “excellent” marks).

Enthusiastic Embrace: Real-time Marketing

There’s a better report card for the “real-time marketing” that rapidly uses data across channels for more timely, targeted engagement in the customer journey. Resulticks reports that 49% of marketers rate their real-time marketing ability as “good” to “excellent,” that half say they have fully or partially implemented real-time marketing solutions, and that 47% say real-time is a priority for their organizations today. However, many marketers may need to adjust their definition of “real-time” if they want to compete for customers’ expectations; 47% are defining real-time as responding in an hour or more (with 20% taking a day or more), compared with the 12% delivering true real-time response in the milliseconds.

New Kid on the Block: AI

Social media giants have been betting on AI, and marketers are following their lead, with one study showing more than 50% planning to adopt AI in the next two years. However, Resulticks’ survey finds almost half (47%) of the marketers polled already rate AI as overhyped. Here’s a big source of that skepticism: 43% of marketers believe martech software vendors overpromise and underdeliver, and 69% rate their vendors’ ability to execute AI as “fair” to “poor.”

To download the study report, go to https://www.resulticks.com/marketingflabtofab.html

2018 Digital Marketing Trends: Technology, Targeting, Tactics

Digital marketing continues to experience rapid changes. AccuList USA will be helping clients navigate this year via quality data, data services and other support efforts that take into account 2018 digital marketing trends recently outlined by Forbes magazine’s Forbes Agency Council.

Technology Drivers: AR, Conversational Interfaces, Video

The first of the article’s 15 trend predictions is continued growth in the use of Augmented Reality (AR), per Chris Carter of Rep Interactive, as mobile devices become more powerful, social apps improve AR integration, and, we would add, traditional print, from direct mail to ads to labels, also embraces AR. Meanwhile, the popularity of  conversational interactions will offer new opportunities and challenges, per a couple of council members—such as Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Assistant, Microsoft’s Cortana, chatbots and more. Now that Google says 20% of its mobile queries are voice searches and usage set to climb further, marketers will need to create content targeting these types of searches and ads for non-traditional venues (such as sponsored smart-fridge recommendations), predicts Brett Farmiloe of Markitors. Video was a big story in 2017 and is now seen as a basic of success for 2018 marketers, per several Forbes council members. It also means that marketers will face a higher bar in terms of quality. As social media platforms jump into live video and add features, “the shaky, holding-a-phone-in-your-hand live video won’t be acceptable anymore,” warns Thomas Brodbeck of Site Strategics.

Targeting Goes Hyper: Personalized & Contextual

Most marketers agree that the days of impersonal e-mail blasts are done. So what’s ahead in 2018? Marketers will be focused on hyper-targeting and personalizing every interaction, forecast several experts. Watch for personalized landing pages connected to each advertising campaign, for example. The need for unbiased targeting, predictive analytics and budgeting at every step of the customer journey also will increase use of application programming interfaces for machine-learning algorithms, natural language processing and artificial intelligence, opines Douglas Karr of DK New Media. And as data protection regulation increases, ad tech vendors will need to go beyond tracking behavior with cookies to contextual targeting strategies based on page content, adds Julien Verdier of Adyoulike.

Some Tactics Keep Their Buzz, and Some Fade

“Influencer marketing” had marketing buzz in 2017, but Craig Greiwe of Rogers & Cowan predicts that 2018 will see a collapse of interest because brands that spent big on influencers haven’t seen measurable results. He expects brands instead to “zero in on a few select individuals who drive results or move to organic grassroots promotion, and away from high-cost, middle-tier influencers who drive awareness but little ROI.” Content marketing, meanwhile, will remain a key part of the marketing tool box—but with some changes. New formats, video, and voice search are ending the focus on blog posts and listicles and pushing marketers toward featured snippets, interactive spoken tutorials and integration with User Interface features, says Kristopher Jones of LSEO.com. In the crowded online grab for engagement, native advertising will retain appeal, too, per Timothy Nichols of ExactDrive, Inc., helping marketers to expand viral sharing and develop a more involved relationship with target markets.

For more trend predictions, see https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesagencycouncil/2017/12/18/how-digital-marketing-will-change-in-2018-15-top-trends/#464141092d9a

Social Media Pros Predict Wide Range of Changes in 2018

Both B2B and B2C marketers are planning on investing more in social media marketing in 2018, per surveys. So AccuList USA’s clients may want to take a look at the trends that social media experts are predicting for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest marketing in the year ahead, as recently gathered up by Social Media Examiner.

Video Boom: Moves by LinkedIn and Facebook

Among the more than 33 predictions featured, multiple social media pros stressed the growth and impact of video, as “even simple selfie videos filmed on cell phones are propelling businesses higher than video-less businesses,” to quote one forecaster. B2B marketers will be pleased to know that LinkedIn advertising is expected to roll out video ads for business pages and geofilters for videos, now in test. Facebook, which remains the social media ad leader, is positioning to become a major player in online video. In 2017, Facebook debuted Facebook Watch for select creators (a TV-like option). In 2018, it is forecast that the program will expand to all people and pages on Facebook, and also that Facebook will likely roll out new features for video creators, perhaps including preferential Facebook news feed exposure for original native video, revenue-sharing deals, or even a dedicated video app. With the video boom, metrics will need to get more sophisticated across platforms. Since each platform counts their video views differently (Snapchat at 1 second, Twitter at 2 seconds, Facebook/Instagram at 3 seconds, and YouTube at 30 seconds), watch for marketers to go beyond number of views to data measuring the time spent and the attention held across all screens on all platforms.

Instagram Gains Ground With Marketers

Instagram is forecast to keep surging after fast growth in 2017, with 15 million businesses using Instagram by July 2017 (nearly double the 8 million businesses that used Instagram in March 2017), with 80% of Instagram accounts now following at least one business, and with global advertising set to reach $4 billion for 2017 year-end. One reason is that Instagram has been improving its tools for marketers, including InstaStories promoted within the  “news feed,” the Story Highlights feature that allows pages to host static collections of previously disappearing story posts on profiles, “swipe up” calls-to-action, posts that click through to online stores, and soon the ability to follow hashtags.

Rising Ad Costs Force Smarter Targeting, Metrics

The bad news for marketers is that the popularity of social media will translate into rising ad costs in 2018, with pricing of Facebook and Instagram advertising predicted to rise over the next 12 months. However, that cost trend should actually spur businesses hesitating to invest; marketers who commit to social media ads now will generate awareness, build audience (particularly via e-mail subscribers) and gain a competitive advantage in the increasingly crowded market. Given the rising cost to gain the attention of prospects and acquire customers, more businesses also are urged to hone ad effectiveness beyond generating leads followed with automated e-mail—for example using retargeting, AI and other techniques to ensure prospects see the most relevant messaging for their point in the customer journey. And, as cheap organic reach declines in effectiveness and paid ad costs climb, the importance of ad metrics increases. Whether on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn or Twitter, marketers will need to track the metrics of each ad or promoted post, combining a paid acquisition model with historical data and personalized content if they hope to translate social media marketing into real revenue results in 2018, warn the social media mavens.

For more predictions, see https://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/social-media-predictions-2018/?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_medium=NewsletterIssue&utm_campaign=New

2018 Digital Marketing Spend to Rise; High Hopes for Social

AccuList USA’s digital marketing clients are already looking ahead to 2018 results, with many planning to increase digital spending. They’re following the trend reported in a recent survey by Ascend2, which found that 93% of firms expect to boost digital marketing budgets in 2018.

Boosted Digital Spend Planned in 2018

The survey, conducted in December 2017, tapped 217 marketing influencers, with 43% working for B2B firms, 35% for B2C firms, and 22% for hybrid firms. The combined 52% planning marginal increases and 41% planning significant boosts in 2018 digital marketing budgets dwarfed the 7% who intend to decrease digital spending. But the more interesting data involves where the marketers foresee the biggest bang for digital bucks in the year ahead.

Social & Content Marketing Dubbed Most Effective

Respondents expected the most effective digital marketing tactics in 2018 to be social media marketing (18%), followed by content marketing (17%). Search engine optimization was seen as most effective by 15%, e-mail marketing was seen as leading by 13%, and paid search and social ads was chosen by only 11%. The lower ranking of e-mail and search ads was not due to execution barriers; both were rated as among the least difficult to implement.

Execution Challenges for Data Management & Technology

In contrast, surveyed marketers reported the greatest execution difficulties for data management (18% rated as most difficult) and marketing technology (also 18%). Content marketing and search engine optimization tied for second place in terms of implementation challenges, with both selected by 16%.

Go to https://research.ascend2.com/2018-digital-marketing/ to download a full copy of the Ascend report.

2018 Offers New and Old Marketing Data Challenges

As a data broker, AccuList USA is committed to helping its data services clients with data gathering, quality, targeting and analytics. Looking ahead to 2018, we see new and old data issues for direct marketers. A recent Forbes magazine interview with Tom Benton, the CEO of the Data & Marketing Association (DMA), highlighted six of those data challenges for next year.

Perennial Problems From Quality and Integration

Given the huge amount and types of data streaming into marketers, many are struggling to decide which data sets to use and which to ignore, how to keep data accurate and actionable, and how to integrate new data with existing data. Several practices for 2018 success are suggested: clear business goals and target audiences to narrow the data focus; a clear test case for examining or onboarding data; regular examination of new and legacy data accuracy and value; and systems for integrating new data with existing data, especially given the new types of data streams available–everything from wearable gym trackers to chatbots to grocery checkouts.

New Opportunities Via Technology

The Forbes overview also cites the exciting opportunities coming from new marketing tech tools, such as augmented reality (AR), machine learning and AI. Are you ready to take advantage? The articles offers the example of how 1-800-Flowers improved customer experience by integrating the company’s website with artificial intelligence (AI) technology and natural language processing to understand customer demand and then search the product catalog to deliver customized recommendations. Use of AR today ranges from AMC theater movie posters to Simmons Bedding Co. product demos to labels of Australia’s 19 Crimes wine brand. And consider that digital growth company Urban Airship has developed a machine learning algorithm to analyze mobile customer behavior and help app publishers identify the most loyal users and predict those that are likely to churn to improve retention investment in specific customer segments.

Challenges With Cybersecurity and European Rules

If customers don’t trust that sensitive information will be safeguarded, they’ll stop engaging, hurting not only individual brands but the data-driven community. Massive data security breaches made headlines in 2017. That makes data security a top concern to retain customers and prevent risk in 2018, per Benton. Meanwhile, American marketers who seek to tap European markets need to get ready for the enactment of the European Union’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), taking effect May of 2018. The regulations will set a new baseline for consumer privacy rights and focus on ensuring that proper consents are obtained for a range of data sets and that other privacy rights are observed, such as the “right to be forgotten.”

For more on 2018 data trends, read the Forbes article.

Year-end Fundraising Needs Multi-Channel, Multi-Touch Effort

Even though AccuList USA’s nonprofit clients are deep into year-end donation drives, it’s worth checking off fundraising benchmarks to give those final tweaks and finishes before New Year’s. MobileCause, a fundraising software and strategy firm, has developed a handy infographic based on marketing research and insights gleaned from its webinar attendees.

Multi-channel Campaigns Maximize Giving

A key takeaway is that branded, multi-channel campaigns raise both more immediate dollars and have more long-term value, with 61% of donors more likely to give again. The infographic cites Japs-Olson Company data to prove the point: Response rates are 6% for direct mail only, 27% for direct mail and web, 27% for direct mail and e-mail, and 37% for the combination of direct mail, web and e-mail. While direct mail remains the centerpiece of donation drives, with 71% to 81% of donations from mail, greater success requires combining and coordinating channels.

Multiple Appeals Drive Donor Action

It is also essential to make multiple appeals across channels, since research shows that it takes a minimum of three exposures to a message to generate a decision. MobileCause suggests the following tactics for maximum impact: a warm-up letter, an appeal letter, a follow-up letter, and e-mails every two weeks, all supported by website home page articles, customized donation form and personal communication (such as phone calls). Don’t neglect to craft social media ads, too. Plus, plan to use video to drive engagement and response across channels–on social pages, e-mail, and website (Augmented Reality can even add video to paper mail, too). You’ll be in sync with MobileCause attendees: 61% plan to add video to campaigns, 23% plan a custom donation page, and 21% plan an online landing page.

Timing and Planning Make the Difference

By December, fundraisers should be reaping the results of efforts that launched in October, when website, donation page and videos were readied and the first year-end appeal mailed. November should have leveraged Giving Tuesday and e-mail follow-ups. But now that we’re in December, there’s still time for the extra push. Consider a Dec. 26 year-end e-appeal and a Dec. 31 last chance e-appeal, for example.

Check out the year-end giving infographic from MobileCause for more data and tips.

Marketing With Online Video? If Not, You’re Behind the Curve

In supporting our digital marketing clients, AccuList USA has seen rapid growth in online video use, and a recent Forbes magazine article by John Hall, CEO of Influence & Co., cited video as one of six essential trends to include in 2018’s digital marketing budget. Why? Researchers forecast that by 2020 online video will account for 80% of all consumer internet traffic. Already over 500 million people are watching video on Facebook every day. If you want a crack at that audience, you’ll need to join the video world.

Low-Cost Video Ads Boost Engagement and Sales

Video ads are not just good at promoting brand awareness and engagement; they deliver sales. Video creation service Animoto’s most recent survey of 1,000 consumers and 500 marketers reinforces online video’s clout: 64% of consumers say they purchase after watching branded social videos. No wonder more businesses are jumping on the video ad bandwagon and investing in paid/sponsored video as well as paying to “socialize” or promote videos. Helping the video boom is the relatively low production cost; in fact, 92% of marketers told Animoto they make videos with assets they already have. Meanwhile, a nationwide pricing survey of videographers and photographers found that the average small business marketing video cost less than $1,000 in 2015 and a medium-sized product demo video was around $2,000.  Cost is not a barrier; coming up with engaging, targeted content is the challenge.

Marketers Focus on Multiple Platforms, Mobile Viewing

So what platform will best deliver the target audience? Animoto’s survey shows where consumers engage with branded videos daily: 49% on Facebook, 32% on YouTube, 24% on Instagram, 22% on Snapchat, and 22% on Twitter. Most brands hedge their bets by using multiple platforms, paying to capture eyes on YouTube and Facebook, for example. The more important goal, regardless of platform, is to optimize for mobile viewing since 84% of online video viewers watch on mobile devices–which is why 81% of marketers are optimizing their social videos for mobile viewership, per Animoto. Timing counts, too. Animoto’s survey found 33% of video consumers watch during the lunch hour, 43% during the afternoon, 56% during the evening, 38% before bed, and 16% in the middle of the night.

Square, Live and Soundless Creatives Gain Traction

Square video, as opposed to horizontal video, is growing in popularity, with 39% of surveyed marketers creating square and/or vertical videos now. Why? Square videos take up 78% more space in the Facebook News Feed, and get more engagement, than horizontal videos, according to Animoto. Live streaming video is also growing in popularity. According to IT/networking giant Cisco, live Internet video will account for 13% of  total online video traffic by 2020. But before you spend time and dollars crafting a great video sound track, note that video editing software firm Camtasia reports that 85% of Facebook videos are watched without sound.

For a summary of Animoto’s social video marketing findings, go to https://animoto.com/blog/business/state-of-social-video-marketing-infographic/

 

Making the Case for Direct Mail Power in Multi-channel Marketing

As our multi-channel marketing clients polish their 2018 marketing plans, it’s a good time to remind them of the continued value of direct mail in this digital era. A recent infographic from direct marketing agency US Presort puts together data from The Data & Marketing Association (DMA), Social Media Examiner, Epsilon, Experian and Marketing Sherpa to make the case for a direct mail commitment.

Why Connect Digital & Direct Mail?

The majority of marketers (71%) say they believe in an integrated multi-channel approach. After all, a smart multi-channel strategy can combine the pervasive impact of digital (96% of consumers say they were influenced online in making a purchase decision) with the effectiveness of direct mail (digital can’t beat mail’s 80% open rate or its consumer trust rating  of 76% compared with 61% for Google search, 43% for social and 39% for online ads). And marketers who combine direct mail and e-mail in a single integrated campaign report better results than when running standalone efforts, with overall response increasing by 35% or more. So why are so few marketers (just 29%) actually implementing those integrated multi-channel campaigns?

Addressing Direct Mail Myths

Lingering misconceptions may cause some marketers to hesitate over integrating direct mail with digital. As the infographic points out, direct mail has a high perceived cost. Yet while direct mail costs more to produce and distribute, its response rates are also much higher than other channels, so its ROI remains competitive. For example, per the DMA’s 2016 data, direct mail response rates averaged 5.3% for house lists and 2.9% for prospect lists, compared with online display ads at 0.9%, e-mail at 0.6% for house files and 0.3% for prospects, social media with 0.6%, and paid search at 0.5%. As a result, median ROI for direct mail, while behind e-mail, is on par with social media at 29% and 30%, respectively, and ahead of other digital channels such as mobile, search and online ads. Others assume difficulties in connecting and tracking combined paper and digital promotions. But technology and U.S. Postal Service discounts are making direct mail easier and cheaper to integrate with digital via mobile device-scanned coupon links, QR codes, PURLs (Personalized URLs), and landing pages. Plus, direct mail is now much easier to track in real time thanks to the U.S. Postal Service Intelligent Mail Barcode that lets marketers follow every single piece from the postal DSCF unit to the prospect’s door.

Making Direct Mail Part of a Multi-channel Solution

Successfully leveraging the power of direct mail in a multi-channel strategy requires a few key steps. As suggested in the infographic, include the USPS Intelligent Mail Barcode on all mail to track delivery and coordinate with other channels, and then gather measurable response from multiple channels via tactics such as reply cards, 800-number call tracking, as well as mobile-scanned QR codes and PURLs. Create campaign-specific landing pages and make sure they are mobile-friendly. Integrate e-mail and direct mail messaging and lists, and coordinate e-mail blasts with mail delivery; plus create Facebook ad campaigns to target the same audience as your direct mail lists (see our Digital2Direct programs). Finally, consider IP Direct Mail or Web Direct Mail to target the same mail audience on Google with coordinated ad banners.

To share the full infographic, go to https://www.uspresort.com/posts/direct-mail-how-to-succeed-in-digital-era

 

 

Use Key Direct Marketing KPIs to Gird 2018 Plans

The busy year-end holiday season, especially for fundraisers and retailers, should not distract direct marketers from the working on the analytics they need to finalize next year’s marketing plans and ROI. A recent post by the Digital Dog Direct agency helpfully offers a checklist of basic marketing Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

Spending and Lead Generation

Marketing ROI is about effective spending and requires tracking results by channel and campaign. KPIs use actual annual outlay for direct mail marketing (lists, print, lettershop, creative, postage), digital marketing (e-mail, SEO/SEM, landing pages, social media and creative), as well as spending on PR/events/brand/content marketing.  Marketers must keep a tally of the number of outbound leads attributed to direct mail or e-mail campaigns, as well as the inbound leads generated by efforts such as SEO, blog content or PR. Then a cost per lead acquired can be calculated by dividing annual expenditure by the number of leads generated. Since the ultimate goal is sales not merely leads, the percentage of leads that become paying customers and the dollar sales per lead are key measures.

Multi-channel Performance Rates

Beyond evaluating general performance, marketing planners should use measurement to fine-tune future marketing plans and budgets. This means identifying the response rates and conversion rates for each channel, for each direct mail and digital campaign, and for tests of creative, timing, frequency, lists and segments. Performance rates should be measured not only for campaigns to acquire new leads/customers but also targeting of existing customers and reactivation of dormant customers. Website traffic reports from Google Analytics can not only show online ad and SEM effectiveness but also track spikes around direct mail or e-mail promotions to give a fuller picture of response. A simple ratio of the annual return on marketing investment, or ROI by channel and campaign, can be calculated by adding up incremental sales from marketing and subtracting marketing amount spent, and then dividing the result by amount spent on marketing.

Long-term Growth of High-Value Customers

But remember that a focus on annual or campaign results can be myopic since these do not necessarily deliver long-term growth–for example if attrition is high so more customers are lost than added. Marketers need to look at customer and prospect databases to make sure they are growing year-over-year. Because acquiring a single sale per lead also is less profitable long-term than acquiring a repeat customer, measuring average customer lifetime value is a vital KPI and is calculated by multiplying average dollar sale per customer by the average number of purchases per year and the average retention time in years.

See the full article for the KPI checklist.

 

Optimize Timing of Year-End Fundraising E-mails

At the end of each year, many AccuList USA’s nonprofit clients send out their big fundraising e-mail campaigns, and each year questions of optimal timing are debated. Research results from Next After, a nonprofit consultancy and research lab, may offer helpful guidance.

December Offers Fundraising Opportunity

A big problem for year-end donor appeals is the fight for attention amid the seasonal commercial e-mail blitz that jams inboxes. So how can a donor appeal stand out? Timing is everything to avoid getting lost in the clutter. Many nonprofits focus on the Giving Tuesday opportunity, and 23% more e-mails are sent on Giving Tuesday than on Dec. 31, per Next After–yet 48.7% of nonprofit revenue comes in the last week of the year, Dec. 25-31. And 20% comes just on New Year’s Eve. In fact, 581% more average additional revenue is generated on Dec. 31 than on Giving Tuesday. No wonder Next After suggests focusing on that final December week. Another sign of a missed opportunity: Despite December’s donor haul, 22% of nonprofits studied send no e-mails in December, and most send about four e-mails. So experts advise dialing up the volume in the lucrative December time period!

Day-of-the-Week and Time-of-Day Matter

E-mailers who choose to send messages in the Tuesday through Friday period and blast between 7 a.m. and noon will wade through the heaviest e-mail volumes, per the research. So off-peak e-mail delivery–such as afternoon or evening–can help avoid the seasonal e-mail rush. And weekends clearly represent a neglected opportunity: Not only is overall e-mail volume lighter, but Next After notes a 50% higher gift amount on weekends.

For more data and examples of real-life, successful nonprofit creative tests, see the Next After slide deck.