Today’s Zoo Marketing Embraces Conservation, Digital

AccuList USA helps a number of museums and zoos with marketing to members, donors and visitors. A 2017 report on the U.S. market for museums, historical sites, zoos and parks, worth $14.5 billion annually, noted that some of the most significant changes are occurring in the zoo market. Consumers’ rising concerns about conservation and ethical treatment of animals have been a driving force. As the public loses its appetite for viewing animals in cages, zoos are initiating a new stress on realistic exhibits and conservation–and their marketing is reflecting that shift.

Zoo Marketing Wins by Stressing Conservation and Natural Habitats

A recent Platform Magazine article on the new wave in zoo marketing, noted to its PR-pro readers that the winning zoo marketing strategy seems to lie in finding the middle ground between promoting conservation and creating entertainment. Many zoos do this by creating exhibits that mimic animals’ natural habitats. For example, the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Washington, promotes exhibits for jaguars, penguins and grizzly bears, which have won exhibit design awards. Meanwhile, the Houston Zoo not only advertises the fact that it shares part of the money from each ticket with conservation programs but plans to build a new exhibit to showcase the Texas Wetlands, which have a large variety of animal and plant life.  The Platform article also cites Zoo Atlanta’s strategy for merging consumer experiences and conservation by promoting its contributions to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan (SSP) with new animals’ births that help “maintain healthy, genetically diverse and self-sustaining animal populations within North American zoos.”

Zoos Use Digital Marketing to Stretch Budgets

However, one marketing challenge for nonprofit zoos like Zoo Atlanta is stretching “our limited advertising budget,” Vice President of Marketing and Membership Tracy Lott acknowledges. And digital media investments are one way her zoo stretches those marketing resources. For zoos following Zoo Atlanta’s lead by starting or expanding a digital marketing strategy, Search Influence, a digital marketing agency, suggests five key steps to success.  Efforts need to begin with planning, with an emphasis on defining member/donor/visitor profiles for targeting. Then local prospects, loyal members and tourists can be sent the different messaging that will resonate and drive response. Next comes a polished website to showcase attention-getting content and provide a platform for sales and donations, supported by a traffic-building investment in search optimization and paid search. Third, zoos need a curated content-marketing strategy for website, social media and paid digital advertising to promote unique draws, from exhibits and events to conservation and education. Leveraging that great content then requires a targeted digital advertising strategy. Since 90% of time online is spent outside of search, mainly on Facebook, Instagram and other social platforms, one focus should be social media ads with enticing video, graphics and messaging. These ads can be targeted by interests, location, family status, buying behavior and more to boost response. These also can be tied into a multi-channel strategy that includes direct mail; for example, our Digital2Direct program serves Facebook ads to selected “matched” postal records.  Finally, to maximize ROI, marketers need analytics with defined KPIs per platform, including use of Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager to track multiple e-commerce platforms and websites.

 

 

New Marketing Trends Bolster Food Gifting Growth

One of AccuList USA’s areas of specialization is providing mailing lists, data services and marketing support for the food and wine gift market, and so we keep an eye on emerging trends in this growth industry. In fact, food gift sales will approach $20 billion in 2018, up 4% over last year, per the “Food Gifting in the U.S.: Consumer and Corporate” report for 2018-2020 by research firm Packaged Facts.

Holiday Sales Dominate, But New Trends Push Overall Growth

Marketing dollars will naturally focus on year-end sales, since, while consumers and businesses are giving food baskets across a wider variety of occasions today, ranging from anniversaries to graduations to birthdays, Christmas is still the food and wine gifting mainstay. More than half of the 130 million consumer food gifters purchasing in the last 12 months bought during the winter holiday season. But how can food gift marketers push sales growth year-round? One key factor will be continued innovation that creates exclusivity and artisanship, avoiding the commoditization that drains profit with discounting, notes the report. To support that kind of brand power, marketing efforts will need to embrace the kind of story telling that creates a sense of authenticity and uniqueness and builds a gourmet brand image. Capturing the high-end boutique buyer can require a softer sales approach that aims at building knowledge and trust, say via featured recipes as an example. Food gift marketers also need to continue expanding gifting occasions beyond holidays, not only for consumers but also for the lucrative corporate market, by pushing work anniversary and thank-you gestures for example. Finally, while the food gifting market is heavily dependent on older, high-income consumers, tapping into millennials will require a more omnichannel approach that takes into account millennial ordering preferences, stresses the Packaged Facts report.

Embracing Omnichannel Marketing Options

An omnichannel wooing of millennials will combine direct mail/catalogs with e-mail, social media and e-commerce strategies. While traditional direct mail continues as a food gifting workhorse, a strong online presence and SEO strategy is especially essential. Luxury biscuit gift company Biscuiteers provides an example of how it matters: The company increased their website traffic from new customers by 90% and SEO revenue by 77% in 6 months by optimizing category landing pages for different types of food gift buyer and season. E-commerce goes hand-in-hand with a good e-mail strategy. For example, the venerable Hickory Farms brand decided to improve the quality of its customer data and create a more agile e-mail campaign process by integrating its marketing and commerce tech to trigger consumer journeys and automated e-mail sends. E-mail inbox placement this year rose to 94%, almost 10% above industry standard, plus e-mail list growth improved. Hickory Farms CMO Judy Ransford explained to CMO magazine that the smarter list management “helps us deliver e-mails at the frequency customers want, and to make sure the content quality is better. This year we’ve seen a huge improvement and not such high attrition rates as a result.” Social media also has become a must-have for food gifting via leading platforms like Facebook and Instagram for consumers and LinkedIn for corporate prospecting. That should increase gift-basket marketer interest in AccuList USA’s Digital2Direct program, which is designed to link targeted direct mail with Facebook ads or e-mails to the same recipients.

Who’s Winning in 2018 Gift Basket Ratings?

By the way, marketers looking for successful food gifting models should check out Top Ten Reviews’ 2018 ratings. We’re happy to note that our client Wine Country Gift Baskets’ Gourmet Choice Gift Basket was awarded best overall value for 2018 in a test of 11 gift baskets from the leading gift basket companies. Top-rated winners delivered on value for the price in terms of food and wine taste; presentation; ease of payment; delivery speed, options and geographic coverage; range of baskets; special options such as kosher, vegan and organic; offers of extras such as add-on wine, tea, books, puzzles, etc; and, of course, quality customer support. To read more, see the review of best gift baskets of 2018.

 

Shoppers Demand Seamless Omnichannel Retail Strategies

Omnichannel marketing is the rule for today’s retailing. While print catalogs continue as a vital merchant tool, with 42% of households reading catalogs per the U.S. Postal Service, integration of multiple channels–including online, mobile and social with direct mail–is now essential to our catalog and e-commerce clients’ success. Unfortunately, while the majority of consumers expect to shop seamlessly across all those channels, only 7% of retailers provide the unified “start the sale anywhere, finish the sale anywhere” experience that customers want, per the recent “2018 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Survey” by BRP Consulting, a retail management consulting firm.

Omnichannel, Cross-Device Shopping Is Now the Norm

Marketers just can’t afford to ignore that the majority of shoppers now interact with promotions, educational content and purchase services via multiple channels and devices. According to the same BRP study, three in five (62%) consumers surveyed said they check online reviews/ratings before visiting a store, yet just 61% of retailers offer consumer product reviews for research! Shoppers now rely on mobile to continue the digitally supported buying process in-store, with nearly 60% of shoppers looking up product information and prices while using their mobile phones in stores, per Retail Dive’s 2017 Consumer Survey. Also per BRP, nearly three out of four (73%) of consumers want the ability to track orders across all points of interaction, going beyond an estimated delivery date to include when the order is being prepared, date shipped from the warehouse, etc. Plus customers expect an automated return process, with 68% of consumers surveyed telling BRP they are more likely to choose a retailer offering an automated returns process.

Analytics Need Complex Channel/Device Attribution

Merchants can leverage customers’ cross-device penchant to optimize acquisition and conversion, argues a Direct Marketing News article by Pierre DeBois. But they must keep in mind that, while the opportunity to boost ad frequency and content persuasion across channels is huge, smart management is required to avoid turning targeted promotion into a bludgeon. As Bill Kee, Google’s group product manager for attribution, highlighted at the 2017 Google Marketing Next conference, “If I am on three devices, and if I see your ad five times, it means you’ve reached me 15 times…believe me I get it.” The first place to start is good omnichannel analytics to understand the contribution of each channel to ROI and its place in the customer journey. Only then can merchants cost-effectively tailor targeting and investment to maximize sales. One useful analytics tool is Google’s Unique Reach report, which displays digital ad frequency metrics across devices, campaigns, and formats to measure how many times a person views a given ad, and combines attribution influences from AdWords, DoubleClick, and Google Analytics, suggests DeBois.

Using Images and Chat to Direct the Customer Journey

Good omnichannel analytics also can improve use of image and video content to maximize the proven effectiveness of image/video in digital engagement, to answer the customer demand for education, and to direct prospects through the sales funnel. However, quantities of images bombarding customers across multiple channels can overwhelm and confuse, so both media curation and a content mapping strategy aligned to the customer journey are needed. One example of a targeted image strategy is use of an “image story” feature on a social media platform to orchestrate images and/or a short video, notes DeBois. Pinterest Lens, Instagram Stories, and Twitter Moments are all image story features. Because the majority of consumers research products and services online now, marketers also can gain an edge over competitors by offering customer-facing elements such as chatbots. In contrast to apps, which may be used only for a few discrete tasks and then ignored, a chatbot’s programmable assistance can provide both engagement and continuing response performance improvement.

For more, see the Direct Marketing News article.

These Digital Tactics Can Power Insurance Marketing Lead Gen

Sometimes insurance marketers, used to face-to-face sales and targeted direct mail, struggle to adapt to the highly competitive and noisy digital marketplace for lead generation. Some helpful tips from the Blue Corona web marketing agency should be of interest to AccuList USA’s insurance marketing clients looking to improve their digital lead results.

Fast, Mobile-Friendly Pages Capture More Leads

The natural place to start is the insurance marketer’s website, where the majority of potential policyholders will first interact with the marketing message. Basically, the website must grab attention almost immediately. If consumers don’t connect with what they see within 10 seconds of landing on a web page, they’ll move on, per studies. That means up-front contact information, compelling call-to-action, plugins that localize content, etc. But it also means speedy page loading. Studies show that a website needs to load in under 3 seconds (in fact, 47% of people expect a web page to load in two seconds or less, points out Blue Corona). And that speed needs to happen on a mobile device. Over half of all digital searches for insurance information occur from mobile devices; more specifically, 58.6% of average monthly auto insurance searches and 55.4% of life insurance searches are via mobile, reports Blue Corona. If digital pages and ads aren’t mobile-optimized, they aren’t going to optimize leads.

Invest in SEO, Pay-per-Click Ads to Drive Traffic

How do you get prospects to those fast-loading, compelling, mobile-friendly pages? Search engine optimization is a basic requirement today for driving traffic. Out of the over 200 ranking factors, Blue Corona lists a few top tactics for getting to that coveted first page of a Google search: optimized title tags and meta descriptions on pages; site security (https vs http); mobile-friendly pages; schema markup; quality content; fast page downloading; social media signals; quality backlinks; and optimized images. But all searches are not created equal. Marketers want high-converting leads not shoppers. So Blue Corona suggests buying pay-per-click ads targeting search phrases that indicate high-commercial intent, such as “buy auto insurance” rather than “do I need auto insurance?” The ad content can then target a top consumer trigger. In most cases, that means competitive rates; for example, 70% of consumers say they look for the best deal when renewing an auto policy.

Engage via Blogging, Focused Content

A blog is another way to not only build traffic but also establish authority on insurance topics, build trust and go from policy hawker to insurance resource in the eyes of potential policyholders. If the average person consumes 11.4 pieces of content before making a purchasing decision, per Forrester, then insurance marketing wants to be at the top of that content list in terms of impact and quality. Blue Corona suggests blog topics such as “Factors You Didn’t Know Affect Your [Life/Auto/Liability/Etc.] Insurance Coverage,”  “How Much [Health/Auto/Liability/Etc.] Insurance Do You Need?” and “10 Tips for Keeping Insurance Rates Low.” Whether a blog post or a website page, the goal is to help insurance shoppers deal with an often confusing topic. TransUnion’s 2017 Healthcare Millennial Report found that 57% of millennial consumers identified as having “no understanding” or a “limited understanding” of their insurance benefits, while 50% of Generation X and 42% of Baby Boomers said the same. So don’t give prospects too many choices on website main pages, which can overwhelm and drive them away, and focus instead on the key solutions people need from insurance, advises Blue Corona.

For even more digital marketing suggestions to help retain policyholders and hone competitive edge, see https://www.bluecorona.com/blog/insurance-marketing-ideas-strategies

Publisher Mistakes Undermine Online Subscription Efforts

Subscription marketing is a goal for most of our B2B and B2C publishing clients, so we wanted to pass along a recent Publishing Executive (PE) magazine article warning of some common online errors by publishers that are undermining circulation marketing investments.

Use Premium Content to Lure Subscribers

Access to premium content should be online but limited to subscribers, urges PE author Eric Shanfelt, founding partner of eMedia Strategist. After all, why subscribe if you can go to the website and see all content for free? Unfortunately, some publishers are so baffled by the technology of locking down content as subscriber-only that they don’t even put their premium content online–losing a big selling point with digital traffic. Others are worried about reducing Google search traffic or ad impression dollars by limiting content access, but they are not factoring in the cost of lost subscribers, argues Shanfelt. Of course, for success with subscriber-only premium content, the website must then prominently promote that premium content and its subscriber-only status via clear incentives and calls-to-action, he adds.

Quick, Easy Subscription Pages Need to SELL

A website or mobile subscription page should not be just an order form, Shanfelt advises. Remember that most people who visit a subscription page are just considering subscribing. They need to be sold. Visitors should clearly see the benefits of subscribing and what they get (deliverables). Plus the page should generate a sense of urgency to sign up and use FOMO (fear of missing out) to push orders. Equally important, the subscription process should be quick and easy.  Make the subscription link easy to see and navigation simple by putting an obvious menu item and widget on every website page, with a link directly to a single-page subscription form, not a multi-step process. And finally, make sure the subscription page is not only secure but loads quickly on desktop or mobile. If it doesn’t load in 2-3 seconds, up to 50% of potential subscribers could be lost, warns Shanfelt.

Invest in Data Tracking and Integration

In order to test and adjust marketing tactics, online subscription and confirmation pages should use Google Analytics for e-commerce conversion tracking and cross-domain tracking to see how people get to subscription pages and how well they convert from different sources. Subscription/confirmation pages should also use tracking pixels from Facebook, Google, Bing and other digital sources, as well as from customer data platforms and e-mail systems.  More important, circulation data needs to be integrated with the website subscription pages and any e-mail or marketing automation systems. For effectiveness, that circulation data should be updated automatically in real-time or, at a minimum, manually once a month. If the website is synchronized with the circulation system, people can log into the site by authenticating against subscriber data to get access to premium content, for example. Integration also allows for conditional content blocks in follow-up e-mails to upsell non-subscriber leads, for sending of automatic renewal reminders, and even for a sync of subscriber lists with programmatic ad networks.

For more tips, see the full article.

B2B Sales Trends Boost Mobile-Friendly Online Acquisition

With Forrester Research forecasting steady growth in B2B e-commerce, reaching $1.2 trillion in sales, or 13.1% of all B2B sales, by 2021, smart e-commerce marketing is more essential than ever for AccuList USA’s B2B catalog and e-commerce clients. A recent bigcommerce.com blog post highlighted many important trends for B2B e-commerce, but we’ll focus on three marketing-related takeaways.

Acquisition Is the New Online Focus

The days are gone when B2B online strategy could succeed by putting up a website as a customer service portal, a place for existing account re-orders or a passive catalog display. Online selling is becoming a core part of B2B business and sales strategy, argues bigcommerce.com post author Jillian Hufford, marketing analyst at nChannel, a multi-channel integration provider. B2B marketers should start by profiling customers to better target online and offline promotions to find high-ROI traffic. Note that a robust SEO/SEM strategy, coupled with website search tools, is essential given that 74% of B2B buyers report researching at least part of their work purchases online. Easy, seamless cross-channel ordering is another basic of online customer acquisition now. Plus, an investment in online content marketing, coupled with SEO strategy, can leverage educational and expert content on the website to attract searchers and win Google rank.

Online and Print Catalogs Work in Tandem

Five years ago, more than two-thirds of B2B sellers thought they would stop mailing paper catalogs. That hasn’t happened, but many B2B merchants are using an integrated multi-channel effort to balance smaller or less frequent print catalogs with more interactive online catalogs. For success with print-plus-online, the online catalog cannot merely mimic the print version. E-commerce means investing in interactive online tools that allow customizing, sharing, distributing, ordering and tracking, all supported by integrated back-end technology.

Mobile-Friendly Means Revenue-Friendly

Ever-expanding B2B mobile use is driving big marketing changes. Google and BCG research data from 2017 shows why: 80% of B2B buyers are using mobile at work; 60% of B2B buyers report that mobile played a significant role in a recent purchase; and 60% of B2B buyers expect to continue to increase their mobile usage. B2B retailers who are dragging their feet on mobile-friendly adaptation risk dragging down their own revenues; BCG research found that brands that are “mobile leaders” earn more traffic, more leads and more revenue than “mobile laggards.”

For more B2B e-commerce trends, and examples of real-life company online successes, see Hufford’s attached blog post.

Focus on E-mail Data for 2018 Insurance Marketing Success

Success with e-mail in 2018 insurance marketing boils down to using quality, targeted data–something that AccuList USA is committed to delivering. Data provider V12Data summed it up well in a recent post offering basic insurance e-mail data tips.

Start With Clean, Up-to-Date Data

With an estimated 30% of e-mail subscribers changing their addresses each year, make sure all e-mail lists are up-to-date, with addresses validated and verified, including any e-mail addresses that have been matched and appended to a postal list. Good list hygiene should include removing duplicates; correcting formatting errors; identifying addresses known to be associated with spam traps; and eliminating hard bounces, invalid e-mails/domains, and e-mails associated with complaints.

Profile, Segment and Personalize

There’s no point to all that quality e-mail data if it’s not used to understand and target your audience. That means looking at both actionable internal data, such as customer service records, transactions, credit card purchases or e-mail responses as well as relevant demographic data, either from first-party collection or appended via third-party data aggregators. Consumer demographics could include date of birth, home ownership, occupation, gender, estimated income, age, presence of children, investments and more. Then segment your lists in order to offer the right product to the right audience segment. Plus use data to personalize offers and creative, and that means going beyond a Dear FirstName. Today’s e-mail audience expects and demands personalized offers.

Pay Attention to Buying Cycle and Life Cycle

Smart e-mail campaigns nurture customers and prospects through the buying cycle. Because those who request general information and those who fill out a request for quote form may be at different stages of the buying cycle, they need different messaging. Website signups can be sent a personalized welcome message, while subscribers who have not taken further action can get a follow-up nurturing message about products and services, with a call-to-action promoting a free quote or agent call. When a prospect makes a quote request, e-mail messaging can focus on getting to a policy sale, with more policy information and a specific offer or promotion. Note that life cycle counts as much as buying cycle. Consumers are more likely to buy insurance during major life-event changes, such as marriage, divorce, moving, home purchase, a new baby, retirement, etc.  Leveraging that data in targeting sends the right offer at the right time for maximum response.

Check out AccuList USA’s insurance marketing data expertise and clients on our website.

 

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.

Nonprofits’ Crucial Year-End Fundraising Drives Have Begun

AccuList USA works with big and small nonprofits on their key year-end fundraising campaigns. With a third of annual giving occurring in December, over half of nonprofits starting year-end plans in October, and direct mail the leading fundraising channel, October often sees final tweaks to direct marketing plans (and mailing lists).

Planning for Year-End Fundraising Success

For example, nonprofit marketers may want to check their current plans against the four-step master plan recently offered by fundraising consultant Gail Perry on her blog. Step 1: Set goals for each donor segment, and don’t forget lucrative leading-donor annual gifts, lapsed donors and board members. Step 2: Select channels for a multi-pronged appeal, integrating direct mail, e-mail, telemarketing, social media, website, and video creative–and design a consistent message for all. Step 3: Gather resources and set a budget. Step 4: Set a timeline and calendar. Read the complete article by Perry for details and tips.

How Small Nonprofits Can Punch Above Their Weight

Of course, smaller fundraisers often bemoan budget limitations at this point. A guest post by Damian O’Broin for the Institute of Fundraising offers a bracing response. Greatness is not a function of size, it’s a function of attitude, he argues, citing donor surveys. The things that matter most to donors don’t depend on big budgets and lots of staff but on good, donor-centric fundraising practices: thanking promptly and properly; showing progress and impact; getting to know supporters and responding to their needs; empowering supporters; and asking consistently. “Because what we found from these surveys is that the best way to improve donor commitment is with great donor service. Responding to e-mails. Dealing effectively with queries when your donors call you. Thanking donors promptly–and just as importantly–making donors feel thanked,” he says. Even modest direct marketing campaigns, assuming they are well targeted, can use these practices to boost response.