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New Survey: Online Marketing Pumps Offline B2B Sales

AccuList’s many business-to-business marketers—including business/industrial supply catalogs, business periodicals, trade shows, and recognition/incentive products—should be investing in a 2019 omnichannel marketing plan to maximize the online impact on offline buying, at least according to the latest research from Boston Consulting Group and Google. An optimal, best-practices mix of digital engagement channels—such as search, display, video, social media, e-mail and websites—with traditional print catalogs/mail, sales calls and brick-and-mortar stores can increase the marketing contribution to sales by 3% to 8%, BCG has found.

Decision-Making Starts Online, Even for Offline Buys

On average, two-thirds of B2B buyers of industrial machinery, industrial supplies, and packing and shipping products and services indicated in a new BCG survey that their purchase decisions had been significantly influenced by digital, even though the majority of buying journeys end with an offline purchase. The survey revealed that some 58% of industrial-machinery purchases were significantly influenced by online activity, even though 100% of the purchases were made offline. For industrial supplies, 88% of buyers performed some form of online research prior to purchase, while 69% then purchased online and 31% purchased offline. Packing and shipping buyers were more evenly divided in online-offline buying preferences, with 54% digitally influenced, 42% purchasing online and 58% buying offline. But it is the differences underneath the online influence data that reveal the opportunities for boosting sales. For example, spending to boost online branding ads/engagement can pay off when 75% of online industrial machinery researchers said that they consider two or more brands at the start of their buying journeys, compared with 55% of those who engage in offline research only. At the same time, 58% of industrial-machinery buyers said that they begin their online search with a product, rather than a brand, in mind. For these researchers, the manufacturers’ websites become primary points of influence.

Nurtured Online Researchers Make More Follow-up Purchases

One of the more encouraging findings in the BCG study was that online business researchers make more follow-up purchases, especially if there is engagement post-sale. When manufacturers of industrial machinery engage their customers digitally after an initial sale, those customers are three times as likely to research supplementary products, twice as likely to purchase them, and three times as likely to repurchase the product. Buyers of industrial supplies engaged digitally post-sale are eight times as likely to purchase a supplementary product of the same brand and twice as likely to repurchase the same product. Effective after-sales digital marketing activities include promoting online account sign-ups, encouraging app downloads, maintaining regular contact through e-mail or “nurture” communications, and ensuring a positive overall customer experience with the product or service.

Measurement Is Key for an Optimal Online-Offline Mix

For the best marketing return on investment, B2B marketers need to measure impacts and influences across the entire buying journey to connect digital marketing expenditures and tactics to offline sales. BCG found that measurement innovators use a variety of techniques—such as customer research, marketing-mix modeling, multi-touch attribution modeling, matched-market testing, and direct match-back approaches. For example, multi-touch attribution (MTA) is a modeling approach that attributes sales to the marketing activities that contributed most directly to revenues, using predictive models and artificial intelligence to derive statistics-driven attribution weights.  Direct match-back uses unique identifiers to tie a sale directly to the marketing activities that generated it at the individual or transaction level. Unique identifiers include credit card information, mobile tracking, in-store beacons, cookies, e-mail addresses or phone numbers.

Read more of the BCG study for survey details and success examples. And ask the AccuList team how we can help via our range of digital marketing services and Digital2Direct program, which combines targeted direct mail with social media ads or e-mail.

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

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.

Survey: Mismatches in Event Marketing Channels, Attendee Interest

Where should trade show and conference marketers go fishing for potential audience? In a multi-channel world, it can be challenging to balance online, e-mail, print and social media for best results. Now a recent survey by XING Events, as reported by MarketingProfs, shows interesting gaps between where event marketers are casting their nets and where potential attendees pool to research events.

Event Attendees Are Drawn by Word-of-Mouth & E-mail

According the the XING Events study, which is based on a global survey of 2,621 event attendees and 1,630 event organizers, event attendees most often learn about work-related events through word-of-mouth mention by friends and acquaintances (66%) and via e-mail newsletters (59%). Fewer event attendees (20%) report being influenced by ads for print and online professional publishing. Online search has more impact when the audience is already aware of the event; for example, 49% say they use online search to find details about trade shows or conferences they already have heard about (via word-of-mouth, e-mail or print). Just 22% learn about an event by doing keyword searches. However, an even smaller portion (16%) of event attendees report that they use social media to research events.

Event Marketers Focus on Websites, E-mail & Social Media

Event marketers don’t exactly mirror attendees’ preferences. About 89% of surveyed event organizers say they market their events through their own websites, culling search traffic. Some 76% say they market through e-mail newsletters, which is in line with attendee activity. The surprise is that 73% of event pros say they promote via social media even though it is not where most of the audience is currently looking for event information.  And about 47% use traditional print channels.

Event Planners Foresee Social Media Expansion

Despite its current lower usage among event attendees, social media is the marketing channel that most event marketers plan to grow in future. Some 65% of organizers say they would like to use social media more frequently in the future. The next most popular target for expanded investment is their own websites (48%) and e-mail (41%). Although “influencer marketing” is a trendy topic, only 33% of event pros plan to increase influencer or multiplicator marketing to pump word-of-mouth.

For more study results, see https://www.marketingprofs.com/charts/2017/32765/how-events-are-marketed-to-and-found-by-attendees?adref=nlt091817

 

 

2017 Marketing Budgets Set to Shift More Dollars to Acquisition

Balancing marketing budget between acquisition and retention growth is a perennial conundrum. But if you take your cue from respondents to Target Marketing magazine’s annual “Media Usage Survey,” you’ll be more bullish on acquisition efforts this year. Half of the 725 respondents (42% B-to-B, 22% B-to-C and 36% claiming both business and consumer targets) said they would be boosting acquisition spending in 2017. That’s compared with only a third planning to add to retention dollars. Regardless of the choice of “finders vs. keepers,” optimism rules the year ahead; only 5% of respondents foresaw decreased acquisition or retention spending.

Direct Mail & E-mail Lead ROI Expectations

For the second year in a row, the survey found marketers giving direct mail and e-mail top marks for ROI in both acquisition and retention, which means more success stories from AccuList USA’s direct mail and e-mail list brokerage clients. In acquisition, 25% of marketers said e-mail is the method delivering best ROI and 15% cited direct mail, with third place going to search engine optimization. In retention, 46% gave e-mail top place for ROI and 14% chose direct mail, with 10% selecting social media engagement as best for retention ROI. Those 2017 percentage rankings by channel were pretty close to the 2016 survey results, but there were some shifts below the top ROI performers. For example, telemarketing was the top answer for more firms in 2017 than in 2016, especially as an acquisition vehicle (chosen by 8%), while webcasts and webinars, which were rated among the top five for acquisition and retention ROI in 2016, dropped below 5% this year.

More Channels in the Mix

If an expanded channel mix is part of your planning this year, join the crowd. Surveyed marketers embraced more channels for both acquisition and retention in 2017 than in 2016. Of note, some channels traditionally thought better suited to retention (such as e-mail and social media engagement) are now used by a majority of marketers to drive acquisition, with 87% planning to use e-mail and 69% opting for social media engagement. Although retention efforts can’t claim a marked channel preference, some channels are definitely more popular for acquisition than retention in 2017, notably online advertising, social media advertising and SEO, per the survey.

To see details of the survey, go to http://www.targetmarketingmag.com/article/finders-keepers-2017-acquisition-retention-trends/

Creating Powerful Synergy With Paid, Owned & Earned Media

When budgets are tight, it’s tempting to focus on earned and owned media over paid media promotion. But marketers need to know the growth penalty of that strategy. Brands that use paid media typically grow three times faster than those that rely on owned and earned media alone, according to recent international research from the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA), as reported by The Drum.

Synergy From Paid, Owned & Earned Media

At the same time, paid media is more effective when coupled with earned and owned media. IPA research shows that owned media, which includes brand websites, blogs and social media sites, typically increases the effectiveness of a paid ad campaign by 13%. Meanwhile,  earned media, which includes online mentions, shares, re-posts and reviews, increases the effectiveness of a paid campaign by a larger 26%.

The Emotional Power of Video

The IPA examination of media marketing further finds that emotion is a vital ingredient to success, and that television advertising continues to be the most powerful in delivering emotional engagement. Researchers report that adding television advertising increases a promotional campaign’s effectiveness by 40% and is also the best for generating  the top-line growth that drives profit, with a 2.6% average market share point gained per year when using television advertising. The growing use of video-on-demand and online video has turbocharged video impact: IPA’s research shows a 54% increase in the average number of “very large” business effects from adding television and online video together, versus 32% for television only and 25% for online video only.

Finding the Golden 60:40 Balance

When it comes to the optimal combination of paid, earned and owned media, and the best balance of brand-building vs. targeted sales ads, IPA results show that the most profitable campaigns have a 60:40 ratio of long-term brand-building (broad reach, highly emotive) to short-term sales activation (tightly targeted and information rich). For help with media strategy tailored to your budget and market, don’t hesitate to call on AccuList USA’s multi-channel marketing expertise, from social engagement and online ads to e-mail and pay-for-performance TV. And for more on IPA research, see http://www.thedrum.com/news/2016/10/31/brands-use-paid-media-grow-three-times-faster-those-just-rely-earned-and-owned-finds