Saturday, August 21, 2010

Doctor Referrals Sell

Few marketing efforts are as effective as having professionals recommend your brand to their patients.  A Medical Economics study reported that 88% of the time, consumers purchase the OTC brand recommended to them by their doctor or nurse.  Pretty convincing numbers.  So how do you get a healthcare professional to recommend your brand to their patients?  We have found that a marketer can build programs to get those important doctor recommendations. 

We have documented results from custom sampling programs developed for OTC products in the healthcare, oral care and personal care segments.  Each yielded a significant increase in brand recommendations.  One such example was for an oral care product where a targeted sampling program produced a 252% lift in incidence of recommendations!  Another health product program achieved a 75% increase in recommendation levels.  For both of these programs, the lift was measured by an independent third-party research company using pre and post studies.                

Here are a few sample tactics that proved effective:

  • To build and/or reinforce brand awareness, be sure to include sales literature to the medical professional as part of your sample kit which highlights the key patient benefits of your product.
  • Consider including a coupon or rebate on individual patient samples to encourage trial and repeat usage.
  • Have an easy way for your target professionals to request additional samples if they like them.  Having them enroll, or register, for more samples allows you to grow a proprietary database.   
  • Why not ask some additional qualifying questions when they enroll?    Using this information, you can then vary sampling and communication efforts to match key behavioral patterns. 

Coordinating a targeted professional sampling program with your overall marketing plan can be a strategically powerful and cost-effective tool to positively influence brand recommendations. 

Digg It!   DZone It!   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Reddit   NewsVine   Furl   BlinkList   Facebook   
Friday, May 28, 2010

Capturing Qualified Clicks with Paid Search

Last week’s post discussed the importance of keywords and their effect on the visibility of your website in search results. This week we want to focus on paid search advertisements in particular, and ways to improve clicks and conversions. Paid search advertisements are those that appear along the top and on the right side on the search engine results page (SERP). Online ads allow you to reach prospects at the exact moment when they are searching for your type of service or product. When you create an ad using a product like Google AdWords, you control how much you spend for each click, and you only pay when someone clicks on your ad. This is sometimes referred to as pay-per- click. The elements that make up an ad are the headline, descriptive text, the display URL, and the destination URL.  

When using paid search advertisements, there are several elements that you need to include in the ad to be more effective. First and foremost, you want to make sure that the keyword that you are paying for is actually in the advertisement itself. The keyword should usually be in the headline of the ad and in the description. The ad needs to be compelling enough so that prospects will click on it, and also descriptive enough so that you are not getting unqualified leads on your site. Unwanted traffic on your site will not lead to conversion and you will have to pay every time they click on your ad. The advertisement should also include a call to action with some type of incentive to motivate prospects to click. To many marketers, this may seem like a no brainer. However in a recent study conducted, out of the advertisements that were examined, 66% did not provide a call to action that conveys urgency and a reason to click the given link. [1] An example of an effective advertisement would be as follows: 

If a consumer is looking to purchase a Phillies jersey, your ad should read something like, “Phillies Jerseys for Men, Women and Kids. Save 15% off your Jersey Now”.  This has a clear incentive in the call to action, and it also specifies the product that the website will sell by including the keywords in the ad copy.  

Are you using online ads as part of your marketing strategy?


[1] Internet & Marketing Report. “A 5-pt. test that will improve conversions and clicks”. April 23, 2010

Digg It!   DZone It!   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Reddit   NewsVine   Furl   BlinkList   Facebook   
Saturday, April 24, 2010

Personalize to see an Increased Response

In my last post, I discussed the basics of mobile marketing and the benefits it offers businesses. There’s no doubt mobile marketing is on the rise, but it is most effective when used as part of a multi-channel campaign. Based on results from research conducted by InfoTrends, more than 60% of marketing professionals have responded that they have experienced increased customer response rates, acquisition, retention and satisfaction by using multi-channel marketing. Another easy way to help integrate channels such as print and web, is by using personalized URLs (PURLs).

What is a PURL?

PURLs are web addresses that are customized with a prospects name such as These can be included in the call to action on a direct mail piece or they can be sent in an email. The goal is to motivate either the existing customer or the prospect to visit the PURL. Once the user types or pastes the PURL into their browser, they are directed to a customized landing page. The landing page usually contains the users name on it and should also include targeted information specifically pertaining to their lifestyle, demographics, purchase behavior, etc. This is where the marketer can add value by using their database to really create a relevant message and connect to the customer or prospect. Any information that a marketer has in their database can be used to increase the relevance of their communication resulting in higher response rates and higher conversions.

PURLs increase relevance, raising response rates

The use of PURLs can benefit both the marketer and the customer. For prospects and existing customers, PURLs can help to increase brand loyalty by creating a unique user experience. Landing pages can be specifically tailored and customized, making the consumer feel like this offer is exclusively for them. This helps to strengthen existing relationships with customers as well as form new ones with prospects. For the marketer, PURLs can help to grow and maintain customer databases. If a business wanted to update existing information about their customers, the landing page can include a form for the user to make revisions to their own information and answer additional questions that the business might want to know. If the recipient of the PURL is not an existing customer, the landing page can serve as a way to obtain their information. This can be done by offering an incentive for filling out the appropriate sections or by asking for it in return for more information, to set up an appointment, etc. This automated data capture process can also greatly improve the quality of leads.

Another benefit to marketers is the high response rate PURLs generate. From the study previously mentioned, it was reported that compared to print only, a multi-media marketing campaign using print, email and PURLs was 35% more effective in generating responses.

Ways PURLs can work for you

An example of an effective multi-channel campaign might look something like this. A postcard is sent out to a prospect list inviting them to attend a seminar. Included on every postcard is a PURL with that prospect’s name asking them to visit that website to obtain more information and to register for the event. Once on the page, the user can confirm their attendance, update their contact info and can choose to opt-in to be reminded via text message 24 to 48 hours before the seminar.

PURLs can be used across all industries. In the automotive industry, you could send a personalized postcard with a PURL to customers whose lease us about to expire. Or send an email notification using PURLs to allow customers to schedule service appointments at regular intervals.

Colleges and Universities can boost enrollment by sending personalized communications with a PURL offering information tailored to the prospects known academic interests, gender, geography, extra-curricular activist, etc.

What information exists in your database that you could use to help make a more relevant communication?

Can you use that information to incorporate PURLs into your multi-media campaign?

If that data doesn’t exist, what information would you most like to gather?

Digg It!   DZone It!   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Reddit   NewsVine   Furl   BlinkList   Facebook   
Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Moving Ahead with Mobile Marketing

More and more companies today are using messages sent to consumer cell phones as a marketing tool.  This is known as Mobile Marketing.  The two most common methods are:

  • Sending a promotional text message to the consumer where the phone number is known and
  • Asking the consumer (whose number is unknown) to send a text message to the marketer by entering a specified keyword to the provided short code.

For example, text ‘Perks” to Dunkin (386546) to receive a coupon or text ‘Phillies’ to Google (466453) to receive the most recent score or next scheduled game. The possibilities are endless.

In the U.S. alone, more than 270 million people own cell phones, representing 87% of the population. With the growing popularity of smartphones such as the iPhone and BlackBerry, marketers have increasing opportunities to reach their target audiences. Given the growth and usage of cell phones globally, it is not surprising that marketers are shifting resources to advertise using mobile channels. From the Direct Marketing Association’s 2009 Response Rate Report, respondents indicated that from 2008 to 2009, they increased their budget for mobile marketing by 38.8%. Marketers are obviously constructing mobile marketing campaigns but what situations do they work best in?

For existing customers, mobile marketing campaigns can be used as an additional point of contact, helping to reinforce CRM.  It can add value by making the process of communicating more immediate and easier (i.e. texting a payment reminder, inviting customers to special events, sending coupons, etc.). Cell phone users literally will have access to information at the touch of a button wherever they are. But for prospects to initiate the communication, incentives such as coupons, sweepstakes, and contests can be offered. These offers can increase brand and product awareness as well as encourage trial usage and ultimately, repeat sales.If you are a retailer, could you send text messages to your customer list inviting them to an exclusive sales event at their nearest location?

Unlike other forms of direct marketing, lists cannot be purchased for mobile marketing. Because of this limitation, businesses have to either rely on their house lists or have to integrate the text-in call to action to obtain the necessary opt-in. Once a user has opted-in, their phone number can be stored in the database for future marketing opportunities. The call to action can be incorporated into television and print advertisements as well as point-of-sale and end-cap displays. For customers, it can be through an existing email database or it can be displayed on the company’s website. Many major companies have already successfully implemented mobile marketing into their marketing strategies. The following is an example of such a company.

After recently launching a new line of instant coffee, Kraft Foods wanted to create awareness of their new product by having customers sample it. They also wanted to develop a customer database. In order to reduce waste and minimize costs, Kraft decided to have customers request samples via text message. The short code and an explanation of the sample was included on Kraft’s print and televisions advertisements and customers were invited to text in to receive samples. A request form was sent back to their cell phones along with an option to opt-in to future messages. At the end of the campaign, 500,000 people sent requests for samples and more than 80,000 users opted in to receive future messages.

How else can this form of marketing be successful? What types of businesses could most benefit from this interactive communication?

If you are launching a new product, would you consider a mobile marketing campaign to offer samples, coupons, a video demonstration, etc?

Do you offer educational workshops or financial seminars that require reservations? Could this be used to make the process easier? Can you see how this application could benefit a company like yours?

The next blog post will discuss the use of PURLs (Personalized URLs) and their integration in a multi-channel marketing mix.

Digg It!   DZone It!   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Reddit   NewsVine   Furl   BlinkList   Facebook   
Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Keys to Measuring the Success of Advertising with Social Media

Social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace are no longer channels of communication restricted to teenagers and college students. Facebook alone had over 300 million users in September 2009. Those users combined spent eight billion minutes per day updating statuses, gathering information, and accessing the many other services Facebook offers. The reality is that millions of people worldwide, of all age groups, are logging onto these sites daily to communicate with friends, families, co-workers, and now businesses. Major companies such as Dell, Microsoft, and Starbucks have already launched successful marketing campaigns via social websites. But the major dilemmas facing many other major businesses are how do you effectively use social networks for your marketing campaigns, and how do you measure your campaign’s success?

Like any aspect of marketing, if you want to be successful, you need to plan. Before launching a social media campaign, the company has to decide its main objectives and goals, keeping in mind that they should be realistic and measurable. Whether it is to increase traffic to the company’s main website or to increase purchase intent, the company needs to decide what exactly it is they are looking to achieve by using social networks.

Which networking sites will be used?  What roles will they play in the campaign?  Who are you targeting?  These are just some of the questions that need to be answered in this planning process.

Once you have clearly defined the goals of your campaign, you need to monitor the social networks that you will be using. Social media monitoring is “the process of listening and engaging with customers and prospects who are talking about a company’s brand or product within social media circles” (MarketingProfs). This is beneficial to businesses because if they know what their target audiences are saying and are able to communicate back with them, marketing teams will have a better understanding of how to effectively reach their audience. This will make for a more successful campaign.

Now that you have monitored these social networks to better understand your target audience, you need to decide how you will measure the results of the campaign to see if you succeeded in reaching your goals and objectives. No method of measurement will be the same for every campaign because the measurement tool(s) or service(s) employed by the marketing team will be specific to their marketing goals. Some of the most commonly used tools and services for measuring social media are Google Analytics, Omniture,, Vocus, and Radian6.

One example of a company effectively using social networks is Nissan Canada. Their goal was to generate interest and engage potential customers in a contest designed to help spread the word about their new Cube vehicle to young creative minds.  Nissan wanted to measure the campaign’s reach as well as the audience’s engagement and awareness of their product. Entrants of the contests were asked to express their “social creativity” in the form of images, videos, songs and words and to submit their projects online. After 500 finalists were selected, they were asked to share their entries on Facebook, Twitter, and any other social media they were actively involved with. This would bring news of Nissan’s new product to their target audience. To measure how effective their contest was in terms of reaching their goals, Nissan conducted pre- and post-awareness surveys. They used Google Analytics to quantify site visits, referrals, page view per visitor, and time spent on site. Nissan also used Radian, a social media monitoring service, to track mentions of the contest on various social networks (MarketingProf).

By using these measurement devices, Nissan was able to determine that their campaign was a success. There were more than 330,000 visits to Nissan’s contest site with more than half of visits resulting in referrals from Facebook. Halfway through the campaign there was an 87% increase in awareness of the new vehicle. By the end there were more than 8,000 tweets about the contest (MarketingProf).

It is possible to successfully market your brand, company, product or service by using social networks as long as you plan out the goals of your project and strategically employ the correct measurement tools to correspond with your objectives.

Digg It!   DZone It!   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Reddit   NewsVine   Furl   BlinkList   Facebook   
Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Value Proposition

What is a value proposition?  I’ve seen it defined and used many different ways in both industry and business school.  I like to define the value proposition as the amount of benefit your customer receives for the price he or she pays compared to competing products or services.  It is an economic concept, and can be stated in terms like, “more for less” or “less for much less.”

We recently had an assignment to develop a marketing strategy for a technology company that served two distinctly different target markets with two separate software offerings.  The client recently took a seminar at a well-known business school and had been exposed to new terms and buzz-words for the first time: value proposition, social media, CRM, etc.  He wanted to start working on his new strategy by communicating his product’s “value position.”  We quickly learned that our client, like most of us, used “competitive advantage,” “positioning” and a “value proposition” almost interchangeably. 

I am currently teaching my tenth or eleventh Marketing Principles class at a small state college in New Jersey. To be a successful teacher, I need to present concepts to beginning business students in clear and unambiguous language.  We teach that the purpose of marketing is to facilitate exchange.  Exchange is when a party gives up something of value for something else they would rather have.  Marketing is what we do to create, communicate and deliver the value that a company’s customers are willing to pay for.

I like to think of the value of a product or service in terms of relative price and benefit. Price is what is charged for a particular product or service, and benefit is what I receive in exchange for my money.  In this school of thought, there are three levels each for price and benefit: more, same, and less.  The level selected describes your product relative to its competitors.  Does what you have to sell offer more benefits for more money than your competitors, or do you offer less but charge much less? 

We can use auto manufacturers to illustrate the concept.  When advertising its high-end luxury cars like the S-550, Mercedes-Benz acknowledges the fact that their model is more expensive than the competition.  However, they assure you that no other automobile offers the same quality of workmanship, comfort, safety-level, and driving experience as the S-550.  For those seeking the highest level of amenities, the S-550’s value proposition is “more for more.”  Hyundai, on the other hand, argues that their new Genesis boasts the same features and performance as other luxury sedans offered by Acura or Lexus, but at a much lower price.  The Genesis’ value proposition is “same for less.”

Wholesale clubs like Sam’s and BJ’s do not have the selection and variety of regular grocery stores, but you get much more product for a much cheaper price.  This is a “less for less” value proposition.   High-end grocers – Whole Foods, for example – advertise better-quality organic products that are more expensive than similar items found in a wholesale club or a chain like Shop Rite.  Similar to Mercedes-Benz, Whole Foods purports to offer food of a much higher quality for more money than its competitors, or a “more for more” value proposition.

Using this approach, how do you define your products or service’s value proposition?  Do you present a competitive benefit over your competition, or do you need to rethink your price-points or service-packages to present a greater value?

Digg It!   DZone It!   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Reddit   NewsVine   Furl   BlinkList   Facebook   
Thursday, January 7, 2010

The First Step to Great Advertising

You don't have to have a multi-million dollar budget to get good advertising.  With their bigger budgets, large businesses can afford to allocate more resources – people, money, etc. – towards developing and producing an ad campaign.  However, even a small company with a very limited budget can get effective advertising if it does a little work up front.

If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there.” – Lewis Carroll

Many companies and their ad agencies develop their advertising using a process that is similar to the Lewis Carrol quote (above) from the Wizard of Oz.  A better approach, without wasting your ad agency’s time and your company’s money, is to develop a Creative Strategy Statement, also known as the Creative Platform as the very first step in the process.  The Creative Platform is a document developed in conjunction with your ad agency that outlines the purpose of the ad campaign, describes the target audience, and gives reasons for the target audience to act.  This is important for both your company and the ad agency because it establishes a clear direction for the ad agency to follow and gives you a clear framework to evaluate their campaign or execution concepts.

This is not a new idea or process, nor was it invented here.  All Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG)  companies and all large ad agencies have the creation and approval of the Creative Platform as the mandatory first step before starting to develop any new ad campaign, regardless of the media to be used.  In fact, one of the first training sessions that I had to attend almost thirty years ago, when I was an Assistant Brand Manager at Raltson Purina Company, was the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) Seminar on Creative Advertising which taught this process.  Back them almost all of the major CPG companies (P&G, Pepsi, General Mills, etc.) sent their young brand managers to those seminars. 

Here is what I recommend including in your Creative Platform:



Advertising Objective

To inform, persuade, remind or engage

Target Audience

A description of whom your advertising is aimed at


The single-minded proposition that communicates your brand’s key benefit.  Geico's might have been something like "save 15% or more on car insurance".  Energizer batteries was "Energizer batteries last longer".


The facts that give the target audience permission to believe your proposition.


Should your ads be serious or light-hearted, etc.?

Executional Musts

Things the ad agency must include in the ads, i.e. a slogan, logo. disclaimer, warning, etc.

Call to Action

If a Direct Response Ad: what should the target audience do? Call a phone number? Visit a website?


Case Study: GEICO Advertising

While GEICO car insurance is not a small company, their current campaigns are a perfect example of a company and an ad agency working off of a consistent creative platform.  Now, GEICO is concurrently running at least four different television ad campaigns; GEICO Gecko, the Cavemen, Kash (the stacks of money with googley eyes), and the Rhetorical Questions.   

The objective in all of GEICO's campaigns is to persuade the target audience, everyone who drives and therefore needs car insurance, that they will benefit from switching to GEICO because GEICO can help save money.  Other auto insurance companies also offer this benefit, but GEICO supports their claim by emphasizing quickness and convenience. 

GEICO ads are tongue and cheek and generally humorous, and every campaign uses a variation of the company's slogan that  “fifteen minutes can save up to fifteen percent or more on auto-insurance,” and a call to visit GEICO's website or telephone its toll-free hot line. 

Where GEICO separates itself from others is in their advertising budget.  GEICO needs to advertise more because they use a “pull” strategy to sell directly to motorists, where their chief competitors sell indirectly through their agent channels.  Warren Buffet, CEO of GEICO's parent company, Berkshire Hathaway, said in an investors' meeting that if he could, he would spend two billion dollars on GEICO advertising instead of last year's $789 Million.  GEICO’s willingness to spend copious amounts of money on advertising allows them to run four different television ad campaigns on major networks in prime-time, so people do not become fed up with the monotony of repeatedly viewing the same commercial.  Yet because all four campaigns work from the same creative platform, the net effect is a much stronger imprinting of the message.

Digg It!   DZone It!   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Reddit   NewsVine   Furl   BlinkList   Facebook   
Thursday, October 22, 2009

Mail Just Won't Die!

Years ago, industry forecasts predicted that the rise of the Internet and email would eliminate the need for direct mail.  Now that email has become ingrained into society, should we prepare for life without daily visits from the mail-truck?

Definitely not.  Last year, the United States Postal Service delivered 203 billion pieces of mail – an average of 3.9 billion per week – to 134 million addresses.  This is almost six-billion more pieces than in 1998.  Old-fashioned, “snail-mail” generated $75 billion in revenue in 2008 for the USPS. 

Direct mail is still the marketer's most widely used tool.  In fact, direct mail is the media of choice for marketers to drive people to their website.  Why?  Because it is still the most selective, scalable and measurable form of advertising.

But that is not all.  Email, while typically cheaper and faster than traditional mail, has its limitations, such as lower response rates (versus direct mail), deliverability issues with more sophisticated spam filters and image blockers, the need to find reliable list sources, stringent CANSPAM policies, and size limits and after all, not everyone has email. 

We recommend a multi-media approach, where budgets allow.  Statistics show that campaigns using both print and electronic mediums boast higher response rates.  We proved this out most recently with a B2C baked goods client.  In an effort to save their way to success, they decided not to mail their catalog to their customer base, instead relying solely on email communications during their 2007 holiday season.  The result?  A significant decrease in the year-over-year customer retention rate, and disappointing sales during their critical holiday period.  Upon our review and recommendation, in 2008 they mailed their current and lapsed customers, in addition to the email blasts.  This strategy yielded a 72% increase in the retention rate.  And in a down economy, sales were up significantly.  The ROI on the customer mailing was at 250%!  Was cutting out the customer catalog mailing really a good idea? 

The bottom line is that 88% of marketing experts use more than one medium to generate results (DMA – Integrated Marketing Media Mix Report).  And companies that sell from catalogs attribute 44% of their sales to their print catalog mailings.  The 2008 Catalog Report from the DMA's Statistical Fact Book reveals two key facts:

·         The number of catalogs mailed continues to increase year-over-year despite the web and rising print and postage costs

·         100% of respondents had a website, but only 11% considered them to be their principal order drivers.  That means success requires more than an, “If you build it, they will come,” mentality.

The conclusions that can be drawn from this are that the big catalog companies (who consequently know more than anyone else about effectiveness and efficiency) are not eliminating their print catalogs for a reason.  Knowledgeable direct marketers are using multi-media and know that they cannot rely on email and paid search alone.  And no, direct mail is not dead!

Digg It!   DZone It!   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Reddit   NewsVine   Furl   BlinkList   Facebook   
Thursday, October 1, 2009

Is Online Shopping Cart Abandonment a Problem?

I recently had a client approach me with a problem:

She was worried about a recent trend of visitors to her website browsing her online store, putting items in their shopping carts, then closing their browsers without completing a purchase. 

There is a certain amount of slippage between putting a(n) item(s) in a cart and actually completing a sale that is normal.  Looking for a handle on recent rates of Shopping Cart Abandonment, I bought the 2009 Ecommerce Benchmark Report by Marketing Sherpa.  According to the study, the average Shopping Cart Abandonment rate is 42.1% for Consumer Products companies (CPCs).  That same study reports that only four-out-of-ten CPCs even track that important metric.

It is easy to understand why an online merchant would be worried about Shopping Cart Abandonment -- abandoned carts mean lower sales figures -- but what if your website's abandonment rate is at 20% instead of the 42.1% average?  That would suggest that you are performing better than expected.

On the other hand, if you are experiencing Shopping Cart Abandonment at rates at or above the average, then you may need to reconsider your website's marketing strategy.  Sure, some of the purchases are cancelled because the consumer decides he or she cannot afford the item(s) in his or her cart or they do not have the time to complete their order.  There is little to be done about those parts of the problem, and there is a good chance those shoppers will return at a later date. 

If your Shopping Cart Abandonment rates are higher, it is an indication of problems either with your merchandising strategy or your website.

Digg It!   DZone It!   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Reddit   NewsVine   Furl   BlinkList   Facebook   
Thursday, September 24, 2009

Welcome to my Blog

I started this blog as a vehicle to share marketing learnings and experiences with my current and former colleagues, students and clients.  The blog will also carry occasional rants or whinings about the day-to-day stuff that goes on in Beacon Marketing Group, Inc., a business dedicated to solving marketing problems for our clients.  While we love our clients --  and without them we wouldn't have stayed in business for seventeen years -- sometimes they are the problem.  In those instances, I will try to not shoot myself or my company in the foot, but I will point 0ut some really poor decisions that can serve as examples of what not to do. 

Hopefully, we can get some discussions started around the posting topics.   I value others' opinions, especially those that have facts to back them up -- even if they don't always agree with mine.  

Digg It!   DZone It!   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Reddit   NewsVine   Furl   BlinkList   Facebook