In Slovenia, if someone tells you that they’re involved in digital marketing, they’re most likely talking about advertising within the Google and Facebook advertising network. They’ll also tell you that they’re specialists in website traffic analytics and that they may manage their customers’ Facebook profiles. Even if they’re doing other things as well, most likely they only stick to the part of marketing that has to do with promotion, and they have probably never heard of Philip Kotler.

Promotion is only one of the Ps in the marketing mix. I think this is the part of marketing that should only be tackled at the end, when we’re confident in the product’s value to the customer. Companies often forget this.

Fooling the customer?

Often I come across companies that know that the uniqueness of their product’s value to the customer is questionable. They know that their product is not significantly different from those of their competition. Sometimes it actually is different, but to the advantage of the competition. Nonetheless they want to invest in promotion rather than the revamping their product’s unique value. Like it or not, such cases always make me feel that these companies are asking me to give them ideas for how to use promotion to fool the customer.

Promotion is the last step in the selling process. The first step is a high-quality product. Click To Tweet

Listen, the times are gone when you could bet on ignorant customers. They practically no longer exist. Today all information is only a click or two away, and we have our phones with Internet access constantly in our pockets or in our hands 150 times a day. Betting on uninformed and ignorant customers in this day and age is madness. Today’s economic model of society is no longer based on uninformed customers. Full transparency and limitless and effective dissemination of information is the core value highlighted by today’s winners.

We can see others clearly, but we’re unable to recognize our own mistakes. Click To Tweet

We’re all good at understanding the examples of others, but we find it practically impossible to take a critical view of our own situations. We think we can hold back on development and still retain our ignorant customers. Development devours its own young. If your development doesn’t, your competition’s surely will.

Record companies managed to destroy Napster, but that only prolonged the sale of CDs for a short time. They didn’t want to understand what customers were looking for and what a new value for them would be. Apple understood that, sorted out the copyrights with authors and performers, and offered iTunes to the market. But consumers gradually moved on. Now we want to stream music limitlessly through Spotify and similar services for a monthly subscription. Who in this chain would benefit from promotion alone? Only Spotify and its contemporaries, in my opinion. The others probably turned to something on the periphery, if they’re still present in the market at all.

Devour your young!

FrodX tries to offer its customers what they still can’t get anywhere else in the market, at least not as simply, conveniently, and inexpensively. We’re aware of all the followers that track our footsteps and try to offer our uniqueness from three years ago for less money. We can compete with them by lowering our prices and optimizing our operations, or by reintroducing solutions that our customers want but aren’t able to find because there aren’t (m)any providers on the market that offer a comparable range of products. Usually this means that with every such step, stories in which followers gradually increase while we’re adding new features come to an end, at least in financial terms. We don’t fight to be cheaper, but for the cheaper options to become irrelevant, or at least not comparable. We seek to go the extra mile, as the Americans would say. Considering the business we’re in, this path seems more natural to me, even though with every new step of development, we make everything that came before it less interesting.

Constant progress demands victims in our own ranks. So devour your own young! Click To Tweet

Something similar applies to all industries in which the product is the end result. When Philips makes a real market breakthrough with its smart toothbrush that can keep a record of and report how effectively I brush my teeth, and when parents realize that collecting toothbrushing data on a smart toothbrush is a tool that makes children have more fun brushing their teeth and do it better, all “non-smart” toothbrushes will turn into second-class items. Their only market advantage will be that they are cheaper. If such a toothbrush had been produced by GlaxoSmithKline (Sensodyne, Aquafresh, etc.) and if GlaxoSmithKline “had devoured some of its own young,” Philips wouldn’t have interfered in their line of business. Mattel realized early enough that someone with a new approach could interfere with their business and so they decided to come up with their Hello Barbie instead, which I’ve already written about. Amazon is also known for devouring its own young, as is a series of other global household names. What about you? Are you betting on being cheaper or offering more to your customers?

 

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A while ago I posted the article titled What beats the lowest price? on our Slovene blog, which probably attracted quite an audience based on the title alone. When I started analyzing the readers, I found out they primarily consisted of people that are in some way or another involved in sales and are responsible for sales results.

This post discusses the development of a new sales channel that is undoubtedly being brought about by the Internet of Things (IoT), focusing on how a convenient buying experience influences people’s buying decisions. The fact that the title attracted readers among sales staff persuaded me to touch upon the issue of “overly high prices” once again — this time in the context of complex (B2B) sales.

The issue of “forced inquiries”

If you ask a salesperson why he couldn’t close the deal when competing for a project, they will most likely tell you they didn’t offer the right price and that they were too expensive. The price is always a welcome excuse and it always seems to be someone else’s problem, rather than the seller’s directly. But I’m not sure that’s really true. That’s certainly not always the case.

Based on my long years of experience in selling business solutions, I know that any inquiry that I failed to co-shape in some way with my opinions before I was asked to make an offer or I even forced one was most likely lost for me. My solution was often too expensive or inappropriate in some other way. I didn’t feel guilty as a seller because of that, because I wasn’t the one responsible for the pricing policy in the company.

Marketing is a process, too: connect it with sales!

I know today that “Alright then, prepare an offer for me” is a forced inquiry that doesn’t have even the slightest chance of closing the deal. All you can achieve with this is that the customer doesn’t submit an order to anyone. If you have nothing else to do, this may also be success, although not much of one.

Over the past years, we’ve managed to finally grasp that sales is a process that systematically manages sales opportunities, but now it’s time we understood that sales is also a marketing process. Only a combination of both ensures business growth to companies involved in complex B2B sales.

Customers used to be educated by salespeople, but now marketers are taking on this role

I look at the issue of overly high prices differently now. If we’re too expensive, it’s very likely that someone didn’t do their job in the process of winning a new deal. Almost always this happens when we get involved in the customer’s buying decision process too late and we have to skip a phase or two in this process, during which customers are gathering information and shaping their buying preferences.

Customers used to be educated by salespeople, but now marketers are taking on this role with useful content on the internet. Because customers can access information by simply clicking on it, they do their own research and look for information that is useful to them or their companies. That’s why salespeople get involved in their buying decision process fairly late. It is actually the usefulness of our internet content that largely co-shapes customers’ buying preferences and determines whether our salespeople will even have an opportunity to establish personal contact.

I a way, the “convenient purchase” rule also applies to selling complex B2B solutions, only that it’s reflected a bit differently: through the safety of buying decisions. Buying safety is the key value. Nothing is as expensive as choosing the wrong provider. Providers that show the best professional competence already through their marketing activities usually have such a big advantage that the competition’s sales staff can only catch up with great difficulty upon personal contact.

Let’s take action

Over the past years, we’ve managed to finally grasp that sales is a process that systematically manages sales opportunities, but now it’s time we understood that sales is also a marketing process. A process of systematically generating interest and nurturing prospects with an ongoing and proactive supply of useful content that helps them make a safer buying decision. Only a combination of both processes ensures business growth to companies involved in complex B2B sales.

For a start, I highly recommend that you read the free manual, which we prepared as an aid in learning how to approach your customers the right way, how to track them, and how to recognize their needs.

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Learn how to approach your customers the right way

In reality, this is really a problem of the marketing staff (not sales personnel!) and hence the key reason why in the majority of companies marketing and sales, as business functions, continue to remain unconnected (in procedural terms). Give me three minutes to explain this thesis …

To increase growth, you’ll have to fill in the gap between promotion (advertising) and sales activities, or the customer’s first contact with the seller

For proactive and sales-oriented companies, inquiries are not enough! Such companies also seek opportunities for successful sales beyond the inquiries obtained. Because they want more, and also because they’re afraid that more active providers have had a significantly greater impact on the customer that submitted the inquiry. Accordingly, they are more or less in the role of the second or third option.

For the sales personnel’s efforts to be more successful, companies must combine marketing and sales into a uniform process. This way, the sales staff will be able to identify the people and businesses that are already thinking about making a purchase or are just about to make one. It would be even better if, before making their first live contact, they could identify how much these individuals are inclined toward them or at least how much they know the product or service they want to offer them. It is significantly easier to transform a person who understands the topic and your product better into a buyer than someone who still needs to learn a lot and has no opinion of his own.

This may sound like utopia, but it’s not.

Well-coordinated cooperation between marketing and sales also means that marketers with no direct-sales contact must be able to identify the leads or contacts that need more information or knowledge—in order to become familiar with the product or service and know how to make the “right” decision in the buying decision process. Only leads like these will be able to understand and correctly evaluate the competitive advantages when the sales staff contacts them. Only leads like these will even wish to be contacted by a salesperson.

To many, this may seem like daydreaming, but with some technology and a systematic approach the companies that understand and practice marketing beyond branding and event management could actually achieve all of this fairly easy. We only have to follow the newly acquired leads throughout their entire customer journey and bring them into the CRM system.

The sales staff isn’t impatient if it aims at the right targets

The task of marketing is to inform and orient individuals in the right direction and to make them love a company or its products and services. The task of both marketing and sales is to then effectively identify these people (or companies). By effectively, I mean in a timely fashion and in the right context. Without that, sales activities simply can’t achieve any meaningful success. At least not the kind that could be (provably) ascribed to marketing efforts.

Accordingly, over the past years many companies have also upgraded their investments in digital marketing or marketing automation in the direction of developing an inside sales team and systematically supported activities, the primary task of which is to detect and qualify new leads. With smaller purchases, these tasks also include closing the entire deal or upselling to a more expensive item for new customers that have made their first purchase through other channels. With more valuable purchases or complex products, booking the first live meeting with the sales representative comes to the fore in addition to lead qualification. We’re (still) afraid to make remote purchases of certain things. For now.

The primary task of the inside sales team should be to identify hot leads—those who have in any way indicated a certain intent to make a purchase. Those are the only ones you can sell something to. The most you can do with the rest is to encourage them to do research and in some way, remind them of your marketing efforts. But if that is your goal, you need to suitably adjust the way you address them when you call them.

Your marketing staff needs feedback on processing leads

Statistics have shown that inside sales development contributed the most to effective (digital) marketing efforts for winning and nurturing leads when establishing a ROPO sales model. In our projects, it is here that we can identify a key difference between our more successful and less successful clients. If the marketing staff knew who processes the leads they brought in and warmed up—and how and when—and if they also had the chance to change the procedural rules, they would be significantly more successful. But most often it’s very difficult for such feedback to reach the members of the marketing staff who make efforts to win and warm up new leads.

Inside sales primarily deals with the leads and customers, whose intent you have identified. Forget about the call lists you’ve been using so far!

It’s very difficult for the sales personnel to convince someone to make a purchase if this person hasn’t thought about it yet. If they succeed anyway, they are basically just lucky. Lucky that they came across an individual who had actually already thought about making a purchase. If that’s not the case and the sellers simply exerted their power of suggestion over a slightly more labile person, they run a great risk of having obtained a customer that in time will “cough up” his or her disappointment in some way or another. This doesn’t do you any good in the long run.

I say that the times are long gone when it was still worth trying through cold-calling. Back then there were not as many opportunities available to inform people as there are today. The salespeople actually played an educational role. They were knowledge carriers. Today it sometimes happens that I know more about a certain thing than the person who’s trying to sell it to me.

The marketing staff should ensure that people start thinking about buying something, and sellers should be able to identify that moment with the right people. The seller who’s only guessing what that moment may be is losing focus and wasting energy in vain.

Today salespeople only seal the deal because customers do research and learn about things on their own using the digital material available to them. They want to do this completely on their own, at least at the beginning of their buying path. They only seek the help of Google and their friends in the social media or online communities.

Intent marketing: focusing on those who “have their wallets out.”

This is not just some new fad, or a brand-new phrase. It’s about the techniques and skills of detecting those that “have their wallets out.”

The clearest message that someone is looking to buy something is when this person actually tells you that. Usually by sending you an inquiry. But another signal is when a person that wants to buy something is making inquiries in the social media and online communities. This year FrodX has identified quite a few leads that way. We made timely contact with them and sort of caught the last train in guiding them towards our solutions. Listening to all the developments in the social media can be pretty painstaking if you’re doing it by hand. But social listening technology is becoming increasingly more available and, more importantly, more effective. Here we’re also getting very close to saying (at least for some systems) that tools can identify a sentiment in Slovenian with which customers mention the keywords in messages we want to read.

But for the most part of identifying intent to buy, it is worth relying on your own digital environments and the visitors that have already been following you in some way and leaving their digital footprints behind. If you interpret that correctly, you receive very reliable signals about when it’s worth calling someone or passing them over to your inside sales team.

As long as your marketing and sales are not connected into a uniform process, you won’t get very far.

There’s a multitude of these and other similar signals, covering anything from monitoring your prospects to seeing who they “hang out” with in the digital environment. I would ask you to bear with me a bit longer, so I can explain all the intent marketing approaches to you, but I know you’ve already run out of patience and so I’ll have to cover that in a different post.

You won’t succeed with the inside sales if you merely expand your marketing by making a follow-up call to all those that you’ve already reached through direct digital marketing. You have to stop seeing this merely as a continuation of your campaign or some additional step or activity on your marketing list. You need to be able to identify currently hot leads regardless of how and when they came into contact with your material or what campaign you used to approach them.

Salespeople who think they don’t need any help from the marketers, bet on their own luck or also take on the marketer’s job by themselves. They may feel they aren’t gaining any benefit from their marketing colleagues. This is most likely because marketers continue to focus more or less exclusively on branding and think that “digital” only covers Facebook or Google advertising and a well-designed responsive website, for which they receive an award from the agency that designed it for them. They haven’t thought about the customer journey yet because customers are only in the domain of the sales department.

A total marketing reset

When I stumble across a salesperson who thinks he can sell his product or service anytime, even if I’m not thinking about buying anything, I know I’m speaking to someone that comes from a company that needs to reset its marketing. As a whole. For me, this is a signal that I need to encourage this company’s management to think about who its customers are and what, why, when, and how they buy, as well as when the company starts tracking its prospects’ buying decision process. During the first few sessions I have with them, we usually don’t even get to the “how.” It’s clear to them that they need a fresh perspective on their marketing and that they must reconsider their sales strategy.

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Well, I don’t really know the answer to this question, but I do know his campaign used people that specialize in capturing data on the audiences he addressed. These specialists used sophisticated methods to segment the “ears,” so they could hear the version of the story they liked the best. They used Facebook not only as a source of demographic data, but also as a source of user behavior data: based on the data obtained, they created psychographic profiles of individual voters, whom they addressed through personalized content. To simplify, they did this merely by analyzing individual Facebook profiles and of course the model defining an individual’s “character” based on his or her likes. A similar approach is also said to have been used by Brexit supporters. Much has been written about Cambridge analytica providing assistance in both cases.

We can have the most influence with people we know pretty well

Marketing seems to be increasingly turning into a skill in managing (publicly available) data. In contrast to just a few years ago, when marketing campaigns were still shaped according to data obtained from doing business with existing clients and using their demographic data and business registers, and when we were targeting people within companies, now everything has been turned upside down.

Trump won the election with the help of his voters’ Facebook likes. Click To Tweet

Just as it’s already pretty much taken for granted that a successful B2B campaign demands expanding the company data obtained from public registers with contact information on people holding key positions in these companies, it will soon also be taken for granted that in order to design a campaign successfully we also need to start collecting and processing data on these people’s behavior in the social media and elsewhere on the publicly accessible internet. So we can start approaching them within a better context than we have so far. If we know what’s currently happening to individuals and where they are located, we can personalize (and automate) communication with them so that it has the best possible effect on their engagement. If we know their intent, our marketing messages can be significantly more effective and, first and foremost, more precise.

New data collection, segmentation, and marketing campaign methods

According to IBM, by the end of 2017, the volume of data available on any one of us will have increased by nearly 100%. Unfortunately, more than 80% of this data is unstructured and hasn’t been very useful so far. But times are changing and computer cognitive skills (machine learning or Al) now also help us collect and interpret such (huge amounts of) data. Technology that is already being used commercially (but is not yet available to a wider circle of Slovenian companies) can predict people’s characters, their areas of interest, hobbies, social circles, and the interests they share with others within their social circle. If we’re active enough in social media and leave many digital footprints behind, computers know us better than our own partners and families, let alone coworkers.

For the time being, I’m still taking all of this with a grain of salt. We’re definitely moving in this direction, but we still need some time. Especially a small country like Slovenia. Slovenian is spoken by only two million people and even the most advanced technologies currently understand only seven world languages.

We’re definitely gradually entering the era of new-generation marketing engines.

Over the past five years, FrodX has implemented more than seventy marketing automation systems. All of them are based on collecting data on the visitors to their own “digital backyards.” They thus collect data on the visitors’ behavior on the websites and in the emails and advertising campaigns of our individual clients. Based on the data on their activities, the system automatically launches actions that either serve more relevant content to an individual visitor (automatic emails, personalized website content, and so on) or alert the seller when to take action or how to approach an individual customer because he or she has already been sufficiently warmed up. This is a practically indispensable tool if we want to make content marketing more effective and, first and foremost, measurable in terms of sales results. Nonetheless, this approach has certain problems that marketing technology providers would like to solve.

Current marketing automation systems are too slow for transactions that demand instant buying decisions. Click To Tweet

The key problem is that every visitor who makes a first contact with a website is treated as a total stranger and so quite a lot of time and visits are needed to get to know him or her better. With activities that require a long buying decision process and include several participants in the buying decision, this doesn’t present a major problem. But it is a problem in cases that require instant buying decisions or where providers don’t want to build a long-term relationship with their customers through regular marketing activities.

Current marketing automation systems operate by introducing a cookie to the device upon first contact, which enables us to track the activities on that device. When the first conversion is made (for example, by completing a form to access premium content), this cookie is also connected with the user’s identity. In practice, this means that it is from this moment onwards we use marketing automation to collect data on prospects and predict their interests and purchase readiness. That’s all very fine, but you need to know that you need quite some time and several visits to collect a critical mass of data to be able to really effectively process an individual as a prospect. Another problem is that we can only take into account the data we have captured in the traffic and interactions in our own digital backyards. The marketing automation systems that are now considered mainstream (and are still fairly rarely used by Slovenian companies) don’t connect the identities that individuals reveal during a conversion, in which they download one of our files or sign up for a webinar by logging in through their social media accounts. Accordingly, these systems don’t provide data on how these individuals may be connected with people that are our competition’s employees or customers, or our customers’ partners, let alone predict and compare their sentiment towards us or our competitors. For now, more skilled sellers are identifying all of this by hand, when they are preparing for a personal approach to a customer. But in coming years, this will become a constituent part of activities performed by marketing engines that will also become affordable to large and medium-sized Slovenian companies.

An example of a new-generation marketing engine

Let me make up an example, so you can have a better idea of what I’m talking about. I’ve read that the largest Slovenian online store has 520,000 registered users. That’s more than a quarter of the total Slovenian population. If they could register through their Facebook account (which I would personally prefer because I wouldn’t have to come up with new passwords and so I always use options like these), the store could find out many things about their registered users (and even their Facebook friends) before they made even a single purchase.

Amazon, Facebook, and a wizard for finding the perfect gift for friends, all in one. Perfect! Click To Tweet

Let’s say that one of the purchasing moments of every individual is connected with giving birthday presents to friends. Facebook knows who your (close) friends are when they have their birthdays, and what they’re interested in. Some of them allow these personal data to be revealed to the public (consciously or not). Can you imagine receiving an email from Amazon informing you which of your (close) Facebook friends have their birthdays next week and what you could buy them based on their interests in life (and what they haven’t yet bought on Amazon by themselves)? Can you imagine that, not that far away in the future, you will also begin to be bombarded with such personalized ads? A personalized ad recommending you buy something seems to be the most personalization can do at the moment.

What the wizards for finding the perfect gift for a friend are asking you about today could also be found out by these systems themselves. If you look at my Facebook profile, it’ll soon become clear to you that you can’t really go wrong by getting me something golf-related, a bottle of good wine, a trip to a winemaker or a reservation at a good restaurant.

If technology used social media data to help Trump win the election, it may also help your business in the future.

How about we make the first step together today already? Call me at 00386 41 668 757.

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Surely you didn’t think that here at the FrodX blog we’d ignore the toy that’s taken over the world in just a few months? Last year we were hunting Pokémons, but today, with its successor in my hands, I’m spinning the marvel that’s spread through schools, playgrounds, and offices faster than any childhood epidemic.

Nobody had ever heard of them, and suddenly they were everywhere. Children were spinning them on their fingers, teachers were going berserk, Facebook and Twitter lit up, and the stores were already sold out. The fidget spinner became an overnight sensation and the latest trend, which got its greatest “spin” from being viral. It also surprised the main market actors, like the craze for Rainbow Loom bracelets three years ago. Experts think it’s the first toy to explode out of nowhere exclusively through social media.

The fidget spinner craze exploded out of nowhere exclusively through social media. Click To Tweet

The spinner was invented more than twenty years ago, but it popped up again at the end of 2016, trending for Christmas on Reddit. Forbes advertised it in December as the must-have stress-relief office toy for 2017, and it spread like a flash all around the world by April, with videos and publications by enthusiastic vloggers. In the past, toys used to catch on first in the United States, then the UK, and then finally continental Europe. This time the spinners grabbed all the media-connected children (and “big kids” too) at the same time. This exceptional growth means the novelty will probably be pretty short-lived. When school starts again in September, there will surely be a new favorite toy, to teachers’ great relief. Paradoxically the toy, which was supposed to make it easier for children to concentrate, was rapidly banned in some schools because it was distracting.

The toy that didn’t earn a cent for its inventor

A fidget spinner is a small, balanced object with a bearing in the center that allows it to be spun relatively quickly between the fingers. It was invented in 1993 by Catherine Hettinger to entertain her seven-year-old daughter, who she was unable to play with because of a muscular disorder. She patented her invention in 1997 and could have been obscenely rich today. However, things didn’t go according to her expectations. Hasbro and the other toy producers she offered the design to rejected it, and the inventor didn’t extend the patent because she couldn’t afford to. Hasbro is selling the spinner now, almost twenty years after turning its back on the idea following unpersuasive consumer testing.

Chinese producers are said to have shipped 200 million spinners around the world by mid-May. Estimates show that they may have brought $500 million to the market. The prices are slowly rising. Market demand for bearings is enormous; from an original price of €0.60, the purchase price has risen to €1.50. An interesting feature is that no brand is selling spinners under its own name. If you’d like to try one out before buying it, type the word “spinner” into Google. It’s also available as an app. 😉

Reasons for success

Sometimes it’s hard to understand consumer trends. Why would a product that isn’t an essential need achieve such exceptional success? A purchase always expresses a need. First people meet their basic needs (physiological), but later also psychological needs, such as respect, esteem, or belonging. Marketing actually manipulates the way we respond to these needs. Our desires represent the way we can meet our needs.

It’s much more successful to plan a product that inspires virality on its own than to plan viral marketing. Click To Tweet

Experience with this object, which is relatively easy to master, gives a sense of satisfaction and is a bit addictive. The fact that it’s everywhere inspires curiosity on the one hand and rejection on the other. The variety of colors and shapes also turns the object into a collectible.

The fact is that the more we talk about spinners the more information about them spreads and the more people want to imitate others. The internet, or social media networks, are definitely the best place for satisfying curiosity, by accelerating shared user experiences. The top of these, of course, is YouTube (over 9 million videos) and its star vloggers. The basis for all of this is viral marketing.

How viral trends catch on across the internet

Spinners are currently the best example of a viral product and how a company can exploit its virality to engage customers. Why does viral marketing work? If we knew how to see the signs that our product might become trendy early on, using a viral marketing strategy among our target audience would be the ideal strategy. The internet works faster than any other medium because we aren’t just observers but also participants.

Once someone has been exposed to an idea and has reacted to it, one way or another it will spread. The more people are exposed to this idea, the greater the chance that they will react to it and share it with others. When this repeats itself, it becomes a viral loop. Thus early adopters, who account for a large part of promotion with recommendations to friends and acquaintances, who share these recommendations with others, and who help expand the viral loop, are responsible for market penetration. The process doesn’t work if the idea doesn’t spark reactions among the people exposed to it and also persuade those who were initially skeptical.

Spinners achieved viral dimensions through both praise and ridicule. Click To Tweet

Seth Godin, the actual inventor of viral marketing, says that viral marketing isn’t just adding a “share” button for Twitter or Facebook at the end of a blog. What’s viral is an idea that spreads like wildfire. Most companies make the mistake of planning to use viral marketing for their products rather than designing their products so that they’ll encourage virality on their own.

What are the reasons for the spinner’s ability to arouse both positive and negative reactions and encourage the idea to spread? A combination of the following factors contributed to its popularization:

  • Seeing it mentioned by friends in Facebook comments;
  • Sharing impressions on social media;
  • Encouraging newsjacking;
  • Spreading memes and ridiculing the idea;
  • Polarizing people and encouraging opposing opinions; and
  • Talking about the product and spreading the trend by word of mouth.

(Source: Shopify)

How to run a viral cycle

Think about what would encourage you as a customer to show your product to others. What’s the most important thing you like about the product? First, you have to determine a target group and how to best pique their interest in the product. If we focus on these points, we can precisely direct our efforts toward creating trust and raising our brand profile in the target population. Even though every marketing specialist dreams of a successful viral campaign, success is never a sure thing.

Entrepreneurs actually have two choices. They can either create a potentially trendy product or take over an already-growing trend that they see as an opportunity. What do potential customers do when they first learn of an interesting product? They use a search engine. Thus, Google can very precisely answer the question of what’s currently trending. Learn about the product and evaluate how much longer this trend is likely to last. The sooner you get into it, the more likely you are to succeed.

You can either invent, produce, or simply take over a newly growing trend. Click To Tweet

In the case of spinners, many sellers exploited the hype and flooded the market with various products, some of them even more expensive than the original. A lot of vendors added them to their ranges here in Slovenia, too. But did they respond too late? No one can predict how long they’ll still sell, but for such a big craze it’s worth a shot.

Entrepreneurial ideas and ingenuity are unfortunately in short supply. They’d like to create their own viral loops with visual content that attracts customers in order to reach a wider group of new buyers. Dreams, fears, or humor are things that need to be studied to create an emotional connection with the public. This always works if it’s done well. How many videos about spinners are available in Slovenian? I haven’t found any worth mentioning. But it’s even more important that the information reaches the public it’s intended for, so that they can further share it.

Success doesn’t (always) depend on your budget

In the past year, two viral campaigns were especially successful. The first was created by an Apple ad for Apple Music featuring Taylor Swift. The YouTube video got 19 million views. The second was connected to the movie Ghostbusters. Sony Pictures created two Snapchat filters that used both cameras on a smartphone. The goal was of course to engage young people who hadn’t seen the first film from the 1980s. The campaign went viral because it was creative and also the first one that made effective use of technology to create a unique experience.

We must never forget that viral marketing is a phenomenon that works because it gives individuals power. Good viral campaigns don’t always depend on good marketing directors, huge budgets, and support from celebrities. It’s the most basic form of advertising when customers sell to each other. The spinner is outstanding proof that it works.

tomaž[email protected]

Content marketing is a buzzword that comes up everywhere on the internet. Really there’s nothing new about it, though. Good marketing has always been based on good stories—that is, on relevant content for relevant individuals. But, in order to create relevant content, you need to know well who you’d like to impress.
Let’s take a look at an example. Mercedes-Benz has recently launched an ad titled Grow Up.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nFnoLpKrTyE

Do you think this ad is appropriate for their target audience? If you picture a typical buyer, climbing out of the car with his beer belly bulging under his ironed shirt, you will agree that this ad is completely off-target. An average Mercedes buyer is fifty-seven years old, whereas this particular ad targets kids, who sometimes can’t even afford to have a round of beer with their friends, let alone buy a luxury car.

So, what’s the idea? For a while now, Mercedes-Benz has been trying to attract younger customers and so it is persistently addressing younger audiences. In addition to launching an updated product (i.e., the Mercedes-Benz CLA) and using a variety of activities on the social media, the company also activated the vlogger Casey Niestat, an influential individual in this demographic group. Mercedes-Benz likes to point out in its statistics that the CLA has been its best product launch in the past twenty years and that the average age of a CLA owner is significantly lower compared to other Mercedes models: forty-six. Impressive, but why does the manufacturer address an audience two decades younger in its ads?

A calendar for designers or do-it-yourselfers?

Another example: the 2016 Merkur calendar.

Source: Marketing Magazin

At the end of 2015, the Slovenian hardware retailer serving both professionals and do-it-yourselfers launched an attractive calendar, whose aim was to stimulate creativity among its customers. I admit that I really liked it, myself, but then a colleague pointed out the gap in communicating to the right buyer persona. I found the calendar pretty and refreshing. So, what was the problem? I’m not a typical Merkur customer or at least not a customer that would seriously engage in household repairs and tasks. A thirty-nine-year-old Joe Sixpack probably is, but he cares more about pure practicality than playful creativity. The calendar may not have even been designed to target the right buyer persona at all . . . and if Pirelli has done well with theirs, why couldn’t Merkur?

What can we learn from these examples?

1. Define your buyer personas.
Knowing your typical buyer is key. Define your typical customers by looking at why they would use a specific product or service. Breathe life into them and think about how you can most easily contact your buyers.
2. Listen to your customers.
What do you know about the people that need your product or service? What are their fears, challenges, and desires? Have you adapted your marketing content to different buyer personas? Invite them for a chat and listen to their needs. Do you make them feel that you understand them? Do you truly understand them?
3. Create a good story.
Customers will accept a story that they can identify with, they can learn something new from, or that can help them reach their goals. Before you post or publish anything, think if the content you’re publishing is actually useful for your target customer.

The formula for success is pretty simple. Create an excellent product or service and wrap it in a “compelling” story. If you have trouble finding the right words, we’d be happy to help.

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You’re reading this after the three-day extravaganza in the Planica Valley has already ended, but I actually wrote it while the excitement before the ski flying weekend finale was reaching its climax. This is practically like a national holiday for Slovenians and includes all the activities that go with it. Luckily, there were no major incidents. So now it’s safe for me to reveal who the winner was: Stefan Kraft with his 250-meter-flight. 😉

As the big event was drawing closer, the popular game of predicting the (record) jump distances and the winner also started. At work, at home, at the cafe, with friends, family or coworkers, everyone bet on their own favorite or, more likely, the longest flight distance. Most of them did it for fun, the more enthusiastic ones did it for money, and a handful did it for the attractive prizes provided by the main sponsor.

Kraft won a medal at Planica, but Triglav Group won hundreds of new leads. So, who’s the true winner here? Click To Tweet

During this ski-jumping event, the insurance and finance company Triglav Group sponsored the Triglav Rekord 2017 contest, which was supported by a smart-phone app, in which participants could win prizes by predicting the distances of individual flights. That’s nothing special, one might say, a routine marketing practice and nothing more, but the fact that a company develops an app, does the coding, goes through all the certification procedures, and holds a contest for only three days of promotion—now that’s something else entirely. The biggest Slovenian insurance company can definitely afford to do it because, judging from the number of apps, it has sufficient resources, but nonetheless it has to gain some business benefit from it. In this case, the direct benefit was the leads that it can continue to target in the future (you had to sign up with your e-mail) and the users themselves will help promote it among their friends because the contest is so much more fun if you can compete against one another. Overall, the cost of winning new leads this way is definitely lower than through a conventional advertising campaign. Not to mention the enhancement to the brand’s profile.

Gamification as a customer engagement optimization tool

The expression “gamification” refers to a practice that has been used in marketing for quite some time now and roughly denotes the application of game or play elements to non-game contexts. It can take numerous forms, from vouchers and loyalty cards to collecting points, but the digital world provides even more possibilities. The techniques used allow awarding, assessing, and highlighting user achievements and making evaluations within a community.

Practically every consumer has already come across one form of gamification or another without even being aware of it. It experienced its biggest boom with the development of smart-phone apps with integrated programs for enhancing customer loyalty.

Grandma collects Mercator bonus points but her granddaughter collects Facebook likes. Click To Tweet

In a highly competitive business environment even a small difference can bring you a competitive advantage. If you use the right approach, gamification can also have long-term business benefits. It is an indispensable customer engagement tool that can be applied to all areas.

We use a gaming experience to lead customers into a real marketing campaign or even conversion. Along their purchase path, we can prompt them to download content, create their own profiles, share their personal data with us, or even purchase a product or service.

Loyalty card 2.0

Gamification is so popular because it combines a number of different trends in the consumer digital environment. You need to take these into account when you look for new ways of interacting with your customers:

  • The rapid increase in content and digital experience creates the need for constant adaptation and innovation in order to maintain user interest and increase sales;
  • Today’s online users are used to getting responses to their actions. Most of them don’t browse the internet just because of the rewards, but their existence forces them into repeating certain buying patterns in the future;
  • Online games are based on sociology and behavioral research, which makes them highly effective;
  • Loyalty programs used to reward purchases, whereas today they entail significantly more interaction with brands, either in the social media or corporate websites. Keeping track of and rewarding non-purchase related activities can lead to a long-term increase in customer engagement. This technique allows you to obtain more user-generated content, product reviews, and so on, which helps companies get to know their customers better;
  • The customers’ online activities can be monitored, analyzed, and processed, after which they can be used to direct users based on their previous choices;
  • Those that have already tried gamification observe significant changes in user behavior, such as an increase in the number of conversions, good reviews, and user-generated content. It is common to see as much as 20% growth, but some even report as much as 500%.

Adapt to your customers and their “playful” habits

Gamification extends into the customers’ user experience and so it has to be aligned across all of the brand’s tools, whether in social media, customer reviews, online catalogs, blogs, mobile apps, or other promotional activities. Don’t make the mistake, for example, of thinking that by giving out online user badges without a context you’re going to make anyone happy. This type of reward program will be short-term and may even make a few happy, but it won’t have any significant effect on user activities and you’re not going to achieve your long-term goals this way.

Buyers like to play. So play along with them, adapt to their rules, and you’ll both win. Click To Tweet

Understanding buyer personas and how they perceive games is key. The challenge is to find the tool that allows you to convey your message to the right person at the right time through the right channels (the internet, social media or cell phones) most effectively.

By setting the objectives of the game you lay the basis: group engagement, collecting leads, creating website traffic, qualifying the user database, announcing new products, or reactivating inactive customers. Then you need to accurately define your target audience. The more accurately you define it, the higher your share of opt-ins will be. By determining the target audience, you build the basic logic behind the “game”: rewards, expansion, and promotion. Only then do we select the type of the game (e.g., a quiz, a prize draw, e-training, a mobile app, and so on) and implement it into our campaign.

Games are at the forefront of modern marketing

Through gamification, companies enhance their marketing messages and optimize their resources and content. Then they win a loyal audience. By using an effective marketing strategy, they can then monitor their customers’ engagement with their brands. Gamification offers exposure to a specific brand in exchange for fun. The goal is to achieve maximum customer loyalty. The insurance company described above is definitely good at achieving this, and we can help you become good at it, too.

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Your comments on last weeks’ post encouraged me to explain in a bit more detail the idea of how winemakers could shoulder their way into the buying process of potential wine drinkers at restaurants. To all of those commenting that Vivino (and lots of other apps) has existed for quite some time now, I’d also like to present a different view.

Vivino is great, but …

So, yes, I know Vivino because I occasionally use it myself. Vivino is great if you’re keeping a wine journal, so you can see what you’ve already tasted and how you liked it. So, its target audience is more or less wine connoisseurs and definitely not occasional drinkers who know five winemakers at the most and always order Batič rosé wherever they go.

Vivino also comes in very handy if you want to quickly check the price range of a certain wine you don’t know yet. Because everything else is provided on the bottle’s label. All in all, what I find very practical with Vivino is that you don’t have to type in the wine’s or cellar’s name, but instead you simply take a picture of the label, which ideally works impeccably. But …

What if there was an app that could do even more?

What more people (less educated wine drinkers) could find more useful is a certain other functionality of the app. Imagine a cell phone app where you can enter your top ten wines. Let’s say the Batič rosé is one of them. I chose this wine on purpose. I’d say that pretty much the only thing most of its fans know about this wine is that they like it a lot. For example, they don’t even know whether it’s dry or semi-dry. Not to mention other wine characteristics.

Let’s imagine a fan of Batič rosé comes to a restaurant and orders his favorite wine. Even though this wine is included on the wine lists of most Slovenian restaurants, it could happen that the waiter informs him that they unfortunately do not have it. Instead the waiter recommends the Erzetič rosé and the Štokelj rosé. Even though both of them are rosés, they are pretty different. Which one will you like more? Will you rely on the waiter’s advice?

  • Can you imagine an app that tells you that the Erzetič rosé matches 93% of the characteristics of the Batič, but the Štokelj only 81%?
  • Can you imagine that this same app also includes the wine lists of all the best restaurants and that every wine on the wine list is also provided with the percentage showing how closely it matches your taste? You specified that by selecting your ten favorite wines when you signed up, and the app translates that into wine characteristics you like and compares that against all the wines in its database.
  • Would it mean anything to you if the app was also able to combine the information on how closely a specific wine matches your taste with the information on how it matches the food you can order at that restaurant? Or if it even allowed you to search for the most suitable wines to go with your dish and ranked them according to how closely they match the favorites you specified in your settings?
  • What if this app allowed you to search for restaurants according to your top wine selection or the wines that match most closely with your top selection? And maybe you won’t even go to a restaurant that doesn’t have the Batič rosé. For restaurant owners, this changes the rules of the game completely. Suddenly they may all want to have extensive wine lists.
  • Would you find it useful if, when arriving at a restaurant or getting close to one, you received a push message or a text notifying you what suits your taste the most in that restaurant?
    Compared to everything described above, Vivino no longer seems useful to me at all. I don’t like to keep track of and publicly disclose all the things I’ve drunk anyway. Someone might even accuse me of having alcohol problems. You never know.

A different approach to market analysis

It’s probably not necessary to write separately about how winemakers could shoulder their way into the purchase path of potential wine buyers at restaurants. The organic traffic captured from the favorites list could also include free “recommended” wine. Of course, this would have to match the drinker’s taste to a certain degree, otherwise the winemaker wouldn’t receive much benefit from it.

Alongside this, I see an added value in collecting data on the drinkers’ tastes and movements. If a winemaker that produces barrique Chardonnay had data on how many drinkers that like this type of wine visit a certain restaurant, he would be able to use considerably more arguments to convince the owner to include his wine on the wine list. Analytical data could also be useful for the restaurant owners themselves because they would have a significantly better perspective on what their guests like. I think everyone would gain something from this, except that the waiters would be devalued to a certain degree. Or it would make their work easier. You could see it either way.

We’ve spent the past two months writing about the next industrial revolution as a universal phenomenon, but now the time has come to focus on the part of digitalization we specialize in, we have the skills for, and we operate in. Today I’d like to share a few thoughts with you about how we can use technology to find innovative ways to reach our customers.

In the past the sales staff did three quarters of the work and marketing only one quarter. Now the situation is exactly the opposite.

Digitalization and access to information are turning buying processes upside down. In the past we used advertising to prompt customers to go visit a salesperson (and that person knew everything, as opposed to the customers, who knew nothing), who educated and motivated them, and sold a product to them or closed a deal.

Today an ad invites customers to do more research—that is, to educate and motivate themselves—and the role of the sales staff is significantly reduced. More or less, they only perform the function of closing deals, whereas customers are now significantly more influenced by marketing. Through relevant content on the internet and in social media, and a marketing automation system, marketing now influences an individual customer’s buying decisions the most.

Without reviews and recommendations there’ll be no more purchases.

Digitalization continues, changing customer habits and thinking. Consumers have started using services that reduce the risks associated with buying decisions based on people’s recommendations. Today consumers check practically everything before making a purchase. And I’m not talking just about TripAdvisor, Booking.com, or Amazon. These three are merely the ones that have provided user reviews to us in the most convenient way. The fact is that at a certain point in the buying process customer reviews turn into key information and at a certain stage we can no longer push the customers forward, circumventing this engagement development—either in the digital or the physical world.

Even when I’m thinking about buying some new fly-fishing equipment from a local provider at a physical store, I first check my selected items on Amazon and various dedicated online forums, and in social media. It seems to me that technology could facilitate my access to this information and serve everything I need on a plate. This is the path that customer engagement systems are bound to pursue in the following years.

We can’t just keep on endlessly looking for opportunities for business development by rearranging internal relations within our company!

In a few years, there won’t be any more CRM systems like those being eagerly implemented today (primarily by IT companies). How the sales staff are organized and how they can most easily report their activities to their bosses, and those bosses to theirs, will be of secondary importance for business development. In this regard, companies will have to start focusing on customer engagement development significantly more and at a significantly higher level than today. We’ll have to digitalize the pathways to customers and determine how we can shoulder our way into the customer’s buying process. Every company should honestly ask itself whether it can ensure that it’ll always stay on the customer’s radar—that is, that customers will always think of it, too, when they have a need to meet. Can it engage customers and develop their needs?

A parable about wine

Let me give you a concrete example. As a wine lover, I hang out a lot with winemakers and like to dine in fine restaurants, which for some winemakers are the only point of sale outside their wine cellars. Can you imagine? Their business depends on how much their business partner can persuade one of its customers. This is key to them. This is why they promote their wines at restaurants and sell them below their normal price, so they can make it onto a “best winemaker of the month” list somewhere. Some winemakers even reward the waiters for every cork they return as proof that they were the ones who recommended the wine by a certain cellar. This battle is very much like the battle for shelves at Mercator.

On the other hand, the restaurant owners don’t really care which wine the customers order. Their margins are approximately the same for all of them. When the customer is in their restaurant, they already have the customer. It’s even in their interest that, from the viewpoint of creating added value from the money the customer spends, that the customer orders the cheaper “house” wine and spends more on food.

In my opinion, winemakers definitely need help in how to influence their customers. OK, they can work on their brands, even though modern consumers tend to be increasingly less susceptible to brands, plus this is far too expensive and not everyone can afford it. Only the biggest producers can make it, which is also the main point of branding. To be fair, most people can hardly list more than five Slovenian winemakers.

Modern winemakers should be innovative.

I hope I’ve described this problem well enough because I’d like to discuss possible solutions … First, the winemaker can hire IT specialists that install a CRM system for him and teach him how to use it. This may be good for something, but it won’t really have any influence on me as a guest at a restaurant. Should the winemaker start writing a blog, send newsletters, and maintain a Facebook profile? Maybe: if he wins me as a follower and I like the way he communicates, he can use this to enhance its profile. It would also be good if we met in person at some point and gained a personal connection. But all of this is only latent potential. It still depends on whether I’ll think of him and order exactly his wine from a usually pretty disinterested waiter.

He would have more influence if he managed to detect my purchasing moments; for example, when I arrived at a restaurant that has his wine in stock, he would offer me one of his wines based on the type of wine I like and the food I ordered there. He could present the right message at the right moment. If that happened before the waiter approached me, I think the winemaker would have a good chance of influencing my purchase. Certainly a better one than he has with all his current activities.

I’m not sure whether the winemaker should invest in his own mobile app that would enable this type of functionality. I see significantly more opportunities in a service or app shared by all winemakers. As a consumer, I’d definitely be more interested in an app that offered me various wines produced by various winemakers. Of course, the app would have to know what type of wines I like and what I can purchase at a specific location, and recommend only these to me. Well this is how I imagine a system that is actively built on customer engagement and that would have a better influence on wine aficionados’ buying decisions than what winemakers are using and doing today. What do you think about this?

If you do phone sales and your salary doesn’t depend on your performance, you ought to call up my boyfriend David. He’s your ideal customer. David is friendly, doesn’t interrupt you, and always promises he’ll think about it. Even when you make a follow-up call, he’ll be just as friendly, even though he’ll probably admit he hasn’t thought about it at all yet. And if you call him up a third time, during his Saturday dinner, he’ll “just” gently dismiss you, while grumbling to me about how they dare call him up on a Saturday afternoon. Sorry, but I speak from experience . . .

How do they find him?

Whenever I witness these calls, I keep wondering how on Earth they find David. Whether they’re selling insurance or a vacuum cleaner, or “merely” completing an innocent survey, it seems my boyfriend is often on their call list. I’m not sure what kind of logic they follow, but they never pick me. I have two theories for this.

Perhaps they call up all their lost customers. David has never bought a vacuum cleaner (or insert any other item that is currently being sold by phone), but he may have taken out insurance with a different company in the past. Just like I don’t know all of his ex-girlfriends, I’m also not familiar with all of the insurance companies he’s previously been with.

My second theory is that he must be in the “right” demographic group. He’s a thirty-two-year-old man with a young family and a good income. Is this the target demographic group for selling supplementary health insurance? It could be, but I can’t really be sure.

Save your call center agents’ time by instructing them to call up only the promising contacts. Click To Tweet

But there is something I do know for sure. David has never bought a thing after receiving these calls. If the call center agents were aware of this behavior, they could at least save themselves from making the second and third calls even if the first one can’t be helped. He doesn’t seek out additional information from friends or on the internet after these calls, which is how someone that is preparing to make a purchase typically behaves. We established this while profiling typical customers for one of our clients. This client doesn’t compile his call list based on demographic data or a list of lost customers. It all starts with the assumption that their agents’ time is valuable and therefore shouldn’t be wasted on calling non-promising customers, which, however, brings up another issue.

Who to call in order to maximize the likelihood of a successful call

The simple answer would be to choose those that are already showing interest in your product, but haven’t decided to purchase it yet. A great idea, but hardly feasible in practice, right? Well, I could tell you to call up all those that have experienced 30.95 of your online touches (this includes opening your e-mail, visiting your website, downloading your content, and so on) because they need just a little bit more encouragement to buy the product from you. But we simply can’t treat the myriad of products on the market all the same and so there’s no uniform answer to this question. You need to perform a behavioral analysis or customer profiling for each product separately. If you know how many online touches an average customer has experienced, you can make sufficiently good conclusions that it’s best to call those prospects that recorded one or two touches fewer than the average. But this isn’t the only way to tip the scales in your favor. You can also do this through e-mails, text messages, or a remarketing ad that encourages people to explore your product further.

Do you know which customer to call to make your sales call successful? Click To Tweet

Is behavioral analysis the only right answer?

If you call up your prospects based on a demographic or behavioral analysis, or their past purchases, I suggest you first isolate these or compile a more accurate database of your lost customers. Before you call these customers, make sure you restore your credibility. If they haven’t written you off entirely, it’s better you nurture them with useful content. When after carrying out the behavioral analysis you find out that they’ve experienced the ideal number of 30.95 of your touches, you can encourage them to make a purchase.

It’s best to draw data for calling up prospects from behavioral and demographic analyses. Click To Tweet

At that moment it makes more sense to hand over to the call center the list of contacts that have remained after you’ve carried out both a demographic and behavioral analysis. You wouldn’t want to call your neighbor’s teenage daughter, who has experienced 30.95 of your online touches, but will be covered by supplementary health insurance for another few years anyway because that’s already provided by law. And likewise, you won’t be any better off if you call my boyfriend David. There’s no way you can find out that he’s contractually bound to a different insurance company for another two years, but his behavior can tell you that he couldn’t care less about your insurance.

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P. S. The above example of an ideal number of online touches (30.95) is just an example. If you come across a problem in your behavioral analysis and defining the specific number for your product, we’ll be happy to help you out.