Tag Archives: Best practices

New Marketing Campaign? Strive to “Fail Quickly”

Marketing Campaign - Fail QuicklyTo Succeed Faster, Consider Embracing Failure

No one builds a marketing campaign to fail, right? While you certainly don’t want to fail intentionally, it is the failure itself that often paves the way to future success. Think of small failures as progress, not as setbacks. Thomas Edison “failed” 10,000 times before he hit on the right combination of elements for the first light bulb. When asked about his “failures” he said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”. Edison knew that each failed attempt brought him one step closer to success.

Marketers often set out to try to construct a “perfect” marketing campaign— (with all of the associated time and money spent developing), only to discover that it doesn’t remotely match expectations when it actually goes live. The thrill of the launch is often quickly met with extreme disappointment. Those same marketers are faced with not only the poor performance of the campaign itself, but also the extra time and money spent on it. Worst of all, the window of opportunity may have closed, with customers often moving on to something else while marketers keep working away in their ivory tower.

There’s a better way, but it involves a different mindset. You need to embrace failure—failing quickly and more often. Why? Because the quick failures allow you to realign strategies and get you much closer to success. A dynamic campaign with a responsive feedback mechanism allows you to make necessary adjustments on an ongoing basis. The feedback you get on these less-than-perfect early efforts makes it possible to make real progress quickly, making valuable changes that your customers will respond to.

So, how do build a marketing campaign to fail (succeed faster)?

  1. Build your campaign in “chunks”.  Deploy in phases which will make adjustments easier (and faster).
  2. Start with a concept test and get quick feedback.  There’s no reason to build a whole campaign around a concept that doesn’t engage your customers.
  3. Act on your feedback as quickly as possible. Your feedback system must gather your metrics and present them to the development team for analysis and next actions.
  4. Tweak the effort Now that you know what your customers like and what they don’t, time to make some quick adjustments.
  5. “Rinse and repeat”. Re-deploy it, get feedback, and make more changes.

The faster your campaign fails, the faster you can get to work on improving it, and turning it into something that your customers will respond to.

When you are developing your new marketing campaign, Don’t try to be perfect—it takes too long and you’ll end up missing your window!

Driving VS Measuring – The “Metrics Ratio”

Having an Unhealthy Metrics Ratio Can Have a Negative Impact On Your Results

We all love metrics.  We can’t wait until the latest reporting period is over, so we can start digging into the numbers to see how we did.  The anticipation is exhilarating.  When things are going well, it is a little bit like Christmas morning.  When you are struggling, the metrics are about as welcome as a letter from the IRS.Metrics Ratio Image

It is important to be aware of your “Metrics Ratio”.  Many e-Commerce teams are responsible for both the execution of activities as well as reporting on the effectiveness of those activities.  The Metrics Ratio considers the resources dedicated to driving the metrics versus the resources required to measure the results.  You probably think you have much more talent dedicated to driving vs. measuring results.   However it does not always work out that way.  The demands of the various stakeholders increase over time.  Unfortunately you end up running far more reports than originally intended.  Resources formerly dedicated to creative work now end up “feeding the metrics monster”. Your Metrics Ratio gets top-heavy on analysis and your performance takes a hit as a result.

What can you do to counteract this?  You have a number of options which include:

  1. Consider relaxing the reporting period.  Do the metrics change enough over time to justify the frequency?  Can you go from daily to weekly, weekly to monthly, etc?
  2. Are the stakeholders truly using the reports you are generating?  Consider doing a formal or informal survey.  Ask your metrics stakeholders how necessary the various reports are to them.  Ask them to rank them 1-10.  You will probably find a few reporting items you can eliminate.
  3. Stop “massaging” data before sending out to the stakeholders.  Most metrics packages have the ability to schedule “canned” reports that can be pushed to the various recipients on a regular schedule.  No manual intervention required.  If people want a specific report adjusted in some manner, suggest they handle it themselves or delegate to someone on their team.
  4. Strive for the “hub and spoke” model.  Train stakeholders in using the analytics package themselves so they can generate their own reports.

Reporting metrics are a form of communication, and like all communication rule#1 is know your audience.  Some stakeholders will be incapable of generating their own reports, and may overstate the use they get out of the reports.  If it is the CEO – you suck it up and get them the reports.  If it is some middle level manager – perhaps you make the tough call.

Ultimately you are held accountable for delivering positive metrics, and managing your Metrics Ratio effectively will help boost your results.

The Importance of Data Curation

A curator at a museum is responsible for the acquisition, care, and in some cases the removal of items from the museum’s collection.  Data curation is a similar concept, but instead of museum pieces the data curator is responsible for the data used for marketing efforts.  With good data curation, amazing things can be accomplished.  Sometimes so good it is a little scary.  With bad data curation, let’s just say that can be scary also.

A classic example of good data curation (combined with excellent execution) is the Target case in which the data archived and utilized was incredibly good.  So good, in fact, that the Target data people had figured out that a teenage girl was pregnant.  Even before her father knew.  Based on the types of products purchased by the girl, Target was able to determine that the girl was pregnant.  From the Forbes article:

. . . .So Target started sending coupons for baby items to customers according to their pregnancy scores. Duhigg shares an anecdote — so good that it sounds made up — that conveys how eerily accurate the targeting is. An angry man went into a Target outside of Minneapolis, demanding to talk to a manager:

The manager didn’t have any idea what the man was talking about. He looked at the mailer. Sure enough, it was addressed to the man’s daughter and contained advertisements for maternity clothing, nursery furniture and pictures of smiling infants. The manager apologized and then called a few days later to apologize again.

On the phone, though, the father was somewhat abashed. “I had a talk with my daughter,” he said. “It turns out there’s been some activities in my house I haven’t been completely aware of. She’s due in August. I owe you an apology.”

It happens the other way also.  Bad data curation can alienate a customer in a heartbeat.  In case you have not figured it out yet, my name is Michael.  You can imagine my surprise when I saw this e-mail the other dat with the salutation “Dear Larry”.   Dear Larry!!

Bad Data Curation

!!  Sorry Teradata – but you lost me.  The irony here is this e-mail has the sub head “How to understand and use data to drive customer engagement”.  WOW!  The first question that came to my mind was “whether this just one off in some list.  I got Larry’s e-mail, Larry got Amy’s, Amy got Justin’s, etc.  Maybe everyone in their list had a bad “to” field.

Bad Data Curation Can Undermine Your Best Direct Marketing Efforts.

You can’t make mistakes like this folks!  There is no recovering from it.  Do yourself a GIANT favor and hire good data people, (or a skilled, reliable agency).  Either way, TEST and RETEST your e-mail blasts and other customized communications BEFORE you send them out.  Especially if you are soliciting business in the area of data management.

You can’t do good things with bad data!

Normalizing Data

When analyzing data, it is important to do some housekeeping on the raw data before you perform your analysis.  Normalizing data is the process of removing “outliers” and other oddities in the data.  These rogue pieces of data  can corrupt your analysis.  This can lead to inaccurate metrics and ultimately poor decisions.Normalizing Data - Removing Outliers

 Normalizing data is essential to proper metric analysis.

So what is involved in normalizing data?  Let’s assume our business is a locally owned candy/ice cream store.  You want to calculate your average gross margin, average dollar purchases per customer, and top selling items.   Follow these easy steps and your analysis will be far more accurate and useful.

  1. Segment your data.   If our candy store business has both individual customers as well as other businesses such as restaurants, realtors, etc.  It is best to separate the data for each segment.  That will allow analysis for both types of customers rather than a blend.  Blended data is generally bad because it is not typical of the individual groups.  The smaller the segments the better.
  2. Identify outliers.  Once you have properly identified your segments, it is much easier to identify the outliers.  Let’s assume in the candy store example the average individual purchase is $6 to $40.  A non-business customer places a one-time order for $250 for a birthday party.  This one time order will skew the average individual orders to a higher than normal level.  Moving this order out of the individual data will increase the accuracy of it.
  3. Adjust for seasonality.   If you have certain seasons that have a strong influence on your metrics, they must be accounted for.  In the candy business, you probably have some high seasons like pre-Christmas, Valentines day, etc.  Business probably drops significantly in January due to New Year’s resolutions.  Over time you can identify the impact of this seasonality, and adjust for it.  For example, you may determine that every January, sales are down 20% on average versus the 4th quarter.  When January rolls around and your sales are flat over the 4th quarter, in reality you had a great month.
  4. Look for other oddities.  Sometimes you are not aware of what qualifies as an oddity until you see it.  In other words, spend some time just perusing your data with no specific intent.  Just explore!  You may be surprised with what you may notice.  The side benefit of this exercise is you will become more familiar with the data.  This means you will will be more likely to notice unusual pieces of data in the future.



The Art of Persuasion

Call to Action is the Anchor of Your Messaging

Call to Action

Whenever you are trying to change someone’s behavior, you are trying to persuade them.  Selling products, recruiting volunteers, direct marketing, advertisements, etc. are all examples of persuasive requests.  The classic persuasive request is divided into four main steps:

  1. Get the target’s Attention
  2. Develop their Interest
  3. Create a Desire
  4. Include a Call to Action

Keep this classic process in mind whenever you are trying to convince someone to do something.  It can be used universally.  Letters, e-mail marketing (especially important), literature, ads, conversations, etc.  Let’s walk through each step and explore the role each plays in the process.

It all starts with Attention.  This is your intro.   It can be your subject line in an e-mail, the headline of an ad, etc.  If you don’t have a good “attention getter” it is game over.  You need to quickly gain control of the target’s undivided attention.  You will commonly hear there are key buzzwords to include in the intro – words like “Now”, “Save” and “Free” .  This may be the case in general, but ideally you want something that “moves” the target.  Make it count – and make it enticing or the rest of your communication is irrelevant.

Next comes the Interest part.  Assuming you succeeded in getting the target’s attention, you have stay on your game with a good followup.  After the “wow” of getting their attention, you have to develop it with some specifics.  You want the target to think “I can do that”.  Give them a little flavor as to why this is a good thing for them.  Keep them moving through your communication.  If they are a “maybe” at this point, you are on track!

Here comes the crescendo – create their Desire.  Something compelling that makes them think, I WANT THAT, or even better I NEED THAT.  At this point the target has to picture themselves doing what you want them to do.  Think of:  “The Ultimate Driving Machine”, “Just Do It”, etc.  Another appeal:  A happy family enjoying themselves in a Disney World commercial really tugs at a parent’s heartstrings.

This is where it stops for many poorly-constructed communications.  Many good messages are left incomplete without the critical Call to Action.   Without the Call to Action, you have just done an FYI.  You did not CLOSE!  Your target will think to themselves “I’ll have to remember that”.  And then promptly forget it forever.  The Call to Action takes the fuel of desire you created and ignites it!  “Act Now! only three days left.”  “Save 50% on overstock – while supplies last”.

Crafting effective messages is definitely an art.  The more you do it, the better you will get at it.  This is a good starting point.  If you follow this classic formula, you are on your way to effective messaging.

Act Now!



Avoid “Chest-Thump” Marketing

Western Lowland Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) male beating chest in threat display, endangered, central Africa

Have you ever been to a zoo and visited the primate area?  One of the activities that the males engage in is the ritual of chest thumping.  In addition to trying to impress the females, they do this as a territorial thing.  It basically means “Hey look at me – I am big and strong.  I am in charge here”.

I recently received an unsolicited e-mail that engages in what I call “chest-thump marketing”.  A portion of the e-mail is below – with areas blurred to avoid exposing the “marketing primate” who sent it.

Chest Thump Image

While this person attempted to personalize the message the format of the e-mail is terrible and worse yet is the message.  It is all about I, I , and I.  What about the person reading the message, are they part of this communication or is this a diatribe?

Here is a marketing secret to keep in mind – FOCUS ON THE CUSTOMER!  (just kidding about the secret part).  Of course you must focus on the customer;  their challenges, what keeps them up at night, and of course their opportunities.  Frankly, they don’t really care much about you specifically – unless you have something for them.

I had a technical writing class in college – perhaps the absolute best class I ever had.  The professor took our letters/messaging, and then underlined the occurrences of “you” in the document, and circled the “I’s”.  It is astonishing how often we use the word I in communications with customers.  This has stuck with me ever since.  It is also a very common practice to do it in literature, on web sites, etc.  Except the term “We” is used instead of “I”.

Consider starting communications/literature with something like this as an opening message:

“Have you experienced budget challenges at your firm as a result of the economic downturn?  Are you seeking an effective means of achieving cost reductions without compromising service or quality to your customers?”  

Notice how in these two sentences, the attention is focused on the customer completely.  In fact these sentences have worked in you/your 4 times without a single I/We.  Also, by stating a situation that is likely affecting them (downturn) we have started getting them to do some virtual head-nodding.  To take it up another notch, we could do some homework on the target of the communication and mention something that specifically relates to them.  This will also help with engagement.  It shows the customer we care enough about them to do some up-front research instead of blindly sending mass vanilla messages.

Whether it is the opening sentences in a letter or the home page on your Web site, be aware of the concept of chest-thumping.  Engaging the customer has absolutely nothing to do with your firm or your capabilities – but they have extreme interest in how your firm or capabilities can benefit them.  Make the customer the core of your communications and you will be on your way to better messaging.

Don’t be a primate!  Focus on the customer – especially in communications.




Unless You Are Steve Jobs . . . .

You are better off not trying to “figure out” what customers want.  Jobs was a master at it for sure.  Blessed with tremendous intuition and savvy, along with some sort of internal mechanism that allowed him to gaze into the future.  He would then come back and join the rest of us to build then things that we would wait in line overnight to be the first ones to buy.  Genius, visionary, all of the superlatives have been worn out.

Steve Jobs

Enough about Steve, lets get back to you and me.  For us to be effective marketers we have to do a few things (in addition to conceding that we do not have what Steve had).  We, along with almost all other humans on the planet, have to rely on good old fashioned marketing research.  Darn!!!

So how can we “figure out” what people are looking for?  Conventional wisdom is to ask them.  Sounds good doesn’t it?  However it does not generally work so well.  Often people try to anticipate what you want to hear, and try to answer along those lines.  There is a common misconception in certain circles that focus groups are “high end” marketing research.  Unfortunately most people are nice and like to please others, unintentionally subverting the purpose of our research.  So, we aren’t Steve Jobs, and we cant trust people to help us decide what they want to buy.  What are we supposed to do?

The answer is OBSERVE.  Actions speak louder than words.  People often think they do one thing when in reality they do something completely different.  If at all possible, seek out actual users of your product and watch them using the product in a natural setting.  I realize this is easier said than done, but challenge yourself to find creative ways to see your product being used.  You can do it yourself, or you can hire an ethnologist to help you out.

It is definitely a lot more work, but you will get a lot more valuable information using this approach.





How Much Do You “Sharpen the Saw”?

There is another longtime business adage, “if you are not moving forward, you are going backward”.  Competition is a fact of life, and rest assured the competition is working every day, not just to maintain but diligently trying to improve on their offering.  Those who excel at this will succeed, those who do not will suffer the consequences.

To remain ahead of the competition, you have to outwork them AND outsmart them.  You get smarter by reading, and learning new things.  The importance of this concept is well detailed in one of the best business books of all time – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey.  Dr. Covey makes a compelling argument for making the time to anvance your knowledge, even if you think you “don’t have time for it”.  Don’t kid yourself, everyone is busy, and it is very hard to outwork the competition if you are not working “smartly”.


Good marketing requires good knowledge.  Make time every day for exploring new ideas and concepts.  You will not be alone, your competition is already doing the same.

Names Are a BIG DEAL in Marketing (Part 1)

Patagonian toothfishHave you ever eaten Patagonian Toothfish?  I’ll bet you have even though you may not have realized it.  That is because some crafty marketing folks got on the case and correctly assumed that Patagonian Toothfish did not sound that appetizing to the masses.  So what did they do?  They changed the name to Chilean Sea Bass, and the sales skyrocketed!  Unfortunately to the point where this slow-growing fish is in severe decline in numbers due to over-fishing.  The marketers did their job – now it is time for the fish harvesting authorities to do theirs.The point of this discussion is that names ARE a big deal, despite what some so called experts say.  They need to be easy to say, easy to remember, and in the days of Internet marketing, easy to type.We will continue this discussion in our next post with another name example also related to food.

Kudos to Logitech

I just bought a slideshow remote from Logitech – and it comes with two AAA batteries. I am accustomed to companies going “on the cheap” and including very poor quality batteries in the package for electronics remotes.  Not Logitech.  Two Duracell Alkaline.  It was a pleasant surprise!

The old saying is “Penny wise and pound foolish”.  Companies that don’t delight customers every chance they get and go for the money grab will suffer for their shortsighted decision.

Logitech is smarter than that – certainly makes me more likely to choose their product next time.