03 June 2020
Author: Natalie Shawver
Over the past three months, we’ve seen the world change drastically. We’re wearing masks in public, helping our children round out their school year virtually and becoming accustomed to the “new normal” of social distancing—in almost every capacity. Brands and businesses have exhibited sheer determination and utter brilliant displays of nimbleness—and frankly, we’re impressed. So impressed, in fact, that we’re hoping much of it sticks around. Whether it’s contactless Pizza Hut deliveries or curbside pickups from Kohl’s, social interaction has shifted. No longer do we have to physically engage with someone behind a register for our goods and services. Send a text, wait in your car and the item will be deposited into your trunk. Wave goodbye to the retail associate and be on your way. Easy peasy. Businesses have proven, again and again, that they can put the customer first throughout the recent COVID-19 crisis. Amping up email marketing with “don’t worry, we’ll come to you!” messages and social media updates (new hours, specials or dedicated shopping times for at-risk individuals) are what we’ve come to expect. Quick virtual chats with our doctors means less time twiddling our thumbs in waiting rooms. Online grocery orders with a specific pickup time have become the highlight of our weekly to-do list. Librarians bringing books to our vehicles instead of making us search the hold shelf ourselves … glorious. So the question becomes, what remains? Does the general public expect this no-touch-minimal-interaction to be a thing forever? Perhaps. There’s no denying much of the recent purchase process modifications has given us our time back—but it’s also shifted our focus back to the basics. Consumers have a need; companies rise to meet it. The days of someone filling up our gas tank are long gone … or are they? What about milkmen delivering straight to your door? Hmmm … seems eerily familiar. Has the pandemic simply made us return to the level of service we (or our grandparents) once were accustomed to? The time when the customer’s needs came first—and that made for happier, more loyal, more satisfied customers … which therefore meant more business? Maybe. The touchpoints may be slightly different, but the journey remains the same. Hermits, germaphobes, clock-watchers and the like aren’t complaining about this added layer of instant gratification we seem to be living in. Amazon may have been ahead of its time with Prime, but the rest of the world bent over backward to stay in business and think outside the box. Kudos to operations teams everywhere. Our economy has stayed afloat thanks to your inventive and ingenious ways. And bravo to all those making it come to life. We’re saluting you with our mobile Starbucks order while we run weekend errands without ever stepping foot inside a store. This post is part of a series on marketing during and after the pandemic. To read the others, follow this link or subscribe to our blog to get updates when new posts are available. Loading…
28 May 2020
If events or sponsorships were part of your marketing strategy at the beginning of the year, chances are your plans are changing rapidly. The industries we work in at St. Gregory involve a number of event and seasonal sponsorships. Due to circumstances neither our clients nor their partners could have controlled, not all of those plans will be working out this year. If you’re experience is similar, you’re likely working out adjustments and revisions already. There will be pain. Whether that pain is going to last depends to a great degree on how you approached the sponsorship from the beginning and what you and the partner expect from the relationship. Are you just casually dating the other brand or looking for a serious commitment? A common offer from sponsorship partners is to roll over your investment to the following year. That may come with some added value thrown in or an option on the Platinum Level package at the Gold rate. Or whatever. So, should you bite? Extending sponsorship agreements to make up for cancelled events or a shortened sports season is one option, but it only makes sense if the sponsorship still fits with next year’s strategy. And that’s the key. Sponsorships are most effective when there is real alignment between the two brands in the partnership. In the best partnerships, fans or participants are attracted by some attribute that your brand shares, whether that’s adventure, competition, compassion or a love of kittens. When that alignment is there, your sponsorship partner can deliver value far greater than attendance figures and camera time. Those are relationships that increase in value over time, meaning that despite the pain you’re experiencing now, the longer-term investment just may be worth it. Loading…
29 April 2020
If you’re from the do-more-with-less school of marketing, what a time to be alive for you. But for brands who need to stay engaged with their audiences despite social distancing and restrictions on the size of gatherings, the last few weeks have been a time to get creative. Absent the ability to pull together photo or video shoots, many marketers have been forced to rely on existing assets or (horrors!) stock images and video. But some organizations have turned to their people and members of their own audiences for new content that’s both fresh and relevant. And when the content and execution matches brand identity, the shared experiences can be not just impressive, but inspiring. An example of that is the Parks @ Home campaign from our friends (and clients) at Great Parks of Hamilton County. The parks remain open, but with picnic areas, playground equipment and especially restrooms off-limits, it can be challenging for families with young children to enjoy a visit, even on a beautiful spring day. With the help of the Great Parks pros, they’ve created online experiences, educational content, learning activities and enriching games to engage kids and their parents. http://stgregory.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/20_0442_GREATPARKS_FAMILIES_15_HD.mp4 Most notably, it presents an opportunity for members of their audience to connect with each other through the program, with shared activities and exercises that foster conversation and build lasting engagement. Great Parks has some distinct advantages and they’ve created a way to leverage those assets to keep their audiences engaged during social distancing. Brands who do likewise will see it pay off once we get back to something closer to normal. What’s your brand’s advantage?
26 February 2020
Your business-to-business campaign clearly explains the advantages of your product. Your sales team has demonstrated the ease of operation, heuristic design and how it fits into your customer’s process. You’ve checked every box the decision maker needs to make an informed, rational, solid business decision. Still … nothing. Why does it take so long to make what you know is the obvious choice? Sometimes as marketers we lose sight of who’s making the purchase decision … and how. Our target customer may be an owner, operations manager, a manufacturing VP, a design engineer or some other business decision-maker. These are professionals who can be counted on to evaluate benefits, lifetime cost and ROI, and they surely use these metrics to explain their choices in the board room. But your customers are not just rational economic actors: They’re human beings. And people can’t help but make decisions with their emotions first. In addition to your customers’ business needs, how will going with your offering affect her or him personally? There are some questions that never get asked out loud. Sure, maybe it does everything you say, but am I going to have to fight with shipping to take advantage of all those features? Is my family going to forget what I look like while we’re switching over? Of course, it can be adjusted quickly and easily, but am I going to be taking calls from the production floor all weekend? All the research in the world is no substitute for understanding your audience as real-live people. There’s a good chance your decision makers are worried about more than their business. They’re worried about their jobs. And their lives. If your marketing can answer the questions that never get asked out loud, you can win their hearts. Their minds will follow.
06 January 2020
There’s no denying that we live in a review culture now. Social media started it, and online retailers made it the norm. Often overlooked, this element of word-of-mouth marketing has become one of the most powerful drivers of sales, particularly in the “decision” phase of the buyer’s journey.
04 December 2019
Any plan for identifying, targeting and attracting customers to your brand almost always involves some sort of analysis of the customer journey. It’s the path from the Zero Moment of Truth, through something like a Sales Funnel, and leading ultimately to the Last Three Feet. Then we’re done, right? Everybody high-five and start filling out the awards submissions. The reality is that last moment of truth is not where the marketer’s job ends—it’s just where it starts over. With some notable exceptions—burial plots come immediately to mind—most of the brands and clients we serve are hoping for something more than a one-off transaction. So, what can we do to keep those customers coming back for more? First, be certain that the earliest customer experience is not only more than they expect, but clearly what they expect. Advertising messages that confuse your audience or imply a different kind of experience will leave guests confused, disappointed or worse. That means that a clear definition of who the product or service is for has to be baked into your strategy. This requires an analysis that goes beyond demographics or psychographics and gets to what customer need that initial purchase meets. It’s fair to say that the MegaMart and the art gallery have very different customer profiles, but patrons of the arts still, on occasion, need batteries or shoelaces. Second, anticipate that there still will be customers who walk away confused, disappointed or worse. Whether it’s because of an operations issue or a disconnect in your messaging doesn’t matter—it’s still marketing’s problem to address. There once was a saying that a satisfied customer tells two people, but a dissatisfied one tells 12. That’s still mostly true, but through social media that unhappy customer could reach 12 dozen or 12,000 in a matter of hours. Have a plan for responding to these situations that in a way that reinforces your accurate brand story and reinforces your commitment to meeting and exceeding expectations. Third—and this where the journey starts over at the beginning—your marketing plan needs to remind all those happy (or at least satisfied) customers about the best parts of their experience invite them back. Many mass-market retailers and food service establishments solicit comments at the cash register or create rewarded surveys. For high-value purchases or those that are less frequent, consider a personal contact to ask about the experience—good or bad—and even to ask for referrals. With so many options for any service or product in the market, brands need to make sure that every step the customer takes with you is on the right path. The first transaction is just the beginning of the relationship. And the beginning of a new journey.
23 October 2019
The hand that rocks the cradle, they say … Our mothers’ opinions become ours from a young age and when we’re old enough to have our own opinions, we often still trust that mother knows best. Or, at least she sets the starting point. So, where do today’s Millennial moms go when they need an expert opinion in these hyper-connected days? Where they’ve always gone: Other moms. For millennial moms, using social media as a way to reach out to other moms is second nature. What’s different is that instead of having just a close-knit group of mom friends in the family or the neighborhood, there are now thousands of online groups moms can join based on geography, age, special needs, interests … you name it. Every day, these groups are filled with posts by members, seeking and offering up recommendations on the best service providers, baby products, family-friendly entertainment, travel destinations and more. Millennial moms are particularly likely to trust recommendations of other parents on social media. One survey cited in Forbes showed them significantly more inclined to online referrals than even their Gen X older siblings. And these Millennial Moms control a lot of spending power, with mothers making the purchase decisions in four out of every five dollars spent on household products and services. So, as marketers, how can we make sure these uber-consumers know (and share) the advantages of what we’re offering? We need to be part of their communities, both online and in real life. That means building relationships that foster dialogue, not shouting slogans. That means listening more than you speak. We start by identifying the influencers in the market and reaching out personally to offer them something of value in their own lives. This can be a sample for trial, an experience that they can share with their own network, or even an offer they can share with their online followers and offline communities. It’s important that these interactions are conversations, not monologues. Aside from the opportunity to tell the community about your latest offering or enhancement, it’s a great opportunity to learn more about your customer and their lives. Join their communities by participating in online conversations. Your company and your brand have access to experiences from other consumers and other families that members will find useful. And when it comes to your own product, there can be no better source for how it’s best used or enjoyed. Influencers have a responsibility to their audience. The community gives them a platform. In return, members of that community rely on them to test products, try services and to share information they can use to simplify their own lives. Companies and brands that become trusted members of the community – that contribute more than just self-promotion – are gaining an advantage in earning the business of this Millennial generation. And the next one.
19 September 2019
It’s no surprise: we all work hard to ensure our departments and companies are running as lean as possible, building flexible teams of multitaskers. The upside? The latest user-friendly technology and trends make it easier than ever to do things yourself. The technology is amazing. Things that less than a generation ago required teams of professionals or months of effort—from animation to finding a relationship—now can be programmed, automated and executed at the touch of a button. Or a swipe on a touch screen. It’s a brave new world. What a time to be alive (and all that). Less than sure about how to use all these new tricks and toys? Good news: there’s probably a video tutorial, cheat sheet or simple hack just a few keystrokes away. But is the do-it-yourself route the best thing for your company? We see the DIY urge most often in specialized disciplines, or where final results or performance expertise can be highly subjective. Why hire a professional photographer when somebody already on the team has a perfectly good camera? Who can really say that John’s homemade eggrolls aren’t as good as the caterer’s? To make do with the assets you have—they seem experienced enough, right?—is a tempting choice. But before you decide to trust an enthusiastic amateur with a professional job, consider: Are the savings worth the hidden costs? What you save upfront in professional fees may get eaten up by lost time or compatibility issues with other systems. The web design your neighbor’s friend can do on the side might look spectacular. But can it connect to your inventory system? Is the quality the same? Some basic tasks, like uploading a video or social post, are either completed or they’re not. But most projects in this business need to perform to a higher standard. A repaired computer that works but runs slowly causes inefficiency and costs you money. A product spec sheet with great copy but factual errors can cost you a sale. Or a customer. Can you count on delivery? People tend to give priority to assignments that are the most important … to them. A good product at a fair price is of no value to your operation if you don’t have it when and where you need it. There’s a story about a famous photographer at a dinner party. After the main course, her host comments, “I’ve admired your work in many magazines. You must have a terrific camera.” The photographer replies, “I enjoyed the dinner. You must have a great stove.” If there’s an app for that, maybe you technically can do anything. If there’s a friend of a relative who knows someone who can help, maybe they’re the asset you need. Maybe not. But nobody can do everything, at least not well. And not when your success—and your reputation—are on the line.
14 August 2019
The best marketing strategy in the world can only have temporary results if it doesn’t account for the entire customer experience. Sure, our first job is to get people in the door, on the lot or to the website, but that’s just the beginning of the journey. I was lucky to learn this at my first and only job before I started my professional career. I was working at a high-end butcher shop in downtown Cincinnati where the clientele had expectations for their rack of lamb just as high as my current clients do for their multi-million-dollar marketing campaigns. How does a teenager become a butcher at such a place and what did I learn from my time working there? For the first question, ask my dad. For the second, I think it’s safe to say that I learned as much working as a butcher as I did in college. Scary, right? The most important lesson I learned there is that the experience is just as important as the product. This is easy to overlook while organizations focus on product and process, but it can be the most important part of your business plan. Marketing’s job isn’t over when the customer comes through the door. In some ways it’s just beginning. Think about it. One of the first lessons at the butcher shop was wrapping orders. At the time I didn’t understand why my father made such a big deal about it. Finally, he explained that the package that goes out the door is a big part of the experience. The way it feels in our guest’s hands, the way it looks that afternoon in the refrigerator. The appearance, the aroma, the reveal when he first unwraps his roast or chops to start cooking. All those moments are an opportunity to reinforce his decision to choose us. The challenge is to own as many of those moments as possible. Why is that customer in the market in the first place? It’s a butcher shop, so the simple answer is for food. But probably not because they’re hungry. Usually, our customers were preparing a meal to be shared with others, and likely somebody they wanted to impress. That changes the equation. It means they need more than just quality product. They want and expect our expertise beyond which cut is particularly good that day. We’d make suggestions for preparation and serving, selecting side dishes and other ideas for making their meal a success. We understood that we were playing a role in that special meal and it could very well be one of the most important occasions in our customer’s week … or career or relationship. And the customer experience isn’t complete until the dishes are cleared from the table.