Monday, August 06, 2007
As I say in most of my posts, identifying the niche for your product is most important place to begin. The niche(s) determines the subject of your messages and where you go to advertise your product. This perspective still applies with word of mouth marketing.
Information in the following charts can help us understand where consumers trend. We can use the information to choose where to begin our word of mouth campaign or even our general advertising.
We all know family and friends typically give us our most trusted information. The following graph presents consumer-trusted sources by popularity. When thinking about your WOM or advertising campaign, your goal is to get people on board with the following type of classifications or experiences.
People spread the word about a product with varying intensities. The most intense word-of-mouth communicators or “influencers” are the most attractive. One major component of WOMM sometimes crosses with publicity by attracting key persons to review your product and talk about it in articles or on their blogs. The chart bellow from eMarketer, based on a 2006 study, identifies key places influencers go to get their information. The first column, adult influencers, represents key influencers who shape consumer attitudes.
If you want to attract key people to your product, locations in the chart above is where you should start either advertising or request them to review your product.
For those of us who don’t think our product is excellent or that flaws in the product will be learned quickly, I suggest not advertising in some of the locations above. If your product is sub-par, people in these places will be the first to find that out and potentially spread the information on how much your product fails. That statement may seem unethical, but most of us at some point represent products we don’t have in confidence. Yet, we still want to do our best to make it sell as best as possible. Word of mouth marketing doesn’t work positively for weak products. The word will get out about its ineffectiveness (or people will simply not say anything about it). But, it’s possible to slow down the discovery and get strong initial buy-in using other traditional forms of marketing.
Friday, August 03, 2007
comScore released on Monday results of a study they and Yahoo! conducted of 5 major online retailers with offline store presence.
- People exposed to both search and display advertising spent 41% more in stores than those who saw neither ad.
- People exposed only to search advertising spent 26% more in stores than those who saw neither ad.
- People exposed only to display ads spent 11% more in stores than those who saw neither ad.
- 89% of consumers shop for information about products online.
- Less than 7% of all sales happen online.
- Almost 90 percent of the incremental sales generated by online advertising take place in-store.
- For every dollar spent online resulting from an advertising campaign, five more were spent by the same group of people in the store.
Why This May Not Directly Relate to You:The study watched activities and sales of five major retailers. The announcement didn’t mention them by name, but the types were three national department stores, a major apparel retailer, and an office products supplier.
Due to the type of companies, the information may not directly apply to you. The companies in the survey probably have a strong Internet presence. They also can afford to put on large advertising campaigns and provided excellent and clear landing pages and cross-promotions on their own sites. The study also focused on consumers who were spending a bit of time researching products they were thinking of buying.
When putting together an advertising campaign, information on your products needs to be full, complete, and consistent from the ad to the point where the buy process begins. Those elements plus the ability for customers to pickup the product at a location nearby will help produce the results described in the article. Therefore, it’s not just placing the ad that makes a difference, but everything else in-between.
But what if you don’t have retail stores and you only produce the products other retail stores sell? Focus on providing all the right information on the products and then display the retailers near them that sell the product. Although you may also offer an online buying option, you can be confident that significantly more people will choose an offline option than who buy from you.
Conclusion:Click-throughs are just as important as they always have been. Therefore, this study doesn’t replace the need for targeted advertising. This simply shows that our advertising programs may be significantly more successful if we can make it easy for people to find an offline location near them to pick it up.
- comScore: Yahoo! and comScore Study Finds Online Consumers Who Pre-Shop on the Web Spend More In-Store
- eMarketer: Search and Display Work Better Together
Thursday, August 02, 2007
They represent the conclusive expertise from seasoned marketers on where to best spend your internet marketing dollars. So, if you are wondering what the most effective types of online marketing may be or are trying to determine where to start your spending first, use these graphs to help you make your initial decisions.
Keep in mind that the product/service or company you are trying to advertise may get better results using a less “popular” advertising medium. Identifying your product’s niche is really the most important component. From there, you can decide which medium is best and how to present your ad within it. Good luck!
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Friday, June 29, 2007
- Recommendations from friends (58%)
- Opted-in email newsletters (33%)
- TV ads (32%)
- Catalogs via mail (30%)
- Magazine ads (30%)
In the past month or so, I’ve heard TV and radio news programs report on this new trend. Both talked negatively about WOMM. But I think they were looking at the abusers of WOMM instead of those who are using it respectfully and accurately. The basic gist of WOMM is to encourage individuals to give an honest recommendation about your product to others. The realization is that people put more weight on the words from a friend or a person who has already experienced the product.
Abusers of this approach basically hire freelance sales reps to “sell” the product to people they know. Payment is usually received as free product or coupons. The companies strongly suggest what the customer needs to say about the product and the sales goal they need to achieve before a “gift” will be sent. When a company determines what a customer will say, it certainly is not word of mouth. When there are achievement goals to attain a "reward", it is not word of mouth. I don’t have a problem with the approach. But I do have a problem with calling it word of mouth marketing.
To properly entice a person to talk about your product, it’s okay to offer things to increase excitement or to let them know you are thankful they chose to spend their money with you. Usually notification of those gifts happen at the purchase or receipt of your product. What makes WOMM different from incentive programs, such as frequent flyer clubs, are the type of gifts you give. The goal is to enable the person to spread the word about your product with the gift. I suggest checking with the customer to see if they are interested in spreading the word. That can be done simply by providing a means to do so or asking if they want the item you offer to further the discussion. Things given as a “thank you” of course do not need to be opted into. Your return rate on those would obvious be proportionately smaller, but overall activity should be larger.
Other ways of encouraging WOM is to simply provide a vehicle to discuss your product. This can be via an “email a friend” link (although I’m personally not a fan), emailable sample chapters if you’re a book publisher, customer comments on your site, product giveaways for the buyer to give away, or even bumper stickers.
The most important part to remember in all of this is that you need a product that’s worth talking about. Creative marketing can only go so far. If you have a bad product, it’ll come out in WOMM. That was one of my concerns with my websites or products. What if people don’t like them. I’m then empowering people to talk negatively about my product. But even if you don’t attempt to further discussion of your product, people will talk about it anyway. In fact, they already are. The advantage of being more engaged in the discussion is that you’ll find out sooner if the product won’t perform. You'll then be in a better place to allocate your resources in directions you know will succeed.
For more information, I’d recommend a book by Greg Steilstra titled Pyro Marketing. I haven’t read the entire book, but I’ve met with Greg to get its gist and discuss some of my concerns with the WOM approach. He explains things well in the book. His fire metaphor makes understanding the WOMM concept clearer.
There is also an organization, named the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA), that is committed to furthering and educating people about WOMM. They also conduct training sessions, webinars, and provide an email newsletter if you want to become a stronger advocate for WOMM.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
- eMarketer Daily (left side)
- MarketingVOX News (the very top-right of homepage)
- iMedia Connection (halfway down on left)
- BizReport.com (top-left on homepage)
- CNET Webware Weekly
Unfortunate in some ways, I typically don’t visit web sites or blogs to learn about information related to marketing or development. I suggest doing so if you have the discipline since many sites without an enewsletter signup can give you excellent information. I prefer information be delivered directly to me since I don’t always remember to visit sites for information and since the schedule of my day varies so widely. Plus, I can then easily archive the information for later reference and pass it around to others in the company.
Another option you can take is to start your own blog aggregator and look for site RSS or ATOM feeds. Internet Explorer 7.0 has an easy aggregator function within it. I haven’t had much luck finding other programs I appreciate. An aggregator enables you to go to one location to view the best content from your favorite sites. As an example, Thomas Nelson created its own aggregator combining blog posts from employees who have them. All of the sites I listed above have RSS feeds. The feeds typically include more information than what I receive from them once each week.
The study goes on to indicate that 9 out of 10 people in the study who eventually made a buying decision were reached by the ad in at least one other location (see chart below). We know that repetition is important in advertising. This article helps us know how much our repetitive advertising helps us.
One important note to make is that repetition is not best in all advertising applications. Plus, we should not simply advertise in various locations, but targeted locations where the same consumer visits. That requires a better knowledge of who is coming to our sites and where they shop.
Although, that could be a topic unto itself, I wanted to give you a couple recommendations if you're interested in learning more. Hitwise is a company that provides this data most accurately. But it comes at a steep price. There are some web analytic tools you can buy for your site that attempt to find out this information as well. Both WebTrends and Omniture provide this information if integrated appropriately. They can also be pricy, but if buying the WebTrends software (not the company's hosted solution) the use of the software can be depreciated over time. However, the best reliable option I quickly found for almost any size business is Google’s latest Google Analytics package. It’s totally free unlike the others, but Google then gains knowledge of your site’s performance and visitor behavior. Typically, that won’t be a problem. However, it’s certainly important to note.
The study is summarized pretty well by eMarketer. You can view this article until around July 4.
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Two years ago, I couldn’t find applications pre-built for this purpose. It was also at a time when the company’s computer operating systems ranged from Windows 98 to Windows XP and Outlook 97 to Outlook 2003. As a result, we decided to hire a Visual Basic programmer to build an application. Unfortunately, due to the varied systems, it became too risky to roll it out at that time.
Now, due to the recent reorganizing in the company, we’ve decided to revive the initiative. Fortunately since 2004, we’ve upgraded all of our computers to Windows XP and Outlook 2003 (or Outlook XP). This significantly reduced the variables we need to consider.
So that you can put the following tools in context, here are the requirements I used to evaluate options:
- The signature had to be viewable when composing an email
- Contact information had to be pulled into the signature for each employee via Active Directory
- The employee’s computer needed to check regularly for changes to the template
- We needed to have the ability to use different logos or signature templates for various company divisions
- The HTML in the signature needed to be relatively compatible with Mac Entourage, PC Outlooks 2000-2007, and most major email clients
- The signature needed to work with Word as the email editor in PC Outlooks
- The signature template needed to be easy to update
- We needed to be able to choose the fonts, colors, signature, and stationery settings in employee Outlooks
- The application needed to be capable of handling over 600 accounts
- The application needed to be able to grow with the company and technology
In order to understand how the solutions I recommend below work, you need a little background on how the signatures work in Outlook XP, Outlook 2003, and Entourage. For the purpose of reducing length, I won’t talk about HTML email coding restrictions. If I haven’t posted an article about this, feel free to comment on this post with your questions. I’ll respond as soon as I can.
OUTLOOK AND ENTOURAGE SIGNATURES
Outlook XP and 2003
Three signature files are used for every signature you create. When editing via the signature editor in Outlook, you are editing the signature using HTML. Once you save it, Outlook then creates three files: HTML (htm), rich text (rtf), and plain text (txt). It does its best when creating the rich text and plain text versions. But if you added any graphics or copied and pasted anything from Word (especially with tables), you’ll find spacing is weird or the signature may be totally different than its HTML counterpart. This is why using solutions that create separate versions of the files is important to reduce inconsistencies between the formats. Outlook selects the appropriate signature format based on an email’s format. For example, if you receive a plain text email and reply to it, Outlook selects the plain text version of your signature to use.
The three signature files are located in the following location on your computer (most likely):
C:/Documents and Settings/[your login name]/Application Data/Microsoft/Signatures
Note: If you are not on a corporate network, your login name will be whatever you entered when first installing Windows.
Another option is to have your Exchange server automatically add a custom signature to each email as it goes out. Users won’t be able to see the signature when editing an email since it will be added after the user hits “Send” in Outlook. Unfortunately, these won’t work for Nelson at this time, but I mention my top two favorite solutions for this at the end my list below.
Unfortunately, Microsoft’s Entourage is very limited in what code it will allow when composing an HTML email. It views received HTML emails fine, but strips out most of the HTML when composing, replying or forwarding. It also manages signatures completely different than PC Outlook versions. It uses one signature file to store all the information for all signatures a person creates. Up to this point, I haven’t conducted extensive research into whether this file can be programmatically altered.
Mac users’ only option is to modify their signatures manually. For Nelson, we created an HTML version that is friendly with Entourage so that Mac users can simply copy from an email, paste it into their signature editor, and then change the contact information. The disadvantage to this approach is that when the design changes we’ll have to notify and rely on each person to adapt their own. There is no reporting or verification available, and it requires more administration for our I.T. department. This also enables Mac users to have more control over the look and content in the signature, which the company is trying to regulate.
As most of you know, technological advancements in software occur regularly. Therefore after two years, fortunately, a few more appropriate applications exist. The following list includes the best applications I’ve found. If you find others, please add links as comments for all of us.
- Symprex Mail Signature Manager (my top choice)
- Fliximation Systems Mailbox Central
- ITeFlx Adolsign
- Exclaimer Mail Utilities (honorable mention)
- SecurExchange AutoContent Edition (honorable mention)
Symprex Mail Signature Manager
This is by far the best one I’ve found for our needs. The features outweigh many other tools I’ve found and what we’ve created with our own programmer. The price is reasonable for us (a little over $2000). The company, Symprex, located in the United Kingdom, provides excellent information about this application on their site. This tool meets all of our requirements when combined with Group Policy.
Features I especially liked:
- Easy to use editing tool
- Easy to install on the server and each person’s computer
- Deployment reporting
- Customizable signature templates or content for specific departments or groups of employees
Works with Outlook Web Access
The pricing for this application is unfortunately very expensive (via personal quote), but the features are in-line with our requirements and it offers a few more options than what we get with our own programmer.
Unfortunately, the information about this tool on the flexnet.com site isn’t helpful. The information never really discusses anything but overall benefits. However, responses from the Fleximation sales team were quick and with patience. They were willing to answer any questions I had and provided me with the User Manual to answer the bulk of my questions. The company is based out of Ontario, Canada.
The most beneficial function not included in this when compared to Symprex is that it does not affect Outlook Web Access. The implementation also looks a little more complicated.
- Central editing tool
- Works with Active Directory
- Uses a database to create signature
- Users can see the signature when editing emails
- Can use this across Outlook profiles (or persons using the same computer)
- Customizable per employee group in Active Directory
This is the cheapest (at $130) and the most basic application I’ve evaluated. Unfortunately for us, a couple fields we want are not available in the application. We could repurpose a couple of the fields already available. However, I contacted the programmer, and he was willing to make modifications as needed at an additional cost. This tool does the basics of what our programmer has already programmed for us when combined with Group Policy. It does not have a central signature editor or reporting capabilities, and we would need to add the ability to have a different signature for specific groups of employees.
- Creates signature files from user information in Active Directory
- Can create vcards (Outlook contact info files) and attach them to emails sent
- No known limitations with Outlook XP and 2003 on Windows XP
Exclaimer Mail Utilities
This is an excellent tool although it doesn’t meet all of our requirements—specifically the capability for users to see their signature when editing emails. However, if that isn’t important to you, then this tool is one of the best out there and has a sales team (in four countries) that is quick and patient when answering emails. Pricing is not available on the site but I have not inquired about a quote.
Just like my #1 choice, it affects signatures for emails sent via the Outlook Web Access, but it also works with emails sent via Blackberrys or the like. It also has the capability to change the entire look of the email by adding a header, employee photo, and much more (see example image). In addition to those, the Mail Utilities come with many other features you may find helpful, including footer disclaimers, auto-responding, spam control, etc. The flyer (PDF) seems to be best resource for getting information regarding this application.
- Entire email template design control, not just signatures
- Affects signatures for emails sent from Blackberrys (or other PDA device) via the Exchange server
- Can setup different signatures for various groups of employees
- Comes with several additional utilities especially helpful for small businesses
The final application I want to recommend is just as powerful as Exclaimer. Created by Nemx Software Corporation in Ontario, Canada, it offers several additional utilities your business might find beneficial. I don’t know what they charge for this application.
Although, this tool does not meet our requirements, it offers significantly more features than would be possible on a client-side signature application. I won’t list all of them here, but if you want controls over more than just the design of the signature, you should definitely check this out.
- Emails customized to employee groups
- Ability to exclude signatures for certain recipients
- Central editing tool
- Significantly more control than possible on a client-side application
I hope you found this information helpful. Glad to share my research. Good luck selecting your own corporate signature management application.
Microsoft Exchange—This is the central system providing all of Outlook’s functions on a corporate network such as calendar, email, contact information, etc. It is typically not necessary for running Outlook, but on a corporate network it provides content protection, collaboration, a central source for schedules, employee information, and much more.
wikipedia info | back
Active Directory—An element of Microsoft Exchange that offers the ability to control many computers in an enterprise. The signature applications I reviewed use this to access the LDAP database, which contains our employee contact information (LDAP is also part of Microsoft Exchange).
wikipedia info | back
Group Policy—Works in conjunction with Active Directory to control Windows operating system settings globally for every employee computer on the corporate network (including Outlook settings). There are of course limitations based on the operating system and version of Outlook, but most of our setting requirements can be managed via this application since we all have Outlook XP or 2003. What isn’t naturally part of the system can sometimes be programmed or worked into the Outlook COM Add-in (see below).
wikipedia info | back
Outlook Web Access—This is basically the web version of Outlook for employees that want to access email away from work. It does not have as many features as the Outlook software, but a person can handle the majority of their needs for conducting communication. This feature is only available on Microsoft Exchange version 5.0 and higher.
wikipedia info | back
Visual Basic—This is the programming language used in Microsoft Office applications. A novice can begin coding in this language via Microsoft’s scripting tool included with Office. Using this language, you can modify Outlook (or any Office application) to perform any number of simple to complicated tasks. This includes modifying the look of Outlook, creating a customer resource management tool, changing Outlook settings, and creating your own toolbar with your own set of functions.
wikipedia info | back
Outlook COM Add-In—Created using Visual Basic, this module offers a company the ability to expand features in Outlook tailored more specifically to its needs. Integrating this is as simple as dropping the add-in “dll” file in a specific folder on the user’s computer and “turning it on” in Outlook. Since I want users to see the signature when composing an email, an add-in is the only way to make this happen. All of the “solutions” I offered above use this approach.
wikipedia info about COMs | back
DLL—This stands for dynamic link library. These files extend the capability and features of a program (exe file). An Outlook COM Add-In is basically a dll file. Visual Basic is used to program the file.
wikipedia info (link didn’t work at time of post) | Other Info | back
Friday, January 26, 2007
I grew up in the funeral business. My dad is the third generation running his family’s funeral home chain in Fort Smith, AR. His favorite part of the job is to wait on families and help them through the process of honoring their loved ones. He loves his business. However, I wasn’t so dead set on it. :o) I have a great appreciation for the service, but it’s not something I wanted to do for my future. I decided instead to go more creative routes.
I play the piano. Since I was five I’ve had my fingers on a piano. But I didn’t fall in love with it until I was about 13. Since then, I’ve never stopped my love for the instrument. Unfortunately, I haven’t been serious about it for 12 years. So my skill has dropped significantly. As an example, here’s a spur of the moment recording of a song I was writing nine years ago. I have plans this year to bring it back up. But, reading sheet music? What’s that? :o)
I grew up playing golf. My dad does two things every day: work and play golf. Nothing else unrelated really computes with him. As his son, he made sure that I learned golf as well. I was eventually good enough to play on a golf team in high school. But I didn’t like the person I became on the course. So eventually I decided to stop until I was mature enough to play the game with respect. Unfortunately since then, I’ve rarely picked up a club. When I do (about once a year), my shots are so sporadic it becomes more of a fun betting game. “Five dollars you’ll duff it!”
I enjoy photography. For about three years now, I’ve taken a greater interest in photography—as in taking pictures of God’s world around me. I would barely call myself an amateur since I don’t really even study the art form. Camera equipment is expensive, so for now I have a compact Canon PowerShot S1. It has a 10x zoom. Surprisingly, I’ve been able to capture a few okay photos. Recently, I went to Haiti with a ministry here in Nashville and was able to capture some good shots. The album you’ll see is meant to be a summary of the trip. So, you’ll see good and average shots in there—for an amateur of course. :o)
I went to college to be a sound engineer for recording studios. Although I loved making music (singing mostly) in high school, I realized the future was slim. So, instead of pursuing that life style, I decide to stay more technical and work on sound scaping. :o) Toward the end of my collegian experience, I realized that lifestyle was even worse than if I had decided to pursue being an artist or song writer. So, since I have a passion to serve, I decided to pursue work in Human Resources. Although that initially sounds right, we can all make life-changing impact serving people in any position and career. Fortunately though, I learned through the position that web design was the perfect blend of creativity and technology for me. So, I quit my job (with the little web experience I had) and went to look for a job in the web world. Soon after, a lady here at Nelson decided to take a chance with me. That began my career at Nelson about six years ago.
Hope you enjoyed the tour. :o) I’m now going to send on the honorable task to Christy O'Flaherty, Larry Downs and Thom Chittom. Tag! You’re it!
If you have any questions, feel free to comment. I'll respond as soon as I can.