telling the story or how to avoid death by powerpoint

It’s Friday so you are probably busy pulling together next week’s “Weekly” Report, lots of charts, stats and a few graphs that show (hopefully) that marketing is going up and to the right and that your campaigns are generating interest and more importantly revenue.  You now  feel like your job is done, right? Not quite.  As the harbinger of useful information your job isn’t just to make sure the information gets to someone else’s hands but also to make sure they know what they are seeing.

This past week my college, Scott Rankin, wrote a very good post on how to effectively design dashboards.  It’s a very easy to read, actionable list of a few key things to think about as you build your reports.  Things like, only include information relevant to your audience, provide strategic information and clear insight.  Sounds easy right?  At this point you might have those things that speak to your executives distilled and you probably have the charts and graphs built exactly as they want them but there is more to your report than the pictures.

It is our jobs (in the analyst/marketing operations roles) to tell the story.  I know I naturally was drawn to more operational roles because I don’t consider myself a content person but part of personal growth is finding those limitations and working toward fixing them.  People remember stories, not necessarily data points.  So what about your charts and graphs tells a good story and how is that relevant to the people getting an inbox full of charts and graphs?

First, let’s think back to elementary school, when you would write a story it had a beginning, a middle and an end.  You didn’t just throw a character on the page and have a final outcome, you had to develop the story a little bit.  Start off by giving key highlights, tell a good story with the data, don’t just show the data.   The marketing operations guru who can tell the narrative of the campaign, it’s execution and final results in an engaging way will help drive home the important message instead of just cramming data into an inbox.

Stories have a cause-and-effect relationship. In the book, “Elements of Persuasion,” Richard Maxwell and Robert Dickman define the elements of a good story as:
•    The passion with which the story is told
•    A hero to drive the action
•    An obstacle or an antagonist to challenge the hero
•    A moment of awareness where the hero realizes how he can overcome the obstacle
•    A transformation in the hero and the world around him

It is definitely not simple to take the elements of your dashboard and find a compelling story to delver every time, don’t think of this as a weekly exercise but more a monthly or quarterly one.  It important to show the passion behind the work that you and your teammates do.  Instilling passion in your story will illustrate the consequences to the events described and show your executives relevance of what is being done.  Illustrate how the tactics being used overcome a challenge for the company and what surpassing that challenge means for the whole.  Remember to ask yourself, what is the story here every time you prepare reports and decks so you aren’t creating Death by Powerpoint for the poor soul who has to read what you are creating.

Advertisements

six tips for leveraging (or building) a preference center

So you have an unsubscribe link, think that’s enough?  Think again.  Many people think that an unsubscribe link and a website/landing page that confirms you have unsubscribed is enough but from the standpoint of user-experience and the desire to better engage with your audience it is barely scratching the surface.

Why is it important to have a preference center? Beyond the obvious benefits of allowing you to segment your email based on what someone tells you they are actually interested in, it allows your audience to opt-down instead of opting-out of your emails.

Here are some tips for creating your own preference center:

1. Be specific.  Offering choice in communications preferences isn’t enough, be clear as to what those relevant communications will be and how will they be presented.  Four key opt-in options to consider:

Content – News, products, offers, events

Frequency – weekly, monthly, quarterly, or alerts

Channel – Email, direct mail, phone or SMS and smartphone

Format – Text-only, HTML or Mobile

2. Watch and listen.  Utilizing progressive profiling you can make informed decisions around the types of communications your audience members might prefer for those who have generically opted-in to all communications or who have not yet provide detail on the preference center. Remember, when you make those decisions use language in your email to show someone where they can manage their preferences to better tailor the communications to their needs and interests.

3. Only Ask What You’re Prepared to Deliver.  Using your preference center in hopes that one day you will offer some type of communications (for example a newsletter that doesn’t exist today) will only create confusion, add things to the preference center as they come into being, not prior to. Don’t confuse preferences with market research; your preference center isn’t to gather data on what people might want to hear about.

4. Tell Subscribers What to Expect and why they should give up personal information.  Just like #3 says only do what you say you are going to do, tell people what you are going to do!  Use hover-over text or descriptions of the types of communications so that people see the value in providing you their data and the permission to communicate with them.

5. Use Welcome and Thank-You Communications to continue the conversation. Now that someone has told you about themselves, use the info, begin the conversation the right way, with personalized content geared toward keeping them engaged.  It’s easier to keep a contact engaged than to re-engage someone who has gone quiet.

6. Make your preference center an acquisition tool.  Encourage social sharing – either after form completion in the preference center or in welcome emails.  Use your preference center as a starting point for communications, not just a saving grace when someone wants out.

 

 

happy holidays from google

Gmail has always been a bit of a quagmire for marketers, they lack feedback loops for reporting on spam complaints, they heavily filter email to the junk folder if users aren’t engaging with it and they’ve recently deployed their “Tabs” which scares plenty of marketers into thinking their emails won’t be seen in the inbox again.

Just this past week on Word to the Wise a blog post appeared confirming that Gmail has been re-writing image links in emails.  For the non-technical this means that when an email comes to a Gmail inbox (and has images) Gmail is converting the links from the original email to links to the same images but now cached on the Gmail servers.  So the first time someone opens your email and the images get downloaded it will register as an open but any subsequent open will retrieve the image from the Gmail server where it has now been cached instead of your servers (and thus registering as opens and clicks).

Big deal, you say, you only care about unique opens.  Ok, so maybe you are alright with your metrics this way, did you use any kind of dynamic content or geo-targeted information in your email? That type of information will be impacted as well, it may render properly the first time but it may not ever again.

The full impact of this image re-writing process is still unknown and Google is mum at the moment on the subject. Happy Holidays, right?  That’s exactly the present everyone was looking for…hopefully Gmail will help offer up some alternatives or information on how best to navigate the murky waters of their inboxes.

data hygiene & acquisition- where to begin

As high as 70% of a marketing database will go stale in the course of a year because of contacts changing jobs or changing roles within a company. Inaccurate data can have a detrimental impact on any business, affect its credibility, and can also lead to decreases in productivity. Maintaining a high standard for data entering your database is crucial, elements of data hygiene include:
• Enhancing, correcting and expanding a record
• Appending and validating the data
• Finding missing elements in the database
• Identifying duplicate entries

Data management begins with understanding what qualifies a record as good or bad. A good record meets the minimum requirements for entry into your CRM and make that the standard for what can enter your Marketing Automation Platform (which means that all required fields are complete and accurate), better is when this record has extra data points that allow for proper segmentation. A bad record is one that does not contain the all of the minimum required fields to enter your CRM or has incorrect/inaccurate data in those fields.

A few questions to ask yourself:
• What fields are required to create a record in your CRM?
• What explicit/profile data points are used in lead scoring?
• What other data points are good to collect and include in a record?

As you prioritize what data points you request on forms, from data providers and from those who submit files to be added to the database it is important to keep in mind the required fields should always be included and then the addition of the four explicit fields for lead scoring should follow closely behind. Everything beyond that should be considered optional but highly valuable all the same.

Once you understand what’s good and what’s bad, assess your database against those standards so you know where your gaps are. As much as I hate the idea of ‘acquiring’ contacts via purchases it is a necessary evil so here is a quick checklist to use if you plan to purchase your data:

• Complete due diligence on the list and the broker.
o Understand the subscriber experience from sign-up through inbox (if your content is being broadcast to a new audience through a system other than your own Automation tool this is important)
o Speak to actual clients, run a credit check, and confirm that the mailing address is a real office.
o Confirm opt-in and unsubscribe process and management of unsubscribes and opt-outs.
Understand what you are buying/renting
o Verify the source of the records.
o Verify the permission level of the records.
o Find out if the sign-ups are incentive-based.
o Confirm that the list is never used for porn or spam offers.
o Make sure that the vendor is CAN-SPAM, CASL or EU Privacy compliant (depending upon the region of the data you are purchasing).
Ensure the ability to Segment.
o Prevent oversaturation by segmenting by category selects, demographics or past behavior
Test. Measure. Repeat.
o Always send a small test and adjust.
o Test subject lines, headlines, offer language and placement of links.
o Ask for benchmark data on response by your chosen segments.
o Know the inbox deliverability, not just bounce rate.

spamming Canada will get tougher in 2014

On July 1, 2014, Canada will implement a significant change to the laws governing electronic communications in that country.

Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL) may be less-known than the U.S. CAN-SPAM Act but it is stricter and will require much more diligence on the part of senders to ensure compliance. CASL covers all commercial electronic messages (much more than just email) being sent into Canada to Canadians, or crossing Canadian wires. The law provides for enforcement actions with penalties up to $10,000,000 per email for senders of unsolicited messages.

Unlike CAN SPAM, which covers only email, CASL covers commercial electronic messages, which is defined as any commercial “message sent by any means of telecommunication, including a text, sound, voice or image message.” Some examples of what that includes:

• Email
• SMS
• Instant Messages
• Social Media postings such as ‘tweets’
• Some voice communications

So, what does this all mean? The legislation is wide-reaching – any business that uses email or other forms of electronic messaging needs to be aware of their exposure under the legislation, as potentially significant penalties can result from violations of the Act. The three things you should know to ensure compliance: consent, identification and unsubscription options. In other words, if you are being a good sender you have express consent from the email recipient to send them email, a key caveat its that CASL does require that opt-in checkboxes (etc) not be pre-filled/pre-checked. Second, you must identify yourself as the sender and who you are sending on behalf of, this includes mailing address, contact information, web presence, etc. where necessary. To be compliant in your unsubscribe process your process must be functional for at least 60 days, must be free, should be provided in the same means as your communication (i.e. if you are sending email there should be an email address or link to unsubscribe), must be easy to do and processed without any delays.

So what should you do to make sure you’re in compliance:

1. Review your existing electronic message practices, footers, privacy agreements, subscriber preference centers, etc. to ensure they meet all provisions of the law. Privacy Policies and form collection on websites should be updated to ensure proper consent. In the case of forms, this includes moving from an opt-out (pre-checked) to an opt-in (not pre-checked) methodology.
2. Make changes as necessary and set up best practice guidelines for all internal stakeholders around how you will maintain compliance with CASL.
3. Review your current database, remove any addresses without a positive/affirmative opt-in. If you do not currently maintain an opt-in database you should consider moving that way to be compliant with CASL, consider an Opt-In focused Nurture program. After July 1, 2014 it will become illegal to email Canadian contacts who are not positively opted in.

How does CASL compliance differ from CAN-SPAM compliance? CAN-SPAM is less rigorous than CASL, so the best thing to do is be in compliance with CASL to ensure your communications are meeting both sets of standards.

For more details on CASL visit the legislation here.

Engaging Sales – An Action Plan for Increasing User Adoption of Sales Tools

You’ve spent time and money building a comprehensive marketing plan, buying fancy tools and implementing them you even bought the sales tools that go with your marketing automation platform, now what? You turn them on and run right? Not quite. Unless you have less than five sales people and they are all very very deeply involved in your marketing organization, chances are they have no idea what you invested in or why it isn’t just another shiny object for them.

Sure you can go to the Marketo or Eloqua websites and pull screenshots galore and PDF documents that extoll the virtues of the various tools you now own but Joe Salesguy may not be all that interested in reading all of those. Let’s be realistic, you wouldn’t send emails to your marketing universe that were less than relevant so why pass out generic stuff to your sales team and hope they will read it and find value? While it might sound like a lot of work to build a plan and execute isn’t it worthwhile? You bought into the Sales Insight or Discover tool-set because it was supposed to empower sales, so let’s really empower them. Here’s how:

1. Build a buzz. Prior to launch pick a small subset of your sales users for a pilot. You will want to get some of your more engaged, willing to experiment sales folks. With this you are doing two things, first you are making sure these tools work for your teams but second, and most important you are creating an internal case study. *If you’ve already launched then go fishing for some case studies, we all know how powerful they can be in a sales cycle, think of this as your own internal sale!

2. Set up in-person training time. At launch time plan to have a few in person workshops at different times (and if need be locations) so that you can connect with the sales users, explain the tools, gauge the reactions and then assist them in set up and use of the tools. Be ready to have some sample contacts/leads for them to test sending emails to, test following and watching the buying signals in the tools you have built.

3. Don’t set it and forget it. Build internal resources to support adoption of the tools, everything from an internal email nurture program to a webpage with resources, FAQ docs and samples will go a long way towards helping your users after training. These documents are definitely not one time use, make sure that the team who trains new sales users is involved so that they can leverage these going forward.

4. Reach out in multiple formats. You don’t send one-dimensional campaigns to your prospects so don’t do it here either! Engage your users with video, blog posts, emails and any other format you think might help them.

5. Track use. After you have gone through all of this you need to track the usage of the tools, listen for case studies of success with the tools (socialize those case studies!) and make sure the tools continue to be used. These tools cost money, make sure you are able to show some return on the investment.

How are you socializing your sales tools with the sales teams? How do you measure user engagement and what is “success” for your company? These are crucial questions to keep your eyes on as you roll out new software for your teams.