3 Easy Ways to Royally Screw Up Your Marketing

This article was originally published on LinkedIn Pulse.

We’ve all heard it a million times: “We’re a customer-focused company.” Or “We aim to accomplish customer-led growth.” Most companies claim they’re consistently delivering superior customer experience across all touch points. Really? Then how come you and I (as consumers when at home) are wary of brands hammering out mute marketing and advertising messages at us even when we don’t want it. The Wolf of Wall Streetmentality still persists in the market. And, we all hate that but most of us still do it when at work.

Ever wondered how many advertising messages a mere mortal gets exposed to every day? More than 5,000. Yes…that’s true!

Now let’s talk a bit about customer experience. Take a look at this graph below.

One of the key reasons contributing to this delivery gap is the reluctance of brands to invest their time, money or resources in building relationships with the potential customers/customers. With consumer behavior changing incredibly fast, a large number of brands are either not able to keep pace or establish the right dialogue with the customers. And it’s not going to get any easier in the future.

So what’s the differentiator between those brands that are super successful in marketing or getting ready to be ones and those that are prepping up to fail miserably? Of course, it’s the willingness to invest in learning more about customers and executing some lovable marketing campaigns.

Over a professional career of more than a decade now, I’ve met and worked with, spoken to many marketers offline and online from across the world. Based on those interactions and my professional experience too, let’s face it – it’s not uncommon to see plain bad marketing. In fact, marketing that sucks, that’s far from lovable.

So if you are looking for some easy ways to create marketing that sucks, look nowhere. Keep reading.

3 Easy Ways You Can Easily Botch Your Marketing

1)  Hire mediocre marketing talent 

Often times, bad marketing is a reflection of the poor hiring approach. And, poor hiring is usually the outcome of a clear vision about the role, metrics, and the business objectives, and more importantly rash decision-making.

The widening gap between brands delivering awesome customer experience and ones that lag behind stems from the stark reality that there is a fierce race going on in the industry today to hire mediocre marketing talent and keep putting that on/off the marketing vehicle, without even knowing which direction the vehicle is steering toward.

On the hiring advertisement banner of most companies, we often find this “We hire only the best” Here’s an excerpt from one of the finest articles (written by DHH, Founder at BaseCamp) about the “delusion” created by many companies that say the above.

“How many times have you heard a company claim that they only hire the best? The top of the top. The crème de la crème. Most of them, by sheer necessity of math, are delusional. There just aren’t that many “the best” to go around. What these companies generally mean is that they hired “the best” of the candidates that applied. Whoopty fucking doo. That’s what all companies generally do (the special ones hire for best team, not just best candidates). Failing to see the difference between “best candidates who applied” and “the best in the business” is exactly the kind of Dunning-Kruger thinking that deludes companies into these grandiose proclamations.” (Read full article here)

Another example.

How many times at marketing conferences, webinars and anywhere on the Web, have you heard any or all of these concepts/phrases: “Content is King”, consumer behavior, customer experience, personalization, and yadda yadda yadda? We all know, content is the lifeblood of marketing engine and is integral to delivering a great customer experience across all digital touch points. Agree?

Here comes a startling revelation!

Statistics on the state of Content Marketing in Asia Pacific in 2016 reveal that the key issues with managing content marketing in this region are the creation of quality content and developing a strategy.

So let’s talk about this critical marketing role – Content Creator / Content Strategist. If the market has multitudes of good storytellers aka digital content creators that companies hire claiming to be “only the best”, why does such a gap exist in terms of quality? Not saying there are not good content creators in this region, but very few in the number who’ve mastered the art of storytelling, and are digital, analytical with an outstanding reach to amplify the content that they write.

My start-up friends, mentors, peers – we all discuss the content bit of marketing, and the ever increasing challenge of content quality is one of the most commonly discussed topics. I’ve interacted with some “experienced” content creators working for giant corporations/big startups with zilch or little knowledge about the dynamic modern marketing (or content) industry trends (such as story telling), tools, hacks and even basic modern marketing terminology. These interactions are a reason that I can totally relate to the latest HubSpot content marketing report statistics.

Such content hires are a bit scary for two reasons:

  • These do not exhibit core behavioral traits (inquisitiveness or adaptability) and key marketing skills (incredible writing/learning, product knowledge, or analytical skills)
  • Such lack of passion for their job roles can have a drastic impact on the juniors within the team. This role, in particular, requires a person who can be a great mentor to the interns/junior team members.

A slide from the presentation of @dharmesh (CTO, HubSpot) at @EshipMIT

Coming back to the point, it’s all about hiring few but only exceptionally smart, hyper-rational, adaptable and decisive marketers. A brand has to be awesome at recruiting the right marketing talent for delivering superior customer experience. It won’t work any other way.

2)  Adaptability is not your game.

You have a fixed mindset. Good.

You have marketing leaders who do not invest time in studying your industry and consumer psychographics. Even better.

You have a marketing team that does not challenge the status quo. Nothing beats this.

You can truly be a rock star in screwing up your marketing.

Now let’s talk about an approach that can blur your dream of botching up your marketing. The amazingly fast-changing marketing landscape and dynamic consumer needs have created a serious need for the marketing function to be adaptable to the changes and take decisions in real time. But wait. This does not call for rash decision making but decisiveness.

Marketers meet surprises at work every day. The most passionately executed marketing campaigns might underperform or a simple tweet might go viral. Good marketers know how to adapt and react to the changes quickly. The ability to react and act on signals is one of the top skills a marketer needs to possess today for competitive advantage.

With the Internet-induced transparency in the marketplace, these signals are evenly available to you and your competitors. Adaptive companies with sharp and analytical marketing function can apply advanced data mining principles to identify signals and leverage the capabilities for faster adaptation. The 21st century marketers’ adaptability trait can bring them back into the game despite so frequent algorithm updates by Google.

Many companies still rely on the customers’ demographical data sets available to them for executing their marketing campaigns; however, it’s important to understand that this information only scrapes off the surface-level insights. Behavioral data forms the core of adaptive marketing. It gives a deep understanding to the marketer about the likes, dislikes, preferences, motivations, goals, challenges and interaction with the brands. These future-forward insights help marketers devise relevant marketing campaigns likely to drive conversions.

In lack of adaptability, your marketing function is most likely to push into a futile cycle of strategizing and executing, without yielding any significant results. Adaptability can help your brand build a sustainable and meaningful relationship with your potential customers and customers.

3)     You love falling into plotholes.

If you want to ruin your marketing, one of the best approaches is to get your strategy as much lip service as you can. There are good numbers of marketers today, who look at marketing strategy as a laundry list of wishes, goals or objectives.

Getting 3X leads isn’t a strategy but an outcome or a goal. It’s not any strategy. How you aim or plan to achieve those goals is what marketing strategy is.

Many organizations during their brainstorming session (if any) or review meeting(s) – in which some nice (sounding), high-level ideas are bounced off – get pretty excited about some new trends or concepts and instantly jump into execution. That’s falling into plothole leading to a pothole. It’s not surprising to see many campaigns belly flopping when you’ve marketing managers, who knowingly or unknowingly steer the team into executing a campaign without setting goals and a plan to accomplish those goals, leave alone the most important aspect of aligning different team members or even functions around that campaign. That’s nearsightedness of the leadership in marketing.

With that said, strategic planning is not every manager’s cup of tea. It calls for a vision – that of a leader, who can chart out new horizons of growth. Marketing is no different. It’s not about hawking your products/services at customers or doing a monolog It’s about delivering experiences – that can make a difference to the lives of the people your business is out there for. And delivering experiences isn’t cakewalk. It requires an in-depth understanding of the customers, their pain points, goals followed by meticulous strategic planning that leads to seamless execution and finally delivering those personalized experiences to your potential customers/customers.

Apple’s return to glory

When Apple was fighting its survival battle against the tough competitors like IBM and Microsoft in personal computing, it turned back to its founder – Steve Jobs – who had faced an unceremonious ouster from the company a decade back. It was the sheer strategic brilliance of this visionary that went into devising amazing tech and marketing planning that took Apple from bankruptcy to billions is mere 13 years. It’s the greatest corporate comeback story of all times.

He had realized that it was the apt time for Apple to stop competing in the personal computing space and transition into high-end consumer electronics selling at premium prices. He launched the Think Different advertisement campaign and re-connected the brand back to its novel values and mission.

This new dawn at Apple (that marked the advent of iPod, iTunes, iPhone, iPad, AppStore, retail strategy, etc.) also shed lights on three aspects:

  • A clear vision
  • Superlative execution
  • Reductionist stance that entailed selling only their simplest, most aesthetic offering

Keep these tips in mind if you want to ruin all the hard work you put into building the marketing function of your business.

I’m sure you’ve toiled hard to building a good product. So, do not let it go to waste simply because you now know the 3 easy ways to royally screw up your marketing.

How else do you think people mess up their marketing? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

leanring

No or Incorrect Buyer Personas = Failed Marketing. Really?

Marketing Segmentation

You already know it. Powered by the interactive technologies, the buying process has completely changed and the power has shifted toward the buyer.  The marketer-centric, one-way marketing tactics that focus on pushing out mute marketing messages in the face of the potential customers are increasingly becoming ineffective and more expensive.

The rules have changed. Those of us, who are still confused about the path ahead, it’s time to bid adieu to the “four P’s” of our traditional marketing education and unlearn what marketing tactics used to work a decade or two ago. The modern marketing and sales gyrate only around your Buyer. He’s the hero of the story. No brainer there!

Buyer persona is therefore the key to transform your vague marketing into valuable marketing.

Love this tweet by:

Buyer personas form an indispensable part of the inbound marketing strategy. Without the complete understanding of your buyer persona, marketing team can never create remarkable and tailored content for the buyers in the different stages of the buying process. Basically, the non-existence or buyer personas or the use of an incorrect persona (if at all it’s there) leads to a plothole (as rightly mentioned in the tweet above). And with such a plothole, it’s hard to imagine favorable marketing outcomes.

How no or incorrect buyer personas equal doomed marketing?

  • No/Wrong Buyer personas = Failed Content Strategy

Marketing isn’t art but science. Its success is more rooted in logic than luck. By now, most organizations are convinced about the power of content in marketing today but it still is a top challenge for many marketers. In dearth of documented buyer personas or incorrect buyer personas in place, creating useful and engaging content can be daunting.

These correct personas (entailing the demographics, goals, behavior patterns, motivations, challenges, etc.) and buyer’s journey both are critical tools to ensure that the content produced is relevant to them in their roles and considering the stage of the buying process they’re in. This indeed is a great reason to invest time, resources and effort into researching, identifying patterns and creating compelling personal stories.

One important thing to note here is that if not enough time in invested into creating the buyer persons, this can wreak havoc in the form of incorrect or incomplete profile stories (that are not based on actual data but incorrect assumptions) that can lead to a faulty content strategy.

As per The Changing Face of B2B Marketing study published by Google and Millward Brown Digital in 2015, almost half of all B2B researchers are millennials. Hence, it becomes imperative to give them the content to this young brigade of online researchers where and only when they need it. And, not at the convenience of the marketers. This can only happen when the content developers and marketers have a thorough understanding of their buyer personas.

After spending a decade in the marketing industry and interacting with fellow marketers working at other companies, I find that not many organizations are enthusiastic or are investing in this extremely important exercise. Even after having a full-fledged content team, many companies are still juggling to produce relevant content for their target audience.

Only product-centric collaterals and approach to help sales teams in selling the product at the first few customer interactions are the recipes to disaster. Such marketing is bound to get doomed. Isn’t it?

  •  No/Incorrect Buyer personas = Marketing & Sales Teams Disharmony

One of the most common myths is that creating and consuming buyer personas holds significance only for the marketing team. Only creating buyer persona won’t suffice for the marketing success. Using it across the complete funnel strategy and getting the sales team onboard for using it as soon as you have created can work wonders for your business goals.

Many businesses still face the age old challenge of their marketing and sales teams not getting along, and hence fail to drive meaningful results. In such a scenario, something that can truly drive a successful relationship between the two departments is the buyer persona. The marketing team should be completely aware to whom they’re marketing and the sales department must know to whom they’re selling their products. Only when the two teams are on the same page on this crucial component of the business strategy, can the two teams collaborate meaningfully to drive results that matter.

However, not many organizations take this methodical approach and dive straight into executing the marketing campaigns (focusing on spray and pray approach – email blasts, buying databases, etc.) to support sales teams in their crazy, deals-closing spree. Hence we often get to hear about the huge volumes of irrelevant leads getting passed on to the sales teams by the marketing team. As a result, very often, friction surfaces between the two teams, and there begins the blame game, which is not good for the business as a whole.

  •  No/Incorrect Buyer personas = Poor Targeting

Poor targeting is one of the marketing’s deadly sins.

Segmenting your database is critical to sending tailored messages to your contacts. Though it seems like a tough exercise that involves taking into account too many variables, this is one area that buyer personas can easily simplify. These detailed profile stories offer cues as to what, when and how the messages should be sent to the database. Each persona has a different behavior pattern, the language they use and varied goals and challenges. Hence, each communication should be dealt differently.

If you don’t have that buyer personas developed or have an incorrect one, you fall prey to sending everyone the same thing. Thousands of marketers today do these repeated email blasts, hoping the message would resonate with at least some of them and that they would buy the product. And, the amount of time, resources and effort you put into this interruptive marketing can be counterproductive with your contacts getting annoyed and taking a decision never to engage with your brand.

It’s time to bring it all together with the Buyer Personas

Let’s aspire to be good marketers – marketers who understand their customers and needs. Let’s avoid the hard-sell approach and be helpful to them. Let’s take all the time it needs to build great personas and regularly update as these can change our marketing game – redefine our content and email strategy, the educational topics we can write on and solve their challenges through our remarkable content. If done right, it’s a win-win for everyone within the organization.

The Differences Between Outbound Marketing and Inbound Marketing: In a Nutshell

ib

My job is to do inbound marketing.

With so much hullabaloo around changing consumer behavior (powered by rapid technology adoption) and the advent of smart ways using which they’re becoming quite adept at blocking interruptive marketing messages, it becomes important to understand how has the marketing evolved and the basic differences between traditional (outbound) marketing and inbound marketing.

The Internet is inundated with articles on this subject. However, most of them say the same story in different words. Having gained a lot of knowledge through different MOOCs and blogs from marketing giants like Seth Godin, HubSpot, Brian Solis, I have successfully added another value to my character – the zeal to empower fellow marketers or anyone who is just starting out as a marketer. After
all, inbound is all about helping people online.

I’ve attempted to highlight the key differences between Outbound Marketing and Inbound Marketing in a ready reckoner format.

S.No. Outbound Marketing Inbound Marketing
1 Interruption Marketing Permission-based Marketing
2 Marketer-centric Customer-centric
3 Involves Push Mechanism Involves Pull Mechanism
4 Focus on building Hype Focus on Helping and Empowering prospects/customers
5 Focus on finding customers Focus on getting found
6 One-way communication (Monologue) Two-way communication (Dialogue)
7 Outbound marketers have to “buy, beg or bug their way in” Inbound marketers “earn their way in”
8 Offers little or no value Delivers value
9 More expensive Less expensive
10 Less effective More effective
11 Paid search ads Organic search rankings
12            Examples :            Examples :
(a) Telemarketing Blogs
(b) Direct Emails Ebooks/Whitepapers
( c ) Blast to Paid/Rented Email lists Personalized emails to Opt-in Email lists
(d) Tradeshows SEO
( e) Cold calling Social Media
(f) TV ads / Radio ads Webinars/Podcasts
(g) Print advertising Online Videos

Do you have suggestions to add to this table? Please put them in the comments section here.

Modern Consumer’s Buying Behavior Has Changed: Has Your Marketing?

pre roll ads

5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … Skip Ad > >

I so hate this drill, especially when I hop on to YouTube to watch a Tom Cruise video. I literally despise these pre-roll ads. These ads are so annoyingly right in my face.

I didn’t log in to YouTube to watch a father scolding his son for losing his laptop and then the son buying a refurbished laptop from a popular ecommerce website (Ad Name: “As Good as New”). Though I’m an online shopaholic but at my own convenience and desired time. I mean I don’t love that shopping portal enough to come in between Tom Cruise (virtually) and me and hamper my video-watching experience like that.

I hate such brands that do NOT seek my permission and expose me to their marketing messages hundred times a day. This triggers a barrage of questions in my mind about their marketing strategy (and their marketers in particular!).

I feel so fortunate as a marketer in my career to have seen traditional marketing getting redundant and less effective in the last decade and subsequently wiped out by permission-based marketing in last 2-3 years. According to an Adobe study, marketing has changed more in the last 2 years than in the last 50 years.

As marketers, we need to acknowledge and respect the fact that with technology adoption gaining pace with each passing day, people are are getting better at blocking out these interruptions.

  • TV ads…We’ve TiVO/DVRs to skip advertisements. I so love Netflix’s House of Cards, free of advertising.
  • Radio ads…Users have XM/Sirius Radio/Pandora/Spotify to cut their advertising reach
  • Unsolicited (cold calls)…Fortunately, we’ve national Do Not Call Registry.
  • Spammy emails ….I routinely employ spam filters.

As a matter of fact, a large number of organizations are still not convinced about the merits of permission-based marketing for two reasons:

  • Their otherwise expensive outbound methods have fetched results for them so far. So new approach means new risk to revenues. And, not many are risk takers.
  • Permission-based marketing requires investment in terms of resources, effort, time and money. And, most of all, PATIENCE for long-term rewards.

So, such brands resort to “spray and pray approach” and thus still do “batch and blast” email campaigns and pray for leads online. And when the results do not pour in, it feels like as depicted in the picture below.

inbound

I love this brilliant quote from Dharmesh Shah, cofounder HubSpot

The bottom line is that people are now wary of traditional outbound marketing messages and adept at blocking outbound marketers out. Netizens now learn about and shop from brands in a new way – through search engines, blogosphere and social media sites.

To be successful in today’s times, we need to match our marketing mannerisms to the way our prospects gather information and shop for our products.

How?

Generate leads through #Inbound marketing and target customers with relevance marketing.

inbound-versus-outbound_strategy_quote

Options for marketers:

Top 3 Personalization Strategies for Non-Retail Applications

2014 was an incredibly exciting year for mobile apps. With a huge advantage of personalization that mobile apps offer over mobile websites, even the most well-known  brick-and-mortar stores have geared their attention to developing more mobile applications in 2015. Using these apps, these stores successfully leverage proximity functions like geolocation, push notifications, etc.  to deliver mesmerising personalized experiences to shoppers, who so obsessively clutch their smartphones these days.

Many personalization platforms today emphasize primarily on retail mobile apps. But non-retail mobile apps can also keep their user community engaged. Read this post further to explore the different personalization strategies that work greatly for non-retail apps.

Fotolia-Jakub-Jirsák-78493363_Sub_700px

Many developers feel reluctant to dive into creating apps for non-retail businesses fearing from the exercise of collecting humongous customer data and developing big algorithms. Nevertheless, it’s a myth that we will debunk in this post.

Here are the top 3 personalization strategies for non-retail content.

1. Geolocation content

This is one of the great ways to personalize content. As majority of smartphones html_geolocation_apihave in-built geolocation features, you can easily target users with newsfeed and even connect them with other users in proximity with same interests. One of the brilliant examples to quote here is that of iBeacon that enables mobile apps with its Bluetooth Low Energy technology to understand the location well and deliver relevant and contextual content to user based on location.

2. Recommendations

The better you understand a customer, the better and more educated Recommended_stamprecommendations, you can offer to your customers/online store visitors. You can extract useful information from your customers during the sign up process or even later interactions with your website. You can use this information for effective customer profiling when they start downloading and using your mobile app. You can track your customers across:

  • User sign up process
  • Browsing history
  • User generated content like tweets, comments, favorites, likes, etc.
  • User preferences
  • Ratings and reviews

Once you’ve these data points, you can design a better user experience for your customers. Using the user feedback when they browse through your mobile app, you can refine your app further.

3. UGC

Often, etailers commit the blooper of looking upon personalization as a duty touser_generated_content deliver user experience. Personalization also entails the content and contribution of users to shopping environment. While you take all the necessary steps to offer personalization such as collecting customer data, monitoring their interactions with your ecommerce website and accordingly offer relevant and contextual product recommendations to them. You can let users contribute to your personalization strategy through a mobile application. Your private labelled application can serve as a powerful platform for users to connect and engage with your brand, pitch their opinion and experience. This will empower your users to generate their own personalized content and experience.

Let’s take the example of Gaana.com app, a beautifully designed mobile application that makes it easy for users to discover music from the best collection of national and international playlists. Here users take the music listening experience to a new level by creating/modifying playlists depending on their genres/moods.

Such mobile apps enable users to feel valued and ask for their contribution to make it more interesting a platform to visit and revisit to generate more user generated content and get their varied needs addresses on the online platform. It offers them highly personalized experiences.

Open Source: Hype or Hope?

open

It’s no secret that a paradigm shift from early-adopter novelties to mainstream essentials has taken place on the technology landscape over the past few years. Still there are many traditional tech stalwarts out there who aren’t leveraging the Open Source. So when technology evolves at a faster pace than your company, you run the risk of going extinct. If you’re yet to embrace it, the time to dive into the brave new world of Open Source is now.

Essays by O’Reilly and Searls clearly underline how Open Source  is continuously impacting the technology landscape (but for better!). These informative pieces also emphasize the growing need of adding context to Open Source so that it continues to evolve and positively influence the technology landscape.

times

Developers are the New King Makers

One key point to highlight here is that Open Source has empowered developers to an incredible degree. It has opened the doors for them to numerous software projects, absolutely free of cost besides giving them the power of controlling the code, applications and complete underlying infrastructure, like never before. The future of the Information and Technology industry gyrates around empowered and agile developers (major credit to Open Source there!). Employers that will recognize the developers’ empowerment and their growing prominence are highly likely to have an edge over those that don’t. It’s a new reality!

Stephen O’Grady, Co-founder of RedMonk

Stephen O’Grady, Co-founder of RedMonk

Stephen O’Grady rightly says this:

“Developers are now the real decision makers in technology. Learning how to best negotiate with these New Kingmakers, therefore, could mean the difference between success and failure.”

Right Pick for Your Business

Today, we’re at the cusp of BIG changes on the technology landscape, where mega-trends are changing the way companies do software development. If you own a small business, you’re often cost conscious while aiming to deliver value through your software. Open Source is the perfect pick for you in that case – quite literally, it’s 100% free of cost – all inclusive of accounting software, email servers, operating systems and lots more.

Open source is easy to use and backed up with a solid code, ensured by multiple individuals working on the software. For example, Linux has nearly 10,000 contributors. Its documentation is easily available and there are plenty of guides and literature available on Open Source on the Internet. You can also customize it to match your needs and gain that much needed competitive advantage.

Here are a few best Open Source Software:

More a Social Activity Now

Contributing to open source software is now increasingly becoming a social behavior. This social media activity (Search + Social Media = Social Development) promotes increased transparency, productivity and a brand new style of software collaboration.

IT

Conclusion

If you and your organization are mulling over the plans of joining the army of the increasing number of empowered social developers, now is the time to start. Get started with Open Source today!