5 Steps to Better Email Marketing

Google the exact phrase “email is dead” and over 180,000 results are returned. Long has been the debate over email’s pulse - or lack thereof. The truth is email is alive and well and while it has gone through growing pains, the health of this communication channel should not shy you away from developing a sound email marketing strategy. This post will give you 5 steps to building a better email marketing strategy. 
Step 1: It begins at the source
An email marketing program is meant to work in conjunction with all your other communication channels. Start by identifying and documenting all possible lead sources. Some examples of lead sources include your website, the physical store location, social media and paid digital advertising. Once you understand where your leads are coming from, you will be able to control how you collect and communicate with your leads. 
Be nice.
For each lead source, ensure there is a straightforward way a person can request to join your mailing list. Your lead form should collect only the most essential data fields (i.e. name and email address). Depending on the source, set expectations by briefly stating the type of content and frequency subscribers should expect. Use a “Thank You” confirmation message after each form completion. You can also encourage your new contact to add your sender email address to their contacts list to ensure your emails are not be marked as spam. Finally, reassure your audience that their contact information is safe and will not be sold or shared with third-parties.
Focus on quality. Not quantity.
One of the keys to a successful email marketing plan is managing your list of contacts carefully. The sooner you realize you are not going to capture every single contact’s attention, the faster you can focus on creating eye-catching content that will captivate your target audience for each source. When gathering leads, be careful when offering incentives for email sign-ups. Although this can increase your list, you may be capturing leads who will not convert to loyal customers. Offer incentives strategically and sparingly.
Step 2: Invest in the right tools
As a business, if you are communicating with your prospects via email, you must abide to all terms found in the CAN-SPAM Act. The good news is that when you use paid email marketing software, you can easily comply with rules and avoid being blocked by your email service provider. Two common email marketing services are Constant Contact and MailChimp. There are pros and cons to each service and both of them offer email templates, list segmentation, and image editing software, key features to creating branded, engaging, and personalized emails.
Step 3: Develop a communication plan
In this step, you must decide on the 3 Ws: what, when, and who.
What
This refers to both design and content of each of your communications. Email marketing software will allow you to select a pre-built template of upload your own. Regardless of your method, consider these design guidelines:
• Your Call to Action should be visible within 300px from the top of your email
• Use eye-catching images but avoid image-heavy emails
• Opt for responsive design, whenever possible
• Use web-safe fonts only
Decide and write down your general topics. For example, you can use a welcome email, an eNewsletter, highlight a product/service or sales promotions.
When
Once you have your topics outlined, determine the frequency of your emails. In most email marketing software, you can also assign nurture plans to specific lists. You can view general trends by industry for best day of the week and time of day where average opens are the highest. This can be a great starting guideline but feel free to adjust to your specific audience. Whatever the case, be consistent.
Who
Email software will allow you to segment lists so you can assign your leads to specific categories. For example, you can segment by source (website, social media, physical store), specific demographics, or any many other indicators. Note that you will have to collect this type of information on your lead form.
Putting it all together.
Once you have your 3 Ws, put it all together in a simple spreadsheet.

You can also take advantage of calendar features offered by many email marketing software clients.
Step 4: Know your metrics
Once your plan is in place, it is time to assign some KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). These are ways of assessing your efforts. Your email software will provide many performance metrics. Pay attention to the metrics such as click-through rate and unsubscribes. Look for patterns after a particular email topic.
Google Analytics also allows you to generate customer URLs to include additional campaign parameters tying in email campaigns to other paid or organic methods. This will help you see the full impact of your email campaign in conjunction with other efforts.
Step 5: Optimize and repeat
This plan is meant to help you build your strategy. Throughout each step, you may need to make adjustments to fit your resources, market, and/or individual results. Analyze what does and does not work and adjust your plan accordingly.

Image Source: RDM-Rio Digital Marketing, 2017.
(http://riodigitalmarketing.com/paid-search-and-email-marketing/)

Marcia Perez-Del Valle
Marcia is a digital media specialist with 5+ years of marketing experience in the areas of social media marketing, email marketing, website content management, and analytics. She obtained her B.A. in Communication from Nova Southeastern University and is currently pursuing her M.B.A. in marketing. She holds a web design certification and is Google Tag Manager certified. She can be reached at marcgarc@nova.edu

Five Fun Ways to Boost Social Media Engagement

It would be extremely hard these days to find a company that is not using some form of social media for their business. Well-known platforms like Twitter and Facebook are utilized by big corporations and small business as a way for them to promote themselves. However, just because your business is “on” these platforms, doesn’t mean that you are using them to their full potential.

The key to using social media properly is engagement. If your business is not using its social media profiles to engage with your consumers, then you are really just wasting your time. Engagement allows customers to feel personally connected to your business and builds brand loyalty. Being flat when it comes to social media engagement can truly make or break your business. Here are five ways to boost social media engagement:

1. Talk to your customers, not at them

It is easy to create a post on Facebook. The real talent is turning that post into a conversation. When people post comments on your social media, respond quickly. Give your customers the chance to actually talk to you. Allow your customers to feel like they are talking to a human being, not an automated reply system. You can post all the content you want or send it to them, but if they don’t feel as if they are a valuable part of the conversation, it is pointless.

2. Allow the customer to do the talking:

Sometimes, the best marketing comes the customers themselves. It is perfectly fine to allow people to promote your business. Allow people to share their experience with your business. Whenever you receive a great customer review or testimonial, showcase it or share it to your page or profile. Consumers are more willing to take the word of another people over yours. Welcome the opportunity for customers to comment and share their experience.

3. Host Q &A Sessions:

Giving customers a direct line of communication by hosting a Q&A session is a great way to boost engagement. A great suggestion is to let someone who is higher up in the company answer the questions directly from the customer. Host your sessions on Facebook or Twitter, since those are more than likely your most used platforms. These sessions can be between 30 minutes to 1 hour long. Just be sure to let the customers guide the conversation but not to the point that they are trolling you.

4. Contests

Who doesn’t love winning free stuff? Contests are great ways to boost social media engagement. Contests with great prizes encourage people to participate. Creating a contest that is related to your brand will boost engagement with those who are already followers and can help you increase the number of subscribers by requiring those that don’t follow or like your page yet to do so in order to win.

5. Show your Personality

Not every post has to be about your business. Show that your company has personality. Post a funny picture or video of your employees at work. It’s okay to be lighthearted sometimes. Have fun on social media. Customers will love that you are willing to laugh and that will help them to build a connection to your brand. Just be careful with the content. Make sure that it is appropriate for your audience.

Brittani McCray-Fleureme is an MBA student in the Huizenga College of Business and Entrepreneurship at Nova Southeastern University. She can be reached at bm1218@nova.edu

The Rise of Creativity

Pin it! Snap it! Like it!

It seems that engagement is of high relevance in businesses nowadays, thanks to social media outlets such as Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram. Due to the tremendous growth of e-commerce within the past ten years, businesses have invested more dollars in enhancing their brand’s image to tap into the mindsets of X and Y generations with the assistance of creativity.

First, brands must strategically plot the best approach in developing universal communications and summarize what they stand for (Chow & Baack, 2016.) By providing an accurate image, brands portray the solitary nature of the organization and what they sell. Each social media outlet reaches consumers in alternative ways, so it is imperative for brands to select the method to voice their message and build valued relationships. Snapchat, for example, would be an excellent medium for B2C markets since it is used to share exclusive moments of the present within a matter of ten seconds. From a consumer’s perspective, it is valuable to receive the privilege of visualizing what a company does and how it creates value through Snapchat. It also enhances psychological reinforcement, provides a service, and plays with their purchasing power.

Tumblr, on the other hand, serves as a blog where users can post images, intuitive quotes, short narratives, and videos. Account holders range from mid-teens to mid- twenties which gains branding expansion with the youth who is a primary target market for brand longevity (Gahran, 2012.) Unlike Facebook, Tumblr accounts are visible to the public whether they have an account or not. It is imperative for businesses to use generic hashtags and continuous daily postings of content portraying the business to gain awareness. Overall, organizations must create interactivity, delivery, and shape consumer experiences to heighten creative profit growth.

References

Chow, K. E., & Baack, D. E. (2016).  Integrated advertising, promotion, and marketing communications (7th Ed.). New York, NY:  Prentice Hall.

Gahran, A. (2012). A quick guide to using Tumblr for business. Retrieved February 07, 2016, from http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/224084

Alysse Llerena is an M.B.A. student in the Huizenga College of Business studying the innovative strategies of Marketing. For inquiries, you may contact her at al1596@nova.edu

Thought Leadership Wins Social Media Votes in B2B

Did you ever wonder what builds social media audiences in B2B circles?

An empirical study of 171 leading influencers by Dr. John Gironda and yours truly found that thought leadership out ranks helpful advice, engagement, entertainment, inspiration, empathy and content credibility.

So what is thought leadership and what does it mean for marketing and sales representatives?

Aspiring thought leaders must champion groundbreaking ideas that provoke new mindsets around a different way of doing business. Think Steve Jobs and the way he fomented change. But for you to gain credibility for your forward thinking insights, the research suggests you must first earn your stripes with trails of content perceived as timely, relevant and useful (i.e., instructional tips that help buyers with their operational challenges).

This is where a lot of sales and marketing personnel bail out. After all, who has the time to brainstorm fresh perspectives and helpful tips?

But imagine the trust built if buyers see you generously sharing your digital content (e.g., blog posts, videos, live broadcasts, white papers, etc.). Your empathy speaks volumes. And don’t underestimate the confidence built as each shared piece sheds more light on your expertise and relevance to your prospective buyer.

On the thought side of thought leadership, buyers need original ideas or unique perspectives before they consider you a trusted authority. High on their list is your market foresight. How can you help them navigate through turbulent times or uncertain futures? In the social media world, this is often done by consultants who regularly forewarn their customers of risky technologies.

The combination of forward looking insights and operational helpfulness then sets the stage for showcasing your expertise. Without this, your claims for cutting-edge ideas cannot be validated. So start with instructional tips to show what you know. Periodically lay out some predictions for what is coming down the pike, and then provoke a new mindset that signals to your buyers that you are worthy of their selective attention and patronage.

On the leadership side of thought leadership, marketers with the most social clout are often known for their inspiration appeal. You have to be able to drive conversations that literally spark a movement. One way to do this is to edu-tain them. Our research showed no direct influence between entertainment and social influence. But it did show an indirect influence through inspirational motivation. The suggestion here is to dress up your content with humor and visual storytelling as a way to inspire your audience.

Why is this important? Imagine a buyer in total control of the sales process (i.e. inbound marketing). Most of the buyer journey is done digitally, and 60% of the cycle is complete before they contact sales. With over 850 million websites equipped for blogging, everyone wants the buyer’s attention. So who do they follow? Their go-to advisors are opinion leaders that could help in innovative brainstorming. This sounds more like helping than selling.

So what do you think falls next on the list of ways to build social influence?

James Barry, D.B.A., is an Associate Professor of Marketing in the H. Wayne Huizenga College of Business and Entrepreneurship. Dr. Barry develops, teaches and consults on a variety of social media marketing subjects. He can be reached at jmbarry@nova.edu

The power of sponsor love

Staying with a problem athlete is not an easy decision for businesses and many times it proves to be a very costly one. For example, in 2009, when the Tiger Woods cheating on his wife scandal broke out, in just a couple of months, major sponsor companies such as Nike experienced a decline on the stock market in the order of billions, attributable to the scandal, according to the Wall Street Journal. Time has passed and Nike stuck with him, and even helped Tiger create the famous “apology” commercial. Nike didn’t stay beside Oscar Pistorius after he was arrested or with Marion Jones after the steroid scandal. The brand is still alongside tennis superstar Maria Sharapova, despite the 2-year ban from competition for using meldonium.

Speedo also supported their star athlete Michael Phelps through his marijuana and DUI adventures, only for him to ditch them in 2016 for a new company. What Speedo would have loved to know beforehand is probably Ryan Lochte’s storytelling skills, for the whole robbery saga that was created at the Rio Olympics. The company did drop him, together with his other sponsors, before any official legal charges were made. So where is the difference? What are the criteria used for making the decision whether to continue supporting an athlete?

First, you can easily add the word “star” before the name of every athlete sponsors continued to support even in a moment of crisis. Woods, Sharapova and Phelps are all superstars and champions in their sports and overall.

Second, it is usually about the nature of the offense, how consumers perceive it and the degree of negative attitude it receives. The Jones and Pistorius scandals were unforgivable and unforgettable, something not good for a brand. The Lochte scandal appears to easily go away (he is on Dancing with the stars); however, Speedo wanted to be able to fully take advantage of the positive aspects of the Olympics and not have consumers distracted.

Third, it is also about the length of the relationship, the sentimental connection. Athletes like Tiger Woods and Sharapova have worked since their debut with Nike, making the company a lot of money and also establishing rapport with the organization. It is not easy to let a lifetime of happy and profitable relationship go away, even in business. Unless consumers signal that time has come.

Image source: WVUsports.com, 2017

Maria Petrescu, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Marketing in the H. Wayne Huizenga College of Business and Entrepreneurship, Nova Southeastern University. She can be reached at mpetresc@nova.edu

Stay Positive! A Case of Place Marketing

What is required to successfully change the existing negative image and promote a location? MiMo District as a destination that people want to visit and is located on Biscayne Boulevard in Miami between 54th and 77th street. MiMo is an architectural style that started in South Florida after the Second World War in 1945. The area was known for its prominent style, Art Deco. Indeed, most of the buildings in that area emphasized geometrical shapes (MiMo Boulevard 2016). However, after being a celebrity destination, MiMo became an area deserted by locals and tourists. Indeed, the area had a negative reputation and was known as an area with high crime rate. In addition, there was a high volume of traffic on US 1 which was the main artery on the Boulevard. Some restrictions were also imposed by the city where buildings could not be taller than 35 feet. Therefore, revitalizing the boulevard has been a priority by the MiMo association so that the area who used to be one of the top destinations of celebrities such as Franck Sinatra can once again become the destination of locals and tourists and attract more real estate investments.

Therefore, first and foremost, as researchers we studied and analyzed MiMo’s current situation. We also assessed and evaluated several other competing destinations to find out what they have done to promote their areas, and how they stayed successful. We suggested changes ranging from streets to buildings, prices to accommodations, businesses to people, funding to community service, and promotions to entertainment. All aimed at enhancing the image of MiMo and attracting more people, and eventually putting it at par with destinations such as Clematis Street, Brickell Avenue, Coconut Grove, and maybe one day, South Beach.

One of the strengths in MiMo’s marketing efforts is the support and connections it has within the local media, one of the local stakeholders. Local newspapers and blogs (such as Sun Sentinel, Biscayne Times, Miami Herald, and Miami New Times) have shown support for MiMo’s events and are promoting the area’s projects, restaurants, and events. More recently, publications such as the Miami Herald have realized the efforts being put forward to revitalize the district and have been placing a more positive spin on the area in terms of being a dining and cultural destination. However, one of the weaknesses is related to the inconsistent media image of the area and a lack of coordination of stakeholders when dealing with the media. In the past, the media’s attention towards the destination has always been negative in terms of the location’s crime and neglected facilities. The new attempts of publicity continue to conflict with the negative image that MiMo still receives from other media outlets. Establishing a stronger movement to create a positive image of the area and communicating it to the media in Miami, through a strong public relations campaign, is necessary to eliminate this weakness. 

In addition, a weakness in the marketing and communications tools is the lack of consistency in the promotional efforts. Efforts such as events and banners do not seem to be related with the image that MiMo wants to project as a historic district. MiMo has great opportunities being re-branded as a prosperous and vivacious 1950’s historic district. However, the efforts have to be consistent with that concept, otherwise the public will find it difficult to understand the historical value the area truly has, and will not be able to identify how MiMo is different from the competition.

Also, there are no signs indicating arrival to the MiMo district and there is nothing being done to promote the brand in this manner. Thus, the logo, tagline, web page, banners, advertisements, and events have to be related to each other and to the 1950’s theme in order to bring the whole historic concept together; there must be a strategic direction and coordination. The prices of restaurants and retailers can be considered a strength since it is relatively similar in comparison to other areas. High-end places like the fashion designer Julian Chang or the restaurants Soyka, Michy’s and Casa Toscana are considered strengths because they bring variety to the area, where locals and tourists can find all kinds of prices and qualities.

MiMo BIC and MiMo Association’s website has a lot of interesting content about past events, restaurant, and motel listings. However, it could be used much more efficiently by collaborating with all affected stakeholders in the process of brand promotion. MiMo is finding difficulties in getting the public to assist at these events, a result of no community cooperation, no competitive advantage, lack of positioning, the area’s public perception, and lack of stakeholder involvement.

Analyzing MiMo’s current situation gave us insights on what paths we ought to take. We were able to develop a survey that was administered to locals in order to find out the main priorities within the area.  Promoting the name and image is of the utmost priority, since most people do not know what MiMo is, or where it is located. Changing the name to MiMo Avenue on the stretch between 50th and 79th street, and installing signs that tell drivers they are in MiMo. Launching new events, along with public relations campaigns can prove to be very effective when trying to promote a brand name and image. Keeping close ties with the media is very important, especially during the re-branding phase of MiMo. Being an up-and-coming area will help feed the positive image to that curious segment of the population who’s looking for new things to try and adventures to experience. As the MiMo District looks to build stronger and positive brand awareness, it is essential that local associations are included in its target market; associations of arts and history along with educational organizations. Consumer motivation to visit the area could become high as the MiMo District presents a new territory for these associations to voice their culture, art, and history at reasonable expenditures. By pushing the MiMo District’s historic value, organizations looking for a destination with strong benefits in this sense will provide a good target market. Their need to market their culture, art, and history in a location that exemplifies these elements is essential. In addition to local arts and history associations, MiMo should also target travel agencies to voice the new messaging associated with the district.

Based on the survey, the marketing objectives for the MiMo District should be directed towards building a new, positive brand image for the area with the goal of maximizing safety and cleanliness, while increasing awareness of the historical location. By positioning the MiMo District as the “up and coming”, businesses can become attracted to the potential traffic and revenue associated with it.

In the process of all this, some of the important steps are: capitalizing on the positive aspects, scheduling mega-events, launching familiarization tours, and using selective promotions. But ultimately the most important advice for those working on repairing a negative image is to always remain positive.

Image Source: www.metro1.com, April 3, 2017.

Selima Ben Mrad, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Marketing in the H. Wayne Huizenga College of Business and Entrepreneurship, Nova Southeastern University. She can be reached at sbenmrad@nova.edu

Kathleen O’Leary, Ph.D., is Chair and Associate Professor of Marketing in the H. Wayne Huizenga College of Business and Entrepreneurship, Nova Southeastern University. She can be reached at koleary@nova.edu

Maria Petrescu, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Marketing in the H. Wayne Huizenga College of Business and Entrepreneurship, Nova Southeastern University. She can be reached at mpetresc@nova.edu

“You are what you eat”

Suppose a consumer who is allergic to dairy products is shopping for a non-dairy yogurt.  After browsing through a variety of brands, she sees the product “O’Soy," with a product label claim identifying the product as “organic soy yogurt.” Is it safe for the food allergic consumer to rely on this information, purchase and then consume this product?

            This is a serious question faced by many food allergic consumers today and the answer is not as simple as one would presume.  The “O’Soy” brand name appears to indicate this is a soy based yogurt.  In addition to the brand name itself, a prominent product label claim in large bold font on the front label, identifies the product as "Organic Soy Yogurt." A recent research study has suggested that food consumers are influenced by and base their purchase decisions  on the name of the food product (Irmak, Vallen, & Rosen Robinson, 2011).  Additionally, prior research has substantiated the notion that food allergic consumers utilize package information and product claims to evaluate if a product contains an allergenic substance (Voordouw et al., 2012). 

            If the above food allergic consumer assesses allergen risk in a similar fashion, this is but one example of how a food allergic consumer may unknowingly consume an allergenic substance, since an inspection of the back label of the “O’Soy” yogurt states that the product does in fact "contains milk."  This potential mistake, relying on the package information found on the front of the yogurt container's label, could be life threatening to a food allergic consumer allergic to dairy products.   Further investigation revealed an online disclosure, found on the "O'Soy" website that states  "O’Soy is lactose free and that those who are only lactose intolerant, and not allergic to milk, can safely enjoy O’Soy" (Stony Field Farm, 2011).   In 2014, Stonyfield Farms modified the ingredients and cultures used in O'Soy yogurt in order to eliminate dairy in the yogurt.

            As the previous example illustrates, more understanding and research is needed on this issue, since confusing and often conflicting product ingredient information appears on food product labeling. Domestically and internationally, food allergies have become exceedingly prevalent in children, adolescents and adults (American Academy of Allergy, 2011). Both the United States and various European governments recognize the importance of clear and complete ingredient communications of known allergens to allergic consumers and have instituted various labeling and allergen disclosure laws such as the United States’ Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) and legislation improvements like those found in the EU's Food Information for Consumers Regulation (Agency, 2014; Services, 2006). 

            Regardless of legislative mandates, manufacturers should institute clear labeling if the product(s) place consumers at risk for harm. Yet, despite the ethical benefits and legislative mandates designed to assist the food allergic consumer, food allergy labeling still remains unclear and there is no clear consensus on the best manner to convey allergen information to the food allergic stakeholder, and as noted in the prior example, there have been examples of conflicting (incongruent) allergen information communicated to the allergic consumer via the product information and packaging material. 

            This domain of food allergic consumers, current labeling issues and their decision making processes is an under-researched and newly emerging issue that needs to be addressed so as to provide a safer and more consumer friendly food shopping experience for allergic consumers and stakeholders of food allergic individuals.
Do you agree?  Have you had any experiences similar to the example shared above?  What are your thoughts to improve the labeling on food?

*This blog is based on a doctoral dissertation by Roger Wortman entitled ‘Impact of Product Label Claims.' His committee consists of Dr. Suri Weisfeld-Spolter (chair), Dr. John Stanton (reader), Dr. Cindy Ruppel (methodologist) and Dr. Herb Brotspies (4th member).

Image Source: Speech Buddies, Inc., 2017

Sara Weisfeld-Spolter, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Marketing, H. Wayne Huizenga College of Business and Entrepreneurship, Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Weisfeld-Spolter can be reached at sw887@nova.edu

How to drive your business with marketing instrument panels*

The late Ed Koch, a recent New York City mayor, always asked, “How am I doing?” Marketers — as well as government leaders — need to know if their “customers” are happy.

Perhaps you head the marketing operations for your company and want to get a better handle on customer metrics. You heard about the idea of a marketing dashboard at a recent trade association meeting and think that may solve your problem. How should you proceed? What should be on your dashboard? 

Progressing beyond a single item to monitor the effectiveness of business performance, leading organizations often use a set of key metrics called marketing dashboards to understand their key performance indicators.

Just as an automobile dashboard captures critical driving information such as speed, distance, fuel levels, vehicle and engine temperature, navigation and so on, a marketing dashboard summarizes pertinent information on branding, channels, customer contact, promotion, sales performance, service profitability, the Web, and customer value. 

Consider the benefits

Some specific benefits of using dashboards include the following: business intelligence, trend tracking, measuring efficiencies or inefficiencies, real-time updates, visuals (charts, graphs, maps and tables), customized reporting of performance and aligning goals and strategies with results. Major downside considerations include the cost, time and the talent needed to administer marketing dashboards.

The main value of the dashboard framework is that it consists of a multitude of practical information that is current, accessible and easy-to-understand. Dashboards can be designed for top C-level executives as well as the managers working in the trenches.

The accompanying figure illustrates an example of an executive marketing dashboard. This dashboard features the following metrics: sales levels and growth targets, the decision-makers, exceptions, key accounts (including revenues), the marketing pipeline (status of marketing activities throughout the buying cycle), and tracks leads and dollars generated over an annual period. 

Decide what to measure

What should you measure? The spectrum of opinion varies widely from a single metric such as the Net Promoter Score to 50 or more performance indicators. Just as we don’t want to be overwhelmed with our automotive dashboard, keeping the marketing dashboard simple helps measure what matters and aligns with business objectives. That said, here’s a good starting point to consider in choosing five to ten key performance indicators that may include the following:

  • Financial measures: revenues, contribution margins, turnover ratios, profitability
  • Competitive measures: market share, advertising/promotional budget, image map
  • Consumer behavior: market penetration, customer loyalty, new customers
  • Consumer intermediate measures: brand recognition, customer satisfaction, purchase intention
  • Direct customer measures: distribution level, intermediary profits, service quality
  • Innovativeness measures: new products launched and the percentage of annual revenue from these new products
  • Customer value measures: process metrics, customer retention rates, customer lifetime value, RFM (recency, frequency, monetary value) 

Realize that doing business today requires a new level of accountability for performance. Superior customer value means knowing customers’ behaviors and buying patterns.

Metrics are an important part of the strategic marketing process to understand: (1) How successful the organization is now; (2) What it needs to accomplish to become even more successful in the years ahead.

Smart marketing managers will embrace this challenge and use metrics as a planning tool to improve business strategies.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Image Source: www.fishformetrics.com

                                                                                                                                                                                                         *Reprinted from Smart Business, September 3, 2013.

Art Weinstein, Ph.D., is a Professor of Marketing at Nova Southeastern University and author of “Superior Customer Value: Strategies for Winning and Retaining Customers.” He may be reached at art@nova.edu or (954) 262-5097. For more information, visit his website at www.artweinstein.com.

Positioning is Best Viewed as a Request, Not a Verb

Positioning has long been described as an action that a company does, but this is a flawed premise as it presumes that an organization can fully control the position it holds.

Before elaborating on this inherent defect, I’ll offer a basic definition of a position from a marketer’s perspective. A position held by a company or brand is the place it holds in the minds of its target customers. Essentially, a position is whatever adjectives are used by customers or potential customers to describe the product, company or brand.

The mistake in stating that we, as marketers, position our brands lies in failing to appreciate that customers ultimately come to their own conclusions. If a position is a mental association held by the customer, a degree of success or failure will always be outside of our control – especially when the concept is considered on an individual basis. John Smith has one opinion or association with a product but Janet Jones has another. The seller is not able to guarantee reconciliation between their opinions or even guarantee that either person’s views are exactly what is desired by the company.

A better way to approach positioning is to pay heed to the proposition part of the term “value proposition.” Note that this simple phrase acknowledges that companies are proposing a way of offering something of worth. They are not dictating that value will be realized. It’s a suggestion or, better yet, a request for acknowledgment from the marketplace. The company would not make this proposition if it did not believe it to be true, but that does not mean others will feel that the value exists.

Companies do not position themselves, their products or their brands. They merely ask for a position. This request will either be granted or denied by their customers.

This is not to suggest that companies are weak in this process. Their influence in creating an effective and desired position is tremendous as the likelihood of success in requesting a position is amplified by consistency in communications and actions.

Looking at one of the most cited examples of successful brand positions, we know that Wal-Mart might tout its everyday low pricing strategy in its advertisements, but the discount retailer would not be successful in its request for this position if it did not follow through with consistently lower prices. The fact that it might not be the lowest price on every item in the store is inconsequential when it is true often enough for its loyal customers to believe that they’re saving money. Other potentially less obvious ways by which the retailer reinforces its positioning request are through layouts, store design, color schemes, etc. All visible cues tell its customers that this is a no-frills experience, thereby enabling them to save money.

Another common example of a successful brand is Apple, a company which is most commonly associated with innovation.  Nonetheless, simply saying that the company is innovative or telling customers to “think different” is not enough to guarantee the loyal following of Apple enthusiasts. Instead, the company seeks to make its request through regular product launches and seemingly customer friendly advances in technology. If we reflect on the introduction of Apple stores and their layouts, there is little room for suggesting the company was anything less than innovative when it came to its retail format. Like with the previous example, there are clearly limits to this company’s success in truly being innovative. Even its most loyal customers will acknowledge that one phone or another lacks in being much of a breakthrough compared to its predecessor model. Nonetheless, this suggests that a tipping point exists for customers to be willing to accept a request for a position if the request is made consistently.

Both of these examples are brands with strong contingencies of loyalists as well as their many critics. The existence of critics only reinforces the concept of positioning is a request and not a verb. The question becomes whether those critics would ever consider becoming customers. If not, the success of these and others companies’ requests is best measured by the acceptance of their target markets and not by the marketplace at large.  

While it might sound like grammatical semantics, appreciating that positioning is not a verb, and therefore not an action that a company controls, underscores an appreciation for your customers. In the world of positioning, there are two verbs at play: the company requests and the customer grants – at least if all goes according to plan.

Lewis Greenberg, M.B.A., P.C.M., is an Adjunct Professor in the H. Wayne Huizenga College of Business and Entrepreneurship, Nova Southeastern University, and a Marketing Manager at Marcum LLP. He can be reached at lewis.greenberg@marcumllp.com

Business to Business Marketing: A Different Way to Look at Market Segmentation

Market segmentation is a fundamental concept in identifying profitable business opportunities.  Market segmentation divides markets into subsets of consumers or businesses who share a similar set of needs and wants, evaluating the subset segments, and then implementing strategies to target high value segments. 

Segmentation is widely used in consumer marketing. This becomes very obvious walking down the aisles of your local supermarket seeing product form segmentation such as liquid laundry detergent or powder, special shaving products for African American men, or easy to prepare food products targeted to the working parent.

In sharp contrast is business to business (B2B) where recent research shows limited use of market segmentation and where it is used, little value is received. It may be that segmenting business markets is more complex than consumer markets because business to business marketing is much more than a simplistic approach of finding customers who may be interested in your product.

Historically, B2B was viewed as the segmentation between the seller and buyer using a variety of segmentation bases including demographics, sometimes called firmographics, operating variables, purchasing approaches, situational factors, and buyers’ personal characteristics.  Simply, whoever bought from you was the focus of the segmentation analysis.

Today, B2B marketers recognize there are situations where the company buying your product is not the ultimate user or consumer. So, segmentation is more than just B2B. At times it is B2B2B or even B2B2C (consumer), thus segmentation requires a different approach.

B2B

B2B in its simplest form is when a business sells its products to another business who uses the product themselves.  For example, B2B is selling commercial dishwashers directly to restaurants.  The restaurant market may be segmented by large restaurants or hotels depending on segmentation criteria.  Based on analysis, the commercial dishwasher company decides to focus sales on restaurants with seating capacity of at least 150 people. 

This is not to be confused where a business sells products to business intermediaries who resell the product. When Coca Cola sells soft drinks to Wal-Mart, Coca Cola segments the market on the basis of consumer use of soft drinks and uses the B2B intermediary as a channel of distribution. However, Coca Cola may also segment the carbonated drink market by outlet type, food stores, drug stores, mass merchandisers, small grocery stores, convenience stores, and other outlet types.

B2B2B and B2B2C

But what happens when a business sells its product to a business customer and that customer incorporates the product into its own product for resale to either another business or to consumers? Does the segmentation method change? Do they look at segmentation differently?  Do they attempt to segment the market on the basis of their customer or do they also look at the business segments of their customers?

B2B2B

Several examples can help clarify this. XYZ Company manufactures electric motors. Electric motors have widespread application for use in other companies’ products. They are used as components in elevators, escalators, water pumps, oil industry pumps, even electric motors for aircraft.  XYZ segments the market not on the customer purchasing their product as a component first, but rather on the application of XYZ’s capabilities. They develop segmentation criteria for different industries using pumps taking into consideration their own capabilities and strategy.  Once they determine that the market for elevator motors and aircraft electric motors are growing but oil industry pumps and water pumps are not, they then focus on segmenting the suppliers to these industries.  In essence, the demand for their products is derived from the demand of their customers’ products.

B2B2C

This is also evident in the high technology industry. Chip makers sell to Apple, Lenovo, Compaq, HP, Samsung, and Dell, for use in consumer products such as cell phones, computers, and tablets and now smart televisions. Consumer behavior drives demand for these products.  So, a chip maker must understand their customer’s customer. A chip maker will also sell chips to companies for application for cloud computing such as Dropbox, Amazon, and HP Enterprises.  The sales for the cloud businesses of Dropbox, Amazon, and HP Enterprises are driven in part by consumer demand for cloud storage or cloud applications. Companies in the B2B2C business must develop segmentation skills in the consumer market such as psychographic and behavioral bases for segmentation. Thus, additional segmentation skills are required beyond the B2B segmentation skills for B2B2C companies.

In a recent report to analysts, Intel revealed they are reducing investment spending in software, personal computers, and phones and tablets while investing more in data centers with cloud computing, retail solutions, transportation and automotive, smart homes and buildings, and industrial and energy. These are consumer driven segments. They will then focus on companies who are strong in the growth segments they identified. 

Qualcomm similarly looks at the end user of their customers in deciding product developments, sales, and marketing priorities. They have identified segments where consumers drive demand including technology for the automotive market, smart homes, mobile computing, and wearables.  

Segmenting business markets is no longer is just looking at your company’s customers or potential customers. With the recognition of B2B2B and B2B2C, segmentation is now focusing on the market segments served by the customers to drive investments in product development, sales, and marketing effort.  

Herbert Brotspies, D.B.A., is a Part-Time Participating Faculty in Marketing in the H. Wayne Huizenga College of Business and Entrepreneurship, Nova Southeastern University. He can be reached at brotspie@nova.edu

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