Lead Gen Budget Allocation…Zig When Others Zag

MarketingSherpa recently published the results of a survey that queried marketers on their expected budget allocations for various lead generation activities. Most of the focus among those who have picked up on this data has been on the increased budget for digital activities—in particular, social. The data does indeed tell an interesting story about the overwhelming trend in marketing to move away from traditional outbound demand generation tools towards inbound tools like social, SEO, and content marketing. From a practitioner’s perspective, however, I take something else away from the data: if I thought my audience might be receptive, I’d be overweighting to direct mail and paid search.

Sometimes in marketing it’s worth following the trends—not because they are trends but because they have become trends on the basis of positive reinforcement. SEO falls squarely into this category. There are times, though, when a trend develops out of wishful thinking and the fear of being left behind. While social absolutely has its merits and is a valuable tool for certain strategic situations, as a lead generation tool, I’d say the jury is still out.

And that brings me back to direct mail and paid search. Given the choice between marketing where all your competitors are and marketing where they are not, I’ll go with the road less traveled, zigging when others zag. We marketers spend much time, effort, and money trying to craft creative that gets our messages noticed. What if you put yourself in a position to be noticed simply be being the only piece of substantive mail on your target’s desk or the top sponsored link in a search? I’m not advocating ignoring the social channel at all, but sometimes zigging can deliver a big return.

The Mobile Marketing Opportunity of Behavioral Routines

An article recently posted on the Mobile Marketer web site urges marketers to think longer term about what they can and should be doing to nurture a relationship with someone who clicks on their ad from a mobile device. While I certainly agree with all of the advice (and assertions of missed opportunity) in the article, I think that this doesn’t push far enough. There’s something more that should added to marketers’ thinking about interactions with customers and prospects on their mobile devices: routine behaviors.

Some time ago, I signed up to receive Groupon daily offers and, as a result, wake up every day to find my Groupon email waiting for me in my inbox. And every day, I read the email. I’ve probably bought 2 or 3 things in the 18 months I’ve been subscribed, but that lack of conversion hasn’t stopped me from checking that email every day. The reason? It’s part of my daily routine. Wake up, make breakfast, check email—including that day’s email from Groupon. The combination of the variety of the offers, the programmed consistency of delivery, and the fact that I always have my mobile device on hand has ingrained checking that email into my morning behavior.

While it may not be the case that every marketer pursuing every type of customer should think in terms of establishing a presence in the audience’s daily routine, the increasing ubiquity of mobile devices makes it an opportunity every marketer should be considering. To aid in this consideration, below are some scenarios that would make “behavior integration” a strategy worth pursuing:

  • A highly competitive battle for mind share and audience attention
  • A need to expand the target audience’s understanding of the range of product, services, or solutions offered
  • Under-utilization of a rich collection of thought leadership resources

In any of these scenarios—or, most of all, in environments in which more than one of these scenarios are combined—a strategy to foster a behavioral routine that leverages the particular usage profile of mobile devices is worth exploring.

2012 Email Evolution Conference: Email Isn’t Dead; It’s Just Evolving

The conference kicked off its Thursday session with a substantive and thought-provoking keynote from Jessica Harley, VP of Customer Marketing at Gilt Groupe. While her presentation touched on many aspects of Gilt’s email marketing efforts, the most notable theme was that we — as marketers generally and email marketers specifically — can’t think about email marketing in a vacuum. In that email marketing vacuum, response rates appear to be declining and social seems to be gaining precedence. But outside that vacuum, email continues to play a vital role in driving engagement and conversions.

Expanding outside the vacuum enables email marketers to recognize that conversions and email’s impact may be felt in ways that aren’t captured by traditional measures. In Harley’s experience at Gilt, customers may look at emails on a mobile device but then convert indirectly on the same day via the web or via an App. In this scenario, the email is the trigger to go to those transactional channels. Therefore, we need to evaluate email performance not always on an immediate basis — how many viewers or clickers did the email drive in the first day or two — but with a longer term view. And if we think of emails as doing more than driving a single transactional response, we need to extend our measurement, for example, whether a series of emails over time produce a more engaged, higher value customer population.

In EMI’s presentation with State Street, I expanded on this theme: consider thinking of email in the context of all the other response channels. Since our objective as marketers is to drive engagement and transactions, it’s important to remember that email is but one means to that end. For certain customers at certain points in the decision-making process, email might not be as effective a means as direct mail or calling.