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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Email Marketing's Inferiority Complex

Not a single day goes by without some industry "expert" predicting the death of email. If you took what they said to heart, email should be been dead 10+ years ago - but it's not. As a matter a fact it's healthy than ever...It is perhaps the single most pervasive application in existence, perhaps only eclipsed by the browser. According to data from Pingdom, there are 2.4B internet users and 2.2B email users. That's some serious penetration right there! But scale, ROI and the overall effectiveness of the channel doesn't seem to earn it any goodwill, EVER. It's just taken for granted time and time again and kicked to the curb as soon as something sexier walks through the door.

This abuse has lead an entire industry to suffer from what I'm calling "Email Inferiority Complex". Which is the perpetual feeling of inadequacy as compared to other digital marketing channels. This complex has lead many of us within the email space to lash out every time someone speaks poorly about our beloved email or predicts our collective demise. We continue to show proof, that dollar for dollar email has the highest ROI of any other digital marketing's king of the hill. Each time we shout a bit louder and comeback to the table with even better data, showcasing email's dominance but no matter...the attacks keep coming.

So it is high time we take these challengers head on...we need to issue a simple, yet effective challenge to all those who tell us "email is dead" and this is:

Remove email marketing from your mix for the next 30 days.

That's it...pretty simple no? If you really think email is dead and you've got all the answers on what's going to replace it - then just simply do so. Take all of the resources you were going to apply towards your email efforts and dedicate them somewhere else. This should help us get to the bottom of things REALLY fast. Time for all the pundits, experts, analysts put their money where their mouth is.

We can use the Hash #EmailChallenge to see who's up for it and track the results. However I suspect all of us email folks already know the answer but as you can probably tell, we're kinda sick and tired of being told we're irrelevant or will be in the near future. As my man Axl Rose would say - "get in the ring..."

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Secret to Social Media

Here's the secret to engaging your audience on Social:

That's right....Bacon! If you are a community/social media manager looking for ways to boost engagement and response rates. Here's a little challenge! Find a creative way to post a picture of Bacon and let me know if it cracks your Top 10 most engaging posts of the last 30 days. Who's up for it?

Moving Beyond the Like

How many times are we going to read similar headlines? Social doesn't work....Facebook doesn't work....Twitter doesn't work. Blah blah blah blah....

I am so tired of reading over and over again how there's no ROI from investing in Facebook. There's plenty, if you know what you are doing and the simple fact of the matter is, most don't. In the 2012 Facebook Ad Report, conducted by Social Fresh with help from – Buddy MediaConvince & ConvertLikeable MediaWebtrends, and BlitzLocal  - we get some insight into what marketers are actually doing within Facebook. And the answer is not a whole lot...More than half of all respondents said they used between 2 & 5 total segments for audience targeting. This is shocking - given all of that data and targeting options provided by Facebook and this data is coming from technology companies that can help marketers manage 1,000's of audience segments.  It's pretty clear that marketers need help with their audience targeting strategy to at least make Facebook Ads a viable source for ROI. Then there's EdgeRank, posting content it worth it? How much should we invest? And on and on and on. If marketers are investing so little effort with their media dollars then can we really expect them to invest what's needed to make a Page work? Facebook Ads as well as managing Facebook Pages can all be done in a way that helps marketers achieve their goals but let's for a second move beyond that. Let's get into where Facebook as well as other social channels can really accelerate your growth.

Social Design.

"Social Design is a way of thinking about product design that puts social experiences at the core. Create these social experiences with the features available on Facebook Platform."

(Taken from the Facebook Developers site:

Brands and marketers that understand this concept have moved beyond the  "Like" and have invested in "authentications". This is how you tap into the power of the Open Graph.  All one needs to do is go take a look at Facebook's Developers site to and view the Open Graph Case Studies to see what kind of results this integration can yield. Here's a few charts that will help visualize what tapping into the Open Graph can mean:


It's pretty clear from the charts above that if you can think about how Social Design can fit 
into your business/product - you can leverage the power of Facebook's Open Graph to dramatically accelerate your growth. What could you do if you knew your customers:
- Friends
- Relationship Status
- Favorite Movies, Teams, Celebrities
- Friends Birthday's
- Check-in's

This list goes on and on...You are only limited by your own creativity. By getting users to authenticate with your App you are creating a value exchange - the customer is giving you access to their data in exchange for you providing them a unique and positive experience. In world where data is considered the new "oil" - it's surprising to me how few people are trying to actively take advantage of what Facebook can provide. And it's certainly not a shock that those companies that do - are building incredible businesses.

The social naysayers will continue hammer away at Facebook, Twitter etc...singing the same song they've been signing all this time. Meanwhile in the background, companies that are social by design from inception, will continue to innovate and disrupt. 

Game on.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Media Sellers - Extinction Level Event

An extinction event [also known as: mass extinction, extinction-level event, or biotic crisis] is a widespread and rapid decrease in the amount of life on earth. Wikipedia

The post title might be a touch dramatic and I'm certainly not talking about any loss of life - however the term Extinction Level Event to me best describes what's on the horizon. This blog post was written in my mind months ago but as soon as I read the article, titled "2013 Will Bring A Talent Correction in Digital Media Sales" by Adam Chandler, I knew I had to finally write this post.

Adam is dead on when he says there is a major talent correction coming to the digital media space. They day of the order taker is near its end. And having been on the client side now for nearly a year I can honestly say that the overall quality of media sellers out there is abysmal at best. Are all media sales professionals bad? No not at all but as someone who was on the receiving end of 100's of emails, many many phone calls and even as a client, I was truly shocked at the overall quality of sales people in the digital media space today. Here's one of my favorite stories:

Me: Listen [Media Salesperson], I'm not hitting my CPA goals with my media buys. I cannot afford to not hit them, so at the moment I can't buy anything from you unless your pricing changes the overall economics.

Seller: OK, what is your CPA target?

Me: We need to be at $1 to make this work.

Seller: OK, well if CPM pricing isn't working then maybe we can do a small CPC test. What if I could get you a $1 CPC?

And that folks is a VERY true story. And as I speak this person is a VP of Sales at a rather well known Media Co....And the very sad truth is there are so many more stories just like that one.

In one of my latest gig's @ Zeta Interactive I got to witness not only the birth of a brand new digital agency but the process in which we all went from single solution sellers (whatever our background was email, search etc..) to integrated sales professionals. Selling both marketing services and marketing technology. It took us all about 3 years to really hit our stride. The learning curve was steep but the more time you spent with SME's from various disciplines the better you got at understanding each one. And the better you understood each channel the better you understood how to create compelling innovative solutions for clients. Because at the end of the day clients want solutions that drive ROI/Revenue/Results - they care far less about how you get there. 

So why the mention of Zeta Interactive and my history there. Because right now, there are a ton of talented sales professionals on the marketing services/agency side that understand the entire digital ecosystem and can bring a ton of value to both the companies they sell for as well as the companies they sell to. The dramatic rise of programmatic buying will allow media companies to shed a large portion of their existing sales forces, as a large % of their inventory will be purchased via algorithmic trading. And my prediction is, as media firms look for sales people to lead large integrated sales, they will look outside of the media world and look for salespeople who have experience with complex digital sales and a firm command of the entire digital ecosystem.

The war for talent only gets worse...

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Why it's a great time to be a Publisher

There's no doubt that the Publishing business is challenged right now. Print advertising continues to collapse with total ad pages falling 8.2% from last year, according to the Publishers Information Bureau and the audience migration to mobile devices continue to eat away at website monetization. Throw in the lack of scale and ad revenue within tablet publications and you have a VERY tough path to navigate.

So then why the heck is it a good time to be a Publisher? For a few reasons...

1. The Rise of Programmatic Buying:

What? Sounds counter intuitive right - RTB, DSP's yadda yadda yadda...are actually hurting Publisher pricing, right? Perhaps for the moment this is true but over the long term programmatic buying of audiences should be a boon for Publishers. Why? Simple...There is a TON of dead weight in each an every Publishers Sales Dept. You know exactly who I'm talking about - they're called "Banner Slingers" or "Order Takers" and they have benefited greatly from their T/E accounts and ability to send IO's to agencies/buyers that ask for it. Programmatic buying will eventually weed these folks out and leave only the top sales talent or create a new wave of sales talent that the Publishing industry has needed for a LONG time. Solution Sellers - these are people that understand the entire digital ecosystem and work with their clients in a consultative manner to drive ROI...not just sell more banners, rather, integrated offerings and campaigns that leverage all of the publishers assets, data and touch points with the consumer. And hopefully this has the same effect on the buy side of the equation with Agencies - who are guilty as ever of being lazy.

Eventually Publishers may even be able to focus in on, in real time, high value audience segments and adjust their content strategy to drive audience based on real time pricing data. A similar approach to how Demand Media and The Huffington Post leveraged Google search data to drive traffic. And while contextually relevant advertising is not always scalable for large brand ad buys - the quality of the relationship created between the reader and the Publisher will create value, with higher bids going to the better engaged audiences.

2. Content Marketing:

According to a recent AdAge survey marketers said that on average 12% of their budgets would be spent on Content Marketing initiatives. This represents $40B in annual spend according to a study by the Custom Content Council and ContentWise. Wow a $40B and growing market - how do I get in?

Well this is great news is if you're a publisher, you're already there. Publishers offering marketing services is nothing new, this convergence has been slowly happening for years. However internet technology companies such as Google, Facebook and Twitter are accelerating this process dramatically. Google and Facebook both place a huge premium on unique, original content. If you can appease them - then the algorithm Gods will bless you with loads of traffic. Brands are now waking up to this fact as well as the fact that, it is content that drives audience and builds relationships with consumers, not pushing out a new discount code every other day.

Advertisers pay for the right to be in front of the audiences that Publishers have doesn't it make sense that the Publisher, the one who has built this relationship, is in a better position to help the advertiser with marketing services vs. an agency? But for Publishers to truly get in the game they need to deeply integrate these marketing services into their overall sales process and value prop to the advertiser. From what I've seen a lot of the marketing services acquisitions done by Publishers in recent years have not been fully integrated or integrated at all. Long story short - there is plenty of opportunity here.

3. The Tablet:

Steve Jobs said that the iPad was a "magical device" and he was dead on. The tablet was a game changing innovation and tablet sales are accelerating faster than anyone could have every predicted. The iPad is the fastest selling device ever for Apple.

2012 Internet Trends. Chart courtesy of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

Not only are tablet sales going gang busters but people are using their tablets to consume even more content. The tablet, as it turns out is the perfect content consumption device as evidenced by research performed by Morgan Stanley:

Source: Morgan Stanley Research

The iPad also represents as chance for publishers to finally bring some of beauty of print ads to the web. The full page ad never really made sense for the desktop and probably not for smartphones either. But the tablet changed the game by allowing advertisers the ability to create beautiful full page ads with all the features and interactivity the web has to offer. Which is why IDC Research predicts that tablet advertising spend will out pace mobile within 3 years.
IDC, Worldwide New Media Market Model, NMMM 1H-2012.

Publishers need to aggressively invest into the tablet market in order to start reaping the benefits as print ad revenues continue their decline.

The future is a bright one if publishers can navigate today's landscape and make the right investments for growth tomorrow.