This is a blog series that I originally wrote as a book. I’m sharing the full text online for free. Each blog post is a chapter. Please send your feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’d like, get on the email list.
- Strategy and Management
- Business Growth
- Research and Analytics
- Campaigns and Tactics (we’re here)
In This Chapter
- Marketing Plan
- Components of Marketing Campaign
- Channel Mix
- Integrated Cross-Channel Campaigns
- Success Metrics
- Marketing Channels
- Display Advertising
- Search Marketing
- Direct Marketing: Email, Mail & CRM
- Inbound Marketing: Blogs, Podcasts, Newsletters, Ebooks and Video
- Social Media, Communities & User-generated Content
- Video Commercials: YouTube and TV
- Affiliate Programs
- Experiential and Event Marketing
- Technical Marketing Skills
- Behavioral Economics and Psychology of Marketing
- Marketing Campaign Checklist
- A Quick Recap
This chapter is where we switch from strategy to tactics. There is a moment in real life when we roll our sleeves and start building websites, writing email copies, and filming commercials. Those with no marketing experience sometimes think that that’s all there is to marketing. But as we learned, it’s only a small piece. Besides, jumping right into marketing campaigns might be, at the very least, counter-productive and wasteful.
We have covered a lot in the previous chapters. We talked about linking business goals to marketing metrics, we talked about marketing strategy, and we talked about marketing research. Now that we studied our market in depth through marketing research, now that we have a high-level strategy and value proposition, and now that we are clear as to the metrics we should focus on to achieve the biggest impact, what should we do?
Components of Marketing Campaign
Let’s look at some major marketing campaign components.
1. Marketing Goal
2. Target Audience
The target audience should be clearly defined and aligned with the goal. For example, are we trying to improve the retention of all users? Or are we going after a very specific subset of users who are most likely to churn, according our data?
3. Messaging and Call to Action
We need to clearly define what messages we want customers to recall and what actions we want them to take. We also need to decide how we are going to measure the impact. For example, do we expect to see a change in a certain brand image indicator, such as “hip brand” or “good value for money?”.If you want to review image indicators, please refer to the “Business Goals and Growth” chapter. Or do we want our existing customers to use a specific feature offered in our products, so that they would derive more value and would retain better?
4. Channel Mix
Based on the goal, audience, and messaging, we can choose marketing channels that will be most effective in our situation.
5. Success Metrics
Even though “number of users acquired per period of time” or “x percent increase in three-month retention rate” can be considered metrics themselves, we often need to breakdown those even further to have a more comprehensive understanding about campaign performance. We’ll discuss some tactical channel-specific metrics below.
6. Marketing Calendar
Once we have a very clear understanding of what we will be doing in the next six to twelve months, it helps to build a marketing calendar. The calendar usually shows what’s focusing in each channel at a certain point in time, e.g. how our paid media budget spent on display or search marketing changes week to week or when key industry events are happening.
Choosing the right channel mix is a much debated topic in marketing. There are many considerations: from available budgets to target audience. But in a spirit of marketing by numbers, we will focus on these two magic words: CLV and CAC. Do you remember what these acronyms stand for? That’s right, these are customer lifetime value and customer acquisition cost. We discussed them in the “Business Goals” chapter.
The trick is to measure these separately for each campaign and each channel.
Let’s consider an example. Assume it costs $0.40 to acquire a user through paid search advertising on Google Adwords. And, on average, a user acquired this way is worth $0.55 (given how much money he or she spends and given churn rates). Is it worth it to acquire users through Google Adwords? Yes, it is.
Now, assume it costs only $0.20 to acquire a user through Facebook ads. Looks like a sweet deal, doesn’t it? Your expected profits are even higher than in the previous example! Not necessarily. What if the CLV of a user acquired through Facebook ads is only $0.15? Why might that be the case? These users might churn quicker or spend less on average because of different demographics.
Here is an example of data you might want to collect and analyze:
|Cost per visit||Conversion||Acquisition cost||Customer Lifetime Value||Breaking even?|
Usually there is a diminishing return from each channel. In other words, usually the more users we acquire from a given channel, the higher the average CAC will be. It’s a special case of the law of diminishing returns. If X-axis is the amount of money invested in a given channel and Y-axis, is the number of acquired users, the chart will look like this:
So, first even with a modest investment we can acquire quite a few users, but the more we invest the more expensive it becomes to acquire new users on the per user basis. This is why it is important to optimize the channel mix using the CLV/CAC logic above to acquire the most users and spend the least amount of money.
You might say “Hey, it works like charm for acquisition channels, but what about retention?!”
And you are absolutely right – emails to existing customers are not bringing any new customers. Neither does customer support nor social media targeted at current paid customers. But these are still important because they fulfill another important mission: prevent user churn.
The logic still holds: the impact of improved retention on CLV can also be quantified.
Here is how:
- Estimate how much churn rates improve and calculate by how much a customer’s CLV will be increased. Please refer to the “Business Growth” chapter if you want to review CLV calculations.
- Multiply this by the number of customers to get the incremental profits.
- Subtract the cost of the campaign to evaluate the return on investment.
Integrated Cross-Channel Campaigns
The idea behind cross-channel campaigns is simple. All things being equal, it’s better to use multiple marketing channels at the same time.
There are three primary reasons for this:
1. This Ensures Brand Consistency
No matter whether potential customers go to our Facebook page, read our blog, or see a display ad, they get the same message, with the same tone of voice and with the same call to action.
2. There Are Synergies
Imagine we are going to run a display campaign. So we design banners and write copies. We invest time, effort and money. However, we can use the same assets, with little or no adjustment, in other channels. For example, we might use the same or similar banners that we created for display advertising with our affiliate partners. So, all things being equal, the average customer acquisition cost will be lower if multiple channels are used.
3. It Expands Reach
More often than not, we won’t be able to reach 100% of our target audience via one channel. Some people use ad blockers and won’t see our ads. Some don’t use social media. Some don’t like reading long blog posts. Some don’t watch TV. Some never subscribe to email newsletters. Some don’t attend events.
Besides, sometimes we simply don’t have enough data to pick a few of the best performing channels and ignore everything else. In other words, sometimes we don’t have enough data to build a table comparing the CLV and CAC of each channel.
This is when we experiment. We try different channels and systematically measure performance to inform our future decisions.
There are so many marketing channels that it is easy to get lost. So how do we pick the right channels and then create the right mix if we don’t have the data just yet?
How can we break down our high-level goal into smaller measurable and actionable metrics? The decision will depend on the insights we have and type of campaign we are going to run. Let’s take a simple example to illustrate this.
Let’s take retention, for example.
Step #1: Consider market research insights
The first logical step is to understand what exactly causes user attrition. There are so many possibilities: price might be too high, product quality might not meet expectations, competitors might launch a better offering, or customers might only need to use the product once.
Imagine we follow one of the research methods described in the previous chapter and arrange a survey. Imagine we receive feedback from users saying that our product is too complicated to learn independently, so many users simply give up after trying for a couple of times.
Now that we know the root cause of attrition, we can address it on both the product side and marketing side. If we cannot simplify the product experience just yet, we are left with marketing methods. This brings us to the second step:
Step #2: Choose the right campaign and channels
Knowing that customers churn because they think our product is too complicated, we can consider educating them about the product by providing free tutorials.
As for channels, we can choose to share these tutorials via email and social media. So our campaign might consist of sending 5 emails to new customers, each containing a simple “getting started” tutorial, showing how to use the product. We can also share these tutorials in our social media communities and answer questions customers might have.
Step #2: Pick relevant metrics
Now we can break down our ultimate marketing goal of improving retention into smaller campaign-specific metrics. If you wish, pause for a second and think about it.
Here are few examples:
- Email open rate
- Email click-through rate
- Social media likes and shares
- Social media sentiment: positive or negative
- Satisfaction with educational materials on a scale of 1 to 10, measured by customer survey
- Product satisfaction before and after receiving educational materials, measured by two waves of customer surveys
- Perceived complexity of the product, measured by customer survey
All these metrics should eventually contribute to the larger goal of improving retention rate, but they allow us to evaluate campaign effectiveness with much higher granularity.
Finally, when we measure improvement in retention rate, we can recalculate customer lifetime value and estimate the dollar impact of the campaign.
There are books written about each particular channel, so we will only cover the basics and discuss when and how to use certain channels. The list of channels below is intended as a sort of map. You can skim it. Or you can notice that you are missing one of the channels in your current marketing plan and read about it.
Some of these channels might be gold mines and some might be a total waste of money. Marketing analytics help us distinguish between the two in terms of the most important metrics.
Simply speaking, display advertising is advertising on websites. The most common formats are text and static images, but animations, video and audio are sometimes used as well. The greatest progress in recent years has been around improved targeting.
These days it is possible to target very specific audiences with display ads. Machine learning plays a big role in targeting: users who are most likely to respond positively to a given ad are identified algorithmically.
When to use:
Display advertising can be used to generate brand awareness, website visits and purchases.
Display advertising can also be used for marketing research if we have hypotheses to test. For example, we can answer questions like “what value proposition or messaging resonates best with our target audience?” or “what customer subsegment reacts best to our offer” by comparing click-through-rates of ads with different copies or target audiences.
How to use:
Get started with one of the tools below:
- Google Display Advertising
- Facebook Display Advertising
- Qwaya: Facebook Ad Manager
- Adroll: Retargeting
Tools to research competitive display ads:
One of the primary advantages of display advertising is that it’s highly measurable. Here are main metrics to track:
- Impressions = # of times an ad is displayed
- Clicks = # of visits to our website (simply the number of times customers clicked on the ad)
- CTR = Click-through rate = # of clicks divided by # of impressions
- Conversion rate = % of visits that resulted in a certain action, such as a purchase, email sign-up or user registration
- CPC = Cost per click = total cost divided by # number of clicks
- CPA = Cost per action = cost per conversion = total cost divided by # of actions
Let’s take an example. Imagine we place an ad that is viewed 5,000 times, generates 700 clicks and results in 30 purchases. It costs $350. In this case our metrics are:
- Impressions = 5,000
- Clicks / visits = 700
- CTR = 700 / 5,000 = 14%
- Conversion rate = 30 / 700 = 4.29%
- CPC = 700 / $350 = $2
- CPA = $350 / 30 = $11.67
Some metrics will be provided by your display partner, such as Google or Facebook. For others, you will need do your own analytics – see the previous chapter on this topic.
How to make display advertising more effective?
Probably few companies understand display advertising better than Google does, so I would listen to these recommendations:
- Be explicit about your call-to-action, in a button or somewhere else
- Balanced ad content
- Try different ad ideas
- Include prices, promotions, and exclusives
- Provide a relevant landing page
- Test different ad sizes
- Go mobile!
We can also leverage our own product data to make display advertising more effective. Retargeting is a popular type of display advertising, in which we target display ads at users who already visited our website or performed certain actions (for example, added products to the shopping cart, but did not make a purchase). Retargeting is a highly effective technique because odds of converting someone who already expressed interest in our products are higher than odds of converting someone completely new.
Some notable examples:
More on Display Advertising:
- Display Advertising Landscape Presentation
- Google Online Marketing Challenge: Display Advertising Lessons
- Tips for creating effective display ads by Google
- Primer: Marketing Lessons by Google
- Google Remarketing
- Full Display Advertising landscape
- Full Social Media Display Advertising Landscape
There are two types of search marketing: SEM (search engine marketing) and SEO (search engine optimization).
- SEM is buying paid traffic from search engines
- SEO is done with the goal of getting free traffic from search engines
Usually, when you search on Google or on other search engine, you see two types of results: ads and organic search results. Here is an example.
As you can see, the first two results are ads that Google was paid for (SEM). So let’s talk about SEM first.
When to use:
SEM works best when there is already demand for your type of product, i.e., when customers know that they want these products and are actively searching for them. Even better if they are searching for your specific brand – this is when cost per acquisition is usually the lowest due to better conversion of traffic. It is still possible, although more difficult, to make SEM work when your product is so disruptive and customers don’t yet know that they need it.
How to use:
Just like Display Advertising, the performance of Search Advertising is very transparent. Primary metrics are the same as the ones discussed in Display Advertising. Basic numbers, such as impressions, CTR and CPC, will be provided by Google, Yahoo or Bing as part of their reports.
To properly track purchases, sign-ups, or some other actions taken on your website in relation to search marketing campaigns, you will need to set up web analytics. If you are using Google Analytics, please refer to this tutorial on how to set up goals.
More on Search Engine Marketing:
Now, let’s turn to SEO, search engine optimization.
Remember the picture we started with?
257,000,000 webpages below two ads are organic search results. In other words, Google was not paid for showing them. Instead, this list is the result of Google magic – algorithms working hard to identify high-quality webpages that you are most likely to find relevant and helpful.
We might use SEO to increase the ranking of our website in organic search results. Improved rankings lead to substantial increase in traffic, as discussed in this article, #1 position in Google results gets about 33% of all traffic! #10, meanwhile, only gets about 2%. Websites showing up on the second page hardly get any traffic at all.
SEO or search engine optimization is a catch-all term used to describe different practices aimed at getting a high ranking in organic search results.
When to use:
SEO works particularly well when you already have a great product and when you can create and publish high-quality relevant content on a regular basis. This is because it takes a while to get high in rankings. Unlike display advertising or search engine marketing, you cannot set up a campaign in under one hour and start getting traffic right away. SEO is more about a sustained effort over time – you need to earn Google’s, Yahoo’s and Bing’s trust. But the payoff is also high: if done well, SEO will bring in tons of traffic. For free.
How to use:
There are three main steps:
- Learn how SEO works: why search engines rank some websites higher than others
- Make a marketing decision on what keywords you want to rank high on
- Build or improve your existing website in accordance with SEO principles
Broadly speaking, website improvements fall into these three categories:
- Visitors should like your website (duh!)
If visitors leave the website right away after finding out that this is not what they searched for, you will rank lower. Yes, Google tracks user behavior.
- The website should be well-structured and should include all necessary HTML tags to rank high – if you want to get technical, follow the links below to learn more about it
- The website should be regularly updated with relevant content.
A good way to learn more about SEO is to read this free beginner’s guide to SEO.
As content is one of the most important pieces in SEO puzzle, we will talk more about it in a broader context below when we discuss Inbound Marketing.
More on SEO:
- SEO Starter Guide by Google
- Beginner’s Guide to SEO – free book by Moz
- A good overview of SEO and some useful tools
Direct Marketing: Email, Mail & CRM
It’s called direct marketing because we are talking to each customer directly, instead of broadcasting to large audience.
Email and regular mail are underutilized and often highly effective channels. The reason they are blended together here is that the techniques used to optimize email and mail are very similar (or even the same).
When to use:
It’s a good idea to consider email marketing when:
- Budget is an important consideration
- The company is capable of producing relevant and engaging content
- Our main marketing goals are retention, upselling or cross-selling
A note on acquisition:
Email and mail communications are primarily used to boost retention or to upsell and cross-sell other company products.
However, sometimes these channels can be used for acquisition purposes too. How? Let’s say your company offers a free product, but also sells a product which is an improved version of the free product. In this case, email can be used to talk to customers who are only using the free version, educate them about the benefits of your paid products and, eventually, acquire paid customers.
Here is another example. Imagine you offer a free trial of your paid product for a certain number of days. In this case, you might use email to increase the conversion of free trialists to paid customers. So if our definition of acquisition is getting a paid customer, then email can absolutely be used for that purpose.
How to use:
Mail/email marketing is truly at its best when we:
- Leverage a customer database to create customized emails
- Systematically set up experiments to measure and improve our programs
- Use email/mail in combination with other marketing channels
Let’s expand on the #1 and #2:
The easiest way to start with email marketing is to add a signup form to your website, integrate it with some free email newsletter service, such as Mailchimp.com, and start emailing all your customers right away.
But we’re not after just some email marketing, we’re after direct marketing excellence. So how can we use best practices #1 and #2 from above to optimize this channel?
1. We need to build a customer database.
This database should include more information than customer names and emails or mailing addresses. The reason is simple: the more we know about our customers, the more relevant and interesting content we can provide. If all customers look the same to us, what we are doing is not really direct marketing – we are simply sending the same message to everyone and hope for the best. But when our database grows larger and we know more about our customers, we can apply marketing research methods (described in the previous chapter).
There are two main ways to enrich a customer database:
1. Ask customers to provide information themselves: when signing up or later
2. Link the email database with the product database to match emails with product usage and product history
One example might be applying cluster analysis to identify customer segments, as outlined in the previous chapter on marketing research. We might learn, for example, that half of our customers mostly buy the most expensive products, while the other half mostly buys the cheapest ones.
What implications are there for direct marketing? Imagine we’ve been sending the same email to everyone highlighting our mid-tier of products: reasonable quality, but not too expensive. Almost nobody converted because half of the customers were looking for top-notch premium quality and the other half were looking for the best value for money (and were reluctant to buy even mid-priced products).
Now, with this newly acquired knowledge, we can create two separate emails: one talking about premium products targeted at the first half and one highlighting the best prices of our cheaper products.
But how do we know it will work? This brings us to point #2.
2. We need to measure performance and set up experiments
1. Use your customer database to send targeted offers to a subset of users
2. Test performance of this offer against goals
3. Roll out to a wider customer base if the initial offer was successful
Let’s continue with the same example. To know for sure if the targeted approach will work, we need to create an experiment:
1 .We create three emails: one that highlights our mid-tier products (this is what we’ve been doing previously), one focused on premium products, and one focused on cheaper products.
2. Then we subdivide our customers into a control group and a treatment group. Let’s say 90% of our customers will serve as a control group and 10% will serve as a treatment group. So 90% will get the same old email highlighting mid-tier products and 10% will get customized emails. Some of the 10% will get email focused on premium products and some will get email focused on cheaper products.
3. Then we track purchases to measure the performance of these new emails vs. the baseline (the old non-customized approach – still used with 90% of customers).
4. If there is a statistically significant improvement, we will conclude that creating custom emails is justified and will rollout this customized approach to 100% of our customers. We can also treat this rollout as a separate experiment to see if our conclusion holds.
Let’s talk about some other goals we might set and track.
In our example above, we talked about maximizing purchases. But we can also maximize retention. What should we measure in this case? Of course, we can simply measure retention uplift. For example, we might learn that the average duration a customer stays with us jumps from 12 months to 16 months, but this tells us nothing about the monetary value of this program. Ideally, we would like to link this uplift in retention to customer lifetime value. Here is how:
- Let’s imagine that our average CLV was $50.
- Assume an average customer spends money evenly month-by-month; via a monthly subscription, we can conclude that our program increased CLV from $50 to $75 because of this increased duration.
- So the incremental revenue per customer is $75 – $50 = $25.
- Knowing the number of affected customers, we can calculate the incremental revenue by multiplying $25 by the number of customers, e.g., 1,000 customers * $25 = $25,000.
- Now we can evaluate return on investment by subtracting costs associated with this email campaign.
Let’s talk about some other ways we can create custom emails.
So far we talked about segmenting our customers and crafting emails that are more relevant. Here are some other ways to develop custom emails:
1. Segments based on other variables
For example, we can have separate email programs for free members (with a goal to convert) and another one for paid members (with a goal to retain).
2. Score-based communications
We might use statistical analysis and build a model that predicts a probability that a given user will churn, based on all variables we have in the customer database. Please read the “Regression Analysis” section in the “Research and Analytics” chapter to review how to do it.
Users with a high predicted probability of churn can be emailed special offers or engaged in some other way. An experiment can be arranged to evaluate whether these programs are effective at preventing churn.
3. Triggered communications
If our email database is integrated with a product database, we can automatically generate emails that are sent when a certain action is performed or is not performed by a customer.
For example, at Adobe, we used emails of this type to remind users to download apps if they signed up but never downloaded an app. Of course, we also provided relevant content to motivate them to do it. In addition, we emailed users who downloaded apps, but never launched them, prompting these users to try a specific project and providing some “Getting Started” tutorials.
There are infinite ways you can implement this approach, depending on your specific product and target audience. Whatever you do, don’t forget to measure the effect.
And finally, don’t be this guy:
More about direct marketing, email and mail:
Inbound Marketing: Blogs, Podcasts, Newsletters, Ebooks and Video
Inbound marketing is a relatively new (buzz) term, popularized around 2009. The concept is old though: focus on marketing activities that bring a lot of leads on top of the funnel – please refer to the “Business Growth” chapter to learn about Funnel framework.
In other words, we first create awareness and consideration by building trust and credibility. This is accomplished by creating and sharing useful content – usually for free. Once we have a lot of prospects who know and consider our products, we can convert them more easily.
When to use:
- Brand and trust play a big role for the type of product you are selling
- Customers typically do a lot of research before buying this type of product
- Your company has the capability to create engaging and/or educational content and position itself as an expert in the field
How to use:
The success of inbound marketing largely depends on the quality of content you can produce. We will touch briefly on copywriting below, but this topic is so industry-specific, company-specific and product-specific that it’s hard to give generic advice. Here are some best practices that are good to follow:
- Tie inbound marketing activities back to strategy:
Make sure you’re talking to the right audience and setting clear goals in terms of what you want them to do.
- Identify types of content most promising for your goal and audience in terms of topics and formats: blog posts, podcasts, e-books, etc.
HubSpot Academy has a good free course which explains what formats work best in what situations and at what stages.
- Once you bring your first customers in, try to get their emails to build a longer-term relationship. See the section on Email Marketing for more details.
HubSpot offers good tutorials and an online course on inbound marketing. But beware, they portray inbound marketing as the only necessary, universal and most effective type of marketing. But after reading this book, you are well aware that this is only one tool in a toolset a marketer has.
More on inbound marketing:
Social Media, Communities & User-generated Content
When we talk about social media here, we are focusing on free use of social media. In other words, we are not focusing on buying ads on social platforms, such as Facebook or Instagram. The latter is considered a form of display advertising and discussed in the “Display Advertising” section of this book. Instead, we are talking about creating social media accounts or communities to engage with our customers.
When to use:
Social media is particularly helpful when:
- You have no, or limited, budget
- You have engaging content to share – this is why social media usually works well for media companies and not so well for e-commerce
- Your product is actually cool and it’s reasonable to expect that customers will become fans of your page and will talk about it online
For example, if your product is just a regular chewing gum or a brand of toilet paper, it’s much more difficult to make social media work. In this case, creating content which is somewhat unrelated to the main product might be a way to go.
How to use:
- First of all, align your social media plan with marketing goals
For example, a social media plan developed to acquire users will be different from the one developed to retain users.
- Let your marketing strategy inform your social media plan
For example, target audience and value proposition can inform content choices.
- Identify social media channels that are most relevant
For example, if you are trying to reach a younger audience in 2015, you might be better off using Vine or Snapchat. If you are targeting professionals focused on their career, LinkedIn might be a better choice.
- Create relevant and engaging content
The latter is critical because social media is not the end goal. We are doing social media marketing to improve a certain marketing metric, and engagement can be a good proxy that tells us whether our social media content is resonating.
There are many social networks and content distribution networks: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Reddit, Quora, Medium, Meerkat, Periscope, and others. They all differ in respect to the audience and content. It goes without saying that we should primarily use social networks that are popular among our target audience.
Aside from creating engaging content, another big part of social media marketing is community management: moderating discussions, encouraging creation of user-generated content, and leveraging naturally emerging leaders.
User-generated content can truly fuel your social media because it makes your social media assets feel like communities where people meet and that they contribute to. This is a very different feel from what customers can get from a corporate page where the company is the only contributor.
Finally, social media can be used as a source of marketing data for research purposes. Feel free to review the previous chapter to learn more about marketing research best practices. Here are a few ideas on how to use social media as a research tool:
- Analyze customers’ reactions to content you publish to identify topics they are most interested in
- Directly ask for customers’ opinions by posting questions or polls
- Buy ads on Facebook or other networks and test different value propositions or different audiences to identify the ones that resonate most
- Create a Facebook page
- Create a Twitter business account
- SimplyMeasured: Social Media Analytics and Measurement
- IFTTT: Connect all social media channels together
- Hootsuite: Manage multiple social accounts
- Buffer: Manage multiple social accounts
- Pablo by Buffer: Create engaging images for your social media posts in 30s
- Adobe Social
More on social media, communities and user-generated content:
Video Commercials: YouTube and TV
Everyone is familiar with video ads. We saw video ads on TV and we saw video ads on YouTube. Despite the same format, video ads can be very different in terms of content.
The right content depends on marketing goals, target audience and value proposition. In other words, we should be asking: “what are we ultimately trying to achieve?”, “to whom are we talking?”, and “what do we want them to think, feel and do differently?”
When to use:
Traditionally, video advertising is considered a great way to build broad awareness and consideration. In other words, make sure that once customers see your product in a store, they already know about it – awareness – and are willing to try it – consideration. This is because historically, video advertising was used on TV and targeting options were limited. Effectiveness of those ads was also notoriously hard to measure.
These days, however, video advertising can be highly targeted and highly measurable. If products you are selling can be tried or bought online, you can even attribute units sold to a particular video advertising campaign.
YouTube gets tons of traffic; it’s the second largest search engine after Google. It means that people are more likely to search on YouTube than on Bing, Yahoo or Baidu!
How to use:
Incorporating a video campaign into a larger marketing strategy and setting up a proper measurement is more of a science. But creating an actual impactful video is more of an art. As with art, the best way to learn is by getting inspired by the best examples, not by following step-by-step processes. So let’s look at some of the best video commercials ever created.
In 2015, Google analyzed the most popular commercials of the last 10 years. These are the winners:
#5 Dove “Real Beauty Sketches”
#4 Volvo Trucks “The Epic Split feat. Van Damme”
#3 Always “#LikeAGirl”
#2 Volkswagen “The Force”
#1: Turkish Airlines “Kobe vs. Messi: The Selfie Shootout”
As you’ve made this far in the book, you already know that we cannot judge ads by their popularity. But since we don’t know the exact goals these companies had and since we don’t know any insights into their target audience, we can use popularity as a very rough proxy.
Product placement is a highly related marketing tactic. A company might pay for its product to be shown in a film or on TV. The main difference is that a product is part of a story and not a separate ad.
There are three keys to success:
- Make sure that film audience overlaps with company’s target audience
- Make sure that the way your product is presented reflects your value proposition
- Make sure that the product organically fits into the story
Video Success Metrics
The ultimate metric is the marketing goal we are trying to improve: whether it is acquisition or something else. When we know the number of acquired users and their customer lifetime value, we can calculate return on investment and evaluate the video campaign.
However, there are many video-specific interim metrics that are helpful to know about and track to get a more in-depth understanding of the performance of our ads:
- Engaged views within target demographic: “demographics” report can be downloaded from YouTube
- Audience retention: “audience retention” report can be downloaded from YouTube
- Number of shares
- Share rate = number of shares / views
- CPI = cost per impression
More on Video Commercials:
Affiliate programs are a type of marketing in which a company rewards affiliates for generating product sales. For example, if we sell books online, we might launch an affiliate program and allow other people and companies to sign-up to promote our products for a commission. The affiliates would sell our products by promoting them independently, whether on their own websites or through regular marketing channels, such as search advertising.
When to use:
Affiliate marketing works best for products sold online. It can be used to expand your reach. For example, we might be already running display and search ads, but not all customers will see these ads. Some ignore the ads, while others use ad blockers. However, the same customers might regularly read a blog by some influential person who might be interested in advertising our product and help us reach his/her audience.
Affiliate programs helped Amazon.com grow in its early days and eventually become the tech giant it is now. These days, affiliate programs are so ubiquitous that most major ecommerce companies and many tech startups offer their own.
- Provide sufficient guidance to your affiliates in terms of what types of advertising are acceptable and which ones are not to make sure their campaigns are on strategy
- Share marketing materials you develop for other channels, such as display advertising, with affiliates to ensure brand consistency
- Track performance of affiliate campaigns as part of your regular marketing analytics, using tools such as Google Analytics
Customers can be affiliates too. In other words, we can pay our customers a certain amount of money or give them a discount for referring their friends. Sometimes, this bonus is given to both, a referring customer and a referred customer. These types of promotions are often called “two-sided incentive programs.” Dropbox popularized these types of programs when it offered additional space for inviting friends. Needless to say, since they already had product-marketing fit, these programs fueled the growth and helped them become a multibillion dollar company.
More on affiliate programs:
When and how to use:
The true power of partnerships can be unlocked when there is an opportunity for a win-win deal between two companies. For example, in marketing context, it might be a good idea to partner with a company that creates complementary products and markets them to the same target audience you do. This is called co-marketing: we help our partners by advertising their products to our customers and they do the same for us.
For example, at Adobe, we partnered with Microsoft. On the same day when Microsoft was launching its first laptop, Surface Book, we showed it at our Adobe MAX conference (which attracted around 7,000 creative professionals). This was a perfect fit because the Surface Book touchscreen paired with CC Illustrator or CC Indesign offered designers (Adobe audience) a more convenient way to draft their projects – using a stylus on tablet, just like drawing on paper, and then continue editing on the laptop.
Another example is partnering with DSLR camera manufacturers because they serve a customer audience that overlaps greatly with current or potential CC Photoshop and CC Lightroom users. There again, it’s a win-win partnership because people who buy cameras are interested in applications that help them edit pictures and vice versa.
Bundle offers are another type of co-marketing. We can create a special discounted offer that includes both our product and partner’s product to further accelerate demand. If bundle offers are not possible, it is often a good idea to allow partners to offer discounts on your products that they sell to incentivize customers to buy.
More on partnerships:
PR can be used for multiple purposes: to raise awareness and build brand among potential customers, as well as to improve loyalty and retention of current customers.
In general, though, PR tends to be overused and often falls short of expectations. There are two major reasons for this:
- Everything seems like great news from within a company. “We’ve just fixed a couple of bugs – let’s get Wired to write about it!” “We’ve just open a 32nd branch – let’s get a New York Times article about it!” The world does not necessarily care.
- Readers of certain media outlets that are often targeted are not necessarily the target audience.
This is hugely important. For example, a tech startup might get a lot of traffic from being mentioned on Techcrunch, but unless these visitors are also interested in buying the product, it might not bring in many users. Yes, getting coverage from major media outlets might build some credibility and attract attention. This can have some significance for fundraising or for improving consideration levels among your arget audience. But unless your target audience overlaps with the audience of the media outlet, don’t expect to acquire lots of customers.
That being said, PR can be used effectively to amplify your company product announcements or to even position your company as an expert in a certain field.
When to use:
- You have a genuinely interesting story to share: you might be launching an innovative product or your product might have been used in an interesting context.
- Ideally, this story is somehow related to a larger topic which is currently in the news. This would allow journalists to more easily plug your product into a certain story.
How to use:
1. As always, start with the goal
For instance, are we aiming to increase awareness among potential investors, build buzz among potential customers about a product you are about to launch or position the company as a great employer for recent graduates?
2. Research media outlets, journalists, and bloggers to find the ones that are most likely to be interested in covering your product. Build relationships with them beforehand
3. Create a short and to-the-point elevator pitch summary of your story and share it at the moment when it’s most relevant and most connected with larger news
4. Tailor the messaging to each journalist individually – know what they are interested in. Mass mailing the same text to a lot of media contacts is a waste of time.
5. Track the effect of this PR against marketing KPIs: website visits, sign-ups, purchases, etc.
One underutilized and effective way to vet PR professionals and agencies is to talk to journalists working for media that you are targeting and ask what PR agencies or professionals they are already working with.
Tools to identify influencers who are not necessarily journalists:
More on PR:
Experiential and Event Marketing
Experiential marketing is often equated with event marketing. It is used to create offline experiences for certain target audiences.
When to use:
Just like PR, events can be used for multiple purposes. For instance:
- to raise awareness and build brand among
- general public
- potential customers
- to improve loyalty and retention of current customers
Optimal format, venue, guest list, sponsors, and agenda will always depend on goals.
How to use:
Step-by-step process to design a great event:
1. Set marketing goals: awareness, acquisition or retention
2. Identify target audience
3. Define the end result: actions that we want our target audience to take
e.g., “prospective customers need to sign-up for a free trial” or “journalists of XYZ media outlets need to cover our product in a favorable way”
4. Leverage marketing research findings to design the right event
e.g., what do we know about the demographics and interests of our target audience – how can we use this knowledge to create a great experience
5. Once the event concept is developed, pre-test it on target audience, if possible
For instance, arrange a focus group and get a sense of what conclusions customers draw from the concept. Do they want to participate? What conclusions do they draw about the brand? Will they be willing to talk about it? Will they be willing to try or buy the product?
6 .Execute and learn
Track relevant, previously defined metrics and learn from what worked and what did not
Events for current or prospective customers
Events organized with a goal of improving retention might immerse current customers into product experience, educate them about things they can do with it, inspire them with some relevant content, or connect them with experts in their field.
On the other hand, if our marketing goal is to raise awareness and build a brand, we might attract potential customers or influential people in our industry, provide broader educational content and networking opportunities. Or we might support an event that stands for what our potential customers value, whether it’s sports, music or art.
Here are some great examples:
Notice how all of these events check all the boxes:
- They are aligned with brand value proposition and marketing strategy
- They are grounded in insights about what customers really care about
- They serve a specific purpose of building certain brand image indicators
Also, notice that these companies did not start with the format. They did the opposite: they started with marketing strategy and developed their own format. This is why the formats are so diverse. Events don’t have to be limited to conferences. Unless, of course, this is what serves our goals and audience the best.
Back in the day, when I worked in SABMiller brand management, we organized rock music concerts in Russia. Thousands of customers attended them and learned to associate our brand with rock music. But the decision to organize concerts was not random; it was rooted with marketing strategy: it was what our brand was all about. We also pre-tested the concept, list of bands, and ad materials before launching the campaign.
Events designed strictly with media audience in mind are rarely the best tool in a marketing arsenal. Even though press conferences have their place within PR, it’s typically better to target the main audience directly rather than targeting media and hoping that journalists will then effectively reach your target audience.
In fact, if an event checks all the boxes above and resonates with the target audience, it is likely to generate media interest as well.
There are some tactical exceptions, of course. Opening a new car factory, for instance, might not necessarily invite a lot of interest from your customers unless it’s directly related to the company’s ability to lower prices and/or improve quality. However, it might still attract media interest, especially locally. Sometimes this media coverage is beneficial even when it does not necessarily lead to customer acquisition or retention. There might be strategic or tactical reasons to generate this media coverage. For example, we might want to send a signal to our competition. Or we want to attract local talent.
In most situations, though, it’s better to focus on media outlets that share a target audience with us if we are doing PR for marketing reasons: to acquire or retain customers.
Technical Marketing Skills
In the previous chapter, we discussed how important it is for a modern marketing professional to have technical skills when talking about technical marketing research. This skillset will only become more important in the future, especially at tech companies and startups where marketers are often assigned a wider range of responsibilities.
Now, let’s consider some technical marketing tactical skills that can be useful for executing campaigns.
Web Design and Development
Being able to quickly create a website for a product or for a certain marketing campaign is a handy skill these days. We are not talking about complex applications, but about simple websites that can be used for marketing purposes.
Probably the easiest way to start creating simple websites is to use one of these tools, since they don’t require more technical expertise than PowerPoint: Weebly, Wix or Squarespace. For simple websites showcasing an app, I would also look into LaunchKit. If you want to use a free or open-source solution, then WordPress is a leader in this field. It’s also more customizable, but might be a little bit more complicated to set up in some cases.
Those interested in getting a little bit more technical might try learning HTML and CSS. These are not really programming languages, but mostly ways to format pages online, make them more presentable, link them together, and embed interactive content, such as images, maps and videos.
HTML stands for Hypertext Markup Language and CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheets. Even though tools mentioned in the previous section will allow you to create simple websites without any specific knowledge, sometimes you might want to take your sites one step further by customizing them in a way that these services won’t let you. This is when you might consider learning some HTML and CSS:
Here are some courses tutorials to get started:
- HTML & CSS on Codecademy
- HTML Tutorial on W3Schools
- CSS Tutorial on W3Schools
- HTML on Teamtreehouse
- CSS on Teamtreehouse
Here are some good learning resources:
Wireframing and UX
When working on a team with web designers, developers and software engineers, it is also important to be able to quickly and visually communicate ideas and let others who are better at this build upon them. As a marketer, you might not be the best person to build a website or an app, so visualizing your ideas can be helpful. This is where wireframing and prototyping skills can be particularly handy.
Here are some resources to learn it:
- A Beginner’s Guide to Wireframing on Tutsplus
- Ultimate Guide to Website Wireframing – Six Revisions
- Wireframe Showcase
- InVision Blog
- Adobe Comp tutorials
More on technical skills for marketing:
Copywriting can be considered one of the technical skills a marketer can have to be more self-sufficient and able to produce his/her own marketing materials. Or evaluate copies others crafted.
- Talk in the customer’s, not the corporation’s, language.
- Address the real needs and real concerns that customers have.
- Include a call to action.
I like how David Ogilvy, sometimes called “The Father of Advertising,” illustrates the first point in his book Ogilvy on Advertising:
“When copywriters argue with me about some esoteric word they want to use, I say to them, ‘Get on a bus. Go to Iowa. Stay on a farm for a week and talk to the farmer. Come back to New York by train and talk to your fellow passengers in the day-coach. If you still want to use the word, go ahead.”
In the past ads used to use longer form writing that can be leveraged just as effectively today. You probably wouldn’t use this approach in channels where customer’s attention span is very short, such as display advertising, but you can use this approach in blogging or in print ads. Here are some great ads from the past that might inspire you:
Copywriting is not only for ads, either.
Here is a brilliant example of an order confirmation email written by Derek Sivers that produced some serious virality and was re-posted across the web on multiple blogs:
Your CD has been gently taken from our CD Baby shelves with sterilized contamination-free gloves and placed onto a satin pillow.
A team of 50 employees inspected your CD and polished it to make sure it was in the best possible condition before mailing.
Our packing specialist from Japan lit a candle and a hush fell over the crowd as he put your CD into the finest gold-lined box that money can buy.
We all had a wonderful celebration afterwards and the whole party marched down the street to the post office where the entire town of Portland waved “Bon Voyage!” to your package, on its way to you, in our private CD Baby jet on this day, Friday, June 6th.
I hope you had a wonderful time shopping at CD Baby. We sure did. Your picture is on our wall as “Customer of the Year”. We’re all exhausted but can’t wait for you to come back to CDBABY.COM!!
Here are some good resources to learn more about copywriting and writing in general:
- 75 Resources for Writing Incredible Copy that Converts on KISS Metrics
- Copywriting 101 on Copyblogger
- Book: On Writing Well
And don’t be like Dogbert!
More on Advertising and Copywriting
- Book: Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy
- Book: Tested Advertising Methods by John Caples
Behavioral Economics and Psychology of Marketing
Behavioral economics is a major field of study that emerged recently. As we learned from behavioral economics, various psychological studies and neuroscience, people are not necessarily 100% rational. Instead, we are complex human beings who sometimes act impulsively. So surprising, I know.
This is what marketers knew and used for decades. It helps to learn more about psychology, cognitive biases and behavioral economics to develop impactful campaigns. Marketers know that customers are not necessarily 100% rational decision makers. So we must keep these considerations in mind when designing marketing campaigns and ads.
Here are some great Psychology and Behavioral Economics resources:
- List of Cognitive Biases on Wikipedia
- Cognitive bias cheat sheet, simplified
- Book: Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely
- Book: Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
- Book: Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
- Book: Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard Thaler
- Summary of Nudge book on Slideshare
Marketing Campaign Checklist
- Marketing goal is defined
- Tactical metrics that contribute to the goal are set and tracked
- Target audience is clearly identified
- Channel mix and messaging are developed in accordance to goals, marketing strategy, research findings and value proposition
- Internal and external stakeholders are aligned on all of the above
A Quick Recap
- Rule #1: start with your customer and business goals
- Rule #2: start with your customer and business goals
- Rule #3: achieve product-market fit
- Rule #4: think strategically to create a sustainable competitive advantage
- Rule #5: foster a collaborative culture between engineering and marketing
- Rule #6: use data to set marketing strategy and goals, aligned with business goals
- Rule #7: pick relevant research methods to get the most impactful data
- Rule #8: use marketing analytics to track the most important metrics
- Rule #9: optimize marketing mix (CLV/CAC), messaging and content
- Rule #10: move people by understanding psychology