How to IMC

The online Business Dictionary defines Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) as “an approach to achieving the objectives of a marketing campaign through a well coordinated use of different promotional methods that are intended to reinforce each other.”

A good IMC campaign is integral to the success of a brand. But a bad campaign can damage or even destroy it. Need evidence, just go here for examples like #McDstories,  where it was all too easy for the public to highlight the not so favourable side of McDonalds, or the Malaysia Airlines ‘Bucket List’!!!??? campaign, which distastefully followed 2 major disaster’s for the airline in which many people died.

Luckily the brilliant minds over at at CIO Magazine have developed an easy-to-follow, 7-step guide, on how to develop an IMC campaign which does not suck and which takes into account the intricacies of today’s diverse digital marketing landscape.

I give you: The Super, Amazing, Almost-Failsafe Guide to Not-Sucking at an IMC Campaign:

1. Know your target audience

This goes without saying. But don’t just make small talk on the issue, REALLY get to know them. What are their attitudes? Interests? Behaviours? Motivations? Communication preferences? Channel preferences? Social media behaviours?

Basically you want to know how, where and when to reach them.

2. Decide on your channels

a) ^ See above points

b) Refer to your objectives

c) Analyse each channel’s strengths and weaknesses with respect to a) & b)

d) Pick a channel

3. Embrace ‘one look’

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Despite Zoolander’s initial reservations, you can and should embrace ‘one look’. Your messages should be instantly traceable to your brand through the overarching look, feel and design that you consistently convey in your messages.

4. Be clear, compelling and consistent

Marketing messages need to be clear to the consumer perceiving them, or they will not be attended to and encoded. They must be compelling and interesting to the consumer so that they are remembered. Compelling campaigns go viral, boring ones do not! Messages must also be consistent across different channels and with past messages.

5. I is for Integrate … do it!

There is no point engaging in marketing communication unless it is ALL working towards some common goal, whether that be to drive consumers to a site or get them to sign up for a service. When all your communication is working as one your results will also increase as there should be synergy between message channels.

6. Work as a team

To make sure that everything is integrated the marketers sending out the messages must be working together. Often some marketing occurs in house whereas other work is outsourced. This is fine as long as the common themes and goals of communication are understood by all.

7. Keep on track

How do you ensure that all the above is happening and that the results are working for you? You track ….. everything! You analyse your plan, refer to the objective results and then you you tweak it.

Google analytics can be a particularly useful tool to measure click through rates and see how various digital channels are fairing against one another. You can download a how to guide to help you use google analytics here.

How do you ensure that all the above is happening and working well? You track… everything! You analyse what you’re doing, see what is working and what is not, and tweak your IMC plan as so. Google analytics (click here for a how to guide) can be a particularly useful tool to measure click through rates and see how various digital channels are fairing against one another.

Hopefully this has explained a little of what IMC in a rapidly changing marketing environment entails. Have you seen any particularly good IMC campaigns? Some communication disasters? Let me know in a comment below.

Thanks for reading!

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Search Engine Optim(‘eyes’)ation

see what I did there?

Search engines (so basically Google)

When you want to search for something on the web what is your first port of call?

For over 80% of us that question is rhetorical, it’s Google, of course, and for the other 20-ish% it’s some combination of Yahoo!, Bing and I genuinely don’t know what else.

As Sen (2005) explains, regardless of which one you use, we are all using one (a search engine that is)! How else would you navigate the web to find Rosie’s Batchie Recaps? Or Grumpy Cat Memes? Or, well, basically anything you don’t have the exact address for.

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Google likes pie and is greedy.

Major commercial search engines like Google are responsible for driving the majority of web traffic, and not just any traffic, targeted traffic. That is, people who are already searching for what you have on offer. For this reason search engines reign supreme! But, if they can’t find you or you are ranked so far down their pages that no one is ever going to then you are in a spot of bother.

Here is where search engine optimisation comes in …

Search engine optimisation

The Begginer’s Guide to SEO defines Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) as “a marketing discipline focused on growing visibility in organic (non-paid) search engine results” – it is about making yourself seen in search engine results and everything that comes with and contributes to that, such as:

  • Improving your page’s ranking – That is moving your website further up the results list  because we know that over 90% of people won’t click past the first search engine results page and over 60% of consumers will only consider the top 3 results.
  • Driving traffic to your site – Getting more interested and targeted consumers to your site (these are the ones you want)
  • Increasing awareness

The motivation behind search engine optimisation is explained well in this video:

In the end it is all about making yourself seen to the consumer but to do this you need your content to be seen and valued by the search engine.

All big search engines like Google rank their organic search results based on what they consider to be most relevant to their consumers. It is in their best interest to do this so that consumers have a good experience and keep coming back for more.

So how do they do this? Well, by naturally (or organically) altering what results come up based on what people are actually doing on the web.

How do search engines find and rate webpages?

Search engines locate and rate pages in 2 ways: Through keywords and backlinks

  • Key words – Key words allow the search engine to see and find your site, as well as know what it is about.
  • Back-links refer to how many other sites have cited your website and enable the search engine to trust your website as relevant.
    • Think of back-links like references. The better academic references are usually the ones that people cite more often. Citing these articles then is a measure of their reliability and credibility in terms of the information they present.
    • Google looks at your site in  the same way. If more people have cited you, then chances are your website is legit.

Given there are 2 ways that search engines locate and rate pages, it stands to reason that there are also 2 corresponding ways in which search engines can be optimised:

On site component

For the onsite component it is important that your website has relevant keywords so it easily comes up when searched for. For example if selling leather boots you might have key words like: leather, shoes, boots, ankle boots, black boots, blue boots etc. These keywords should make your site easily findable both by the search engine and consumers. They should be broad enough to ensure your sight is found but relevant enough that the consumer actually get’s what they are looking for, otherwise your page is going to drift right down the bottom of the search results page and no one wins.

Off site component

For the off site component you may generate backlinks to strengthen the relevance of your website through using articles, social media, blog posts etc. The more legitimate the website is that links back to your site the more effect that back link is going to have on your search result ranking.

Hopefully this has given you a better understanding of why search engine optimisation is needed and how it works. I’ll leave you with some more ideas on how to optimise the way search engines and consumers see you on the web, and would love to hear your ideas on the best ways you found for a business to undergo search engine optimisation 🙂

The ‘Internet of Things’ for dummies (me)

Still don’t know what a ‘cookie’ is? Curiously turn your face up to the sky at the mention of ‘the Cloud’? Yes? Weeeeell you’re about to hate me. Why? Because I’m about to throw one more piece of slippery Internet jargon your way. But trust me, I get it, and so this post is going to break things down very s-l-o-w-l-y. Here goes ….

  1. There is this curious thing called the internet… Confused?giphy  Still here? Read on …
  1. More and more people have access to it and it’s becoming faster and cheaper by the day
  2. More and more things are being built to connect to it – through wifi, sensors etc.

The Internet of things (IoT) basically is the result of all of the above coming together. It is the idea, already being realised, that any ‘thing’ or part thereof can be connected to the Internet as long as it can be switched on and off.

As you can imagine we’re talking about a lot of ‘things’ here. Think of everything you know that has an and off switch! We’re talking lights, cars, coffee machines, the milk heater in your coffee machine, fridges, freezers, TV’s, heaters, music players, washing machines, phones, computers, head phones, cooking appliances, hair straighteners, car keys, watches, electric blankets, ALL OF THE THINGS!

As Morgan from Forbes Magazine explained, this means that with everything connected the big relationships of the future will be people-people, people-things and things-things.

But what does this mean?

Well, say your alarm clock, heater, coffee machine, electric toothbrush, and car were connected, your mornings could become very efficient. I’ll explain …

Using cues from your alarm clock your heater could have turned on and warmed up by the time you woke and your coffee machine could have automatically organised your caffeine hit without you lifting a finger. Then your car heater could take cues from your toothbrush – because that is the last thing hypothetical you uses before leaving the house – to know when to turn on and heat up before you get in.

This is a very practical example. A more realistic one for uni students could be that of your calendar connecting to an online grocer and automatically pre-ordering you chocolates (and wine) around the time major assignments are due. Or, if things are getting particularly dire, your calendar could block you from Facebook until you have clicked submit on moodle (shudder).

Zooming out a little to look at the the bigger picture, IoT has a lot to offer infrastructure and the societies in which we live. The idea of Smart Cities are those which capitalise on all that IoT has to offer for financial, time, energy and general resource efficiency as well as the increased wellbeing of citizens. Which is explained well in this short video.

It all sounds pretty great hey? But like any thing there are two sides to the coin and when it comes to the Internet a big con is often privacy concerns. The IoT is no exception. How do you protect your information if everyone and everything has it? Could someone steal my identity through my hair straightener? I don’t know.

Also with so much of our information out there, our free will starts to decline because ‘things’ are influenced by what we do and what we do is influenced by ‘things’ which creates a somewhat scary cycle. Will we lose part of our autonomy? Our control over our lives? Our ability to interact with one another? These are all questions that are yet to be answered but have been speculated on by experts in the field. Read more here if you’re interested.

What do you think about a future with IoT? Scared? Excited? Do you think the benefits will outweigh the costs?

Hopefully whatever your thoughts (I’m keen to hear them) you now understand the IoT a little better.

Mobile Social Media Marketing: The do’s and (definitely) do nots

Why should companies engage in Mobile Social Media? Well, here are a few reasons:

  1. 77% of Australians own a Smartphone.
    • It’s a good way to reach your consumers and offers new opportunities to individualise messages to your target consumer. In other words you can engage in one-to-one marketing as opposed to one-to-many.
  2. 70% of social media users do so via their smartphone.
    • Consumers are using their phone to engage in social media and when they do they are generating content, discussing and sharing things they like (what you want to be) and things they don’t like (what you do not want to be).
  3. These days companies are spending much more on mobile advertising than they are on Magazine advertising.
    • Clearly there is something to this whole mobile marketing thing. Your competitors are doing it, you should be doing it. Go be a lemming!

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 BUT, before marketers mindlessly jump on the social media bandwagon they should beware that stock standard, or ill conceived social media marketing could do more harm than good.

An astounding (ly awful) example came from Food Magazine, Epicurious, who through some seriously misguided logic, saw it fit to advertise scones and breakfast recipes through the tragedy of the Boston Marathon Bombings …

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Um, what?!! Yes, that actually happened, and no the brand is not thriving anymore (they should definitely fire their brand manager)! Sometimes, and especially in the case of tragedy, it is best to say nothing at all unless there is a specific connection to the brand and words are chosen very VERY carefully.

Click here for more spectacular social media marketing fails.

NOW, on a slightly more positive note, there are things marketers can do to avoid such epic blunders and hopefully make their mobile marketing campaigns on social media more efficacious. To this effect, some golden rules are described by Kaplan (2012) and can be summarised as the four I’s of social media marketing, namely: to integrateindividualise, involve and initiate. You will see how these points all link up as shown below.Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 11.54.23 PMIntegrating

People don’t have mobile phones and social media for the purposes of receiving marketing. This point is key and yet often oddly overlooked. Mobile phones offer more personal marketing, but also the potential to annoy and breach privacy and this should be avoided at all costs to maintain the relationship. By integrating social media marketing into the consumer’s life you make it something they want to engage in rather than forcing a barrage of unsolicited messages upon them.

Individualising

Mobile phones are personal devices, seldom shared between users. This has huge implications for how marketers can individualise messages to certain groups of people, their preferences and interests. One way of doing this is to individualise based on geographic location. For example, by giving incentives for people close by to check in to a retail outlet and by doing so sending them a discount voucher that they can use in the next few hours. Individualising is key to a successful campaign as generic marketing is often not relevant to consumers and can make them switch off. Furthermore, it has less potential to be integrated into their lives and instead is seen as an intrusion.

Involving

The very best campaigns will be interactive and engage the consumer in meaningful dialogue. By doing this the brand creates experiences by engaging the consumer in some way, for example through a story. This experience is then tied to the brand and may be shared to other people in the consumers social network thus initiating user generated content (UGC).

Initiating

Much of the power of social media comes in it’s ability to snow ball marketing efforts through positive word-of-mouth (and hopefully not negative). Therefore, initiating UGC is the final hurdle which will hopefully lead to a campaign going viral aka the holy grail of social media marketing. Encouraging and rewarding UGC is a must. However, if you have ticked the boxes for the aforementioned 3 i’s, it is more likely this will happen. Remember to watch out for negative UGC, because this can do big brand damage.

I’ll leave you with a few more tips here to peruse at your leisure. Let me know of any good ideas you have for a mobile social media marketing campaign. Or, if you have already done one what you have found.

A/B Testing: The science of marketing

Did you just read ‘science’ and vomit a little bit in your mouth? That’s OK, I did too. But Hopefully I can explain the nuts and bolts of A/B testing in the least scary way i.e. with the help of Ron Burgundy, Ryan Gosling (you’re welcome) and a Crafty-Homeless-Guy. A/B testing is actually far less hideous than it sounds and it is imperative to understand it if you want your online marketing efforts to pay off.

First thing you need to know: Content Matters!

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Thanks Ron.

Seems obvious yeh? But how do you know which content is best? A gut feeling? Aesthetics? Industry experience? Ron’s mustache told you? Unfortunately, most marketers tend to judge the efficacy of their online content based on intuition or what looks best, however, none of these techniques necessarily work (except for maybe Ron’s mustache). To know what elements of your online marketing tools work best marketers need to do an A/B test.

What is A/B Testing? A/B testing is where you compare two variants of online material – whether that be a website, an email, a social media post, an advert or a landing page (nearly anything which alters viewer behaviour can be tested) – to determine which one works best. For example, when testing your website you might want to know if blue font (Variation 1) works better than your current black font (Variation 2). To do this you would split the traffic visiting your website into two and for a specified period of time half your visitors would view Variation 1 (blue font) and half would view Variation 2 (black font). To define what ‘best’ looks like a measure of success must be chosen. For example if we were a clothing site this could be a visitor seeing the confirmation page following a sale. After a period of time Variation 1 (blue font) is compared to Variation 2 (black font) in terms of this measure of success (seeing the confirmation page following a sale). The variation with the biggest score in terms of the measure of success (i.e. going through with a sale) wins and is therefore the better version that should be used in the future, until a better version (as determined with an A/B test) is found.

Here’s a Crafty-Homeless-Man A/B testing religion

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If, like this man, you feel the urge to immediately A/B test something at any point whilst reading this blog feel free to click here for a step-by-step guide to developing your own A/B test.

Why use A/B tests?

A/B tests are critical because our intuition can often be wrong – I’ll show you an example in a second. By using A/B testing you remove both your conscious and unconscious bias in decision making for an objective measure of what ‘best’ looks like for the measure in question. What this means is that your marketing works better without working harder and your bottom line improves.

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Just to show how faulty our intuition can be which landing page do you think resulted in the most conversions? Post your answers in a comment to compare what other people thought.

Version A:                                               or     Version B:

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If you thought Version B, you were with the majority. However it was actually Version A (the one with the image removed) that got a 24% increase in form submissions! This shows how important it is to A/B test to differentiate your intuition from what is true. For more surprising A/B test results click here.

A/B testing has revealed some astounding insights into how small changes to call-to-action buttons can have big impacts for marketing’s effectiveness. I’ve included a few interesting ones below.

Changing copy on payment page button

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In this scenario including the words ‘get started’ added an extra benefit, as consumers were often in a rush to start writing. This resulted in a 31% increase in conversion.

Is bigger better

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Not necessarily, especially when it comes to call-to-action buttons as can be seen above.

I hope I have dispelled some of your fear regarding A/B tests. They are less scary and easier to create than you would think and most importantly they are indispensable in today’s marketing environment where information overload is the norm.

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Don’t forget to comment and say which version of the landing page you intuitively would have picked.