Did you really go for that ride?

About 15 minutes’ drive from my home a mountain-bike track snakes up a hill into a large area of untapped native forest.

About 15 minutes’ drive from my home a mountain-bike track snakes up a hill into a large area of untapped native forest. This track is perfect for a person wanting to spend time on their bike in solitude away from the rest of the world. Last Sunday I loaded my bike onto my car and set off for a ride. However, to my horror, when I unloaded my bike from the car at the start of the track I realised that I had left my phone at home.

It wasn’t the lack of communication that caused my angst, but the knowledge that I was going on a ride without using Strava (for the non-cycling people out there, Strava is a sports tracking application. You can check it out at strava.com). How could this possibly happen? I was so annoyed, that for a brief second I even considered turning around and going home to get my phone.

The very act of going for a ride without strava-ing it (yes, it has become a verb) was almost a sacrilege. How would the rest of my Strava ‘buddies’ know that I had been for a ride? What if I was on the top of my game and beat a Personal Record? It wouldn’t be recorded! How could I live with myself? It brings to my mind the conundrum about a tree that falls in a forest without anyone around to hear it? Did it actually make a noise?

Did I actually go for a bike-ride if I didn’t leave an electronic trail behind me?

My little story is one of millions of similar stories that people face each day. How many people in your office are currently wearing a fitbit, that is faithfully recording their daily steps? How many have gone the step further and are wearing a GPS enabled device that not only counts the number of steps, but also tracks, records and stores their exact movements?

If we were compelled by our government to wear tracking devices, we would (quite rightly) rise up against such a tyrannical state; but we quite happily spend a lot of our own money on devices that allow private companies to keep track of our movements and even our deepest thoughts. And none of us really have an idea about how these companies use this data.

As I have discussed in a previous post, data is king. If a company holds data on you, your habits and your preferences, they can use this data to make money in any number of ways. Strava for example, “anonymizes and aggregates” data they collect about you and resells it to city councils so they can better plan their urban environments.

You can think of this as a win-win-win-win-win situation:

Win 1 to Strava:

You pay Strava a premium to use their app (Strava makes money)

Win 2 to You:

You get accurate records of how your exercise is tracking (and can show off to your friends)

Win 3 to Strava:

Strava sells the aggregated data to a city council (Strava makes money)

Win 4 to Everyone:

The city council gets to better plan their roads and paths based on how people actually use their city, rather than a best guess

Win 5 to You:

Your urban environment is better suited to your lifestyle

Five wins! Is that such a bad thing?

Coffee card? You can do better!

If you have read my other posts, you may notice a recurring theme is that I implore you to make sure that you personalise your marketing messages.

If you have read my other posts, you may notice that a recurring theme is that I implore you to make sure that you personalise your marketing messages.

This is relatively simple if you have lovingly kept your database up to date and are tracking all your customers’ transactions and personal details. But unless you can afford a team of data crunchers (and keep them supplied with coffee) it is highly likely that your database is somewhat lacking. How can you possibly personalise your messages if you don’t have a good list?

I’ve previously mentioned that you can buy a mailing list from one of many organisations such as NZ Post or Data Zoo. But no matter how good their lists are, they will never be as valuable as a list of your own customers. So what do you do?

Simple – take a deep breath and begin the journey. It’s never too late to start capturing customer data.

70% of consumers are willing to share personal preferences to receive more relevant email.

If you can offer your customers some value (and don’t get greedy and seek too much from them), you may find that your customers are happy to give you some personal information that will help you kickstart your customer database. Below are a couple of ideas to consider:

Own a Cafe and still use Coffee cards? you can do better than that!

The ubiquitous coffee card has finally leapt into the 21st century with the advent of The Goody Card: a phone app that replaces stores’ loyalty cards. Instead of filling their wallets with tatty coffee cards, your customers load the Goody Card app on their phone. With every coffee purchase, you scan a QR code on their app and Bob’s your uncle – they get an occasional free cup of coffee without having to carry a card with them – you get their purchase history and the ability to send customised emails that are relevant to the recipient. It’s a win-win situation.

Trades People – trust me, QR codes can work for everyone.

Are you a plumber and want to build a loyal following of customers? How about sending the occasional email, text or card to people in your area? But to do this, you need their contact details. One suggestion is to put a QR code on your van, invoices, signs etc, offering a 10% discount on your standard hourly rate. To register for this offer, all someone needs to do is scan the code and enter their name, address and email into a simple form accessed through their phone. Again – win-win. They get a discount and you get the chance to have a loyal customer.

These are two simple ideas that don’t require a lot of work or expense. You know your business and your customers. It should not be too difficult to come up with an idea that suits your business. If you are lacking in ideas jump onto your computer and see what others are doing.

Once you start your database you need to keep working on it. Constantly add new people, update details and generally keep it fresh and clean. If you wait to do a spring clean once a year, you may find that your list quickly becomes stale and ineffective.

Creating the call to action

Unless the purpose of your marketing campaign is to increase brand awareness, your campaign should have a call to action.

Unless the purpose of your marketing campaign is to increase brand awareness, your campaign should have a call to action. In other words, you design the advert so that it causes the person who is interacting with it to do something specific.

When developing your call to action, you need to put yourself in the shoes of your audience. It’s all well and good coming up with a wonderful master plan about how you can see your advert increasing sales by 100%, but if your call to action is complicated or unappealing, it won’t work.

Design your advertisement with your audience in mind and then keep them in mind when you develop your call to action. Remember that your job is not done until the whole journey is mapped out. In fact, it would be handy to use marketing planning software to visually map each touch point.

Increasingly, a call to action includes getting your audience to go to a website, open an app or carry out some other action using email, Facebook or an online advert. If your first touch point used technology, then it’s relatively simple: just get people to click on a link. But what if you used another advertising medium? You can’t click on a link in a newspaper advert, or in a flyer.

There are a number of ways that you can cross from print to digital. The simplest is to include a web address and encourage people type it into a browser. Not very elegant though. Then there is the ubiquitous QR code. The beauty of QR is that it is open source, free to use and many of us have a QR code reader on our phone. Then there are fancier systems, such as DocuMobi’s Fuse, which is similar to a QR reader, but can scan images, rather than codes. But, if you are looking for something really sexy (i.e. expensive) you can go down the augmented reality route which needs to be seen to be believed (Robust North is a Finnish company that is leading the way with their app called Arilyn).

I’ll finish by highlighting a point I make above: Even if you use the latest and greatest technology, your whole campaign will be ruined if your call to action is not well thought out. If you have not truly thought through exactly the path that you want to lead your audience along, they may take another route altogether.

The future of advertising

In the 2002 futuristic film, minority report, advertisements on electronic billboards played adverts that were specific for each person.

In the 2002 futuristic film, minority report, advertisements on electronic billboards recognised passers-by and played adverts that were specific for each person (“John Anderton, you could use a guinness right about now”). Through the use of rfid chips and facial recognition software, this technology is now with us. advertisers can now tailor a billboard message to suit each person walking by.

Clearly, personalised electronic billboards are beyond the budget of all but the biggest of companies, however personalised marketing does not need to be limited to multinational brewers. if you have a database of your customers or members, or can get access to one, you too can carry out a relatively cheap direct mail campaign, with the message and images tailored to suit each and every person.

The conversion rate for personalised mail is second only to phone calls and so much cheaper, with an additional bonus that it is easy to carry out multivariate testing on your campaign.

Don’t sell venison to a vegetarian

A generation ago, the only high-tech product in most peoples’ lives was the TV, sitting proudly in the corner of the lounge.

A generation ago, the only high-tech product in most peoples’ lives was the TV, sitting proudly in the corner of the lounge, biding its time until it became master of the house each evening. Fast forward to today: a person setting out to walk the dog feels a sense of loss if they leave their mobile phone sitting on the hall table. We are constantly connected to the wider world and are being bombarded with information from the moment we wake, to when we kiss our other half good night.

The number of adverts our brains are asked to process each day is mind boggling. How can we possibly give our full attention to each message we face?

Here’s some interesting statistics for you from SJ Insights:
  • The total number of advertisement and brand exposures (this includes walking past labels in a supermarket) has risen from approx. 2,000 30 years ago, to approx. 5,000 today.
  • The total number of adverts that we actually take any note of has risen from 124 in 1945 to 153 today.
  • Of our daily 5,000 exposures to brands, only 12 will make an impression on us.

Although our exposures to brands has risen by 150% in a generation, the number that we actually pay attention to has risen by only 23%. What do we take from this?

One obvious assumption is that we are getting better at filtering out irrelevant messages. This is not surprising considering the tidal wave of messages heading our way each day. If we don’t get better at filtering, we will be submerged in the sea of brands.

In 1945, we paid attention to 6.2% of all brand messages that we were exposed to; today we pay attention to only 3.1%, with only 0.02% of them getting any real attention from us.

As a marketer, what do you do about this? You need to get your message noticed, but you are fighting a myriad of other marketers for a miniscule piece of a very large pie.

Here’s a couple of ideas for you:
  1. Make your message relevant to your audience. Don’t waste your time trying to sell venison to a vegetarian.
  2. Increase the number of exposures that your audience get of your message. Imprint your brand and message into their mind.

Preferably, you should do both.

Let’s take a hypothetical example:


You own a car dealership that sells a range of cars, from luxury models to hatch-backs. You want to increase your sales next month by 20% on the previous year.

Method 1 – The Old way

Place an advert listing all your cars in the local Saturday morning paper, because that’s what you’ve been doing for years. Maybe a sale will come from it, maybe it won’t. You don’t really care, because you have done your “marketing” for the week. The box has been ticked!

Method 2 – Try a personalised approach

Step 1: Find a database. Preferably this would be a list of potential clients that you have assiduously been keeping up to date. But if not, you can buy a good list from NZ Post for a very reasonable price.

Step 2: Segment your database based on the likely buying preferences of the people in it. If it’s a bought list, you may want to use postcode as a method of segmentation.

Step 3: Design and send out a direct-mail card with a message and image that are interchangeable, based on the segmentations. If an address is in the high end of town, sell them a Lexus; if it’s in a commuter belt, promote a Corolla. Make sure that there is a call to action on the card, such as inviting the recipient to book a test drive.

Step 4: One week later, send another card to those people that have not replied to your first card. Put a different image, message, and a different call to action on this card. Maybe you could offer a sweetener to get them to commit?

Step 5: One month later, review your campaign. How much did it cost? What was the ROI? What went well and what didn’t? Tweak it and try again.

There’s no denying that the second method is more complicated, will take more effort and likely more expense. But if you’re always going to take the easy road, then life is going to be pretty ho-hum and I suspect that your business won’t grow as quickly as you would like.

When is personal too personal?

In a New York Times article, Charles Duhigg writes about how large corporates have teams trolling through data looking for shopping patterns.

In an often-cited article in the New York Times titled How Companies Learn Your Secrets, Charles Duhigg writes about how large corporates have teams of statisticians trolling through data looking for patterns, specifically shopping patterns.

Duhigg tells a story of how statisticians at Target, a North American retailer, were able to identify to a high degree of accuracy when customers were pregnant purely through their shopping habits. It turns out that expectant mothers were more inclined to purchase particular products such as fragrance free moisturiser. Once they could be fairly confident they knew when women were pregnant, they could target them with advertisements for baby products.

However, they soon came across an issue with regards to privacy. How would people react to being targeted at such a private time of their lives?

The first instance of how this could be a minefield was when an angry man marched into a store demanding to know why Target were sending his school-age daughter coupons for baby clothes. Were they trying to encourage her to get pregnant? Naturally, the store manager apologised profusely. However, a few days later, the manager was informed by a very chastened father that his daughter was indeed pregnant, but hadn’t told her parents. In other words, through her shopping habits, Target knew more about a critical aspect of a young woman’s life than her parents did.

Target also came to realise that pregnancy is an incredibly personal time of someone’s life and that pregnant women were likely to react badly when sent advertisements for pregnancy products. It could come across as Target spying on these women. “It could be a public-relations disaster.”

Their answer to this was simple: mix and match baby products with other seemingly random items that pregnant women would never buy: “We’d put an ad for a lawn mower next to diapers. We’d put a coupon for wineglasses next to infant clothes. That way, it looked like all the products were chosen by chance.”

1:1 marketing campaigns are an incredibly effective way to cut through the clutter of up to 3,000 marketing messages that we are all confronted with on a daily basis. They can go a long way in helping companies to establish a personal connection with their customers. However, keep in mind how your message will be received. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and if you feel that your message could be perceived negatively, you don’t need to abandon it; do as Target did and tweak your message.

Click the following link to read the full New York Times article: http://preview.tinyurl.com/8xqtbuk

The Real Me

The other day I received a promotional flyer from a national supermarket chain, but it advertised products of absolutely no interest to me…

The other day I received a promotional flyer from a national supermarket chain. This flyer was addressed directly to me and my name was scattered throughout the text, like confetti at a wedding.

The sender of the flyer was the owner of the local supermarket where my wife and I normally do our weekly shopping. At the bottom of the flyer in small print was confirmation that I was targeted for this piece of advertising because of the data collected about me from the shop’s loyalty card.

So far so good: the supermarket owner knows that I am a local that regularly shops in their supermarket, so they send a personal letter to me. Very nice!

At the bottom of the flyer was a tear-off portion with six special offers. The six products on offer were: nappies, chippies, orange juice, shampoo, chocolates and white bread.

But, here’s the rub . . .

These products are of absolutely no interest to me.

I would just as readily buy cat food (I am not a cat lover) as I would most of these products. In fact, I can’t remember when I last bought any of these items (Actually, as my only son is now 10, I can give an educated guess that I haven’t bought nappies for almost a decade).

Through the loyalty card, the supermarket has so much information about me that they could paint a fairly accurate picture about my life, yet they chose to ignore my purchasing history. If their intention was for me to make a special trip to their supermarket clutching my torn off vouchers, they completely failed.

Why did they not tailor their offer around my shopping habits? They know that I drink Sauvignon Blanc, eat bananas and own a dog. It really would not have been difficult to create a marketing campaign that included specials that were relevant to me. I strongly suspect that if they had, their conversion rate would have shot through the roof.

The future of marketing is 1:1 and it’s great to see that the supermarkets understand this. But this example shows that some still don’t quite get it.

If you are going to carry out a 1:1 campaign, don’t dip your toes into the water: dive in!

Data – lifeblood of marketing

Data – the lifeblood of marketing and never more so than today

1:1 marketing enables you to have a personal discussion with each and every member of your audience. These discussions are all driven by the information you hold about each person in your database. Where do they live? Where do they shop? What do they buy? Who do they vote for?

But the problem with storing information about people is that it doesn’t take long for it to go out of date. People change. They change their address, they change their preferences, they can even change their gender!

Unless you constantly strive to keep your database up to date, it won’t be long before it becomes so error-ridden that it becomes useless. If you rely on a dirty set of data, your marketing campaign can fail dismally to a point where it can end up costing you significantly (e.g. the mail provider can charge you for each ‘return to sender’ piece of mail they return to you).

Listed below are five points to keep in mind about database management:

1. Make sure the information is correct.

In 1:1 marketing campaigns you absolutely must have accurate data. If you are relying on factual information about a person and you get it wrong (e.g. assume someone’s gender based on their name), you could actually be causing damage to your brand rather than enhancing it.

2. Remove erroneous characters & spaces.

It’s amazing how much damage an erroneous character or a misplaced space in a field can cause some software. It can crash some marketing software completely. Before you merge your document with your database, take some time to make sure that there are no hidden time-bombs in your database waiting to cause you a headache.

3. Watch out for incorrect capitalisation.

If you send me a piece of mail addressed to me and my name doesn’t have a capital letter, it is going straight into the bin. This can be even trickier for people with mixed case names such as McIntosh.

4. Integrate your databases.

If you are trying to use multiple databases in the same campaign, you are asking for trouble. All it takes is one simple slipup when marrying your document with a field and you could be in all sorts of trouble. Take the time to integrate your databases.

5. Use your data to its full potential.

Ok, technically, this isn’t a problem with your data, but it is still a mistake that many people make. If you have a comprehensive and accurate database, make sure that you use it to its full potential. Don’t use your wonderful database just for a simple mail merge. Talk to an expert (hint hint) about how you can use your data to create a truly impressive personalised marketing campaign.

The two takeaways from this are:

1. You must take time to make sure that your database is as clean, clear and as accurate as possible. Don’t give into temptation to spend your time on the creative aspect of your campaign and ignore the database.

2. Be creative! Make sure you make the most of your data. Make each marketing message truly personal to each recipient.

Don’t forget the final sign-off!

“Don’t forget to get a final sign-off” is one of the most over-used pieces of advice in the printing industry – but it is so important!

“Don’t forget to get a final signoff” is one of the most over-used pieces of advice in the printing industry – but it is so important! How often do you hear stories of a major catastrophe because someone should have, but didn’t, conduct a final test of a crucial piece of equipment or process?

Ok – testing a print job isn’t even nearly in the same category as checking to see if a helicopter’s Jesus nut (the nut that keeps the rotor from flying away) has come loose; but even still, it’s a really good habit to always carry out that final test before you hit the big red button.

If anyone tells you that they have never made a mistake due to not carrying out a final test, they are lying. In fact, I need to put my hands up and admit that the catalyst for this post was an error that we recently made, which meant that a large print job had to be completely reprinted. We made the classic error of thinking that we had carried out checks throughout the process, but did not get an absolute final proof signed off by the client.

You really can’t go past the old tried and tested signoff with a pen on paper, but that’s not always possible. The second best approach is an electronic signature on PDF, but failing that, even an email with “OK, go ahead” surely beats nothing at all.

What’s coming round the corner?

What’s going to happen with the iPhone? Where Apple goes, everyone follows…

Lately there’s been a fair bit of talk about what the next big technology breakthrough will be. What’s going to happen with the iPhone? Will it continue to be developed, or is it time for another step change? Where Apple goes, everyone follows. That seems to have been the mantra since before the launch of the iPod, way back in 2001. Will this continue to be a truism as we head into the future? Will Google finally be able to launch an iPhone killer (don’t forget that Nokia was by far and away the market leader before Apple disrupted the market)?

There is talk that the big changes in the coming years won’t be around the technology itself, but with how we interact with it. No doubt the phones will still continue to get faster, lighter and the batteries will improve. After all, the phone manufacturers will continue to want us to trade up to the latest model. But it’s what we do with the phones that may be the biggest change.

Spotify, Netflix, iTunes, Apple Music – this is likely to be the battlefield in the coming year. Now that our data plans are getting larger and we are all coming off capped Wi-Fi plans, streaming music, TV and films will become the norm.

How is this going to affect your marketing plans? Well, firstly, if you are still wedded to the idea of advertising on terrestrial TV, you may want to reconsider your plans for the near future. Netflix and the increasing use of digital set-top boxes, which enable people to fast-forward through adverts, means that more and more people are managing to watch their favourite programme whilst avoiding the adverts.

How can you reach people when they spend so much of their time playing with their electronic devices? Email marketing can be swiped away at an instant (or even automatically filed by your email system); display adverts are often too small for mobile devices and can be scanned over anyway.

Have you considered testing a personalised direct mail campaign? In this electronic era, reverting to print may seem to be regressive, but if the point is to grab someone’s attention, it is hard to beat direct mail. After all, few people would throw away a letter that was addressed to them without opening it.

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