Beware of marketing assumptions

I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of speaking at the Hawai‘i Tourism Association’s annual conference in Honolulu, a gorgeous city. I’d not been to Honolulu before, so it was fascinating to walk around a city in which Japanese is more or less the de facto second language. Signs, menus, directions – all have Japanese versions next to their English versions. It’s been great to practice my very rusty Japanese skills.

Here’s the interesting assumption people make about me. Shopkeepers, store owners, and other tourists assume I speak Japanese. It’s reminiscent of when I went to Seoul, South Korea and struggled to get around because I don’t speak Korean, but I look the part. Shopkeepers would ask me questions and I’d have to reply, “I’m sorry, I’m American. I don’t speak Korean”. Boy, did that confuse people.

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I actually took to carrying that around as a graphic on my iPhone as I walked around Seoul.

The shopkeepers in Honolulu make an assumption based on how I appear and greet me in Japanese. Because everyone’s wonderfully friendly, we simply switch over to American English once I exhaust my very meager Japanese skills. I’m fairly certain that it’s apparent in my Japanese accent as well that it’s not even close to my native language. (I once had a Japanese teacher in college who said my Americanization of Japanese sounds made me sound like an inakamono, a country bumpkin)

However, this begets a marketing problem in general: when you make assumptions before the customer gives you data, you risk miscategorizing your customer. Just because you get referral traffic from a social network does not mean the customer heard about you solely from the social network. Just because someone subscribes to your email newsletter does not mean they want to buy something from you. We as marketers have come to rely on passive data, on machine-provided data, leaping to conclusions that may be incorrect.

This becomes even more troublesome in the algorithm-driven world we live in. As machines take on more and more of the responsibility for pattern matching, they build assumptions of their own (or are pre-programmed with our assumptions). For the most part, customers will not tell you that your algorithms are wrong. They will simply see mis-targeted marketing and vanish silently to a competitor.

In your marketing technology, in your marketing automation, do your best to let your customers give information first. Listen. Ask. By not assuming, you may be able to avoid potentially embarrassing mistakes and serve their needs better and faster.

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3 Ways to Maximize Conference and Event Marketing

One of the real world marketing questions I’m asked often is whether events and conferences matter, from a marketing point of view. Do they help to generate business? The answer is a qualified yes – as long as you do it right.

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First, if you don’t know why you’re going, don’t go. “Because our competitors are there” isn’t a great reason. Ask if your audience is at the show. The easiest way to establish this? Look at the previous year’s hashtag on social media and who used it, then randomly sample the Twitter biographies of people who used the hashtag. If their names and titles are your audience, then you have a reason to attend the show.

Events are excellent for introducing your company to the target audience, but you have to provide ways for people to have those introductions.

To make the most of the show, you need three key elements. The first is the spotlight. Obtain this however you can, if you are committed to attending the event. This may mean earning a speaking slot or paying for it. This may mean a significant sponsorship that ensures show organizers will name drop you repeatedly throughout the event.

The second element is the anchor. This is the exhibitor booth. At some shows, particularly larger ones, sponsorship and exhibiting are separate animals. You need an anchor at the show, a physical location you can use as a base of operations, a rally point, and a focus. When you have speakers on stage, it’s easiest for them to say, “If you have questions after this session, come meet me at Booth 176” rather than have them loiter around, especially if the show has a packed schedule.

The third element is the foot soldiers, the street team, the ground staff you have at a show. These are the folks who move around the show floor, providing intelligence, gathering competitors’ collateral and speaking to competitor sales personnel. Your army can help staff the booth in a pinch, but also goes out and networks with attendees. For those connections that are relevant and valuable, foot soldiers can direct people back to the booth or to a speaker’s session. Foot soldiers also use social media effectively during the show, sharing other speakers’ content but heavily promoting your own. Given how many conferences feature social media leaderboards for most retweeted speakers, content, and people, your foot soldiers can play a key part in being seen.

With these three elements in force, you can maximize your appearance at a trade show. People will remember you, connect with you, and quite possibly do business with you. The very best executions of this plan make you so prominent, you’re on equal or greater footing than the show itself.


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How to measure live video impact on marketing

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One of the questions marketers have struggled with in recent days is how to make all these new video services work to drive business. How do you make Periscope, Blab, Meerkat, etc. generate some actual results? How can we measure the effectiveness of our online video efforts?

First, let’s establish what we want to accomplish in terms of goals. Do you have sales objectives? Lead generation objectives? Awareness and brand objectives? What your goal is determines how you’ll measure.

The simplest way to measure the effectiveness of any channel is through quarantine. Establish unique, distinct methods of contact for every channel in your marketing toolbox, including online video. For example, domain names are still cheap to buy. Considering Periscope? Buy a domain like YourNameOnPeriscope.com, and use it exclusively on that channel. Even if you just redirect it, there are ways to push data into services like Google Analytics to track visits to it. Got a call center? Set up dedicated phone numbers to track your video channels.

Next, consider your options for calls to action in video. Simple plugs by the video host with an easily spelled domain name and frequent repetition ensure that people know where to find you.

Consider on-screen advertising. Just because an app doesn’t offer lower third banners or interstitial full screen ads doesn’t mean you can’t have them. Students of theater and TV set design have an arsenal of different ways to put visuals on screen. There’s absolutely nothing stopping you from putting your calls to action on a sheet of paper and occasionally panning the camera to it.

Finally, consider all the tactics that made ads successful on television for so many years. Operators may no longer be standing by, but your website, social media channels, and email marketing systems are. Offer compelling content to an audience that’s on target, combined with offers that are relevant and creative content, and you can make any channel work for you.


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