Archive for 02/01/2012

This list features my top 10 marketing trends, with advice to help you determine if the trend is “ready for takeoff” and worthy of your time and money now, or “still boarding” and better for you to just test out.

1. Deals and Rewards
Ready for takeoff.
This will be a year of bargain hunting because the economy is still recovering and consumers have more price-checking tools at their fingertips.

So use your marketing to attract shoppers with unbeatable deals. Then seek profits by generating repeat sales and referrals from your new customers. Also, be ready to respond with instant price reductions or other incentives when shoppers use mobile devices to compare retailers’ prices. 

2. Mobile Pull Marketing
Ready for takeoff.
Mobile pull marketing means giving consumers ways to interact with your advertising over mobile devices, and pulling them closer to a purchase decision.

To use mobile pull marketing, combine a call-to-action with traditional advertising. For example, ask customers to retrieve a coupon by texting a keyword to a short code or by taking a picture of the coupon in a print publication.

3. Mobile Push Marketing
Still boarding.
Mobile push marketing means sending promotional messages through texts and voice calls.

It’s still relatively expensive for small businesses to become bulk senders of texts and voice calls. Instead, invest in your email list. Emails are much less expensive than texts and can contain unlimited content.

4. Three-Screen Marketing
Still boarding.
In 2012 and beyond, expect attention to your advertising to shift as people in front of televisions frequently — and simultaneously — reach for two additional screens: tablets and smartphones.

Next year, advertise on television screens and invite viewers to pick up one of the other two screens to get involved in your promotion. Advertise on the portable tablet screen with emails, videos and social media. And advertise on the mobile phone screen using loyalty apps that track purchases or promotions that involve the phone at the physical point of sale.

5. Local Online Marketing
Ready for takeoff.
If you want to reach prospective customers in Denver, for example, would you consider advertising in the Los Angeles Times? You would if you realize that the publisher can display your local advertising to Denver residents who find the article in an Internet search.

So try some locally-targeted ads in national publications in 2012 and make sure they contain locally-relevant messages.

6. Proximity Marketing
Still boarding.
Services such as ShopKick and Foursquare let people opt in to receive promotions on their mobile phones from nearby vendors. Consumers can allow the use of location detection technology on their phones or check in to a physical location with their phones.

Many people are still warming to the idea of enabling location detection on their phones. Still, testing proximity marketing in 2012 could help prepare you to reach tech-savvy shoppers in the years to come.

7. Social Earned Media
Ready for takeoff.
If you have enough customers to have a business, then some are probably reviewing and chatting about you online. To get a positive review or referral, you have to earn it. That’s why it’s known as “social earned media.”

Use a social-media monitoring tools such as Trackur or Google Alerts to find out what people are saying when they mention your company or products. Then, get involved in the conversation and politely ask customers to rate and share their opinions of your business.

8. Social CRM
Ready for takeoff.
A CRM (customer relationship management) database is usually used to track people’s purchasing behavior. But don’t forget that your customers share other information about their lives that you can monitor on social media sites.

Take time each week in 2012 to monitor customers and record any useful information in your database. For example, if you notice customers talking about summer vacation plans on Facebook, then it might be a great time to offer a promotion involving summer vacations.

9. Globalization
Still boarding.
Thanks largely to rapidly expanding mobile Internet access, more people will go online in 2012 than ever before. Language translation technology such as WordLens also is making it easier for people to read a website, email or advertisement in their own language.

To make your online business more global, first see which countries you are already attracting visitors from and use them as a test audience. Then, create some products or services that meet the needs of your international audience and use the test results to expand to other countries.

10. Everywhere Commerce
Still boarding.
Paying with a plastic credit card is probably going to go away someday, but not yet. Still, 2012 will offer consumers many more payment options.

                                                                                                                                         If you’re like most of the marketers or business owners I talk with these days, you’re wondering what exactly are the benefits of Facebook fans (i.e., “Likes”) to your brand. Also, how much more likely are they to do business with you than those who don’t “like” you on Facebook?

Those who profess to be fans are much more likely to participate in “desirable actions” using Facebook, such as making a purchase, installing an app, entering a sweepstakes or voting online in a contest. That’s according to SocialCode, a full-service social agency owned by the Washington Post Company, which looked at 50 brands and more than 5 million Facebook ads over a five-month period earlier this year.

Of course, it should come as little surprise that fans are more likely to perform desirable acts than nonfans. But the knowledge that they do so at a situational rate of up to 547 percent higher than nonfans is eye opening.

Specifically, the survey shows that Facebook fans are 291 percent more likely to engage with brands than nonfans. For example, the fan conversion rate to install an app is 38 percent compared with 12 percent for nonfans. That’s a 239 percent difference, or, in other words, fans are three times more likely to convert than nonfans. The conversion rate for existing or new fans to enter a brand’s contest was found to be 6 percent as opposed to 1 percent for nonfans — a 545 percent differential.

When it comes to making an actual purchase, the SocialCode survey shows that fans do so at a 7 percent rate, while nonfans buy at a rate of just 2 percent.

Among the seven actions a user might perform on a fan page, SocialCode found that the difference in cost per acquisition, or CPA, between fans and nonfans is $9.56. That number is calculated by dividing the total cost of clicks by the total number of actions. For fans who install an app, for instance, the cost per acquisition is $2.61 compared to $8.49 for nonfans. Similarly, for fans making a purchase, the fan CPA is $14.88 compared to a nonfan CPA of $43.86.

Others costs include: contest submissions ($17.21 for fans, $76.25 for nonfans); contest voting ($3.26 for fans, $21.09 for nonfans); fan acquisition ($3.39 for fans, $5.17 for nonfans); program signup ($41.25 for fans, $75.90 for nonfans); and sweepstakes entry ($2.57 for fans, $5.81 for nonfans.)

In Facebook fan studies from last year, the value of a fan ranged from $3.60 in a Vitrue survey to $136.38 in a Syncapse assessment. Problems I see with the SocialCode survey is the assumption that all of these fans engage in actions to the same degree and that these desired actions can be weighed the same. I would think, for instance, that a purchase “action” would trump a contest vote every time. Similarly, the value of a fan should be measured by how much money he or she is bringing to the table in the form of purchases made, with the cost per action subtracted from that figure. The bottom line: How much more did we sell to the folks who signed on as our fans?

It’s easy to get into social media for the wrong reasons and to post too much or too little. Here’s how to balance out your social media efforts :

Why have you joined the social mediaworld?

Some social networkers are there for purely egotistical reasons. They don’t want to engage in the conversation. They simply collect followers and friends in order to have bragging rights every time they collect another thousand. But connecting, following or befriending just anyone dilutes your influence and standing among those in your audience.

Others join because they feel they must. They spend a few days setting up their profiles and then abandon them when other tasks call.

The real motivation for any business social networker is connection: You should want to connect with like-minded people who can help your business and whose businesses you can assist. You want to add to the conversation, and not come across as desperate, spammy or a waste of time. If you develop a bad reputation in these communities, it will be hard to shake off.

But making such strong, real connections takes time, effort and thoughtfulness. If you never return to your profiles, you and your business will be forgotten (best case) or seen as unconnected, clueless or lazy (worst case). If you post too much, people might consider you a pest and stop following you.

Some social networkers are the worst of both worlds: They don’t post to their blog or text their friends or colleagues for weeks at a time. They don’t reply to messages sent to them, and the company site looks like it has gone out of business. Then, without any warning, they’re back . . . alive . . . and conversing. Was the organization’s social networking person out of the country? Did they suffer a grave illness? Nope. They were just distracted, disorganized, sidetracked or overworked. There’s no method to the company’s madness in being a social networking participant. Not committed. No strategy. Its influence will never be felt. The competition will soon fill the void.

Whether your company is a one-person business or a large organization, your commitment to social networking should be consistent, compelling and informative. The social networking community is a fragile, collaborative ecosystem. Make the commitment. People will follow a trail of dependable, exciting, instructive news. But once the trail goes cold, they’re gone and likely never to return.

Being a social media maniac isn’t the right persona either. You know who we’re talking about. These people can answer emails on their laptops with one hand while texting friends or colleagues on their iPhones with the other. They can’t be looked in the eye when talking because their heads are always looking down at some screen. This behavior may be seen as good technology gone bad.

The key is to strike a balance somewhere in the middle. Avoid becoming a social media ignorer or a social media maniac. Develop a social networking schedule that does not run your life but does keep you accountable. The goal should be consistency. Choose a schedule and stay the course for at least six months. As you find success, you can slowly grow your social networking persona.

The sample social networking agenda below can be used as a springboard for designing one that suits your schedule and the community channels you’ve joined.

Twice Daily in the Morning and Afternoon

  • Check Twitter via a program like HootSuite. Respond when necessary. Follow the @replies that make sense.
  • Check LinkedIn. Reply to emails and comments when appropriate.
  • Scan Twitter followers for relevant conversations to join.
  • Check your business’s Facebook Page for questions and respond when necessary.
  • Scan Google Alerts for brand and company mentions. Respond as appropriate.

Weekly or on Weekends

  • Build Twitter Lists to better organize ongoing discussions and special interest groups. Set up saved searches in Hootsuite to find out if people are talking about you or your company.
  • Scan LinkedIn questions from network connections and respond when appropriate.
  • Catch up on LinkedIn discussions. Add to discussion when appropriate.
  • Send LinkedIn invitations to connect with clients when beginning a new assignment.
  • Ask for LinkedIn recommendation after successfully completing a project or engagement.
  • Add new content to Facebook like videos or photos.
  • Think of ways to repurpose this content and energy to reach a larger audience with the social networking gospel.
  • Keep an eye open for new social networking venues, tools, and functionality that will make the social networking experience more enjoyable and easier to traverse.
  • Identify new social networking influencers and build relationships where appropriate.

Through the Week

  • Mondays: Schedule tweets through HootSuite to go out three times per day at regular intervals.
  • Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays: Join one hot trend conversation on Twitter, if appropriate, and add new content to Facebook (new items you are selling, photos, discounts and other promotions).
  • Tuesdays and Thursdays: Respond to blog comments.
  • Fridays: Check traffic at your blog or website.

Obviously, your daily social networking to-do list will be much different, given your available time and commitments. Just be sure to make the schedule livable. If it’s not working, change it. Keep making modifications until it works for you.

As I look out across the ocean, savoring another sunset on Necker Island, I find myself reflecting on a busy and exciting year for myself and the Virgin Group. There were a couple of setbacks: In January, I ruptured a cruciate ligament in a ski accident, which meant that I had to travel to France and South Africa on crutches; in August, a fire here destroyed the great house. But we have ended 2011 in a much happier way, with my daughter Holly’s wedding to Fred Andrews, a shipbroker. This seems a good time to jot down a few of the year’s highlights.

I have written previously that success cannot be measured in wealth, fame or power, but by whether you have made a positive difference for others. The accomplishments of the past year of which I am most proud involve my efforts to raise awareness of and financing for Virgin Unite, along with the new philanthropic ventures we launched.

Because it is our responsibility as entrepreneurs and business leaders to tackle the issues our society faces, from climate change to poverty. To find solutions, we at Virgin have had to consciously cast aside traditional thinking, form unusual partnerships and consider unorthodox answers. Here are some of our most effective actions:

1. Taking the initiative.
The Carbon War Room is a business-focused, global NGO we set up three years ago to find profitable solutions to tackling climate change: Our society does not have to make a choice between economic growth and saving the environment. CWR is a nonprofit fixated by profit.

We made great progress over the past 12 months. Rather than waiting for governments to work out policy solutions, the CWR team launched two game-changing websites: one to promote efficiency in shipping; another to rank and chart the latest in sustainable aviation biofuels.

Related: Richard Branson on Thinking Big

Earlier this year CWR launched a program to help finance energy-efficient retrofits of buildings, which was kicked off with a
$650 million investment scheme in Florida and California.

2. Reducing, reusng, recycling and planning for the future.

We must also ensure that we conserve our planet’s resources and maintain diversity. This year Virgin Unite struck up a great partnership with WildAid to campaign for the banning of shark-finning, the barbaric and wasteful act of cutting a fin off a living shark.

WildAid estimates that 73 million sharks per year are killed for this dish.

This project is in its early days but we are making great progress, thanks in part to the support of Governor Jerry Brown of California, who signed a bill banning the sale and possession of shark fins.

Already, many top restaurants and hotels no longer serve shark-fin soup.

3. Championing unconventional solutions.

Over the past 50 years, drug usage has gone up and jails have filled.

Though millions of taxpayer dollars have been spent trying to stamp out this illicit trade, the prohibitions have merely fueled organized crime. It is time that we try an alternative approach. This year I was fortunate to be part of the U.N. Global Commission on Drug Policy, which found that the costly war on drugs has backfired, producing little to no results.

A decade ago, Portugal became the first European country to officially abolish all criminal penalties for personal possession of drugs – a brave and successful policy. Jail time was replaced with offers of treatment for addiction: many critics feared this would attract “drug tourists” and exacerbate Portugal’s drug problem.

Related: Richard Branson on the Power of Your People

The results of a report commissioned by the Cato Institute in April this year suggest otherwise. It found that in the five years after personal possession was decriminalized, illegal drug use among teens in Portugal declined and rates of new HIV infection caused by sharing of dirty needles dropped, while the number of people seeking treatment for drug addiction more than doubled.

Portugal’s brave stand amounts to a decision to “Screw Business As Usual” – the title of my latest book and a mantra that should be adopted by people holding positions in company boardrooms and government cabinets the world over.

4. Building for the future.

Virgin businesses have always emphasized the need to challenge the market and do things differently – values we are keen to share with a new generation of entrepreneurs in the developing world. In 2011 we continued to expand our efforts, launching the new Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship in Jamaica and moving our center in Johannesburg to new premises, under a new CEO. Both centers are focused on helping young entrepreneurs to expand their businesses by offering practical advice and mentoring.

I brought groups of business people to South Africa and Jamaica to meet our entrepreneurs; as always, the visitors were bowled over by the young entrepreneurs’ enthusiasm and passion for their work. We hope to expand our efforts further and to find financing and maybe obtain government help in scaling up these centers.

Our society’s social, environmental and financial problems remain challenging and it looks like next year will be a tough one on many fronts. We will need to look for bold solutions, because change means opportunity. Whether you can effect small changes at the local level or try to push for sweeping cultural shifts in your industry or sector, 2012 – now – is the time to make a difference.

Related: Richard Branson on Time Management