When it comes to interactions with brands, consumer expectations continue to climb. Users want to be treated as individuals, especially younger audiences that grew up immersed in digital media. This has been driving the trend in marketing toward segmentation and personalization, which generally results in better experiences and better response rates.
But mass personalization can be difficult to manage for marketing departments. The more that segment definitions explode the more there is to tailor, monitor and adjust. The solution seems to be to gather as much data as possible and to develop a robust profile on each individual contact and then to turn the content-matching task over to algorithms and machine learning. Micro-segmentation gets at the spirit of creating personalized experiences appropriate for individuals but there is a point of diminishing returns. Attempting to custom tailor messages per user shouldn’t come at the cost of efficiency of workflow or human-directed editorial work.
Marketing departments that use user personas arrive at a good compromise between no personalization and attempting to modify messaging for each unique customer. Personas hit upon the key use cases and drive focus versus trying to be everything to everybody. Making messaging work for a small number of personas is a realistic task for content editors and you don’t have to turn over your end product to a black box.
Persona template by Chase Oliver
But beyond the practical reasons for using personas for the sake of getting arms around the work, there’s another reason why they work: archetypes are a powerful way to address how users think about themselves. They provide context and understanding for the complex themes of self identify. Marketers are on one side of the equation trying to interpret what all of the data inputs on customers mean and users are on the other side trying to do the same thing. Archetypes offer a shortcut to understanding for both.
People are irrational thinkers and identity constructs are constantly in flux. A young person might consider herself a saver and financial conservative most days and yet contradict that when it comes to loves travel. If you asked her she’d probably have a hard time communicating all the complex reasons she acts the way she does. But she might reach for an archetype of her own and explain that she’s both a saver and an adventurer at heart.
Having mountains of data is always helpful but the ideal output isn’t ultra-refined segments that are one-to-one with individuals. Having well informed personas, even if they are fictional, can serve the purpose of tailoring products and messaging best. Companies look to them to bring clarity to how their product serves their key markets. And customers lean on personas to understand their own motivations and to develop a self identity.
The same person may wear a persona that doesn’t fit a company’s approach one day and then change into another that is compatible down the line.
In our culture we all face an onslaught of demands for our attention. As a coping mechanism, we all have ways of sorting information whether it’s a formal system or not. Marketing that offers context for how a message should be filed stands a better chance at landing in the right spot for recall and action later on.
It’s rare when our messages arrive at exactly the right time so plan on being filed along the way.
Here are a few examples of organization tools and how a message can be crafted to address them.
Context: calendar date
This is probably the most universal way of managing time and priority. If your offer can be linked to a date, shoot for something not more than 10 days out. Beyond that you risk falling out of the near term mindset most people live in. Failing that, link your date to a holiday or the beginning or end of the month or year to boost recall. “If you are thinking about getting in shape, stop in to our gym before the end of this month to get a free tour and we’ll waive the membership fee.”
Context: sequential order
If you can put your message within a link of events, you stand a great chance at being associated with the desired outcome. “Before you go on your next family road trip, make sure you check your tire treads to make sure you’re safe. We offer free tire inspections at all locations…”
Context: long term importance
We all struggle with balancing short and long term goals. And it’s easy to feel guilty and discouraged when we realize that some of those goals are behind or off track. If you can connect the dots between what you’re offering and making progress on important goals, you are not likely to be brushed aside. “For those looking to learn photography, we offer a free 15 minute introduction video for absolute beginners.”
Context: future conversations
There are conversations that we’re all likely to have whether they’re with our spouses and family or annual visits to the doctor or conversations with our coworkers. Plant the seed that says ‘don’t forget to mention such and such to so and so’, and your message can be connected to that next interaction. “Ask about sonic toothbrush technology at your next dentist cleaning.”
Boost recall further by offering specific tools to file information. “Pin these recipes for your upcoming Superbowl party” or “print a checklist for packing for Disney World” or “take this sticker to remind you of your next oil change,” etc.
Offer a TL:DR summary at the top of the post or content piece to help people judge where and how they can save the info for later.
Business are all competing to gain attention in a busy world and consumers are fending off information overload through mental filing. Crafting messages with that filing in mind can help cut through the noise long term.
I came across a tactic worth testing and thought I’d share. For content marketers utilizing Pinterest, this simple tip could help boost click through rate from Pins and referral traffic to your site.
For brands showing their products in action in a Results Pin, try offering a small version on Pinterest, say 300 pixels wide, and holding back the high resolution one for your website. With a simple call to action in text, you can encourage users to view the bigger, nicer image hosted on your site. Those that want a good look at your beautiful image will need to leave Pinterest to get it.
On your site, you may choose to show your image on a page that includes call outs to your other content marketing (e.g. a gallery of similar images), links to the products featured in the image or simply your store’s site navigation.
With digital communication tools everywhere, there has never been more data available to marketers about users. It seems like we shouldn’t have a problem building rich profiles of user behaviors, interests and motivators. But the chance to create deep personalization all hinges on a single question that brands must ask for each point of data: Who are you? Linking behavior to identity can be extremely tricky online, with users using multiple devices and operating under any number of user names, accounts and aliases.
Finding an identifier for an individual used to be as simple as reaching for the White Pages. Once you had a name and a town, there was little confusion about who you were dealing with. Now there requires a variety of efforts of figuring out who is who, including home address, social media handles, cookies, accounts, 3rd party tagging services and the standard social security number. Of all the ways to pin down an id, cell phone and email have become the most useful.
Limits of cookies
The standard way of tracking behavior for sites, user cookies, is still effective. But it falls short in an increasingly multi-device world. Since cookies are stored on the user’s local machine, your site may not recognize them when they return from their tablet. And cookies have always had built in challenges from multiple users using the same machine in a public setting or at home. Have you ever seen ads show up while browsing on the home computer that were more appropriate for your spouse than for you?
Cell phones and email
Phone numbers and email addresses are more of a true identifier since they are permanent for most people. Both are seldom switched in real life and actually facilitate contact. If you want someone to be able to actually reach you, you’ve got to make your phone number known. Relying on any email is problematic, since it’s easy for users to have multiple email accounts including disposable or ‘junk’ addresses. So for the purposes of evaluating the value of data points, I’m referring to actual personal email addresses that receive expected mail.
The cell phone number is probably the ideal unique key for keeping track of users in theory. With the ability to port numbers to any new phone, most consumers are loathe to switch their number for any reason and numbers are not quite as easy to fake.
Email for the win
The issue that tips the scales in favor of email is collection. Users aren’t as likely to share their phone number with brands and if they do, they don’t expect to receive marketing messages by call or by text. There are so many more opportunities to collect and use emails. Email addresses are readily shared, especially in return for valuable content. If they do sign up for a newsletter, brands can append their hyperlinks with a unique userid in case customers are consuming emails on a different device. They are also the standard username for social sites, which helps sites with social log-in features to link together separate visits to the same user.
The best choice of all is to make use of all identification opportunities and utilize them to tailor experiences as much as possible. But all data points available to collect are not created equal. Email will serve as the best foundation for building a robust personalized experience for users.
We live in a consumer society and we all have our wants. Until recently, most people have kept their material desires to themselves for the most part. Going around talking about all the things we wish we had has been considered tacky, makes us look ungrateful and overly materialistic. If you’ve ever asked someone what they want for Christmas, you may have gotten an answer like ‘oh, anything is fine’ or ‘I don’t need a gift.’
It’s hard to imagine a public place where people would brazenly talk about what they secretly covet. And where other people would willingly listen to these lists of wants, interacting with them 24 hours a day. But that’s what’s happening now on Pinterest and it opens a new, unique source of insights into our private motivations.
When you first sign up at Pinterest they have a list of interest categories to help you get started pinning and creating boards. They include categories like ‘products’ and board suggestions like ‘my style’, which are filled with pins of products and shopping ideas.
All of the product pinning is offered in the name of self expression. What we buy says something about ourselves and on Pinterest, users express themselves with boards named “Want Want Want” and “Shut up and take my money.” The coffee snob might say if you want to know him, you need to know that he loves coffee and identifies with the idea of taking a little extra time and effort for the things he values. So here’s a pin of his favorite fine coffee-making contraption.
It’s all internally justified because along with self-expression, users are adding value by curating their boards, identifying the best products so others don’t have to. And it does add value. This Is Why I’m Broke’s boards are hilarious and I’ve often never seen those products before seeing them there. Follow This Is Why I’m Broke’s board This Is Why I’m Broke on Pinterest.
It does bring up an interesting application for Pinterest as they seek to make money off of the 30 billion things that are already pinned on the site. They are controlling a very unique and potentially powerful source of data on consumer buying behavior.
For all the talk about big data these days, B2C companies are still left trying to figure out consumer preferences and tendencies indirectly. They take in lots of data points in an effort to infer what customers may want to buy. The resulting targeting options for advertisers typically amount to looking at the attributes of the people that are buying and then assuming that other people with similar attributes will be likely to buy as well. By contrast, Pinterest can say exactly which individuals are interested in a product with almost perfect accuracy.
In addition, seeing affinities between interests is much more definite based on Pinterest’s data. Brands could look at those who have purchased or pinned their products and see what other things they’re interested in, improving their knowledge of customers and opening up new partnership opportunities. A company that finds a strong correlation between their product and another company’s could bid on related keywords for paid search ads, for example.
Companies could also gain insights on how consumers perceive their brand. What is the cost of the other products on the board? How are products organized together within the user’s boards? What words do the users use to describe the pins and the boards? It’s all there in the data.
As expected, Pinterest is moving into Sponsored Pins as their first advertising product. The targeting options there are still basic, the same kinds of things you might find on Facebook and Twitter. No offerings on business intelligence have emerged yet. It will be interesting to see if they can find a way to leverage the enormous amounts of data they’ve collected on buyer intent to come up with a new kind of ad product we’ve never seen before.
There are so many ways for brands to use Pinterest, I thought I would put together a summary of pin types and what they’re good for.
#1 Title Pin
Title pins represent content that’s hosted elsewhere. Good ones use eye catching visuals and text that’s readable in its thumbnail form. These pins aim to pass users from pinterest.com to the destination site.
#2 Long Form
These pins are self contained and offer all of the content in the image. Using these pins encourages repins and can gain the brand more followers.
It might be a single image that represents a larger gallery, or one tip from a list of ten. This hybrid type offers some of the content directly in the Pin, while promising more if the user clicks through to the site.
#4 Sale Pin
Announcing a sale can directly affect business, but these pins are much less likely to get passed along. The pins also easily become outdated.
For brands that have a loyal following, your fans may simply want a pin that represents your business to show the world who they love.
#6 Product Category
Best for brands within niche solutions or for market leaders within their category, these pins present the features of a product without naming the company at all.
Product pins are the most natural way for Pinterest users to interact with brands. Verify your business and use rich pin meta data for the best effect.
Some pins are all about self expression. Users pin these to tell the world what they’re all about. Design a great badge pin that represents your industry and grow your brand.
#9 Results Pin
These images sell your products by showing the net result. The pin can link to your tutorial for more details on how to achieve the result, or can reference your product in the pin description.
Choose your strategy and get to pinning!
I came across this example of price bracketing and thought it was inspired. Going beyond the good/better/best approach, they added a novel tactic to get the outcome they want.
Here’s the subscription page for Dollar Shave Club.
The center option is clearly bracketed between the super cheap version and the crazy advanced version. I normally wouldn’t consider a 4 blade razor… but it’s in the middle!
A closer look shows their tactic for nudging people thinking about the entry level option to the 4x blade: shipping costs.
If there’s a universal truth in e-commerce it’s that people hate to pay for shipping. Especially when the shipping is more than the product itself. Dollar Shave Club asks you to fill in a shipping address in a separate step before giving you the cost too, which reinforces the idea that it’s a separate cost from the product. As far as I could tell, the cost for shipping the cheap blade is a flat $2 regardless of the U.S. address.
So $1 razor plus $2 shipping equals 3 bucks. Even though the combined $3 price is less than the other options, the thought of two thirds of the payment going to shipping each month will rankle consumers, further motivating them to order the middle, more reasonable product.
Gamification is a marketing buzzword of late that involves using scoring and reward mechanics to encourage new users of a site or a piece of software to stay engaged. Foursquare is famous for offering badges for various activities, which promotes further use of their application.
But gamification is not just for startups and mobile app developers. A recent visit to a MN charity showed how they use these tactics to engage new donors and to fulfill their mission of feeding children in need around the world.
Feed My starving is a charity devoted to delivering nutritious, culturally acceptable meals to families in impoverished countries. In collaboration with food scientists at private companies they have developed a $1.32 packet of dry food that can feed 6 kids when cooked. FMSC buys the ingredients, fills the packets and ships them to partner charities across the globe, who ultimately deliver them to needy families.
The game mechanics come into play during the packing stage. All of the food is packed by volunteers at one of their packing facilities in Minnesota, Illinois and Arizona. Everyone is divided up into teams, where they work to fill bags with the 4 ingredients, seal the bags and pack them into shipping boxes. It’s a great time and amazing how many meals a group can pack in an hour and a half. And it works! In a year the organization can ship over 120,000,000 meals with the help of 500,000+ volunteer packers and the food reliably arrives to those that need it. They have the highest possible rating at Charity Navigator.
But why use people, strangers, to fill the bags at all?
Wouldn’t it be more efficient to ask staff members to do it rather than train new groups for each shift? And there must be machines or at least measuring equipment that could help automate the task of filling plastic bags with a consistent amount of rice. I think the answer is that the benefits of gamification, especially the increased feeling of ownership amongst volunteers, outweighs the potential inefficiencies.
While any contribution from a donor helps, it’s the long term partners that are really useful to a healthy charity. For any non-profit, it’s a challenge to get people involved and invested. Unfortunately donors are often asked to mail out checks and never hear from the organization about the results… until it’s time to ask for another check.
Reward systems change that by offering measurement and feedback immediately. It’s clear from the moment you walk in as a volunteer that Feed My Starving Children has long term relationships in mind. Entering their facility you’re greeted by the staff and given a nice introduction to how the ministry works. Subtle scoring systems and rewards start from there.
Volunteers are divided into teams and gather in the packing room around a station. By design, all the teams are in the same room with identical set ups, establishing a playing field for competition. Quietly, the staffers mention how many packs fit in a box and how many boxes a typical team can pack during a session. So the benchmarks have been established.
The staff never tells volunteers to rush or to try to set packing records. But do offer tips on how to operate quickly (“hand signals can speed up re-supplies by a few seconds”) and they start the packing session in the same way a race might start. Ready, set, go.
During the session, there is up-tempo music playing across the room’s speakers and the room gets loud with teams trying to communicate with each other. Of course some good-natured trash talking is included and teams start to shout out how many boxes they’ve finished. Each team is pitted against the rest and pretty soon there is singing, chanting and dancing going on as the ingredients fly. It’s super fun but very much about winning.
Once a session is completed (after a count down of course) the groups gather back in the meeting room to hear the numbers. Staffers tally up the packs, boxes and palettes completed and share the results of that day’s session. In all the times I’ve been to Feed My Starving Children to pack meals, I’ve always been assured that our group was phenomenal, much better than the average group’s output. Either I’m just that good or FMSC is using intangible rewards intentionally to give volunteers a sense of pride, ownership and some bragging rights.
Finally volunteers are informed that all of the food they’ve packed has been paid for by the organization, costing hundreds of dollars. Previous donors have paid for the food packed in that session and FMSC needs more donations to enable future volunteer crews. The appeal is all very well done and guilt-free but it’s very persuasive, as I can personally attest to.
In all, they’ve created a personal connection through a fun, competitive experience using game mechanics, which results in more volunteering, more donations and more word of mouth. This post is just one example!
For more information on Feed My Starving Children visit fmsc.org and seriously consider bringing some friends and volunteering. It makes a great team building event, birthday or night out and you’ll be glad you did.
When we talk about content marketing, marketers are usually referring to those ambiguously successful efforts like brand building, awareness and top of the funnel engagement. Efforts not accountable to sales numbers, of course.
How about a form of content marketing that boosts the selling price of an item 9 times over? Check out this bandana for sale at the Austin airport.
There’s nothing to distinguish this bandana from one you can buy at a drug store for less than a dollar. Except for the packaging. Printed on low budget construction paper, the content turns an ordinary bandana into a cowboy bandana, perfect for business travelers looking for a last minute souvenir. (This is Texas after all.)
Plus you get the list of all the amazing things you can do with the bandana which includes such helpful suggestions as ‘a sling for a broken arm’ and ‘a muzzle for a biting horse.’ It’s one of those things where you know it’s kind of lame, and the person you give it to knows, but it qualifies as an appropriate gift so you get credit anyways.
In the end the ten cent piece of paper turns the $1 bandana into a $8.99 souvenir gift. Now that’s what I call content marketing with ROI!
“Dear internet, if you’re reading this blog post then you already know. Google Reader is about to be boarded up. The doors. The windows. Everything. We’re going to Feedly. Room 112. I love you, Matt.”
They are taking away my favorite application of all time, Google Reader. And while it’s all very sad, the show must go on. I’ll be taking my subscriptions elsewhere, along with tens of thousands of other Reader users.
Since every moving day offers a chance to clean out accumulated junk, I’ll be doing some Spring cleaning of my feeds. In case you’re doing the same, I’m sharing some of my favorite subscriptions that I read on a daily basis. You can pick and choose individual subscriptions or download a bundle at a time. Consider this post a loving tribute to my soon-to-be dearly departed.
To import all feeds (right click, save as…) http://www.google.com/reader/public/subscriptions/user%2F18180136181577784927%2Flabel%2Fmarketing
To import http://www.google.com/reader/public/subscriptions/user%2F18180136181577784927%2Flabel%2Fwedding%20industry To import http://www.google.com/reader/public/subscriptions/user%2F18180136181577784927%2Flabel%2Finternets To import http://www.google.com/reader/public/subscriptions/user%2F18180136181577784927%2Flabel%2Ffun To import http://www.google.com/reader/public/subscriptions/user%2F18180136181577784927%2Flabel%2Fproductivity To import http://www.google.com/reader/public/subscriptions/user%2F18180136181577784927%2Flabel%2Fphotos
In Memoriam, see also http://matt-hamilton.blogspot.com/search/label/RSS