How 10 Minutes of Research Changed Manufacturer’s Product Offerings

Where did your last brilliant business idea come from? Was it an aha moment, an epiphany … or was it from something you read or saw that sparked your idea?

Our Lawn and Garden client had been selling trellises online and in big box retail locations. These products performed satisfactorily in those retail locations, and the search volume around these items supported those sales.

Digital Campaign Performance vs Sales

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But what about similar products? How do they compare?  With a quick review of the search volumes for “lattice,” we quickly discovered that the combined search quantities were three times that of “trellis.”

Our client had both the materials and the capabilities already in place to manufacture this product. With upcoming annual sales meetings, our client used our market research and data to help bolster their pitch for adding lattices to the repertoire of products carried by retailers and distributors. The jury is still out on the final outcome, but it is a shining example of how sales and marketing can align to drive strategy and key decisions.

Real World Example: Traffic, Conversions, and Sales

What’s most important: Site Traffic, Site Conversions, or Sales Dollars? Trick question. Separate but equal, each of these outcomes is inter-dependent.

This graph shows the actual performance for three of our client’s product lines.

Digital Campaign Performance vs Sales

B-SearchVSales-graph2 Real World Example: Traffic, Conversions, and Sales

Starting with picnic tables, the search volume is significant. At first glance at the search results alone, it appears this is a product collection in need of supportive advertising and additional attention. But if you look a little closer, the actual site conversions for this product are low, along with the percentage of total sales generated by picnic tables. This isn’t where we should be investing our client’s marketing dollars.

In contrast, the fencing products generated a similar amount of search volume, but accounted for a much larger share of actual conversions, site sessions (research!) and sales. In fact, for a similar search volume, the sales are more than 60% higher than that of picnic tables. This indicates that the return on the paid search investment is more than 13 times that of picnic tables. Knowing this, should we consider whether a change in the spend will increase the return percentage? Could we spend less and see similar results?

In lawn and garden, our spend hasn’t generated the sales we’d hope to see. This might indicate that an optimization in our keywords is necessary, that our geographies should be reviewed, or that our content should be analyzed for SEO value.

What does your analysis tell you about your own business?

When was the last time you said “Desktop?”

Written by Advance 360, this content was originally published in The Retail Jeweler.

Marketers obsess over “being there” for their consumers. Whether it’s share at the store shelf or share of voice on TV, these are metrics used to judge how present a brand actually is. But what about on a mobile device, where there are billions of products researched every day? Are you devoting the same amount of resources to your mobile marketing strategy and your brand’s role of being there whenever consumer’s needs arise?

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60% of the time we are online, it’s on a mobile device.

Mobile devices overtook desktop and laptop in 2013. In fact, 60% of the time we are online, it’s on a mobile device. If your digital presence isn’t optimized for a smartphone, you’re not only behind, you are actively depleting your business. 84% of the population has a second device in hand while they are watching television. 65% check their phones within 15 minutes of rising each morning, and 87% of millennials have smartphones on their person 100% of the time. 75% of Facebook users are mobile-only. If you aren’t competing for attention in the digital space or have a mobile strategy, you should be.

Preparing your content for the mobile user isn’t difficult, but it does take thought. Mobile users want to learn, do, find, or buy something right now. Whether in the form of a search, an interaction with an app or visiting your site (or all of these), your content should answer the question they are asking.

Think bite-sized. While the user should be able to click to a lengthier or downloadable version of the bite-sized content, small and easily consumed is key. Try to focus on learn, do, or find to start. In the jewelry world, this could be a single graphic on cuts of stones, or an illustration about the 4C’s of diamonds. Consider lists, such as the five things to consider before buying a diamond, or six reasons to visit a custom designer.

Tie your bite-sized pieces together with larger artifacts that tell more of the story. For instance, a five minute video on choosing a gemstone could be placed on your business’s YouTube channel. A highly edited, “snippet” version of 0:15 seconds could be placed on Instagram, and another on Facebook, both linking to your online blog. Your website contains a short narrative on the same topic, with a link to the YouTube video for the full story. You crafted a few paragraphs, and a single video, but now these pieces are interwoven and amplify one another, creating an affordable tactic without an upfront cost.

Consistency counts. The stream of consciousness is impacted by frequency of message. We’ll all recall something after having seen it several times, so the look, layout and word choice matter. But most important is the consistent delivery of content. Once you’ve created a flow of valuable information for your clientele (and those not yet in your ecosystem), you’ll be the voice they seek out for advice, understanding or clarity. 93% of marketers choose social media, and 81% choose blogs. 76% use illustrations or photos, and 67% infographics. Remember that mixing up the media is a great way to generate more impact.

But most important, the content you generate and deliver via digital environments must keep your customer’s point of view in mind. This isn’t a commercial, it’s an offer of something valuable and unexpected. “Over time, marketers have developed theories about why consumers buy. Most of these err by viewing the consumer through the lens of the product. Marketers start with the features and benefits of a product and conduct consumer research to find matching needs and motivations,” Psychology Today reported. “Consumers do not have a Pavlovian response to products and to their marketing programs. Nor do the fundamentals of consumer behavior change to accommodate the latest innovation… An understanding of consumer purchase behavior must be based on knowledge of human emotion and include the paramount influence that emotions have on decision-making.”

In retail jewelry, content is the most cost-effective tool available. Surprise and delight your audience, with relevant information that keeps their needs in mind. Generate a steady stream of this material, and reap the rewards in your revenue.

Local Real Estate Professionals Rebrand Under New LARA Guidelines

Not every client of Advance 360 brands within rigid guidelines, but in the real estate industry, Michigan’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs dictates what’s possible. Add to that the branding guides for their real estate affiliate partner and you have a highly regulated system for your brand. Such was the case with Steve Volkers Group of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Michigan.

“When we first began refreshing our brand identity we vetted a few local creative agencies for the project. We were impressed by Advance 360’s professionalism and strategic approach and we decided to jump into this crazy journey with their team leading the charge,” said Steve Volkers. But more important were the guidelines the brand was required to follow. The Advance 360 team spent time with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices’ staff, to ensure the end designs would align with corporate policy.

The Group Sets the Tone

Research must come first, and that means that the feelings and ideas of the team and how their brand is viewed is paramount. The group, together in a room, must articulate the aspirational vision for their brand. With guidance from the Advance 360 team, these concepts are harnessed and consensus formed, crafting a shared language around the purpose of the brand.

Of this process, the Group’s Director of Marketing, Amber Gray, had this to say. “Our project started with a full team working session. It was a great way for our entire group to level-set on how we see our brand, what we want for it in the future and why those pieces are important. The outcome of that working session was a strategic chart that was shared every time we regrouped so that we all knew how we got to where we are.”

“It was not only helpful but humbling to know that our voices and opinions were heard and taken into account along the way.”

“Once the creative output started coming in, we were beyond thrilled. Andrew Olson, Creative Strategist, nailed it with the overall design theory of our new brand identity.”

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Co-branded Logos

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Now in the process of web development/programming, the Steve Volkers Group is putting into action Advance 360 designs for their digital footprint. The team, including Senior Account Manager Kristin Hartwig, “took an immense amount of care and effort to propose a user experience based on our analytics and, of course that initial team working session,” said Gray.

This effort included content architecture recommendations for the numerous sites in the Steve Volkers Group portfolio: GR Downtown Condos, Steve Volkers Group, Alger Heights and West Michigan New Homes. The end result: a content stream that would be easily navigable, intuitive for the user, and preserve the SEO quality previously established by years of exceptional content generation. The look and navigation of these sites is under construction (hidden from view of the public) until its official launch summer, 2018.

“We are confident that the final result will exceed our performance expectations. Not to mention, it’s so pretty! This group of creative and talented individuals has been a dream to work with. Their knowledge and hard work shines in every step of the way.”

The Path to Purchase: Manufacturing Has Changed

Since the advent of the advertising industry, marketers have fed information to customers and customers have made buying decisions based on this information. It was a linear path. Someone sees an ad, became interested in the product, goes to the store and makes a purchase. But now customers are finding information on their own. It’s the marketer’s job to pull that audience in by creating a personalized experience that resonates with the potential customer. The path to purchase is no longer linear, it is a collection of moments that influence a customer to purchase your product.

Customers are already well down the path to a decision before performing an action on a website. They are being influenced from many different touch-points, whether through your website, social media, mobile campaigns, or traditional marketing methods. That makes it important for manufacturing marketers to reach their audience through a variety of methods well before the audience reaches out to them.

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Retailers: Use Your Owned-Data to Improve Results

It’s easy to overlook the value of your Point of Sale (POS) or Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems when assisting a guest in your store. Seeing others requiring your attention — whether staff or client — can seem more important in the moment. But using your own customer data, you can finely tune the message to your existing clientele, dramatically improving the yield from relationships you already have.


Using your own customer data, you can finely tune the message to your existing clientele, dramatically improving the yield from relationships you already have.

You know intrinsically which SKUs or inventory items are most popular. You probably have a sense of the profit on these items. But would you know the characteristics of the individuals that purchased these, in order to create more clientele that are looking for similar items?

With data, It’s possible.

What about direct marketing efforts that could anticipate or even suggest that a client you know will make a visit to the store?

Understanding your Client List

Trends can rapidly become apparent when you study reports from your POS or CRM. Understanding the characteristics of those individuals making the purchase is what will make your marketing work better. The more you can build creative messaging and marketing placements around the most popular pieces of inventory, greatest profit margin items, or personality type of the purchaser, the more effective it will be.

The more personal information you have on an individual client, the more readily available they will be to you in the digital space. With a name, email address and phone number, Facebook and Instagram can find and message that person. As you act on growing your client base, these segments can be used to find audiences that share characteristics with those you already have, allowing you to message those that “look alike.”

Just like revenue is grown one sale at a time, a great marketing strategy is grown one data point at a time. It is crucial that you fully understand your audience targets, their behaviors and motivators, media consumption preferences, and predictive performance metrics. To do so, insights gathered from your data should be used to inform and guide the entire strategy. The end result is a strategy aimed at the right people, at the right times, in the right places that delivers on your goals.

Creative Tells the Story

Tideline Ocean Resort and Spa is a unique client. They have a strong sense of self, understanding what niche they want to fill for their clientele: a chic, boutique hotel experience with exceptional amenities, offering ocean view banquets and weddings and al fresco dining in West Palm Beach. Unfortunately, their changing ownership and management companies, along with a deflagging from a franchise hotelier left them without a usable logo, identity system or creative assets.

In addition, they needed a web presence worthy of the property itself. The vast majority of their reservations were taking place with online travel agents (OTA’s), and unnecessarily sacrificing margin to those third party entities. The return on marketing investment was untraceable, as the technology was not being used to its potential. In short, this resort needed an identity and a campaign, quickly.

Our team first performed a market analysis of competitive properties in the area. Our review included all that would appeal to the core customer of Tideline Resort, rather than focus on like-sized or properties with similar entities. What we discovered: The property’s beach was exceptional, better than the competition in space and size. The dining offerings were fresh and desirable, with a credible sushi chef and sought after brunch buffet. The spa offered traditional services, specializing in bridal groups. All of the pieces were in existence, the hotel simply needed to generate the creative assets to tell the story.

The Advance 360 Creative Team then came on site to collect video and still photo assets, staging hotel spaces, vignettes, and amenities in order to capture just the right pieces of the story.

From there, a new website/digital environment was produced and launched, as well as a campaign to generate lift in brand awareness and site visits, and reduce third party booking agents.

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Creative Examples

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Technology Changes the Nature of Online Giving

Understanding your audience is the sacred piece of any puzzle. Who are your donors, and what drives them to engage with your organization? What characteristics can you count on your donors to have, and how can you strategize to find more like them? As the digital agency of record for a large mid-west nonprofit organization, Advance 360 began with these questions.

But there were real goals to solve. Donor relations is becoming even more important, but with resources waning, the hand-to-hand nature of these relationships is being eclipsed by a desire to drive transactional gifts. These automations, when done well, can still feel personal, allowing staff the time to concentrate on the kinds of relationships that might still require them to be present.

Such was the case for our client.

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This activity was generated in Q4, 2017, and compared to the same periods of the prior year.

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Creative Strategy

These results represent a creative shift as well. With the personal connections missing, it became increasing important for the creative to generate the emotion that might have been conveyed by discussion. Stories about how contributions served individuals in the community became the currency of the engagements. Multiple stories were tested, and determinations made on the value of each based on their conversion metrics. Optimizations were performed in accordance with the best performers, amplifying the work of single stories and pieces of creative over time.

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As is often the case in nonprofits, budgets must be fluid based on audited revenue from previous years. In Q4 2017, the organization needed to decrease spending by 20% over 2016. Even with this decrease, the Return on Investment (ROI) improved by 2.8 times.

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Influence Sales by Measuring the Right Things

You achieved 1,000 calls in your BDC. Do you know how many of them were initiated in your VDPs? You got 50 test drives last week. How many can you expect to move on to negotiate and buy? Last month your dealership sold 200 cars. Of those new purchasers, how many will transition into regular maintenance programs with your service department?

If you can readily find this information or can call these numbers to mind, congratulations, you are better than most. If not, you have a distance to go, but can rapidly make improvements on how you view your sales funnel and ultimately, can influence new buyers.

Your sales funnel, path to conversion or decision journey: these synonyms all describe the natural events that occur in order to generate a sale. It looks something like this:

  • 1000 people visit your website, which generated 4,500 VDP views.
  • Of those VDP views, 1.25% initiate contact.
  • Of those that contact, 50% make an appointment.
  • Of those, 25% will perform a test drive, and
  • Of those, 50% will buy from your dealership.

Do you know and understand how each of these points along the funnel can be amplified or improved? If you know the conversion metrics, you are better than most. If you’ve identified ways to optimize your VDP’s for more points of contact, you are in the top 2%. Use what you know to generate more sales!

For more on this topic and to download a funnel worksheet, click here.

Our market research team routinely analyzes trends in automobile purchasing, identifying where people are buying, what they are buying and from whom they are buying. We use this research to locate your customers wherever they are online and deliver targeted messages to them. The auto buying process is no longer linear. We use data to find auto intenders online based on of their online behaviors, and are able to deliver targeted messaging directly to them across multiple channels, delivering the right message to the right customer.