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

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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.

Compelling Content, Downloads Top Performing Email Marketing

Whether you market in the B2B or B2C space, you likely use email as a primary tactic for lead generation. When used properly, attribution can be tracked from the email open rate to the site visit, and eventual appearance in-store or on your client list. In fact, in 2017, 205 respondents representing Business to Business marketing professionals named email as their top lead generation tactic.

So what should your email include in order to perform better than your competition? With surveys, trivia, or games and loyalty programs at the bottom of the list, many of the ideas that once served you well are becoming obsolete.

Compelling Content for each
Stage of the Buying Process

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56% of respondents named compelling content as the number one priority of any email campaign. Your customers will grow to trust that opening your communications provide a benefit. This may take time and dedication, but loyal clients are well worth it.

Downloadable Content

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Offer the material they just read as a download. But be sure you aren’t just restating already consumed content. The download should be more illustrative, provide further insight, or some other element to surprise and delight the audience — rewarding them for their click and print.

Audience Segmentation

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Not everyone cares about every topic, and your audience should be able to opt in or out by sharing their preferences. You don’t want to send an existing client the introductory offer, or the new client the 20% off for the item they just purchased. Know who you are messaging, and be sure the content of the email is relevant to him or her.

Automations

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Emails should be sent to your clients based on actions they took, or “triggers.” Take the thank you email, for instance. The completion of a transaction should always trigger a message of genuine gratitude for their business, without the hope of something in return.

80% OF MARKETERS IN NORTH AMERICA NAME LEAD GENERATION AND BRAND AWARENESS AS THEIR TOP REASONS FOR CONTENT MARKETING. Begin with these tips for your email campaigns, and measure the results. You’ll find what others have found — that compelling content curated for your exact customer will build trust and the feeling of “special.”

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Your Biggest Marketing Challenges

If you are like most marketing professionals, you know that the list of challenges is long and sometimes overwhelming. As life-long practitioners of the craft, we seek ways to make things easier, better, convert more readily, generate more sales. We champion brands, strive for awareness, and pain to grow engagements. But we aren’t alone. From a North American survey of marketing pros, here is their list of challenges. Maybe it mirrors your own.

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Source: Statista

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How Much of Your Budget is Digital?

In December of 2016, just 25% marketing budgets averaged 70% of their dollars to digital efforts. 11% of those polled responded their budget less than 10% digital. Yet nearly half of the marketers cited content development as a leading tactic in their marketing.

80% of marketers in North America name lead generation and brand awareness as their top reasons for content marketing. But it isn’t enough to develop compelling and engaging content if you don’t take steps to bring your audience to it.

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Ensure that your website is mobile friendly. The smartphone is the preferred access point for 87% of users. If your site can’t be easily viewed and your content easily found while in line for coffee, the site and its architecture needs work. You must build the foundation for your business first, and that foundation is your website.

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Use pixels wisely. A re-messaging pixel is simply a device for finding someone that visited a page of content a second (or third) time. What you re-message these visitors with should be consistent with content they read, and over time introduce new topics and calls to action. These re-messages can drive your audience further down the funnel, introducing concepts or products that will pique interest. But don’t lean to heavily into this budget. Dial the re-messaging up too high, and your audience may be served multiple messages from you on the same page—wasting your precious dollars.

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Social Media is a great place to start if you haven’t dedicated much of your budget to digital. With it you’ll learn how to target an audience, set a budget, and even list-match. These concepts can be expanded more broadly in digital display messaging, as you (and your budget) are ready. But don’t expect to “post and run.” Social media is a long play: you can’t disappear for weeks at a time. You must pay to play in this space, though you can start very small.

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Open the digital floodgates. Sync your social media efforts with your digital display ones, using your learnings about what is most engaging. Segment audiences that you know have a propensity to convert, and experiment with frequencies to influence them to do so.

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Whatever your budget, recognize that when used properly, digital can dramatically reduce the amount of waste in your marketing spend, by highly targeting your exact audience and serving messages in their natural internet travels. Lower cost per acquisition? Check.

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Customer Relationship Management: Use Your Data for Big Results

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

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.

Article-UseDataForResults Customer Relationship Management: Use Your Data for Big Results

You likely know (without looking!) the most requested pieces in your inventory. You may even be able to quote the margin on those pieces, naming the profit each time one or more sells. But would you know the characteristics of the individuals that purchased these, in order to create more clientele that are looking for similar items? What about direct marketing efforts that could anticipate or even suggest that a client you know will make a visit to the store? With data, it’s possible.

Understanding your Client List
With the savvy running of a few reports from your system, trends can rapidly become apparent. You might start with segments of the business, like diamonds, bridal, fashion, repair or custom designs. Inside each of these segments, your “best” clients can be easily determined. Perhaps you consider them best based on their investment, or possibly based on frequency of visit. Whatever it is that makes them “best,” write it down. Understanding the characteristics of these individuals is what will make your marketing work better.

Now what?
Now, marketing themes emerge. Your “best” fashion jewelry clients visit four times a year, spending $500 each time. Great! Now we know that your advertising should focus on items that fall within these parameters. Message those individuals with advertising that will build upon what you already know about them. What about the rest of the client list for fashion purchases? That comes easily: sending messaging that turns them from small basket to larger basket clients with increasing frequency. Let’s not send advertising to those spending $2,000 annually an ad featuring a small basket purchase. Similarly, let’s not send those spending $250 annually an ad featuring the $2,500 item!

Making More of the Data You Have
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.”

In retail jewelry, data is the most powerful tool available. Don’t miss an opportunity to capture information that will help you grow your business. Just like revenue is grown one sale at a time, a great marketing strategy is grown one contact at a time.

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.

FINELY TUNE YOUR MESSAGE WITH DATA

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.

A New Face with a Familiar Voice: Advance 360 Rebrands Statewide Organization

It’s official: the Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association has a new name, and a new look for its legacy. Together with partners and members throughout the State of Michigan, Advance 360 guided their journey to their new name and brand, now known as Check In Michigan.

Who is Check In Michigan?

Check In Michigan is an association for the hospitality and tourism industry, leading efforts to benefit hotels, attractions, and hospitality ventures through out the state.

The Scope of Work

Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association, as it was formerly known, knew that they were poised to reinvent themselves. Under new leadership and with a changing landscape for lodging entities with the surge in short-term rental companies like Airbnb, the collective efforts of advocacy on legislation around Post-Labor Day Academic Year, minimum wage and Pure Michigan funding, the work of the association was stronger than ever, but their dated identity no longer served them well.

Advance 360 was contracted to develop charrettes for the stakeholder groups across the state, use the findings to develop a logo and identity system, and launch a new web presence for the association’s conference and institutional websites.

Of this work, Deanna Richeson, President and CEO of Check In Michigan wrote, “Our association has a rich history of 112 years representing a widely diverse industry, and we wanted to forge a stronger future for our hotels, attractions, and hospitality ventures. We envisioned honoring the contributions of those who were before us, and yet opening our arms to embrace younger generations of rising leaders. Clearly this required the skills of master communicators! Over several months, [the Advance 360 Team] created a process that was inclusive, reflective, expansive and thorough. We held several focus groups with a diverse kaleidoscope of hospitality stakeholders, including engaging exercises that gleaned rich insights into the values, emotions and preferences of our participants.”

The Charrette Experience:

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The association’s team recruited a diverse group of open minded individuals to share their thoughts and stories. Activities generated forward iterations on individual ideas, and the groups were able to weigh in personally as well as in groups. From 68 ideas that emerged during these discussions, 16 common themes were forged, crossing the generational, business, and personal preferences of those in the rooms. These themes became the source for creative inspiration for logo designs.

But These Journeys are Rarely Linear

“Just when we thought we were nearing our final stage, MLTA realized we were envisioning a new culture and decided to choose a new name as well a new logo. We were also racing against the clock to announce our new brand at the annual industry conference,” said Richeson.

Advance 360’s regroup was immediate. An additional focus group, called the “Groundswell” was formed to further explore the concept of a new name, build further “buy-in” to this change in direction, and build upon what had already been explored. Activities during this session built to a crescendo around the strategic priorities that would need to be reviewed by the Board of Directors.

This charrette was followed by two board planning sessions to do just that. These sessions were intense for everyone, but harvested the best version of commonality across all the collected data and overcame any hesitation around change for the organization at large. The board was a united team and was energized to “grow forward.”

Now What?

Now the design began. Over a months-long process, the guiding principles of the association were built into a verbal representation of the brand (name) and the visual representation (logo). The group that carried us forward toward that end was formed with executive team members, board members, and a cross section of industry representation.

“None of us looked back, but instead focused on the tasks ahead with a team of stakeholders who met to guide the design process with their input. The result was stunning … a look that was strong, professional, inclusive, inviting, and even a tad fun.”

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Former Logo

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New Logo

The former logo represented a time when the State Capital served as the center of the lodging and tourism universe for the association. This simply is no longer true. The association has transitioned to an immersive model. The team and board are truly wherever their membership is, and wherever their membership requires them to be. Their multi-faceted mission is more than just advocacy, but has expanded to include education, workforce, and community.

Alongside this rebrand was also the digital presence of the organization, which needed to reflect the energy, momentum and credibility of Check In Michigan to the public.

“Once the brand identity was complete, the final leg of our marathon was creating the “brand reveal.” Our Advance 360 partners created the presentation that will inspire nearly a thousand conference attendees, from scripting to creating an animated video that excites the imagination and “cool factor” among our audience. I am completely confident in the positive reception of our new brand identity, and in the electrified energy the audience will experience at our brand reveal,” said President Deanna Richeson.”

See what conference attendees saw, here.

Advance 360 is an affiliate of Advance Travel & Tourism

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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