About Grant Johnson

Grant Johnson
A prominent marketing strategist and nationally recognized thought leader, Grant is President and CEO of Johnson Direct. He is a sought-after public speaker, direct marketing trainer, copywriter, award-winning author and the creator of Direct Branding™, Johnson Direct’s multichannel and measurable strategic process.

Must See Measurable Marketing Trends

As marketing accountability continues to be a hot topic among the C-suite, and the importance of direct marketing, because it can tested, tracked and measured, continues to grow, one truism must be kept top-of-mind in all marketing channels: “It’s all about the data.” It’s important to note that the role of traditional direct marketing is shifting. As marketers search for ways to cut through the clutter and try to differentiate themselves with relevant messaging and get the best bang for their marketing spends, here are some trends that are both worth watching and testing, starting with your understanding of the data:

  • Data/Data Analytics – What story is your data telling you? Invest in understanding your customer, prospect and lapsed customers, by each channel you use. It’s the surest way for you to market smarter and pick-up on trends within your own customer files. It also leads to more intelligent prospecting. With the onslaught of data, prospecting lists are more refined and targetable than ever.  This should be priority spend number one. Data is king. Ask Amazon, Google and/or Dell.
  • Direct Mail/Catalogs – Mail continues to be the best way for marketers to identify and reach out to prospects. As mail volume is down, the chances of being noticed are even better. Mail will be used by smart marketers to build their customer base; it will also be used after a contact by a prospect was made. It works wonders in taking the engagement started by social media to a marriage by closing the sale, and the amount of personalization capable based on the data at hand is remarkable. It’s also more cost effective to uber-personalize than ever before, which makes mail a wise spend.

Don’t forget to test mail on the back-end, especially for two-step programs where a prospect has requested additional information. You should also test a letter and other direct mail components in an initial order that has shipped. Test different messaging and offers here, as that’s a trend you will see more and more in the coming months. Think Amazon, Overstock or any catalog/web merchant who ships items to the buyer.  You’ll be surprised at some of the findings and some of the results you’ll garner with this type of testing. Who doesn’t want more repeat buyers? This is an inexpensive way to get big lifts in sales and repeat buyers.

  • Telemarketing – Do you remember when people used to actually talk to you on the phone? For B2B campaigns especially, a good old fashioned phone call can help solidify your relationship, so don’t forget to add this to your list of trends to test. For B2B, invest in calling. It will pay off when tested correctly.

The biggest trend will be the testing of the best media mix to optimize ROMI with multi-channel, integrated campaigns with the wisest spend. Your data will help you determine that faster and more economically than anything else. Solo marketing efforts like a catalog or direct mail campaign, email campaign or media buy will become less common because they will prove to be less effective, but your data could tell you otherwise.  Thoroughly understanding your data and acting upon smart tests will make your campaigns more profitable.

What’s your E-mail Marketing Story?

Want to get better results from your email campaigns? Why not try telling a compelling story?

Yes, the list and offers you make are important to your success, but so are copy platforms and how you present the information you want to convey. But why test a story?

Marketers may not always put the topic of storytelling at the top of their to-do list, but they should. Storytelling, in this context, is the art of telling an emotional and compelling story in e-mail, or other advertising medium, to effectively convey a call to action that sells a product or service, or gains a donation from the recipient.

Stories engage people because they are entertaining, allow the recipient to relate and connect with the characters, draw on emotion and can lead the reader to a conclusion and often do a better job of being genuine and relevant. And in today’s over-communicated media landscape, when consumers tend to be more entertainment-oriented than ever, stories might be just what your email correspondence needs to lift your ROMI.

Psychologically, we also tend to remember stories. The Bible is based on stories. So are fairytales, most children’s books, many great songs, movies, plays and TV plots. “What’s the storyline” in news and sports? If it’s compelling we tend to migrate to it, or at least pay more attention. A story helps you break through the clutter.

Storytelling is more commonly used in long form, one-step emails where the products or services have a high price point, but even these marketers could benefit by telling different, more compelling stories to move their wares.

By incorporating storytelling in your efforts, you are really taking a back to the basics approach to your marketing. For centuries, the world’s greatest teachers and leaders have used stories to more successfully communicate with people and motivate them to take action. In direct mail, e-mail’s marketing cousin, you may have seen some of the top-performing storytelling direct mail packages, including those from The Wall Street Journal, Time-Life, Rodale Inc., Covenant House, Greenpeace, Nightingale-Conant and National Wildlife Federation, among many others. You continue to see them for one very simple reason: they work. That’s another reason to test this approach in e-mail.

A good story is something the recipient can read easily and which effectively touches that something inside of them that urges them to take action. We can relate better to stories.

Let me give you an example. Imagine turning the this Omaha Steaks email into a story.

The sender might say, “How I saved 67% and used the savings to make my party even better…”

Look at another example here.

In this case, some compelling, credible stories could be featured on how the books above helped changed a mindset and were critical to the reader’s newfound success. It will be relevant to many of the recipients and will likely work better than shouting savings. Heck, you could even keep the savings and tell the stories.

A few guidelines to follow include not fabricating a story – the more real and true-to-life the better the results typically are, the more detail you provide, the more credible the story will be,  and be on the lookout for new stories all the time. They are like testimonials on steroids for your marketing.

Go ahead, pump up your e-mail marketing with storytelling starting today. Then, share your story with me and all of us at Johnson Direct.

Your mail box is about to implode

Time upon time I’m asked if direct mail still works and without hesitation the answer is a resounding YES!

However, with over 200 million people now on the do-not-call list and over 33 Billion SPAM emails zapped world wide each and every day, mail is again the go-to option for direct marketers and it’s going to have to work even harder and more effectively to produce the results you need to succeed.

Some advice on how to make your next direct mail program a winner right now:

1. Mail first to your existing customer base.

A lot of people spend a disproportionate amount of time on acquisition instead of trying to cross-sell and/or up-sell their current database. Begin where the “low hanging fruit” already exists – with current and past clients. Also, begin a formal referral program to your already loyal clients.

2. Spend more time on list selection, refinement and testing.

It’s a fact that your list is the most crucial element in direct mail success, yet most direct marketers still do not spend enough time on list research and spend even less time testing lists. In order for your mail to work more efficiently for you, first spend more time on list selection and list testing.

3.  Test more offers in your next direct mail campaign.

It’s also acknowledged that next to lists, the offers that you make will have the greatest impact on your response rates and ultimately on your return-on-investment. Thus, test some offers and please think outside the box – don’t limit yourself to what’s been done in your industry alone.

4. Be innovative in your mail presentation.

Test different formats with your established controls. Be bold, be basic, but please be different. Try a different size, a self-mailer, even though you know that “self-mailers rarely outperform packages.” Try something dimensional and/or add a premium to your current control.

5.  Turn a negative into a positive. 

Promote that fact to prospects that you will not call them – especially those signed on for the do-not call list — but still wanted to let them know about your products or services, thus you decided to mail them.

By staying the course, ignoring testing and not doing much if anything differently, you will be risking your current success with mail. Now is the time to let your direct marketing prowess shine.

Social Media Marketing

Recently I logged onto Facebook and this was their self-promotional banner ad that was waiting for me to read:

“Reach over 350 million active users on Facebook. Learn how to connect your business to real customers through Facebook Ads.”

This is what was waiting for me when I clicked through on the ad:

Connect with Real People

  • Reach over 350,000,000 active Facebook users.
  • Attach social actions to your ads to increase relevance.
  • Create demand for your product with relevant ads.

Create Your Facebook Ad

  • Quickly create image and text-based ads.
  • Advertise your own web page or something on Facebook like a Page or an Event.
  • Choose to pay per click (CPC) or impression (CPM).

Optimize Your Ads

  • Track your progress with real-time reporting.
  • Gain insight about who’s clicking on your ad.
  • Make modifications to maximize your results.

Think about 350 million users. That’s a bigger audience than typically watches the Super Bowl. The 2008 game in which the NY Giants won brought in 148.3 million viewers worldwide was well under half of Facebook’s number.

Then, I logged onto Twitter and noticed no ads at all …no banner ads, links or even self-promotional ads.

This exercise made me think hard about marketing, the mass media model and the segmentation strategies long employed by direct marketers.

Some questions to consider:

  • Why is Facebook touting 350,000,000 users instead of their micro-targeting capabilities in their ads?
  • Why is their age cutoff 45+? (That’s the oldest age demo that was presented as an option.)
  • Have you seen or responded to Facebook ads – theirs or a paid placement?
  • How is Twitter going to support its model long term without ads?
  • How do you target and effectively segment Twitter?

Perhaps these large social media sites—Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and LinkedIn—are becoming the new mass media advertising channels, replacing TV and traditional mass media outlets?

A few other recent developments might make the case: Facebook and Twitter are being banned by many companies because they decrease productivity and too many employees are spending too much of their work day on them. Average use of social media has increased 82% year-over-year according to a recent Nielsen study.

MySpace recently hired a former Madison Avenue executive to help boost faltering ad sales, offering her a reported one year deal in the seven-figure range. That’s a lot of advertising revenue.

It’s true that social media outlets are more measurable, targetable and trackable than traditional media; however, it seems as if, at least the bigger players, are going for mass appeal rather than micro appeal.

Facebook started as an outlet for college students, MySpace for artistic types (musicians and painters…) and Twitter as a fast way to keep friends and interested parties up-to-date on your daily activity. All have evolved to be much more mass-appeal social media outlets. Even the business site LinkedIn has migrated to a more ubiquitous, less business-specific resource, especially with the cross-shared capabilities of Twitter.

The big social network sites have outgrown their roots and are trying to appeal to the mass general public. Based on sign-ups it appears that they are attracting many, many people, but …are prospects responding to the advertising that’s being placed?

I noticed a Chevy Malibu ad on LinkedIn the other day. I also clicked an ad for a local health plan that is NOT available in my area, a case of poorly targeting of ads when the exact opposite should be occurring.

Here are some statistics:

· 19% of everyone on the Internet uses Twitter to update status, median age of Twitter user is 31
· 35% of all adults online have social media profiles
· 83% of all adults 30-49 use Internet, 77% 50-64
· Median age of Facebook user is 33, up from 26 in 2008; 50% of users check-in daily
· 81% of CMOs plan to a lot at least 10% of marketing budget to Social Media
· 64% of CMOs plan to increase spending in social media this year

Then consider:

· The average weekday circulation at 379 U.S. newspapers fell 10.6% during the six months ending in Sept. 2009, according to published reports.

· The number of households subscribing to magazines dropped two percentage points while subscriptions for home video and smartphone services increased
· DVR households have tripled in the last three years

While measurement among most social media applications is still the exception rather than the rule, marketers continue to site the few very successful case studies that exist. These typically also have mass appeal and follow more of a mass media that segmentable model a la true direct marketing.

Yes, Dell has had success with Twitter, but note that its success, and most others who have made Twitter work, wrapped their marketing around the core of great direct marketing: “Make them an offer they can’t refuse.”

One recent study claims that 10 minutes spent on Facebook can expose the user to as many as 90 different media messages. That’s a sure fire recipe for advertising ineffectiveness at best and user abandonment/immunity at least.

Can and should social media be more niche specific? Yes and no. You can’t blame the sites for trying to drive as much revenue as possible with the least amount of effort; hence the mass media mindset seems to be prevailing in a world that is infinitely customizable. Yet, long term, this will make advertising on these portals more meaningless.

So, What Does This All Mean?

It means that the media landscape is shifting and will continue to shift at unprecedented speed. It also implies that mass marketing is not limited to traditional channels and more measurement MUST accompany all media spends, regardless of media used.

A shift to e-channels does not automatically make for good measurable marketing. As the amount of media options continues to evolve and likely expand, it will be more critical than ever for all marketers to continue to test campaign and messaging strategies before expanding their campaigns and losing big dollars. That, by the way, should also include the mediums that are not currently in favor. The optimal media mix in the future will include the right combination of traditional media with the proper use of emerging media. It will also include the use of PR, E-PR, banner ads, email and SEO/SEM.

Marketing today, more than ever, is about relevance – that of the customer, prospect, visitor or user. The more we stray away from relevance, the less likely advertisers are to see an ROMI that is justifiable. Abuse and overuse of poorly targeted media will make all marketers jobs that much more difficult. Remember, even if the majority of ad placements are highly targeted, what matters is the user’s perception and actions. Too much generic, mass advertising will dilute responses.

Have a marketing plan and break it down by segments, complete with a mass media option, if it pertains to your product/service. Next, figure out the best way to use your spend and allocate to the best media for each segment. Make sure you incorporate testing and more testing in all that you do and have established goals that your marketing must meet – by medium used. A magic marketing elixir does not exist. However, a process does: testing.

Just ask Dell, Amazon or Zappos.

Planning and testing are the keys to your success. Shortcut them at your peril.

Search Tips: How You Can Reach a Shifting B-to-B Mindset

Years ago, marketers talked about the huge distinction between B-to-C and B-to-B purchasing behavior. Today, however, the rise of the Internet and its effect on the way we access information has narrowed that gap. 

While it is true a great B-to-B salesperson is invaluable, Google and other prominent search engines have made finding new and/or unique suppliers much more efficient, thus altering the way many B-to-B buyers purchase items in their private lives. It should be no surprise, then, that their consumer purchasing habits are spilling over into their work purchasing behaviors—which is precisely why your organic search needs to work harder than ever for your company to compete and win.

In many B-to-B instances, organic search is replacing yellow pages, so it is critical that your firm be a part of an RFP process, or, more important, that your firm be found by that perfect prospect at the exact moment that prospect needs what your company sells.

The statistics tell the story. A recent study by Optifly shows that 60% of clicks go to firms that rank in the top-three positions on page one of an organic search, with the top spot garnering a whopping 36.4%.

The same study also concluded that the higher the page ranking, the better the results for (a) higher searched, lower sales transactions and lower volume key search words/phrases, and (b) larger, longer term, higher sales transactions, with the larger sales showing better overall clickthrough rates. This means a greater likelihood that the searcher will buy from you.

How to Get Started: What You Need to Know
Organic search engine traffic: This is the basis of all search engine optimization metrics and still a key indicator. Type in some words and phrases and see where you rank. It’s different from (and oftentimes better than) paid search.

Percentage of all web traffic from organic search: The percentage will vary based on the different Internet marketing strategies you use, the type and amount of social media you employ, and how you use links and search engines.

Unique keywords sending visitors to your sites: Search engines like new content, so your firm should be continually building new content (that is being indexed by search engines). And make sure your content includes the keywords that are important to your company.

Search Engine Optimization Metrics to Measure
Conversion metrics from organic search engine traffic: Establish how your firm defines a conversion, and track conversions regularly. Also, establish which metrics matter the most to your organization. Data is your friend and THE key to your success.

Conversion rate from organic search engine traffic: Here you want to gauge your effectiveness compared to other interactive marketing channels.

Revenue from organic search engine traffic: If you can get to this metric, your C-suite will love you.

Percentage of search traffic from non-branded keyword/phrases search referrals: This is a key metric, especially when working with a known brand or product name.

Revenue from branded and non-branded keywords/phrases: Make sure that it is appropriate for you to track this metric. Brand advertisers sometimes don’t like it.
Percentage of search traffic from core keyword strategies/phrases: If a core set of keyword/phrases targets is defined, establishing their effectiveness (and the traffic and leads from those themes) is important.

Keyword/phrases and rank: Keyword rankings vary in their importance based on the results you track, but do keep in mind that there is a correlation between a better keyword ranking and likelihood that someone will click into your website and ultimately buy from you.

Establishing benchmarks for the creation of links, content and unique domains—and implementing them to provide visibility—should be a part of your overall SEO/SEM plan. Additionally, measuring the metrics that matter most to you over time periods like month-to-month and year-over-year will help you adjust and test the right phrases and words and their effectiveness for your company.

Competitive keyword intelligence should always be factored into your planning and used in conjunction with your statistics to determine where you are making inroads and where you need to improve. It can also provide insight into the direction your competitors are heading.
Organic search offers fertile ground for test-centric measurable marketers and the data allows you to prove or disprove sales associated with the strategies and tactics you employ.