Why marketers should care about design (and how to set up a design project for success)

 

Written & illustrated by Seth Roberts and Brian Hawes

In just a few short months working at Ueno, I’ve learned so much about design and why it is one of the most important pieces of the marketing puzzle.

Prior to joining Ueno, I fell into the trap that many marketers do —I assumed design generally came after my work as a marketer was mostly complete. “Now,” I thought, “I have everything ready… I just need designers to make it pretty!”  (Designers everywhere roll their eyes.)

Now I see this thought process underestimates design’s real potential value. Design is a core part of the solution to any challenge marketers need to solve. Good design does so much more than look good; it communicates your brand, raises visibility, and drives conversions.

With a few projects under my belt and this new way of thinking, I uncovered some takeaways marketers can apply to set up any design-related project for success. Here they are:

  • At the beginning of the project, marketers and designers should define “What is the key problem we’re trying to solve?” As the process moves forward, keep returning to this question and answer to stay on track.
  • Trust is essential to a successful marketer/designer relationship. Work with people you respect and trust. If you don’t know each other well, spend time together and work side-by-side in person as much as possible.
  • For a project to be successful, all stakeholders should be involved from the beginning. If everyone agrees on the challenge and proposed solution from day 1, there will be fewer roadblocks later.
  • Most importantly, recognize that design is a collaborative process. Especially for big projects like a marketing website, it’s not enough for a marketer to say “Here’s what I need, come back with your design in a few weeks!” Design teams work with you, not for you, so your input at every step along the way is crucial to success.


I’m learning more every day, so I’ll share updates in a few months. In the meantime, what advice do you have for marketers on approaching design & working with design teams? Please share in the comments!

Thanks for reading. 🙂  

Simply because you can talk to your audience, doesn’t mean you should.

-The following is a guest post written by Amy Jaick. This article originally appeared on Goodman Media’s website here.-

Social media has revolutionized the PR and marketing world by enabling brands and celebrities to speak directly to their audiences. While this offers an amazing opportunity for ongoing engagement and authentic conversation, it also opens the door to larger potential issues.

Even though companies and individuals can communicate with their followers directly without PR support, for marketing efforts to be truly successful, communications executives should always have a seat at the table.

Identifying The Squeaky Wheel

There’s an old saying that the squeaky wheel is the one that gets greased. Nowhere is that more true than on social media. With a direct line of communication to the brand, followers can publicly criticize or laud a product, often prompting knee-jerk reactions from the brand itself, especially when the commentary is negative.

Before you react to new social media feedback, ask your PR team to do a deep dive into general sentiment. Since PR professionals focus on overall perception, they can quickly evaluate whether all customers feel a certain way or it’s only a small portion of the audience. With this insight in hand, marketers can make more accurate decisions about inventory, product modifications, and more.

 Living Outside The Moment

We can all think of a celebrity or public figure who, in the last month or even the past week, has endured public criticism for incendiary comments fired off in the heat of the moment. Take, for example, Kanye West’s Twitter feed. Though many did “shut up and enjoy the greatness” of some of West’s Twitter rants, his actions ultimately reflected negatively on his brand, causing the public to question his mental health and ability to continue performing on tour (it was cancelled midway through).

Situations like these never end well for the criticized party. While brands often think they won’t make the same mistake as individuals, that’s simply not true. Without the same training as PR executives, brands may inadvertently turn a small issue into a larger crisis.

Publicists are in place to provide safeguards for off-the-cuff responses by those closest to the brand, and plan for the time and distance to carefully craft an on-brand response to any unforeseen criticism. When negative commentary starts flooding in, turn to your PR team, who can assess the situation, formulate a proper response plan and share that with key stakeholders. After all, all it takes is one well-meaning tweet with the wrong word or message to create a firestorm.

Keep Messaging On Brand

While organizations and celebrities are immersed 24/7 in all aspects of their brand, PR pros keep a targeted eye on the messaging and positioning across all channels. Finding an authentic voice is important to engaging and keeping an audience, and a larger team should be involved in accomplishing the sometimes difficult task of brand voice. But, PR people are well-trained to help navigate the brand team through the nuances of language and communications – and ultimately help distinguish between the next top-engagement tweet and a tone-deaf, off-brand gaffe.

Testing, testing, 1,2,3…

Each year, companies spend countless amounts of money and resources developing new marketing campaigns. Even with advanced research and insight, it’s not always clear how the public will react until these campaigns go live. Today, social media provides a valuable opportunity for marketers to test new messages and narratives in a lean way. However, marketers who test it on their own, without incorporating other groups, will quickly find out that they’re only getting part of the story, a mistake that could become costly later on.

PR and marketing executives, who have both spent their careers building and executing campaigns, can work together to test new ideas. Unfortunately, all too often these two groups are working in silos, never connecting until after a campaign has been approved. Working together early in the process, can help marketers figure out what to build upon, what to test further and what to drop, before making a hefty investment in a splashier, all-encompassing marketing campaign.

ROI

While a core component of PR is media relations, the idea that media relations is the singular focus, is no longer correct. Today, PR touches upon all areas connected to the consumer or audience, ranging from social media to marketing to customer service.

This means that marketers don’t have to do it all alone. You can leverage your PR team to help amplify the work you’re doing on social and digital. By working with your communications team, you can draw more attention to your campaigns and increase your ROI.

Good PR professionals – whether an in-house team or an outside agency – bring to the table a targeted expertise when thinking about the overall marketing picture. As the part of your team with a constant pulse on what the marketplace and the media is talking about, it’s always wise to consult PR before engaging with that same marketplace. Teamwork makes the audience engagement dream work!

Written with help from Lauren Hiznay from Goodman Media.

Why Segmentation is Marketing 101

Good looking adult woman working at the office. Probably waiting for lunch...The basics of marketing are to establish the benefits of the product you are trying to sell and to communicate those benefits. But a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t cut it. Your customers and audience are as unique as your friends—each has different goals, problems, and interests. And each person will use your product in a different way, for their own reasons. So, it’s important to segment your audience by their differences and communicate benefits in a way that speaks to them as individuals.

Today there are any number of ad and email tools that help marketers segment and target different audience groups for better results. But before you dive into execution, there’s some legwork to do. Here’s my broad checklist on how to segment your audience for the best results.

  • Before you can understand the differences within your target audience, first identify what commonalities they share. Who is your audience: where do they live, what do they like to do, what brands and products do they like? Identifying the key problem that your product solves on a high-level is also important. For example, Postmates might identify their main benefit as “We enable busy people to have anything delivered on-demand,” therefore solving the problem that people don’t have time to go to the store. The target audience is people who don’t have time. (Note: I’m using Postmates solely as an example; I don’t have any insider knowledge of their marketing strategy.)
  • Next, gather information about your current and prospective customers. You can do this through surveys, collecting information at registration to build your own database, or use built-in targeting options through your email-service provider or ad platform. For example, many ESPs will offer geo-targeting based on IP address and or Wifi/GPS data. Facebook is the best platform when it comes to data, because you can target by dozens of categories and data points.
  • Once you’ve established your high-level benefit and target audience, build out segments. If we look at the “people who don’t have time” audience, there are a hundred ways to break down this very broad definition depending on the information available to you. For example, you could segment by age group, urban/suburban dwellers, high-tech/low-tech users, parents, singles, etc. Overlap is inevitable, so try not to get bogged down with creating dozens of super-minute segments. Start with the basics.
  • Last one: think about the messages that might work best for each individual group, and how they like to receive information. Come up with a hypothesis and then test and reiterate to find the combination that works best. Here’s a (very simplified) example of how you might approach the Postmates case with a Facebook ad campaign:
    1. In Facebook Campaign A, use an ad with the same message and photo “You have better things to do than run errands this weekend. Try Postmates to get what you need, delivered anytime.” (image of individual outside jogging in park)
    2. In Facebook Campaign B, change the image depending on whether the individual is single or married:
      • Single Ad Group: You have better things to do than run errands this weekend. Try Postmates to get what you need, delivered anytime. (image of singles at bar scene)
      • Married Ad Group: You have better things to do than run errands this weekend. Try Postmates to get what you need, delivered anytime. (image of couple at home having romantic dinner)

Let’s say your hypothesis is that Campaign B is more efficient. If you’re correct, you can continue to refine the image/message for better results, or segment even further. Also, you may find out that certain segments respond better on different platforms (Facebook, LinkedIn, Partner Marketing, etc.) or via different mediums (email, push notification, SMS, desktop notifications etc). Pay attention to the data and continuously test your hypotheses.

For retention-based campaigns, it’s important to segment messaging based on how your users interact with your product. For example, at Reuters TV we segmented users into super users, medium users, and low users and built email campaigns based on how often a user was watching our content. This strategy is very common with e-commerce sites. Ever gotten the “We miss you, Person! Come back and receive 15% off your next order” email? If this tactic feels like a no-brainer, it’s because it works.

The bottom line: if you’re not segmenting your marketing campaigns, you’re behind the times. It’s important to build a segmentation strategy for customer acquisition and retention, but don’t feel overwhelmed. You can start with the simplest tests to gather valuable data and become more sophisticated as you learn.

Read more on this topic:

-Posted by Elizabeth Donovan (Pace)-

On the job hunt: Should you pay attention to what former employees say?

job-hu1I am freshly back in the USA after taking some time off to travel through Europe and Asia. (For more on that, visit my Instagram: @Donovans_TakeTheWorld.) As I start my job search, one of the important factors I’m considering is company reputation and whether employees are happy. There are multiple tools to research employee sentiment, including GlassDoor.com. Former employees’ personal blogs and other forms of outreach are also becoming more common. But should you trust what a former employee says?

Major tech companies like Uber and Amazon have received negative press based on blogs published by or statements made by former employees.  When individuals speak out against their former employer, I usually take it with a grain of salt. Some former employees are disgruntled and have their own agendas. However, the company’s response is far more telling and provides insight into the values of its leadership team.

For example, after former Uber employee Susan Fowler wrote a negative post about the company’s allegedly sexist culture, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick took it seriously. Shortly after the post was published, Kalanick met with 100 female engineers internally and committed to addressing the issue head-on. A head engineer was also fired in the aftermath. While these actions don’t immediately solve the problem, they do prove that Uber’s leadership team acknowledges and cares about improving employee welfare.

In another famous example, The New York Times published an article in August 2015 about Amazon’s workplace that was critical of how it treats employees.  Several current and former employees were interviewed, offering varying degrees of negative comments. Despite the excellent reputation of the NYT, I’m not convinced the article presented the entire story. If you pick any company and interview its employees anonymously, or talk to its former employees, negative aspects of the company will come to light. How many of your friends need a night of venting about work every now and then, even if they love their job?

Interestingly, Amazon shot back with a scathing response to the NYT article. Amazon’s Senior Vice President for Global Corporate Affairs at Amazon, Jay Carney, published a blog on Medium claiming the NYT didn’t provide all the facts. He also claimed that one of the former employees who was quoted in the NYT article left the company “after an investigation revealed he had attempted to defraud vendors and conceal it by falsifying business records.” Carney provided other specifics providing background on the comments made by other disgruntled employees. What he didn’t do, and maybe should have, was make a public statement about Amazon’s commitment to employee welfare.

These examples demonstrate the obvious cliché that there are two sides to every story. While it’s important to research the reputation of a company you want to work for, don’t dismiss a company outright based on a few instances of negative press. I rely more heavily on first-hand information from trusted friends and colleagues, as well as my own impressions throughout the interview process.

Wish me luck in my job search!

-Posted by Elizabeth Pace

Should your brand talk politics?

politics
Everyone is talking politics lately, and some brands are jumping in to the heated discussion. But is it smart to insert a political stance for your brand?

There are a number of considerations to take before a brand should make politically opinionated statements. First, know your audience. Chances are you have an audience/customer base that is diverse– from geography, gender, age to political stance, etc. So first, consider the business consequences of angering or alienating even a small group of customers. Is it worth it?

Also importantly, don’t be rash. Especially lately, many of us are passionate about our political opinions. But passion can lead to rash Tweets that can cause damage–even if deleted later. Is your brand or business the right place to voice your personal opinion? Think it through, talk with your peers, superiors and advisors before making any heated statements you may regret later.

Dont participate just to participate. All too often brands insert themselves into trending topics just for relevance. Customers can see right through this misguided approach. While it’s smart to participate in trending discussions when appropriate, participaton should be authentic to the brand’s voice and cause. Otherwise it can feel out of place, confusing or downright off-putting to your audience.

If you’ve weighed the consequences and feel there is a compelling reason that your brand should take a stance, do it with taste. Bashing, name-calling or ranting is disrespectful and will almost certainly divide your audience. Stay positive and supportive in your statements, and be authentic and consistent in your voice.

Lastly, understand that your brand is human and you can’t please everyone. The strongest brands are those that forge meaningful and honest relationships with their customers. People make companies and people have opinions. Your customers will respect you for honesty. So if your opinion is relevant and adds value, standing up for your beliefs through your brand can have long-term benefits for your customer relationships.

Read more on this topic:

-Posted by Elizabeth Pace

Confessions of an Influencer N00b

The following post was written by guest blogger Ashley Christiano. Please read her bio after the post.

So you’ve decided to try your hand at influencer marketing, that wild west of user acquisition where you put your brand in the hands of a total stranger. A total stranger who’s probably never used your product or app or service, but one who’s following trusts their word before all else. They’re smart, they’re beautiful, and they have the audience you want.

Now what?

You’re excited. You’re a little scared. And you’re probably pretty unsure of what to do next.

I was in your shoes not too long ago. Just a marketing manager for a news app, thrilled at the getting to try out one of the year’s big trends. So I did what any good marketing manager does: research. I read articles, I took notes, and I vetted agencies and platforms. I decided a platform (Revfluence) would work best for us. With our small test budget and virtually zero knowledge of just what we were getting ourselves into, it would give us the most hands-on experience and control over the campaign.

So here’s what I learned over the course of our two-month experiment.

  • Be patient:

It will take much longer to get this campaign up than you think, especially if you’re working with YouTube influencers (which we were). Give yourself at least a month to just get a good number of creators signed on to work with you before making any decisions about the success or failure of the campaign.

  • Try out different kinds of creatives:

For this campaign, we were focused on YouTube only. So for us it was trying out different kinds of video reviews: dedicated app reviews, a mention in a best apps of the month for various platforms, life hacks or productivity tips.

For our campaign, the dedicated videos did not work at all. They cost more and they sounded less authentic, leading to less installs and lower engaged users.

So ask your influencers what ideas they have. What do they think will resonate best with their audience?

  • Give them bullets, not a script:

You’re working with them because they know their audience and what their audience wants. So give them some free reign and room for creative expression. We provided some bullets based on copy we knew worked for us in other marketing efforts, as well as an outline of the general benefits of our app. But beyond that, we let them go. And it was the ones who had the most fun with it, and sounded the most natural, that did the best.

  • Know your target audience, but be willing to experiment:

For us, we knew our current audience was predominantly male, urban professionals and early adopters. So we went for a younger, male audience (gadget and app reviewers, and men’s lifestyle, for the most part) but also explored other areas (a travel blogger, some film reviewers, and a young woman who’s channel is all about life hacks and being your best self).

By the end of our campaign we had determined who worked for us: Attractive millennials who have their shit together and a devoted following. From Austin who included a killer review of our app in his December Android Apps of the Month round-up, to Haley who pitched Reuters TV as a life hack and a way for young women to keep up with the news that was relevant to them.

Which brings me to my next point….

  • Provide a phonetic pronunciation:

There’s nothing worse then getting half a minute in to this so-far great video that probably took the influencers HOURS to produce, only to discover that..NOOOOOOOO…they pronounced your product’s name incorrectly. Yes, this happened to us. More than once. And then we started sending a phonetic pronunciation (it’s ROY-ters, y’all) to each influencer.

By the end of our campaign we had gained a better understanding of how to collaborate successfully with YouTube influencers. We’d learned what worked and what didn’t, and armed ourselves with the knowledge that this could be a viable acquisition method for us in the future. With the right creator and the right message, our Cost per Install was on par with our Facebook campaigns, and our engagement for these users was actually higher.

Does it take some extra leg work? Yes. But you’ll also learn a lot about what real consumers think about your product, and be able to use that knowledge in future campaigns, influencer marketing or not.

Plus, you’ll get to throw one of the year’s big buzzwords around in casual conversation for a bit. And who doesn’t like that?

 

-Post by guest blogger Ashley Christiano-

img_0965Ashley Christiano is the Senior Marketing Manager for Reuters TV, where she focuses on user acquisition and retention for the award-winning video news app. Ashley has worked in the mobile media space for over five years, starting out at Hearst Magazines before joining the team at Reuters TV.

 

 

 

 

Hiatus – Traveling the World

There haven’t been any posts on AspiringCMO in a while, but I promise there’s a good reason! I’ve been traveling since June 1st 2016 with my spouse, fulfilling a lifelong dream to see the world.

So far we’ve visited Portugal, Spain, France, England, Wales, Scotland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Austria, Germany and now we’re in Vietnam. We’re planning to travel for a few more months, returning to the US in February 2017. Still on our list: Thailand, Cambodia, Italy and Croatia.

If you’d like to follow along on my adventure, check out Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/donovans_taketheworld/

It’s been an amazing adventure so far, but I haven forgotten my passion for digital marketing. I look forward to coming back full-swing early next year.

Thanks for reading!