5 Ways to Maximize Your Media Budget at Any Level

The marketing world seems to be getting more challenging and competitive by the day. And the complexity of the business and media landscape has made budgets at every level feel pressurized and stretched thin. Because of this, every marketer knows they must make every marketing dollar count – whether the budget is in the thousands or the millions, the main goal is to deliver disproportionate return on your investment. Here are some key approaches and tips we employ to do just that.

1. Don’t just target. Pinpoint.

Every marketer wants to reach –  and persuade – the largest group of consumers they can. But casting a wide net can be the wrong approach. First, it generates a superficial and homogenized view of your consumer (“Age 18+,” anyone?). Second, it’s hard to do an effective job of reaching such broad swaths of consumers. Instead, we recommend identifying more richly defined target groups inside that comprehensive segment.

One way to do this is to identify traits that span beyond demographics such as age and gender. Hone in on a target audience with a specific frame of mind or interest. This demographic is easier to reach, more interesting to create content for, and far more likely to convert. Even better is if you can really “own” this target vs. who your competition is targeting. For example, for a food brand that mainly targets men, instead of simply targeting the broad “bros” that our competitors focused on, we identified our consumer as craft-beer enthusiasts. This elevated the media plan above generic, resulting in a more precise match between content and context and a number of extremely effective brand integrations we might otherwise never have found.

2. Set the right goal posts.

Almost all marketers and media companies measure their media performance in some way. However, it is key to not just use basic or customary measures. Understand how success looks for you and use the most relevant and specific metrics to track it. Key performance indicators (KPIs) should not be a laundry list, but instead clearly linked to brand objectives. At LC, we use the Consumer Decision Journey (CDJ) model to set KPIs at each phase that correlate to that phase’s main objectives. This ensures that all media performance is measured against its ability to convert the target into loyal, profitable customers.

3. Maximize your owned channels.

Far too often, media companies only consider the brand’s paid audiences. But most should consider their owned channels first. What are some ways to do this? Leverage your website by making sure it’s easy to navigate and clearly defines who you are, what you do, has quality content and is optimized for search. Consider and plan how to use your social platforms to maximize your efforts. Look for ways to leverage your loyal customers to share the message to their friends and family. Consider an email marketing program against your customer relationship management (CRM) system or other database list. In conjunction with paid media, owned channels can turbocharge your efforts.

4. Invest in paid search.

Think paid search is only for e-commerce brands? Think again. Paid search is an opportune way to ensure current campaigns are working to their fullest and are properly optimized. Paid search reaches people at the precise time of interest and need when they are actively searching for your brand, service or category. This means you can be there with the right message at the right time. And if you aren’t, your competitors are sure to be instead.

5. Don’t get too thin. Or too thick.

In today’s fragmented and complex media ecosystem, it can be tantalizing to want to try many different tactics and media types. When planning your media strategy, make sure you are expanding out into new vehicles and platforms judiciously. Concentrate on channels that allow you to be targeted while reaching prospects at an impactful frequency. Don’t rely on just one channel to achieve your objectives — the media landscape is not consumed like this. As far as adding new media and tactics, try testing and experimenting to see what’s working before rolling out and committing bigger dollars. Finally, make sure your message is consistent across all your channels and that all channels align with how your target is engaging with various media on a daily basis.

At the end of the day, media is not just about “spots and dots.” Without the right strategy in place, much of your budget can be under-leveraged to misunderstandings about your target, what channels are best for your audience or how to measure your efforts. This is why it’s important to work with a team that takes the time to understand your brand, your consumer, the media context, and the interaction of those three. Only in this way can you make sure you’re getting the best bang for your marketing buck.

Want to learn more about how to take your media planning from now to next? Start the conversation with Michael Baer at 844.LC.IDEAS.

P.S. Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter, for the latest in industry news, tips and inspiration. To start receiving updates from Laughlin Constable, subscribe here.

We Love (And Watch) TV. A Lot.

The 2016 Broadcast TV Upfront presentations – the annual advertising industry event at which broadcast networks, such as ABC, CBS, CW, FOX and NBC, present their fall season plans to media buyers and marketers – took place in May 2016. The presentations set the stage for the industry’s Upfront media buying, where a significant portion of the upcoming season’s broadcast inventory is purchased.

Despite growth in alternate viewing options, TV continues to be a mainstay for network success, especially as an immediate mass reach vehicle – positive testament for those who still believe in the merits of advertising on this medium. Every year, the industry and pundits forecast “the death of broadcast TV” and the anachronism of the Upfront, yet each year it continues as ever.

Each year, more alternatives are offered – the NewFronts, the marketplace for digital video and the Addressable TV Upfront. But despite modest growth, none have knocked down the reigning champ, broadcast TV. Crickets could be heard on last year’s “Addressable TV” Upfront, as platforms have found it more difficult to pull off than expected. Addressable TV would have allowed advertisers to selectively segment TV audiences and offer up different ads groups within a common program.

Downward Digital

Each year, over the past decade, there has seemed to be an elephant in the room regarding digital solutions, cross platform and mobile viewing, on demand and cord-cutting – but the networks continue to trot out their new shows with fanfare and talk about their massive viewership. This year was no different, as only NBCUniversal and CW served up digital solutions. Perhaps this “broadcast or bust” mindset is right, as the release of a new study from Accenture Strategy, analyzing marketing spend and ROI over three years, found that Digital can’t match the long-term ROI benefits of advertising on linear TV and its supported platforms. The study suggests that multiplatform TV advertising has had a halo effect on digital, with an average of 18 percent ROI incorrectly credited to short-form video (digital includes paid search, digital display and short-form video under 10 minutes) – insinuating that any success digital video has had is in fact due to TV (!).

Did We Say We Love TV?

All in all, TV networks are continuing to take a fairly safe, reliable approach to programming, with attention to the tried and true. To us, this seems short-sighted and analogous to music publishers’ continued refusal to address a digital solution – until they had to. This seems to present an opportunity for new, more cutting-edge programming that makes the digital experience more front-and-center, not just a value-add. We can imagine all kinds of exciting mobile, non-linear, interactive offerings, but alas, we have to continue to wait.

Stacking rights, or a network’s ability to stream a seasons’ worth of episodes on all of its platforms (think Netflix), as opposed to just the most recent five episodes, has also been a hot topic. Most networks agree that viewers love being able to catch up on a show in succession, informally known as “binge watching.” Stacking allows them to do this with ease, not to mention, increasing network and series loyalty.

Why is this important for consumers? Today’s TV viewers have more opportunities to enjoy TV content than they ever have before. Viewers can watch their favorite shows on multiple screens, in any location or while on the go, and interact with fellow fans in real-time on various social media networks.

Why is this important for brands? TV ensures that consumers become aware of new products, services, ideas and other noteworthy concepts. It reinforces the position of existing brands and reassures consumers about the choices they make every day.

That being said, TV still rules and successful series still wear the crown. TV’s long-lasting prominence in society has deep roots. TV is a medium that triggers imagination, improves the world, nurtures curiosity, encourages education and unites millions of viewers with mutual interests. It also demonstrates that one need look no further for proof of the ROI benefits of TV advertising, because people continue to watch TV. A lot.

Activating the Healthcare Consumer Decision Journey

The average consumer now owns 4 devices and consumes 60 hours of digital content per week. And for healthcare marketers spending upwards of $1.5 billion per year on advertising (Hospital and Health Networks Magazine, April 2015), not understanding what, when and where consumers are in the consumer decision journey (CDJ) means much of that budget may be going to waste.

CDJ_1

Today’s marketing reality

Here’s what today’s healthcare marketer is facing: An explosion of messages. A transformation of channels. A disruptive fragmentation of audiences. And a consumer-driven market place where choice, access and information are a given, in real-time, 24/7.
Today’s marketers use the CDJ as a tool to address these new realities. To be nimbler, deliver more relevant messaging at precise moments and drive consistency across the journey – ultimately engendering greater loyalty and brand advocacy. It also presents important opportunities for healthcare brands:

• Starting relationships before there’s a need.
• Staying in the consideration set as their search goes on.
• Branding a memorable and shareable experience.
• Leveraging loyalty in a consumer driven world is the key to long-term success.

At each stage of the journey, different channels reach consumers, different messages engage them and different metrics measure marketing performance. Together, these insights form a solid framework that reflects your customer’s journey and show how best to reach them and provide a high-quality, consistent experience at every touchpoint.

To expand upon this, we looked at three different healthcare decision journeys and the channels (or platforms) that best match each journey. This will help demonstrate how channels vary based on the consumer and the nature of the decision—a woman choosing maternity services will have a different journey than a Parkinson’s patient’s care partner.

CDJ_2

Expecting Mothers Expect the Best

Get on your consumer’s short list (awareness) by generating visibility via appropriately targeted TV ads, print, radio, targeted online campaigns, presence at a millennial event (millennials are more likely to digitally share their experiences) and content on pre-pregnancy health websites. When she is ready to consider her options, she will start researching and comparing your offerings to others (evaluation), so be sure to give her all the information she needs: show up in her search results (SEO, consider buying relevant search ads), create high-quality content (e.g. virtual birthing center tours) and be active on all her favorite social platforms. Next, support an exceptional birthing experience by providing information new moms are hungry for (experience), possibly through video content for in-room broadcast or Youtube, or care packages with items tailored to her interests. Finally, make it easy for her to share her experience with other new moms (advocacy) by using social media to engage her, or by “adopting” a mommy blogger to incentivize specific maternity patients to share their positive experiences with their own loyal audience.

CDJ_3

Connecting with Ortho Patients

Be the name he thinks of when considering bone and joint issues, whether they’re his own, his friends’ or others’ (awareness). Get on his radar using TV, outdoor, radio, and targeted online advertising. For example, be at his recreational sports events—whether through sponsorship or authentic word of mouth testimonials from his friends. Next, create expert content on bone and joint health—whether on your brand’s website or a third party site. Then, when early symptoms trigger the start of his long decision process, lower the barriers for getting more information (evaluation) through search results and additional content on symptoms and new procedures. Next, leverage the extended patient care experience to deliver a branded impression of great care (experience) through collateral and online support information. And finally, give him opportunities to be proud of and share his recovery (advocacy) by capturing and sharing stories through unique written and/or video content.

CDJ_4

Serious Health Issues Inspire Need for Trust

For those seeking care for Parkinson’s Disease, marketers need to build confidence and trust in the hospital’s overall expertise and experience with older adults (awareness). This is often through print and radio advertising, maintaining a presence at elder health events and creating content on elder health and wellness sites. When symptoms prompt questions, encourage early consultation and provide different opportunities for your consumer to become more informed about options (evaluation) via search results, in-depth program content or a symptom checker. Optimize the potential of a lifetime care relationship with your patient and his family (experience). This could be done through collateral and support materials on disease management and new advancements. Finally, encourage family members to share their experience and help others in the same situation (advocacy) by providing them with opportunities to bond with others—reunions, workshops, etc.

Healthcare marketers have traditionally concentrated on the awareness and evaluation stages of the consumer decision journey. But today, online engagement and “experience sharing” provide opportunities to connect with consumers more deeply. As healthcare marketers, we can engage, delight and inspire consumers throughout their journey, and really, their whole lives.

Interested in more tips to take your marketing from now to next? Start the conversation with Michael Baer at 844.LC.IDEAS.

P.S. Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter, for the latest in industry news, tips and inspiration. To start receiving updates from Laughlin Constable, subscribe here.

Sources: Internet Trends 2015 (KPCB)​

One (Smart) Ring to Rule Them All

When modern wearable technology first hit the scene a few years ago, it was primarily focused on connected devices with health-tracking functions, such as counting calories and steps or monitoring sleep patterns. While Fitbit and Garmin demonstrate the potential in wearables with their streamlined tracking capabilities and mobile apps, the devices look more suited for the gym or on the running path than in consumers’ everyday lives.

Today, a new line of devices is emerging, offering features that extend far beyond health and fitness. They appear to be authentic fashion accessories and jewelry, made of precious gemstones and metals instead of clunky plastic or rubber bands. This “smart jewelry” is a new way to combine the benefits of fitness trackers and smartphones with everyday, noninvasive accessories that work with your lifestyle instead of occupying space in it.

For an example of a leading-edge company doing the “smart jewelry” thing right, look no further than Ringly. This NYC-based startup sells digitally-connected rings and bracelets that connect to the wearer’s phone via Bluetooth, then notifies them of alerts and messages from a supported mobile app. The wearer is informed of these notifications by configuring customizable colored LED lighting and various vibration patterns. For example, three vibrations and a yellow light can indicate a social media notification, two vibrations with a pink light can indicate a text message, one vibration and a blue light can indicate an email, and so on. Further customizations include setting up notifications for only a small network of people or connecting to Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Uber, Slack, or even health and fitness apps like Fitbit.

The idea behind Ringly is simple: the wearer can carry on with what they are doing and know, at a glance, if she needs to pick up her phone. A concept that was on the forefront of a trend you’ve more than likely seen plenty of by now—the defunct Google Glass, the Apple Watch and the Motorola 360, to name a few. These digital devices are crafted to revolve around consumers lives instead of the other way around. And it’s just the beginning. Consumers are exhausted by hectic schedules, endless emails and 24/7 connections, and are becoming better informed on the ways technology can wreak havoc on their health. These factors create a perfect storm for doing away with invasive, bulky technology in favor of technology that empowers, not impedes, real life interactions.

For companies, brands and agencies, this trend represents three things:

  1. Reminder: Keep a solid strategy in place and push out quality content. It’s never been more important to craft solid, authentic messages that consumers want to go out of their way to engage with and share. Wearable devices, including smart jewelry and accessories, are now at the heart of just about every discussion related to the Internet of Things, and the full range of new capabilities ubiquitous connectivity can bring.
  2. Warning: The digital space is not confined to one lap-bound screen. Much like TV advertising, companies need to adapt to where the consumer is going. And in this case, they are going outside, interacting more with friends and putting down their phones in favor of real life interactions. How can you meet them at their favorite bar, restaurant or theatre without an invasive iPhone ad and provide real value at the right moment?
  3. Opportunity: With new devices come new ways to interact with your community and surroundings. What can you build that would effectively work on the devices, like Ringly, that consumers are gravitating toward? Could the unique placement of an Apple Watch help or hinder your company? In what ways? Wearable technology is being adopted by brands across the spectrum, from healthcare to education to retail to to consumer goods. However, the smartest, most innovative brands don’t just jump on the tech bandwagon without a plan; they consider gaps in the marketplace and strategically fill those gaps to profitably fulfill their targets’ needs.

It is without a doubt that wearables will evolve exponentially over the next few years, and that they will need to be a more integrated element in the Internet of Things in order to provide the wide range of features people are lusting after.

Essentially, never underestimate the power of the perfect accessory.

Marketing to Mom in the Digital Age

The experience of motherhood is shared by women across time, borders and languages. Despite massive shifts in culture and technology, modern moms have many of the same questions and challenges as their mothers and grandmothers. However, the resources moms use to manage the complexities of parenthood have changed considerably over generations. Moms still seek advice from a broad range of sources, but today, they’re often turning to the internet to do so. The ways in which today’s moms prioritize and balance the roles of self, Mom, wife, coworker, sister, friend and daughter may differ, but one thing is evident – digital tools can help make her life a little easier. The challenge for brands today is to cut through the noise and provide value when the volume of information available to moms is overwhelming.

With Mother’s Day just around the corner, Laughlin Constable has provided ways to reach and resonate with Mom in the digital age.

Be there for her whenever she needs you: Make it mobile.

Mom’s smartphone very well may be considered her savior. Handy mobile apps can help her communicate with family, find nearby locations, snag deals, search for products and recipes and simply save time and energy. Moms are constantly switching between screens, so your content should be moving with them. According a January 2016 study conducted by Facebook IQ, parents over-index on social mobile usage – globally, they spend 1.3X more time on Facebook mobile than people without children. With this, it’s imperative for brands to create a seamless multi-screen digital experience for Mom. However, it is also important for brands to avoid overwhelming her even more with irrelevant, unwelcome content at every conceivable turn.

Show her what to do: Use video effectively.

More and more, moms are turning to YouTube for answers to their everyday questions. According to a September 2015 study conducted by Google, TNS and Ipsos, 83 percent of moms search for answers to their questions online. Of those, three in five turn to online video in particular. Today’s new moms spend an average of 8.3 hours daily consuming media – about an hour more per day than Gen X moms – with most of that extra time spent streaming video. This presents brands with a great opportunity: to provide valuable content when moms are looking for support, information or ideas. Of the moms surveyed who view YouTube videos, 81 percent watch how-to content. In fact, moms are significantly more likely to watch how-to content than the average viewer.

Respect her time: Be as brief as possible.

Moms appreciate value and efficiency. Especially with an overflowing plate, it’s crucial for brands to give Mom the information she needs upfront without forcing her to dig through clutter. Access to information can be a double-edged sword – on one hand, it’s great for her to have the brain trust of the internet at her fingertips, but all that information and all those opinions can leave her feeling confused. Nurture quick wins with Mom by serving up concise, crystal clear content that simplifies complexities in a relevant way.

Meet her with an empathetic voice: Motherhood means vulnerability.

Every mom has different fears, dreams, beliefs and values, but they share a mutual understanding that parenting is not all sunshine and roses. Brands that understand and acknowledge the challenges of parenthood and speak to moms with a compassionate voice, no matter the category or platform, resonate best with moms. With Medela, Laughlin Constable built a content strategy that includes motivational, inspirational content in addition to educational blogs and tips for new moms. Rather than glossing over the challenges of early parenthood, Medela has created a social community based in part on support and encouragement.

Empower her to help herself: Self-care is crucial.

Mom has to take care of herself before she can take care of others, but her personal needs are often pushed to the bottom of a never-ending to-do list. Savvy brands help her feel more confident, cared for and capable by offering self-care solutions, time-saving tips and real-time resources.

As with any other audience, it’s important to remember that moms lead rich, complex lives and their identities extend far beyond just being a parent. Honor and recognize moms’ reality and allow opportunities for her to put on her oxygen mask first. After all, there’s no work more important than the work of a parent. Brands that are aligned to help support that vital work can and should meet moms where they are to make a unique connection with consumers.

Oh, and be sure to call your mom this Sunday.

Lydia Eichner & Ceara Milligan

Small Brands, Big Opportunity: Snapchat As a Customer Service Platform

The days of automated customer service calls are quickly being replaced by inventive, highly customized social customer service experiences. This shift indicates a pivot in consumer expectations: users expect their customer service questions to not only be answered promptly on social media, but also in a unique and personal way.

Thus, the new kid on the block, Snapchat has emerged as an interactive tool for immediate, personalized customer service that is unlike any other social channel. Recently, the channel unveiled a suite of new functionality that makes it easier than ever for brands to connect with their users in a personal and dynamic way. The Snapchat 2.0 update gives users the ability to make short-form video and audio notes, live voice and video calls, and add over 200 new stickers to their text chats.

This Snapchat update has been especially helpful to smaller brands, who have quickly implemented customer service practices on the app. They’re working to build relationships with their audience and connect with them through prompt responses, personalized messages and face-to-face communication.

The retail brand Everlane uses Snapchat to take their personalized customer service to the next level. Followers are encouraged to ask questions about their orders, the products and Everlane’s philanthropic practices. Through the app, Everlane’s dedicated Snapchat team addresses customers’ fashion advice, merchandise questions and quality concerns. This approach has created a unique, ultra-personalized relationship between the brand and its loyal customers.

Another early adopter of customer service through Snapchat is tech accessory company iOgrapher. This small business is able to maintain the customer influx of questions with timely, personalized video responses that effectively answer the customers’ questions and product concerns.

Snapchat offers a huge opportunity for brands to service their customers in a unique and unexpected way, but before a brand makes the jump over to Snapchat customer service, they must consider the following:

MAINTAIN YOUR CRM TRACKING

Before using Snapchat as a customer service tool, ensure you have a plan to track and manage your CRM activities. Think about how Snapchat integrates into your existing CRM tracking and management process and ensure that process evolves to accommodate customer service on Snapchat. Think about the resources you’ll need to ensure your responses are prompt and thorough.

CONSIDER YOUR AUDIENCE

Snapchat customer service is a natural move for a brand who has already established a following on Snapchat, has a target that skews toward a millennial audience, and offers a product or service that is easily serviced via social media.

PERSONALIZE THE MESSAGE

Snapchat users are a part of the “Now Generation” and want personalized content when it’s convenient for them. Snapchat makes digital face-to-face communication fun, easy and efficient. It allows users to transition from describing a problem through text to presenting the problem in a photo or video, which results in a personalized, quick solution. So, make sure your team is prepared to translate customer service best practices into short-form video, illustrations and concise text.

START SMALL, SCALE SLOWLY

As the Snapchat platform grows, the customer service requests are likely to grow along with it. Brands need to consider tone, processes and solutions before exploring the customer service experience. Consider launching a Q&A on Snapchat surrounding a specific topic to gauge your community’s response to 1-to-1 communication on the channel. For example, a brand could launch a Q&A surrounding a new product launch as a way to field new user questions and gather learnings for a broader Snapchat customer service launch.

LISTEN AND LEARN

Snapchat is a two-way communication tool that’s rich with insights throughout the social channel. Analyzing the feedback, learning from it and making improvements will result in stronger customer relations as well as increased loyalty. So, consider using common questions to inform future content and snap stories.

PROMOTE ACROSS CHANNELS

Once you’re prepared to launch Snapchat customer service, cross-promote it other social channels, being clear about what type of questions and responses you’ll accommodate on the channel.

Interested in more tips to take your marketing from now to next? Email Michael Baer or call 844.LC.IDEAS.

Sign up for our newsletter, for the latest industry news, tips and inspiration. To start receiving updates from Laughlin Constable, subscribe here.

3 Ways UX Research Can Save Your Site and Your Budget

 

What is the one thing you could do now—before you launch—to save your company time and money in the future? Invest in user experience (UX).

User experience can make or break a brand.

Four years from now, customer experience is predicted to be the one key brand differentiator—overtaking both price and product.* This means UX research has never been a more vital component of your process since its entire objective is to craft an experience that feels uniquely tailored to meet your customers’ needs, while eliminating any bugs or pitfalls and proving or disproving any gut assumptions.

Beyond eliminating issues, UX research can also identify your target audience, then track their journey through your digital environment—analyzing everything from behavior flows and completion rates to social, bounce rates and session timing. Essentially, UX is the one upfront investment you can make now that’s guaranteed to have a healthy return.

Unsure how UX plays into your process? Let’s explore 3 of the many tactics available.

 

ux interviewsIdea #1: Interviews

What’s the best way to understand your audience and their behaviors, values or goals? Ask them! By obtaining early user feedback or answers from real people and analyzing that data to create insights, you can uncover key information to grow any aspect of your business or create meaningful experiences for your customers. This helps you avoid any superfluous decisions, while being guided by the very user base you are trying to connect with. Now, you can’t just take what they say verbatim, (in the words of Henry Ford, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”), but it’s a good start to understanding a variety of things with real people.

One way to better define users and their needs is through the creation of personas. Personas are archetypes built specifically for your product to identify real users’ profiles, needs, wants and expectations in order to design best possible experiences for them. Without identifying the various characteristics of the user groups visiting your site, you cannot hope to design an experience that includes the key elements that each type of user needs. Instead, you will end up creating a website that doesn’t perform well for anyone. One easy step to understanding key characteristics is to ask users questions via a survey. It’s simple, cheap and an effective research method.

But, you never use one method of research in isolation…

 

ux testing imageIdea #2: Testing

Companies who test their sites early on can help uncover experience and functionality problems. This eliminates any interaction assumptions and helps dive deeper into satisfaction ratings and positive net promoter scores. For you, this means getting one step further toward a smooth, bug-free user experience that both the web (as a whole) and your customer base love. It also helps expose real-time user problems, while ensuring your current navigation is getting the job done right.

For example, we were in the development stages of redesigning a healthcare website with over 2,000 pages of content and multiple user personas to design an experience around. Multiple rounds of user testing was built into the design process to ensure what we were creating was useful, meaningful and aligned to user needs before the site was even launched. If you think user testing is expensive, it’s not. What’s expensive is designing a site that no one uses.

 

ux contextual studiesIdea #3: Contextual Studies

Contextual studies conducted in natural environments make it easy to observe and track natural user behaviors and patterns as opposed to conducting studies in labs, isolated from when, where and how the user interacts with your site. One study method we use effectively is the “diary study,” which provides detailed insight into the expectations, mindsets, moods and environments of your users, written by your users.

Picture this: a company that provides products for new mothers is looking to understand how their website could better help mothers in need to care for their baby or themselves. By performing a diary study where mothers would track when they needed help, how they sought help and what types of devices they used during that time in need, the company learned mobile was huge and mothers usually only have one arm to use their device because the other arm was holding their baby. Understanding the context behind their experience, UX was able to create a unique mobile experience that allowed mothers to seamlessly navigate a website and find the information they were seeking with just one hand. Performing this study in a lab would never yield the same results from the diary study. So if you know who your users are, you can pick the right research method to gain the correct data, which will help you better align your site, experience or service with user expectations, and avoid costly navigation or experience issues in the future.

 

The one goal of UX design and research is to better captivate, engage and emotionally connect with users when they are trying to achieve a goal—no matter the time, place or circumstances. By uncovering these otherwise invisible or unproven theories you are able to improve the performance of your site and the satisfaction of your customer base. And when your customer base feels supported and heard, and avoids any negative encounters (think: website crashes, loading issues, payment problems), they not only help you avoid any future costly repairs or tweaks, they become loyal fans and consumers.

Have questions as you help your brand navigate the UX waters? Call Michael Baer at 844.LC.IDEAS.

P.S. Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter, for the latest in industry news, tips and inspiration. To start receiving updates from Laughlin Constable, subscribe here.

*Walker: “Customers 2020: The Future of B-To-B Customer Experience” (2013 Report)

6 Ways to More Effectively Use Data

The emergence of business intelligence (BI) tools should come as no surprise. The value of leveraging data within organizations big and small can no longer be ignored. Businesses are using data to identify bottlenecks, streamline workflows, more efficiently allocate marketing spend and improve the overall customer experience.

Data is making business decisions smarter, and the applications are only going to continue to grow as the collection of data explodes. According to WhatsTheBigData.com, humans now produce five exabytes of data every two days, approximately the same amount since the dawn of civilization up until 2003.

As the amount of data at our disposal continues to grow exponentially, the principles for making it a foundational component at Laughlin Constable have remained constant. Here are six ways to more effectively use data within your organization.

1. Connect Your Datasets for Powerful Insights

The amount of data that organizations have available to them is virtually limitless, including Customer Relationship Management (CRM) data, Point of Sale (POS) data, sales data, web analytics data, email, social and traditional and digital media data. This information comes from different data sources and is often viewed and analyzed separately. As a result, organizations are left with an isolated view of their business performance.

Industry leading BI tools such as Microsoft Power BITableau and Domo have made the aggregation of data easier than ever before. With the ability to connect to popular data sources, including SQL Servers, Hadoop, Facebook, Google Analytics and Salesforce, BI platforms can give a cohesive story of an organization’s performance. Juxtaposing these separate data sources can be extremely powerful for your organization. Building an all-inclusive, cohesive data source can enable you to make deeper and more powerful insights.

For example, an organization that heavily relies upon weather to determine the profitability of their business may want to see how changes in weather patterns affect things like revenue and website engagement. Attaching weather data to your data-set could also help make marketing spend more efficient.

2. Establish a Business Purpose for Your Dashboards

Far too often, reports and dashboards become so cluttered with information that their original purpose becomes terribly unclear. Now that there is so much data available, it is important to identify the specific business questions that each data report will help answer.

At Laughlin Constable, we use the following format below as a framework for creating our dashboards:

Question: What is the essential business question this dashboard is aiming to answer?

  • Action: Identify that action you will take once the business question is answered.
  • Metrics: Choose the data points that will answer the essential business question.
  • Visualize: Identify the best way to display these data points.
  • Segment: Pick the dimensions to segment the data points for further insight.

3. Choose the Right Visuals

The essential component of telling a story with data is knowing how to visually present that information. Choosing the right visual often comes down to two factors. First, in order to have the information resonate with your audience, you have to understand their familiarity with data. With most audiences, you will often find that “simple” visualizations are better. Second, you need to know the point you are trying to convey. Each visual has a distinct purpose in analysis. We’ve included a few of our favorites below.

Choosing the Right Visuals

4. Look Forward, Not Backward

Organizations often have the habit of only looking backward: analyzing trends and correlations from past performance instead of using data to forecast the future. This is easier said than done. But with the new predictive analytics and machine learning capabilities that BI platforms are now featuring, predicting future performance is more possible than ever.

Looking forward allows organizations to be proactive instead of reactive. When we know what future performance is expected to look like, it becomes easier to track if we are on pace to reach performance goals or if we need to adjust  strategy or marketing budgets to get there.

5. Automate Everything

Gone are the days of manual data pulls and intricate spreadsheets. Automating the data pulling process eliminates the time wasted on tedious data aggregation. This allows organizations to drastically reduce the time it takes to produce reports and dashboards, making it available whenever they need it. When data aggregation is automated, it allows organizations to react to that information real-time rather than having to wait weeks or months.

One of the largest value propositions of leveraging a BI tool is the ability to automate what used to be manual processes. Companies that used to spend hours manually pulling data can now focus on providing further value with better, more real-time analysis. Updating the data that matters most should now take seconds, not hours.

6. Empower Stakeholders in Your Business to Answer Their Own Questions

Have you ever been pestered to pull numbers for the latest marketing campaign only to receive the same request a week later? Enter self-service BI. These tools, such as Microsoft Power BI, Tableau and Domo, help put individuals in charge of meaningful data in a way that can be understood by all: visuals. Interactive dashboards empower users within your organization to get the data they want, when they want it so they can quickly and easily answer their own questions when they arise.

Imagine a dashboard that gives marketing managers the ability to view campaign performance over a particular quarter, dive into marketing spend allocation and understand if we are on track to meet our conversion goals, all in real-time. Self-service dashboards like this are putting the power of data in the hands of the actual decision makers.

Business intelligence is transforming the way companies use data to make decisions. It is quickly becoming the differentiator between those that thrive among their competition and those that fizzle. In 2016, it is crucial to prioritize using data effectively to drive change in your organizations.

8 Key Takeaways from the 2016 Digital Summit

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The 4th annual Digital Summit, sponsored by Laughlin Constable and the Diederich College of Communication at Marquette University, took place on Thursday, February 25, 2016. The daylong conference brought marketers and college students together to learn and discuss the newest trends in the digital landscape. Speakers from companies across the country provided key insights into how digital is the ultimate game changer in the marketing landscape.

Here are our main takeaways from the 2016 Digital Summit.

1. Technology has enhanced the perpetual importance of storytelling.

A compelling story that captures an audience’s attention has the power to make consumers listen to your brand. The many ways we tell stories have evolved immensely over time, thanks to innovative technology that has changed how consumers search for and digest stories.

Dan Williams, Midwest Sales Director at Spotify, expressed this concept with the emergence of the Streaming Revolution. Millennials are “soundtracking” their lives and curating playlists for specific moments or activities. For example, there are over 40,000 active “Shower” playlists on Spotify, averaging over 550,000 streams per day. Brands that strategically tap into these precise moments and weave their story with the consumer’s story will be reap the benefits of user loyalty and advocacy.

Laura Markewicz, VP of Digital Strategy at Laughlin Constable, touched on major technological advances, both historical and recent, that have changed the way stories are communicated. However, while technology changes, the power of a good story does not. As marketers, we must never stop using new technology to continue to tell stories and create experiences people love.

2. Meet your customers where they are searching.

Today’s rapidly evolving technology has introduced new media for consumers to search for anything at any given moment.

Joe Veverka, Search Insights Manager and Melissa O’Brien, Account Executive from Microsoft stressed why marketers should begin to consider the significant impact that mobile personal assistants such as Microsoft’s Cortana, Google Now and Apple’s Siri are making on paid search and digital advertising. Veverka and O’Brien emphasized that marketers should be adapting their pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns for voice search by using question words in certain keywords, such as “how,” “why” and “what.”

Veverka and O’Brien also explained that by 2018, Cortana is predicted to be the primary personal assistant for one billion Windows 10 powered devices. As mobile personal assistants continue to change the way consumers search through mobile devices, marketers must continue to adapt their paid and organic search strategies to optimize the reach and relevance of their content through this new search medium.

3. Stay authentic.

Now more than ever, it is crucial for brands to evolve with the quickly changing digital landscape, but stay true to their roots at the same time. Whether brands stay faithful to their heritage, are transparent at every consumer touchpoint or give back to the community, being authentic is the key to earning respect among brands’ target audiences.

Brad Heidemann, CEO of Tahzoo, defined the Experience Economy, where people value brands based on the experiences they have during their interactions with them, as the new market in which brands must compete to provide the most valued experience.

Patrick O’Brien, CEO of Paris Presents Incorporated, expressed the same idea with the Real Techniques brand partnership with Sam and Nic Chapman, two makeup artists and sisters from the United Kingdom, selected by Paris Presents Incorporated for their genuine interest in educating women on makeup tips. In their makeup tutorial videos, the Chapman sisters often use other makeup brush brands, allowing them to keep their audience’s trust and provide an authentic online experience with honest reviews, thereby growing their popularity and credibility as experts.

4. Dare to be different.

How can brands truly differentiate themselves and cut through the noise in their industries?

Laura Markewicz challenged her audience to pay close attention to what the competition was doing and find ways to do the opposite. For example, when other airlines charged their passengers more for tickets, luggage and assigned seats, Southwest Airlines took an entirely opposite approach. They chose to focus their whole brand around the customer experience. Southwest passengers have the liberty to choose wherever they would like on the plane and check their bags for free. As a result, brands like Southwest Airlines found competitive advantage through an entirely different approach than its competition.

When marketers choose to stop making minuscule changes, and instead strategically shift their approach to differentiate from the rest of the industry, the reward is often worth the risk.

5. Plan for your brand’s future.

As the digital universe grows, the potential disruptions in the future will have major implications for marketers. Instead of avoiding these major innovations, marketers must adjust and react to keep their brand competitive.

As Mark Carlson, EVP of Strategic Planning at Laughlin Constable stated, “If you hate change, you’re really going to hate irrelevance.” As technology evolves, marketers cannot afford to wait for the next big change, because if they do, they’ll fall behind.

With the example of Facebook’s new “reaction” buttons allowing for different expressions online (e.g., love, haha, yay, wow, sad, angry), Carlson discussed how marketers will have to continuously monitor how Facebook’s new reaction buttons will evolve what these human, everyday emotions mean in a social media context. In short, the brands that analyze, predict and adjust to changing digital consumer behaviors will triumph.

6. Experience is the most valuable currency.

Customer experience (CX), as defined by Augie Ray, Director of Research at Gartner, is more than just customer service. It’s about providing value beyond your product or service, and ultimately making your consumer feel better, safer and more powerful.

An example of a brand with superior customer experience is the ride-sharing company Uber. From its founding, the renowned and beloved brand found a way to disrupt the transportation industry by providing a ride to the user’s location when he or she wants it, making both riders and drivers feel secure and empowered with ratings and reviews accessible to both parties. This innovative concept disrupted a stagnant taxicab industry that was in dire need of innovation.

Overall, marketers must place value in each interaction a consumer has with their brand, and work to make every experience one to remember.

7. Connect with your customers in the moments that matter.

Google’s La’Naeschia O’Rear, Matt Eschert and Marisa D’Amelio discussed how mobile is now a behavior, not just a technology. On average, people check their phone 150 times, or 177 minutes, a day. These instances of needs-based mobile moments are opportunities for marketers to capture mobile users at their moment of need or want.

An example of this is how YouTube has become a hub for influencers to reach consumers with useful, interesting content that provides value and answers their needs-based moments, in the moment, from any device. Brands like Lowes leverage YouTube to empower DIY enthusiasts to complete home renovation projects on their own.

Marketers must identify these micro-moments where consumers are looking for support during their needs-based moments, and support them with the content they need.

8. Think like a human, not like a marketer.

Marketers have a tendency to focus on selling products and gaining profit instead of delighting their customers.

Erin Ulicki, VP of Sales at Okanjo, provided key tips for reaching consumers through native commerce, or serving up shoppable ads that correspond with the content of the article or webpage. Putting themselves in the customers’ shoes can give marketers insight into how delivering the right message at the right time in the right place is crucial to delivering a superior customer experience.

Laura Markewicz proved this point further by rewinding back to the first banner ad ever, created by AT&T, which had a 44% click-through rate. Over the past two decades, marketers have ruined digital banner advertising through oversaturation, with today’s benchmark CTR at only .07%.

Despite evolving technologies and online consumer behaviors, marketers must be the customer champion by always keeping their consumers’ best interests at the forefront of every marketing effort.

5 Ways to Build a Brand on Instagram

 

5 Ways to Build a Brand on Instagram

 

With a community of over 400 million, Instagram has evolved into a social media channel with an incredibly large reach and a unique visual approach, making it the perfect platform for your brand to tell a cohesive and engaging story.

We’re sharing 5 ways to build a brand on Instagram based on our experiences on the platform, especially those learned in the past six months of strategizing, concepting and creating social content for global beauty brands EcoTools and Real Techniques.


5

 

Distraction lives everywhere on social media, so stand out by following these rules. Instagram is filled with the best visual content creators so, invest in production. Shoot custom social photography with proper lighting and composition. With good lighting, you’ll be surprised how fantastic even your iPhone shots look. Also, keep an eye on industry and platform trends. For EcoTools and Real Techniques, we are constantly monitoring beauty trends and how people talk about them. Lastly, use creative testing to hone in on the ideal copy and imagery styles. We spent six months testing the ideal content formula. And what was it? We were surprised to find it wasn’t shots of made-up faces or fashion. Instead, it was simple, beautiful shots of our makeup brushes. Go figure.  

 

4

 

Big or small, if your community is passionate about your products they will talk about it in social. And just as we create content to mirror various Instagram styles, your community will begin to mirror yours. So, feature that content and inspire them to create content on your brand’s behalf. We’ve seen the time and effort put into our EcoTools and Real Techniques Instagram pay off tenfold in impressions and engagement in the form of beautiful user-generated content (UGC), from simple brush photography to professionally lit vanities.

To do this, first, empower your community of content creators. We’ve found that the EcoTools and Real Techniques communities are eager to showcase their creativity and expertise. We ask them to share their photos, tips and expertise for a chance to be featured on our page. And, the UGC floods in.

Then, make sure you’re listening. Monitor your brand hashtags and mentions, looking for creative content creators. However, efficiency is crucial when you’re sifting through loads of great content. We use Olapic, which helps us to easily gather and organize UGC, tag products and ultimately make these photos shoppable — connecting users with the products featured in the photos.

 

3

 

Of all of the images you’ve seen today, can you recall one that visually inspired you? You only have a second (or less) to grab a user and leave them feeling something. So don’t post any images on your brand’s Instagram that don’t live up to your brand’s and community’s expectations.

Of course there are no “rules” in the social media game. But here are some numbers we pulled from our friends at Curalate.

  • Images with high lightness generate 24% more likes than dark images.
  • Less saturated images receive 18% more likes than their more vibrant counterparts.
  • Images with a high amount of background space generate 29% more likes than those without.
  • Images dominated by a single dominant color generate 17% more likes than images with multiple dominant colors.
  • Images with high levels of texture generate 79% more likes than those without.

Note: These numbers were for brands across the board, not just beauty brands.

 

2

 

So you’ve built an Instagram strategy and are now developing great content and building your community. Now what? Expand your reach and increase your engagement by diving into the world of Instagram advertising. Brands are now able to tap all of Facebook’s robust targeting capabilities and launch Instagram ads through the Facebook Ad platform. Advertisers can target based on interests and demographics, as well as custom audiences generated from email lists and site tracking pixels. And with creative options like slideshows and carousel ads, Instagram advertising is a chance to get even more creative with your content.

For EcoTools, we focus on ads optimized for both engagement and clicks. Our results prove that Instagram is not only an engagement channel, but can also drive site conversions and direct sales, as well.

 

1

 

No matter how well you’re doing on the platform, you have to listen constantly to your community and adapt to them – THEY are your brand’s ambassadors. Stay up on the latest trends, keep a pulse of what’s popular and research what’s performing well. And it might seem like a no-brainer, but if a user has a question or concern, answer it in a timely manner, because community management is this generation’s customer service.

For example, we quickly learned how passionate the EcoTools community was about cruelty-free beauty, with frequent questions flowing in about the products featured in our photos. So, we made sure that every cosmetic product featured, even in our UGC content is cruelty-free. Now, month-over-month, we see our engagement continue to trend upward.

 

updated conclusion

 

Although we’ve highlighted the top factors, there are many others that will come into play as you lead your brand on to Instagram greatness. If that seems like a scary step, or if you feel like your brand needs a little more help, give us a call. Start the conversation with Michael Baer at 844.LC.IDEAS.

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