I'm a day late on this one, but MarketingSherpa's research director, Stefan Tornquist, was interviewed in yesterday's WSJ about marketing in a recession. A couple of quick observations about Stefan's interview:
- It was very hard hitting. The article was SIX columns, but there was zero fluff. Having been interviewed by newspapers, I understand the importance of having something "teachable" to say in a clear, concise way. Stefan nailed this interview. My article was highlighted from beginning to end -- and I'm pretty stingy with a highlighter.
- His tips were mulitichannel in nature. MarketingSherpa's research confirms that multichannel marketing initiatives are more effective than single channel initiatives: Print advertising works better when supported by SEM; Direct mail works better when supported by branding; and so on. The best marketers today are channel agnostic, and research shows that a multichannel attack on your target market is usually going to be more effective than a single channel attack.
In case you missed it, here are my top 5 takeaways from Stefan's interview:
1.) In a tough economy, branding matters. Many small companies see brand building activity as hard-to-measure, and therefore, ineffective. Yet brand activity makes us trust a brand when we see their ads later on. Downturns actually create opportunities for small players to increase their brand visibility because there's less noise in the market. Basically, you should zig when your competitors zag.
2.) SEO and SEM remain underleveraged. I have known this for a while: When it comes to SEO, most marketers just don't know how to put their fingers on the laces of the ball. Organic search is not complicated, and I'd be wasting your time to tell you how important it is. However, if you don't know the basics of SEO and SEM, you M-U-S-T get your arms around it asap. All marketing candidates should understand it -- and all hiring managers should require that their marketing candidates have some SEM literacy. Word!
3.) "Increasing traffic is expensive. Increasing conversions doesn't have to be." My favorite quote from the interview. Let's say you have 100 visitors to your website and 3 of them buy something. Congratulations. You have a fairly-typical 3% conversion rate. Now what? To double your sales, you can either scrounge up another 100 visitors -- or you can increase your conversion rate to 6%. I'll take option 2: Increase conversions. According to Stefan, there are two quick hits for improving your website's effectiveness: Better web design and usability, and better copy. In fact, ...
4.) Copy impacts web conversions more than any single factor, and the time-proven way to improve it is to test and tweak, test and tweak, etc. Getting back to my mandate about marketing candidates and SEO, I believe that ALL marketing candidates should be asked to write something during the interview process. This doesn't have to be complicated.
For hiring managers, this can be as easy as asking a candidate to pick up something off the hiring manager's desk and write a short ad for it -- complete with a headline, a subhead, and a 25 word logical or emotional appeal which directly precedes an offer or call to action. If there's no offer or call to action, then your candidate has failed the test! No soup for you!!! Moral: Learn to write copy.
5.) Direct mail is still a marketing workhorse. Research confirms what Gary Halbert started saying in the 1980s: Short, single purpose direct mail pieces will outpull a 75-page catalog. Define your target buyer and mail them something that will drive them to a highly relevant website -- ideally, with a campaign-specific URL. Think like a sniper. A sniper with a postage stamp.