Noah Echols Archive - Digital Advertising Agency – Marketing Strategy | IQ Agency Noah Echols

Author Archive for Noah Echols

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Financial Institutions focus on the wrong challenge in the mortgage process

Money matters are a leading cause of stress in America. In fact, 76% of people say that money and work are the leading causes of stress. It’s no surprise then that, to limit stress, most consumers crave certainty when making purchases. They do research, ask friends and co-workers, and will even travel long distances to find the right deal. So, when it comes to buying a home – typically one of the biggest purchases consumers will make – the mortgage process can be extraordinarily overwhelming.

Recently, we’ve been working with a client on their mortgage application experience, and as a part of that, mapping the decisions that consumers have to make through the process from engaging with financial institutions to closing. We realized that, halfway through the process, the consumer loses all sense of control – never mind that the front half of the process tends to be filled with jargon and complexity.

Two People Reviewing Mortgage Process | IQ Agency Continue Reading

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When it comes to Millennials, Financial Education is a Requirement not a Differentiator

We’ve read the articles imploring banks and credit unions to provide guidance to Millennials who are looking for help navigating complicated first steps into owning their finances. And nearly every financial institution has jumped on the bandwagon of marketing financial education. Just look at these leading banks:

The problem with this trend is that it assumes that if the FI provides the education, Millennials will find what they need and choose them. Financial education has become the marketing and the customer service, and in some cases, another product. This approach couldn’t be more wrong.

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Ad Math: How to Calculate Cost Per Lead

In this week’s video, we will look at Cost Per Lead (CPL), or how much it costs to generate a lead, in order to optimize your Customer Acquisition Cost.

Cost per Lead is an important metric to gauge how productive your marketing efforts are and to prioritize each channel according to their efficacy. For example, if your CPL is low but your CAC is high, it means that you have a lead quality issue and can give you the data you need to switch tactics.

Let’s look at how CPL is calculated:

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Ad Math: How to Calculate Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)

In this week’s Ad Math video, we’re taking a look at Customer Aquisition Cost.

One of the primary ways we, at IQ, help our clients become more efficient with their marketing spend is to have an understanding of how much they are currently spending when it comes to attracting a new customer. This is referred to as your customer acquisition cost (CAC).

In a previous video, we talked about ROI, CAC is a higher-level metric that considers the efficiency of all marketing initiatives.

How To Figure Out Your Customer Aquisition Cost

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Customers are Breaking Your Business. Don’t Stop at Digital.

The Next Evolution is Customer Centricity

A few months ago I wrote about where companies are investing their marketing dollars in 2016. I’ve found it helpful to watch these trends in budgeting to get a sense of where companies priorities are, but I think the budgeting process might now be broken. In fact, consumers are demanding change in all parts of your business.

A decade ago there were clear lines between marketing, sales, IT, HR, customer service, etc. Each had separate goals that contributed to the success of the company. But many things happened over the past several years that have led to companies beginning to put the customer at the core of the business (as opposed to just giving lip-service to them). In many industries now, business decisions aren’t even considered without customer input in the form of behavioral data. Customer Experience is the new buzzword – a concept that has always existed, but one that has taken on new meaning today due to the fact that it has evolved from transaction optimization to 360-degree customer/brand relationship management. This new focus on the customer makes most business processes (not just budgeting) either difficult or altogether obsolete because each department plays a role in providing a quality customer experience. Their goals are now intertwined, even if their tactics differ.

Consider this scenario:

It’s July and some of your competitors have implemented a new technology solution that was introduced in Q4 of the previous year. Analysts are showing a decline in conversion because consumers are going to your competitors for this new technology that makes for a more convenient experience. The CEO says that IT must implement the new technology by Q4, but there is no line item in the budget for the project. Where does the money come from?

Today, IT has three options: 1) make the case for the project to be capitalized, 2) cut a different project, or 3) go to an adjacent department and ask for some of their budget. While the first option is the most common, it’s often not easy and as this occurs more frequently it will continue to make department budgets even more obsolete. The second option means eliminating projects that were meant to help reach pre-defined goals; cutting them could mean cutting into end-of-year reports that likely serve employees’ individual measure of success. And option 3 means relying on unreliable politics.

Ownership for the customer relationship is no longer siloed in customer service, sales, or marketing. It now spans all parts of the business, making everyone a key player in customer satisfaction. How then do we create goals for each department when there are so many dependencies in other departments? And how do we budget when so much collaboration is needed for success? And how to we plan annually, trying to anticipate constantly changing consumer expectations?

One solution that is being implemented by many large companies is to create a Voice of the Customer (VoC) position. This person is tasked with managing customer experience across all internal departments and external channels. If this role existed in the scenario above, the primary goal of maintaining or increasing customer satisfaction/retention would fall on the VoC and IT could rely on that budget line to fund the project. But the vast majority of companies in 2016 do not have that role and are struggling to evolve processes to meet these challenges.

A few years ago, major companies were clawing their way through digital transformation – figuring out how to digitize offerings, services, and processes to stay relevant. Today, most have accomplished that, but they’ve realized that it wasn’t technology driving the demand, it was the consumer. It isn’t enough to just invest in your website or to think “mobile-first.” Businesses that want to compete have to think consumer-first. And that means everything internally is on the table for change – from how you’re staffed, to how you incentivize employees, to how you go to market. The good news is, nearly everyone is struggling with this right now, so you have time. But I’m willing to bet that we’ll watch industries put off the next evolution again just as they did with digital as long as possible, until they find themselves surrounded by old and new competitors outperforming them.

Don’t wait. This one is going to take a while.

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How Much Should you Budget for Marketing?

Having worked on both client side and agency side, I’ve experienced the end of year budgeting season from two perspectives. On the agency side, we work with clients to set goals for 2016 and then back out of that tactically to estimate (in terms of cost) what it’s going to take to reach those goals. In an agency, we get to dream about all the exciting things we could do to help move our clients’ businesses forward. We get to brainstorm and collaborate then present exciting ideas to our clients. But what many on our side don’t know is what you (our clients) go through during the final few months of the year – the planning, negotiating, revising, justifying, compromising, etc. Often it requires internal campaigning with adjacent departments to partner on initiatives so that budget can be shared. It’s a draining process and any data that might support your proposal for an increase in budget helps.

How much to budget for 2016 Marketing

While the process will always be messy, taking a look at what others are doing helps provide context. Each year CMO Survey publishes a report with what companies spend in marketing and the percentage of revenue and the overall company budget that the marketing budget represents.

First the big numbers. Marketing budgets represent 11% of overall company budgets. This is further broken down by the type of company with B2C product (vs. service) companies getting the most budget at 17.5% and B2B product companies getting the least at 10.1%. Interestingly, the trend is on the upswing, with companies investing more on marketing than any report since 2012.

CMO Marketing Budget Report

While marketing budgets continue to take a larger percentage of overall company budgets, the net investment, however, continues to decrease as company budgets overall continue to decrease. On average, marketing departments intend to invest 6.6% of company revenue, down from 8.3% in 2015. Again, B2C product companies are leading overall spend with 10.4% with B2C services companies taking the bottom at 5.3%.

2016mktgbudget2

It should be noted that these numbers are inclusive of all marketing department efforts including operations – that’s everything from the costs associated with your brand advertising campaigns to the salaries of all of your marketing employees. Looking at total budgets then might be of little value to those of you who are creating budgets that get submitted to a CMO for inclusion in the overall budget, so let’s break it down a bit to see where companies are investing.

One of the biggest gains for 2016 will continue to be in digital marketing spend with a 12.2% increase year over year. B2C services companies, who we saw previously were getting the least amount of marketing budget as a percentage of revenue, will have an average 20% increase in their digital marketing budget, while B2C product companies will see a 14% increase.. On the other hand, traditional advertising spend for 2016 will be down 2.1% marking a significant swing toward digital.

Mobile marketing is another large focus for companies. In the next 3 years, companies say they will increase mobile marketing spend by 15.6%.

Investment in CRM also continues to be prioritized, with an 8% increase in marketing spend in 2016. Brand building will see a 5.5% increase. New product introductions will see 8.3% increase. And new service introductions will see a 4% increase.

Gone are the days when companies could do the minimum and hope to slide by without seeing any impact on the bottom line, and this latest data underscores what it takes to compete in today’s increasingly active, competitive marketplace. While this won’t make your job over the next month or two any easier, hopefully it validates what you’re asking for. Here’s to a successful 2016!

Want to know more about IQ? Contact Us

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7 Questions for your 2016 Marketing Plan

Most marketers are well into planning their 2016 budgets–an arduous process that runs the gauntlet of budget approvals. And even though it’s invariably about the numbers, at some point you know someone will be asking you, “What did you accomplish?”

With that in mind, here are a few questions to ask yourself about your 2016 marketing plan to ensure you have a great story to tell this time next year.

1. Does Your Plan Reflect The Way Your Target Audience Engages With Media?
You would be surprised by how many marketing plans still start with traditional media and then add digital. That doesn’t mirror the importance of digital media to your consumers, which is why it’s time for a digital-first plan. That doesn’t mean you cut out traditional marketing–it just means you start with digital at the center of your plan. Consumers form their buying decisions through digital influences so much that to approach consumers in any other way is foolhardy.

2. Have You Done Your Strategic Homework?
The path to purchase is now so complex that you have to map it as the Consumer Decision Journey. This is a channel-agnostic process, which maps the journey for each of your target audience segments so you can see where the critical interaction points are. When combined with other audience research and competitive analysis, you get an accurate picture of when and where it’s most effective to influence your prospects.

3. Do You Have A Content Plan?
How you communicate with prospects when they are exploring your category is different than when they are evaluating options. So whether it’s the copy in an ad or a video on your Web site, you have to know exactly what to say to each audience segment, at every stage in the journey. The only way to know for sure is by doing the work of a content strategy, which acts as the messaging guide for all of your communications.

4. Does Your Plan Prioritize Owned, Earned, And Paid Media Intelligently?
The good news is many opportunities for exposure exist today that do not require you to buy media. This exposure saves you money, but has more influence on consumers than paid advertising. Therefore, your plan should start with owned and earned media before jumping to paid media. If your agency suggests otherwise, then it’s probably making money by spending yours.

5. Do You Have An Integrated Measurement Plan?
Marketers have correctly come to expect detailed metrics and analytics for everything they do. This not only allows you to optimize as you go, but also to measure your performance against goals and plan ahead. In order to really get the value of all this data, you need to plan with clear goals and KPIs, an integrated view of data from all media (both digital and traditional), and a really good analyst to tell you what it all means.

6. Is Your Digital Infrastructure In Place?
The basic idea of an integrated marketing plan is to tie together your marketing touch points into one unified system across all forms of media. This requires some basic pieces of digital infrastructure, which you can’t do without.

This includes probably the most important piece: a mobile-friendly Web site. According to Nielsen, consumers trust brand Web sites more than any other marketing, so your Web site has to be designed for mobile devices.

But technology is not enough.

The Web site is where you must cultivate that trust and convert general interest into sales. This requires state-of-the-art strategy and user experience design. Remember, it’s up to your site to convert interest into action, so make sure yours is best-in-class. Other areas that are often part of digital marketing infrastructure are your social presence across social touch points, search engine optimization (SEO), and search engine marketing (SEM), email, ratings and reviews, mobile Web sites or apps, and marketing automation.

7. Is Content A Priority?
Perhaps the biggest problem with most plans is a lack of focus on content. The word “content,” of course, is a catch-all that includes everything from banner ads and TV spots to videos and interactive tools. All of your planning, media, and infrastructure are there to deliver content. That’s because content is the part of the equation that influences the consumer.

Brands that commit to creating an ongoing stream of high quality, original, compelling content in all forms win hearts and minds. Brands that don’t, regardless of the rest of their marketing investment, cannot win.

Of course if you’re only now getting around to asking these questions, it’s getting late. But go for it anyway, because it’s never too late to start adapting to the realities of the new consumer.

 

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Coming Home

Noah Echols Rejoins IQ as Director of Strategy

Noah Echols Return to IQ

It’s different for everybody, but I’ve learned over the past couple years what it is that makes me happy at work.

I worked for a large agency several years ago and I got to work with some really big, exciting clients on projects that make careers. Prior to that I worked for a journalism start up that focused on the niche topic of juvenile justice. I went home each day feeling as if I was doing something beneficial for society – helping to shed light on a topic that is under covered by mainstream media outlets. And just recently I led digital marketing for a large, very stable, well-respected company. I had the privilege of having the trust of leadership to do a lot of big projects in a relatively short amount of time that separated the company from its competition in terms of its digital marketing sophistication.

While all great jobs, none of them fulfilled me professionally.

For me, it’s the people and the environment we create together that matter. I don’t mean that I just need to like the people I work with – at each of the places I’ve worked, the people have been fantastic. It’s the culture that we cultivate that matters – one where you work hard together and at the end of the day feel like you accomplished something great AND grew personally in the process.

The reason I came back to IQ is because I craved the indirect opportunities to learn and grow by just being surrounded by so many brilliant people approaching a similar problem from different perspectives. IQ is especially unique because egos are non-existent, the people are fun and friendly, and the culture is one of support and collaboration unlike anywhere I’ve ever seen. It truly is a hub of innovative thinking for our clients because we all love what we do and thoroughly enjoy doing it everyday with each other.

Want to know more about IQ? Contact Us

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Dear Brands, You’ll Never Be Potato Salad

advice on viral for brands

 

The Internet is a strange thing; so strange, in fact, that a man asking for $10 to help him make potato salad for the first time has resulted in over $50,000 in a Kickstarter campaign that has gone viral. And why? His appeal wasn’t one based on need (he wasn’t starving). He didn’t promise to feed the hungry. He literally just wanted to try to make potato salad. And the Internet thought he should be able to make a lot of it.

Brands spend millions of dollars every year paying agencies for content aimed at going “viral” in a similar way, and it almost never does. The ask from these brands has become so normalized that social content is often just called “viral content.” The ask sounds something like this: “We want to create a viral video.” What they mean is that they want to create a video intended specifically for the Internet, usually YouTube. But when it gets uploaded, it gets a few hundred views and the agency that made it cashes a nice check. The brand gets very little in return.

I have a word of advice for you: stop. You aren’t a potato salad Kickstarter. Your brand is not a random phenomenon; it is carefully crafted. Your brand is also not human. Consumers know both of these things and so the content you publish, the campaigns you launch, are expected to be of the highest quality. The chances that you’ll create something that is so different from what is expected that gets shared millions of times is really really small. It happens, but rarely.

Instead of spending millions of dollars constantly creating content in hopes of something resonating, create content with utility. Unless you are a brand in an entertainment category, understanding the questions consumers have and providing solutions will do much more for your business.

Lowe’s does this really well. Its Vine account is a case study in strategic early adoption of an emerging channel, and its use of YouTube is really effective.

Alternatively, if you are set on reaching a million+ people with a single piece of content, partner with an influencer who already has a large audience to create content on your behalf. Ford has done this really well on YouTube.

Want to know more about IQ? Contact Us

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Why Brands Should Optimize for Google Hummingbird

optimize for google hummingbird

Google has done it again.

You might remember a blog post I wrote titled “The 4 SEO Trends Every Marketer Needs to Know.” That list isn’t outdated, but there are some important new updates you should know about since Google just released its Hummingbird update — and it’s a big deal.

It’s so big in fact, that Google reports that it has affected 90% of all searches worldwide. To put that in perspective, Panda affected less than 10%.

Basically, the purpose of Hummingbird is to evolve how Google understands the context around a query and how it serves information based on that query. Google is banking on the fact that in the near future most searches will be done on mobile devices, and a lot of those will be done by voice instead of by text.

A user “asking” Google a question will look different than typing it. You might search for a location by voice asking Google, “Where is the White House.” The result isn’t a link to a website with that information. Google now tells you the address and provides a map without having to click once.

Google knowledge graph

This is a great experience for the user. Information is easy to get and easy to consume. For website owners, however, there is potential for this update to decrease referral rates because users won’t always need to click through to a website providing that information.

Google is scraping information and displaying it on their website. An example is found in Google displaying sports data. Instead of having to click over to mlb.com, I can see the Atlanta Braves 2013 record right in the search results:

hummingbird knowledge graph

The Knowledge Graph

Hummingbird is an investment in what Google calls the Knowledge Graph, the ability to map the relationships between words and even previous searches to understand the context of a query. It helps Google understand pronouns and articles in searches.

For example, if you searched “Who is Chipper Jones” you would receive basic information about him in the results. And eventually, although it isn’t working for me now, you’ll be able to search “when did he retire” and Google will understand that “he” refers to Chipper Jones.

For marketers, the knowledge graph is probably the update’s biggest change. Since the Penguin and Panda updates, Google has been slowly evolving its algorithm to prioritize the user over the search bot. Rather than stuffing a webpage full of keywords or a website full of random content, Google wants content creators to publish content that benefits the user.

With Hummingbird, keyword stuffing is dead. Now that the algorithm understands context, content producers have to focus on providing valuable content.

With Panda, the emphasis was put on creating unique content. With Hummingbird, it’s all about creating unique, useful, and authoritative content.

Answer questions with your content (provide value) and find a way to position your authors as authorities on your topic.

Author Rank

In addition to the knowledge graph, Hummingbird puts a lot of emphasis on the author. Author Rank is a way for Google to identify experts according to the volume of content produced by that person and how widely it is shared. Most importantly here is its direct tie to Google+. Although Google denies the correlation of +1s on Google+ and page rank, a strong presence on Google+ has been shown to dramatically increase the discoverability of your content.

To start building expertise in your category, there are a couple things you should do immediately:

  1. Create a profile on Google+ and start engaging with people there.
  2. Link your Google+ profile to your author profile on the website that publishes your content. This will generate a thumbnail in search results that should get your more clicks in the short term and starts to build your authority around that topic for the long term.
  3. Make sure the primary website where you are publishing content is optimized for mobile.

Final Thoughts

When Hummingbird was released there was a lot of fear in the marketing community that it would undercut content marketing efforts, especially in regards to keyword research. Google is encrypting individual keywords so that site owners will no longer be able to see what keywords are referring traffic to their sites. That isn’t a big deal because keywords are less important now than they were a year ago.

With that said, keyword research to understand how people search in a category and who is competing for those same users is still very important. We just won’t have access to individual data going forward.

Now more than ever, it’s time to invest in understanding the needs and behaviors of the consumers you are trying to reach if you want your content to be discoverable in search. If you understand what consumers need, how they talk, and how they find information, your content will continue to rank well.

What do you think? Let me know in the comment section.

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