Archive for Strategy

  • 06.22.16

The Transaction vs. The Relationship


Think about your most recent purchase. Was your journey to making a decision linear? Did you complete every step before moving on to the next without returning to any previous steps? The answer is probably not. This tongue-in-cheek cartoonist editorializes the misconception of CDJs and sheds a critical light on the (outdated?) linear CDJ.

 Read the full article at here

  • 06.21.16

Should You Talk to Customers About Pricing?


Pricing: a social, psychological and economic roller coaster, according to this Medium article. You can’t buy the first product offered because it won’t be the best. You can’t buy the most expensive because they’re swindling you. What other pricing myths do customers innately believe? Why? This thought piece grapples with offering pricing options that turn a profit but also feel believable and trustworthy to customers.

Check out the full article at Medium

  • 06.20.16

Are You Annoying Your Customers?


By now it’s no secret to marketers that customers want and expect personalized communication. Still, there’s a difference between knowing the importance of personalization and being able to execute it effectively. 70% of the emails a consumer receives on any given day are from a brand trying to sell a product. However, the majority of people still cite email as their top preferred method of communication with a brand. So how can you make sure your content stands out? Learn how to make customers feel special, speak their language, and most importantly, give them something in return.

Read the article here

  • 06.17.16

A First Look at Instagram’s New Analytics


Brands will soon be given more insight into the audience demographics of the users that engage with their Instagram content. New and improved business profiles will be launching in the coming months. The new business dashboard will provide valuable information about followers’ online habits, including location, gender, and age, as well as individual post analytics such as impressions and clicks. The project is still in the testing phase and exact timing is TBD, but this is sure to give brands a better understanding of their Instagram audience. As a result, we will likely see more advanced targeting options become available for Instagram advertising.

Check it out at

  • 06.15.16

The Age of the Icon



Icons are ever-present, but that’s not new to digital design. The world turned to iconography when globalization saw international travelers confused by the local language. We’re still studying the impact of icons on the user experience, and a review of what we know helps shape what questions we should be asking.

Check out the article from Fast Company here


One Simple Trick to Dramatically Increase Email Performance

One Trick to Increase Your Email Performance - IQ Agency


Segmenting your email marketing list is an easy to implement best practice that will raise your open and click through rates. And of course, more opens and click throughs will create a higher percentage of converting users.  When you target content to relevant users, the email is more pertinent and of a higher value to the user. Not segmenting your list leads to lower open and click through rates and higher unsubscribe rates.

Why should we segment?  Simply put, because people are different.  People who purchase your product are not all the same.  The people who make up your email marketing list are in different stages of their customer decision journey. For example, the email sent during the exploratory or active evaluation phases should be drastically different from the email sent after a customer has purchased. Defining these stages in the CDJ and aligning email to bring value to the consumer or potential consumer’s life will increase future open rates and lower unsubscribes.  Additionally, people do not all have the same interests, live in the same area, and their emails might have been acquired from different sources.

Segmentation increases open and click through rates, gives your email relevance to the consumer, lowers unsubscribes, increases leads, and increases customer retention. Your deliverability with your ESP (email service provider) will also increase.

MailChimp’s report on the effects of list segmentation sampled “about 2,000 MailChimp users who sent about 11,000 segmented campaigns to almost 9 million recipients.” Then they compared the segment’s performance against the same customers who were sent non-segmented campaigns.

MailChimp data: February 1, 2016

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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.


Great Ads (Can) Still Exist

Great Ads Can Still Exist

We see a lot of ads. And if you watch any 1-hour-cable TV-non-bingeable shows, you see a lot of ads. Some shows are even sped up to add more commercial time.

In the midst of a (seemingly) 15-minute commercial break, how many times have you thought, “Gee, that was a great ad!” I could answer that but dividing by zero is mathematically impossible. Okay, maybe just a few times throughout any given year or Seinfeld marathon. Good ads can exist.

Of course, great ads are created with a great strategy. But these ads are never a literal re-stating of “support points” or marketer’s jargon. Often times, the ones that stick with you don’t mention a price or even a sale of any sort. Most ads might even say too much without being remotely interesting. As Bob Hoffman wisely states, “What we say and what we communicate are two very different things”.

One of the best ads this year actually says nothing at all. No dialogue, no features or benefits. Just stellar visuals matched with great music selection. 

You’ve likely seen this ad from Honda, as it hit airwaves in January. You may have also also looked up the catchy tune that plays throughout (Empire of the Sun’s “Walking On A Dream”).

It introduces a new model, but it doesn’t need to tell you to “buy”. It manages to keep the brand position (technology-focused/innovation) while pleasing the emotions of the viewer. 

By choosing the right music, Honda also effectively gave a broader audience a reason to check it out. It’s a great, catchy song — that was released way back in 2008. With over 2 million views on Honda’s YouTube channel and television spots running, the ad even boosted the song back to Billboard’s Hot 100 charts, getting the praise it finally deserves. 

Good job to everyone involved. Now back to your regular scheduled Netflix binge.

  • 03.30.16

IQ Spotlight: Arielle Cason, UX

Arielle Cason, UX at

At IQ, we take a different approach to strategy – one that combines multiple disciplines so that we approach challenges from all angles. Having User Experience (UX) on the team means that we have a true consumer advocate to balance traditional strategists’ focus on achieving business goals. Arielle is a key member of the strategy team – extremely smart, always encouraging, and hyper-focused on building the best experiences possible.

So, get to know Arielle. The interview below gives you a glimpse into who she is, but you’ll be even more impressed after working with her.


For the official record, what is your name and your title at IQ?
Arielle Cason – UX Researcher and Architect 

Why did you get into UX?
My grandmother had a car wreck which resulted in a long-term brain injury.  Some technology became very difficult for her to understand. She started asking me questions that made me see things through a different lens, and I realized that so much technology really doesn’t make sense, not just for her but for so many people. Her experience drives me to make technology simpler and more accessible. 

Tell me about a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant so far in your career?
At a previous job working for a wireless telecom I conducted a usability study and discovered a large gap that prohibited users for making adjustments to their account online. Due to this discovery I was able to present findings to the VP-level and affect changes beneficial for end users. 

If you could work on any type of project what would you do and why?
Help young women learn technology in countries where girls are not valued equally to help them create a future for themselves. 

What are your thoughts on UX sitting in strategy?
I think it’s great! To me, UX is less about the specific elements on a page and more about the user’s path from learning that something exists through utilizing it in their own lives. That’s strategic.

Where will UX be in 2020?
“UX designer” is a catch-all title. It could include the job duties of business analysts, product designers, information architects, interface designers, researchers, statistical analysts, data visualization designers, and so many more. But as companies become underserved and disillusioned with hiring the wrong kind of UX designer for their business need, both UX professionals and companies will be more specific in describing UX roles with more appropriate titles.

What is your favorite aspect of working at IQ?
The accepting atmosphere and the unique people.

What is something you’ve learned in the last week?
A content management system’s internal-facing interface can deeply effect the consumer-facing UX. If a site’s backend is difficult to navigate, content might not be entered in the best place for the user to find it or content might not be entered in the most efficient format. A confusing backend will also deter companies from updating the site, so stale content sticks around. Consumers see stale content and think the company isn’t reputable. A CMS has a huge impact on the end user, even if it seems to only affect employees internally.

What are you most passionate about in your life, and why?
Advocacy is my word – Advocating for the user, advocating for accessibility, advocating for rescue dogs, advocating for the disenfranchised segments of our population.

What are a few sites you visit at least once a week?
Littlebigdetails and Medium 

What is one thing you never leave the house without?
I’m not going to say phone, everyone says that… Protein, because I don’t want to get hungry.

If Georgia Tech and UGA had to fight how would they fight?
UGA would bring football players and Tech would bring robots.  (Side note from the interviewer: Arielle is currently finishing her Masters degree in human computer interaction from Georgia Tech while the interviewer attended The University of Georgia, the state’s oldest and flagship institution. Go Dawgs!)


Tea or Coffee?
Sweet tea

Math or English?

Board games or video games?

Checkers or Chess?
I’ve never learned chess and I’m sure I would like it better. But, checkers until then. 

Cats or Dogs?
Kittens AND puppies


Say the Magic Words: The Value of Content Strategy

If you think about your own buying behavior for a moment you will quickly recognize that advertising has less influence on you than it used to. For most people, advertising still creates awareness and gives you general impressions about brands, but you don’t probably rely on it for the information you need to make buying decisions. Instead, you know that within seconds, you can identify the major brands within a category, visit their websites, read reviews and ratings, see social posts, watch informative videos and generally be immersed in knowledge on virtually any subject. Consumers, like you, have an expectation that with search and the internet at their fingertips they can make the best, smartest, most fully informed decisions every time.  The reality, however, is different. There is almost too much information; it’s disorganized. A lot of it is misleading or deceptive, and most of us don’t want to put that much effort into the whole process. This is an opportunity for brands.

Decades ago when Bill Gates said “Content is king,” he may have been underestimating things. Today content is the fuel that powers the modern marketing engine. However, while consumers theoretically want all the data and information, they actually want it neatly packaged up and wrapped with an engaging little bow. In other words, consumers want someone else to do all the work for them. They want someone to bring them the information they need to know, to make sure it is useful and accurate, to tell them what’s important to consider and what’s not, and to make the whole process and experience, fast, easy and engaging at the same time. Regardless of what business you are in, you can be sure that your buyers prefer you to do their work for them. And if consumers come to believe that you will reliably deliver credible, valuable content in the form they want, when they want it, you will get on their short list for your category. Not too many brands make that short list, which is not unlike the positioning ladder that Reis & Trout popularized in a previous age.

Content can be an article on a blog, an interactive tool on your website, an eBook, a whitepaper, a video, a podcast, or a touch screen at an airport. Content is everywhere in a thousand different forms, and it seems like every company that’s ever read an article on content marketing is producing it. Most of it, however, is not very good, which is why quality is the first order of the day. As a Pardot survey revealed, 71% of respondents reported being disappointed with a brand’s content, and 64% indicated that they would not be very likely to ever engage with a brand again that had made a poor first impression.

The objective of content is to get the formula right. What makes content good is not just good creative, but saying exactly the right thing, to a particular consumer, for that moment in time, in a way that’s appropriate for that context. That might seem like threading a very small needle, but it’s what you, or any other tough, demanding consumer, expects. It’s a standard set by the very sophisticated brand experiences that consumers have become accustomed to.

Informed by your Messaging Framework and Consumer Journey Maps, you can plan the most effective content approaches for each persona, at each of the key engagement points you have identified. This becomes your Content Strategy, and it will direct everything your teams do from this point on.


This article is part of a larger series, Decoding Modern Marketing, that aims to help executives understand the value of marketing in 2016 and create a plan for achieving measurable results.

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