Don’t Panic, Pivot

Don’t Panic, Pivot

Pivoting isn’t easy, and it looks very different for every business out there. It is complicated by the fact that we don’t know how long the current environment will remain, nor what the aftermath will look. Pausing, though, could be more damaging in the long run. When you remove yourself from the equation completely that gives your competitors the opportunity to take over your mindshare/marketshare. And getting it back isn’t nearly as easy as giving it up*.

Here are some questions we think will help you construct a pivot for your business. You may be surprised by the insights or breakthroughs that come from answering these questions.

  1. What do your customers need more of right now?
  2. What are you uniquely positioned to offer?
  3. How could you take advantage of technology to make your offering more appealing?
  4. Revisit your buying/selling persona, have they been impacted as well?
  5. If your personas are impacted, how are you responding on your editorial calendar?
  6. Does your pricing structure need to change for a temporary period?
  7. If you had an abundance of resources at your fingertips, what would you do differently during this period?
  8. How could you be using social media and content creation to boost your business right now?
  9. How do you want to be perceived as showing up during this time?
  10. If you need to pause, could you pivot the experience so that you can still deliver, but in a different way?

We would love to hear how you are handling the pivot.

*Footnote: There’s great examples in this  Forbes article

In the 1920’s, Post was the category leader in the ready-to-eat cereal category. During the Great Depression, Post cut back significantly its advertising budget and rival Kellogg’s doubled its advertising spend, investing heavily in radio and introducing a new cereal called Rice Krispies, featuring “Snap,” “Crackle” and “Pop.” Kellogg’s profits grew by 30% and the company became the category leader, a position it has maintained for decades.

Covid19 Social Strategy

Covid19 Social Strategy

The thing we love about social media is that it shows the vast range of things everyone is doing – traveling, cooking, showing off art (whether that’s photography, nail, hair, makeup, music, flowers, etc.), communicating about issues, work environments, and kids and family.

Businesses have been heavily leveraging this effective medium for at least a decade now – if not longer, and in an unprecedented situation, we now are asked to curtail our social activities. It’s #Stay<bleep>TheHome.

What does that mean for industries that are focused on travel, cooking, and art?

The first thing you need to do is think through a yes-no scenario.

Yes, things are going to get better. No, things are getting worse. Though it sounds terrible (and no one likes a Debbie Downer), this allows you to pick and choose content according to what’s happening in an ever-changing landscape. And you don’t get boxed into a one-direction strategy.

We are now almost all on lock-down. The next bad case scenario is that 1) we stay on lockdown much longer than expected 2) People begin behaving badly and martial law gets enacted.

Best possible case scenarios are 1) WFH provides levity and personal opportunity, 2) things resolve quickly, and the economy rebounds.

So, based on that thinking how does your social look?

First, you are posting WAY less. One or two posts a week are going to be sufficient. This is practical since you won’t have new imagery, your staff isn’t readily available, AND brand traffic on social has crashed. No one is really paying a lot of attention to the things they can’t do (like travel).

Examples of best-case scenario posts are:

  • Quick updates on the business – even calling out what some of your employees might be doing remotely.
  • Asking questions – How are you spending your time? What are you working on?
  • Offering a bit of Zen – Are you meditating today? Here’s an image/thought/etc. to add to your positive health. Helping your audience set intentions and push away the anxiety.
  • Letting your customers know you are thinking of them.
  • If you have the opportunity, do something fun like lead guided meditations.
  • Or take a teachable moment – how to do nail art, best massage techniques, cooking from the pantry. YouTube channels are not that hard to set up if you don’t already have one.
  • Bring back the ThrowBack Thursday UGC, and other (more generic) images that are still relevant. Mother Earth is flourishing in our neighborhood.

You should also be doing your social media manually. IF worst-case scenario happens – looting, for example – you don’t want your social to appear frivolously against news of civil unrest.

Sorry to throw that dark cloud out there, but it’s best to think about it in order to be prepared.

The FTC is Watching Your Influencer

The FTC is Watching Your Influencer

It’s a safe bet that every C-Suite denizen has asked their Marketing Director this burning question “what is our influencer strategy?” With today’s constriction of organic growth on social channels celebrity endorsers, big-hitting bloggers, influencers, micro influences and OMG even nano-influencers are sure to make an appearance in your annual marketing plan.

It’s not only your hopeful target audience (or micro audience) watching these carefully crafted selfies, but Big Brother is also paying attention. And they are cracking down on deceptive advertising.

Much like the alcoholic beverage industry where an errant tweet innocently mentioning a sip, swirl, and spit at the wrong place can land you in deep $$, if your influencer is promoting your product or location without mentioning the relationship – they are in violation of the law. Though admittedly there has not been the draconian penalties we have seen imposed by the ABC for violations of tied-house laws. (It’s involved and scary, and if you market alcoholic beverages and aren’t aware of this, brush up fast.)

The FTC states that if there is a “material connection” between an endorser and the marketer of a product that connection should be clearly and conspicuously disclosed.

In sort, are you #ad?

Both brands and influencers are required to follow the FTC recommendations which include up-front-and-center information that clearly shows the relationship – no hiding this in your list of 30 hashtags, and no sending someone to the “more” link. Basically, your post and stories captions should start with “ad,” or a simple [free product], or Thanks {insert brand}. Tagging the business is not enough.

It was reported that in 2019, both Lindsay Lohan and Naomi Campbell received letters from the FTC warning them that publishing posts on their personal feed without “clear and conspicuous disclosure” is breaking the rules.

For videos, infographics, and easy-to-read guidelines, go to: FTC.gov/influencers

What #Sponsorship costs

So now that you know you need to disclose your relationship, what is that relationship actually worth?

The feeding frenzy free-for-all, that was the norm for influencers (spawning a whole new industry of pseudo consumer journalists) has settled into relatively reasonable and regular definitions. There’s a great, in-depth piece written in 2018 on the Cost of Influencer Marketing by Alfred Lua at Buffer. He goes into well-researched detail about what affects cost, and reviews micro-to-celebrity influencer followings, as well as social channels.

It breaks down to:

Instagram – $10 per 1,000 followers; or $250 to $750 per 1,000 engagement

YouTube – $20 per 1,000 subscribers; or $50 to $100 per 1,000 views

Snapchat – $10 per 1,000 followers or $100 per 1,000 views.

Both Twitter and Facebook are not seen as viable influencer channels.

If you want to evaluate on a case-by-case basis, there’s a great Instagram Money Calculator by Influencer Marketing Hub that allows you to enter an influencers name and it will estimate earnings and/or costs per post by that influencer. It also allows you to pit your social against your competition to see what their engagement rates are and an estimated value per post.

As you are crafting your current influencer strategy, these guidelines will help you establish some road rules – such as, the number of posts to request based on pay or trade, and how those posts need to reflect your relationship. Good luck, however, getting the influencer to send you a post campaign report. #myselfielife

Links:

FTC Influencer Guidelines: FTC.gov/influencers

Cost of Influencers: https://buffer.com/resources/influencer-marketing-cost

Instagram Money Calculator: https://influencermarketinghub.com/instagram-money-calculator/

Creating Content that Matters

Creating Content that Matters

Otherwise Known as: Value-Rich Content
As marketers and business people we walk a fine line between explaining our product in a manner that achieves sales, and over-selling our product.

The holy grail of marketing is selling 100 percent of your inventory at retail price. The way to do that is to locate the audience that: wants your product, can use it, and has such a great experience with it that they buy more and tell other people about it.

Finding that audience is a bit like fishing. Where you look are the fishing holes, and what you say is the bait. It’s the bait we want to talk about today.

Keeping a steadfast commitment to providing value-rich content actually starts with your advertising copy and continues through your product delivery. It might sound airy-fairy, but are you enriching someone’s life? When someone clicks on your ad, are you taking them down a path of value?

The Internet is filled with those who shill. (How much time do you waste on click-bait?).

at buZZgen, we call it advertising haiku: an authentic representation of your product in 10 words or less. It’s not easy.

Avoid the potato chips of digital marketing – high volume keywords and ad content with no conversion.

Don’t gratuitously use a competitor’s high-volume trademarked brand name (even though Google lets you).

Avoid baseless emotional pleas – a child will die if you don’t click now; or everyone’s favorite: you should have seen what happened next!

Truthfully, we all know the don’ts. It is the do’s that are a little harder to consistently apply.

Does your ad pass the sniff test? Does it accurately represent your product to your target audience.

Once someone clicks, do they get something of value? Something that enhances their life (and that might not just be the product purchase).

Every business is an expert in something. Are you offering your customer your expertise? Is it easy for them obtain? If you are sending someone to a landing page, besides the conversion is there something on that page (or the Thank You page) that breaks off a little bit of what makes you special and shares it with your audience?

Perhaps that is a white paper, an insight, or a blog. Include something valuable on the autoresponder (selling travel? Maybe it’s the top 10 places to get a hamburger.) Think about it not as an opportunity to continue to sell yourself, but an opportunity to share your knowledge and passion.

At the end of the day, it is what most of us want: an experience that transcends the ordinary; knowledge that helps us grow; an affirmation of community. Your advertising can be the first step in achieving that. Seriously.

A Behind the Scenes Look at Online Travel Deals

A Behind the Scenes Look at Online Travel Deals

In the beginning, there was the Travel Agent. She (or he) was your guide to all things travel. A trip to their office entailed long fanciful explorations of beautiful brochures and conversations about what insider tips could be imparted, or what deals could be found. Once a price was negotiated, the trip was booked and you spent the next three months (or more) saving to pay for it while you gazed lovingly at the brochure now propped up on your desk next to your family snapshots.

Then the internet came, and it was good. The online era of DIY travel opened up and instead of ringing your favorite airline (remember Continental, TWA, Pan Am?) AND the hotel brand you loved the most, access to databases for prices and availabilities that used to only be the domain of the Travel Agent opened up. It was heady power, and the public began booking their own travel at a rate that almost spelled the complete demise of the Travel Agent profession.

The problem then became the lack of insider knowledge, where were the deals and how to find them? Comparing prices became a pretty involved process and included a lot of effort and a little anxiety. The user had no way to quickly aggregate data to compare prices until some hot-shot Silicon Valley types put together computer programs that started doing just that.

Those aggregators, when they first started, offered a very valuable service to the user looking for the best price.

But then came consolidation and the 80 pound gorilla.

You might be aware that most of the online fare aggregators and travel meta search engines (also known as OTAs – Online Travel Agencies) are only owned by two major companies. Expedia has Travelocity, Orbitz, Hotels.com, Hotwire, Trivago, CheapTickets and eBookers, among others. Priceline owns Booking.com, priceline.com, KAYAK, agoda.com, rentalcars.com, and OpenTable.

Very quickly travel companies, such as hotels and airlines, who used to negotiate separate contracts with different booking engines – separate contracts with separate rates – now have a clause that calls for “parity.” In this case, parity means that your airline seat or hotel room can’t be sold to a competitor for less. And even in many instances, that same room can’t be advertised on the brand’s own website for less than it is offered to Expedia (for example).

So whether you love or hate the Trivago guy, (and there’s a whole online discussion with its own hashtag even #trivagoguy about if he’s cute or creepy and the fact that he should wear a belt if his shirt is tucked in), you are probably not going to find rates online that vary much for a single brand. For example, if the Napa River Inn is advertising a Standard Queen room for $299 a night – it will be that price on Expedia, Booking.com, TripAdvisor, and NapaRiverInn.com.

Does that mean there really aren’t any deals left? Lots of times you can look online at a brand’s site – or call — for their “Book Direct” or other packages which have become some of the best values available. In order to incentivize guests, some hotels offer free parking, gift baskets, waived resort fees, or even an upgrade, and these packages are not available to the OTAs. Those hotels are also 100% dedicated to handling the needs of their guests and their properties. Unlike the OTAs who have tens of thousands of properties, and not necessarily the best record at dispute resolution.

Where the OTAs do excel is in showing multiple hotels, rental car agencies, and airlines head-to-head. However it’s up to you to determine if you are comparing apples to apples — room type, star rating, location, etc. can all vary wildly.

And to make it even more interesting, not everyone places all of their availability online. Some companies, hotels in particular, will often have room types that aren’t available via OTAs and might only be discovered via a phone call or quick trip to their website.

Another thought-provoking tidbit about the aggregators and meta search engines is that if you book through them, you are their customer and not the customer of the hotel, airline, or rental car. That aggregator hides much of your personal data from the end business and making updates or cancellations to your reservations has to be done through the aggregator. It’s an interesting relationship for the traveler – previously you were a shared customer with the hotel/airline/rental car. Today, the aggregator wants to keep you as their customer and manage as much of your travel business as they can, getting big commissions for pushing your toward their preferred clients.

Wishful travel planning has become almost a daily online activity. 2017 statistics say that travelers consume 23 hours of digital travel media before booking online. Interestingly, around 30% of travel is still done through a Travel Agent, and another 30% booked direct.

Clearly, the ease of online price checking has open whole new worlds of travel opportunity, but you may want to consider the benefit of old-fashioned relationships if the discount isn’t eye-popping enough.

Important Digital News that Should be on Your Radar

Important Digital News that Should be on Your Radar

Pivoting isn’t easy, and it looks very different for every business out there. It is complicated by the fact that we don’t know how long the current environment will remain, nor what the aftermath will look. Pausing, though, could be more damaging in the long run. When you remove yourself from the equation completely that gives your competitors the opportunity to take over your mindshare/marketshare. And getting it back isn’t nearly as easy as giving it up*.

Here are some questions we think will help you construct a pivot for your business. You may be surprised by the insights or breakthroughs that come from answering these questions.

  1. What do your customers need more of right now?
  2. What are you uniquely positioned to offer?
  3. How could you take advantage of technology to make your offering more appealing?
  4. Revisit your buying/selling persona, have they been impacted as well?
  5. If your personas are impacted, how are you responding on your editorial calendar?
  6. Does your pricing structure need to change for a temporary period?
  7. If you had an abundance of resources at your fingertips, what would you do differently during this period?
  8. How could you be using social media and content creation to boost your business right now?
  9. How do you want to be perceived as showing up during this time?
  10. If you need to pause, could you pivot the experience so that you can still deliver, but in a different way?

We would love to hear how you are handling the pivot.

*Footnote: There’s great examples in this  Forbes article

In the 1920’s, Post was the category leader in the ready-to-eat cereal category. During the Great Depression, Post cut back significantly its advertising budget and rival Kellogg’s doubled its advertising spend, investing heavily in radio and introducing a new cereal called Rice Krispies, featuring “Snap,” “Crackle” and “Pop.” Kellogg’s profits grew by 30% and the company became the category leader, a position it has maintained for decades.