Experience {plus} Technology {equals} Results.

Does Disruptive Advertising Annoy You?

by john

You can’t blame media companies for trying to make a living. But consumers are growing ever weary of ubiquitous disruptive advertising, such as pop-up ads on websites that are not relevant.

There is another way for marketers. With inbound marketing, you provide something of value to prospects – white paper, product comparison data, promotional offer, etc. – and, in return, they provide something of value to you – their email address, information about themselves, and their attention.

Here’s an example: You create a white paper providing advice on how your target audiences can save money. You promote it in a blog using carefully selected key search terms. You promote the blog via social media and in an email to your prospects list. Every communication contains a link to a landing page where interested persons download the white paper after providing their name, email address, company name and zip code.

You have engaged with your prospects in a helpful manner and collected additional email addresses. Don’t stop now! You continue providing your contacts helpful information and continue learning more about them.

I became interested in inbound marketing about five years ago (better late than never), but it wasn’t until JTMarCom became a partner agency with Hubspot a year ago that I truly understood the full picture — how an inbound marketing software platform such as Hubspot provides a measurable system for finding leads through content and nurturing them through the purchase funnel from consideration to brand evangelist.

Tying marketing communications to measurable results is the holy grail, particularly for companies that don’t have big research budgets to measure things like brand equity before and after an advertising campaign. How does the old saying go? I know that 10 percent of my advertising is working; I just don’t know which 10 percent.

With Hubspot, you know exactly what is working on the most important metric of all – gaining new customers.

At JTMarCom, we do a lot of work in the tire and automotive aftermarket industries, and it is amazing to see how many companies are running ads on industry websites that simply link to the company’s website.

Wouldn’t it be so much better to link the ad to a landing page (such as the example below from MuleSoft) where you can mulesoft landing pagecapture information about prospects for future communications. The landing page contains a “smart” form so you can learn more about your contacts each time they visit one of your landing pages.

According to Hubspot, companies with 100 to 200 website pages generate 2.5 times more leads than companies with 50 or fewer pages.

I’ll be focusing a lot more on inbound marketing in future blog posts. It is the best approach I’ve seen for tying marketing to sales.

If you’ve had experience with inbound marketing or would like to learn more, please leave a comment. I would love to hear from you.

 

 

Aeolus Helps Consumers Find the “True Value” in Tires

by john

What does “value” really mean?  In the tire industry, it’s a term often used by marketers of lower second and third-tier brands to inform consumers that their offering is a “good tire at a good price.”

There are several similar definitions in the dictionaries; the one I like is “the amount of money that something is worth.”

Consumers may equate “value” with “lowest price” but that is missing the true value of the word.  A “high-priced” tire such as Michelin can offer the best value because it lasts a really long time and delivers excellent comfort and control.

I had a great conversation with Mike Leverington, U.S. general manager for Aeolus Tires, at the recent SEMA Show/Global Tire Expo about their new True Tire Value (TTV) tool that calculates the value of tires and compares how they stack up against one another.

 

Aeolus logo. jpeg

TTV is calculated by dividing a tire’s quality score (based upon UTQG standards) by its retail price from leading tire retailers.  Using an iPad, a dealer salesperson can show a consumer exactly how tires stack up against each other in terms of true value in that particular market.

The TTV tool is not perfect because we all know that UTQG ratings are self reported by tire manufacturers and not audited by the government.  But I applaud Leverington and Aeolus Tire for taking a step in the right direction by giving dealer salespeople an effective tool to help their customers make more informed purchasing decisions.  And who knows, maybe some day there will be teeth in the UTQG system.

According to Leverington, “value is the relationship between quality and price. Simply put, how much do you really get for your money? Consumers deserve to know what they are getting for their hard-earned money, and our True Tire Value tool does just that.”

I couldn’t agree more!  I would love to hear other ideas on how the industry can help consumers become more informed and interested in a product that keeps them attached to good ‘ole Mother Earth as they motor down the freeway.

7 Steps to Building Positive Buzz Through Brand Ambassadors

by john

Third-party testimonials have always been important, but with the advent of social media and online consumer review services, they are absolutely crucial.  Social media is word-of-mouth on steroids, making it well worth your time to foster brand advocates who can “talk up” your brand to thousands of potential customers through YouTube videos, Instagram photos, Facebook posts and the like.

McKinsey & Associates estimates that two-thirds of the economy is now driven by peer recommendations, thanks in large part to the ubiquity of social media. At the same time, trust in corporate advertising and institutions in general (Washington D.C. anyone?) is sinking.

Why not create a formal brand ambassador program to give your testimonials a boost?  This can be an extremely impactful strategy for any brand, particularly challenger brands trying to gain traction in a new market.

Let’s take the tire industry for example. For a brand like Michelin, which has spent hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising over the years to burnish its reputation for quality and safety, a brand ambassador program may not be as critical; although I would argue that even a powerful “pull” brand like Michelin could benefit from such a program.

Let’s say, however, that you’re an Asian tire brand trying to establish yourself in the U.S. Here’s a typical scenario:  A consumer makes a call to his local tire dealer asking about various brands, and the dealer recommends a brand he has not heard of. The price is great, but what about durability and safety?

The prospective tire buyer goes to the Internet to see what experiences other have had. This is where the brand ambassador program comes in. He sees comments from people he trusts (like fellow off-road enthusiasts for example). Maybe it’s a Facebook post or Tweet, or possibly a blog post or YouTube video.  Whatever the platform, it’s the validation he’s looking for to move forward with the purchase.

Off-road enthusiast David Jones, a brand ambassador for GT Radial tires, has active fans on Facebook and Instagram.  He also writes guest blogs and creates YouTube videos for the brand.

Off-road enthusiast David Jones, a brand ambassador for GT Radial tires, has active fans on Facebook and Instagram. He also writes guest blogs and creates YouTube videos for the brand.

An effective brand ambassador program does not happen by accident. Here are 7  key steps to setting up a program that will super charge word-of-mouth for your brand:

  1. First, put your listening ears on to find potential ambassadors. Set up Google Alerts for your product and make sure you check the “all results” box so you capture forum comments, not just media stories and blogs.  Monitor your Facebook page for fan comments, search brand mentions via Twitter, and monitor popular online forums in your industry. Alert your customer service folks. Talk to your dealers. Use every possible avenue to find brand enthusiasts.
  2. When you find a candidate, evaluate their clout. Look at their Klout score. Do they have a lot of Facebook friends or Twitter followers? Do they blog? Are they active on Instagram? Assess the size of their audience and how their audience matches up with yours.
  3. Does their tone of voice jive with your brand personality? They may be too “edgy” for your brand or not edgy enough. Dig some into their background. Are there any skeletons in the closet?
  4. Reach out to your top candidates, and develop a formal agreement which outlines what you expect from them and what they can expect from you (i.e., free product).
  5. Train your ambassadors on your product’s features and benefits and brand positioning. Also provide social media training; maybe they could use some pointers on Twitter.
  6. When your ambassadors produce content, amplify their voice through your website, social media platforms and marketing materials.
  7. Stay in touch with your ambassadors on a regular basis. Talk over upcoming events and opportunities. Show them some love, and they will provide you a steady stream of valuable content.

Two words to keep in mind as you implement your program – authenticity and transparency. If your ambassadors start sounding like corporate shills, you’ve lost the all-important third-party credibility factor. Train them on your product attributes and key messages, but let them talk about your brand in their own voice.  Maintaining authenticity contributes to transparency.  You have nothing to hide here. These people love your product; you are just helping them spread the love!

I would love to hear from you about other tips and case studies on successful brand ambassador programs.

GT Radial Brand Ambassador David Jones writes a blog post each time he participates in an off-roading event.

GT Radial Brand Ambassador David Jones writes a blog each time he participates in an off-roading event.

Facebook Gets in the Hashtag Game

by christine

Hashtags are a tremendous way to connect with target audiences across multiple social networks, so it was great news recently when Facebook announced that it is now recognizing hashtags in its news streams.

Now, when you click on a hashtag – any phrase with the # symbol before it – you’ll get a feed of comments using the hashtag. You can also search for hashtags and write posts directly from the hashtag feed.
Let’s say you sell kayaks and are interested in connecting with kayak enthusiasts in your market area. You can now search for local people talking on Facebook about “kayaking,” or write a post – “Anyone going #kayaking this weekend?” This could lead to online conversations with local enthusiasts.

According to Facebook: “Every day, hundreds of millions of people use Facebook to share their thoughts on big moments happening all around them. Whether it’s talking about a favorite television show, cheering on a hometown sports team or engaging with friends during a breaking news event – people on Facebook connect with their friends about what’s taking place all over the world.

“To bring these conversations more to the forefront, we will be rolling out a series of features that surface some of the interesting discussions people are having about public events, people and topics. As a first step, we are beginning to roll out hashtags on Facebook.”

This greatly expands the traditional channels that Facebook users have typically used to create the possibilities for organic and campaign-driven chat rooms.

As a Facebook spokesperson explained, “Like other Facebook marketing tools, hashtags allow you to join and drive the conversations happening about your business. We recommend you search for and view real-time public conversations and test strategies to drive those conversations using hashtags.”

Hashtags are actually a part of a bigger initiative, according to Facebook, which notes that, “hashtags are just the beginning of a plan to “bring these conversations more to the forefront.” In the near future, you can expect to see more Facebook features that allow “public conversations,” such as trending hashtags.
I recommend that you give Facebook hashtags a test drive; find out the topics that are the most popular with your target audiences and think about how you can become part of the conversation. Use hashtags to engage with your target audiences and find out what they are thinking; that’s a lot less expensive than doing a focus group!

Are you using Facebook hashtags yet? I would love to hear from you.

Three Online “Must-do’s” for Online Presence

by christine

We had the pleasure recently of speaking at the annual ITDG dealer conference, a conference for tire dealers and a great group of folks who truly epitomize why independent dealers remain the dominant channel for selling tires in America.

 

Our topic was social media/online marketing, and our challenge was covering such a large, important subject in a relatively short period of time.  We decided to focus on three areas that we believe are of critical importance to any one looking to make an online presence with their business:

 

Mobile Website

Consider this:

  • More people on planet Earth own a mobile phone (5.1 billion) than own a toothbrush (4.2 billion).  I’m not sure how Mobile Marketing Asia knows how many people own a toothbrush, but in addition to providing a truly gross factoid, they are pointing out the undeniable ubiquity of mobile phones.  Also consider that more than half of mobile phones today are smartphones; a percentage that is growing by leaps and bounds.

 

  • 70 percent of all mobile searches result in action within one hour.

 

  • 95 percent of smartphone users looked up local information, and out of those, 61 percent called and 59 percent visited the business.

It is important to understand the difference between a mobile-optimized website and a website that will pull up on a mobile phone.  A mobile-optimized site gives the consumer everything he or she needs immediately and is easily viewable on the phone screen. This can be something as minimal as click icons for the phone, email and directions to your place of business or event, as well as your current promotional offers or information you are giving at the time.

 

This is totally different from your standard website where the consumer has to search around and resize the information to find what they are most interested in – your business!

So we are talking about two different sites – one for mobile searches and your traditional website for the larger desktop and laptop screens.  The Googlebot-Mobile crawler recognizes searches from mobile phones and directs users to mobile-optimized sites; though 100 percent recognition is not here yet.  In the meantime, make sure your mobile site links to your traditional site and vice versa.

 

Facebook Graph Search

Facebook Graph Search is a game changer.  With Graph Search, a person can check his or her Facebook friends’ views on brands. In the case of our tire dealer friends let’s say you are a consumer considering buying tires from ACME Tire.  You can find out if any of your friends “like” ACME Tire and get their opinions.   Traditional search engines return relevant content from the entire web; Facebook’s Graph Search returns highly personalized content from the searcher’s own personal network (social graph).

 

Graph Search will launch system-wide later this year.  What should tire dealers do to prepare?  First, if you are a multi-store business, manage your corporate page but also build out pages for each store location.  Make sure the store information is complete and correct, and links to your corporate page.

 

Secondly, build your fan base!  Facebook advertising is a great way to do this.  The more fans you have, the more potential references you will have in Graph Search.  Also, engage with your fans; the more interactions a page receives the more likely it will appear in Graph Search results.

 

Manage Your Local Business Listings

Changes in search algorithms have made it easier than ever for small businesses to harness the power of local search.  According to Google, 73 percent of all online activity is related to local content.

 

More than ever it is important to have your site listed. Brand Recognition continues to be as important as it has been. Things like SEO and Google rankings can play an important role in your businesses life or death.

 

It is estimated that more than 80 percent of consumers do online research before they purchase tires.  If you pay attention to these three areas, you will make sure that they will find you through local business listings, see what their friends have to say about you, and be able to find your key information quickly and easily from a mobile phone.

 

–       Christine Taylor

Grow Your Blog Audience Through Social Media

by christine

We all know that a blog is one of the best ways to move your content up in search engine rankings.  But without promotion, a blog has little chance for exposure and, thus, little impact on SEO.

Social media is a logical first step.  Many businesses have already established social media profiles.  Use all of them to promote individual blog posts.  If you are an individual blogger, set up social media profiles specifically for your blog; in particular, develop a Google+ profile that links to your blog.  Google is ramping up its recognition of “authors” of content in their search algorithms.

Blogs and social media were born to thrive together.  Take a look at how GT Radial Tire (a JTMarCom client) is promoting their talkin’ tires blog on their Facebook page.

A great place to start is to share your blog post on Facebook.  Upload an interesting and relevant photo, write a headline and paste a link.  Photos perform significantly better than links on Facebook’s Edgerank algorithm which determines which posts are prioritized on fans’ news feeds.

Use LinkedIn as well.  Join some LinkedIn groups that fit your target audience and post your blog in the discussions section.

Post a link to your blog post on Twitter with a catchy introduction to grab people’s attention. Add hashtags when appropriate on keywords.  And don’t forget to leave room in your 140 characters for people to share with a comment.

Marc Pitman, writing for Social Media Examiner, suggests posting your whole blog on Google+. To do so, paste the blog link and a photo will appear. Choose the thumbnail you wish to display and then paste the whole blog post in the text section. This will take advantage of Google search, especially if you use relevant keywords in your blog.  Share your blog with all relevant circles.

Tumblr, Delicious., and Pinterest are other great platforms for sharing blog posts.

Also, expand your audience and increase your credibility by sending your blog to other sites, such as publication websites or blogs that reach your audiences.

You can also post comments with your blog link on other users’ Facebook walls, Tweets, etc. The key here is to avoid spamming by posting links in non-relevant places.  Keep in mind that few people will want to click on your link if your message sounds like a sales pitch.  Teeth whitening anyone?

Finally, use Google analytics to determine which social media sites are bringing the most, and best, readers to your blog.

I would love to hear about social media tactics you use to promote your blog.

Truck Manufacturers and Social Media: The Good and Not So Good

by David Patton

Last year at the Mid America Trucking Show, a keynote speaker dismissed social media as a marketing tool. One year later, all of the major truck manufacturers have jumped on board with social media, with varying levels of success.

 

Freightliner and International are successfully using Facebook and Twitter to engage with their audiences. Freightliner spotlights a truck and its driver on a weekly basis and shares relevant information about its brand including news stories, features, contests and polls that provide incentives for participation. Freightliner’s Facebook page features information and contests related to NASCAR (Freightliner is the official hauler of NASCAR), a great strategy for expanding Freightliner’s audience beyond the trucking world.

 

International frequently shares relevant photographs of company-related events and of its trucks around the world on Facebook. During the 2012 Mid-America Show in Louisville, International made its company historian available for questions via social media.

 

International began tweeting about Mid-America long before the show began and was active on Twitter throughout the three-day event. International often provides rewards for Twitter engagement and is good about keeping its Tweets interesting, Tweeting about holidays and other topical news.

 

Several truck manufacturers are successfully using YouTube. Freightliner, Kenworth, Mack and International all have done a good job of posting videos of new trucks and their features. Freightliner and Mack have featured truck owners and their stories. Freightliner has shared its history and videos of classic Freightliner trucks. International frequently shares driving tips with its owners, and it provided great coverage of MATS, from show set-up to a recap of events. International and Volvo used YouTube to discuss the causes in which the companies are involved.

 

Some truck manufacturers certainly have room for improvement in their social media marketing.  Mack and Peterbilt do not have Facebook pages or have long deserted them. Kenworth is on Facebook but not consistently.

 

Here are some insights into areas that truck manufacturers could improve on in social media:

 

  • None of the truck brands are using the Milestone feature on the new Facebook Timeline format. Posting Milestones would be a great way for these companies to share their brand heritage, especially considering that many truck manufacturers have long and interesting histories.

 

  • Every brand would benefit from engaging consumers and the press on Twitter. As I mentioned before, International provides a great example of how a company can use Twitter to converse with users rather than simply promote itself, and its variety of content makes its tweets more effective. Kenworth, Mack, and Volvo Trucks could benefit from posting more content on Twitter and making the content more varied.

 

  • Google Plus is an up and coming social network with over 100 million users. We recommend that truck manufacturers claim their pages and start using this site for promotion and networking.

 

  • Regularly posting high quality videos on YouTube that cover a diverse range of topics can help increase brand awareness and give fans more to talk about. Kenworth and Western Star could benefit from more diverse content and a higher frequency of video uploads. Because it does not have a YouTube channel, Peterbilt is missing a great opportunity to promote its brand.

 

 

 

I look forward to seeing how truck manufacturers develop their social media strategies in the future as the industry becomes more connected through social networks. Social media is a great opportunity for truck manufacturers to continue to build their brand image and connect more directly with customers and fans. Because the truck industry has a high level of brand loyalty and interest, truck manufacturers can greatly benefit from effectively using social media.

 

Trucking Industry is Getting Social

by john

I walked the floor at the recent Mid America Trucking Show to get an idea of how quickly the trucking industry is adopting social media and the latest digital technologies.

I found that some companies are very engaged, others are in the process of becoming more involved, and others are sticking their head in the sand – believing that they will lose “control” if they put themselves out there in social media.   Guys, you are already “out there.”  Web 2.0 technologies have significantly shifted the power from institutions to the people.  Get with the program!

Anecdotally speaking, I saw a lot more social media activity than at last year’s show.  The show’s Twitter hashtag was very active, companies were using social media to drive booth traffic, and it was clear that social media is playing a greater role in marketing strategies for many.

 

I liked what I saw from Michelin.  They are actively listening to their customers on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc., and according to Michelin Marketing Communications Manager Bianca Hogan, the company has established procedures for engaging with advocates and responding to detractors (when a response is appropriate).

It was music to my ears when Ryan Fisher, account manager with Michelin agency Jackson Marketing Group, described how they conducted research at another trucking show to find out which social media platforms are most used by drivers and owner operators.  We see the opposite all too often; companies wanting to jump into Facebook, Twitter or something else before really analyzing how, where and why their target audiences are using social media.  For the record, they found Facebook to be the main platform with Twitter and YouTube also very popular.  Facebook and YouTube are a great way for these road warriors to stay in touch, personally and professionally, while Twitter is good for sharing the latest news on road delays, weather conditions, etc.

Joan O’Clair, corporate communications and social media manager for TravelCenters of America and Petro Stopping Centers, explained that the company has launched a popular iPhone app. to help customers check fuel prices, utilize the company’s emergency road service and much more.  Phase II of the app. is on its way with restaurant specials and more.

Magnus Koeck, vice president of marketing and brand development for Volvo Trucks North America, said Volvo Trucks has been involved in social media for some time in Europe.  Koeck said he has challenged his team to learn more about New Media because it is obvious that Volvo Trucks’ customers are spending more and more time online.  He said they will soon be adding a digital media specialist to the marketing staff.

It was also great to see the traditional media integrating social media into their offerings.  We had a great conversation with Deborah and Evin Lockridge about how they are using Twitter and other New Media tools at Heavy Duty Trucking magazine.

Then there was the speaker who warned the audience not to get involved in Facebook for security reasons.  Yes, you have to be aware of security issues and have a social media policy in place.  But advising not to get involved is akin to a transportation company in the early part of the 20th Century sticking with mules and wagons because you could lose control of a motorized vehicle’s steering wheel.

 

 

 

Flipping the Funnel in the Trucking Industry

by john


We will be walking the floor this week at the Mid America Trucking Show, and I’m really interested to find out if trucking industry companies are allocating more of their marketing resources to social media.

Specifically, are they shifting marketing resources from one-way communications (i.e., advertising) to two-way communications (facilitated by social media) with their customers and potential customers?

 

According to McKinsey’s David Edelman in an insightful Harvard Business Review article, companies today are over-emphasizing  the “consider” and “buy” stages at the top of the purchase funnel, continuing to put the lion’s share of their marketing resources into building awareness through advertising.  What they are missing is how consumers today remain engaged with a brand after the purchase . . . talking about it (good or bad) via social media, participating in online forums, etc.  Thanks to Web 2.0 technologies, consumers are now sharing their opinions with people across the globe . . . instantaneously, reaching potentially thousands or millions of others.

 

Consumers today rely heavily on digital interactions to evaluate products.  Products drop in and out of their consideration set during this rigorous process.  And after the purchase, they remain engaged with the brand through social media.

 

Edelman says, “Marketing investments that help consumers navigate the evaluation process and then spread positive word of mouth about the brands they choose can be as important as building awareness and purchase.”

 

Why?  According to McKinsey, two-thirds of the economy is now based on recommendations . . . not the funniest TV ad . . . nor the most eye-catching billboard.  According to Nielson, only 14 percent of people trust ads, while 76 percent trust others’ recommendations.  People in the trucking industry have always placed a heavy emphasis on word-of-mouth.  After all, if you’re making a six figure investment in a tractor, you want to hear the opinions of your peers.

 

Still, though, many marketers focus on media spend (typically 80 – 90 percent of their budget) that hits consumers at the “consider” and “buy” stages all while consumers are increasingly influenced during the evaluation stage and what Edelman calls the “enjoy-advocate-bond” stages.

 

What to do?  First, carefully analyze all the touch points for your target consumers and which channels are most influencing their decisions.  Go beyond analyzing paid media; also think about “earned” media such as online communities, blogs and product review websites.

 

Then, shift some of your budget to funding the people and technology required to create and manage content for a plethora of online channels.  We’re talking two-way communications here; time consuming yes, but so worth it.

I’ll report back next week on what I find.  In the meantime, enjoy the show!  Don’t forget to follow  http://twitter.com/truckingshow and the #mats hashtag on Twitter.  Give us a follow as well. http://twitter.com/JTMarCom

 

 

 

 

 

YouTube is not just acrobatic kittens and dancing babies

by john
YouTube is not just for Dancing Babies and Cute Kittens
We talk to a lot of business people who don’t use YouTube because they think it is all about shocking scenes and cute videos with dancing babies and acrobatic kittens.  While it’s true that truly entertaining videos have the best chance to go viral, YouTube can still be a tremendous (and free) resource for any business.  
According to CitySearch.com, a customer is twice as likely to visit your store if you have a video of your store on your website.  Seeing your store and employees on a video, or a customer testimonial, builds customer confidence and increases the chances that the customer will come see you.
Click here to see a video customer testimonial for Alliance Tire Americas (a client of ours).  Nicely done, and it did not require an expensive camera or production crew.  An effective YouTube video can be shot on a $75 Flip camera.  YouTube audiences are not expecting a slick piece; in fact, this is often a negative.  Make it genuine, but also make it short (30 seconds to 2 minutes).  And get to the point; attention spans are not what they used to be.
So how could tire dealers, for example, effectively use YouTube?
– Show your showroom and interview a few employees.
– Interview satisfied customers for testimonials.
– Shoot educational videos on how to winterize your car, getting ready for summer, etc.
Check out the Sullivan Tire YouTube channel.  Great job!
Using YouTube is easy, but there are some techniques and best practices that can help you use it effectively. Shoot me a comment and I will send you our YouTube white paper which takes you from A to Z.