How to Get Your Marketing Into the Spirit of the Season

Christmas shoppers
Brace yourselves: Holiday marketing is coming. Many people grumble about the appearance of Christmas decorations and marketing before Thanksgiving, but if your holiday campaigns aren't already in motion, you might be missing out on leads.

Here are some tips that can help your company separate itself from a tidal wave of holiday marketing campaigns. You'll bring in customers and create a positive image during a hectic time of year.

Host a Social Media Contest


Holiday marketing is flooded with great deals every year, and there's nothing wrong with joining the chorus. This year use the gift-giving spirit of the holidays to not only engage existing customers through your social media channels but also attract new customers by hosting a contest or giveaway for a free product or service.

Social media contests can be as simple as "share this" or "like this" to have customers enter. To create a full-blown social media contest, you could ask your customers to record a video or take a picture and post it with a creative contest hashtag. Using social media will engage your customers more than having them simply submit a form, and your company will be at the forefront of their minds while they're preparing their entry.

Give Back to Your Community


Getting into the spirit of the holiday season doesn't have to mean throwing a holiday sale or a contest. You can do something philanthropic by participating in or sponsoring charitable events, such as food or clothing drives, in your community. Without asking for a purchase or offering a discount to incentivize participants, getting involved in charitable events is a great way to show your community and customer base that you’re about more than the bottom line. While you may not be focusing on increasing sales while you're volunteering or making donations, you could inadvertently end up gaining new customers.

Go Against the Grain


Black Friday is easily the busiest shopping day of the year, and retailers are constantly fighting to get a bigger piece of the (pumpkin) pie. To do so, many stores have started opening on Thanksgiving Day in an attempt to bring in more and more customers during the four-day weekend. However, some companies, such as Neiman Marcus, Costco and Dillard's, have taken a stand against being open on Thanksgiving Day, and REI has taken it a step further.

Continuing the #OptOutside tradition, REI will be closed on Black Friday for the fourth year in a row. Going against the grain this holiday season — in this case, not opening when many of your competitors are — is one way to show your employees some love and to get some good PR.

With all this new knowledge, what are you waiting for? Go forth and get marketing!

Originally posted in November 2015; updated in November 2018.

How to Pick the Right Call Tracking Provider

Analysis graph on tablet device
When it comes to picking a call tracking provider, there’s no shortage of vendors to choose from. It’s a bit like picking a coffee shop. Most stores have basic black coffee, lattes and cappuccinos. But there are other factors to consider when picking your favorite java stop: signature drinks, location, atmosphere, etc.

In the same way, most call tracking companies offer the basics, which include toll-free numbers, local numbers, inbound call tracking and various call routing options. The key to finding the provider that works for you is to make sure the vendor offers features that meet your company’s unique needs and preferences. Let’s look at a few of these features.

Campaign Targeting


Good marketers know that targeting everyone reaches no one. If you’re using call tracking to improve your marketing efforts, look for features that help you improve your targeting:

  • Local and Vanity Numbers — Check to see if the call tracking provider you’re considering can provide you with the numbers you need to target a specific geographic region or demographic.
  • PPC and Organic Search Call Tracking — To track and optimize for online-to-offline conversions, you need to know which keywords actually led to phone calls. Using a technology called Dynamic Number Insertion (DNI), pay-per-click (PPC) and organic search call tracking provide keyword-level call attribution so you can optimize your online campaigns.
  • Call Mapping — By providing a visual representation of which regions your calls are coming from, call mapping helps you improve geographic segmentation.

Reporting


With the rise of Big Data, you’re bombarded with enough data as it is. More data isn’t better unless you can use it to meet your objectives. Evaluate the types of metrics the call tracking vendor provides and make sure the call tracking dashboard can be customized to your preferences. Some of the reports you might look for include:

  • Total calls per hour, day, etc.
  • Total missed calls per hour, day, etc.
  • Total rescued opportunities
  • Total number of after-hours calls
  • Call activity by customer or agent
  • Total calls per campaign
  • Campaign ROI

Call Evaluation


Are your sales reps calling customers back? Are your customer service agents providing the kind of service that represents your brand well? What are customers saying during phone conversations with your employees? Your call tracking service should empower you to confidently answer all these questions through call evaluation features like these:

    Smiling woman wearing headset in call center
  • Outbound Call Tracking — If you need to make sure your agents are returning or following up on calls, outbound call tracking is a must. Surprisingly, though, not all inbound call tracking providers give you the option to track outbound calls.
  • Call Recordings — Listening to call recordings helps you look beyond call metrics to get a better picture of how conversations with customers are going. For example, a high number of calls in response to a campaign looks good on paper, but if all those calls are from people calling to complain, that’s not good. If your agents regularly place outbound calls, make sure your provider offers outbound call recording, as some companies only record inbound calls.
  • Speech-Recognition Technology — Reviewing call recordings can take hours — what manager has that much time to spare in a day? Look for a tool to automatically scan your recorded inbound and outbound calls for key phrases of your choice (product names, curse words, etc.). By knowing which calls contain those words or phrases, you can narrow down which call recordings you need to listen to.
  • Call Evaluation Professionals — While technology is great for picking up certain words, sometimes it takes a human to pick on up nuances. Too many leads and customers are lost to bad phone service and process deficiencies. But once again, who has hours a day to listen to phone calls? Trained call evaluation professionals can listen to your calls for you and notify you of any call handling errors and potential missed opportunities.

Productivity Tools


The more convenient and efficient a tool is, the more likely you and your employees are to use it consistently, which in turn leads to better processes and more accurate data. Here are a few features to look for:
  • Mobile App for Missed Opportunities — While it’s important to keep track of your missed sales opportunities, it’s not as effective if you’re only acting on the information half the time. If you’re going to track missed opportunities, make your call tracking provider has an app that allows you to receive missed opportunity alerts, listen to calls and add notes to recent calls while you’re on the go.
  • Desktop Application — When a call comes in, a desktop application shows the caller’s information and the associated campaign in a small popup window. That way, you don’t have to have a browser open to look up call tracking data.
  • CRM Integration — Requiring your staff to manually enter call tracking data into your CRM and vice versa is a sure way to end up with incomplete or incorrect customer data. Be sure you can integrate your CRM with your call tracking platform.
  • Click To Call for Outbound Calls — When your agents are returning customer calls, having a Click To Call button within the call log allows the employee to return calls quickly and avoid dialing errors.
  • Call Safe — When placing outbound calls, it’s imperative that you comply with the federal Do Not Call (DNC) list. Look for a tool that automatically scans phone numbers against the DNC registry as an additional layer of protection.

Feeling overwhelmed yet? Get in touch with us and we’ll help you identify the features and services that’ll help you meet your goals.

Originally posted in April 2014; updated in October 2018.

Three Signs Your Marketing Strategy Is Stuck in the Past

It's crazy to think we're now less than two years away from 2020. Wasn't it just 2010? Weren't we just experimenting with viral videos, joining social media as a brand for the first time and diving into mobile advertising?

Man working on outdated machine next to child on new technology.As time flies by, it's important to make sure your marketing techniques are flying along with you. The traditional approach of sticking to what's worked in the past won't help you maintain a competitive advantage. Your competitors are and have always been watching your every move and will be scheming to differentiate their product from yours. How can you keep up if you're too hesitant to change?

It's out with the old and in with the new. If any of the outdated strategies below hit a little too close to home, keep reading to learn how you can overcome some common mistakes and embrace the change.

You Trust Your Gut Over Data


How are customers interacting with your company? What led them to your site or initially sparked their interest in you, resulting in an improved perception of your company? What can you do to continue being more visible? Without data, your answer to these questions is nothing but a hunch. With something as important as your job or the company's growth and profits on the line, do you really want to risk not utilizing the right data to make educated decisions?

Although decision makers who have the final say can sometimes be set in their ways and think they know best, McKinsey revealed that companies that don't put data at the center of their marketing and sales decisions are missing out on a 15-20 percent increase in marketing ROI. The data we now have access to is astounding — utilizing it means a better experience for all parties involved. Consider implementing data to track the effectiveness of your advertisements, website, content marketing, keywords and online-to-offline conversion rates.

Your Brand Still Lacks a Personality on Social Media


It's time to get real with potential and current customers on social media sites. People want to feel like they're interacting with a real person. Take MoonPie, for example. In response to a snarky tweet at the brand from a user named Kaela, MoonPie broke customer service norms and responded back with a witty jab of its own. The conversation received thousands of impressions.

Now we're not saying you have to give snarky remarks to negative comments your social media accounts receive, but it is time to get personal with potential and current customers on social media sites. With about 2 billion users logging into three of the biggest channels every month (Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus), it's no surprise that brands are literally hiring people to be hilarious to make the brand go viral and get more impressions.

Even if you're looking to maintain a more sophisticated social media persona, make sure you're doing your best to engage your customers on social media. If they tweet you, make sure you're replying promptly. If your posts aren't getting impressions, consider doing some research to discover what does get impressions. Social media is one of the least expensive ways to increase brand awareness, so make sure you're maximizing all the resources it provides.

You Haven't Automated Anything


Increased efficiency is the goal for a lot of companies these days, and it's becoming more and more feasible and affordable to implement artificial intelligence (AI), such as interactive voice response (IVR) or chatbots. These technologies increase efficiency by taking care of minuscule tasks, allowing your staff time to work on more cumbersome tasks.

We definitely think keeping human touch alive is critical (just check out our last blog post) but by the year 2035, AI will be boosting productivity by a staggering 40 percent or more, which certainly justifies the need for automation.

While sticking to whatever conventional methods your company has been using is comfortable and familiar, it's time to innovate. Jackie Fenn, a specialist in innovation for Gartner, said, "You cannot afford to stay still — business is a moving escalator. The world is moving around you  customer expectations are changing, competitors are always catching up and threatening to take away your business." We couldn't agree more.

What is your business doing to stay ahead of the curve?

Why Your Customers Still Expect Human Interaction in an Artificial Intelligence World

Human and robot play tug-of-war.
There's no question about it that artificial intelligence (AI)  computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence  will rapidly transform our world as we know it. In fact, it already is. From voice-controlled assistants to self-driving cars, the future is knocking (literally... a robot could be knocking). Is your company going to answer?

The real debate is how good are AI capabilities without the joint efforts of human touch? Will a lack of human emotion have a negative impact on the customer experience? Arguably, there are some things AI simply cannot replace.

If your company does take the leap into AI, we believe it works best in conjunction with human interaction. Below are the reasons why you should keep your company's human touch alive, even after implementing artificial intelligence.

Authenticity


Are you listening to what your customers want? An Accenture study found that 73 percent of customers prefer human interactions. Whether you utilize interactive voice response (IVR) or chatbots, AI is beneficial for increased efficiency and freeing up your agents from tedious tasks. 

When this is the case, provide your customers with an easily accessible communication option that allows them to quickly connect to a real human. By granting them the option to choose, you're making the customer experience more customized and much more enjoyable for both parties involved.

Empathy


Have you ever had a bad customer service experience that made you feel bitter toward a company? Picture being infuriated, calling the company's customer service team in an effort to resolve the issue, and then reaching a machine. The machine navigates you through a long list of menu options that connects you to another machine. Unfortunately, you click the wrong option and are pinballed around for 11 minutes until you finally land with a human to solve your problem.

Regardless of whether a human or machine answers the customer service line, the last thing an angry customer wants to display is patience. They want prompt acknowledgment and a helpful solution. If you haven't already, consider providing an easy-to-find customer service line that's separate from your main business number. That way, the caller can get in touch with one of your employees more quickly, and they can get the solution they're looking for. 

Determining the right mix of AI and human touch can be a challenge. What will your company do to find the right balance?

Three Benefits of Integrating Your Call Tracking Data With Your CRM

Phone data and CRM integration concept
Customer relationship management (CRM) systems are like the iPhone of marketing, sales and customer service. Initially, they were a luxury, but now they're essential. With 3 out of 4 companies having implemented a CRM, the technology has forever changed the customer journey. The CRM is one of the most crucial tools organizations use to monitor leads and strengthen their relationships with customers.

A CRM can increase revenue by a whopping 41 percent per salesperson. In 2014, CRM was returning $8.71 for every $1 spent in investing and maintaining it. To maximize its revenue potential, consider automatically syncing your call tracking data with your CRM. Once you do, you'll realize the following three key benefits.

Comprehensive Picture of Customer Interactions


By integrating your call tracking data with your CRM, you have a broader picture of your customers' interactions with your company and can tailor your customer interactions accordingly.

For instance, let's say John Smith submits a web form with a question about a new product on your website, and he's added to your CRM. You contact him immediately at the number he's provided and leave a voicemail. If you don't have call tracking integration, your sales rep has to remember to make a note of the call in the CRM. If they forget and your staff sees that there's no record that John returned your phone call, they might call poor John again, frustrating him and wasting their own time.

By integrating your call data and your CRM, you can automatically sync call details and audio recordings of each call with each customer's profile. This provides a more seamless (and less confusing) customer experience.

Less Manual Data Entry


Do your employees enjoy manually entering hundreds, or even thousands, of phone leads into your CRM system? Probably not. Not only is it a waste of time, but it also leads to typos and/or double entries in your CRM system. This issue can be frustrating to employees as well as customers. 

For instance, say Beverly Johnson is automatically entered into your CRM as a website lead with the phone number 555.555.1234. She later calls in from the same number, but the rep misspells her name when adding her into the CRM as Bverly Johnson. Since you have two separate records for Beverly, your reps call her twice while making follow-up calls. Now both Beverly Johnson and John Smith are annoyed!

By integrating your call tracking platform and your CRM, you save time, which in turn saves money. In the words of April Ludgate from NBC's sitcom "Parks and Recreation," "Time is money, and money is power..." She goes on, but we'll leave it at that.

More Sales


This goes without saying, but the more seamlessly integrated and accurate data you have, the easier it is to qualify leads and close sales. Plus, when you spend less time on data entry and duplicate follow-ups, you'll have more time to spend on nurturing prospects and customers.

So many businesses aren't yet using their CRM to its full potential. Don't be one of them. Imagine what your sales will look like when you use your call tracking data to fully maximize your CRM investment!

How to Channel Your Inner Leslie Knope Leadership Skills

Source: NBC
Leslie Knope, a character on the NBC sitcom "Parks and Recreation," is an enthusiastic government employee in Pawnee, IN. Her main goal in life is to be the best deputy director for the town she is so passionate about.

[Spoiler alert!] Because of her strong will and inspiring drive, she eventually becomes governor of Indiana, demonstrating that no goal is too big. Simultaneously, she motivates everyone around her to be their best selves. After rewatching this show a couple (or six) times, we've gathered some of Leslie's most empowering quotes to bring out your powerhouse leadership skills!

"Positive is always better than negative."


Knope exudes happy vibes and unlike her last name, she rarely says no, because there is nothing she can't do. Well, she can't pick a salad over waffles, but that's because waffles equal happiness! An example of her positivity? After hearing nothing but negativity at an open forum, she said, "What I hear when I'm being yelled at is people caring loudly at me."

If you can think that positively, it'll be hard for things to bring you down in the office. Remember, attitudes are contagious! As a leader, there will always be eyes watching how you react to tough situations and how you handle things. Positivity also helps productivity flourish, which leads us to our next Knope-ism.

"There is nothing we can't do if we work hard, never sleep and shirk all other responsibilities in our lives."


In one episode, Knope is feeling quite disoriented, mentioning that she slept seven hours, which is double what she normally gets. While we don't recommend cutting down on your Zzz's or shirking responsibilities, we do think her motivational quote is admirable. 

Not only is it important to keep yourself motivated, it's also crucial to understand what motivates your employees. Are they motivated by money like Tom Haverford? Treat yo'self! Or are they more like Jerry (aka Garry, Larry and Terry), preferring to spend time off with family? Whether you ask them straight up or see what works well with trial and error, identifying what pushes them forward every day will ultimately make you more successful and motivated. And remember  they won't all have the same motivations.

"We have to remember what's important in life. Friends, waffles and work. Or waffles, friends, work. But work has to come third."


Leslie Knope loves her job more than anyone could possibly love a job. For example, in one episode, she receives two weeks of probation. One night while on probation, she breaks into the office to do some work because she can't stand not working. Even loving her job that much, she recognizes that she's human and can make time for waffles and friends too.

You're probably thinking, "Waffles could never be more important than a job." And you're probably right. Waffles don't pay the bills. This quote is important, though, because it reminds us to take some time to relax! A stressed leader is a bad leader. Your employees will notice if you're tense (sometimes because you're taking it out on them, unfortunately). If you take a break every now and then to recharge, your employees will thank you.

We hope this post reminds you to stay positive, work hard and relax! Be the Leslie Knope of whatever you do. 

Are You Complying With the DNC Registry?

Source: Classicreload.com
In 2016, there were a whopping 226 million active registrations with the National Do Not Call (DNC) registry. That's millions of people who are desperate to avoid telemarketing calls!

When it comes to the DNC registry, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) doesn't play around. In 2017, it successfully went after Dish Network for calling millions of people on the registry, resulting in a $168 million penalty.

If you make sales calls daily at your business, it's crucial that you avoid calling anyone on the DNC registry. What can you do to help your company avoid the costly consequences of calling people who don't want to be called?

Do Not Call or Do Not Care?


Like most businesses, you're constantly trying to grow your database of prospects, right? After all, you have to have prospects to get more customers. Unfortunately, many companies are taking a quantity over quality approach. The FTC reports that some businesses will try to get around the DNC list by purchasing "lists of customers' phone numbers from companies that falsely claim those customers had given written consent to get sales calls." It's evident that these businesses do know about the DNC list they just don't care about abiding by it.

How did you get the phone numbers for the contacts on your prospect list? Did they openly share their information with you via a phone call, tradeshow, landing page form, marketing event, etc.? If so, you have no need to worry. Calling people that have given you permission to do so is completely legal. But are you absolutely sure you don't have numbers from the DNC registry in your database?


Automatically Scan Calls Against the DNC List


Calling potential prospects without a reliable method for cross-referencing them against the DNC registry is like playing a game of Minesweeper. Sure, there might be some strategy behind it, but for the most part, you're aimlessly clicking buttons and hoping you don't hit a mine to end the game.

What if there were a way to call prospects and gain new customers without the hidden mines? Oh wait, there is! Some call tracking solutions are capable of automatically scanning numbers against the DNC registry. Just catching a flag on one call could save your business $40,654 in fines!

Interested in knowing more about the Do Not Call list? Check out the infographic "The History of the Do Not Call List" for an overview.

Combining Digital and Newspaper Ads to Broaden Your Reach With Millennials

Dog delivering newspapers
You've probably noticed that articles about millennials are taking over the news and internet. From "Millenials Are Not Motivated by Avocado Toast" to "Why Millennials Are the Worst Drivers in America," the internet is chock-full of things to say about this generation.

One headline you won't be able to find is "A Surefire Way to Increase Brand Awareness With Millennials." Being the largest demographic group in the U.S. and consisting of over 80 million people, millennials will have a colossal spending power of $1.4 trillion by 2020. That's a lot of potential revenue to gain from loyal customers.

How can your organization stand out amongst all the rest? After doing some research, we have a few tips.

Hot off the Press... and the Smartphone? How Millennials Read the News


How exactly are millennials getting their news?

You guessed it. This survey found that 75 percent of millennials are utilizing their smartphones to access news channels. Because we know Americans check their phones every 12 minutes, this isn't surprising.

What is surprising is that Vividata has found that a whopping 88 percent of millennials still read newspapers and magazines. The VP of consumer marketing for the New Yorker even said, "Millennials are choosing print overwhelmingly, or digital and print." To broaden your reach with millennials, your business should invest in ad space on both paid news sites and newspapers.

When using print, one of the best ways to call prospects to action is by placing a coupon or incentive on the ad, along with a URL to drive leads to your website and a local number to build credibility and drive calls. Specify a timeline to invoke a sense of urgency. To track online-to-offline conversions, Dynamic Number Insertion (DNI) can help you identify what keyword prospects searched for before they called you.

Make sure your online ads correspond with your print ads. If one channel is not driving as much ROI as another, evaluate which ads brought in your most valuable leads and adjust your ad campaigns.

Millennials Are Willing to Pay Extra! Extra! (Read All About It)


Believe it or not, 18- to 34-year-olds are willing to pay extra for print news or an online subscription to a news source. They're also willing to pay extra for a product or service from a company that offers a high-quality experience.

What steps are you taking to guarantee the best customer experiences for those interacting with your agents on the phone? Are you certain that inbound calls are being handled in the most effective way possible? By implementing call monitoring, you can save any missed customer service opportunities with real-time recordings and documented response rates. Not only will you know which advertisements worked via call attribution, but your customer service will also be top notch when phones start ringing off the hook.

Interested in hearing more about integrated marketing approaches? Check out "Direct Mail vs. Email: Which Channel Should You Focus on in 2018?"

Direct Mail vs. Email: Which Channel Should You Focus on in 2018?

Person viewing marketing analytics on mobile devices
With the New Year now here, it's the perfect time to plan ahead for an effective new campaign this year. Take a step back and re-evaluate which marketing channels are giving you the most bang for your buck.

Harvard Business School finds the most effective advertising strategies combine multiple advertising channels to reach a larger audience. Fifty-one percent of consumers specifically prefer companies to communicate with them using a combination of mail and email. Knowing how and when to use direct mail or email will be crucial to your success in 2018.

Direct Mail


People are already speculating about technological advances this year: advanced self-driving vehicles, augmented reality and robots that are eerily similar to humans. With our increasingly technological world, why would marketers take a step back by continuing to send direct mail pieces?

In this digital era, it may be hard to believe, but 79 percent of consumers will act on direct mail immediately. Furthermore, for every 5,000 targeted customers, direct mail receives 175 responses.

Advertisers use direct mail for a number of reasons:

  • It’s Targeted — Direct mail pieces are the only way to accurately reach the demographics of your specified market. After you’ve analyzed who you’re trying to reach, you can easily target that demographic within specific ZIP codes, but that’s not so easy with radio or TV.
  • It’s Cost Effective — You save time and money by creating a strict target market and sticking to it. The majority of your advertising dollars will be well spent with this approach because while email is significantly cheaper at first glance, the cost per sale is much cheaper with direct mail.
  • It’s MeasurableUSPS has Intelligent Mail Barcodes, so marketers can track every piece they send out to prospects. Another way to easily see which campaigns are successful is to place a unique toll-free number (TFN) on the direct mail piece and track the number of phone calls it generates.

Not everyone will respond well to receiving direct mail, but with all the benefits, it’s worth a shot!

Email


By the time you finish reading this article, you’ll probably have an email waiting for you in your inbox. With 269 billion emails circulating daily, email is definitely not dead — that number is only increasing. How can you benefit from using this channel?
  • It’s Inexpensive — For every dollar marketers spend on it, email marketing generates $38 in ROI, which is the highest conversion rate across all channels. If you don’t use email, your bottom line could be negatively impacted.
  • It’s Easily Accessible — On average, Americans check their phone every 12 minutes, and 91 percent of them check their email every day. It’s one of the easiest ways to deliver your message to your prospect.
  • It’s Measurable — Email is easily tracked, and email marketing platforms have granular analytics to help you fine-tune your email marketing strategy. To drive and track offline response rates, you can add a Click To Talk button to your emails.

Email is clearly here to stay, but to maximize your reach, be sure to combine it with direct mail and other channels.

Integrated, Multi-Channel Marketing


After discussing only two of numerous options for marketing channels, it’s clear why these specific mediums will continue to be beneficial to your 2018 plans. Using direct mail and email together — and monitoring your results with call tracking — strengthens the effectiveness of your marketing. Plus, 72 percent of consumers want an integrated marketing approach.

How do you plan on achieving a successfully integrated marketing campaign for 2018?