Tuesday, 2 August 2016 by Peter Bell

Robots to run Direct Marketing Industry within 5 years

Image credit: Takahiro Kyono 
Lets face it, rising automation using marketing platforms and programmatic buying are merely tip of the iceberg stuff. 

Lurking underneath is the potential for a vast Uberesque style total robotisation of marketing and inparticular direct marketing.

Back in 2014, Forbes were already making predictions about how marketing robots will easily overcome any human objections in time and so change the future of marketing.

That future is now...

Take a look at all those other industries that claimed gut feel and human instinct were the key to success. Were 15 years since Moneyball tactics cracked baseball wide open. It is probably mostly down to human resistance that further contagion in sports still only ripples across NBA Championship basketball (Golden State Warriors, 2015 winners) and Premier League football (Leicester City, 2015/16 winners). The rise of data, via automation to robotisation is an unstoppable truth.

Stop and be honest - consider how your job may be done better by a robot? Once companies have figured this out (for you), the only big players left in town will be those who can collaborate effectively in partnership with robots. The safe(er) jobs in robot marketing world are likely to be across these areas:

  • Data Analysts/Scientists
  • Big ticket Account Directors
  • C level roles (dont think were asking for any robot CEOs just yet!)
  • Programmers
  • Creatives/Ideas (but not template design)

As we puny humans, cling on the remnants of the Mad Men advertising era, get ready as we are enter the age of the Sane Robot marketing epoch.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015 by Peter Bell

How to Fix Direct Marketing Biggest Problem

Photo credit:
What is the BIG question every consumer asks when faced with a seemingly out of the blue marketing phone call, SMS or email?
Answer: "Where did you get my details from?" you scream...
Of course, no matter how great the product/service or how perfectly timed the contact, you will always see a minority of people wholl complain about the marketing intrusion even though its 100% compliant (well it was yesterday!). So putting that small proportion of consumers who suffer from compliant marketing to one side....
However we can do something to help the vast majority of complainers and answer the single big question above by stopping the use of data sourced from anonymous third party marketing opt-in tickboxes. The standard opt-in tickbox wording tends to state carefully selected partners may contact you about relevant marketing offers. The biggest problem with the phrase carefully selected partners - is that it provides next to zero protection and traceability for consumers to establish how their details were passed on - surely they have a right to know?
Lets now imagine a new world where all data used for direct marketing was labelled with origin of place and date of opt-in. If we ask the BIG consumer question again:
Question: Where did you get my details from?
Answer: Looking at our records, I can see you opted into xxxx list/site on 1st May 2015
Hey presto! This sounds fair. The result of this additional key info to each data record has three benefits:
  1. Puts the consumer at ease that you are a bona-fide company who cares where their details originated
  2. Increases the chance of a positive experience and resulting transaction taking place
  3. Reduces the probability that complaints get escalated to the ICO, DMA, FRSB - or any number of other regulators, media outlets and government departments
So it could be time for the whole Direct Marketing industry to swallow hard and take a leap into a world of ethically sourced data AND being happy to prove it to consumers on demand.
To break the status quo and raise the best practice bar to ethical status, we need to:
  • Ban sales of generic anonymous third party marketing opt-in data which emanates from risky third party marketing statements
  • Stamp each data record used for marketing with place of origin and date of opt-in. This information must be freely available to consumers in print on email, paper or spoken word,
The BIG Question is...
Whos in?

Friday, 1 May 2015 by Peter Bell

Co-registration - Every Marketer's Guilty Pleasure?

Credit: flickr thepeachmartini
You mention co-reg and most marketers will fall into one of three categories:
  1. Er, whats this co-registration thingy about again?
  2. Tried it, didnt work for me
  3. I love it, but Im not going to brag about it
If you answered 1, 2 or 3 you need to keep reading...
It may not be sexy or what you always dreamed of in your formative years at Marketing School... but, damn, what wont win best looks in a marketing beauty contest does deliver stonking results!
Using the UK market as an example, what other channel can give you....
 ... opt-in email leads for 50p which convert at 30% to double opt-in (DOI)?
... telephone leads for £1 which convert to sale at 10-15% on calling?
(Contact me if you want case studies)
The uniqueness of co-reg bobbing amongst the sea of lead generation channels is what makes it unrivaled in terms of performance and misunderstanding in equal measures.

What makes it unique

  • Only lead gen channel purely priced on cost per lead (CPL)
  • Highest opt-in rate from impression - think 5% versus 0.5% on performance display ads or email marketing
  • Huge scale - 1 million UK leads in a month is doable
  • Lowest cost in generating leads compared with other channels
  • 1-click sign-up - hyper convenient for consumers to opt-in

Why is it misunderstood

  • Driven by native style advertising
  • Youre unlikely to stumble across a co-reg site - they have no SEO value as Google bot crawlers cant creep past the initial registration page so you must be driven there by push email, display, mobile marketing
  • Dual registration process means you need to appreciate how opt-in consent and privacy policies work
  • Predominance of competition style publisher sites
  • Huge variance in lead quality from best to worst from similar looking sites
  • Labour intensive to manage the data without the right know-how and lead management technology
  • Not taught at any level from degree to professional qualification
  • Co-reg ads are an ugly name! Sign-up ads are a better expression!

Whats new?

This is the reveal moment, because the new and improved sign-ups (aka co-reg) are actually starting to look more easy on the eye these days. Heres why?
  • Big brand content publishers integrating sign-ups into their advertising suite - from Dennis Publishing to the Daily Mail Group
  • Lead management platforms are increasingly tidying up the messy side of handling leads to deliver fuss-free automated campaigns
  • Lead scoring means you can slice and dice your audience into look-a-like customers rather than use generic lead capture
  • Geo-demographic targeting works because a bigger audience means zoning in on the right target with a profiled sign-up advert.
  • Improved retargeting by database building at super low cost
So whilst traditional co-registration will always remain a guilty pleasure, you may yet come to openly show your love for sign-ups instead.
Show your love now by liking or commenting below.

Thursday, 30 October 2014 by Peter Bell

9 Top Tips for more effective lead generation campaigns

Jelly courtesy of Jerry Wong
The skill of perfectly managing a lead generation campaign is not unlike having the ability to pick up a jelly without wobbling it. Whilst anti-wobble jelly advice may be thin on the ground, you could do worse than to follow these 9 top tips for a more effective lead generation campaign:

1.       Use the right Lead Management Platform' Some campaigns have very basic fulfillment needs such as batched ftp delivery to contact centre. Whereas others might involve a multi-step lead process to sale (i.e. emails, brochures, calls and home visits). Pick the lead management solution that suits your lead to sale conversion funnel. i.e. you wouldn't buy a Ferrari to pop down to the shops.

2.       Micro-manage publishers ' so you may want to break down lead supply from publishers by site but how about also dissecting the traffic to that site? Publishers often work in the dark when it comes to being able to tell which traffic sources are generating the best leads for their advertisers. So help complete the feedback loop by passing traffic sub-ids and then reporting which ones perform best.

3.       Test advert copy' Lead generation starts with using smart advertising to get people to opt-in after all. So the optimum use of imagery, text and call to action is super critical to success. It's just that you won't know this unless you test different variations of your standard ad copy. As the most basic level, you may want to use a male and female version of your ad/landing page/welcome email to more efficiently onboard your leads.

4.       Adjust filters and criteria' This one has a sting in the tail ' ask for more details and you risk deterring the consumer. So for example, full postal address is very useful to have on your database, but if you are not going to use it then you are turning off those people who won't bother completing your form because of this.

5.       Validation' There is good validation and bad validation (or should I say over-zealous validation). Bad domain look-ups, ip address checkers, hoax name filters are all great to have, but once you start going too far and querying potential valid email addresses is where you've crossed the line. Over-validation could just as easily wreck your CPA as letting through bad leads.

6.       Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up' Leads cannot convert without fast follow-up. The value of a lead disintegrates every minute it is left untouched. Opt-in leads should be emailed instantly and receive call-backs within 2 hours.

7.       Incentives' Always a touchy subject as to whether you should use any kind of incentivisation for lead generation. But incentives shouldn't be thought of as a dirty tactic because you need some incentive for people to opt-in in the first place. The main reason someone opts-in will determine how motivated that person is to buy from you. Incentives can be thought of in two ways, direct and indirect. A direct incentive is where you tell the consumer to complete this offer and you will be entered to win a prize.' An indirect incentive could be 'choose one from these 10 offers and you will be entered to win a prize.' Both will motivate and incentivise the consumer in very different ways. But it's not just prize incentives you should be thinking about, exclusive discounts (voucher codes) and offers can be used to drive the buying motivation of the consumer.

8.       Be fair and transparentto consumers' Trying to trick consumers into opting-in using unrealistic promises, whilst in the short run will drive higher clicks and visits, is unlikely in the end to net satisfied customers. Lead generation is an investment that involves moving the customer from awareness, interest through desire into action and any tactics that mislead the consumer are likely to surface very quickly along this path. Best to honestly market your proposition, tell consumers what's gonna happen after opt-in and then deliver on this.

9.       Be the lead' Fill out your own forms, read and click on your own emails. How easy is it to do? Is it a pleasurable experience? I've sat in meetings in which clients have tried and failed to sign-up to their own lead generation campaigns.

If you follow these top lead generation tips, you should be able to avoid most of those jelly wobbles!

Friday, 16 May 2014 by Peter Bell

Are You Buying Spam Leads?

Photo credit:
'Spam' the word that strikes fear into every performance marketers hearts. Ask yourself this question:

Am I buying spam leads?

If you answered yes, skip the following paragraph, if no then read on:

So you don't buy spam leads, eh? Are you sure your database is 100% clean? The only sure fire way to check you are free of spam is to talk to each user to confirm they are who they say they are. Obviously, you are not going to be able to do this so the likelihood is you are buying spam leads. Now lets find out why...

So here you are, happily collecting freshly generated leads, when you discover some of these potential buyers are in fact fake, fraudulent, fiction. Call it what you like, they are useless and they will cause havoc with email deliverability and mess up your marketing KPI's.

So what does this spam look like? Well it can be served up in many equally putrid flavours, generated from these sources:

  • Users' people deliberately entering fake details, either because they are time wasters or are incentivised to do so.
  • Suppliers' a rogue supplier in the chain (often hidden) will happily flood your lead gen. campaign with spam. Unfortunately, email 'services' make this possible on an industrial scale with sites like fakemailgenerator or allowing the creation of millions of temporary email addresses on the fly!
  • Robots' or Bots, these automated scripts will hammer your forms, filling-in details automatically at breakneck speed.

So you might swiftly conclude that there will always be spam prospects in my programme. The trick is to mimimise the damage caused. Here's how you can do this:

Audit traffic sources  

No source can guarantee to be spam free however premium the feel or the cost. Take Google Adwords for example, which have only recently detected and deducted fraudulent clicks from billing on an automated basis. Looking at spam by channel, you should be able to forecast a likely percentage spam value.

On-site verification

A.k.a. in-line validation on sign-up forms helps block users from entering fake details. For example, using a domain validation and look-up service you can force users to enter email addresses with valid domain and email syntax. Better to leave fake prospects waiting on the doorstep than invite them in for a cup of tea!

Processing validation

Most lead management platforms include validation processes which sit between the point of data collection and your CRM system. You can expect to lose between 5-15% of leads via deduping by IP address, PAF validating postal address and removal of invalid emails, hoax names etc. Im sure Mickey Mouse is someones real name but it is not worth risking their inclusion. More advanced validation can include the use of look-up tables to invalidate previously known fakes or can spot irregular sequencing patterns (e.g. rotating first names, repeat postcodes) that indicate automated hoax submissions. Check if your lead management platforms provide this level of spam blocking.

Lead Scrubbing 

Post automated validation processes, a manual sweep of leads is a 'belt and braces' approach to fake free lead gen. Just make sure your scrubbing process is fair, fast and transparent for your suppliers to follow. It is standard industry practice to physically return a list of invalids to sources within 10 days of month end so they can be deducted from the lead count and billing process.

Don't pay for spam 

It sounds simple but if you pay for spam leads you are helping the spammers get rich. Spammers can only survive by being paid for what they do. Directly or indirectly paying them only legitimises their existence.

Unfortunately, these measure still wont eliminate spam leads. On the flipside, taking this approach can also create unintended consequences such as:

  • More Expense - It costs money and potentially lot's of it from a budget you didn't plan for - thereby negatively impacting ROI of your lead gen campaign
  • No Sales - It wont directly boost sales growth or revenue
  • Lost Prospects - More validation can make it more difficult for genuine prospects to sign-up. I have had a few instances recently where over-aggressive in-line validation resulted in the rejection of valid email domains.
  • Hitting Target - Hitting lead volume and budget targets quicker. Perversely, this may not necessarily be a bad thing if your marketing KPI's are flawed!

However, the one big reason we all should be trying to eradicate spam leads is because they are unethical and have no place in the performance marketing landscape, full stop

(Note: This article is adapted from the original one I wrote for PerformanceIN - you can look it up here)