Content creation adds to the funnel

Something to think about:
Are you talking about yourself or helping customers get things done?

While a strong blog post or infographic might deliver a high number of likes or even temporarily increase traffic to your website, it may be money poorly spent if your home page or online buying experience isn’t equally compelling or curated around the user’s need. Consider this: 90% of B2B buying activity is over before the seller gets involved. Customers are researching companies and products and making decisions before they ever click on the “contact us” button or emailing for a quote or more information. Insurance marketers need to ensure the customer website experience is just as powerful as the content that got users to your site in the first place. This means:

Curating and personalizing the digital experience whenever possible (landing pages are ideal for tracking SEM efforts).

Going beyond traditional online “brochureware” by understanding the criteria buyers are using to evaluate your brand, and placing messaging and content that’s most relevant to them, most prominently. 

Creating user flows and navigations that reflect and advance the customer path to purchase. How your customers buy is more important than how your organization might be currently structured or how you sell your products and services.

Ensuring you have a solid hierarchy of information on every digital page.

Resisting the temptation to rely on stock photography, which results in a lack of differentiation from your competitors.

While these may seem like fundamental digital practices, we’re constantly surprised by the number of insurance organizations that fail to deliver on one or more of these basic tenets. 

Intrigued? Keep the insights coming.

Want to learn more about how you can build stronger digital brand experiences and relationships with your customers? Drop us a note, subscribe to our newsletter or check out our blog. With more than fourteen years of experience in the financial services and insurance industries, we’d be happy to share more about how we’ve helped other marketers successfully rethink and retool their marketing communications strategies for greater effectiveness and outcomes. 


About Magnani Continuum Marketing

Since 1985, Magnani Continuum Marketing has made it easier for organizations selling in highly technical and complex markets to deliver the most effective and seamless traditional and digital brand experiences. 

We’re more digital than advertising agencies. More strategic than digital marketing shops. More creative than management consultants. And a heck of a lot easier to work with than almost all of them. We’ve helped some of the largest insurance and financial services organizations, and some of the most exciting new startups too. And we’d love to talk with you.

Three things you’ll need to (re)learn in 2017

Membership Marketing:
A crash course in the trends that will affect every association’s recruitment and retention planning.

Here’s your syllabus:

Native Advertising

Spending on Mobile advertising will grow at a projected compound annual rate of 26% through 2020. Facilitated by leading programmatic ad networks, like Google, Yahoo and AOL, native advertising is projected to command a 63% share of those dollars over the same period. And while this opens new avenues for marketers to reach consumers, there are several factors every marketer should consider when planning a native advertising strategy.

First, the continued FTC scrutiny of native advertising has led a number of platforms, Facebook for example, to proactively create tagging and labeling requirements that clearly alert users to the commercial nature of the content. It is unclear if the FTC will eventually standardize labeling requirements. But it looks as if any labeling may reduce consumer engagement levels and potentially, effectiveness.

Second, pricing models for native are changing. Where marketers once paid for creation and placement, now they are finding an increasing number of media outlets charging on a pay-per-view model. It’s a smart move by publishers who might otherwise be competing on price for creation and space alone. The downside for marketers is that unexpectedly successful content can drive up media costs quickly.

Third, and potentially the largest challenge for most marketers, competing in a growing native advertising environment requires a continuous flow of new, high quality editorial content. Content is less marketing than publishing and requires resources that can meet those needs.

Hyper Personalization

Consumers are increasingly demanding personal relevance in the services they seek in exchange for anything resembling loyalty. It’s increasingly a similar situation for associations. Ask your members for access to their metadata from across their devices to build a more detailed universal profile of their GPS data, preferences and behaviors and they will respond, “no.” However, if you show members a truly customized and convenient experience fueled by that data, (e.g.:  having your steaming hot pumpkin spice latte waiting for you the moment you enter a Starbucks) and they are likely to check the “allow” button when the app asks for access to just that kind of data. 

Machine Learning/Artificial Intelligence

Big data was about processing voluminous data sets. AI is about divining the meaning and opportunities within it. And in the coming year, we will see an increasing number of marketing organizations turn to machine learning and artificial intelligence to improve product recommendation engines, clarify segmentation models, optimize pricing by segment and customer, analyze sentiment across social media outlets, create proactive and predictive customer service models using “chat” bots, improve ad targeting, optimize marketing messaging and design, and even create new marketing content from scratch.


Looking for a marketing partner who can help you stay ahead of what’s next?

Since 1985, Magnani Continuum Marketing has made it easier for organizations selling in highly technical and complex markets deliver the most effective and seamless traditional and digital brand experiences. We’re more digital than advertising agencies. More strategic than digital marketing shops. More creative than management consultants. And a heck of a lot easier to work with than almost all of them.

For more tips and opinions, check out our blog or sign up for our newsletter.

2017 is already looking like a game changing year for user experience design.

Just when you thought nothing could be as disruptive as the switch to “mobile first” design, a sea change is occurring in what’s expected and even in what’s possible with UX design. Here are some of the most important developments, from both a basic design standpoint and from under the hood:

Just say, “no”: the stock photo backlash

While the sheer volume and quality of stock imagery available to marketers has increased dramatically over the past decade, its use has only sensitized consumers to spotting them as such, immediately. It used to be that consumers had no idea the stock photo business existed, but today it’s so well known, there are stock photo memes all over social media (https://www.facebook.com/sophisticatedstockphotomemes/). It probably doesn’t help that an incredible percentage of stock photos used across the web feature the same model. (http://asianstockphotogirl.tumblr.com/). Combine that with the near standardization of page structures stemming from the increase in responsive design, and we are seeing that marketers are finding it difficult to differentiate their online experiences. So what’s a marketer to do? Given that no one should return to unresponsive design, to truly differentiate, what remains is the need to invest in original imagery. Despite the added investment of time, energy, and funds required to concept, execute, and deploy original photography and illustrations, the long-term benefits of differentiation and perceived authenticity should be a net positive for marketers.

Let it bleed: images/video without borders

It is no coincidence that as the majority of users are now accessing the web through mobile devices with high-speed mobile broadband, we are seeing an influx of full bleed imagery and video in website headers. Subjectively, the technique feels more immersive. Objectively, it is a more efficient use of real estate on smaller mobile screens. Further, on larger desktop displays, sites feel more cinematic. Either way, the design pattern is becoming as common, and frankly, as expected as hamburger menus and social icons.

When the UX touches you back: haptic feedback

Used in video game controllers for nearly two decades, haptic feedback is the use of vibration to mimic interaction with real-world objects or environments or to provide silent/private feedback to users. Apple’s latest MacBook laptops quite convincingly substituted a physically clicking trackpad button for a nonmoving, pressure-sensitive pad that uses vibration and sound to simulate the traditional click. Now imagine you’re shopping on your mobile device, running your finger along your mobile screen, and “feeling” the texture of woven fabric or the grain of leather. Now imagine navigating a complex series of buttons on your mobile screen by feel alone. Haptic feedback could let you “feel” the edge of a button as you slide your finger, just as if it were physically raised from the surface.

Not intended for all audiences: Age responsive design

Until recently, responsive design referred mainly to changing, compressing, or expanding visual design elements to provide a more suitable experience based on the user’s device of the moment. But as we are increasingly seeing personalized content experiences, there is a burgeoning movement to make user experiences responsive to age as well as device. That can mean altering reading levels, type size, imagery, color scheme, navigation elements, and editorial content, even advertiser profile, in an age-appropriate fashion.

Rent-a-brain: cloud-based AI

First we saw the advent of big data. Then, unsurprisingly, we saw the big data hangover as companies struggled to generate useful insights that could lead to truly predictive behavioral models. Thankfully, recent advances in machine learning have turned what was an arduous analytical and computational challenge into something fully automated and optimized. The downside? Computing infrastructure that is capable of using machine learning to process massive data sets can be massively expensive to install and maintain. The solution? The cloud. Companies such as IBM and Amazon are now offering machine learning as a pay-as-you-go service. That means predictive analytics can potentially drive the user experience for all but the smallest of enterprises.


Looking for a marketing partner who can help you design a better interface for everyone?

Since 1985, Magnani Continuum Marketing has made it easier for organizations selling in highly technical and complex markets to deliver the most effective and seamless traditional and digital brand experiences. We’re more digital than advertising agencies. We’re more strategic than digital marketing shops. We’re more creative than management consultants. And we’re a heck of a lot easier to work with than almost all of them.

For more tips and opinions, check out our blog, or sign up for our newsletter.

Three things you’ll need to (re)learn in 2017

Even for the most seasoned marketers, 2017 will be back-to-school time. Here’s your syllabus.

Native Advertising

Spending on mobile advertising will grow at a projected compound annual rate of 26 percent through 2020. Facilitated by leading programmatic ad networks such as Google, Yahoo, and AOL, native advertising is projected to command a 63 percent share of those dollars over the same period. And while this opens new avenues for marketers to reach consumers, there are several factors every marketer should consider when planning a native advertising strategy.

First, the continued FTC scrutiny of native advertising has led a number of platforms, Facebook for example, to proactively create tagging and labeling requirements that clearly alert users to the commercial nature of the content. It is unclear whether the FTC will eventually standardize labeling requirements. But it looks as if any labeling may reduce consumer engagement levels and potentially, effectiveness.

Second, pricing models for native are changing. Where marketers once paid for creation and placement, they are now finding an increasing number of media outlets charging on a pay-per-view model. It’s a smart move by publishers who might otherwise be competing on price for creation and space alone. The downside for marketers is that unexpectedly successful content can drive up media costs quickly. 

Third, and potentially the largest challenge for most marketers, competing in a growing native advertising environment requires a continuous flow of new, high-quality editorial content. Content is less marketing than publishing and requires resources that can meet those needs.

Hyper Personalization

Ask most consumers for access to their metadata from across their devices to build a more detailed universal profile of their GPS data, preferences, and behaviors, and they will respond, “No.” However, show most consumers a truly customized and convenient experience fueled by that data, such as having your steaming hot pumpkin spice latte waiting for you the moment you enter a Starbucks, and they are likely to check the “Allow” button when the app asks for access to that kind of data. Consumers are increasingly demanding personal relevance in the services they seek in exchange for anything resembling loyalty.

Machine Learning/Artificial Intelligence

Big data was about processing voluminous data sets. AI is about divining the meaning and opportunities within it. And in the coming year, we will see an increasing number of marketing organizations turn to machine learning and artificial intelligence to improve product recommendation engines, clarify segmentation models, optimize pricing by segment and customer, analyze sentiment across social media outlets, create proactive and predictive customer service models using “chat” bots, improve ad targeting, optimize marketing messaging and design, and even create new marketing content from scratch.


Looking for a marketing partner who can help you stay ahead of what’s next?

Since 1985, Magnani Continuum Marketing has made it easier for organizations selling in highly technical and complex markets to deliver the most effective and seamless traditional and digital brand experiences. We’re more digital than advertising agencies. We’re more strategic than digital marketing shops. We’re more creative than management consultants. And we’re a heck of a lot easier to work with than almost all of them.

For more tips and opinions, check out our blog, or sign up for our newsletter.

Designing for accessibility makes interaction design more efficient.

In 2014, H&R Block paid $145,000 to settle a suit filed by the U.S. Justice Department that claimed the company’s website, created by HRB Digital LLC (Block’s digital development unit), violated Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act. In 2008, Target was forced to pay $6 million in damages related to its online checkout process. More surprising, however, is the fact that both businesses could have saved time and resources in development and maintenance and delivered a universally better user experience had they designed for accessibility in the first place. How can that be?

Forced clarity of design.

Designing for accessibility requires adherence to established information hierarchies. These hierarchies exist because they are more familiar, if not decidedly more intuitive, for users, particularly those users who have a visual impairment. Further, such hierarchies force the information designer to be aware of how each navigation choice relates to every other choice.

Better organized code that is easier to maintain.

Basic accessibility design requires a clear separation between the presentation layer and the data layer and something called “source order,” which means structuring the code to reflect the visual design of the layout. This overlaps with other best practice issues such as mobile compatibility and device independence. Case studies show that accessible websites have better search results, reduced maintenance costs, and increased audience reach, among other benefits. Because the designers design the quickest way for an impaired user to get to content, the online experience for all users is improved.

Bonus points: Improved SEO and improved backwards (and forwards) compatibility.

The added tagging and metadata required for accessibility make more of your content available to search engines and other automatic data-mining applications. This can significantly increase the chance that people searching for particular content on your site can find it. And let’s face it, we all benefit from improved SEO. As an added bonus, it has been shown that because sites designed for accessibility use more widely accepted design and code standards, they perform better on a wider variety of current and legacy browsers. Better yet, these sites will also perform better in new browsers or devices introduced in the future. 

The right thing to do … and it’s smart business.

For additional information, W3.org has a great post, “Developing a Web Accessibility Business Case for Your Organization,” which further details the social, technical, financial, and legal benefits of web accessibility.


Looking for a marketing partner that can help you design a better interface for everyone?

Since 1985, Magnani Continuum Marketing has made it easier for organizations selling in highly technical and complex markets to deliver the most effective and seamless traditional and digital brand experiences. We’re more digital than advertising agencies. We’re more strategic than digital marketing shops. We’re more creative than management consultants. And we’re a heck of a lot easier to work with than almost all of them.

For more tips and opinions, check out our blog or sign up for our newsletter.

Is the pressure for immediate measurement diminishing long-term brand potential?

Although it is often attributed to advertising executives in the 1950s, printed references to the phrase, “Half the money spent on advertising is wasted, but no one knows which half.” appear as early as 1897. Today, if you spend five minutes chatting with a digital media planner, he or she will surely bring up the idea of the ability to measure every click or view and how it has revolutionized the ad game. Theoretically, with the right measurement and analytics tools in place, every campaign could be continually optimized and refined, reaching maximum effectiveness and near-zero-waste. So, why aren’t we all seeing major leaps in returns?

It all boils down to three main issues.

First, most firms use basic analytics that measure impulse, not affinity. Second, in most measurement structures, there’s no allowance for context. And finally, current analytics don’t reflect the lifetime value of a customer. But let’s address each of these, one by one.

Optimizing for impulse, not long-term affinity

The underlying mechanism of optimization is simple: messages that get clicked most often are run more, while messages that get clicked less are removed. On the face of it, the system is completely logical. We all want clicks, right? Well, not solely. We want more clicks, but it’s important that those clicks are the kind that result in a final sale. And further, we want to have insight, over time, as to which of the ads that resulted in clicks and sales also resulted in creating a long-term relationship with a customer—and, hence, an increase in repeated or related sales. And that requires time, patience, and quite frankly, a long-term perspective that current measurement-driven optimization applications do not offer.

No value for context

Current analytics have little room for valuing context (e.g., where a user was or what he or she was doing when an impression took place). While certainly the context regarding individual instances could be inferred through close examination; that is impractical. This means we have no weighting for adjacencies such as whether a message was seen in an environment with relevance to your brand, or better yet, additive in value to customers’ opinions of your brand.

No accounting for lifetime value

The overweighting of the value of clicks or even conversions, as opposed to repeated positive impressions, underweights the value of developing a relationship, awareness, and affinity over time.

In branding, the short way’s the long way.

Great marketing has always been about finding the perfect balance between short-term tactical gains and building long-term brand equity. Today, marketers are facing increasing pressure to show direct returns on every marketing spend. And while we agree that all things can be measured, for some very important things, the time frame in which the proper measurement should be taken is often longer than the budget cycle (and its related dashboards).

So what’s a marketer to do? 

As much as we all depend on and benefit from the latest measurement and analytics tools, unless we leave room in our strategic plans and spaces within our dashboard for building long-term brand affinity, there is a strong chance we will miss opportunities to make future clicks and future sales easier to come by.


Thinking about finding a marketing partner who thinks about short- and long-term success?

Since 1985, Magnani Continuum Marketing has made it easier for organizations selling in highly technical and complex markets to deliver the most effective and seamless traditional and digital brand experiences. We’re more digital than advertising agencies, more strategic than digital marketing shops, and more creative than management consultants. And we’re a heck of a lot easier to work with than almost all of them.

For more tips and opinions, check out our blog or sign up for our newsletter.

Your next great salesperson might be your customer.

We all do it—avoid interacting with a salesperson until it is absolutely necessary. In fact, nearly 85% of all final B2B purchasing decisions are made before a prospect ever contacts a vendor. That dynamic, combined with the increased availability of e-commerce solutions, has led to an increasing share of B2B sales occurring through e-commerce. A Forrester Research report suggests that about one million B2B salespeople in the United States will lose their jobs to self-service e-commerce by 2020. Here are some ways marketers can fight technology with technology.

B2B e-commerce is not a funnel. It’s a fire hose.

According to Forrester, the traditional B2B sales funnel is changing. Current U.S. B2B e-commerce has reached $780 billion, representing 9.3% of B2B sales. With a forecasted compound annual growth rate of 7.7%, B2B e-commerce will top $1.1 trillion by 2020, accounting for 12.1% of all B2B sales. So how does your strategy need to change to capture the greatest share of your customers’ wallets?

Enable your customers to sell themselves.

The businesses that will realize the greatest benefits are those that create the shortest path between customers and their needs. That means:

  • Optimizing the research and sales paths for your most profitable customer segments
  • Evaluating your SEO and SEM strategies to go beyond driving generic site visits, funneling searchers to specific actionable pages
  • Prioritizing your user interface and information architecture to highlight high-value actions (search, store, add to cart, place an order, etc.) and minimizing low-value interface elements (shareholder information, about pages, etc.)
  • Thinking “mobile first” when designing any e-commerce solution—more than 50% of all web traffic originates on a mobile device
  • Most importantly, soliciting feedback from your users —and believing what they tell you when you do

Embrace change.

Remember, if you can imagine a better way to sell, your competitors can too. With every new technology, change is only disruption when you are the incumbent. For everyone else, it is simply an opportunity to give your customers what they want in a faster, more efficient way.


Thinking about finding a marketing partner who can help you evolve your B2B online experience?

Since 1985, Magnani Continuum Marketing has made it easier for organizations selling in highly technical and complex markets to deliver the most effective and seamless traditional and digital brand experiences. We are more digital than traditional advertising agencies, more strategic than digital marketing shops, more creative than management consultants, and a heck of a lot easier to work with than almost all of them.

For more tips and opinions, check out our blog or sign up for our newsletter.

Your three-minute guide to how VR will change marketing.

There is no question that virtual reality (VR) is going to change the way marketers connect with customers. But today, the technology is akin to a dancing dog; it’s not how well the dog can dance that holds so much promise, but rather that the dog can dance at all. The questions at hand for marketers are “How much will VR change my strategy?,” “How should I use it?,” and “When?” And the answers are . . . “It depends.” What follows is by no means a definitive list of options. But if you’re ready for some thought- starters . . . read on.

“How will VR change my strategy?”

Not much today, but it will definitely have some sort of impact on your strategy soon. Today, a moderately spec’d, fully immersive VR rig, such as an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, will set back consumers nearly $2,000 when you include the high-end PC they require. Further, some estimates say there are only a few hundred thousand PCs on the planet that have the proper high-end graphics cards to drive the technology. That said, something as simple as Google Cardboard—the “ViewMaster” of VR—works with your existing mobile device to offer customers a rudimentary but novel and entertaining taste of things to come for as little as $15. In any case, the more your brand or product depends on “being there” to induce trial, the more you should be considering VR as an integral part of your media strategy.

“How should I use VR?”

Virtual reality uses real-time 3D rendering and motion tracking to transport users to a space/experience completely divorced from the physical reality that surrounds them. Slip on a headset and suddenly be transported to the surface of Mars, or to the Louvre, or behind the wheel of a Formula One racecar. That’s why VR could be a highly effective tool for marketers who need to introduce new concepts, ideas, and experiences. A few of the ways you can utilize VR to augment or change the way you market:

  • Virtual trade shows
  • Product demonstrations and test drives
  • Virtual tours (existing properties and proposed builds)
  • Immersive “commercials”
  • Virtual live events
  • Store visits
  • Test drives
  • Entertainment venues
  • Experience testing
  • Pure entertainment

“And When?”

VR, by its nature, is a scheduled, opt-in experience. The upside is that it removes any external distractions from users’ attentions. The downside? It also means, in this era of multitasking, that the barrier to gaining that attention—and user expectations for what that experience should be—will become increasingly high. So before you choose to implement VR, ask yourself if the experience offers incremental value to your users. Does it communicate more information in less time than a simple Web page? Does it offer an experience more entertaining than anything available from other cheaper sources? Does it offer a better way for customers to connect with your products and/or brand? If the answers are mostly “Yes,” then it probably makes sense to pursue this technology. If the answer is “No, but it’s VR!” then your budget is better spent elsewhere.

For marketers, virtual reality is ready to change everything... and nothing at all.

The truth is, at this stage nearly all VR demonstrations seem exciting, not unlike the collective amusement the world enjoyed by seeing the first remote webcam images of a coffee pot in Cambridge, England in 1996. But just as the web moved in just a few years from novel distraction to marketing necessity, so—eventually—will VR. And just as with the Web, those companies that rely on fundamental human nature and sound marketing principles for guidance on evaluating expenditures, rather than the novelty of the technology itself, will likely reap the greatest rewards.


Looking to add a little more depth (virtual or otherwise) to your stable of marketing partners?

Since 1985, Magnani Continuum Marketing has made it easier for organizations in highly technical and complex markets to deliver the most effective and seamless traditional and digital brand experiences. We’re more digital than advertising agencies, more strategic than digital marketing shops, more creative than management consultants, and a heck of a lot easier to work with than almost all of them.

For more tips and opinions, check out our blog or sign up for our newsletter.

Ready to talk the talk?

Here is your 5-minute rundown of the state-of-the-art developments in voice and chat UX.

As Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Google create new features and stand-alone products based on natural language (spoken word) interaction, they will undoubtedly have a major impact on users’ expectations for both search and service. And we all know that where Google and Apple go, so go we all—eventually.

Apple

Major Siri Update (still a rumor)

In 2015 Apple purchased a speech processing startup called VocalIQ. Rumor has it that the popular virtual assistant will get a significant improvement in accuracy and understanding, moving from something like 20 percent to more than 90 percent in results accuracy. But due to the closed nature of the Siri API, we’ll believe it when we see it.

Google

Allo (chat)

Incorporating the best of traditional chat and Google Now, Allo lets you turn any chat into a threesome—you, your friend, and Google AI. If, for instance, you’re chatting about finding a restaurant or bar, Allo can proactively pull up suggestions that you can incorporate directly into your conversation. You can even make reservations without leaving your chat. But if it tells me to eat better, it’s back to iMessage for me.

Amazon

Alexa

If you haven’t experienced Amazon’s voice-driven household assistant, you’re missing one of the most tightly integrated voice interfaces available. Alexa’s integration into the Amazon ecosystem is an addictive drug for Prime members, offering everything from audiobooks and music streaming to simple voice-based ordering of any repeat Amazon purchase. Not only that, but Amazon wisely created its Echo hardware and Alexa software with two distinct advantages over alternative voice interface technologies. The first: it’s stationary. You plug it in at home and leave it there. That negates a great deal of place-based contextual ambiguity that other platforms have to deal with. The second: it’s an open platform for developers, unlike Apple’s Siri. Any developer can add new “skills” like home automation control and calendar management. There’s nothing stopping marketers from adding customer service and support, order tracking, or a voice-based FAQ into the Alexa Skillset.

Facebook

DeepText and Chat Bots

Chat bots are nothing new. They have been around longer than Internet chat itself (Google “Eliza”). But the latest twist is that where once those bots responded to keywords with a choice of canned responses based on carefully coded rules, today they are learning language and meaning, basically on their own. Facebook’s DeepText technology is a neural network designed to grow abilities and understanding the same way a newborn learns through exposure—by consuming and parsing the conversations of over a billion Facebook members. Also like a child, DeepText can learn English, Chinese, French, or any other language or subject based purely on inputs. In the not-too-distant future marketers will couple this ability to understand natural language with specific subject matter expertise and, suddenly, have a virtual customer service rep, a sales “person,” or brand ambassador that can speak every language on the planet and be available 24/7 across the globe.


Still need to talk a little more?

Since 1985, Magnani Continuum Marketing has made it easier for organizations selling in highly technical and complex markets to deliver the most effective and seamless traditional and digital brand experiences. We’re more digital than your advertising agency. More strategic than your digital marketing shop. More creative than your management consultants. And a heck of a lot easier to work with than almost all of them.

For more tips and opinions, check out our blog or sign up for our newsletter.

Focus your positioning in twenty-one words or less.

Saying “no” to some opportunities can increase your chances of “getting to yes.”

No one feels good about turning away business. And many marketers fear narrowing their market positioning will do just that. But the truth is a narrowly focused positioning will actually help you stop wasting time, resources, and capital trying to service and chase the wrong customers, and evaluate and decline unprofitable or untenable business opportunities.

What to keep in mind when creating a stronger positioning statement

A positioning statement is not a tagline, mission statement, or brand promise. It is not meant to be communicated to customers verbatim. It does not, and should not, promise to be all things to all people. Rather, it provides a framework for every interaction with current and potential customers, so each works in concert and promotes a cohesive brand and market identity. More importantly, a positioning statement shouldn’t change significantly every year. It may evolve as customers and markets evolve, but it needs to stand for a company-wide commitment.

If you’re ready to evaluate your current positioning or create a new direction entirely, here’s a quick rundown of the basic questions you need to have answered and agreed upon:

In seven words or less, what is it you do here, exactly?

This may seem like a simple question, but within many companies, the answer turns into multiple paragraphs—none of which states a clear answer. If you can’t answer the question succinctly, neither can your customers. Define your business offering as narrowly as possible. Remember, your positioning doesn’t have to explain everything your company does, but it does need to encompass everything you offer.

In seven words or less, what makes you so special?

Think differentiation. What aspects of your offering or operations go beyond the basic table stakes of your industry? What can you do that your competitors can’t do, either at all or as well?

In seven words or less, why should anyone care?

So, you should feel good at this point that you have answered what you do and what makes you special. But now comes the toughest part—your customers saying, “So what?” At this point I am reminded of something a friend in the financial industry once said to me: “If you ask a question and the answer’s not ‘money,’ ask it again.” Now, we believe it is perfectly acceptable to add “time” to that answer set. But either way, because we are discussing positioning for a business, your value to your customers should involve an actual quantifiable benefit—time or money—on some level.

Need a shortcut? Try our “fill in the blanks” approach.

<Your company name> is a ____________ (business type/category) that/who helps _________ (target audience) reach/achieve ____________ (primary benefit). Unlike other ____________ (business type/category), <your company name> _______________ (competitive advantage).


Still having trouble setting a clear vision for your company's positioning?

Since 1985, Magnani Continuum Marketing has made it easier for organizations selling in highly technical and complex markets to better position themselves to deliver the most effective and seamless traditional and digital brand experiences. We're more digital than your advertising agency. More strategic than your digital marketing shop. More creative than your management consultants. And we're a heck of a lot easier to work with than almost all of them.

For more tips and opinions, check out our blog, or sign up for our newsletter.

Take Your Big Data Out of the Box

Most marketers treat marketing data like a Star Wars geek treats action figures. They like collecting it, but they never play with it. To be fair, collecting data is the easy part. The ability to obtain data is built into most digital marketing tools, and accessing that data is as easy as clicking a link or two. Understanding the tools and methods for exploiting that data is a much more complex proposition, but that doesn’t mean there are no easy ways to get started.

Bootcamp Basics:

If you are just getting started, and you don’t know your head from your Hadoop, Intel has a great guide for marketers and IT folks alike. The guide covers the IT landscape, the basics of collecting and analyzing data, and some basic steps to get the entire organization focused on and prepared to implement a big data program.

Going Pro:

If you are familiar with the basics, there are a number of ways you can up your game. Most major universities offer professional education programs. For example, MIT annually offers a class called Tackling the Challenges of Big Data (though by the time you read this, you may have to wait for its 2017 appearance). Plus, there are a number of professional certification programs available through enterprise software vendors. Here’s a great overview of some that are available and for whom they were created.

Becoming a Jedi Master:

Somewhat ironically, the pinnacle of data mastery is not crunching numbers but crafting and presenting the story the numbers tell. As data sets become increasingly massive, data visualization can be the most efficient means to help you see the story in the data and present it to your organization with enough clarity to drive better decision making. Data visualization is an area of great innovation and presents an ever-changing landscape. Expect to find religious-style fervor from supporters, zealots, and evangelists from various camps. CIO.com has a nice rundown of the current leaders in the space.

Most of us entered marketing because the math requirements were lower, and no one said the word “algorithm” in polite company. But the days of running a modern marketing program on “feel” have passed. Hopefully, this quick roadmap will help you start taking the data out of the box so you can play with it.

Our insights can help you keep data dark forces at bay

Want to learn more about how you can better tell the story of your company's data to get more ROI and more satisfaction from your marketing spend? Drop us a note, subscribe to our newsletter or check out our blog. With our deep industry experience in the B2B realm, we’d be happy to share more about how we’ve helped other marketers successfully rethink and retool their marketing communications strategies for greater effectiveness and outcomes.


“This is the agency you’re looking for.”

Since 1985, Magnani Continuum Marketing has made it easier for organizations selling in highly technical and complex markets to deliver the most effective and seamless traditional and digital brand experiences. We’re more digital than your advertising agency. More strategic than your digital marketing shop. More creative than your management consultants. And a heck of a lot easier to work with than almost all of them.

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The Swimsuit Portion of the UX Beauty Contest is Over. Time to Show the Talent.

The Swimsuit Portion of the UX Beauty Contest is Over. Time to Show the Talent.

In 2015, quite a few UX designers began to argue/complain that, “Everything looks the same.” That is likely true, but it’s also likely a really good thing. In the maturing of any toolset, digital or physical, standards of interaction are likely to appear. Whether we are talking about hammers, bicycles or doorknobs, commonality of interaction reduces the amount of energy the user needs to expend to achieve their desired outcome. Are you ready to stop reinventing the wheel?

Three minutes: Five marketing predictions for 2016.

It’s that time of year again - where we take a look back at what we’ve accomplished and start focusing on what and how we’ll be prioritizing in the upcoming year. Based on the work we’re experiencing with our clients, we have five predictions for trends we’ll see in the world of marketing 2016.

1. SEO is back and more important than ever.

The SEO bandwagon feels cyclical: it started in the early 00s, atop the Internet bubble and peaked in the early 10s, with marketers all looking for ways to game the results for newly minted search engines. Eventually Google (and yahoo! and Bing) realized the better long-term business plan was to defend their user experience product relevancy by implementing a more context-sensitive algorithm for search, effectively ending the game of “hide the keywords.” This put SEO on the back burner for many marketers. Fast forward to 2015 —the rise of content marketing has catapulted SEO back into fashion, albeit in a more relevant semantic context. While there’s nothing overly sexy about the concept of keywords and SEO, we predict we’ll see an increasingly strategic use of keywords and tagging for all communications - both internal and external - with no slowdown in sight.

2. Organizations swap employees for users.

Based on what’s happening with the primacy of digital for external audience marketing and communications, we’re predicting a shift in internal communications processes and practices, starting with a change in lexicon for the traditional internal target audience. MarCom professionals will continue to think beyond the term “employee” and traditional cascade models and start building comms plans based on “user” experiences, creating opportunities for more internal two-way dialogue across all levels of the corporate enterprise.

3. Engagement goes from a buzzword to a metric.

For years, external marketers have been focused not just on reach, frequency, followers and likes, but on creating true engagement with their marketing and branding. Internal comms will follow suit - looking for ways to increase overall engagement with the messages they are sending out as well as more tangible ways to measure it.

4. Content will still be king, although formats will vary.

2015 will go down as the year that most organizations finally embraced video and social as critical expressions of brand and tangible parts of their marketing and communications plans. This will continue to be the case as competition increases as production and implementation costs decrease.

5. Adoption of social and mobile practices lead MarCom planning processes and plans.

While many B2B marketers finally incorporated social and mobile into their marketing strategies and plans, the vast majority of campaigns still begin with more traditional marketing elements (sales materials, direct mail, advertising, etc.). We’re predicting this to change with both campaign and plan development placing a higher emphasis on social and digital channels, requiring a more distilled and streamlined message. Instead of marketers focusing on the deepest content first, instead they will focus on smaller, more direct messaging and then build broader and more technical content as a secondary focus.

Bonus insight:

Yep, we said five (because everyone likes odd numbers), but we’ve got one additional expectation for 2016.

6. PowerPoint remains, but expectations for visual presentation will increase.

Our experience has shown PowerPoint remains a critical communications tool for internal and external audiences. And given the number of “decks” that we see every week, this is not likely to change anytime soon. However, what we do expect is for clients (and their internal clients) to continue to demand increasingly sophisticated and well designed presentations that fully utilize the functionality of PowerPoint and help further engage the presenter’s audience. This doesn’t mean overly designed infographics (which seem to be waning, at long last) but instead bringing more of the visual experience audiences are accustomed to during their many hours on the web.

You can always see the future more clearly if you have the right partner.

Since 1985, Magnani Continuum Marketing has made it easier for organizations selling in highly technical and complex markets to deliver the most effective and seamless traditional and digital brand experiences. We’re more digital than advertising agencies. More strategic than digital marketing shops. More creative than management consultants. And a heck of a lot easier to work with than almost all of them. We’ve helped some of the largest corporations in the world, and some of the most exciting new startups. And we’d love to talk with you. Just drop us a note.

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Three minutes: 3 UX trends to watch in 2016

Without question, the foundational driver of UX trends in 2015 was the surge in Mobile usage. And that same dynamic will drive UX decisions in 2016. However, while 2015 was “mobile first,” 2016 will be “mobile best.” That means placing a higher emphasis on touch and polish. In other words, it’s no longer enough that the mobile dog can dance, but increasingly, we’re going to see how well.

1. UI Animation

Love it or hate it, for years, the “cool” websites used Adobe Flash to add a higher degree of visual feedback and contextual state changes. They simply felt more fluid than standard HTML sites. As Flash was all but abandoned on desktop and completely missing from mobile, and as UX designers turned their efforts toward responsive design, UI animation took a back seat. But with responsive design no longer providing sufficient competitive advantage, designers are turning to CSS transitions and custom JS Libraries, as well as commercial libraries and plug-ins like GreenSock. This should lead to an explosion of animation (from subtle and tasteful to unrestrained and annoying). But more importantly to marketers, it will also lead to an increase in the level of expectations on the part of the user.

2. Hidden UI

The irony of mobile devices is that as screens have shrunk, screen resolutions have generally surpassed even the largest desktop displays. However, the actual “real estate” available to UX and UI designers is functionally the same on a 6.5” Galaxy Note as a 4.5” iPhone 4S, and that is, to say the least, “limited.” As we discussed in an earlier article about hamburger menus, this limited real estate helped basic top-level menus transition from explicit, visual text-based listings to a symbolic burger-stack—only displaying choices after being activated. In 2016, watch for even further paring of options based on user location within a specific path or other contextual markers. Why is this preferred? Well, when we can reduce the number of commands that need to be considered, it should improve the user’s response times and level of productivity. Aesthetically, it also minimizes onscreen "clutter.”

And, while mobile certainly facilitated the embrace of minimalism, it didn’t stop there. Minimalism is migrating straight back to the desktop. Watch for desktop sites to start hiding UI elements. Not out of necessity but rather because for designers, after creating a more streamlined/clean mobile UI, a cluttered desktop UI looks and feels inefficient.

3. Simplicity

While hidden UI may go a long way toward simplicity, what we’re referring to here is more than that. Simplicity is less about hiding than it is about decentralization and curation.

Historically, as more and more business functionality was moved online, every item was offered its own navigational path on the central website. In viewing the worst incarnations of navigation bloat, the phrase, “when everything is important, nothing is important.” comes to mind.

Simplifying the user experience may incorporate hidden UI tactics mentioned above, but it may also mean separating functionality into distinct sites or tools. Examples include, Facebook carving Messenger functionality out of its standard mobile app and into a dedicated binary. For your company it could mean creating a dedicated customer service app, or separate web sites for distinct user bases. The downside, of course, is that creating a larger number of simplified experiences for your users normally implies increased complexity on the maintenance and support side of the equation. But would you rather be Facebook or Yahoo?

No technology is too complicated if you have the right partner.

Since 1985, Magnani Continuum Marketing has made it easier for organizations selling in highly technical and complex markets to deliver the most effective and seamless traditional and digital brand experiences. We’re more digital than advertising agencies. More strategic than digital marketing shops. More creative than management consultants. And a heck of a lot easier to work with than almost all of them. We’ve helped some of the largest corporations in the world, and some of the most exciting new startups. And we’d love to talk with you. Just drop us a note.

Like us but not ready to talk?

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Three minutes: 3 Social trends to watch in 2016

Social media is commanding more and more of marketers’ attentions and strategic investments. That’s because social media networks are creating increasingly self-contained ecosystems that garner more of users’ online time. So how will social media marketers up the ante in 2016?

1. Going Real-Time

Start googling terms like “newsjacking” and “real time social” and you find a burgeoning crowd of pundits professing the benefits—some would say necessity—of reacting quickly to local, national or global events being discussed on social media and injecting corporate marketing messaging into consumer conversations. It’s a labor-intensive strategy that definitely requires greater monitoring of the stream as well as decidedly more sensitive and adept engagement tactics. It’s not for the casual social branding team, but, in theory, it represents an opportunity to associate your brand with the most important cultural moments as they happen.

2. The Buy Button

Social media has, since its inception, been one of the greatest “window shopping” tools available. Friends post a picture of their new La-Z-Boy™ on Pinterest or Twitter and you think, “I must have one.” But acquiring this new throne used to require a trip to Google, the manufacturer’s site, or at the least, Amazon. Now, through partnerships between social businesses and retailers, you should be able to click a “buy” button that connects directly with that provider’s e-commerce Application Program Interface (API) and complete the transaction without ever clicking away to the retailer’s site. Watch for even more complicated functionality as social media platforms open their APIs to developers. The goal is to create seamless experiences like discovering a recipe on Pinterest, clicking a button and having ingredients delivered 45 minutes later—or at least have them added to your Amazon Pantry shopping list.

3. Captive Search

Social platforms are increasingly trying to become the walled garden its users never leave. To realize this goal, amplifying their search capabilities. Recently Facebook upgraded their internal search so that rather than confining results to something you might find on a friend’s page, you’ll see search results covering relevant content from all 2 trillion Facebook posts in existence. This not only increases the likelihood you stay in Facebook, it creates geometrically more opportunities for Facebook to serve you more, and more personalized ads. This trend will only increase as social providers seek greater opportunities to monetize their users’ behaviors.

It’s easier to be social when you have the right partner.

Since 1985, Magnani Continuum Marketing has made it easier for organizations selling in highly technical and complex markets to deliver the most effective and seamless traditional and digital brand experiences. We’re more digital than advertising agencies. More strategic than digital marketing shops. More creative than management consultants. And a heck of a lot easier to work with than almost all of them. We’ve helped some of the largest corporations in the world, and some of the most exciting new startups. And we’d love to talk with you. Just drop us a note.

Like us but not ready to talk?

Check out our blog

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Is your positioning statement still valid?

The average lifespan of an organization’s market positioning statement is five years. And today’s marketing environment is changing faster than ever before. If your current positioning suffers from any of the five criteria identified below, it’s time to consider updating or replacing it.

You are no longer differentiated from your competition.

It's a dog-eat-dog world out there, and advancements in technology and increased job-hopping of professionals has made it easier than ever for your competition to catch up. If you haven't done a competitive assessment lately, grab a couple of your sales reps and take some time to do at least an anecdotal review of your company versus the competition. If you find your competitive points of differentiation to be weak or non-existent, it’s time to take another look at your offering and how you’re positioning yourself.

The needs of your target audience have changed.

While your target audience remains the same, what they need and expect from the companies they work with may have changed dramatically. Not sure if this is the case for your target audience? Start with some small qualitative research and persona building. It should help identify and validate your audience, their needs and how you (and your competition) are perceived at meeting them. Review those needs against your positioning and benefit—if they’re out of alignment, it may be time for a new positioning statement.

Your products and services have changed significantly.

Strong companies continue to evolve, as do their products. Further complicating matters, many traditional industrial and manufacturing companies are shifting from being a simple product supplier to more of a full-service provider. If either is the case for your business, it is probably time to review your positioning statement—especially as it relates to your customer benefits.

Your industry has experienced a disruptive event.

After the economic downturn of 2008, many of our clients recognized the relevance of their market positioning weakened significantly. If the economic environment and forecast has changed for your industry in the past two or three years, it may be time to re-examine how your market position relates to the needs of the overall market.

Your target market has changed.

Companies are living organisms that change and evolve as the markets shift. Add in the continuous shifts we've seen in technology and you may start to realize your target market (or maybe just your "sweet spot" is no longer large enough to sustain the MROI you need to demonstrate. A significant change in the prioritization of any target market segment can be a red alert for an outdated positioning, and it’s most likely time to review.

So, you answered "yes" or "hmmm" to at least one or two of the questions—now what?

Magnani offers full service integrated marketing strategy and planning and can help you better identify your target market, develop profiles and personas, execute small scale and large scale competitive audits and assessments or just help you evaluate your existing positioning statement and determine if it's time for an update.

Since 1985, Magnani Continuum Marketing has made it easier for organizations selling in highly technical and complex markets to deliver the most effective and seamless traditional and digital brand experiences.

We offer full service integrated marketing strategy and planning and can help you better identify your target market, develop profiles and personas, execute small scale and large scale competitive audits and assessments or just help you evaluate your existing positioning statement and determine if it's time for an update.We’re more digital than advertising agencies. More strategic than digital marketing shops. More creative than management consultants. And a heck of a lot easier to work with than almost all of them. We’ve helped some of the largest corporations in the world, and some of the most exciting new startups. And we’d love to talk with you.

Just drop us a note.

Like us but not ready to talk?

Check out our blog

Want a quarterly dose of marketing facts, delivered to your inbox?

Sign up for our newsletter.

Caught between your agency and budget cap? A studio resource might be right for you.

If you have a large volume of smaller graphic design updates that occur on an annual basis—e.g: updating dates or product/item numbers throughout catalogs, creating new sales materials or web pages within existing templates, or, creating multiple variations of pieces for regional or franchise use—incurring standard agency fees can quickly add up to a large budget item.

Some marketing managers turn to freelance designers or production artists to reduce hourly rates, but what happens when the volume of work makes managing multiple freelancers cost efficient but time prohibitive? That’s when it’s time to find an agency studio resource. Agency studio agreements can fit in that space between freelancers and your creative agency.

Freelance rates with single-point-of-contact service

Many creative agencies (ours included) have created in-house studio resources that leverage higher-level project management processes, protocols and efficiencies clients expect from a larger agency, but use studio production artists versus the agency’s higher-level creative directors, art directors or graphic designers. But it is important to understand what of your workload is right for a studio resource.

How do you know if it’s “studio” work versus “agency” work?

The simplest way to understand what work belongs with the studio and which with the agency is to answer the question, “Is there an unambiguous deliverable?” Put alternatively, you know what the end product will be, and can you provide all necessary resources needed to complete that deliverable before you send the assignment. Need to create version of a flyer with 40 different regional office addresses? Studio. Need a new campaign idea or have to solve a prickly user interface problem? Agency.

Maybe it’s not your budget. Maybe it’s your current agency.

Since 1985, Magnani Continuum Marketing has made it easier for organizations selling in highly technical and complex markets to deliver the most effective and seamless traditional and digital brand experiences. We’re more digital than advertising agencies. More strategic than digital marketing shops. More creative than management consultants. And a heck of a lot easier to work with than almost all of them. We’ve helped some of the largest corporations in the world, and some of the most exciting new startups. And we’d love to talk with you.

Just drop us a note.

Like us but not ready to talk?

Check out our blog

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Mobile website, mobile app or API? A 5-minute primer.

50% of average global mobile web users now use mobile as either their primary or exclusive means of going online. And 48% of users say that if they arrive on a business website that isn't working well on mobile, they take it as an indication of the business simply not caring. Now, let’s say you have 6 months and a limited budget to overhaul your company’s online mobile presence and prove to users that you do, in fact, care. Further, let’s also say you have five minutes to decide whether to develop a new mobile website, a mobile app, or an API. What’s the right choice? The short answer is, “it depends.”

The longer answer (if you consider five minutes, “longer”) is that each technology can deliver great results depending on how you want users to experience your brand and how you think they will want to consume your content or data.

When does a mobile website make the most sense?

Ask yourself these three questions:
  1. Is most of your content static or informational, e.g.: “about us”, business hours, maps, and addresses?
  2. Will limiting accessibility to only those times when a data connection is available be acceptable to your users?
  3. Do you have a homogenous user base—every user wants/expects/requires the same levels of information or service?
If you say “yes” to all three, then a mobile website will likely suit your users’ and your businesses’ needs perfectly well.

When does a mobile app make more sense?

Ask yourself these three questions:
  1. Is there a high intensity for client side processing, e.g.: manipulating graphics/images, multi-input calculators, or estimating?
  2. Is there a need for users to have full access to all functionality offline?
  3. Are there data or storage requirements larger than 25MB?
If you say “yes” to just about any of these, then a dedicated app will offer a much higher level of performance and superior user experience.

When does building an API make sense?

Ask yourself these three questions:
  1. Is your content valuable as raw data or in context of your distribution partners’ UX, e.g.: Amazon showing UPS tracking status inline with order information, or a mortgage bank providing real-time interest rate data for brokers’ online calculators?
  2. Are you trying to make your content/data more transferable or shareable, e.g.: embedded YouTube videos or syndicated through existing platforms like Flipboard?
  3. Will you want to use the same data or content for driving a variety of disparate experiences, or you sense the portal to that data is likely to change radically in the near term, e.g.: the expanding and changing adoption levels of mobile websites, dedicated apps and wearables?
Again, if you say “yes” to just about any of these, investing in an API could provide maximum exposure for your content/data while creating a code foundation that makes every future development more efficient.

When does meeting a new strategic partner make sense?

Since 1985, Magnani Continuum Marketing has made it easier for organizations selling in highly technical and complex markets to deliver the most effective and seamless traditional and digital brand experiences. We’re more digital than advertising agencies. More strategic than digital marketing shops. More creative than management consultants. And a heck of a lot easier to work with than almost all of them. We’ve helped some of the largest corporations in the world, and some of the most exciting new startups. And we’d love to talk with you.

Just drop us a note.

Like us but not ready to talk?

Check out our blog

Want a quarterly dose of marketing facts, delivered to your inbox?

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A 3-minute guide to doubling your website conversions

Tell them what you want, what you really, really want.

In a study of small business web sites, 70% (of the 200 sites evaluated) were missing one simple thing that could have easily doubled their online conversions.

What were they missing? Clear calls-to-action linked to a conversion mechanism right on their home pages—such as special offers, e-mail newsletters, how-to guides, demos, and interactive tools. So, here are a few quick steps anyone can take to update your home page and dramatically boost conversions.

Define the most important metrics for the success of your business

Whether it’s direct sales of promoted products, downloading content and materials, or simply completing a “contact us” form so you can continue the customer conversation, you might be surprised how many websites were built without anyone addressing this basic business requirement. If you are going to take the time to build a website, it makes sense to exert your efforts in improving the type of conversions that are most likely to drive more business.

Determine what behaviors drive those metrics

There is no universally “best” conversion behavior. If your sales process is complicated and requires intensive human interaction, then perhaps your best conversion is a contact form that delivers a pre-qualified lead your sales team can follow up on, personally. Or, perhaps, your products or services are highly technical or complex? In that case, your most desired behavioral outcome may be an increase in viewing a posted demo video to help shorten the sales cycle.

Engage those behaviors early and often

Don’t bury your desired actions at the end of a multi-step user journey. Let’s look at the salesforce.com home page. While they make it easy to find contact information—phone number and email contact information front and center at the top—the design telegraphs quite clearly the conversion behavior that drives their business: getting users to try salesforce.com.

With a “free trial” button at the top in a contrasting green and two conversion items located at the center of the page, “watch demos” and “try for free”, salesforce.com overtly promotes two forms of trial, one vicarious, the other direct.

You have the room. Add the ability.

Your assignment for the last 15 seconds of this three-minute lecture is to take a screenshot of your home page, print it out and count how many places you could add suggested behaviors/conversion opportunities without compromising your design.

Class dismissed.


Ready to interface with a new strategic partner?

Since 1985, Magnani Continuum Marketing has made it easier for organizations selling in highly technical and complex markets to deliver the most effective and seamless traditional and digital brand experiences. We’re more digital than advertising agencies. More strategic than digital marketing shops. More creative than management consultants. And a heck of a lot easier to work with than almost all of them. We’ve helped some of the largest corporations in the world, and some of the most exciting new startups. And we’d love to talk with you.

Just drop us a note.

Like us but not ready to talk?

Check out our blog

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