The result of the inevitable maturing of markets is that today’s innovation becomes tomorrow’s fish and chip paper, so to speak. And as the internet continues to empower your customers to price compare among a virtually infinite set of your competitors, this process will only continue to accelerate. But just because the category itself is commoditized, there is still competitive advantage to be found in the customer experience you’re able to deliver.
Whether from disruptive technologies shifting the balance of power, or a proliferation of low-cost competitors gaining access to existing technologies at increasingly lower prices, in every industry, it seems, competition is increasing. In this environment, the importance of being deliberate about how and where you invest time and resources grows exponentially. The “easy” solution, some think, is to increase your budget. But increased budgets without increased focus and strategic consideration is usually simply a recipe for waste. Thankfully, there are a number of “sweat equity” options to help you be more competitive on your existing budget.
1. Audit your competition
And we mean, actively, relentlessly. Set time aside and search the web, scour trade publications, visit their social and web properties, and subscribe to their mailing lists. Take screen shots, catalog and document what, when and how they are talking about themselves, your mutual competition, or you. Note when they begin to alter their tone or messaging. Try to understand how they flight media. We, as a species, are incredible pattern recognition machines. The more you internalize your competitors’ behaviors, the more quickly you will anticipate any change to their strategy and the more quickly you can adjust or enhance your own.
2. Narrow your target audience
This usually feels counterintuitive for most of our clients. Shouldn’t you want to sell to more customers? Not exactly. You want to sell to more of the right customer. Most industries follow something close the 80/20 rule—meaning 80% of the profits are derived from the top 20% of customers. By example, let’s look at the case of Apple. By dominating in the high-end of the mobile market, and ignoring the budget end of the market, they reap something more like 90% of the industry profits with only 17% share of unit sales. Evaluate your customer portfolio. Understand the profile of your most profitable relationships and focus your messaging, media mix and overall marketing budgets against that segment.
3. Upgrade your analytics
Google Analytics lets you track goals based on the basic data that platform can track: URL visited, time on page, or pages per session. With addition of Google Tag Manager, you're able to track nearly every type of user interaction on your website. It’s a window, not simply into where and how many users are interacting with your site, but how effectively your site is driving the behaviors that feed your sales funnel or lead to a direct sale itself.
Tag Manager opens up new possibilities of what can be tracked: page timers, video plays, button clicks, form information, window loads, and limitless custom events. And it enables reporting on the event data in Analytics for further detailed analysis down the road. In addition to these being able to trigger Goals in Analytics and Conversions in Adwords, Tag Manager can add the event details to existing reports for maximum slicing and dicing. For a more detailed look at the inner workings (and pitfalls) of Google Analytics, read our blog post, here.
4. Optimize your online experience for conversions
Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is the process of reviewing analytics and user feedback to improve specific performance metrics of your website. That could mean refining web forms to increase completion rates and improve lead generation. It could mean uncovering the most frequent points of exit on your user journey and making adjustments to your UX, your design, the language involved, or adding social appeals to make continuation of the journey more appealing. In addition to enhancing results on key performance indicators (KPIs), CRO should improve ROI on SEO/SEM efforts as well as create a higher satisfaction rating, site wide.
Insight and efficiency are always a good investment.
Time and time again, we’ve seen challenger brands disrupt larger, entrenched incumbents by taking the time and putting in the effort, to refine their positioning, narrow their target customer profile, differentiate their customer experience, and go after their competitors’ best customers, relentlessly, with surgical precision. As the French proverb goes: “Qui court deux lievres a la fois, n’en prend aucun” — translation: “Who runs after two hares at the same time, catches none.”
The 8-second attention span has met its match.
A few years ago, at every digital marketing and advertising conference, at least one of the speakers would tout the statistic that the American attention span had declined to a mere 8 seconds—bested by the common goldfish whose attention span was measured at a comparably awe-inspiring 9 seconds. Admittedly, I used that statistic myself in a talk I was giving at an insurance marketing conference, only to see it presented three more times by fellow speakers.
Anyway, to be fair (to us, not the goldfish), it is likely that instead of being evidence of our increasingly dim-witted nature, this statistic is probably more indicative of the fact that we are, collectively, simply getting better at triaging and filtering cultural noise. It’s less an attention deficit than an increasingly effective B.S. detector. If some sensory input doesn’t engage in a meaningful way within the 8-second limit, we will, quite unceremoniously, dismiss it and move on. To combat this emerging defense mechanism, YouTube/Google has been encouraging marketers to explore Bumper Ads, a new six-second pre-roll ad format.
So, can you really tell a story in six seconds?
Short answer: yes. Longer answer: yes, but how far along the purchasing path that story may take a buyer depends on how considered the ultimate purchase is. Can you fully entice a consumer to try a new brand of soft drink, with no other media, within six seconds? It’s certainly possible. Can you convince the head of a fortune 500 company to switch management consulting firms in six seconds? Less likely. But, if you’re smart about it, you may be able to open their minds to the idea. What should you consider as you evaluate this new vehicle, or, more importantly, how can you craft a compelling story once you’re committed to it? Here are a few bits of advice and points to consider.
1. Don’t explain it. Live it.
Being headquartered in Chicago, we cannot talk about storytelling without invoking our local experts at The Second City. If you have ever seen the best improvisational comedy performers work their craft, you’ll notice one very specific skill—the ability to establish the relationship between characters and the issue to be solved within the first few seconds of dialogue. No set. No props. They are unapologetic about starting a story in the middle, at the point of greatest tension or conflict. They know from experience that the audience fill in whatever extraneous details they need to place the presented conversation in some meaningful context. How the characters arrived at the situation is less relevant than how they will get out of it.
It’s a smart way to approach storytelling in the temporally constrained world of the six-second bumper ad. Envision a single line of dialogue that encompasses the greatest issues facing your customer, followed by a logo and your tagline, with a clickable link to your dedicated campaign landing page. It’s basic problem/solution narrative. Compressed into six seconds.
2. Remember, reading is faster than listening.
Humans, on average can read about 200-300 words per minute. When read to, they can comprehend about 150 to 160 words per minute. If you want to maximize the amount of information transmitted in a brief interaction, use animated type. If you want to push things even further, there are rapid-fire, single-word visual presentation techniques employed by a number of speed reading apps like ReadQuick that, when incorporated into your video, could increase the information density by as much as four times. Of course, it’s still on you to write something compelling and engaging enough to read, even at increased speeds, for those six seconds.
3. Appeal to universal human emotions.
This is good advice whether you have six seconds or six hours to get your point across. The point is, that as much as technology has changed in the past few decades, human nature has remained functionally consistent for all of recorded history. You may not be able to tell the tale of Homer’s Odysseus in six seconds, but the emotions and motivations that drove the narrative of the Odyssey remain as poignant today as they were in the 8th century, B.C. If you can’t clearly point to what basic emotion or motivation your six second story exploits, you are likely wasting your production and media dollars.
4. Think in images.
Always remember the oft quoted and variously attributed adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Instead of creating a text-based outline of your script, start asking how you could tell the entire story in images alone. Then, use text or voiceover to enhance or punctuate your messaging. Apply this process and you’ll likely be surprised at how complex of a story you can tell.
5. Limit the takeaway.
This should be a requirement of any piece of creative. But it’s infinitely more important when you have a mere six seconds to make your case. One idea. That’s it. With a clear call to action.
Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.
The truth is, all of the above advice could easily (and does) apply to longer format story telling. The difference here is that the compression of time creates pressures on execution that increase inversely and geometrically as the time available is reduced. Now. Every. Single. Moment. Counts.
If you’re looking for intelligent ways to enhance your marketing strategy, integrate new technologies, or improve your customer experience, contact us. Or, click around our site to see all of the other ways we help we help our clients outsmart, outmessage and outmarket larger competitors, to steal their most profitable customers.
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