It existed, but nobody really used it. Then one day, it was everywhere. Grocery stores placed dispensers at the door, nail salons gave it to clients, and people started carrying travel size bottles in their bags. With little advertising, how did Purell catch on?
Jonah Berger, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, has dedicated his career to answering that question. As he explains in his new book, Contagious: Why Things Catch On (Simon & Schuster, 2013), every viral product has six key features in common – features that can be replicated to make any product go viral.
“People often think that contagious products just get lucky,” Berger says. “But it’s not luck and it’s not random. It’s science.”
According to Berger’s research, specific circumstances and attributes empower consumers to share a given product. Any business can leverage those insights to create a viral hit. “You don’t need a huge advertising budget,” Berger says.
As many as half of consumers’ purchasing decisions are driven by word of mouth marketing – it’s trustworthy and far more targeted than traditional advertising. Plus, the majority of those interactions happen offline, where advertisements can’t reach. “Authenticity is a big reason word of mouth impacts behaviour,” Berger says.
To create a viral product that consumers are inspired to share authentically, incorporate these key elements.
1. Social currency. Consumers are more likely to adopt a product if it makes them feel special or ahead of the curve. For example, Gilt’s exclusive sales helped it become one of the hottest online shopping sites.
2. Triggers. Products that catch on become part of our everyday lives, so successful products create reasons and reminders to return on a regular basis. For example, Facebook and Twitter drive you back to their sites every time they email you to say you have a new message or mention.
3. Emotional impact. People tend to evangelise a product if it affected them emotionally, whether it solved a stressful problem or brightened a bad day. For example, if a Buzzfeed article makes you laugh, you’ll likely share it with friends who need a lift.
4. Visibility. Giving a product a distinctive feature, such as a standout logo or colour, helps consumers notice when others are using it. For example, you immediately recognize iPods because Apple made the headphones white when other companies all used black.
5. Practical value. A truly useful product that helps the user become more effective is more likely to be recommended often. For example, Evernote is very good at helping users remember and organise information, so it’s often recommended for research.
6. Stories. If people are going to share your product, they need to be able to tell its story. That can be as simple as a clear statement about what the product does, or as complicated as a really interesting origin story. For example, people who buy TOMS shoes love telling others how one pair is donated for every pair you buy.
How To Get The Most Value For Your Direct Marketing Money
Grant Fleming, CEO of Leadify offers this advice to entrepreneurs and marketers.
It is a common, global problem in the digital age – how do you convert vast amounts of data into demonstrable business value? Marketers aren’t exempt from this conundrum, and the pressure is always on to justify the worth of running a marketing campaign in real world, practical terms.
So how can you glean the most profitability from a campaign? Start by addressing a core challenge: Separating the important data from the not so important.
More particularly, focus on demographic information that is easily accessible like age, gender, location. Then follow up by looking a bit deeper and adding data such as marital status and income. Grant Fleming, CEO of Leadify offers this advice to entrepreneurs and marketers.
1. System essentials
Beyond this, while choosing the right data is key, it’s wise to use the best direct marketing system possible for your marketing needs. For starters, it should report on the data that is most important. It should also offer smart dashboards that displays comprehensive information. And it should accommodate users who want to put analytics and insights together manually.
Related: POPI Proof Your Direct Marketing
Having all three in place – pulling together data, running analytics and translating those into presentable reports – is not just a nice to have. It’s increasingly essential, as direct marketing is fast becoming a saturated space. Figuring out ways to better personalise data, and target and curate the right audience for the right message at the right time has become mission critical.
2. Aid from the machines
The good news is that machine learning is set to take much of the onerous work out of personalising data. But the caveat is that its usage doesn’t exempt you from being involved, as machines still need to be taught what constitutes good data to begin with. You thus need to know and understand how to curate data properly from the outset.
For the foreseeable future, you still need to understand what you are feeding the machine learning algorithms with, and most importantly, testing assumptions. Avoid the tendency to assume that because the results came from a machine, they are correct. Rather, conclusions drawn need to be continually tested, verified and honed where appropriate.
3. Pitfalls and challenges
But, while you may have a basis from which to extract more value from your data, what is preventing you? Among key obstacles that many marketing companies do not realise, is the power of the tools that are available to them, especially those locally produced.
This is to their detriment, as the tools readily available in South Africa boast sophisticated, yet simple, insight dashboards and reporting metrics that could power-up their marketing efforts.
As for a potential opportunity, this too is a topic that is often mentioned in other industries, that of creating greater integration with a variety of tools. In reality, few companies have managed to integrate their digital, social and direct marketing approaches well.
Getting more money out of your data boils down to sorting the wheat from the chaff, having the right system in place, curating data, and finally, using machine learning with an eye towards it being an aid, rather than a replacement for human efforts.
Build A Better Database And Boost Your Audience
Put frankly, if you have not crafted your message so that you are engaging with your audience, with their permission, you will be out of the direct marketing game.
For businesses across the board, one way to get better returns is by improving efficiencies. For marketers in particular, the million rand question is how to build better databases and grow their audience.
Grant Fleming, CEO of Leadify, says that building up an audience around particular marketing messages or strategies rather than pushing out any and all content to anyone, is essential. The latter may have been a trend that TV advertising praised, but it is ineffective as well as wasteful, when applied to direct marketing campaigns.
Marketers also must pay attention to their ‘list hygiene’ i.e. ensure irrelevant messages aren’t being sent to the wrong demographic. Do this by avoiding over-marketing, a factor which may be missed by those operating with a ‘more is better’ mindset. This can derail efforts, as even if people are partially interested in the marketing message, they will reach an unsubscribe point more quickly if marketers press them too often.
Dealing with information deluge
Front of mind for marketers should be that people are being besieged by information more than ever. Additionally, email and SMS channels are especially hotly contested marketing spaces, full of marketing promotions.
Clearly, any marketers who want to increase their opt-ins need to get their message and audience right from the outset, while ensuring that they send carefully crafted campaigns at the right time.
Segmentation needs to become more sophisticated too and is among top marketing trends for 2018. Doing so helps marketers treat their audience differently and adds a level of personalisation to their campaigns.
The Smart Insights report even suggests greater personalisation will result in an increase in conversions, by keeping marketers relevant and in touch with lists’ changing needs and preferences.
Strategies for success
Analytics can play a significant role here.
More granular detail can be built up over time such as what day of the week, and time of the day messages should be sent to particular segmented audiences for the optimal response.
Spread marketing messages out for a while too, and then hone in on specific days of the week, and times of the day, according to the audience being targeted. It’s considerably more effective to target the right audience at the right time than continuously sending general messages all day.
Related: POPI Proof Your Direct Marketing
The importance of A/B testing to help hone the message to your audience also cannot be underestimated. By testing two or more variants, and listening to the feedback received, marketers have a basis from which to optimise their campaigns.
As for databases, is bigger still better? Yes, but only as a starting point for the data to be further segmented and refined, empowering marketers to more accurately define their audiences.
All this may sound like a great deal of work, but the benefit of doing so isn’t just to build an audience. It will also help marketers deal with the increased pressure from the Protection of Personal Information (PoPI) act to ensure they aren’t spamming their audience.
Honour The Opt-out
Gareth Mountain from Olico, explains how PoPI will effect companies undertaking any form of direct marketing, and why it’s important to honour the consumers’ right to opt out of the marketing process.
It’s in a companies’ own best interests to toe the line when it comes to direct marketing best practices. It boils down to the fact that ethically it is the right thing to do, and that they should not wait for the implementation (and subsequent fines) of the Protection of Personal Information (PoPI) act to kick in to respect the consumer.
1. Electronic comms and outbound calling
The most notable point to understand when it comes to electronic channels of communication (email, SMS, Automatic Voice Messaging), is that companies will need explicit opt-in permission to contact the consumer. Here it is not about having the legal right to market to them as the Electronic Communications Act currently specifies, but rather being able to prove that they specifically gave permission for your communication.
This is set to bring about an overall decline in electronic marketing, and securing that valuable opt-in permission is going to be crucial. Yes, some companies will certainly struggle, but by providing relevant, ethical, targeted deals to your consumer database, there’s no reason for them to opt-out, especially if your offers are beneficial.
When it comes to outbound calling, PoPI permits one marketing call to a person, even if they have not opted in. During this call, operators can attempt to get them to opt-in for future marketing (both electronic and voice). While this might protect jobs in the South African call centre industry, it could result in locals receiving more intrusive calls, while less intrusive email and SMS marketing declines.
2. Respect the No
One thing to keep in mind during all marketing communication, is to respect the public’s requests. If a person asks to be removed from your electronic marketing or direct calls, make 100% sure to comply and ensure their number/email does not slip through the cracks to the next campaigns.
On a national level the Direct Marketing Association of SA (DMASA) has established a National Opt Out Database to adhere to. Paid-up members of the DMASA have access to this database as well as the process involved in making sure that their own database corresponds to the DMASA no contact list. This is through a process called “Deduping” and ensures companies do not accidentally market to anyone on this national do-not-call database. DMASA members also need to adhere to the code of conduct which regulates behaviour in the industry.
3. The responsibility of the company
When it comes to a company-wide level, it is best to automate the opt-out process so that human error is taken out of the equation. Keep a record of the opt-outs and inform the consumer that they have indeed been taken off the database.
Related: POPI Proof Your Direct Marketing
One grey area where we believe companies might try and bend the rules, would be to opt-out the consumer on a product-level, meaning that although they have said no for marketing on one brand or product, the company will continue with marketing other products in the stable. It is unlikely, however, that a consumer will decline receiving marketing for one product, and still want communication for another. Rather take them off the database completely.
The reasons why companies must honour opt-outs are numerous, with the fact that the PoPI Act allows for fines of up to R10 million or jail time for violation perhaps standing out as the most prominent. But with the ethical behaviour of companies under the spotlight locally, the moral responsibility of respecting the consumer should not be ignored.
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