Archive for the ‘Marketing Best Practices’ Category

ORM – It’s Official

Posted by Kavita Jaswal on March 12th, 2015

The significance “digital” has played on a consumer’s reaction to a brand, product or service has exponentially increased as review sites and channels of communication remain just a click away. I previously wrote about reputation management, the strategic method of monitoring your brand’s reputation by keeping up with customer reviews, quickly addressing any negative issues a customer may have and ensuring customer satisfaction through customer feedback solutions, such as surveys. So, what has changed in the last few months that made me want to write about this topic again? Online Reputation Management (ORM).

Exceptional customer service is at the forefront of many organization’s business practices. A local small business may rely on friendly employees to make each customer that walks through its door feels welcome and appreciated. But, what happens when a potential customer catches this employee on an off day? When these situations occur, disgruntled customers can virtually attack this business through not just one, but at least ten different channels. No matter how many good reviews an organization or business may have, a bad review could negate that feedback twofold.

What does this mean for organizations that pride themselves on their customer-centric business practices? It means that they should plan for the random case of “bad press” and incorporate a pre-emptive online reputation management plan.

Establishing a team of individuals who are well-versed in consumer opinions and behaviors is the first step to putting a pre-emptive online reputation management plan in place. These individuals can come up with theoretical situations that could potentially harm a business’ reputation. Pro-actively speculating and solving a potential negative interaction between a consumer and organization can ensure a crisis is quickly averted. Should an issue arise that has already been discussed, an organization could respond to the problem with a well-rehearsed solution.

Just as important as planning for a hypothetical situation, team members should continuously monitor situations in which other organizations have dealt with negative press. Breaking down what happened, step-by-step, and determining what could have been avoided while devising solutions to rectify the problem will help an organization should a similar problem arise.

Many businesses use customer-centric best practices to ensure positive feedback and stellar reviews. Unfortunately, in today’s digital world, no organization is invincible to the virtual customer backlash that can follow a negative interaction. Organizations should pro-actively think about any mishap that could occur and put a precautionary plan in place. Should an issue arise, organizations should already be prepared for the unexpected and ready to squash any potential bad press.


The State of SEO

Posted by Mallory Green on March 10th, 2015

In the very recent past, SEO was cut and dry. Google® made the rules and SEO professionals worked tirelessly to keep up with them and the ever-changing algorithm. While Google still has tremendous influence on what ranks and what doesn’t, times are changing. It’s becoming more than figuring out what keywords, content and links affect search engine results — It’s turning into more of a popularity contest where the winner isn’t entirely decided by Google.

Previously, marketers spent time trying to decipher one signal from another and adhering to rules like the number of backlinks each page should have and writing content based around relevant keywords in hopes to land on the first search engine results pages (SERPs). But as SEO expert, Rand Fiskin from Moz perfectly stated in a recent blog post, “Google’s ranking algorithm has become so incredibly complex, nuanced, powerful and full-featured that modern SEOs have all but given up on hammering away at individual signals.” On top of the known updates like Penguin, Hummingbird and Panda, Google makes more than 600 updates to its algorithm every year with the vast majority unknown to the public. Fiskin continues, “The SEO field’s obsession with knowing precisely how Google works and which signals matter is, at times, costing us a broader, deeper understanding of big-picture marketing.”1

Now, successful SEO is determined by more than the standards Google has created. While we can’t totally discount what Google thinks and the rules it makes, marketers should not be designing their websites and monetizing their content just for Google, because truthfully, your Google rankings are based more on your brand’s real life popularity than anything else. Oftentimes, showing up on the first SERP can be attributed to social media and content success. This means you are using email, blogs and social media to reach your audience, and those pieces of content are being shared and shared again. Not only this, but other writers, whether it’s bloggers or journalists, are also writing about your products and services, and this is the type of popularity that Google cannot ignore. As SEO blogger Tad Chef stated in a blog post, “Google’s job is to provide a high level of search quality based on what others are searching for. They have to find you. A search engine that ignores popular ideas, people or things is a bad search engine users will abandon.”2

This isn’t a petition to abandon all SEO best practices based on the rules and regulations of Google. It’s important that you utilize basic SEO tactics such as offering relevant content and creating a friendly user experience among other things, but it should be part of a more holistic approach that incorporates tactics which encourage others to talk about  you so Google has no choice but to take notice.




The Missing Link For Financial Institutions

Posted by Stephen Nikitas on October 28th, 2014

Over the past several years, financial institutions have come to recognize the importance of incorporating a variety of channels when communicating with their account holders. Direct mail, email and mass media all go hand-in-hand when conducting promotional campaigns. In order for account holders to see and hear the same messages, financial institutions must have all communications channels pull in the same direction to make marketing campaigns as effective as possible.

However, there is a missing link in this exercise. And, for marketers, it is sitting right in front of them – retail staff. All too often, campaigns are brainstormed, devised and implemented without bringing tellers, platform staff and contact center employees into the mix. This oversight, or challenge, unfortunately can make the best of marketing initiatives fall short of their potential.


While the numbers are declining, better than two-thirds of bank and credit union account holders continue to visit a branch and more than a quarter of them continue to pick up the phone and call their financial institution in order to speak with someone about their finances. This indicates that branch sales can and will remain critically important to retail banking. Although more origination volume is shifting online, 71 percent of consumers still say they prefer to open an account in the branch.1

Across retail banking is a vast surplus of branch sales capacity; however, it is less common that a retail bank or credit union has developed a truly proactive sales outreach. Most branch and contact center teams are still stuck in a reactive, order-taking mode that relies on advertising and promotion to drive sales. But, marketers are forgetting something critical: More than four out of ten consumers say they open an account after talking to a staff member, which means consumers want advice and consultation from branch staff to help them make a decision.2


While marketers are building promotional campaigns with advertising, direct mail and email, do not forget about bringing the retail staff into the mix. To support promotional campaigns, make sure branch staff is trained in needs-based selling and consultation. Remember, this endeavor is a journey and not a destination. Give branches realistic metrics to achieve in support of promotional campaigns, and continually analyze and adjust metrics based on the results. Always measure staff goals for each campaign and reward those branches that meet and exceed them. Finally, make sure to regularly share best practices among branches so that the weaker performers can strengthen their skills in time for the next promotion.

1. Novantas. Transforming Retail Sales Force Economics (2012).
2. Gallup. US Retail Banking Survey (2013).


Email Engagement: Playing The Long Game

Posted by Alex Wolski on August 20th, 2014

Email EngagementFor some time now, a trend among webmail providers has been to offer “intelligent inbox” features that automate the process of sorting email. For example, Gmail® has released its Tabs feature much to the consternation of email marketers. At the same time, the filtering techniques of many internet service providers has gotten more sophisticated by pulling in excess amounts of data points about the sender.

As a result, long-term subscriber engagement has emerged as an important metric influencing inbox placement. For email marketers, this implies that success involves monitoring more than opens, clicks and conversions. These additional metrics may now influence program success to some extent:

  • Reply and forward rate
  • Junk mail placement rate
  • Rate at which subscribers move messages from junk to the inbox and then take an action
  • Percentage of subscribers who are inactive without unsubscribing

Here are some suggestions for long-term email program success:

  • Segment your list and send content / offers appropriate to each segment: Among Harland Clarke Digital’s clients, email deployments sent to lists of less than 100 contacts show a 51% improvement in unique confirmed open rates over deployments sent to lists of over 10,000 contacts.1 This tells us that narrowcasting can be a powerful tactic.
  • Increase relevancy by sending automated email campaigns triggered by subscribers’ actions: Experience tells us that when someone does something online and immediately gets an email, he/she is more likely to read it.
  • Add content marketing to your repertoire: Providing useful, free information to your subscribers without directly selling to them sets your organization up as a thought leader. Through this process, you communicate your organization’s values to current and prospective customers.
  • Keep track of mobile engagement and use “mobile friendly” design: According to a recent HCD study on email engagement, nearly 50% of your readership may be reading messages on mobile devices.2
  • Put yourself in the reader’s shoes: For example, if you suspect your mailings are going into the spam folder, don’t only focus on your subject line or content. Consider what might make certain subscribers mark your message as spam. Do you need to improve the sign up process so readers aren’t taken by surprise when they see you in their inbox? You should also try sending welcome / subscription confirmation messages when someone is added to the list.
  • Send periodic surveys to your subscribers soliciting feedback on your email program: Ask them to rate your emails or request feedback on what content they would like to see.
  • Analyze your message layout: Find and optimize “hot spots” for clicks and use the information to see what types of words and content are attracting more readers.
  • Keep track of inactive subscribers: Segment your list and try different tactics to get through to them. You might consider a reengagement email campaign or targeting contacts via social media.

All of these tactics can improve long-term subscriber engagement with your emails. Increased engagement can help land your messages in the inbox at a higher rate which leads to further engagement.

Harland Clarke Digital’s SubscriberMail platform includes valuable tools to segment your list, automate email campaigns and track statistics on mobile and general engagement. Contact us for a demo today.

1. Harland Clarke Digital Financial Email Marketing Benchmark Report (2014)
2. Harland Clarke Digital Infographic: Getting Digital: Engagement Habits of Today’s Email Recipient (2014)


Headlines are always true, right?

Posted by Rob Ropars on May 30th, 2014

DigitalShoppingIn our rapid-paced society, technology has accelerated the rate at which we absorb content. Our patience and desire to dig into news stories has collapsed to the point of almost zero. As a result, the news has followed suit getting caught in a constant tug-of-war of between remaining relevant and delivering the most factual information.

In the past, the headline was always used in news writing to pull the reader in. While it originally was meant to intrigue, over the last decade it’s evolved into something more powerful and often sinister. Now, the headline is the story. In our “social media” culture, we need everything quickly and Tweet-short. Tell me what’s happened/happening in as few words as possible and make it easy to share to all my friends/followers so they do the same. But, how many of us skip reading the articles and instead just go with the headline as the core story?

If you take the time to dig beyond the headline, you’ll often find what, to me, is a disturbing trend. The snippet of copy used can be taken out of context and completely alter the impression the story has on the reader. The headline is not just sensationalized to pull in readers, often it’s, at best, misleading and, at worst, the exact opposite of the facts detailed in the story. In many situations, readers aren’t going any further, but choose to share the story based solely on the headline thus creating a society of drones who are perpetuating misinformation.

As a brand, it’s essential to keep tabs on what is being said about you digitally. This involves a certain degree of public relations whether you are one step ahead of a potential news story by releasing a factual statement first or defaulting into a state of crisis management if something inaccurate or untrue was said.

There are a variety of free tools available to keep track of your official social media outlet channels as well as any time your brand is mentioned on the internet. These provide instant notifications that keep you aware of where, when and how your brand is being used and if the attention is positive or negative giving you a chance to rectify any incorrect or misleading information.

There is a very clear pattern that news outlets are following in order to obtain readers – The more shocking/bombastic the headline, the more likely readers will find the information to be worthy of sharing regardless of what is written in the article itself. This new way of consuming media is affecting brands, and the only way to combat this growing trend is to stay ahead of the game by making yourself aware of how your brand name is being used and what it’s being attributed to.