The Power of Influencer Marketing: Part 3

For our third article in the series we’re going to focus on how a medium-sized company used a regional Influencer Marketing campaign to combat two larger competitors. Again, we’ve held back a few of the details to protect the parties in question.

Background – Medium vs. Large

About seven years ago I was asked to assist a medium-sized CPG company, we’ll call them Company B, in defining and implementing a program to stem the decline of their flagship brand. The brand in question was in third place at the time behind one brand each from two larger competitors. The setting was the Southeastern US and the competitive companies were the two largest in the industry. We’ll call them Company R and Company L.

Details

Here are a few of the key details pertaining to this study.

  • All companies were over hundred-million dollar entities with the corresponding resources.
  • All companies employed the full marketing mix in their efforts.
  • Company B was the smallest of the three and the only one with sales limited to the US.
  • Companies R and L had a combined Share of Market (SOM) of more than 70%.

Results

With our staff limited to me, two company employees and three contracted event staff, we were able to significantly increase both brand awareness and consumer adoption. In a six month period, Company B was able to increase brand SOM by 57% in the trading area in which the campaign was implemented. It should also be noted that company B was able to take over as the #2 brand in the trading area during this time frame. Companies R and L did not appear to launch any type of response to the program.

Success Factors

The Influencer Program we created had a very modest budget of less than $10,000 total and we used no mainstream media or retail components. The program was entirely implemented using only direct marketing tactics. Here are a few of the key reasons this was successful.

  • Extremely Targeted – The program was limited to a single venue that was heavily visited by the targeted consumer group. This significantly increased adoption while keeping costs low.
  • Complete Assimilation – Company B only used people, both internal and external, that were completely at home in the targeted environment. In effect, they were the targeted consumers. This enabled instant credibility with consumers and garnered immediate results.
  • Repetition – Through the use of multiple events (about a dozen) at the venue bolstered by email and mail offer follow-up, Company B was able to reinforce adoption with nearly two dozen Brand contacts.

Summary

In short, despite a very small budget, Company B was able to reverse the decline of their brand and grow nearly 60% in LESS THAN 6 MONTHS! They even managed to overtake the number two brand and threaten number one. The campaign was so successful it was immediately renewed and a project was kicked off to expand to other areas. That, again, is The Power of Influencer Marketing.

Winning Combo: QR Codes and Direct Mail

Quick Response codes can be scanned with a SmartPhone to display text, take the user to a website, or dial a phone number. They represent a revolution in direct response advertising and yet another way that marketers are breaking down the barrier between a company and its prospects or clients. In fact, according to ScanLife, the prevalence of Quick Response codes as an advertising medium increased by 700 percent in 2010. And they’re even more popular this year.

5 tips for using QR codes effectively

QR codes are a marketing tool that you shouldn’t ignore. Yet it would be a mistake to use Quick Response codes just because they’re cool. Follow the 5 tips we’ve outlined here to ensure that when you use QR codes in your direct mail, you’re doing so purposefully – and effectively.

1. Where you’re going matters. A great map isn’t much good without a great destination. You can use QR codes to display text – a coupon code, perhaps (see our Quick Response code below). You can use them to display your phone number (again, breaking the barrier between your targets and their response). Or – most popularly – use them to take people to your website (or a targeted micro version of it).

If you use the Quick Response code to take people to your website, think about what device they’ll be using when they visit your site – likely the same SmartPhone they used to scan the code. It isn’t really necessary to have a sophisticated mobile website, as long as your site is designed to display well on a SmartPhone (most new website platforms do this automatically).

Better yet, consider creating a mobile-friendly microsite that you use just for people responding to your QR code. The beauty of Quick Response codes is how they let you specifically target your offer and the messaging associated with it.

2. It’s all about your audience. Even among SmartPhone users, in America at least, Quick Response codes are still foreign – so give your mail recipients a bit of help on how to use the QR code (a “Scan me with your SmartPhone barcode reader” can suffice – you might also offer suggestions on where to get the code reader, like the Droid Market or iPhone App store).

3. Integrate the Quick Response code into your offer. We talk a lot here about the importance of a great offer. Direct response marketing (which includes, of course, direct mail) is all about enticing your target to action – and what better way to do that with a can’t be refused offer. As you design your Quick Response code campaign, think about what you’re offering, and about what you’re getting. Send a postcard with a QR code inviting prospects to sign up to join your special discount club – they get special discounts, and you get their e-mail address and phone number (two more ways you can communicate with them).

4. Use QR codes to integrate your direct mail and online marketing efforts. Quick Response codes are a brilliant way to connect your offline marketing efforts with your online marketing efforts. When mail recipients scan the QR code, take them to a microsite that allows them to sign up for special deals and useful information; you can even offer recipients the option to sign up for mail, e-mail or SMS-based messages – so you’re really communicating with your targets the way they want to be communicated with.

5. Be purposeful. Sometimes new trends in marketing (or anything else) are simply flash-in-the-pan fads that suck up marketing resources that should be going to tried-and-true channels. Not so with QR codes; the fact is that SmartPhones have revolutionized our lives, and will continue to do so – mobile marketing is not a fad, it’s the wave of the future (integrated with other channels, like direct mail, of course).

QR codes and Direct Mail

The process of creating a mail piece with a Quick Response code is essentially the same as creating any other piece, with the added step (during the design phase) of including a high-resolution QR code. There are some great QR code generators online; here are just a few options:

Kaywa – the simplest Quick Response code generator, it allows you to generate a QR code for a URL or phone number, or about a paragraph worth of text (see our example below).

iCandy – a bit more sophisticated than Kaywa, iCandy allows you to track scans. If you’re serious about integrating Quick Response codes into your marketing efforts, measurement is key.

Once you’ve designed your mailer with the QR code included, TEST, TEST, TEST!

Make sure that it can be read by a variety of different Smartphones.

Stock Market and Investing Myths Part 1 – Five Investing Myths EXPOSED!

The recent stock market crash of 2008 has left millions of investors questioning their conventional investment reasoning. Financial advisors are finding it more and more difficult to convince their clients of sound financial plans — and rightfully so. Americans are wising up to the reality that investing may be more complicated then they originally thought. Or maybe investing is not more complicated. Maybe investors have simply been miseducated.

Miseducation can come in many different forms. Television stories, uneducated advisors, propaganda pieces, not to mention just good ol’ fashion uninformed word of mouth. In fact word of mouth is probably the biggest proponent of miseducation. But just because Uncle Jimmy says it, doesn’t mean it is true. In this multi-part article series I’m going to expose several myths commonly associated with the stock market and investing. If these myths are deeply held beliefs of your own I guarantee you can improve your financial performance by simply re-educating your investment mindset.

1. The Stock Market Must Go Up To Make Money

In my years of trading and education I have found this myth to be the most common mis-understanding of all. It makes perfect sense. When it comes to investing no single message is preached more clearly than this one. “Good news on Wall St. today, the stock market rose 79 points.” Or “Tough day on Wall St as stocks fell a staggering 87 points”. These headlines and messages are literally seared into the subconscious minds of virtually all Americans. Even well educated people like myself who understand how the market works find it hard to not smile when we hear of huge gains on Wall St.

However just because the market goes up it doesn’t mean people made money. And just because the market goes down it does not mean people lost money. The truth is there are three directions the stock market can, and does move: Up, Down, and sideways. And you better believe if there are multiple ways the market can move there are also multiple ways to make money with each directional move. Myth: BUSTED.

2. Stock Market Investing Is Risky

This is an equally popular myth yet one which can also be debunked. I already stated that there are three ways the market can move: up, down, and sideways. And I’ve already established that most people think when the market goes up you can make money. But that is only 1/3 of the choices since the market can move three directions. That means the odds are stacked against you 2/3 of the time. With that math the risk associated with this myth may appear true. However I also said there are different strategies to make money with each of the directions the market may move. That means with a little education you can learn to make money in each of those three directions.

The risk here is not in the market itself but rather in the lack of education. For people who do not have a proper education of the stock market these investments can absolutely be risky. In fact if you do not have an education the odds are 2/3 against you that you will receive an education the hard way – losing money! However with a little education and a little knowledge you can make money in 3/3 market directions. Myth: BUSTED.

3. Over 20 Years The Stock Market Always Goes Up

This myth is a favorite of financial advisors and to be honest it is kind of true. During the last 100 years (which I expect encompasses your lifetime) we’ve had an interesting series of events. Let’s look at that for a moment: If you invested $10,000 in 1909 for 20 years by 1929 that money would have been worth over $30,000! Not bad. But if you had started in 1911 and invested $10,000 20 years later in 1931 you would have just right around $10,000. Oops. Wrong 20 years. If you had invested $10,000 in 1919 for 20 years it would have been worth roughly $10,000 in 1939. Oops. Wrong 20 years. If you had invested $10,000 in 1929 (God Forbid) getting back to a $10,000 value would have taken until about 1955 (A full 26 years!). Oops, wrong 20 years. $10,000 in 1939 would have been worth about $50,000 in 1959. Not bad. 1949-1969 would have yielded a similar result. 1959-1979 would have made some money, but not nearly enough to keep up with inflation. 1969-1989 would have roughly doubled your money. 1979-99 was great. 1989-2009 worked well too. But what about 1999-2009? uh-oh. If you invested $10,000 in the market in 1999 today that $10,000 would be worth roughly $10,000.

My point is the market doesn’t always go up. And it is really un-cool if you’re one of those people who get stuck in a 20 year down cycle when you’re ready to pull out your money. And is it really worth waiting 20 years to find out if you will get to retire during a market high or a market low? To top that off currently (in 2009) many economists are predicting the next 15 years to be one of those large down cycles. With such a spotted history and so many negative predictions is it really worth risking the next 20 years to be anything like 1911, 1919, 1929, 1939, or any of the other rough 20 year cycles? Truth is the market does NOT always go up over any 20 year period. And as 1909-1911 showed us, only a couple of years can make the difference between a really great 20 return and a downright devastating 20 year period. Myth: BUSTED.

4. The Best Way To Make Money In Stocks Is To Buy And Hold

Buy and hold is traditional wisdom. But it parallels the first three myths we’ve talked about. The idea is you buy a stock and hold it and in a few years it will be worth more. Hopefully a lot more. Since buy and hold doesn’t always work people get the idea that investing is risky. Truth is investment risk is directly proportional to the amount of investing education a person has (or does not have). In the professional investing world we have variation on Buy and Hold – we call it Buy, Hold, and Pray. That’s because with this strategy a person buys a stock, they hold it, and pray it goes up. Of course with three potential market directions, and the reality that markets do not always go higher, the investor may be praying quite a bit only to realize their chances of having that prayer answered are about 1 in 3! Myth: BUSTED.

5. News And Research Groups Have the Hot Stock Tips

This final myth is one of the most popular investment strategies for high paid professionals. Some people make a lot of money selling these hot investment tips to people who want to put their money in the market. However the foundation of Dow Theory actually proves this method to be a myth. Charles Dow wrote around the turn of the 20th century and is the father of the Dow Jones Industrial Average which we often refer to as “the market”. He states in his theories that there are 3 phases to the growth of a trend. The Accumulation phase, the Public Participation phase, and finally the Dispersion phase. The accumulation phase is when major institutions begin to buy. Like the name suggests the public participation phase is when the masses of the public begin to buy. And the dispersion phase is when the major institutions (who started the trend) begin to sell and “disperse” their positions. The interesting thing about this is Dow directly tied news related stories to the dispersion phase. Basically stating by the time it’s in print and the news is high, the move is over and the “smart money” has already begun dispersing their positions.

Using the basis of Dow Theory alone we can assume if it’s in print it’s too late. In fact generally speaking this proves true among printed stock recommendations. I recently analyzed one of these picks with a student. The pick was for the stock to be higher in 12 months yet after a brief analysis we determined there was absolutely zero green signs to push forward with this trade. There were about 8 yellow indications saying this might be a good trade in the future, and there were 3 red flags telling us reasons this stock should go down in the near future.

The reality about hot stock tips is they are usually not that hot. Traditional individual analysis is always more reliable and avoiding these tips will help you avoid losses in your portfolio. Myth: BUSTED.