Tag Archives: Advertising

Brex: A reminder about digital vs traditional acquisition

13 Nov

Brex is a billion-dollar valued startup that makes charge cards for startups.

One of their most profitable acquisition channels is . . . . . billboards:

Image result for brex billboard

BILLBOARDS!!!! While this is going to be surprising to many, it fits with what we’ve  learned from many advertising experiments: the things that are hardest to measure often provide the best opportunity to create value.

These billboards — which were blanketed across the Bay Area for $300,000 — significantly outperformed the digital channels that seem so obvious for a brand targeting U.S. startup execs. They use the billboards to get companies to sign-up for their charge cards: there goal is to get startup founders, CEO’s, or CFO’s to take action and adopt or switch to Brex’s cards for their employees.

Why do these billboards outperform digital acquisition channels for Brex? One factor is that digital channels work best for things that have a large stream of search activity, for products that are easily merchandised visually, and where there is an obvious audience that is under-targeted by other companies. None of these things are the case for Brex. Digital channels are easy to test and scale and the end result is that the market price for a conversion scales very high very fast: it’s going to be set by the company that has the highest monetization value per impression which requires a big stream of revenue and a high conversion rate.

Billboards offer opportunity for customer acquisition for a few reasons. First, traditional billboards are hard to setup and tough to scale. To get a billboard ad running, you need to develop a visual advertisement, get on the phone and deal with a media agency or outdoor advertising company, research locations for each billboard you want to buy, and do a bunch of other things that make tests slow and costly. Second, billboards and other “out-of-home” advertisements are tough to measure. Brex, like many smart companies, solved this by asking prospects in their sign-up funnel how they heard about Brex making it easy to attribute conversions back to their billboard investments.

It’s also worth noting that Brex’s advertising creative is quite strong: It’s readable, memorable, visually distinctive, and clear. This is hard but necessary for performance.



How breaking a promise can break your brand

25 Sep

While not a true crisis, a Texas lightning storm last week provided a striking example of how far off track a big company can go and how smart a start-up can be. It should be the other way around but too many big companies seem unable to get the customer experience right. At the same time, I’m amazed at how many small startups are super customer savvy.

The storm that swept across Texas was a big one. It dropped 6 inches of rain in a couple of hours and brought strong lightning, wind and thunder. Apparently, the lightning was close enough to bring down our power, Internet, and cable TV. While the power company restored power in less than a day, it’s been more than a week since we’ve had Internet or TV.

When our Internet went down, it took with it a variety of Internet-connected devices including light switches, thermostats, and music players. They all worked but they could no longer communicate back to the companies that service them. The day after the outage, I received a personal note from support at a company called Rachio which makes an Internet connected sprinkler system that I use. They are a small company and they could see that our device went offline. They proactively checked in to make sure that everything was working well with their device and whether I needed any assistance. This is truly amazing customer service considering the fact that they don’t have anything else to sell me and since they don’t earn any ongoing revenue from their device.

On the other end of the spectrum was AT&T — who I pay thousands of dollars per year — who should have the resources to turn this small crisis into an opportunity to strengthen our relationship. During a crisis, the best companies are proactive, share information, work hard to over-deliver on commitments, treat customers with respect, and are generous to make things good when unexpected events create new problems. Like Rachio, AT&T has the data they need to be proactive with support. They certainly have the financial resources to create a great customer service experience if they choose.

When we called AT&T after the storm they set up a appointment 3 days later on Monday at 8am to fix our Internet and TV. To our surprise, nobody came to make the repair and nobody called us to provide an update. We called again and were told that their window was extended to 7pm. Again, nobody came and nobody called.  At 7pm we called them and were told that they weren’t going to come and that, in fact, nobody had even been assigned to our ticket. They could not estimate when anybody would come. They would not schedule another appointment. They blamed dispatch and said they had no access to information.

As infuriating as this experience was, it was just the beginning. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday were exactly the same: each day an AT&T representative would commit to send someone and nobody would ever come or call. They systematically made and broke promises. They lied to us. We spoke to managers and supervisors but there was no path of escalation and no accountability.  More than a dozen AT&T employees made promises to call us back or to take an action and then failed to honor their commitments. They made it our job to spend hours on the phone.

In these interactions, AT&T committed the two most fatal brand mistakes: they created a bad customer experience and they broke their own promises. While it is inevitable that customer service mistakes happen, it’s clear that AT&T’s problems are structural. They are a choice. AT&T has decided they are going to save costs by providing limited customer service. Further proof of this can be seen in their crediting policies. Surprisingly, they didn’t proactively offer to credit us for the service they weren’t providing. When we asked for a credit, they still wanted us to pay for part of each of the days that they were unable to provide service. We now must call back every day to get additional daily credits for the outage.

On Tuesday they sent us a customer satisfaction survey which allowed us to write, at length, about the promises they made and broke. The survey was smart: it clearly asked if our issue had not been resolved. When we said it hadn’t, the survey asked us to provide a phone number so that someone could immediately reach out to address our issue. This was a great opportunity for AT&T to escalate our issues and get the relationship back on track. We provided the number and requested follow-up but nobody called.

As a marketer, I know the work that it takes to build a great brand. AT&T’s CMO certainly understands that their brand is only as good as the promises they keep and the experiences that they create. AT&T’s broader executive team, no doubt, speaks personally about the importance of honesty, integrity, and keeping promises. They have all the data they need to spot problems and proactively help customers. They have the data they need to spot customers who they have let down. Why is it that they are unable to treat customers with honesty and integrity? Why don’t they invest to save customer relationships that are worth thousands of dollars when they know they are at risk? How much financial damage does this cost them in any given year?

The difference between AT&T and Rachio runs very very deep. Rachio is clearly being built from the start as a company that values an exceptional customer experience. Like Apple, Tesla, AirBNB, Zappos and other strong companies, they are using the customer experience as a tool to build their brand. AT&T has never been this type of company and it’s probably impossible to change the culture enough to positively impact the brand.

For Chief Marketing Officers, it’s important to remember that building a great brand almost never starts with great marketing. It starts with building a great product and a great customer experience. Your brand is the promises you make. When you break those promises, there is no amount of advertising spend that can get your reputation back.

Facebook Email Targeting & CRM Retargeting: Important New Tools for Marketers

1 Oct

Email marketing is a delicate art. In today’s world, fewer than 1/5 of recipients will open a commercial email message. For every 10 people who click on an email link, one person permanently opts out. While new subscribers are likely to open and click, results fall-off by 65% or more within just 4 months of email list subscription.

For most marketing organizations, email lists are full of high-potential contacts who no longer wish to receive email. In B2B, this is particularly an issue in businesses with  long sales cycles and high levels of lifetime customer value. While a prospect may be interested in a product or solution, they may not want to receive any commercial email.

A few weeks ago, Facebook rolled out a new advertising feature that allows marketers to display ads to targeted recipients selected via email address, phone number, or Facebook user ID. The new feature allows a self-service advertiser to upload an encrypted list of 20 or more contacts with the ad they want to show. Facebook will automatically target the supplied ad to the specified contacts.

This type of marketing, often referred to as CRM retargeting, allows advertisers to invest in building awareness or driving conversion within a known group of contacts. A large IT provider, for example, could drive an online campaign targeting known CIO’s who arbitrate buying decisions for their firms. A telecom company could market new devices to customers on expired contracts. Concert promoters can promote shows to people who have purchased tickets in the past. And all of this can be done using a prospect’s email address or phone number but without sending an email.

For B2B marketers focused on nurture marketing or content marketing, CRM retargeting enables marketers to reach prospects with relevant messages and content through an additional channel. It makes is possible to invest in advertising specifically targeting people who would prefer to not receive email. For companies with very large accounts, it would be possible to build account-targeted campaigns that deliver a unique message to representatives of a specific company. For companies looking to build a Facebook follower base, the new model allows them to promote their brands directly to a list of customers or fans who are most likely to engage online.

While others have attempted to use email as a filtering method for display advertising, two things makes Facebook’s new service unique: a billion member reach and a collection of multiple address for many of their members. For people with multiple addresses — work, home, school — Facebook is likely to have a match for whatever address might be in your CRM system.

New Research: Only 40% of Your Marketing Budget is Wasted

2 Jun

Yes. Yes. Yes. We’ve all heard too many times the old adage that 50% of all marketing budgets are wasted. But now there is good news: new research shows that only 40% of the average marketing budget is wasted.

According to Advertising Age, new research concludes that “despite six years of obsessive investment in big data, marketing-mix models and other analytic tools, marketers are getting worse, not better, at directing their dollars.”

The research, included in a new book by Rex Briggs, argues that marketers focus too much on driving awareness and not enough on driving advocacy. In a world of social media, it’s never been more important to drive advocacy.

It also asserts that most modern media mix models do not reflect the complexity of the modern media world. As a result, advertisers over-invest in TV and price promotion and systematically underinvest in  social media. Recent analysis by Mary Meeker also suggests that this may be true: that print advertising in particular receives too much spend while social and mobile receive too little.

According to the analysis, “the underinvestment he finds in social media doesn’t broadly extend to digital. Since 2006, return on investment from branded-content efforts has skyrocketed, even as ROI from digital advertising has been flat to slightly down, despite a steady drop in digital ad prices. A big reason for the latter two trends has been publishers placing more ads and clutter on web pages, which he said has increased revenue per page but eroded impact and CPMs.”

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