Michael is one of the founding partners of Bluetext, and he currently serves as co-president and chief strategy officer. He has spent his career working with companies ranging from start-up to global industry leaders to help them achieve their goals through powerful marketing, communications, and branding programs. He has vast expertise in developing and executing integrated campaigns that reach audiences via the full complement of marketing channels. He has successfully brought new products to market, led the re-branding of global companies, and helped international technology companies enter the U.S. market. He has also been featured on The Washington Post about how he has shaped Bluetext to tackle D.C.’s unique marketing challenges.
He has been instrumental in the strategy and management for some of Bluetext’s largest engagements, including Alcatel-Lucent, CSC, and Georgetown McDonough School of Business, and Hughes Network Systems, ensuring that Bluetext’s solutions drive key revenue and organizational pillars for clients. He has worked with the largest Silicon Valley technology companies to help them more effectively enhance their reputation and drive leads, serving as project leader for many of Bluetext’s largest projects.
In 2017 Michael successfully led the effort of Bluetext’s sale to Eastport Holdings, an all-cash transaction. Today as co-president he drives the company’s operations and strategy as it continues to grow at a rapid rate.
Previously Michael was part of the communications leadership for D.C.-based MicroStrategy, helping the company navigate its financial crisis in the early 2000s. Later he successfully positioned companies including eGrail and Veritect for sale.
When undertaking a branding process for a new or just-acquired company, many Private Equity clients are desperate to create their new logo and consider it a project complete. Yes, the logo is critical. But branding is less about the actual logo, and more about the visual story and impact that logo demonstrates to the market. This is especially the case with companies that have had a brand and logo, but through a private equity acquisition or other M&S activity, need to quickly change course and differentiate themselves from their former affiliations. Branding agencies like mine have a process that includes messaging, positioning and brand meaning, all captured through a series of exercises. While the words matter, the attitude and meaning behind a brand is what differentiates it and sets it apart. Think about visual impact,
I read a blog post recently talking about word of sight replacing word of mouth. It was spot on. Today, what you see matters much more than what you read or what you hear. Think about when scrolling through your Facebook feed. Three paragraphs about a great Hawaii vacation barely gets a notice, but a great picture at sunset sipping a cocktail with a great caption is liked by everyone. Attentions spans have shrunk and we are all visual learners and thinkers.
As your brand ambassadors, every stakeholder on your team, from executive management to sales to support to the front desk needs to understand the meaning of the brand and why it is important. It is a branding agencies’ job to work with the team to distill that meaning and make sure that it comes to life through the branding exercise in all of your public facing communications. Think of the Facebook generation as your audience. You want them to stop, notice your brand, and give you a chance to tell them your story. Fewer words, more visual meaning is critical. Brand managers and marketers need to think about this and give their work a critical eye.
Unless you have created groundbreaking software, it is becoming more and more difficult to differentiate. The visual impact and meaning behind your brand are critical for success. The right branding agencies can help extract this from your story and give you a brand that can differentiate and ensure success as you grow your business in 2018. The writing is on the wall; make sure that your audience sees it.
As digital marketing evolves and new channels emerge to target business, consumer and government audiences, the pressure is on marketing firms to push clients into waters that are sometimes deep and potentially un-chartered. Let’s face it…another eBook or press release just won’t cut it in 2017. If those are the ideas coming from your marketing firm then it is time to shop for a new one.
Recently my partner Jason Siegel wrote a great 2017 Survival Guide blog https://bluetext.com/survival/ which highlights several areas that marketers need to be thinking about. Make sure to check it out.
I recently had a chance to visit the National Retail Federation’s 2017 BIG Show in New York. It was a great event and demonstrated how marketing firms can think outside the box at an industry conference that many would consider very traditional. Here are a few ideas that hopefully you will hear from your agency in the months ahead:
- Remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA), as defined by Google, is a feature that lets you customize your search ads campaign for people who have previously visited your site, and tailor your bids and ads to these visitors when they’re searching on Google and partner sites. If you dipped the toes in the water with re-targeting in 2016, then in 2017 it is likely that you will begin to hear about RLSA from your marketing firm.
- Instant Articles from Facebook. If you spend any time blogging or creating valuable content, the key is to find as many channels as possible to distribute it. With Instant Articles from Facebook, you hit a world of users that may not have been touched in the past, you can distribute easily, and you get solid analytics to see what how the content is performing. It is this continued innovation from companies like Facebook that marketing firms should be presenting to you on a regular basis.
- The continued emergence of augmented and virtual reality. This is an area of marketing technology that will cross the chasm in 2017 and go more mainstream, as more companies want to create unique and immersive customer experiences. As budgets go more digital, it is critical to think about all of the unique ways that virtual reality can impact revenue. Digital briefing centers, gamification, customer service – all of these areas can be impacted positively through augmented and virtual reality.
We are 30 days into 2017. Has your agency recommended any new ideas? Time is ticking and the last thing you want to do is look ahead to 2018 planning and have a wish list of ideas that stayed on the shelf for another year…
Everywhere you turn people want to talk about content marketing. What platform are you using, what content are you pushing, what channels are you leveraging and what is the right cadence of distribution are all questions content marketers are thinking about every day to position their product one step closer to their prospective consumers. As consumer marketing gets more and more targeted and sophisticated, the right content strategy is a critical element across any marketing plan.
If 2015 was about getting your feet wet, 2016 is about creating a strategy and operationalizing it in order to drive real results. But if you read the numbers you will see that while everyone is now doing it, they don’t know if they are being successful or even what success looks like. So here are some recommendations to think about as you are sitting down to determine if you are approaching your content marketing properly:
- Know your audience. We all think we know our customers, but how much data or research do you really have into their preferences? Do you understand why they have engaged or bought your products in the past and why they may again? Are you analyzing all of the data at your fingertips (Google Analytics, email marketing metrics, social metrics, brand sentiment, premium content downloads. Etc.) Knowing your audience is the most critical first step in launching an effective content marketing strategy to turn prospects into buyers.
- Know the Journey of Your Buyers. As you move your customers through a traditional funnel (awareness, consideration, conversion, advocacy), what content is most critical at each step to keep them progressing? Is your message resonating with them? Are you materials up to snuff? Are your prospects seeing your product or brand in the most consistent, effective manner across every potential channel?
- Create and document your plan. Doing content marketing by feel is not smart. Create a plan which outlines your target, your messages, your channels, and your calendar or cadence of activities. Each week when you huddle as a team it is much easier to make sure everyone is doing their assigned roles and progressing the program. Clearly you will want to course correct as your review the metrics, but starting with a solid plan can keep you one step ahead of your prospective customers.
- Measure, Evaluate and Evolve. The more you look at the numbers, discuss what they mean, and make sure everyone on your team understands the impact of their actions, the better your program will become. A weekly review, even if for 15 minutes, can you a long way to ensure that you don’t get too far off course over the course of a month or quarter.
- Take some Risks. Sure, everyone will want to use traditional channels (social, web, sponsored, etc.), but moving out of your comfort zone to try a channel where you have not spent time or money in the past can be effective.
- Combine Paid and Earned Efforts for Content Distribution. The best content in the world will fall flat without distribution to an engaged audience. Unless you are a well-known consumer brand with a large following, leveraging paid channels including social networks and search are critical for an effective program.
- What She Said. Engage influencers to amplify content marketing efforts. In today’s consumer marketing world the opinion and recommendations of influencers can go a long way and deliver the same impact as a great media article.
These recommendations can help you hone your content marketing strategy for 2016. The less prepared you are to succeed, the less your chances for driving real success with content marketing.
Today, a website is the front door to your association, and every effort must be made to deliver a powerful user experience for current and prospective members. Your digital platform must be modern and intuitive. Beyond a great design, it is important to make sure your website is addressing all of your association key performance indicators around member services, member retention, communications, activism, and engagement.
To this end, when thinking about your association’s website, a great design is not necessarily where you should begin. The first question you should ask yourself is, “Is our website working as hard for our association as it can to help us achieve our association goals in the most efficient manner.” Understanding where your members are coming from, how are they accessing the site, and what tools they need to be successful all must be asked up front through a discovery process in order to maximize the impact of a new website.
With that thought process in mind, here are some recommendations to consider when undertaking a new website design for your association:
- Provide the tools and resources to help your members do their jobs more effectively. They are paying you to be their advocates, and they need your help in taking action, remaining relevant, and proving the impact and rationale for their membership. For one membership organization, we built a tool that enabled human resources professionals to directly send a presentation to their bosses to show the value and impact of their membership in that organization. It was a very effective tool for ensuring membership dues.
- Clearly communicate the value and impact you provide. Make sure your messaging and value is clear right up front. We have worked with many associations who are going through an identity crisis and don’t understand why membership may be down or why they are less relevant than in the past. It may be time to audit your messaging and positioning, both internally and externally, to ensure it is relevant to your members and the communities you serve.
- Don’t be afraid to brand with impact. Changing colors or changing logos can go a long way toward sending a powerful signal to your constituencies. And make sure that the design direction you take aligns with that of the industry you serve. If you that’s the tech community, make sure your brand feels techy. If you serve the healthcare community, make sure your brand aligns. You get the picture. Modern, fresh and engaging can really make an impact in the perception of your association as you go to market with a new website.
- Content. Content. Content. Being a thought leader and delivering authoritative content is critical for success. Keep your content fresh and engaging, update it regularly, and address the current and emerging topics that are of importance to you members. Association content marketing is becoming a must for the most advanced associations.
- Make sure your content is Search Engine Optimized and your architecture is designed for SEO best practices. There is so much talk about SEO that people get confused. But that should not be the case. Go analyze what people are searching for and align your content around that. Ranking high with Google and Bing can be very effective.
- Go mobile. Look at your stats. People are accessing the web from mobile devices more than ever and the stats continue to rise. A responsive site is a must in today’s digital environment. If a user does not have a great experience with your association on a mobile device it can impact your value immensely.
It has been a tremendous first half of the year for Bluetext across many fronts. We have won many exciting new projects, landed some very interesting clients, added some awesome staff, and taken on and won against some stiff competition.
In the last three weeks alone we were named public sector PR agency of record for two of the most recognized technology companies in the country, one on each coast.
For each of these two companies, the public sector is a critical market for their growth as each has technology that is in high demand across the Government. Interestingly, each company has a corporate agency which provided little support across the public sector, and each indicated that their agency did not focus on or “get” the public sector.
We get the public sector. We know how to effectively market and communicate in this market. And we know how to craft a PR campaign that is impactful to make noise and move the needle. Here are five recommendations to consider when thinking about your public sector PR program:
1. Get Creative. Product announcements don’t garner much coverage unless you are a massive company or it is a major breakthrough. But leveraging a trend in the market to talk about how your product can drive mission effectiveness can be a subtle but smart way to let your audience know about your new product or solution.
2. Government-ize the message. Take the product and solution announcements coming out of corporate and look at the messages that will resonate in this market. We know the public sector buyer is unique, therefore the message needs to be relevant and directed.
3. Make Your Content Consumable. Create listicles and snackables that can be shared easily across a wide variety of mediums.
4. Be Present and Relevant. Make sure your thought leaders are trained and ready to deliver a strong message. Many companies are competing for limited ink. The right PR team and the right message can go a long way.
5. Find the References. Sure, it is hard to get a Government customer to speak with a reporter about how they are using your technology. But if you approach them in a more subtle way to jointly pursue an award or speaking opportunity it can provide a great way to put your customers in the spotlight and begin the process of finding out how reference-able they really are.
If the public sector is an important market for your company and you are not garnering the right type of attention give us a call. We would love to talk about how we can deliver a campaign with impact…that is what we do best.
In the arena of top marketing firms, data-driven marketing seems like the key buzzword of the past few years. In fact, it’s no passing fade. Leveraging analytics to reach target customers has become a key component of any successful digital campaign. According to a recent survey by the Global Alliance of Data-Driven Marketing Associations, employing a data-driven approach has become the backbone to just about any campaign or messaging—whether it’s targeting the right audience, or even predicting potential success. And as marketing technology continues to make inroads across the industry, it’s should not be surprising that more businesses want to take a data-driven approach to their marketing.
The use of data to improve the effectiveness of marketing, and to measure it, is virtually universal these days. In fact, a recent study found that the number of marketers who still don’t use data are now just one in 10. In addition, even more complex data techniques, such as integration of third-party data and cross-channel measurement, were found to be widely used.
The survey found that more than nearly 80 percent of advertising and marketing professionals are now using data-driven techniques to maintain customer databases, measure campaign results across multiple marketing channels, and segment their data for proper targeting. Again, for those of at the top digital marketing agencies, this finding makes perfect sense. Marketing automation platforms, when configured properly, can easily deliver this type of feedback, and those platforms have been aggressively showcasing these capabilities.
The survey, which targeted both advertising and marketing executives from a wide variety of industries, notes a clear shift in spending patterns. The survey respondents reported a strong expectation that spending on data-driven efforts would continue to rise. Nearly two-thirds of the respondents said their spending on data analytics for marketing would rise, while only seven percent said they expected a decline in spending the coming year.
While data-driven marketing is not quite yet a flawless solution, that’s not unexpected for a relatively new approach that relies on new technologies, data-driven marketing isn’t a perfect solution, at least not yet. A recent analysis from Square Root found a challenge for many companies is gathering the type of high-quality data that is necessary to optimize results. Data analysts are searching to find more effective ways to collect, manage and understand data. Forty-four percent of the survey respondents reported that they were still using outdated tools. A similar amount believed they could make decisions without in-depth data. According to the survey, over a quarter of respondents cited other time wasters from data source overkill to bad numbers. Square Root’s study, in particular, found more than half of data professionals felt they could use better training, closely followed by another 49% who desired more user-friendly or updated data tools.
But chief marketing officers and other executives wouldn’t be making these investments if they didn’t think they deliver results. They recognize the benefits to the bottom line.
Want help delivering a data-driven marketing program that delivers clear results? Give us a call and see how Bluetext can help.
Re-targeting campaigns that reach across platforms and devices allow marketers to reach the same prospect as they move across the web, social networks, and mobile devices, creating a new level of engagement and interaction based on data. Understanding the best ways to implement a successful re-targeting strategy can result in dramatic improvements in customer conversion. When done poorly, you run the risk of annoying target audiences with constant messages that do not resonate. When done right, they can go a long way toward driving personalized engagement.
By collecting anonymous information on user behavior and intent, brands are able to convert prospects by engaging them with the right creative and messaging at the right time. By simply placing a short snippet of code, marketers can turn valuable customer data into actionable advertising strategies in real-time.
With that in mind, here are our top four tips for an effective re-targeting strategy that will deliver the results that brands need for a successful campaign:
Pick the Best Platforms. As mobile devices and social media become the dominant platforms for consuming news and information, incorporating the right channels into a campaign is critical. Social networks attract engaged consumers and give brands a direct line to those prospects. Re-targeting on social lets you take advantage of native tools such as shares, likes, and comments to further expand your reach.
At Bluetext, we often recommend Facebook for B2B clients and tend to shy away from Twitter, where users are more interested in entertainment, sports and politics as opposed to business issues. To get the most out of Facebook campaigns, test messaging and creative on smaller subsets of viewers to understand which is going to produce the best engagement. We like to test variations on headline copy, CTA buttons, offers and creative concepts to make sure we are optimizing for the right ads.
Don’t Neglect Mobile. Mobile traffic has surpassed desktop for most brands. There are now more opportunities to leverage retargeting on mobile to reach these prospects. With mobile retargeting, advertisers can retarget desktop visitors as they browse across social networks on their mobile devices or retarget mobile site visitors as they move to desktop computers to research larger purchases. One study found that, on average, AdRoll customers who include a mobile element to their retargeting campaigns receive a boost of nearly 25 percent in clicks and nearly 10 percent more conversions.
Personalize the Experience. While it’s especially important to reach the right user at the right, it’s not always obvious how to do that. Here are three categories of segmentation that marketers can identify to reach their audiences through mobile retargeting and personalization throughout the buyers’ journey:
Level of intent. A visitor who has checked out a half-dozen pages is obviously more valuable than one who has bounced after 10 seconds. When you see a level of interest, focus on that visitor.
Products viewed. When a visitor views a product or services page, make sure your messaging is focused on that product. You already have them half-way down the sales funnel, so don’t try to force them back up again.
Those who have converted. Just because someone has already been a customer doesn’t mean you should cut them out of your campaign. Enlist them instead into a loyalty campaign that can help validate your brand for other prospects or else offer them additional products or services that complement what they have already purchased.
Looking for agency help? Contact us
As one of the leading digital marketing agencies in Washington, we get called in by a variety of prospective clients to discuss their needs. These clients are corporations selling to business, selling to government, or selling to consumers, and even associations and other industry organizations with unique audiences. Invariably they hone in on their target audience and want to see recent examples of work we have done for similar clients with similar targets. In other words, if they are selling directly to consumers, they want to see consumer case studies.
The more work we do across different industries and types of clients the more I am convinced that the question people should be asking is not have you done something similar for another client, but what are examples where you combined your creativity and ability to drive a unique message into a specific market. Let’s face it… a business buyer has a lot of similarities to a typical consumer buyer and the lines have blurred. They do a lot of research on their own, they want to read the reviews and see what other like-minded people think of the product or service, and they expect to engage with your brand in a unique, differentiated manner in order to take action. While the channels to reach them may be different and therefore the message needs to be able to translate easily, they want to be wowed with your product or service and they want to make sure you are addressing their needs.
Business and consumer buyers react to a strong message, delivered with impact in a creative way. They require multiple interactions. They are smart. They expect you to speak to them.
Now don’t get me wrong – consumer buyers are traditionally more emotional than business buyers, and business buying cycles are generally longer. I could write a similar post about the differences between the two. But as the world of marketing evolves and buyers have the power in their hands, the lines are clearly blurring.
So the next time you ask your agency for similar examples of client projects, maybe the better question to ask is “what examples can you share to demonstrate your passion and creativity to address a unique challenge.” The way the agency responds to this question, no matter their previous expertise or client projects, should go a long way in helping you decide on an agency partner.
As businesses compete for the hearts and minds of prospective customers, there are some basic tenets of successful campaigns that must be followed. Especially in a technology b2b world where there is so much noise around products and solutions and it is harder to differentiate, flawless execution combined with awesome creative concepts can be a recipe for success.
Here are six important elements that should be considered sacrosanct when thinking about executing a digital advertising campaign.
- Spend Time on a Great Creative Concept
Every campaign needs reference points. This can come in the form of current brand recognition where prospects know who you, competing in a market where there is specific budget allocated for a specific solution, or great, memorable creative.
Recently we undertook a campaign with a fast growing software company with little brand recognition that competes in a poorly defined market. We spent a lot of time creating a concept that would be memorable and catch prospective customers off guard to drive interest and clicks.
- Know Your Audience
Make sure you know your customers and where they hang out online. Audience targeting options, like geographic and behavioral targeting, enable you to target the campaign to the right audience. While everyone has an idea of specific sites they read and assume that their campaign should be there, combining specific sites with a programmatic approach ensures the right people see your great creative.
- Define Clear Calls to Action
The call to action is critical as it tells your prospect what they are getting as part of this transaction. You need to offer something of value that they cannot get other places. Make it compelling and something valuable that can stand on its own. Make sure that the benefit of the offer is clear and the user understands what they will get.
- Create an Optimized Landing Page or Series of Landing Pages
The landing page is critical because it provides necessary information that your user needs to convert. From a design standpoint, make sure there is consistency between your ad campaign and the landing page. And make sure the benefits to the user are clearly outlined in a very simple, consumable manner. There should be a clear call to action and a simple experience for the user to complete the transaction. Creating multiple landing pages for multiple offers as part of the same campaign is highly recommended to test and determine what is converting best.
- Tracking and Optimization
Tracking the activity you get from your banner ads is a necessary part of your display advertising campaign strategy. Tracking metrics like impressions and clicks is important, but you also want to measure conversions in the form of registrations or submissions. Establish a lead management or scoring process for all your online advertising that can be operationalized and optimized, and make sure it is integrated into your demand gen and CRM systems.
- Focus on Retargeting
We have all read the stats about the number of interactions that are required to drive a conversion. Use every opportunity to get your ads in front of your targets beyond the first impression. Leveraging re-targeting to have your ads follow your prospects as the search the web can be a very effective method for driving multiple touches.
When it comes to B2B digital advertising, there is no silver bullet. Great creative combined with a smart process can give you the best chance at success. Be willing to try new things while measuring effectiveness on an ongoing basis. You will find the right approach and your business will benefit from it long term.