Top 3 Tools for B2B Influencer Marketing

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In my second post about B2B Influencer Marketing for CMS Connected, I dive into what tools are available for both hands on and strategic B2B marketers to use for finding and utilizing influencers. A great deal of the information I came across in my search and discussions with software sales team members actually reminded me that one of the most important tools in the B2B influencer marketing arsenal has less to do with the ability to process raw digital data and more to do with the skillset required to utilize and transform that data to actual real results.

  • The content marketer

Several blogs I have read on the topic of B2B influencer marketing mention how great certain softwares are for saving time. What I might ask these bloggers is: “Just what is MORE important than connecting with customers when it comes to content marketing”? What we should be thinking about saving is not time, but our social reputation – which is maintained by authoritative and relevant engagement. Gone are the days when doing the “social media” was a task saved for the intern, and I must say the same about leaving your social engagement to a software tool. Best practices in content marketing, or really any successful marketing now, call for a real person at the other end of the Tweet; someone who is as much invested in their customers and what their customers are interested in as they are in the sale. That’s why I chose “marketers” as the #1 tool for B2B influencer marketing. The content marketer is ultimately the top tool in finding and nurturing influencers – software is of course necessary and can help but it should never be a substitute for real human interaction.

  • Twitter

I have used some very expensive tools and some not-so-expensive tools for social media, and what I have found is good ol’ Twitter pretty much has you covered when you want to learn about your audience, engage with them and monitor if your efforts are working. While LinkedIn has taken away the ability to monitor the response of posts in LinkedIn groups, which used to be a very valuable tool for B2B content marketers, Twitter has consistently remained a valuable tool for B2B marketers over the past several years. The simple plugging in of a hashtag or keyword will give you volumes of information – from who the influencers are in that industry to what today’s breaking news is on the topic – something Google alerts or your inbox full of newsletters may miss – and that same hashtag will let you can see what your content marketing competitors are up to as well. The only thing you really can’t do in Twitter is set up future posts – this can easily be taken care of by a tool such as Hootsuite. More and more we are finding that setting up future Twitter posts is not necessarily the best way to do marketing, and there are some famous documented marketing fails on this point – so essentially using Twitter – not any elaborate or expensive tools may be the way to go, especially for smaller scale B2B marketing.

  •       Little Bird

Little Bird is a tool that works – kind of like a Klout but in my opinion much
better – to find influencers on Twitter. Little Bird’s software created, before my eyes, what had taken me three weeks to do for one particular topic area. It honed in on just the right influencers – for a very sophisticated topic I will add –  and gave me a great deal of information on each one. Pretty much all of the other information and analytics that their tool offered was relevant as well. For B2B industries where you have a new content marketer who doesn’t know much about the industry, I can see Little Bird as an invaluable tool. A note to marketing directors and CMOs out there –  Little Bird won’t do the marketing for your team. It’s a portion of what a B2B content marketer needs in their toolkit to be successful. It’s the first tool I have come across that successfully did in moments what I did in three weeks.

The complete article can be found here (including some of the tools I researched that did not make the cut).

Confused about hashtags? Follow these steps on when and how to use them

how to use hashtags

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I haven’t written much for this marketing blog, it’s been fairly abandoned, since I have been so busy marketing. Honestly nothing has compelled me to try to add anything to the blogosphere in quite some time, until now.

I have been plugging along, coming up with my own ideas on how to create engagement on social media through trial and error for about two years. A recent Google search on the topic showed how little data and training there is out there to teach people how to effectively use social media. There are basic guides from 2 years ago like “what is a hashtag”. Perhaps everything is moving so fast, by the time someone writes a guide about it it has changed. Or perhaps people are just not using social media effectively for B2B. Either way, I have compiled a brief quide with a rather basic looking Powerpoint here at Slideshare. And what follows is a step by step guide on how to effectively use hashtags to promote your business on Twitter.

HASHTAGS ARE AN EFFECTIVE WAY TO EACH BEYOND YOUR FOLLOWERS, WHICH IS THE POINT OF MARKETING ON SOCIAL MEDIA, RIGHT?  People are 55% more likely to RT posts with hashtags AND You can track which content is most popular much more easily when you use hashtags.

WHEN NOT TO USE A HASHTAG:

Do not cut short a really good quote or fact in your Tweet to put in a hashtag. The content of the Tweet should take priority. Think about it, the hashtag is there to promote your content – not the other way around. Do not use hashtags that no one else is using. Just putting a hashtag on a word, without knowing its relevance, is not effective. Not only will it not help promote your content, it could have the added effect of making you look like you don’t know what you’re talking about.

Let me show you what I mean:
Here’s a  Tweet  from an article in Forbes: “These DARPA Darlings Just Raised $20M To Build A Super-Powered Google For The Internet Of Things via @forbes”.

Think about your audience in particular, but let’s say our audience is people who have the power to purchase your company’s software. These are some ideas – which of these tags would you choose? #DARPA, #Google, #DOD #seriesafunding?

 NONE, IS THE ANSWER

One of the first things you should do, before you use a hashtag, is see if others, especially those you follow or are in your industry, are using it. This can be done with a 2 second search on Twitter. These tags are not incorrect, but they are way too broad to reach a very specific audience who, in this case – are CIOs, CTOs or Innovation Executives in large organizations. How, then, can you find the right hashtags?

COMMON SENSE AND CREATIVITY GO A LONG WAY.

Be specific. If you use #DARPA, you are going to reach people and businesses who Tweet about the military or the broad topic of tech. Try searching that tag on social, you’ll see how broad the audience is. The first thing you can do is put a hashtag right on that word #internetofthings or even better #iot. You’ve seen it before, it’s a popular hashtag in your industry. You do a search for #iot – people you follow– and see #bigdata and #datasecurity which are topics in the article. You could use #Google #DOD or #seriesafunding but again, you’d be reaching a very broad audience. The point of all this is selling a product to your known audience, so you really want to stay inside your customer base.

Once you’ve got #iot #bigdata and #datasecurity in there, you still have room for more text. How else can you promote this? Why not tell a little more of the story instead of using the stock Tweet that Forbes provides. You’re more likely to be ReTweeted. And make sure to use the writer’s handle. Add him to your list of #iot influencers, and he may even RT it to his followers! He’s certainly more likely to RT than Forbes will, although if your Tweet is really great there is always a chance a publication will RT. I can’t tell you right now which hashtag will work for your business – but you need to start somewhere. See which hashtags resonate the most with your audience, and use them accordingly.

WHEN TO USE A HASHTAG:

Any  Tweet can benefit from a hashtag. Statistically, you are more likely to get ReTweeted with a hashtag. However the opposite proves true with overuse, misuse or misspelling of hashtags so be careful. When you load a Tweet with multiple hashtags, the rate of ReTweeting actually goes down. And if you use hashtags outside of your industry base, you will get impressions and engagement from non-relevant parties. Again, check to see if members of your community use the hashtag before you try out a new one. You will add no value, and if anything look unprofessional by using a completely random hashtag. Hashtags are a language, you wouldn’t walk up to someone with a word you invented, and expect them to understand you – don’t do the same with a hashtag! Try this exercise – sign into your account – think about a hashtag you’ve used that you don’t think others have used – and search for it.

USING A HASHTAG NO ONE ELSE USES.

This is my pet peeve, it really makes me cringe. You’re using a hashtag no one else is using to promote your blog or brand (not conference)? And you’ve been using it since 2014? Time to clean house. Think about why you’re using it:  The marketing manager before me used it, we thought it was a cool way to promote the brand, we thought it was a cool way to promote the blog… The thing about a hashtag is that it’s a conversation, and if you’re having it alone – it’s less of a conversation than a broadcast that no one is listening to. Give it a break for now, you could be utilizing more effective characters in your Tweets.

NEW TO YOUR JOB AND NOT SURE WHAT YOUR INDUSTRY HASHTAGS ARE?

Ask your team for relevant keywords, and type them into Twitter. If you have industry lists in your Twitter account, see if any of influencers use particular hashtags and start to test them out. If you don’t have lists, jump in and read a bunch of industry articles and if the writers or the people in the articles are on Twitter, see what hashtags they use. Keywords will lead you to relevant accounts on Twitter as well. Check out a few to see what hashtags they use. Test and see which hashtags resonate with your audience. Identify 5 relevant hashtags to keep in your arsenal that will always or usually work with your content. These are usually synonymous with your website keywords. Don’t forget to be open to use others when appropriate, say you’re posting content which is slightly different from your norm but still of interest to your audience. Note: A hashtag that is popular now will change as the industry changes.

WHEN TO USE OTHER PEOPLES’ HASHTAGS? ALL THE TIME!

The content you create – whether it’s a white paper or a Tweet – needs to be crowd sourced to be effective. That means you’re using keyword and social research to figure out what your personas’ in your industry want and need. The same thing goes for a hashtag. You want to be joining the conversation as often as possible and an easy way to do so is using hashtags. So that means taking the journey we just did to optimize Tweets with hashtags – PLUS keeping an eye open to new hashtags too. Hashtags can lead you to new people to follow, new content and eventually new customers. If you’re ever unsure about a word’s meaning NEVER use it. Wikipedia and dictionaries are great – but best practices would entail you should check in with your product team or seasoned sales team member. They may have insight that can help. Using hashtag that only those “in the know” use can be powerful as only very relevant people will be using it.

WHEN TO USE YOUR OWN HASHTAG

Best Practices are that you should really only “make up” hashtags for conferences or contests. Hashtags have been around since the late 2000s so I think we all know some ground rules about creating them:

  •  Not too long, not more than 2 words strung together is a good rule
  • For conference hashtags, using the commonly used acronym for it makes sense.
  • For new conference hashtags, if you can actually have a word or what sounds like a word, this is more effective than multiple consonants strung together
  •  Using the year in the hashtag – SXSW16 – heightens excitement and interest
  •  Make sure you’re not using an offensive word. The surprising thing though is that most of us seem to forget one of the most important things about creating our own conference hashtags – checking to make sure no one else is using them. If you absolutely need to, it’s probably ok to use a hashtag that a very small, one person company uses for an event 5 months after yours. If a huge company like Salesforce or Cisco is using it, don’t use their hashtag – no matter when their event is held.

HOW TO PROMOTE HASHTAGS

Live Tweeting updates from live sessions at company events can increase hashtag use by 40%.  ReTweeting all mentions of your conference or brand hashtag both says a big “Thank You” to those who support you, and creates an awesome buzz in your Twitter feed.

Making sure the hashtag is readily available to everyone on all channels iscrucial. Get partners to commit to promoting with you: Work with your team to ask partners – especially Media partners – for Tweeting commitments as part of their contracts.

There is nothing sadder than a hashtag campaign that never gets promoted or used. How can we make sure our hashtags get their due? Hashtag contests (with the goal of simply getting that hashtag used) are a great way to promote events, and ultimately promote your brand. Here’s a way you can get really creative and have fun. Here are several ideas to promote your hashtag, whether it’s a contest or a hashtag you really want to make your own.
SO, YOU REALLY WANT A UNIQUE HASHTAG? WELL YOU’RE GOING TO HAVE TO PROMOTE IT! HERE ARE 3 WAYS TO PROMOTE YOUR UNIQUE HASHTAG:

  • Prizes: Be unique and relevant to your audience. If you’re asking someone to use a hashtag, give something in return. Offer a prize that is relevant to your products or services in some way. A free iPad is unlikely to generate long term gains or brand engagement unless your company offers iPad related products or services! Partner with a company, product or service that has a buzz or some relevance to your audience for your prize. The more creative, unusual and interesting your contest is, the more likely you can cross promote to your media list for more promotion. For example, an industry publication will not write about a Free iPad you’re giving away, but if we create a cool infographic and have an interesting prize with a contest no one else has ever done before in the biotech space– they, and others, may take notice.
  • Give them a compelling reason to use it!  You need to curate conversations on social, they don’t just “happen”. Just Tweeting one Tweet (or sending out one email): “Tell us your story” is unlikely to get much traction, even with a really good prize. Buzz usually doesn’t just happen, it needs to be crafted.
  • Brainstorm an interesting, very specific angle, create graphics and quotable social posts around your hashtag contest. Commission (or otherwise acquire) 3 social media influencers in your industry to tell their story to set up the buzz and begin use of the hashtag to entice others. Others will follow, as they will want to be part of the group and not miss out on the conversation. And as always, make sure you’re promoting the hashtag in emails, on all social channels and in signage.

Is your hashtag using you instead of the other way around?  

So you’ve been Tweeting a unique hashtag for your blog or your brand and adding it to your Twitter posts for a while – it hasn’t quite caught on. #awsmsoftware What were your original intentions in using this tag? Did you want to have a unique brand imprint on Twitter besides your handle? Unfortunately it’s kind of chicken and egg – the hashtag no one uses will not help promote your blog or your brand like a commonly used hashtag will. You will have to use your blog or your brand to promote the hashtag – not the other way around – and then possibly it can become a “household word” at least among your audience. Optimize your posts, and once you get more impressions, mentions and ReTweets people will be excited to spread the word about your blog or your brand, and use those specific hashtags. Make sure you’re heavily promoting the hashtag on your blog and other channels.  In the short term, it is much more effective to keep to using common industry hashtags and your conference hashtag. However, if you have the time and inspiration to create your own unique hashtag and promote it – in the long term it has potential for branding.

3 THINGS TO REMEMBER ABOUT HASHTAGS#

  •  Use your followers, those you follow and influencers to source the correct hashtags for your industry.
  •  A hashtag will only help promote your content if it is commonly used by those in your industry. Creating a new hashtag has no immediate effect to helping your Tweet, takes up valuable Twitter real estate, and in fact will require you to promote the hashtag outside Twitter to be at all effective.
  • Hashtags are very powerful. People are 55% more likely to RT your post if it uses a hashtag. By the same token, using hashtags incorrectly – ie. just slapping a pound sign on a word without thinking it through and proper research – may actually decrease your chance of getting engagement.

See a few more tips on using hashtags for Instagram, Facebook and other channels here.

Digital Transformation: What it Is and Why It’s So Important to Marketers

Leah Kinthaert Interviewed for CMS Connect

Hot on the heels of Harvard Business Review trying to answer the question as to why B2B marketers say they’re even less effective at content marketing than they were in 2014, industry analyst and founder of Digital Clarity Scott Liewehr and marketing director Tyler Pyburn – hosts of the CMS Connected show – sat down with me to share ideas about the current state of digital transformation, specifically marketing’s role.

Without undergoing a digital transformation, you simply won’t make it

Daniel Newman wrote for Forbes late last year: “Your business may hang on to a core group of customers for a while, but without undergoing a digital transformation, you simply won’t make it.”

My take is that companies need to transform two major ways – looking outward in how they seek out technologies to utilize to be more productive  – and inward how they adapt to the usage of technology – whether it’s their employees or their customers using that technology. Suddenly we have these amazing technologies that can save millions of dollars for large companies. I’ll give the example of say, a construction worker.  Labor is 40% of construction costs and 29% of a worker’s day is spent idle waiting for permits. You get a mobile app you save the costs of about one day a week for every employee. It’s amazing people are still using paper.

In the case of say marketing it’s looking inward. Our customers are using technology in new ways all the time, and many of us are still marketing like it’s 2005. So we’re losing opportunities and our customers.

The third stage of embracing digital technologies

Some say what’s going on right now it actually a third stage of embracing digital technologies. The first two were: digital competence and digital literacy. Digital is not new, we’ve been using email and websites since the 1990s and 2000s. However, the key here is that now digital is a two-way conversation. With social media the consumer now demands to be part of the conversation. Most of us are still doing “old school” marketing, just using digital means. We’re sending emails and Tweets out, we’re showing consumers ads, just like we used to send brochures and buy newspaper ads. But digital transformation, this is a whole new ball game. It requires new ways of thinking and doing marketing, rather than simply enhancing and supporting the traditional methods.

1% of millennials trust the products in ads. They see them as not authentic. That’s why everywhere you go you hear about content marketing. You have content, and you have marketing. But when you put those two words together it transforms the meaning of both words. Content actually needs to be relevant to your customers (that’s where the marketing strategy comes in), and marketing actually becomes less about marketing and more about providing valuable information for your audience so they can do their jobs and make the right purchasing decisions, whether it’s your product, or someone else’s. It’s also about providing places they can get together and learn from their colleagues. We need to curate and nurture conversations now, be where the action is.

A truly disruptive time in marketing

We can tie back into this being the third stage of embracing digital technologies – it makes the whole idea of what “digital transformation” is fairly confusing. I think a lot of CEOs, companies think we have already done the “digital transformation” because we’re using email, blogs, paid digital media. It goes back to that two-way conversation. People overuse the term disruption but this really is disruptive. It’s not as clear as telling your team – ok we need to phase out flyers and mailings or telemarketing to focus on digital. Now we’re telling them – they need to completely rethink HOW they are Tweeting. The way they Tweeted in 2013, or even 2015 is not going to work. It can be frustrating on both ends, like those who are evangelizing cannot understand those who want to keep things the way they are and the other way around.

There are some positives around these challenges though. In a McKinsey and Company article last month James Bilefield called digital transformation a Trojan horse for a much broader business transformation, “a time to review many aspects of a business’s operations from top to bottom—the talent, the organizational structure, the operating model, even products and services” and this rings true to my experience. Digital transformation is like the ultimate desiloization process for organizations, it gets everyone talking to each other and sharing ideas and resources and that is invaluable.

Technology needs to keep up with the new ways we’re marketing

It’s actually shocking how quickly you can see results of it when you apply best practices such as Joe Pulizzi’s (founder of the Content Marketing Institute) 4-1-1- rule – however the flip side of this is that again we are still trying to figure out how to use technology to measure some of these fairly new practices and prove that they eventually become leads. If you think about it, software that measures marketing KPIs has been completely designed for very traditional “push marketing” such as tracking visits back to product websites. It is not surprising that it is not easy to measure say – the free sharing of third party content or engagement marketing – because those technologies simply weren’t set up to!

Adaptability is key in the current workplace

You need have a lot of humility. What you see as best practices can vary – or certainly needs to bend on occasion – and you need to be open to listening to teams. Even as the expert in content marketing, if you don’t listen to the traditional marketing and product teams you will lose out.

You need to constantly be educating yourself about the newest trends and be agile – again there’s the humility – being aware that things are constantly changing and what you thought you knew about your audience, or certain marketing channels, it’s probably changed radically in the past six months!

James Bilefield talks about “putting a designer on your executive team, like we have at Apple now, or even making a designer your CEO, as Burberry has recently done.” We’re going to see more organizations hire journalists as marketers. Nontraditional skill sets – or a mix of disciplines – are becoming more valuable there’s a kind of a multidisciplinary approach that’s becoming valuable to employers.

McKinsey says that building a culture of constant change – and getting outside your comfort zone –  is key to success. Getting that type of entrepreneurial employee, who has a real desire to make things work and is driven to combat challenges by coming up with original solutions– because right now we’re in such early stages with content marketing you’ve got to be inventive – this is the type of person you want to think about hiring.

A Forrester report last year said that only 5% of organizations feel they have mastered digital to a point of differentiation from their competitors. It’s really a whole new language for marketers to learn. When we transitioned from ads in the newspaper or mailings to email, we used the same methods just with new media. Now we really are turning everything completely on its head. Suddenly, it’s not about putting yourself in front of the competitor, it’s acknowledging your competitor exists, and even, in some cases, providing information about your competitor to educate your audience. This sort of thinking is really a complete 180, but we don’t really have a choice if we want to compete as organizations.

You can watch the entire conversation here.

Growth Hacking for Girls

growth hacking for girls

If you’re not growth hacking, you’re not marketing

If you haven’t growth hacked, it’s not because you’re missing some secret recipe – it’s because you either lack faith in your strategy or the desire to work long hours on largely untested methods. Growth hacking is about pushing forward, with little or no budget and lots of data – data you’ve compiled about your customers, competitors and your product. Where do you get this data? It’s out there, for free, but takes those long hours I mentioned above and lots of determination to find. When you take this data and create relevant content, it creates a valuable trail of information for potential searchers to find you, and gives you a very robust online presence.

Most growth hackers, or at least the ones who you hear about, are guys. I think however that girls make great growth hackers. We often have to work harder to be respected, so the hard work comes naturally. We also often handle budgets at home, and make a small amount of money go a long way – whether it’s with groceries, clothing and other stuff. Science tells us that women are  more intuitive than men, and growth hackers often have to make split decisions based largely on intuition about which strategy or paid advertising channel you can spend your limited budget and time on. Some industries, for example, simply don’t have benchmarking data on which marketing methods work…here’s where the educated guesses come in. If a certain strategy works for B2B marketing for example and has not been proven in B2C – should you try it – and how should it be adapted?

One trait that all growth hackers need to possess is “guts”. You need to be pretty positive and pushy when it comes to growth hacking, as tested methods – however expensive and ineffective – are just easier for most boards of directors of companies to digest. If you’re lucky, your VPs are on board with your strategies – if not it pays to educate others on your team in order to convert them. There are lots of benchmarking facts and figures out there on inbound and content you can use as ammunition for your cause. Once people learn about the effectiveness of content marketing, they are usually pretty excited.

Ready to get growth hacking in 2015? Here are the top online marketing growth hacking tools I’ve used in 2014. They are all free or cheap.

  • Google: Whether you’re collecting information about your competitors or creating content in order to be competitive – you’d be surprised at what you can find on Google. The right keyword combinations have given me access to major studies (Gartner, Forrester and more) when I worked in the consumer packaged goods space that some organizations had purchased for thousands of dollars and posted online. Instant free research!
  • Google Analytics: If you don’t have Google Analytics on your site you’re missing out on valuable data. With free training that can both help your skills and look good on your resume, Google Analytics is an invaluable tool. They have begun adding tools that mimic marketing automation – for example there is the link tracking tool that can give you a way to A/B test and optimize based on call to actions.
  • Google AdWords: Google AdWords is not free per se –  you need to bid on keywords and pay for clicks – however it is a great way to learn about the audience for your product. Additionally, branded keywords for small brands are often quite cheap. More visibility, whether it is organic or paid advertising, means more credibility for your brand.
  • Free Graphics tools (Photoscape, Microsoft Paint, Adobe PDF creator in Microsoft Office): You don’t need to hire a graphic designer, unless your product is related to graphic design or your audience is uber sophisticated and expects high level graphic design. Marketing agencies like Hubspot even have free templates to create infographics. If you can write good copy, you can create quick cheap graphics for free. Tip: stay away from trying to look “modern” or polished as it will definitely look bad if you’re not a real designer. Embrace the cheese – use “vintage” looking graphics such as stock images in Microsoft Word inventively and consistently. See how I have taken this advice with my infographics here. I would also recommend turning all of your graphics into an Adobe PDF – it just looks more polished.
  • Free Social Tools: TrueSocialMetrics, Hootsuite, Social Mention, Meltwater, Enjoygram (for Instagram), Twitter search. From my experience, paid marketing automation tools often lack a good way to track social media (at least the cheaper ones do) so B2C companies with a small budget actually don’t miss much by foregoing paid marketing automation tools for free social media tracking tools. Practice makes perfect, and you’ll learn by doing. Combine Google Analytics link tracking with your social media promotion to get a good picture of how your calls to action and other strategies are working.

Lastly why did I call this post “Growth Hacking for Girls” – well why not. This article is really about growth hacking for anyone, but I have noticed there isn’t much out there for the ladies who growth hack or want to growth hack, so I thought it might be nice to create a post specifically for us. Also, the title itself is a growth hack – I am testing the effectiveness of a keyword “growth hacking for girls” in a very uncrowded space.

 

 

The Inevitability of Global Online Grocery

Recently I came across a discussion on LinkedIn regarding online grocery shopping that really got my goat. The individual in question was actually an analyst for a very well respected research firm, making a sweeping statement about people that had no basis in truth. In fact, the statement was that women in India – where he is from – will never shop online for groceries because they would miss out on the social aspect, plus, he added, they are not web savvy. A quick Google search brought up the interesting statistic that, in fact, housewives and college students are the top mobile users in India according to Telecom Watch. Add to this the phenomenon of mobile creating a need for new goods not readily available at small rural shops and you have a perfect recipe for online grocery’s success. While my idea of the inevitability of online grocery may seem like a stretch – at least my ideas have some basis in real research – not pure opinion.

I was very curious, having read about online grocery, at how much people were actually spending on online grocery and at what online grocery sites they were spending their money. Only a handful of global grocery retailers have released their annual figures – for most online grocery is fairly new. Also, a handful of the top 25 grocery retailers in the world do not offer eCommerce to their customers. So I took Boston Consulting Group’s $36 billion figure and the estimate (3%) of online grocery’s contribution to revenue and deciphered this chart, showing how big a piece of the pie each grocery retailer has of the online space. It is by no means perfect, but since actual figures for most have not been released – it provides a rough idea of who the top online grocers are. You can read more details about the top online grocery trends happening Globally here in my new Slideshare.

Top Online Grocers

 

Is eCommerce Disrupting the Consumer Packaged Goods Market in China?

Global Consumer Goods Brands Disrupted by eCommerce in China

The findings of Kantar’s Worldpanel Brand Footprint Ranking surprised me last year, when I was just starting to learn about Global Consumer Packaged Goods brands. In my blog for Clavis Insight I described my experience learning about the significance of the brand Maggi for the first time. I wrote in June 2013: “The #1 status of Maggi reflects the world economy, where China is the world’s most populous country with the fastest growing economy. China’s ecommerce sales grew 65% between 2011 and 2012 and it is set to overtake America’s according to a recent report by the China Internet Information Center (reported in TechCrunch).”

These were foreboding statements. First of all, China has overtaken the US in eCommerce sales; secondly populations in China and the continent of Asia are indeed growing, and increasing their spending both offline and online – but they’re actually spending more on regional brands than ever before.

Kantar Worldpanel’s Brand Footprint Ranking 2014 report states: “For global food and drink brands…achieving …local domination in Asia is difficult. Local Asian brands in the Brand Footprint ranking grew at 3.1%, faster than the growth for global brands in the region (2.6%) and ahead of Latin America (1.2%). Globally, the world’s most chosen FMCG brands grew their footprint by 1.7%.”

The 10 Most Chosen Brands in Asia revealed by Kantar Worldpanel’s Brand Footprint study, followed by their consumer reach points in millions, are:
1. Colgate 2,111
2 Mi Sedaap 1,902
3 Indomie 1,820
4 Lifebuoy 1,652
5 Nescafé 1,328
6 Pantene 1,022
7 Kapal Api 944
8 Maggi 940
9 Surf 922
10 Lux 913

The Kantar study continues: “In China, foreign brands lost share in 15 out of 26 categories, notably in oral care, cosmetics and juice. As Chinese businesses become more market-oriented they are leveraging their extensive knowledge of consumers’ lives and acting boldly in response to local trends to establish a strong brand affinity.”

What I speculate here is that eCommerce could be a factor in this loss of market share. Kantar briefly discusses digital in its report, predicting that online consumer packaged goods sales will rise to 5.2% of the market by 2016 in the UK, France, US, China, Spain, Taiwan and South Korea. There is simply no research  – or at least egrocers and eCommerce sites have not released it yet – on exactly what percentage of their consumer packaged goods sales are online Globally. (Note: Tesco is an exception, they are one of the first egrocers to have released their online grocery sales.) If Kantar had those numbers they might learn that eCommerce may be disrupting the growth of Global consumer packaged goods brands. Why?

Take a look at my brief report “Online Grocery Shopping in Asia” – on slide 14 in bold print I write “Most eCommerce occurs on digital marketplaces.” Consumers are buying consumer packaged goods at those digital marketplaces, and this is most likely aiding in the 3.1% growth of local Asian brands.  No one has the exact numbers right now, but the evidence is right there. John Fang of the China market research group describes the current scenario: “Worries about pollution may be making consumers shift to online shopping even faster. So brands absolutely need an online presence to reach their customers where they are looking to buy.”

A Super Quick Look At Online Grocery in Asia

Online Grocery in Asia

A quick walk through the business section of a fairly reputable bookstore left me empty handed this past week. (Yes, I still read books, it’s a nice break from the screen I look at most of my waking hours.) I was looking for a book or books on China or Asia, specifically on the way people in China interact with the web (specifically digital presentation) and how it differs from Americans or Europeans. I found lots of books about digital marketing, but nothing specifically about China or Asia. Just like writing about online grocery, ecommerce in emerging markets is still a relatively new field.

A quick Google search brought up a few statistics and case studies about online grocery in Asia – which I have compiled into a short presentation. You can see the presentation at my Slideshare page here.

 

Keeping Your Brand at Top of Mind with Microsites

Last month the digital marketing agency Mediative released a white paper detailing their success with a Mondelez brand microsite that they designed for Walmart.com. The results were promising for the future of CPG brands online. Using display advertising, Mediative drove “highly interested” online grocery shoppers to the microsite which can be seen here.  The microsite’s goal was to create an interactive and visually appealing online destination where customers could get recipes and have a bit of fun – all in order to “engage, educate and inspire” customers and build awareness about the Mondelez brand.

Mediative reports that the top performing search banner showed a click-through-rate of 5.64%, compared with the much lower average Walmart.ca site click though rates of .11%. Additionally, once customers reached the microsite, they spent 450% more time on each page than average.

Mediative’s statistics show that online advertising such as this Walmart.ca microsite can increase brand affinity by up to 60%. Mediative’s goal was to create “a meaningful connection between the customer and Mondelez’s products” to “keep Mondelez top-of-mind with consumers when shopping for snacks at Walmart.”

Keeping your brand at top of mind, whether you are selling at Walmart, Amazon or several other of the top ecommerce sites, is of the utmost importance on the competive new “online shelf”.  “E-commerce seems to be democratizing ‘shelf space’ as top brands do not dominate the e-commerce channel as much as they dominate brick-and-mortar retail,” says a September 2013 report from Sanford C. Bernstein.

Why Are Companies Dragging their Feet When it Comes to the Digital Space?

This fall Kantar Retail released a digital industry benchmarking study which found that retailers and manufacturers have a long way to go in the digital space.  The study ranked companies in three tiers: the top having made significant investments in digital which they called “performing”; the second “progressing” and those only just emerging from a brick-and-mortar approach “participating”. P&G and Unilever were some of the manufacturers rated as “top tier” or “performing”; but many companies were simply not evolving. One retailer respondent said of their experience with manufacturers that: “No one is doing a good job of building their brands via digital. They are using digital as just another form of advertising.”

The mantra is that “the shopper has gone digital and the industry must follow”  – so why the dragging feet on the part of so many consumer packaged goods manufacturers?  A recent Consumer Goods Technology article called “Optimizing Brand Value” gives some good insight as to why. Much of the issue lies in the complexity of CPG data. Executives from Hub Designs and Stibo Systems related the difficulties that CPG manufacturers are having entering the online space in the Consumer Goods Technology article.

The article states: “Consumers today have many new avenues available for finding products; however the information they seek is often on websites that the CPG company doesn’t even control. As a result, these sites often provide inaccurate information copied or scraped from yet another website or third party app.”

They go on to explain that a combination of staff issues with fragmented business units and information systems that are siloed cause major challenges for brand and product information. Issues such as out-of-stocks; missing or inaccurate ingredients or poor translations of product information, they say, can add up to potentially damaging customers’ experiences with the brand – driving consumers to the competition.  “Poor data quality is not just an internal issue anymore; inaccurate data may have damaging consequences for everyone in the value chain and it can lead to bad press and negatively affect your customers’ perception of your brand.”

 

CPGs Customers Are Changing

Hispanic population is fastest-growing and youngest in US

The new landscape of marketing for CPG is a rapidly, and radically changing US population. If you are an English speaker, you may have noticed the fairly new TV commercials that are in both English and Spanish. Not surprising that companies are doing this, because the Hispanic population is the fastest-growing and youngest segment of the US  population. This population is a key target for growth among CPG brand manufacturers.

What do we need to know about the changing population? A recent eMarketer article had some valuable statistics every CPG manufacturer should know about the Hispanic population: Hispanics do more grocery shopping than the average US shopper and they also spend 20% more. Food is very important to Hispanic culture: 75% of Hispanic families sit down for a meal together every day.

American population is getting older

I have to admit I was taken aback this spring when I saw online ads showing Dancing With the Stars and NFL players sporting Depends. No longer fodder for late night talk show humor, products for the “Depends wearing set” are (literally) coming out of the closet and hitting the mainstream. There’s a good reason for this too – the US population approaching is middle age and getting older. According to the US Census the median age of the US is 37.2  –  right now there are the same number of people older than that age as younger.

And what about the growing population of older folks? What do CPG companies need to know about them in order to attract their dollars? RetailWire recently devoted a blog discussion to the new Amazon site devoted to the 50 plus crowd called “50+ Active and Healthy Living Store”. The articles’ many comments are telling – readers called the site anything from “clinical” to a “turnoff” with a too heavy focus on “incontinence”. Hopefully Amazon read that article and is now thinking about ways to improve the way they market to a graying American population.

There will be some growing pains. This is a new challenge for advertisers who have thought of the US population in very different ways up until now. I can give a pretty funny example. I recently witnessed a 65 plus woman watching a commercial at a local restaurant. The commercial showed active, pretty older ladies dancing around in colorful outfits to upbeat music – then at the end it flashed the name of a product briefly up on the screen. I had to smile when I heard the woman comment, “I like the commercial but I am not sure what it was for”. In their attempt to change the way it marketed a traditionally not very hip item, the manufacturer really confused the target audience  – or at least the potential customer I was sitting next to.

Leah Kinthaert