Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Marketing Materials & Me - How do You determine What works?

Okay, well, I'm going to keep this post short and also I'm going to cheat. *smiles*

You see, I belong to several e-mail lists, discussion groups, etc. all with the intention of expanding my expertise, learning from others and sharing the wealth of knowledge I garner along my life's path.

So, under that vein of thought, I recently answered the following question as posed by a fellow marketing professional:

"I have been assigned the project of evaluating the current marketing materials .....What's right/wrong with the current brochures, folders, pamphlets, websites etc.? This overall assessment also needs to include solutions on how we can make things better. What questions do I need to think about as I go through the materials -- and how do I competently structure the answers?"

Here in esscense was my response (hey, why waste my time and your own if I can just paste my response here and also share this Q&A with you?) *smiles*
One of the things I think a lot of marketing and corporations fail to factor in when reassessing the effectiveness of their materials is ....simply put, the consumer.
First, when reassessing hardcopy hand outs, such as, what you mention: brochures, pamphlets, folders...I would suggest you do your initial personal evaluation looking at the literature from a fresh perspective as if you were the consumer, then applying your graphic and marketing expertise.
Second, I would actually suggest you poll a user population. Take a sampling of your current clients and also a sampling of your potential clients. Devise a quick and painless survey, short multiple answers and nothing more than 2-5 minutes to fill out (less is better). Make it worth the survey populations wild to participate, provide a time limited discount on products or offer a sweepstakes type prize. Divide the sample population so that you poll a consumer only one time for one specific piece of literature. Compile the results of your survey from the feedback you receive. This step both gives you an honest feedback of 1. How you acquired your current customers and what they like about your materials, 2. Outlines from both current customers and potential customers you may be missing, what exactly is lacking in your literature. Why guess about what is wrong with (if anything) your literature, when you can go directly to the consumers to find out what it is they like or dislike and what they look for or drew them to your literature.
You may be surprised, if you do this right you may actually end up exploring different avenues of information providing that your consumers would be thrilled to see, but which someone saddled to a marketing desk might have failed in the past to provide. For example: ...if you provide periodic literature in the form of a newsletter, there may be some industry wide or national statistics that might be of interest to your consumers that would add that 'steering to read' of your material. I know for the mortgage market, for example, a consumer will toss a piece of mortgage literature in a heartbeat, but if it includes things like current market interest rates and home improvement tips and hints applicable to the time of year, the literature actually has an increase in readership.
Third, look at what works, best practices wise.For the website, you can do several things:
1. Reference psychological marketing techniques. A good report is available at the following link, which is a 2004 report by Eyetrack III, that complied the results of watching 46 people's eye movements when viewing websites and what areas are the first and least to be viewed:
2. You can also reference industry reports, such as, the June 2005 report by, which discusses the customer satisfaction for website browsing of the 40 highest gross e-retailing websites. By reading their report you can apply a best practices methodology, basically, pattern after what works, and apply that to how you evaluate the company's website.
Fourth, poll the website visitors. This is easily accomplished via side bar polls over whatever you designate as appropriate for a period of time. Example: A side bar survey changed on a daily basis for one week (depending on the number of site visitors you have, you may wish to extend the polling time), asking something as simple as: How easy is it to navigate our website? A) Very Easy - A breeze, I love it! B) Somewhat Easy - Inline with other websites C) Not Easy - Needs WorkAll in all, my point is, don't forget to actually ask the people that are viewing your materials, that's where the treasure of information lies, not in some executives expectations of what something should look like or what they think someone will like..Ask the someone themselves.
Don't reinvent the wheel, learn from others, simple research can save you tons of mistakes.
When it comes to structuring your overall review, I would start by listing the materials that were reviewed and then break down the current pros and cons of each. I would then write a small summary (a paragraph or two) of what exactly could be improved or changed for each and provide the reasoning behind each change or improvement. For example, say your survey finds that 60% of respondents thought your website was difficult to navigate. I would look at the results of the aforementioned e-retailers report and look at what attracted consumers to those websites when it came to navigation. I would then state that you recommend (insert whatever changes based on your research and findings). You could go on and reference recent industry reports of the top e-retailers as back up and to show actual justification that those practices do work and you are actually basing your recommendations on researched working statistics and not just pulling them out of thin air as your own opinion.
You can do all of the above, yet, keep it simple. You're basically aiming for a 1-4 page write up stating the current status of the literature. What areas can be improved and effectively increase sales or customer satisfaction (hopefully both), What your recommendations are for how to make those improvements (also it's nice to provide an implementation timeline), and the justification as to why you came to those conclusions for the needed changes. You could always rely on your expertise carrying weight, but really, it is much better if you have proven statistical results, there is less guess work in it and it provides more legitimacy. Besides, your superiors would expect it depending on what level of executives you are working with and also, it goes to show that you've done your homework and you know what your talking about.


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