How to deliver ROI in 2011

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Mike Spicer, CEO of the Pulse Group, explains that direct marketers that combine ideas , engagement and interaction will be the most successful in 2011.

Most people you speak to in the media industry will have an opinion on what they consider will be the trends within the industry in 2011. The use of social media and other digital channels has now become an integral and anticipated part of any campaign worth its salt, but will undoubtedly continue to evolve.

Twitter has become mainstream, foursquare equally so, if perhaps slower to gain momentum, and by the time we’re all full swing into 2011 there will be many new communication solutions and opportunities available in the online sphere. Savvy marketers and business owners will be thinking along these lines and allocating budget for a social media strategy where possible.

As well as digital advances 2011 will also see the return to a more traditional way of thinking from clients, and higher demand for clearly proven ROI. We’re seeing a peak in demand from our clients for a renewed emphasis on four elementary campaign pillars – ideas, intelligence, engagement and interaction. Consumers are becoming increasingly fickle, demanding and active, wanting to feel a part of the marketing process rather than just being marketed to. Brands have to respond to this and agencies need to keep up in order to facilitate this.

2011 will see the return of ideas. This sounds simple, however the battlefields of pitching during the recession have been filled with brands and agencies frantically pulling together proposals with a scattergun approach. Within this churn many hugely successful and award winning campaigns were delivered, however as an industry we need to get back to basics and re-claim the unique service and product that we are selling; clients are looking for the best ideas that agencies can give.

Coupled with ideas is intelligence. Perhaps an over-used buzz word of any marketer or creative, yet a core discipline underpinning great ideas that is often ignored in the rush to submit bids. Clients should test concepts more and be prepared to adapt, and agencies should facilitate this. Consumer facing brands in 2011 should focus on producing simple yet challenging creative work; campaigns that quickly, directly and effortlessly demonstrate the benefits to consumers of the product / brand / service.

In 2011 interaction and engagement will become a part of the mix that clients judge agencies on. Not only how brands interact with consumers, but also how agencies and clients interact with each other. Agencies and clients need to work as a partnership, which should ultimately help create a stronger financial model that is less about hours and more about value.

Consumers are now demanding far more from brands than just being sold to, and interaction is key. Customers want to be able to explore a brand, share this with their friends and other consumers, modify their order and track an order. Encouraging consumers to participate lets them take ownership of the brand and feel that they influence its shaping, development and success.

Brands need to be offering shared content where relevant – and agencies need to have capability in this area. Consumers want to be able to turn to their friends and colleagues for referrals to test products, and preference is given to the independent validation of those whose opinion they respect – a phenomenon already commonplace for travel and comparison sites.

Agencies need to have advanced knowledge and capability of social media tools such as posts, tweets, blogs and online videos to create useful, educational shareable content for their clients. They also need the tools for measuring and evaluating customer response. A great example of this is the Walker’s crisps ’Do us a flavour’ campaign, where Walker’s invited consumers to invent a new flavour of crisps.

The brand introduced the new ’Builder’s Breakfast’ flavour as a direct result of the campaign. Dell is another brand which has taken this approach with the launch of its Idea Storm. Customers can make suggestions on the website and start conversations with each other through the site. New Look and Unilever are two other huge brands that following great success are now formerly incorporating customer involvement in their planning and development business strategy.

Considerable care needs to be taken in the way that we engage with consumers. In addition to the content that we create it is becoming even more vital that brands have an understanding of and use the right touch points for each individual.

Consumers are becoming more savvy and interactive and the increased use of smartphones provides additional ways to reach customers, but also opens up channels through which negative PR can be spread in seconds. In 2011 agencies should focus less on exploring and promoting the use of apps to sell a product or service, but instead on increased awareness and training for how to communicate with a smarter, less identifiable, and mobile audience.

So as an industry, in 2011 both agencies and clients alike shift their focus towards creating great ideas, that demonstrate intelligence and creativity, engage, interact with consumers and ultimately, deliver tangible ROI.

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