Plus, SMX Create Early Bird rates
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Good morning, Marketers, are things turning the corner in your business?
Last week, I had the sad occasion to attend a funeral (yes, in person) and, surprisingly, I emerged with a great sense of hope. Besides myself, a great number of the attendees, especially the elderly, were fully vaccinated. Though everyone wore masks and generally socially distanced, I exchanged hugs with a few folks and have begun to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Here’s hoping you’re experiencing the same or that you will soon.
Though I didn’t get a significant number of responses to last week’s survey question, I found it interesting that a lot of folks reported not having changed anything about their marketing in response to the COVID pandemic. Meanwhile, a few changed all three aspects we asked about — messaging, media mix and new product offerings. The two most-changed items were messaging and media mix, perhaps because they were the easiest to shift. See the chart below for more details.
Speaking of turning a corner, this week we’re asking about your expectations around attending in-person events in the coming months. Things have been looking a lot more positive lately, and we’re looking forward to convening in person as soon as it makes sense. Please take our very short survey and let us know your thoughts.
Most common pandemic shifts were in messaging and media mix
It’s more anecdotal than statistically significant, but of 47 respondents to last week’s survey (people could choose more than one answer), some said they’d not changed anything about their marketing in the past year. The most common shifts were to change marketing messaging or the media mix, though many also launched new products or features to appeal to pandemic-era customers.
For data storytelling, start with the story
Numbers are not words, but they can tell a story. That is the starting point for “data storytelling.” Digital marketers have to craft narratives that tell their target audiences everything they want to know about a product or service. All the experts we talked to agreed on one general point: start with the story, then find the data. “You are using digital assets or channels to tell a story that is emotionally gripping,” said Bill Ross, founder of Linchpin SEO.
“Great storytelling is how you build context with data (facts) so people care,” added Robert Rose, founder and Chief Troublemaker at the Content Advisory. “Data by itself is meaningless.” Data has to act as the supporting structure of the story, much like the girders in a building. Data is not the story itself, he pointed out. Taking the concept one step further is Amy Balliett, founder and CEO of Killer Visual Strategies, a Material Company. The story must be tied into a strong visual image, which helps create meaning for the narrative. More on that later.
Balliett was more skeptical about the future of text in data storytelling. The trend was “using as little text as possible,” she said. “At the start of ‘09, I thought this would die. I thought the written word would win in the end. But we are moving more towards visual communication.” People will be judging books by their covers, Balliett said, so every brand should be putting the best cover on their metaphorical book to get people to crack it open.
Is your customer calling?
The telephone is often overlooked when we think about digital marketing, but it’s playing a critical role these days.
When faced with the worst public health crisis in more than a century, U.S. consumers used the telephone more than ever before. During the first half of 2020, Google My Business recorded a 61% jump in consumer calls, from inquiries about open hours to arrangements for curbside pickups. For the 12 months ending June 2020, call volume increased 35% and continues to track 27% higher than pre-pandemic levels.
For the vast majority of consumers, talking on the phone to a person who can answer their questions makes them feel more confident about their purchases. Phone calls provide businesses with an opportunity to offer deep-in-the-funnel prospects fast answers, connections to real people and the type of detailed information that plays an important role in high-consideration purchases.
Register early for SMX Create
Search marketers, it’s time to take action on SMX Create, the content and copy training program to be hosted by our colleagues at Search Engine Land on April 13. There are sessions in three tracks: SEO, PPC and Solutions, and the afternoon featured speaker is Matthew Capala, founder and CEO of Alphametic; his subject, choice psychology.
The program is followed by two workshops on April 14 and 15. SMX Create Early Bird rates expire at the end of this week. On Sunday, March 28, a $99 All-Access pass will become $149; a $149 Workshop pass will become $199; and a $209 AA + Workshop bundle will become $289.
NLX rolls out AI-powered Voice Compass
Recently we’ve looked at AI solutions for serving up ad creative and text optimization. On the B2B side, we covered AI for ABM. New York-based conversational experience company NLX uses AI intelligence to better understand incoming customer service calls (and messages) to enable companies to optimize their response. NLX recently became a launch member with AWS Travel and Hospitality Partner Competency.
Voice Compass, rolling out this year, is a solution-focused on voice-guided customer journeys. Currently, in part as a result of the AWS partnership, it’s gaining steam in the travel and hospitality sector. According to the company, Voice Compass can be deployed in other sectors that use customer service as well. Additionally, customers can elect to use a self-service application called Journeys, if they prefer self-guided help.
The core platform for the new solution is NLX Studio. It combines natural language understanding (NLU) with text and voice-based analytics. This enables it to determine next steps in a customer service call automatically. In doing so, callers won’t spend wasted time waiting to speak with a person, when a common problem can be managed through predetermined steps that don’t require a human to guide the customer. In this way, customer calls are resolved quicker, and the company saves overhead.
Why we care. The rewards of superior conversational AI couldn’t come at a better time. Pandemic restrictions have added many layers of complexity to travel and hospitality, from airlines and cruises to world-class hotels. Natural language technology has gotten much better, and there is less of a risk that a voice assistant says the wrong thing and turns a customer off to a company. According to the company’s own research, 60% of customers would prefer to take care of the problem in a self-guided way, as opposed to talking to an agent. Solutions like these will likely make voice a more robust channel, overall, for discovery, making purchases and advertising. Currently, these activities are married to screens.
Quote of the day
“The creative power of no-code tools in the hands of non-experts is best captured by the concept of shoshin from Zen Buddhism. ‘In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.’ – Shunryu Suzuki.” Scott Brinker, VP Platform Ecosystem, HubSpot