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The Top 10 Things I Learned at CMA Next 2010

I just returned from two days at the Canadian Marketing Association’s annual conference, CMA Next 2010, where I was tweeting from the event in conjunction with The Email Guide. The event programming covered a broad swath of topics from branding, traditional advertising and product marketing to web analytics and social media. The presenters were some of the best and brightest minds in Canadian marketing who over the course of two days, challenged our assumptions and made us think, talk and laugh out loud. The hard work of programming co-chairs Mitch Joel of Twist Image (@mitchjoel) and Sandy Perlman of Microsoft Canada paid off and I left feeling enriched and informed. I have recapped some of the best takeaways from the event for you below.

1. Don’t Suck. That pearl of wisdom came from Avinash Kaushik (@avinashkaushik), Analytics Evangelist for Google and author of Web Analytics 2.0. According to Kaushik, if you suck, nothing else matters. “Sucking” is obviously a relative term, which he defines in terms of engagement. How are people interacting with your content? Are they engaging with your website or are they visiting your site and leaving after looking at the first page? If they “came, puked and left”, you need to stop worrying about everything else and fix it. He also stressed that speed and access to information should be the #1 feature of your website. Don't sacrifice functionality for sexiness. If your website isn’t fast, you will die.

2. We Live in an Age of Conversation Marketing. Participate and Empower. Kaushik also reminded us that marketing today has to be conversational – it’s time to stop broadcasting messages to our audiences. We need to use engagement metrics to analyze effectiveness in today’s marketing world. It’s no longer about reach metrics like fans, followers and hits (which he defined as “How Idiots Track Success”.) The new age of marketing is customer-centric. Abandon your comfortable metrics and start leveraging engagement metrics like your website bounce rate, clicks, email opens, social media sharing rates, re-tweets and Twitter lists. Once you have these metrics identified, optimize your marketing strategy, creative and technology choices to support improvements in those areas.

3. Challenge Everything You Know About Marketing.
Ken Wong (@kbw2009) of Queen's School of Business and CMA Hall of Fame inductee dropped a bomb on the audience when he told us that the C-Suite tends to view marketers as “margin sucking maggots.” Most companies know that they need to market their way out of a recession and yet the first thing that the executives cut when tough time hit is marketing. Why? Because marketing doesn’t appear to have a direct effect on profitability, the #1 factor affecting the success of a company.

The NYSE 2010 CEO Report ranked Marketing/Advertising Initiatives dead last in Profitability Impact for 2007. In the same survey, only one marketing variable entered into the equation as mattering to shareholders – brand strength – and it ranked second to last. It gets worse. According to Wong, only 18% of 545 executives in UK firms rated their firm’s marketing effectiveness as better than good and 36% rated it fair/poor. In fact, you are 2X more likely to get a marketing job in the UK if you have a finance background than if you have a marketing background. Ouch!

Why do executives view marketing as wasteful and expendable? Because we’re not communicating our value in terms that they understand. Marketing needs to stop focusing on market share and volume and return to building brand value because when the value is clear, you don’t need to slash prices. Price is the #1 factor in contributing towards profitability. Help your executives get there and your budget won’t be the first thing slashed during a recession.

4. Great Brands are Simple and Clear. Canadian design guru and television celebrity Debbie Travis (@debbie_travis) reminded us to keep to basics when building your brand. The best brands know what they do well and focus on that. When you try and take on too many ancillary things, you dilute your brand and loose strength and meaning. There are two aspects to every brand: brand character and brand value. Character is how you make a first impression. Brand value is about loyalty. You should develop a clear strategy for both sides of the brand equation. Do you provide enough value to keep your audience coming back for more?

5. Your Company Can Make A Difference for the Next Generation. One of the more surprising and inspiring keynotes was a joint presentation from the Ontario Power Authority, the World Wildlife Federation (WWF) and Airmiles, a Canadian frequent flier company that has penetration into 70% of the homes in Canada. This unlikely partnership was the result of three very different entities uniting for a common cause: to reduce carbon emissions while meeting distinct goals that benefitted each company.

The Ontario Power Authority needed to find alternative sources of fuel to avoid the rolling brownouts that have been plaguing the province and ensure continuous, clean power for future generations. They partnered with the WWF to develop a program that will eliminate Ontario’s reliance on coal by 2013. Simultaneously, Airmiles greened their company and became the largest rooftop solar energy producer in Canada. Now you can also redeem your miles for a transit pass, a scooter, bicycle, or other low carbon options instead of airfare. Their inspiring message was that transformative companies should use their influence beyond their four walls to change the world. Think about what influence you have beyond your own life and talk to your company about your environmental footprint. You can help change the world as well.

6. Surprise is the Key to Successful Relationships. Andy Nulman (@andynulman) reminded us in his own unique and creative way that the element of surprise is what keeps human nature moving forward. We tend to fall into comfortable patterns and are doing ourselves (and our marketing programs) a disservice by lulling our audience into complacency. Put in the time to think different and be creative each time you want to make an impression. It’s the only way to ensure a healthy, engaging ongoing relationship with your audience.

7. Friction is a Powerful Tool of Persuasion. Ad veteran Terry O’Reilly (@ageofpersuasion) had a slightly different theory about what the surprise ingredient in everyone’s marketing programs should be… friction. According to O’Reilly, friction is a powerful tool of persuasion. Only the smartest and most insightful marketers use friction to make a sale. For example, Johnson & Johnson invented a cream that healed without pain, but people didn’t believe they were being healed unless they felt a sting. J&J put a little alcohol in the cream and sales went through the roof. Marketers are social anthropologists and it’s product marketing’s job to find the right combination of ease of use with a just a touch of friction to make people want what we’re trying to sell.

8. Use Checklists. O’Reilly also referenced a study that was performed to reduce the number of accidental deaths that occurred due to human errors during surgeries. They analyzed how pilots prevented mistakes and found that they used checklists. A test group of surgeons adopted checklists and their mistakes plunged by 80%. I think everyone can learn from that one.

9. Be Open to Opportunity and Change. Howie Mandel’s (@howiemmandel) closing keynote had everyone roaring with laughter, and yet his key message was an important one. You have to be open to opportunities as they arise and be willing to adapt and change. Over the years, he has “re-branded” himself from a carpet salesman to a comedian to an actor to a game show host and television producer, but none of that evolution would have happened if he had given in to fear and doubt and not been open to change.

Similarly, we learned that Indigo Books & Music is transforming their brand, product offerings and fulfillment mechanisms in real-time to adapt to the changes in how people are consuming media. Instead of clinging to traditional books as adoption of digital readers skyrockets, they are embracing change and adapting to become a leader in this new method of consumption.

10. Never Underestimate the Power of Alcohol in Building Relationships. And finally, this oh so true statement came from the advertising veteran “war stories” panel and was the most tweeted and re-tweeted phrases from the event. I’m not sure if Mad Men’s constant drinking reflects the era or the industry… but one thing is certain. Marketers love our booze.

For a complete play-by-play of the event, I invite you to read my full Twitter Transcript posted on StrongView’s website. If you would like to follow my coverage of future marketing events, you can find me on Twitter (@kristinhersant).

Posted by: Kristin Hersant at 1:52 PM
Categories: CMA, CMA Next 2010, Canadian Marketing Association, The Email Guide, andy nulman, avinash kaushik, debbie travis, howie mandel, ken wong, kristin hersant, mitch joel, sandy perlman, terry o'reilly, twist image

What Email Marketers Can Learn From Their Friends in Accounting!

I had the opportunity to speak at the Canadian Marketing Association annual meeting in Toronto this week, and the topic was email marketing ROI. As some of you may know, I was a CPA before I jumped head first into digital marketing and, in particular, email. So I feel just as at home in Excel as I do in email marketing applications. Now, I know what you are thinking -- how does one go from accounting to blogging about email marketing? Well, it probably has something to do with the fact that I was a terrible accountant. However, I was able to learn a few things that have served me well over the years, and believe it or not, a few of the lessons provide insight that is easily applied to the email channel and how we can look at calculating program effectiveness. Read the full article at my MediaPost Email Insider Blog!

Posted by: Ryan Deutsch at 11:51 AM
Categories: CMA, CPA, Canadian Marketing Association, Email Marketing, Excel