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Innovators Series

Innovators Q&A: How Banner Health’s Digital Marketing Strategies Increased Customer Trust During COVID-19

As soon as COVID-19 hit, healthcare systems and organizations across the world scrambled to craft new strategies to serve their communities whilst keeping employees and patients safe. But despite their efforts, there was often one barrier that often prevented patients from seeking care in times of need: Trust. Trust that they’d be protected from contracting COVID-19, should they visit a hospital in-person.

 

In the latest episode of Tallwave’s Innovator Series, our Vice President of Marketing Jessica Pumo talks to Patrick Knauer, the Director of Digital Marketing for Banner Health’s Ambulatory practices, about developing and implementing digital marketing strategies to give patients peace of mind, as well as what he believes is in store for the future of healthcare, the patient experience, and digital marketing as a whole.

Innovators Q&A With Patrick Knauer

Jessica Pumo: Hello everyone. I’m Jessica Pumo, Vice president of Marketing at Tallwave, a customer experience design company. Welcome to the latest installment of our Innovators Series. Today, I am thrilled to be joined by Patrick Knauer, Director of Digital Marketing for Banner Health Ambulatory Services. Welcome, Patrick.

 

PK: Hi Jessica. Thank you. It’s great to be here.

 

JP: Now, at a high level, Patrick, you work with Banner Health’s ambulatory service lines to align marketing strategies to business direction, and then you work with the broader marketing and media teams to execute marketing campaigns. So, I know you’ve got great perspective to share.

 

To kick things off today, I’d just like to start by hearing a bit about your professional journey. What initially attracted you, like so many of us, to digital marketing, and how did you get to where you are today?

 

PK: Yeah, I started off in digital marketing, working for a search engine optimization company, not knowing how much I would love it, but it really became my passion just because it changed it. It felt like every two weeks Google would reset the landscape and we would always [have to] adjust and have to rethink our approach.

 

That sense of excitement really stuck with me as I grew and it’s still that way. I’ve been in digital marketing for over 15 years now and it does feel like every two weeks there is a new tweak to keep you on your toes. So, that excitement hasn’t faded.

 

JP: So, let’s get a little more specific about how your role contributes to Banner’s larger mission. How is success defined for you and your team and how does that help Banner reach its established business goals?

 

PK: Yeah, so, Banner is working to meet consumers where they need healthcare, and that’s in an ambulatory setting. My role and the teams that I work with, are working to make sure that we’re easily accessible. That we’re easy to find through digital channels and that when our consumers need care, it’s not troublesome or burdensome to schedule to get into a healthcare clinic and to get out.

 

So, we have a lot of communication that we need to do, and we have a lot of marketing that we need to do to make sure that we’re omnipresent on various digital platforms that consumers use today.

There was a fear about being inside small spaces and healthcare locations. People were more hesitant to just walk in. They wanted to use their digital tools to limit their time, to limit their exposure, and [to] make that appointment on the computer.

JP: Wonderful. As, as we narrow our focus a little bit, I think I’d be remiss if I didn’t start with something that I know has changed the landscape for all of us. And it must be an understatement to say that the pandemic has changed the healthcare landscape.

 

So, given that the pandemic has driven a lot of changes to how consumers find and engage with businesses of all kinds, what kinds of changes have you all seen in terms of how consumers search for and engage with ambulatory services?

 

PK: One of the best examples that I could give you would be just our online appointment rate for our Urgent Cares, which is of our ambulatory service lines. We see the most volume out of our Urgent Cares. We have over 50 locations in Northern Colorado, [and] Arizona, so a lot of different points of access.

 

And, what we noticed from the beginning of the pandemic to its peak, was that our online bookings rose by 37% [percent] all the way up to 50% [percent]. So, about half of the patients coming through the doors were scheduling online. And the reason we saw that increase was because there was a fear about being inside small spaces and healthcare locations. People were more hesitant to just walk in. They wanted to use their digital tools to limit their time, to limit their exposure, and [to] make that appointment on the computer.

 

JP: Since you’ve mentioned it, I would love to jump to that idea: How concerns around personal health and safety have changed with the pandemic.

 

I know that’s really put those concerns front and center and the need to build trust with consumers has never been more important than it has been just these last several months. This need must have been even more acute when it comes to ambulatory services.

 

So, I’m curious what data points have you used to help understand patient needs and patient pain points as they’ve evolved through the course of the pandemic?

 

PK: Our analytics demonstrated that, prior to COVID, the most popular action that we would see consumers takes were clicks over to our website where they could access more information on the location or the services that were there.

 

But during the pandemic clicks to the website went down and direct phone calls to our clinics went up… We extrapolated from that there was more information that they needed directly from a person: To hear what steps were being taken or specific situations – if you’re at high risk for COVID or you have an auto-immune disease, or you’re in a certain age bracket – you might need reassurance of talking to someone at the front desk, and asking questions [such as], “Can I be seen?”, “What special requirements or services do you have for me?”

 

That was one data point that we really noticed, and it helped to kind of informed the communication that we put out there to our consumers because we were able to take those data points out of the conversations and understand, what are the concerns? How do we address them [and make] them easy to find, and put them in front of our consumers so that they already know the answers to some of their questions?

 

Also read: Data Driven Insights Into the Evolving Customer Experience

There’s a myriad of different digital transformations that are happening, but most of them are revolving around improving the ease and the experience.

JP:  It’s really fascinating to hear how you’re looking at those digital signals and interpreting them as indicators of how that experience needs to change, knowing that the experience inevitably – in an ambulatory setting – is going from online to in-person. How has Banner worked to build patient trust through marketing and messaging from what they experienced in local search to what they experienced when they arrive in-person at an ambulatory services center to inspire and build that confidence and trust and drive continuity in that experience?

 

PK: That was the main challenge with COVID. And the main objective was to really make sure people understood the efforts that, as an organization, Banner Health was taking to make care safe.

 

So, we created a safe place for care, a logo, and a brand campaign… [We put that logo] on communications, whether it be a top of the funnel advertisement or bottom of the funnel, actually inside the clinic. We had the steps we took to clean a clinic, that we ask our patients to [wear a] mask, and the other steps that we take for our own employees to make sure everyone [is] safe. And we put those pieces of communication on our website, on our blog, within our emails – all over the possible digital touchpoints, so that no matter where the consumer interacted with Banner, the logo was there and the information was there. And if they needed a deeper dive, we provided the URL where they could go and read exactly the steps that we were taking behind the Safe Place For Care campaign.

 

JP: When you look at any one of those individual touch points, the changes that you’re describing may seem really nuanced, but when you look at them in [the] aggregate, that really is some significant changes to the patient experience.

 

PK: It really was. And it was a lot of work to spread that kind of communication across 400 plus clinics, [through] email, blog, or website advertisement. But that was our mission. That was our objective. I was proud to be a part of the team, and the outcomes were great because we had a lot of people tell us that they felt safe, and they appreciated the efforts that we took.

JP: Which is so important. So important. Well, let’s move from innovation to transformation here for just a second. Something that’s top of mind for me and for the Tallwave team, based on our recent Tallwave research report, is telehealth as a prime example of the digital transformation underway in the healthcare space. What does digital transformation in healthcare look like for you and your team?

 

PK: It looks like a lot of things. That’s a difficult question to unpack because it could be an app on the phone that has a host of capabilities – from communicating with your provider to accessing lab reports, to making an appointment. And that’s just within an app. But there’s also other touch points out there, on the web on a mobile web, where you need to have other capabilities like online scheduling.

 

One of our most popular digital transformation features is our symptom checker, which is really easy to use. You can just pop onto BannerHealth.com, open up the symptom checker app, tell our computer exactly what you’re experiencing: What you’re feeling, [and] what your symptoms are. And after a series of questions and answers, you get a mini-diagnosis, and it’ll point you to the right level of care, which is important in healthcare, because you don’t want to go to the emergency room when an urgent care visit is perfectly appropriate.

 

There’s a myriad of different digital transformations that are happening, but most of them are revolving around improving the ease and the experience, overall, that you have interacting with healthcare.

 

JP: I know we’ve talked about some of the complexities of managing that experience within the pandemic, but I certainly don’t want to lose sight of how complex that is for you and your team, just on a day-to-day basis.

 

In general, outside of the pandemic, I know Banner has leveraged a really diverse constellation of digital touch points to address patient needs and pain points by meeting them where they are, when they’re there. And I know that really does cut across a lot of different teams at Banner. So, how do you set the stage for smooth handoff, from your team to the next, so that that patient experience feels really seamless as they move through multiple points of engagement from the Banner websites to social, to email, to Google My Business, and everything in between?

 

PK: Yeah, that’s one of the core responsibilities of my role. As the Director of Marketing for our ambulatory service lines, I need to understand the objectives of one of our business units, like Urgent Care or the medical group, and come forward with a marketing plan that meets the goals that they’re trying to accomplish.

 

Then, I put that together into what we call a marketing playbook, which lists out: What are we trying to accomplish? What are our goals? What are we going to use as our call to action? What are our proof points, or what we like to call “reasons to believe” in Banner Health or Banner Urgent Care or Banner Medical Group. [I] put that into a centralized tool, which we use work from, and pull all of the various teams together and have kickoff calls, and installation meetings, and go over all of this planning [around] the direction, and everything that we are going to use so that everyone understands: “Let’s use these calls to action. Let’s use these reasons to believe. Here are blog resources. Here are website resources.”

 

And then, whenever it’s time to actually execute, the teams can go into [that] work, [and] know that they can pull the information [and] that will be the same information that the web team is pulling, or the email team is pulling, and the advertising team is pulling. So, everything is the same across the board, and you have that nice, beautiful experience that’s consistent.

We know that the level of trust that we encounter through Google My Business and organic search is higher just based upon the way our consumers convert and make those appointments – but paid search is a very high converting platform in itself.

JP: I think you you’ve touched on some things that really are very actionable for all of us. I think there are very few marketers out there who are not working hand-in-hand with other marketers who may be on different teams, different departments, different divisions, but the idea of starting with a really clear unifying strategy in enrolling everyone into that strategy together, so that you’re all on the same page, and then offering up the tools and resources that everyone needs to do the job. I know it sounds simple. It’s hard to execute and certainly worth bearing in mind. So, thanks for calling those things out.

 

As a marketer who manages a combination of paid search and organic search, which are needs supported by different teams in my world, it’s not lost on me how challenging it can be to marry those things. That really should be two parts of a whole. So, I’m curious, Patrick, how do you think about organic versus paid search as it relates to the patient experience, and how do you coordinate your efforts on the organic front with those of your partners managing the paid activity so that those things work together?

 

PK: I think they’re both extremely valuable and, in my mind, there’s not a difference between the two. There’s performance differences – we know that the level of trust that we encounter through Google My Business and organic search is higher just based upon the way our consumers convert and make those appointments – but paid search is a very high converting platform in itself.

 

The thing that we want to do is make sure, again, that our messaging is consistent, that we’re using the same reasons to believe, because we know from analysis of how long it takes some to convert, that there might be multiple touch points along the way. Paid search might be two of three touch points. So, we want to make sure that the messaging, the reasons to believe are consistent no matter where they interact with us. But from a strategic level, they’re both lower funnel for us. And they’re both of high importance,

 

JP: [It] all kind of goes back to recognizing that those things have to be seamless in the customer experience. Right? So, how do you see local search within the ambulatory services space changing and how is your team adapting?

 

PK: So, yeah, I think that’s an interesting question. Real estate in Google is shrinking, and Google is owning more of the first page for its own products, like Google My Business, for zero click information. I think that that’s going to continue. I think paid search is going to stay rather consistent with the results that you see on the page and the real estate that it’s given, but zero click information and Google My Business, in my mind, has more of a future because the big change in healthcare would be if you can make an appointment to get into your doctor or to an Urgent Care clinic directly from Google, [without ever] having to click over to Banner Health or any other health system, that would be a zero click conversion.

 

Google is working towards that in many industries, including healthcare. And it’s probably not going to be a 2021 solution that you see, but it’s not too far down the road. And being able to provide our consumers with as much information, and as much access as they can out of local search is an extremely strategic focal point for us at Banner Health, and one that we’re keeping a close eye on.

 

So, we’re very active within our local search tools, [and] with our listings. We want to make sure that we’re providing everything that we can, and the information in there is as up-to-date as possible. So, we solicit reviews. We post new information. We provide videos. We provide images. And that continual effort to work the local search has paid very good dividends for Banner Health.

 

Also read: 9 Metrics That Help Measure Customer Engagement

Being able to provide our consumers with as much information, and as much access as they can out of local search is an extremely strategic focal point for us.

JP: I think that’s a well-informed look at what may lie ahead. When it comes to that local search space, what other changes are on the horizon for you and your team in a post-pandemic world?

 

PK: That is yet to be known. Right now, we’re kind of letting the data tell us what to do. Our research team is constantly bringing us new information on the consumer perspective [within a] COVID and a post-COVID world. And, right now, we’re continuing our messaging of safety and a Safe Place For Care, but we realize that that may not last forever, and that we need to plan for the future.

 

I think what we want to do is make sure that, no matter where you are on the spectrum of COVID-concern, whether you feel very comfortable without a mask and you’d like to go about your life like it’s 2019, great! Or if you are forever changed, and you need to know that there are certain safety protocols for you wherever you go, great, we also want to make that person feel very comfortable.

 

So, planning for those two different consumer types is something that is existing at Banner Health, as well as understanding the nature of the changing landscape of healthcare with the digital space, and how those two things can work together to be each other’s benefit.

 

JP: Such an interesting road ahead, no doubt, regardless of how that crystal ball changes over time. But you’ve been very generous with your time today, Patrick, thank you again for joining us, and for the great conversation.

 

PK: Oh, thank you so much, Jessica. I enjoyed it.

 

If you’d like to learn more about Banner Health, you can visit BannerHealth.com or follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, all at Banner Health.

 

If you’re interested in learning more about Tallwave and how we help companies design exceptional customer experiences, contact us today. You can also read and download our recent research report, “Data-Driven Insights Into the Evolving Customer Experience” here.

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News This Week in CX

This Week in CX: 3 Companies Launch New “Unparalleled” Experiences Aimed at Improving Common Life Events

There are three things most humans can likely agree they’re fond of: Money, parties, and food. Ways in which experiences can be designed and delivered around each are plentiful. But three companies in particular are making big moves that all have one thing in common: They’re attempting to reinvent common (and sometimes mundane) life experiences in a way that encourages people to weave them into the everyday fabric of their lives.

 

Here are the biggest business, brand and tech developments that occurred this past week and will most certainly impact how we design and deliver the customer experiences of tomorrow.

New Customer Experience Involves Free Money

 A new FinTech startup called Millions – whose business model and services haven’t been fully unveiled yet but relate to reinventing the credit card – is giving investor money (read: millions of dollars) away via Twitter and their app. The concept is said to tease a new business model that will allow brands to be more involved with customer and fan giveaways.

 

How does it work? Well, it’s actually pretty straightforward. Money seekers follow Millions on Twitter (since starting the account in July 2020, they’ve gained 22.2k followers) and just keep an eye out for opportunities. Millions regularly rewards small dollar amounts – usually $100 – to people who are tagged in comments or retweet a post, but now they’re upping the ante. This month, they’re hosting weekly drawings and giving $1 million to users who win number-guessing games. All people have to do to be eligible is: One: Follow Millions on Twitter; Two: download and create an app account; and Three: Guess a sequence of six numbers. That’s it. Whoever’s numbers match the weekly draw, wins big. It’s basically a digital lotto.

The “anonymous founders” (who aren’t so anonymous – a few Google searches revealed Kieran & Rory O’Reilly, the founders of gifs.com, as the brains behind the new company) claim it’s a different approach to paying for customer acquisition. Instead of forking money over to Facebook, Instagram, Apple, or Google to find customers for them, they’re using that same budget to attract fans directly by, well, giving it all away. And they hope the initial fun, which one investor called an “unparalleled, engaging customer experience,” will result in a loyal customer base eager to support the company’s future launch.

 

While details are still underwraps, another investor, Allbirds co-founder and CEO Joey Zwillinger went on record explaining his monetary support for what Millions is building, and revealed some clues regarding what’s ahead. “This company is creating delight from what would otherwise be the mundane, everyday necessity of swiping a credit card,” he said. “We invested in Millions because they will spark joy in people’s lives, and think the traditional points model of accumulating hard-to-use airline and hotel points is tired, and ripe for reinvention.”

 

But is this customer acquisition ploy sustainable, and will it really create authentic brand affinity and customer engagement? Or will it just rack up the brand’s Twitter following and create synthetic app engagement with people who are just looking for some extra dough?

 

“The strategy is interesting,” says Tallwave’s Director of Performance Marketing Dallas McLaughlin. “But I think people are overthinking it by trying to understand the product, the game, the acquisition costs, etc. Let’s not outsmart ourselves here.”

The Millions "game” is just a facade that makes consumers feel comfortable entering a ”cash for data marketplace.”

As Dallas put it, Millions simply came up with a way to incentivize people to willfully hand over their demographic and mobile device data. That’s all it is.

 

“Each time someone follows them on Twitter they are going to receive their name, age, gender, income, interests, accounts they follow, etc. Millions then hands the follower cash for this information. Exchanging consumer data for Millions’ cash. Then, when they download their app – where the game actually takes place so it’s a requirement – the consumer is willfully accepting the terms of service which in all likelihood will include handing over the majority of the mobile device data which will include social logins, geolocation, app usage, apps installed (think banking, insurance, shopping) and more.”

 

Essentially, the Millions “game” is just a facade that makes consumers feel comfortable entering a ”cash for data marketplace.” Yes, that is a phrase that Dallas made up.

 

“Mobile device data is the new gold and the gold rush is on. Millions figured out that consumer privacy concerns go out the window as soon as something is in it for the consumer and they did it in a way that is fun for the consumer. It’s a win-win for all. Until the story breaks a month from now about how they are using the data.”

 

Also read: How Tallwave Optimized Paid Media Strategies For a 40,000% Increase in Leads

 

Well, that’s always the caveat with datat: Do consumers actually have privacy and can brands truly cultivate feelings of trust? Only time will tell for Millions.

Will You Be My… Pop-Up Drive-In Date?

Drive-in movies are getting a thematic makeover. FunFlicks announced a new initiative to provide pop-up drive-in events as alternative solutions for high school dances (think proms, formals, homecomings, etc.) and graduations. Calling it the “natural next step in helping the community move forward together and begin to heal,” the events offer safe ways for people to celebrate big moments and create memories together, in a time when we can’t physically be too close together.

It’s a shining example of how a company – perhaps less relevant in our regular lives than say, 70 years ago – can employ creativity and empathy to launch a marketing strategy that does more than build awareness and rely on advertising dollars. Instead, FunFlicks’s new offering finds a modern and unique way to once again become a fabric of old and new customer’s lives.

 

“For years we have provided pop-up drive-in movie theatre rentals for all kinds of events and had great success,” share a company spokesperson for FunFlicks. “In the beginning of COVID-19, we began a robust campaign to give back and help support the community by providing free downloadable movies to cope with lockdown, as well as donating important relief supplies… I strongly believe that it is time for us to begin using drive-in movie theaters in a way that can return positivity and some type of normalcy to the community.”

 

Also read: Why Customer Experience Can’t Be All Data Driven

 

While we can’t see this being a permanent thing – it’s safe to assume that most people would prefer in-person dances and graduation ceremonies bounce back in a post-pandemic world – it may create long-lasting customer appreciation and support amongst FanFlicks fans who are provided with a safe space to relax and connect during a most difficult year. Even more, it may change consumer perspective and attitude towards drive-in movie nights, for good.

In the Future, People Will Decorate Their Porches With Mini-Fridges

Walmart announced a new plan to pilot “smart boxes” this spring. Essentially front porch mini-fridges with compartments for various items depending on their temperature needs, the smart boxes are controlled via a phone app and aim to “ease the pitfalls” of grocery deliveries.

HomeValet Instagram reveals picture of smart box

The smart box manufacturer, HomeValet, says it will allow shoppers to continue conveniently grocery shopping online but won’t require they be at home for the delivery – the food will stay fresh and smart box owners will have full control over when the box is locked (or unlocked) while on the go.

 

And while Jack Simms, the co-founder and COO of HomeValet, says the smart boxes can hold up to seven or eight bags of groceries, he foresees consumers using them in a more agile, as-needed way.

 

“We think there will be a big market for auto-replenishing perishables”, he told MediaPost. “How nice would it be to have milk and eggs delivered without even having to order them? And instead of buying a week’s worth of meat at once, having it take up space in the fridge and worrying about cooking it by the sell-by date, people can get it delivered more often, maybe daily. So, that will improve the quality and freshness of food.”

 

The pilot program is in partnership with Walmart, but HomeValet has consumers at its core.

 

“This will be consumer-owned and brand-agnostic, Simms explained. “People won’t want it if it’s connected to just one store. It works for deliveries from grocery stores, the butcher, wine deliveries. Even if the vendor doesn’t have the technology, customers can leave the box open and lock it via the app once the delivery has been made.”

 

Also read: How to Brainstorm For Innovation

HomeValet announces Walmart pilot program

While this new technology certainly does improve convenience of home grocery delivery, the Tallwave team wasn’t sold on its necessity, with 70.8% of those surveyed saying they wouldn’t buy the product.

Tallwave survey regarding smart boxes

“Most of the existing food distributors use dry ice to keep content at the appropriate temperatures. Fridges cost extra electricity and most likely space. It could be helpful for people that are not working from home, but it’s hard for me to relate to the use case. I think its an interesting product concept for the problem, but the fridge is not the solution in my opinion,” said one Tallwaver who took the survey.

 

“Sounds awesome and highly convenient if the price is right and it’s not an eyesore for my porch,” said another Tallwaver. “The HOA may nix it.”

 

Meanwhile, a potential problem was also brought to light.

 

“I say ‘Yes!’, but my front door area does not actually have space for this type of unit to be placed, so the practicality of it is limited. What about people who live in apartments or smaller houses? The convenience aspect of this is nice, but not necessarily a game-changer, in my opinion. I like the idea of eliminating waste from grocery deliveries in lieu of having a place to put it in front of my home, but there’s still the question of resource use, and the impact production of these units will have on the environment, as opposed to paper bags. I would love for retailers to find more innovative ways of continuing the home delivery services while also looking for ways to mitigate the waste associated with them.”

 

Price was also a contentious issue. Nearly 50% of responders said they’d be willing to pay between $150-$200 for the product, The other surveyed ranged between $0-$150. Zero responders said they’d be willing to pay over $200. The price of the smart box units is currently unknown.

Smart Box survey regarding price

While we didn’t get an overly enthusiastic reaction to the new smart box technology from our Tallwave Team, people originally thought the Edison light bulb and telephone wouldn’t catch on, either. And look at where they are now.

 

Either way, we hope HomeValet and Walmart use the pilot program to dig into consumer concerns, sentiment, and core needs and address concerns or experience gaps before pushing the product to market. 

Would you purchase a smart fridge? Weigh in and tell us why or why not in the comments below.

Categories
News

This Week in CX: Party City Reimagines Celebrations, Barnes & Noble Goes Hyperlocal & More

Also included in our second installment of “This Week in CX” (a weekly series in which we discuss some of the biggest news in tech, data and business that could impact experiences of tomorrow): The BIA Advisory Services released their local media ad spend predictions for 2021 and SEO experts everywhere started analyzing the impacts of Google’s December 2020 Core Update. 

 

Let’s jump right in!

2021 ad spend predictions are here & traditional media is… dead?

The BIA Advisory Services have spoken. Forecasts for advertising dollars are out and, despite still dealing with a pandemic, local media spending is expected to start recovering from this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year. Increasing 2.5% ($137.5 billion) in 2021, the projections still fall almost $24 billion dollars short of the ad spend in 2019. BIA says they don’t expect to see a full recovery until at least 2022… and even that might be wishful thinking.

 

What really got our Tallwavers talking, though, is where the money is expected to go. According to the forecast, traditional media is taking a huge hit. Advertising dollars in local TV will decrease by 14.2% next year – that’s 15.7 billion dollars. But simultaneously, online, mobile, and TV stations local OTT (short for over-the-top, OTT usually refers to streaming or video-on-demand content options) and CTV (devices that are used to watch TV online including smart TVs and gaming consoles) predictions are seeing big dollar signs. OTT and CTV are predicted to increase 20% ($1.2 billion); online is expected to grow by almost double digits to 9.5% (23.3 billion) and mobile should take up 18.4% ($23.4 billion) of the yearly ad spend revenue. With those numbers, online and mobile will represent a third of all U.S. local advertising “a shit ton,” as our Director of Performance Marketing Dallas McLaughlin put it. Meanwhile, direct mail is expected to remain the largest U.S. local media platform accounting for 23% ($31.2 billion) of the local advertising share, and local radio is expected to hold strong with a 1.4% ($12.6 billion) increase.

Local media spending is expected to start recovering from this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year.

Curious how accurate this forecast could be? Our Senior Paid Media Specialist Kelsey O’Grady says it’s right on the money. “Consumers’ day-to-day behaviors have adapted to our new way of living during quarantine, but we are still consuming a lot of media.” So, what does that mean for companies who are planning their ad spend strategies for 2021? Just keep swimming.

 

“After the 2008 recession, businesses who maintained strong ad spend left the recession with higher brand recognition and affinity,” Kelsey explains. “Tallwave has a lot of clients who have maintained a strong digital presence throughout 2020 with a lot of success, and I believe they will continue to find success in 2021.” But don’t go spending your money just anywhere. 

 

“The key goes back to knowing your audience. Make sure you have a clear understanding of who they are and what their affinities are. With digital advertising continuing to grow and become more competitive, prices will go up for quality placements and it will be more important than ever to make sure you are showing to the right user.”

 

One last tip: Be sure to define your goals (KPIs) for your 2021 ad spend and evaluate how you’re progressing month-over-month. “One of the things that it is important for brands to keep in mind is sometimes it’s better to look at your media performance holistically than it is to hyper focus by channel,” advises Kelsey. “Upper funnel tactics will have different KPIs than lower, but it doesn’t take away their value in your plan.”

 

Also read: Nat Geo Goes Extinct, Salesforce Gets Some Slack & More

Three Companies Make Huge CX Moves

Make way, make way. Legacy companies are unveiling their CX transformation strategies for 2021! A number of companies made announcements this past week revealing plans to evolve their experiences and products in the coming year. From coolest to “lamest,” here are the changes that are worthy of taking note.

Party City wants to spend every Saturday night with you

Who’s ready for some virtual fun? Party City announced  their plan to help customers “imagine well” by providing new ways to party both safely and virtually. And they’re getting the word out by leaning into content creation and communication rather than advertising.

 

“We are trying to make it easy for customers to still celebrate,” Party City’s CMO Julie Roehm told MediaPost. “We would like to be the author of more trends, rather than a follower of them. With the insights and the knowledge that we have about the celebration space, I think it’s our purview to do that. We have an entire party planning team that we’re setting up B2C and B2B, and it’s not paid.”

But how are they doing it exactly? By bringing virtual party planners to a computer near you. No matter the event, Party City’s customers will be able to find inspiration, how-tos, and shopping lists on their website (or in-store on their “inspiration walls”). Then they can opt to be connected to Party City virtual party planners or members of the “Joy Squad” (which also includes social influencers, store associates, etc.) who will pull the materials together for their little shin-digs. It’s a huge rebranding initiative that requires every associate and exec chip in. And they managed to get that company-wide buy-in – albeit a few bumps in the road – by over-communicating the plan and finding “change ambassadors” and “change champions” in every region to provide valuable employee and customer feedback to continue improving the experience for all those involved.

 

“This is my favorite story of the week,” says our VP of Brand Strategy Jesus Ramirez. “It shows a company/brand rethinking the role it has in the lives of its customers, especially under the context of our new norm. For them, it was helping their customers rethink ways to stay healthy and spark joy in a time when joy is hard to come by.”

 

"It shows a company/brand rethinking the role it has in the lives of its customers, especially under the context of our new norm."

“The other lesson from the story is that this type of seismic transformative shift requires leadership and buy-in from top to bottom,” Jesus explained. “That starts with boldness and vision from leadership, relentless communication throughout, to empowering their teams to be the champions of change.”

Survivor: The Barnes & Noble edition

After years of struggling to sell books and increase foot traffic in their brick & mortar stores, Barnes & Noble is making “the most ambitious restructuring ever undertaken at the company.” It’s one they hope will change (and save) “the future for traditional bookselling.”

 

Led by the fearless and passionate independent book owner Chief Executive James Daunt, their plan to give curation power back to executive managers is already underway. Envisioning a future where shelves are thoughtfully stocked to align with hyperlocal tastes rather than paying-publishers’ agendas, Daunt let nearly half of the company’s New York-based corporate sellers, book buyers, and powerful tastemakers go.

“It’s an interesting move and one that plays to their strengths,” says Jesus. “But they’re also betting on local curators being better at recommendations than Amazon’s algorithms, which is tough. What I’d love to see them adopt is what we at Tallwave call a ‘data-powered human curation’ model that leverages personalization data and adds a layer of personal touch to close the loop with the consumer. It’s something we’re helping several of our clients with at the moment.”

 

Also read: What’s in Store? The Future of Retail in a Post-COVID World

 

He’s right. Barnes & Noble is making a bold move, but in trying to give the huge chain little “shop around the corner” vibes, Daunt hopes the grounded, more intentional approach will decrease return rates and encourage former customers to reconnect with their store and books. We’ll just have to wait and see how this new chapter unfolds.

Crest becomes squeezably sustainable

And in what we’re calling “Jesus’s least favorite story of the week,” Procter & Gamble announced their plans to market fully recyclable Crest & Oral B toothpaste tubes across America starting in January, with the goal of selling only recyclable tubes by 2025.

 

Despite being good for the environment – which don’t get us wrong, is great– it leaves us wanting a little more. “For me, while great, it isn’t innovative or bold enough. ” explains Jesus. 

 

“To meet the current climate crisis brands need to make bolder transformational moves: Eliminate packaging altogether. Create a direct-to-consumer line that requires less external packaging and delivers larger quantities. Offer a sustainability program that allows consumers to send back packaging for rebates on future products. Create new product formulations or form factors that don’t require such sensitive packaging. Honestly, what they’re currently rolling out is a bit underwhelming.”

 

"To meet the current climate crisis brands need to make bolder transformational moves."

There ya have it – Party City FTW, Crest… give us a call next time.

Google does Google things, changes algorithm before the holidays

In somewhat unexpected but wholly unsurprising news, Google gifted marketers a new algorithm update this holiday season. Making the announcement last week and just hours before its release, Google tweeted, “It is called the December 2020 Core Update. Our guidance about such updates remains as we’ve covered before.”

So very detailed. While the news of the core update is old by now, what it means for search moving forward is still very much unknown. A number of data companies have claimed that the core update was “major” – bigger than any others that Google has released in recent history – and they fear it could negatively impact a lot of businesses right before the holidays.

 

According to RankRanger, rank volatility, average position change, and rank volatility by niche all saw substantial changes compared to the May 2020 core update. Meanwhile SEMRush (who just announced a huge rebrand, by the way) said industries that felt the largest desktop search changes included health, real estate, travel, finance, and law and government. On mobile search, health, law and government, jobs and education, pets and animals, and real estate were served up the biggest hits. Among the “winners” of the update, SEMRush claimed LinkedIn, Ebay, Vimeo, FourSquare and Yahoo saw the greatest benefits; alternatively, the update treated brands including Getty Images, Wish, Urban Dictionary, Yellow Pages and AliExpress unfavorably.

 

But our Senior Optimization Strategist Chase Alyeshmerni says there’s no need to panic, it’s just time to shift your perspective. “It can be difficult to pinpoint what needs to be done to reverse any negative impacts to your site after an algorithm update,” Chase says. “These updates consistently serve as reminders to SEO strategists, marketers, and webmasters that we need to take a step back and observe the website and the competitive landscape holistically. We should be focusing on providing valuable content to our users, and that should remain our North Star.”

"We should be focusing on providing valuable content to our users, and that should remain our North Star."

So, to sum it up, stop worrying about fulfilling Google’s algorithm demands, and instead, focus on fulfilling human needs. After all, Google changes its algorithm regularly to improve the experience they’re providing to their users. If you’re already crafting excellent experiences, then Google algorithm updates should no longer make you stress sweat.

 

“It’s critical that when users are searching for a product, service, or solution organically, they are met with content that is not only relevant to them, but delivered in a way that is easily digestible.”

 

And, of course, we have to point out that this all circles back and contributes to our favorite topic – the bigger picture: Delivering excellent CX that helps your brand stand above the rest.  

 

Also read: What is CX & Why Does it Matter?

 

“The focus of SEO is to maximize CX,” explains Chase. “All while adhering to search engine guidelines and leveraging the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) landscape.”

 

The game of creating content from an authentic, useful and optimized way takes a lot of brain power, but luckily, you’ve always got lots of (incredibly smart!) brains at Tallwave to call on. 

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Social Media Mission Statements: What Are They & How Do They Help Your Social Strategy?

Year over year we see just how important social media is. It’s where companies can find their ideal clients and customers organically learning, connecting, supporting, and sharing. That’s why brands not only need it, they need to excel at it. But most business persons working tirelessly to improve customer acquisition, engagement, and loyalty have one common question: How?!

 

While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, there is a singular pitfall that many organizations run into: They don’t spend enough time – or any time – crafting a social media mission statement that speaks to the core of what they want to achieve.

While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, there is a singular pitfall that many organizations run into.

What Is a Social Media Mission Statement?

Simply put, a social media mission statement is a formal declaration that summarizes your reasons, goals, and hopeful outcomes for having a social media presence. It’s a small but mighty sentence (or series of sentences) that serves to inform all your content decisions and activities, including what platforms you pour your sweat, tears, and soul time and effort into. It’s an activity that should be completed in the middle of creating your social media plan.

Where Should You Start?

Before you can develop a social media mission statement – from which you will develop your overall social media strategy – you need to figure out who you want to reach. To do that, start by answering the following questions:

  • Who is your target audience?
  • What social channels is your target audience most active on and why?
  • What other channels do they follow?
  • How do they typically engage?>
  • What are they talking about amongst their peers and how do they speak? (You want to speak the same language as them!)
  • What resources are most helpful to them?
  • What problems or questions can your company help resolve?
  • What qualities do they look for in companies that they support?

One mistake that brands often make is thinking they must have a presence on every social platform that exists.

Then, you need to define how you plan to reach, relate, and speak to them. The more detailed, the better:

  • What is your voice and tone? (Note: This can vary from platform to platform as they all serve different purposes and audiences)
  • How should your content – written and visual – make your audience feel?

One mistake that brands often make is thinking they must have a presence on every social platform that exists. While that may be nice to have and something you can eventually build up to, it’s certainly not essential to start. In fact, it can be detrimental to your overall reach and impact. By determining your brand’s audience, social identity, and goals, you can narrow down the channels that will work best and ensure energy (and money) isn’t wasted developing the ones that won’t.

How to Write Your Social Media Statement

Your social mission statement should define two things: What a social presence will do for your business and what your channel will do for your audience.

 

First, what you want your audience to do on your social page. Do you want them to like and share? Comment? Buy something? Visit your blog? As with any marketing efforts, you can’t be all things to all people. The more specific you can make your answers to these questions, the more effective you’ll be.

 

Second, determine how you’ll deliver value to not just your current followers, but potential new ones. What type of content will you post? What main topics, categories or messages will your brand support? How will your strategy contribute to the overall customer experience your company wants to design? Most importantly, how does heart inform everything you do? Don’t just make social media about you. Create your overall strategy and mission with the true intention to serve humans first, and increase business needs second.

People are savvier than ever these days – they can sense dishonesty and ulterior motives. You have to say what you mean and mean what you say. To be successful, ensure everything you share and create comes from a thoughtful, authentic, and transparent place with a pure intention to help connect and serve.

 

Now you’re ready to give your social media mission statements a shot! When you feel confident in your answers for the previously listed questions, you can begin to articulate your mission for each individual channel. Here’s a model you can follow:

 

We’re on [social channel] to [summary of activity & purpose], which in turn will [how it will support your company’s goals].

 

It might read like this: 

 

“We’re on Instagram to help companies – big and small – evaluate their customer experiences, which in turn will empower them to make data- and design-driven decisions with humans at their core.”

People are savvier than ever these days – they can sense dishonesty and ulterior motives. You have to say what you mean and mean what you say.

How to Gauge Effectiveness & Performance

Your social media mission statement is not the endpoint of your social strategy, in fact, it’s far from it. It simply should provide a starting point that helps drive what and how to strategically, yet authentically, share content and build community.

 

To be sure you execute against your mission and work toward your business goals, build a comprehensive social strategy that aligns with and serves your new social media mission statement. Surf other successful channels to see what they’re posting and find ways to put your own spin on content that’s performing well. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, you just have to give it a fresh coat of paint that’s unique to your brand.

 

Once strategic social posting is well under way, evaluate performance by measuring growth against previously-established key performance indicators (KPIs). There are countless social metrics to gauge your month-over-month social success. It’s crucial to decide which ones are most important to you. Do you want to increase your follower count? Post impressions? Referral web traffic? Share of voice? Clicks, likes, shares, comments, lead conversions… the metrics go on and on. The KPIs you decide are most important should directly contribute in some way to getting closer to your company’s bottom line.

Most importantly, be creative and have fun! Create content that you find inspiring, helpful and motivating.

Keep a running record of your progress and dive deep into what’s working and what’s not. Just like societal trends and expectations seem to change and evolve overnight, so do social media best practices and user behavior. Be prepared to make adjustments to your social content strategy frequently while staying committed to and aligned with your human-centric mission.

 

And most importantly, be creative and have fun! Create content that you find inspiring, helpful and motivating. If you don’t enjoy the posts you’re sharing, it’s likely no one else will either.

 

Need help identifying your ideal audience, creating customer personas, increasing your social media reach or refining your brand identity and voice? Contact us now. We’d love to help!