Desiree Gullan on the marketing automation revolution

G&G’s Executive Creative Director, Desiree Gullan, sat down with SA’s leading digital business publication, BusinessBrief Online to share insights on the power of marketing automation – the future of digital marketing and lead generation. Listen to the full interview to find out how marketing automation is changing the game.

Sound bite courtesy of BusinessBrief Online.

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If you’re an eloquent nonconformist with a fondness for pastries, coffee and breakthrough work, your spot at G&G is waiting. We’re on the lookout for exceptional talent to join the G&G all-star team.

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How to build communities of interest that are actually interesting

Once upon a time there were a few ads on Facebook. Then there were many. And then there were too many. As respite from their branded newsfeeds, people started looking for places where like-minded people discussed similar ideas in a safe space, away from shouting brands. On Facebook, these spaces are known as Communities of Interest – and they’re growing quickly. Here’s why.

Who’s in the house?
Communities of Interest are generally non-branded pages or groups founded on a subject of interest. They’re often centred around topics like health, wellness, support, community or the environment. If you can imagine the Facebook version of 90s chat rooms, this is it. People gather, talk, share and probe to find answers to pressing questions and share information about their passions or concerns. They’re authentic, which means they create a greater sense of community for users.

Knock, knock
Communities of Interest present opportunities for certain brands. Although by definition, Communities of Interest shouldn’t be branded, brands can use them for two purposes. To create a space for discussion based on the lifestyle around their product, then introduce relevant product mentions when appropriate, if at all. Secondly, they can gain valuable insights at a fraction of the cost of traditional market research.

Before you open any new tabs, know this: not anyone can run a brand-backed Community of Interest. At their core, Communities of Interest should provide a public service. Whether to provide comfort and support, share new information or just provide a space for users to feel heard.

It’s not all about you
Communities of Interest can become living, breathing entities under the watchful eye of the right community manager – it starts and ends with being alert and tuning in. Build content around feedback from users. Encourage engagement by posing thought-provoking questions, then watch and wait. Comments become a stream, then a conversation, which is the ultimate prize for the brand. Not only does it signal users are interested in the subject, it offers critical information to inform future content.

It may be about your competitor
Be prepared for competitor brand mentions. Remember, it’s a Community of Interest, so users don’t associate the page with one brand and that’s a good thing. It’s not something you want to change or control. To successfully manage an interest-based page is to be authentic and open – or your savvy community will find out and call you out.

It’s about listening
To ignite conversation and make users feel welcome and valued, there has to be authentic interaction. Forget robotic brand responses – you have to talk to the community like they’re your friends.

When you’ve gained trust, it creates fertile soil for planting the seed of brand mentions or suggestion. They’re already on your side, so suggesting a product won’t be met with resistance or outrage. In fact, they’ll probably listen to more intently because people trust the advice of their friends, family and community (social included) much more than they do brands.

It may unchartered social territory and feel counter-intuitive to traditional marketing efforts, which is makes use of overt branding and calls to action. But when set up and managed correctly, Facebook Communities of Interest can be hugely beneficial for brands.

It takes two to (really) tango

The coming together of SEO and PR is essential for digital marketers. As digital PR becomes increasingly important for brands, it’s vital to understand the entwined relationship of SEO and PR. Both serve the same purpose­­ – getting eyeballs on great content to build brand affinity. Here are some key considerations when adopting an integrated SEO-PR approach to your digital marketing.

Take two steps back
To implement SEO-PR collaboration, agency teams need to understand the purpose of each service. It’s no use forcing integration without context. Get both teams in one room and have them explain what they do, how they do it and why. The similarities and intersections will become evident.

Now take two forward
SEO aims not only to enhance visibility of websites, but to also make those websites relevant and valuable. Google decides whether a website is delivering interesting, accurate and valuable content based on a whole lot of criteria. One of which is inbound links.

This is where PR steps in. By syndicating interesting, well-crafted and value-added content that credible publishers, affiliates and bloggers publish on their sites (with links back to yours) you’ve created advantageous back-links that immediately enhance your site’s organic rankings with Google. And improve your reputation with potential and existing customers via the perceived endorsements of those sites.

Make sure it’s in sync
Timing is critical to success. To get the best results, your owned content should be consistent in theme and – importantly – informed by keywords based on user research. Following the same themes on your paid search, digital and social media marketing will be even more powerful (but that’s another story for another day).

Rehearse and relearn
Keep a close eye on analytics. They will inform you how best to optimise your content. For example, if your data is showing that users are spending time on one page, it’s beneficial to create content that advances and builds on that content and guides your users further towards conversion.

In addition, the collaboration of PR and SEO allows you to report on a more granular level. SEO experts can append a tracking tag to web PR pieces and report on click-throughs, as well as that user’s website behaviour. It means SEO specialists can account for spikes in traffic and gain useful insights into users’ engagement with the content. It’s mutually beneficial – both parties can report more accurately and prove the value of what they’re doing.

Get up close and personal
In my opinion, it’s key that PR and SEO teams sit close together, attend the same meetings and prepare integrated reports. The multiple-specialist-agency model, with different agencies performing different aspects of digital marketing on one brand no longer cuts it. If these powerful digital marketing initiatives are not integrated, they’ll be out of step – and lacklustre.

The finale
The powerful combination of SEO and PR will improve the performance of your website, enhance your brand or business reputation, convert traffic into leads and, ultimately, into customers. In today’s highly competitive and cluttered world wide web, it’s the very least you should be doing for your brand.

Believe in yourself (not in your selfie)

The best people to work with are the ones who pursue great ideas in an unstoppable quest to be top of their game. They’re not the pied pipers of Instagram or the self-obsessed. Come work for us if you’re all about grit, honesty and next-level thinking. We’re looking for digital copywriters, and client service and PR account executives. Remember: selfies date but greatness lasts forever.

The united greats (and fails) of social media for 2016

G&G Digital rounds up the most important snackable social media tips and trends, for a taste of what to expect in 2017.

How ripe are your leads?

By Desiree Gullan, Executive Creative Director, G&G Digital

Sales and marketing have been playing broken telephone. Traditionally, marketing campaigns ended with delivering leads to client – and that’s where the action stopped. Little was known about the status of the leads – whether they’re hot or cold or their location along the purchasing journey. And worst of all, there was no analytics to understand how effectively sales teams were turning leads into revenue.

In short, marketing agencies – and clients – have struggled to measure ROI on marketing campaigns due to inadequate lead analytics. Until now, software used to track websites and software used to track sales processes have existed in silos. And the technology hasn’t completely closed the loop from ad impression to sale.

The marketing automation revolution
2016 marks the marketing automation revolution. Clients no longer need to receive potentially unripe leads – and have their agencies dust off their hands, believing a job well done.

Marketing intelligence has radically improved and the opportunity now exists to nurture leads and uniquely assess the quality of each lead before it’s pushed into the sales funnel. We can now analyse behavioural data to deliver personalised content to engage with the customer or potential customer along their journey, as well as glean insights about their behaviour to ensure they’re actually viable leads.

This gives digital marketers the ability to deliver more accurate, considered and appropriate leads – with more context and power for the salesperson. It provides real-life answers in an intangible digital world.

Banners be gone
Nay-sayers might (incorrectly) compare marketing automation with digital remarketing. Although banner ads still play a crucial role in the digital marketing ecosystem, users tend to block banner ads out.

Conversely, most South African consumers favour email as a method of marketing and receiving information. When there’s an element of personal value, there’s a greater chance of engagement. Marketing automation nurtures leads with dynamic and personalised email marketing, delivered to the user’s inbox when they need to see it.

What’s more, automated marketing shows almost immediate benefits to the bottom line. With an astute strategy and deep level of integration, G&G has become a symbiotic partner to our clients, as we provide an ongoing stream of leads to their sales team – alerting the team of the lead, the lead status and how best to respond.

Planting the lead
Once leads are delivered, the client can closely track how many of those leads were effectively turned into sales and, in time, more accurately illuminate weaknesses in their sales teams. Or, in the case of cold, sour, unripe leads: the shortcomings of their marketing campaigns.

Digital agencies evangelise about analytics and measurability. Marketing automation takes this to another level, using micro, personalised data to measure and drive macroconversions.

This is the core of marketing automation. It’s not just another sparkling starfish in the sea of digital marketing tactics – it means properly understanding the user and their path to purchase. It means using this understanding to more intelligently, transparently and effectively tap into the moment a user is ready and comfortable to complete a purchase.

So tune in, don’t tune out. The future of marketing is here. And even if you don’t understand it, it already understands you.

Where did all the research go?

In traditional agencies, research is a nucleus – it’s the alpha and omega of brand strategy. It means a deep, reverberating comprehension of products or services, the people who make them and the people buy them. It means crystallising strategy and campaign to align with this understanding.

In this know-everything, do-everything digital age, some agencies scorn the value of brand immersion. They ride out into battle without the right cavalry. And because there are a select number of digital channels, with rules and algorithms governing each, these agencies believe they’re commandeering their troops in the most efficient way.

The truth is, research and brand immersion still matter. Smart advertising doesn’t exist without it – regardless of whether you’re playing in the digital or traditional ad space. No truly innovative campaign can be birthed without it. There remain key areas of research every agency should be driving, and encouraging their people to do so too.

Research lives everywhere
‘But we don’t have a research department – and we can’t afford one.’ This is the first obstacle agency leads will present in trying to fight against the necessities of research. In truth, it doesn’t matter. Research should be endemic in every department of every agency.

Every employee – creative, client service or development – should make it their mandate to understand their clients better than the person sitting next to them. If you’re marketing a sock brand, your people should be wearing them. Marketing a coffee company? You shouldn’t be sipping anything else.

Agency teams should constantly search for real-life insights from the people around them – both on and offline – and use these to inform their work. If they don’t know the brand, they shouldn’t have the audacity to try and send an email to the client or put a word on paper – they don’t have the right.

It’s not only up to the client to conduct research about their own brand. Your research as their agency can add a useful and colourful layer to the clients’ research that they’ll thank you for.

The easiest place to start with research is to get all people involved – including client – in one room, and don’t let them leave until they’ve told you everything they can about their brand. These brand immersions can do so much, but only if the people in the room are tuned in. Don’t let team members sit in on a brand immersion if they’re going to steal oxygen – they should be taking notes and asking questions. Valuable team members will.

Areas of focus
Research does not mean a swift scroll through a client’s Facebook or Twitter page. It should be a controlled and systematised process. Key areas that will inform advertising work for the better naturally include the reputation of the brand amongst both its real target market and aspired target market. In fact, in-depth research might help you identify and redefine the target market – it happens.

It includes current, past and international advertising – both digital and ATL. Discuss digital campaign ideas and novel concepts with the people you’d like to target. Ask them if they’ve seen any that resonate with them – and why. Find out what’s important to them.

Identify the competitor products they’re using, follow on social media or have noticed in the digital space and why. Formulate a knack for spotting whether there’s a disparity between the desired brand promise and what consumers are actually hearing or seeing in the digital space.

Truth hurts
When formulating a research model, make sure to build in research about your agency’s reputation with your clients. They won’t always divulge their grievances when faced with a fresh-faced account executive, but give them a neutral, anonymous platform and they’ll tell you harsh truths. A client satisfaction survey is a quick and easy way of gaining insights into what your clients really think of you.

Just as with brand research and immersion, it’s what you do with the information that’s key. Turn it into a workable and easily implementable action plan.

“Agencies mistakenly use research like a drunkard uses a lamppost – not for illumination but for support.” The words of David Ogilvy still ring true today – more so for digital agencies than ever. Let us not forget them. Let’s illuminate ourselves with research.

The Internet’s got listomania

New ways of communicating – and creating content – come and go with the click of the mouse. Despite their popularity (and proliferation) listicles are sometimes criticised for being lowbrow, badly written and uninformative. Some writers even refer to them as lazy and ‘too convenient’ – yet they’re insanely popular. So what’s the magic of the listicle and why has it become such a deeply ingrained part of the digital experience?

Not everyone regards sites like Buzzfeed, with their distinctive use of listicles and GIFs, as informative or valuable content. Purists detest the idea of having to craft content to fit this style. But the trend can’t be dismissed – content sites like Buzzfeed have become the new breed of content hubs.

Age-old adage
The listicle isn’t a new concept. It goes all the way back to a Buddha, who organised his thoughts and beliefs about human existence into lists. Listicles have been used for centuries as a teaching method and a quick way of remembering information – just not online, until now.

Today, the bulk of the information we encounter online is divvied into Top 5s, 10 steps and 3 must-dos that always promise to be the keys to productivity or finding a soulmate. The whole Internet’s got listomania – Twitter, Facebook and news feeds are all dominated by listicles. Here’s why we’re obsessed with writing lists:

Length matters
Listicles allow us to distill information in a digestible way for both writer and reader. The critics will say we can’t refine aspects of real life into five bullet points. As a writer, a listicle isn’t the holy grail of breakthrough content. But it’s a good place to start – it’s like a table of contents.

In this information age, where we’re bombarded with content at every turn, the popularity of listicles reflects the need to filter and process endless reams of information. Getting to the point and relevance is important – and the listicle is the perfect way to do this.

Pick and choose
With information being thrust at us by the page-full, our brains automatically try and master a sorting mechanism to make sense of it – and to determine if it’s deserving of our attention at all. This is why we gravitate to the listicle. The brain sees organisation and simplicity, and can quickly give the article a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ – click link or open tab. The listicle helps us judge what we want to read, more quickly.

Easy game
In addition to being easier to read, listicles are also much easier to write. Want to write about a complex topic? It’s much easier to organise thoughts into a list than it is to craft an essay with a defined beginning, middle and end. Call it laziness, but it makes volumes of content much easier to churn out which is essential for content marketers. It’s also a way to get to the sales pitch quicker than ever before.

Fast facts, savvy stats
Readers likely read listicles for one main purpose – to answer a question in seconds. Listicles are a great way to organise and present hard facts, like statistics and numbers. It presents them in a more digestible form. Audiences are looking for content that eases their curiosity quickly and concisely. Serving them this kind of content makes it more likely they’ll return to a site when they’re looking for answers and solutions in the future.

Call me engaged
Listicles are also a superb way to provoke conversation amongst readers and encourage interaction. If you’re looking to boost engagement – start with a listicle. For some reason, they simply get people talking. They’re the social lubricant of the digital space.

The listicle lives on
The listicle is peaking in popularity – and it seems like it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Listicles will never replace long form content – in fact, long form is on the rise in a big way – but they’re a huge part of the new information diet.

Embrace the power of the listicle, integrate it into communication with customers or target audiences. Just do us all a favour – make sure you share information that’s either revolutionary or laugh-out-loud hilarious. If not, I can think of 25 Reasons You Shouldn’t Publish a Bad Listicle.

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Social media giants.

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