Category Archives: Uncategorized

Retargeting. Good customer service … or something more sinister?

Laptop Magnifying glass

Retargeting, like so many other aspects of marketing, data and targeting, if done well, is simply good customer service.  But those who do it badly create an impression of something much more sinister.

On average, 98% of first-time visitors to a website leave without making a purchase.  That’s a huge number – in fact, it’s nearly everyone – so converting as large a portion as possible of the 98% is a significant strategic objective for a broad range of businesses.

That’s where retargeting comes in.  It is an increasingly widespread, highly targeted online conversion tool which allows you to keep your products or brand in front of potential customers who have visited your website, but left during the buying process before purchasing any product.  It is an important strategic component for any online retailers and, similarly, for those businesses which use websites to attract customers.

What is retargeting?

Though retargeting has evolved into a number of different forms, this blog focuses primarily on site retargeting.

Retargeting process

Retargeting process

The retargeting process works through a simple piece of code that sits, unseen by visitors, on your website, or possibly on your newsletter or digital ads. This code (“retargeting pixel”) has no effect on your website’s performance, but simply drops a cookie onto your new visitor’s browser.

This browser cookie is the vital element of technology that allows you to “follow” your non-buying prospect across  the internet.  Once they have left your site, when they go back on line and browse the internet, the cookie lets your retargeter know that they have appeared on another site. If there is available ad space on that site, your retargeter will bid for the space, and, if they are the highest bidder, the ad will run.

Though it sounds cumbersome, the whole automated process occurs in real-time so it takes just a fraction of a second for the ad space to be bought.  Your ad then appears immediately on the third party’s website as the page loads up.

Clearly the same process can be adopted for those of your visitors who have actually purchased something from your site – in which case your strategy is to get them back to your website to buy more from you.

Are there any data compliance issues?

If you are using site retargeting, it is essential that your website is cookie compliant. The retargeting cookie will store the site visit data, but does not store any sensitive information, such as the visitor’s name or address.  In other words, the browser cookie is anonymous (the IP address – for now at any rate – is not considered personal data).

However, to be compliant, your website must, as a minimum, inform and all visitors that cookies are used, and explain the purposes for which those cookies are used – including the fact that they are used to target advertising material.

 

Who can use retargeting

Clearly retargeting is a great tool for e-commerce.  But any business which uses a website to attract visitors with the intent of gaining engagement of some form should consider retargeting as part of their prospect conversion strategy.

For example, it’s a terrific tool for B2B marketing, where the sales process may take some time.  Making sure that a prospect continues to see ads for your website while they are going through their own reviews and evaluations is a great way to stay in the front of their minds.

It is also helpful for charities who can continue to keep their causes very much in the forefront of their visitors’ minds even after they have left the website.   Schools marketing is a little like B2B in that the parents take somewhat longer to consider the best school for their child – so it is a helpful branding tool and opportunity to remind parents of your particular USPs, and keep them at the front of their minds.

Basically retargeting works well for any business who relies on a website to gain customers, donors or sales.

Key considerations for retargeting success or failure

There are a number of key factors which must be considered and optimised when setting up a retargeting campaign.  The main points are summarised below:

  • Segmentation
    • Generally we advise that clients use different ads for different pages of the website to ensure appropriate ads and offers are made
    • Creative approach needs to be
      • Concise, clear and clickable to ensure maximum engagement
      • Consistent branding keeps your brand fresh in the prospect’s mind
      • Ongoing fresh or rotated creative approach avoids response wear-out
      • Number and frequency of advertisements is critical
        • Too many will annoy and / or worry your visitors
        • Too few will not serve the purpose of keeping you in the forefront of visitors’ minds
        • Retargeting customers who have already bought the product you are advertising is sure to aggravate and alienate your customer. So, once a customer has bought from you, either change the creative or omit them from your retargeting campaign.
        • Choose the right retargeting provider
          • One provider is better than many as you won’t be competing with yourself for ad space and driving prices up accordingly
          • Test and measure results for future retargeting refinements
            • Repeat visitor rates
            • Sales analysis
            • ROI analysis – which should be broken down by campaign and tests, for example (as illustrated below):
              • Creative tests
              • Frequency tests
              • Price and offer tests

Retargeting metrics

What makes retargeting so effective?

It has always been relatively expensive to gain a new customer, and far less so to persuade an existing customer or warm prospect to convert.  That’s why retargeting is so effective in ROI terms.  The cost relates to people who have already deliberately chosen to look at your brand, products, prices or offers.  This means that you are simply targeting those who have a demonstrated interest in something you are offering, but for some reason have hesitated before actually making the purchase. Retargeting is a means of tipping them over the edge and persuading them to buy.  The usual marketing tactics continue to apply – such as the use of discounts, free delivery and so on.

Retargeting is just one piece of the total marketing strategy

Of course, there’s no point in having a clever conversion strategy if you do not have the volume of website visitors to convert.   Retargeting is a great conversion tool, but unless people can actually find your website, they won’t visit and you can’t target them.  So there is still a need to drive visitors to your site through appropriate channels – affiliates, newsletter, press, social, TV, radio, content, Adwords, keywords, direct mail, leaflets, email and so on – as illustrated below.

driving website traffic

So what do think?  There’s a fine line between good customer service and the concept of individual lack of privacy, combined with a feeling that large corporations are spying on us when we use our computers.

My own view is that if retargeting is handled compliantly and sensibly, it can only make sense to offer people goods or services that are of interest.  And I genuinely believe that if businesses have not yet started looking at retargeting themselves, they will be missing out on activity that has significant ROI benefits.

Whether you agree or disagree, or if you have a story to tell, just reply below and let’s start a conversation.

Victoria Tuffill – victoria@tuffillverner.co.uk   01787 277742 or  07967 148398.   Have a squint at  our website.  And yes, we’re on Linked In, and Twitter

© Victoria Tuffill July 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Victoria Tuffill with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Illustrations may not be used without written consent.

Direct marketing … social media … and bonfires

It’s the season for bonfires, direct marketing and social media.  In the case of bonfires, perhaps in your own garden, with foil-wrapped potatoes baking at the base.  And maybe with some sparklers and fireworks to light the night sky. Or as part of a local community celebration where everyone dresses warmly for the evening and gets together for fun, chat, catching up, watching a straw effigy of Guy Fawkes burning fiercely on top, and, of course, spectacular fireworks.

There is something about bonfires that is enormously appealing.  The smell, the crackling sound, the warmth, the smoke, the sparks, and the variety, movement and colour of the flames. And there’s a primeval fierceness about a fire. The way it grows from a tiny spark  into a roaring body of light and heat is a reminder that, although it may be lit by a person or people, fire itself can be dangerous. It is much bigger than we are, and needs to be monitored and controlled if we want to benefit rather than be harmed by it.

Direct marketing campaigns are similar.  Like bonfires, they need fuel to come alive – whatever the channel or mix of channels. There can be no successful marketing campaign  without the carefully laid fuel of end-to-end campaign strategy, including product, audience, offer, price, PR, fulfilment, delivery and customer service.  As a bonfire is lit by bringing flame and fuel together, a marketing campaign gains life when the consumer and the brand, product and offer come together.

As long as the fuel has been properly laid, then the fire will burn well and provide warmth and enjoyment to the crowds.  Like a social media campaign – if the activity is planned and structured well, it will deliver your customers’ needs and provide value to your business.  If not, or if it is left untended, then either it will never grow beyond a small spark, or – worse – it will grow into an uncontrollable inferno devouring your brand and reputation as it spreads.  And those are the fires that are most difficult to put out.

A point worth noting is that social media essentially allow a dialogue between business and customer (or prospect), that is held in public.  It impacts every area of a business, so it is vital that everybody within the company understands the goals and aims of the social media strategy and engages appropriately.  And it is also essential that there is an understanding that though the conversation is held online, it is a real conversation held between real people.  So basic everyday “real life” social principles, behaviour and manners need to be considered and included in whatever social media strategy is developed.

Laying the fire

Before deciding you want to build a social media strategy, the first thing to consider is why. What do you want to gain out of it?    Are you looking to extend awareness of your brand?  Or improve your reputation?  Or engage with a particular audience?  Do you want to increase sales?  Or improve customer loyalty or customer service?  Or do you want information to help you deliver better marketing – whether in terms of product or price or delivery?

Having addressed those questions, if you decide to go ahead, then you need to know your own brand’s  audience.  Where are they to be found?  Are they on Facebook or Twitter or Linked In?  Do they use Pinterest or Instagram?  Google + or You Tube?  If so, how do they use these networks? What’s their style and tone of voice?  Does it match your brand values? Might there be value in creating groups and forums on your own websites. What do you think your customers or audience would want to get out of a social media relationship with you?  What do you want them to get out of it? Where should you focus?  Do they talk about you?  If so,what are they saying?  Are they complimentary or are they promoting your competitors?  And if so, why?  And so on.

At this point it’s probably sensible to start outlining, in words, diagrams, flow charts and pictures, exactly what you want to do and how you intend to achieve your aspirations and integrate a social media strategy  throughout the business.  You’ll need to establish a team and allocate responsibility. You’ll need to make sure that what you are planning complies with all legal requirements.

If you use a third parties to manage your direct marketing and social media activity, the communication between your business and that agency or those agencies will need to be ongoing and seamless from all areas of the business.  Especially where your brand is concerned – any third party will need ongoing information on what is going on in the business, what is under development, what are the current key areas of strength and weakness. And  if you want to build trust through your social media activity, that information needs to be up-to-date, relevant and honest – whether the news is good or bad.

Your communication style will need to be considered.  Generally speaking, it can be more relaxed and fun than some other channels, but it should reflect your brand values and the values of your audience.   O2 has a great social media reputation, build in part from the disastrous few days when the service went down.  Not least on Twitter, where they were able not only to address genuine customer service issues, but also turn the whole problem around and generate more loyalty simply because their responses to their customers were wholehearted, honest, apologetic, helpful and witty.  Having said that, there are inherent dangers within that sort of approach – it’s potentially only a matter of time before one ill-chosen, unfunny, “witty” response has the same effect as pouring petrol on kindling – an instant explosion that – at the least – removes your eyebrows and much of your hair and probably blows you backwards!

Tending the fire

Fires need to be controlled, and monitored until such time as they are put out, or run out of fuel and die down to embers, which can then be allowed to cool, or be used to start a new fire.

Having laid the groundwork for your social media campaign, you then need to consider what you want to measure.  If your campaign is designed to increase awareness, you’ll be looking at likes and shares, reach, comments and other forms of engagement, subscriptions to newsletters, blogs and emails.    Sales and loyalty can be measured through a variety of methods – including mining data retrospectively,  using control groups to measure differences in performance, and measuring sales from social e-commerce.  Again, what you want to measure and how you intend to do so needs to be part of your documentation, and what you learn from this analysis will enable you to drive your ongoing activity based on performance.

You’ll need to be ready to deal immediately with issues that will come up in real time like complaints that come up in a public forum or negative comments on your Facebook page. So it’s well worth the time to brainstorm before the issue comes up so that your team know how to respond to a negative comment before it actually comes up.  You also need to monitor whether what your fans are saying is appropriate to your brand, and, if not, how you should deal with them.

Having established your policy regarding the networks on which you want to concentrate,  how you want to use them and integrate them with other channels, how you want to communicate with your audience, how you will resolve any issues, who your team is, who will do what, what competition you will monitor and how that will be reported, how you will measure your own performance etc etc …you need to execute your plan.

This means you need to know what content you are going to create, where you are going to post it, how you are going to promote your social media activity.  For a start, you’ll need to include icons, links, addresses on your website, promotions, advertising, invoices, email signatures, letters, employee business cards,  and all your communications so that you encourage your audience to visit and engage with your social networks.

You need to provide content for each of the networks – whether you want to blog or promote or sell direct or chat or conduct research or offer prizes in return for information or just run simple but fun competitions. As well as integrating with other channels, you can also integrate social media channels – use Twitter to promote a competition on Facebook, use You Tube to broadcast results and promote the next.

But what is absolutely vital is that your content is planned and scheduled before you push any buttons.  If social media is done randomly or on a whim, if it is unplanned, or if too little time, resource or budget is spent on it, the whole campaign is likely either to go out or – more tragically – be rained on before the fire is properly lit.

We’re all for sharing knowledge and information and enjoy a healthy debate, so if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.  Or if you disagree with any of our views above, just let us know why.  And of course, if you have a social media strategy and would like to share your tips or thoughts, please feel free – in all cases, just “reply” below.

As ever, if you’d like some help with your social media strategy, don’t hesitate to ask – you can reach me on 01787 277742 or 07967 148398.  Or email victoria@tuffillverner.co.uk  If you’d like to know more about us before you do so, by all means visit our website.  And yes, we’re on Twitter and Linked In.  And if we believe we can’t help you, we’ll make sure we recommend one of the good guys.

Multi-channel marketing, data … and fly fishing

As  keen fly fishers, we’ve travelled to a variety of rivers throughout Scotland, Wales, Ireland and, more exotically, Iceland and Russia for Atlantic salmon, Arctic char,  sea trout, brown trout, greyling and any other species that is prepared to jump on the end of our lines.

Despite my propensity to fall into rivers (tricky in chest waders which can fill up fast if you get it wrong), the experience has always been delightful.  Not just for the fishing, but also for everything that surrounds it – good company, the sight, smell and sounds of the river,  the scenery, the wildlife, and the good company that almost invariably accompanies a week of fishing.

So what does this have to do with marketing? Actually, pretty much everything.

Understanding your customers

Firstly, whether you’re fishing or marketing, you need to understand your prey and their circumstances.  Is the river in spate?  Or is it a dry ditch?  Are there likely to be problems reaching the fish?  Or indeed, landing them?  In fact, where are the fish?  What are they doing?  And how many are there?  Are they migratory?  If so, when will they run?  Are they a good size?  Are they fat and healthy, or diseased and thin?  Are they young or old, male or female, shy or aggressive?

Reaching your customers and prospects

Then you need to consider how to reach them.  Is it tricky to cast?  Is it too deep to get in and wade to get closer or a better angle?   What’s the wind direction?  Is the water too warm or too cold?  Is it a long, arduous climb to the hill lochs?  If so, is the end result worth the effort?  Having invested the time and energy in climbing the hill, is it a good idea to spend a little more time up there?  Perhaps even pitch a tent and spend a night or two to catch the dawn and evening rises and make the most of the opportunity?   How can you best stalk the fish in the clear waters of a chalk stream? How can you avoid the weed – either before or after hooking a fish!

What are the fishes’ motivations for taking a fly?  Is there a particular size or colour that will appeal?  How should it best be presented?  At what angle, depth and speed?  How frequently should you cast over a fish?  Especially if you can’t see it so can’t be absolutely certain that it’s even there.  And what do you do if a fish takes your fly, but not properly?   Vary the speed?  The depth?  Change the fly?  Go for something larger?  Or smaller?  Or a different pattern?

In addition to all of that, there’s a need to identify and understand the competition – Seals?  Otters?  Commercial fisheries?  Bears, or other predators?

Depending on the answers, you need to use appropriate and varied techniques to catch your fish.  For example, sea trout are shy creatures, best caught at night.  This means fishing in the dark, so you need to do your research during the day – spotting fish where you can, identifying likely fish-holding lies, working out the length of cast you’ll need, the speed and depth of the water.  That way you have the knowledge you need to have a fair chance of getting your fly out to the right place and fishing it well.

In a chalk stream where the water’s very clear, you need to stalk your brown trout, making sure you can’t be seen, then lay the fly gently upstream on the surface of the water so that it drifts right over their nose and becomes irresistible.

Salmon are different again.  Here you need to be able to read the water and understand where the fish will lie, then make sure you put the fly where they can see it and make them want it.  And it has to be the right fly, moving at the right speed and in the right way.  And when one takes, you don’t “strike” in the same way as for a trout.  Actually, Atlantic salmon don’t even eat when they’re in the river, so they need to be enticed to take your fly for other reasons.

Understanding your customers and prospects

Though it might be more accurate – and certainly more tactful – to refer to your potential customers as prospects rather than prey, all these issues equally impact marketers.  What’s the economic climate?  How much money is out there for consumers to spend on your products?  How much effort and budget is required to acquire a particular customer – and are they worth it to your business?  Where do they go to buy?  Online?  Over the telephone?  Bricks and mortar?  Do you need to segment your marketing to appeal to different lifestyles and demographics?  And is your product a must-have?  If not, how can you encourage consumers to buy – particularly in a poor economy, when your competition is as hungry as you so you need to fight harder to win – and keep – customers.

Stage one is understanding your prospect.  Who are they?  Male?  Female?  Young?  Old?  Parents?  Single? Homeowners?  Students? Living at home?  Renting?  Where are they in their lifecycle?

Where do they live?  What’s on their mind?   What, why, when and how often do they buy? Is there a seasonal bias? What’s their disposable income?    What do they read or watch on TV or online?  What technology do they use?  Tablets?  Smarphones?  Smart TVs?  Or paper?  Or all of those?  Do they interact with social media?  Consumer or business?  What are their hobbies?  Are they in debt?  And so on.   Whether you’re in retail, or publishing,  financial services or telcos, technology or utilities, charities or even politics, the above issues all need to be considered within a marketing campaign.Does your product appeal to a mass market or a specific segment of the market?

And that kind of knowledge requires data – both historic behaviour and research from your own customer database, also data from third parties, which is readily available and can provide you with a wealth of geo-demographic, lifestyle, behavioural, purchase history, financial, risk and fraud data.

Of course, data’s of absolutely no use at all unless it’s turned into meaningful insight that your business can use to allow intelligent, informed decision making.  Not only that, but the ever-growing volume, sources and complexity of consumer data can be overwhelming, so it’s essential  that effective, relevant and actionable data and insights are identified for strategic  and selected to provide the best data strategy for the business throughout the customer lifecycle.  The basic goal must be to use the right data to have the right customer conversations at the right time through the right channels.

Once you know enough about them, you can start to understand the size of your market, and where to go to find prospects who look like your own customers and consider how best to attract them.  Which will be the subjects of upcoming blogs.

One final thought.  The first time you visit a river, it’s helpful to take a ghillie, who will know where the fish lie, and how best to fish for them.  Listen to every word they say and all the advice they give, so that you can learn as much as you can for the next time you want to fish that – and other – rivers. Ghillies are a canny breed, so they’ll know what you’re doing, but will generally be helpful.  

The same is true of marketing.  At TVA we are happy to act as ghillies or guides – so if you’d like to discuss how you could use and benefit from advice on data or any direct marketing channels, please don’t hesitate to give me a call.  As ever, if I can help, I’ll be happy to.  If not, I’ll make sure I point you towards people who will provide sensible, strategic advice.

Victoria Tuffill,  Partner, Tuffill Verner Associates – Multi-channel and direct marketing

Tel:         +44 (0)7967 148398  /  +44 (0)1787 277742

Email:     victoria@tuffillverner.co.uk      Multi-channel consultancy       Linked In      Twitter

 

Keeping Continuity Alive and Kicking

A firm staple in many a Direct Marketers diet, continuity programs present great opportunities to leverage sustainable ROI, and it seems fairly obvious – doesn’t it?  Having a portfolio of products  (or services) that are continuity based carries great benefits for business and consumer alike – but that initial, often significant investment is completely reliant on the lifetime value of those customers and their loyalty to the product they ‘signed-up’ for to be successful.  In essence that could be anything from the classic monthly subscription to magazines & books through vintage wines, chocolate and training courses.

In recent times, trends have not been great with the departure of several established continuity based companies hitting the wall, having lost their edge in this passive revenue sphere.  The factors that such perpetuity programs were forecast upon are far more volatile, helping to erode the ROI along the continuity journey. Vital LTV falls sharply as customers (across B2B & B2C) tighten belts and withdraw from subscriptions or continuity programs too early to realise the revenues needed to tick the ‘success’ box.

Of course – that’s exactly the offer we marketers often promote at the outset – there is no commitment – free to cancel at any time.  The difference is now more customers take us up on the offer – flexing their rights and greater confidence to change their minds, buy something else, respond to a new offer etc.

Analysis is key to proactive rather than passive marketing

Analysing conversion and cancellation rates over time – any business can see what’s happening after the event, but preventing it is another project entirely.  Its relative of course, not every business and product needs an equal % of initial customers to get past month x before being a valuable asset.  The great news is that business can intervene at any stage with a little creative thinking about improving customer loyalty, and without breaking the bank.

Having a high degree of segmentation and promotional material across multiple channels & offers is expensive and can be an operations nightmare, particularly if you are working with a legacy system. Crucially, work with what tools you can access and optimise them quickly – get the timing and message right and it will procure the best results possible for you.

Multi-channel opportunities can really come into play here, allowing flexible, integrated marketing strategies to work in harmony with tactical opportunities offering highly relevant communication at the right time via the right channel.  Longstanding or fixed strategies can become stale, justifiably focused on the critical initial conversion rates whether from acquisition or retention campaigns. The golden rule of quality data (not just the transactional) apply but crucially, need to extend well beyond the early order stages.

All customers are not equal …

The behaviour of customers needs to be known before it can be understood and responded to appropriately. This is not easy – we all know transactional data is not the same as behaviour – it’s just not multi-dimensional enough in an age where customers can behave erratically and spontaneously across all the channels available to them. I might order online – and complain by phone, followed by a letter….that I post on Facebook … with my angry face on Pinterest! Furthermore, as a continuity customer, I may not interact with the organisation at all along the way, until I decide to stop buying.

Of course – if you’re starting out with a continuity portfolio – getting the right infrastructure at the start will reap rewards later on.  Use a specialist multi-channel team that work together to think of EVERYTHING – you don’t need to implement everything straight away but at least have it on the watch list, creating an environment that can proactively adapt quickly to changes and demands as they arise.

Enhance every customer touchpoint as a key step to engage more, add value and gather the data needed to make the decisions that work – obviously not a process reserved for continuity programs alone, but generally better practiced for new orders or repeat business. Creating additional or tactical touchpoints is now easier than ever with online channels providing cost-effective platforms to increase contact and test ideas without significant costs when there is not necessarily a direct sale at the end of it. Equally, using more traditional methods like telemarketing and telephony in general, via non-sales routes can have a significant role to play in enhancing the relationship.

Sustainable continuity marketing has to embrace CRM principles and a large dose of common sense, ensuring we extend the life of customers and their loyalty levels as far as possible – whilst also realising it could be a shorter journey for the vast majority.  In the good old days, marketers relied heavily on customer apathy to generate this pot of passive income – getting them to and beyond break-even into profit was more about hoping they won’t back out, that they valued the offering enough to stay with an organisation.

Customers are wiser and better-informed with more choice than ever before, so marketers must also raise their game and think creatively to ensure continuity programs stay alive and kicking.

By Googie Oktem, August 2012

With 25 years expertise in the Direct Marketing industry including agency and clientside roles, Googie has a reputation for getting the job done! She has been consulting since 2001, working with clients to implement and deliver successful ROI-driven projects, both online and offline. Her specialist knowledge of using telemarketing resources and call centres produces great results for clients and suppliers, exceeding client KPIs and reducing costs on numerous end-to-end telemarketing projects.

© Googie Oktem and Tuffill Verner Associates, August 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Googie Oktem and Tuffill Verner Associates with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Social Media Case Study

Forex-Factors and TVA

Case Study, September 2012

“Having read this case-study, I endorse every word of it, and have the greatest appreciation of and admiration for the concentrated energy with which the objectives have been identified, pursued and accomplished by TVA.”

Owner, Forex-Factors 6th September 2012

Forex-Factors Background

Forex-Factors provides foreign exchange managed accounts. At the point of initial discussion between Forex-Factors and TVA, the business was in the early stages of development, had a good website, strong creative concepts, initial clients, and a forward-thinking owner with excellent writing skills.

Within a limited budget, TVA was asked to provide advice and guidance on SEO and social media strategy.

From initial conversations and review of current activity, it was clear that Edward had not only the inclination but also the ability to handle the strategic, creative and technical aspects of his social media and SEO activity. What he needed was knowledge, information and a sounding board for specific areas, and advice on how everything could link together for best results.

The key focus of the consultancy was on initial training and ongoing advice.

Key issues

We reviewed the current Forex-Factors status and activity and evaluated the opportunities that would give the business the highest impact most swiftly.

One of the key issues of forex managed accounts is one of trust. There is a number of forex outfits and individuals that, through various organisations and mechanisms, eventually become labelled as “scams” and / or cease trading (often while hanging onto investors’ money). Clearly the honesty and integrity of the Forex-Factors individuals and business needed to be highlighted to raise their credibility and profile above that of their competitors.

As one would expect from a relatively new business, brand awareness was very low, so we developed a strategy of raising brand and personal awareness, and approached the marketing accordingly.

Forex performance is also an issue, and Forex-Factors has a deliberate strategy of providing solid, steady performance rather than promising spectacular returns – which can too quickly result in equally spectacular losses. We used this philosophy as part of the trust-building exercise.

Strategic Objectives

We established clear objectives for the activity, in summary:

  • To increase website visits and, critically, engagement
  • To acquire new investors
  • To increase value of managed funds
  • To develop an ongoing programme to be implemented by the client

To achieve the objectives, we needed to adopt and integrate sensible tactics at a low cost to the client. These included:

  • Building trust, reputation and credibility
  • Increasing brand awareness
  • Building personal profile
  • Measuring performance

Achieving the Goals

We discussed the range of social media platforms through which Forex-Factors could achieve their goals, and prioritised them, concentrating on the three key areas on which to focus for maximum gain. With Edward and his team doing the actual physical work, these were then integrated into a sustainable, ongoing social media strategy, which included:

  • Enhancing LinkedIn and other social media profiles
  • Writing credible blogs and articles to build trust and reputation
  • Ongoing SEO improvement techniques
  • Appropriate digital distribution of marketing collateral to increase awareness and drive traffic
  • Joining and contributing to selected social media networks and groups to establish both presence and personality
  • Establishing appropriate analytics tools to allow performance of the activity to be measured.

TVA’s role in the process

Working directly with the owner, TVA provided online, telephone and Skype discussions on strategy and prioritisation. Training was provided in one-hour blocks, as needed. We continue to provide ongoing consultation as required.

This enabled Edward to do the majority of the work himself, and his own enthusiastic and intelligent approach was therefore able to save him significant consultancy fees.

Results

Within three weeks of initial review, results have been phenomenal. All objectives have been met. The numbers of pageloads, first time visits, and return visits to forex-factors.com have all increased by more than 100%, value of funds under management has increased by more than 400%, and numbers of interested potential investors by 300%.

Visit Forex-Factors for information on their business and their services.

© Victoria Tuffill and Tuffill Verner Associates, July 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Victoria Tuffill and Tuffill Verner Associates with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Protecting the innocent and vulnerable against First Party Fraud

Life’s not fair. And that’s a fact that we tend to learn very early on in life. But the level of unfairness generated by fraud in the UK is grotesquely unfair. The Fraud Advisory Panel states that UK Fraud is estimated to cost every adult in the country an average £765 per adult.

Against that backdrop, there is a requirement (particularly among those in the water industry, energy providers, telcos and financial services) that businesses should “treat customers fairly” – a challenging goal, given the increasing sophistication and ongoing evolution of fraud.

The many faces of fraud

Fraud has many faces – and it’s somewhere between difficult and impossible to keep up with the latest innovations from fraudsters. Fortunately technology, combined with experience, provides solutions to some of the problems. Identity verification, address and age verification, voice analysis, IP address checks, CCJ and credit checks all help in the battle against identity theft, cybercrime, password theft, credit card fraud, consumer scams and so much more. Transactional and social media all have a part to play – and can be particularly effective in the area of first party fraud.

First party fraud

So what is first party fraud? And how big a problem is it? Fraudscreen defines it as “your own customers, using their own identities, taking advantage of your inability to challenge their version of the truth, in a distance selling environment”.

And why not? It’s easy to do if you’re so inclined – just tell lies to businesses in situations where they can’t prove that you are not telling the truth.

The result? Higher costs for everyone. £765 per adult, much of which is due to first party fraud, is a huge amount of money for any individual. And it is the innocent, the vulnerable and the honest who end up paying the price for other people’s dishonesty.

Changes in culture and consumer behaviour

What’s particularly alarming is that this kind of opportunistic behaviour is continuing to grow across all demographics and throughout the UK. According to the National Fraud Authority Experian Fraud Index 2010 (April 2011), private sector fraud cost the UK economy £9.5 billion in 2010. Of this, over half was attributed to first party fraud – and when talking about automotive fraud, the percentage shot to a massive 80%!

We can make excuses about the economy, but this increase is at least in part driven by the shift in UK culture. Even in 2010, according to an ABI survey, 44% of individuals consider it acceptable to inflate the value of an insurance claim; in addition, consumers have been encouraged by the legal profession and others to claim injuries that cannot be disproved (soft tissue damage such as whiplash) – needless to say, this drives motor insurance prices ever upwards – last year saw a 39% increase!

‘Society’ has become increasingly tolerant of dishonest and opportunistic behaviour, and this acceptance has led to increases in first party fraud across home shopping, TV licensing, government-funded benefits, insurance, water and energy companies, lenders (credit cards, mortgages, banks and building societies, payday lending).

The common denominator? All these sectors offer the consumer the opportunity to receive goods, services, or money dishonestly, by exploiting weaknesses within a business’s systems and processes – particularly where there is no comeback in terms of CCJ or credit score. For example, first party fraudsters deliberately

  • Apply or place an order for goods, services, or loans with the pre-meditated intent NOT to pay
  • Tell lies on application forms
  • Claim that home shopping parcels have been returned or were never received
  • Falsify insurance claims and/or inflate the value of the claim
  • Falsely claim injuries that cannot be disproved
  • Fail to pay insurance instalments once certificate has been received

Until relatively recently, this sort of behaviour has gone largely unchallenged and has simply been attributed to bad debt, or delivery issues, or just not picked up at all.

The rule is simple. When it’s pre-meditated, it’s first party fraud.

Treating your customers fairly

The simplest solution for businesses is to tar all customers with the same brush and spread the costs among everybody. Unfortunately this means that the honest, the innocent and the vulnerable end up paying the price for the dishonest minority.

It’s hard to know that an individual “intends” to behave in a dishonest way before he has actually done so. But the good news is that, in statistical terms at least, it is possible to pull apart your customers into predictive segments of good, bad or mixed behaviour. Fraudscreen, for example, can be applied as early as prior to making an outbound marketing decision; for inbound, at point of application; even after the horse has bolted – ie when you’re at the point of collections or, worse, recoveries.

Having used conventional fraud prevention techniques to ensure you know to whom you are talking, it is then a matter of applying additional data that tells you how consumers are likely to behave. Most particularly, how they will behave in an environment where they can ‘get away with’ opportunistic behaviour – where it actually doesn’t matter what they do – because there will be no come-back in terms of credit score or litigation.

Third Party Data for First Party Fraud

There is a range of data sets that are used, individually and in combination, to prevent fraud of all types, including first party fraud.

Credit data identifies a customer’s ability to pay. CCJ and similar data is also extremely useful, but works best in combination with other data sets as it provides absolutely no information on individuals who have no CCJ against them. Geo-demographic data can also be useful as part of an overall data solution, as can transactional data like Goods Lost in Transit – a tricky area as not all GLIT is caused by bad people – it can just be that something’s genuinely gone wrong, or the person delivering is lazy or dishonest.

Consumer behaviour and attitudes

There are also data sets which can be used to understand a consumer’s behaviour and attitudes. Social data is becoming an interesting tool from a first party fraud perspective – useful insights can be carefully drawn from self-reported data on Linked In, Facebook, Twitter, Google + etc. In insurance, CUE, though it has some bugs to iron out, provides claims information which can be a useful tool to verify whether or not people are telling the truth on their application forms – especially as the consumer is now quite sophisticated in his use of aggregator sites to test which answers to which variables will provide the lowest premium. The application form has now become more about price than telling the truth.

And, of course, there’s Fraudscreen, a data solution which was designed from the outset to identify consumer groups who are likely (or not) to behave opportunistically (ie first party fraud), and provide categories of consumers who are statistically more or less likely to lie for their own gain, or steal if it’s easy, or claim money or refunds from service providers. Fraudscreen can be applied across sectors to segment customers into groups of predicted good, bad or mixed behaviour. It’s an ideal solution for helping businesses in their goal of treating customers fairly as its data provides insights into consumer attitudes towards payment and honesty. And it means that the innocent or vulnerable consumer is less likely to pay for the behaviour of the opportunistic consumer.

First party fraud isn’t going anywhere, and the issues of treating customers fairly will continue to grow. A water company recently quoted that honest consumers end up with an additional £16 on their water bill, purely to cover the costs of those who won’t pay. Rather than make everyone pay for the faults of the few, surely it would be fairer to punish the dishonest, reward the honest, be fair to the innocent, and help the vulnerable?

Fraudscreen was designed to help businesses treat consumers fairly, and succeeding in that challenge will provide businesses with a real edge over their competitors, help them gain and keep new customers, afford excellent PR opportunities and improve their profitability.

Victoria Tuffill is a direct marketing consultant with over 30 years experience. She founded Tuffill Verner Associates consultancy with Alastair Tuffill in 1996. She is also founder and Director of Fraudscreen – a data tool that assists in the prevention of 1st party fraud. Her experience ranges across businesses including publishing, home shopping, insurance, utilities, telcos and collections.

© Victoria Tuffill and Tuffill Verner Associates, April 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Victoria Tuffill and Tuffill Verner Associates with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Big Data – a new world of consumer information

Some four years ago, I was chatting to the head of a large data company, who was complaining that he had, on average, over 80K pieces of transactional data per supermarket customer.  Taken at face value, that sounded terrific.  But his difficulty was in understanding what was significant and what was not, so that he and the client could identify and use the relevant data quickly and effectively.  As I started speaking to more businesses, I heard this theme again and again – even Debt Collection Agencies found they just had too much data and not enough time to be able to understand how to find and apply the useful key data to improve their results and ROI.

 The Three ‘V’s

Even in the few years since then, volumes of data have simply exploded – Analyst Doug Laney described it accurately as being three-dimensional – a combination of volume, velocity and variety. His terminology is now widely used.

Big Data began with consumers shopping over the internet.  Businesses started to save and analyse data from clicks, searches, registrations, purchases.  Of course, having collected the data, many companies were quite clueless about how to analyse and use it.  But those who looked further ahead, like Amazon, were able to harness its power to gain market share against their competitors.

And the situation has developed further. More recently, consumers have discovered other uses for the web and smartphones – they use social networks where they post personal and business information about themselves, they link and hold conversations with their friends, family and colleagues, they post updates and information and photographs and music and films and videos and reviews and … the sky (or should I say cloud) is the limit.  And the data they are so happy to provide is available for marketers and businesses if they’re ready to take advantage of it and can cope with its relatively unstructured nature.

Combined insight:  Big Data plus traditional data

Data has always been used extensively by consumer-facing businesses to segment and target customers.  But Big Data demands a more agile approach towards engaging customers, and providing a more personal or tailored shopping experience.  Combining Big Data with the traditional purchasing and customer data previously used by business offers a massive opportunity to gain three-dimensional insights into consumers – whether for marketing purposes, product development, or customer service and management.

Forward-looking businesses and retailers will track an individual’s behaviour, including product or offer preferences, and model – in real time – that consumer’s likely behaviour.  While the customer is shopping, the business will be able to offer appropriate upsell products, loyalty programmes and increase spend and loyalty much more effectively than any competition who fails to take advantage of the opportunity.  The retailer will know when it’s safe to offer credit and on what terms;  they’ll know what the consumer wants and will be able to choose how … or whether … to deliver those needs.

Big Data Benefits

And the benefits are not just limited to retailers.  Telcos, media companies, utilities, energy providers;  insurers and aggregator sites – Big Data allows genuine communication between provider and consumer – and the consumer is beginning to understand this, and take advantage of opportunities to “switch” providers or suppliers or retailers so that they interact with those who understand their needs and wants, and are prepared to engage with them on that basis fairly and openly.

Big Data Big Issues

As ever, Big Data has its difficulties as well as opportunities.  There are concerns about data security and data privacy.  And not least, concerns about the ability to analyse Big Data –reflected in the growing number of software firms who specialise in data management and analytics – growing at almost 10% per annum – which is roughly twice as fast as the software business as a whole.  According to McKinsey, by 2018 as many as 140,000 to 190,000 additional specialists with deep analytical skills in Big Data may be required.

And there’s a Big Data technology revolution too – Big Data will need new and different technologies to allow efficient data processing swiftly enough for the data to be deployed effectively in realtime, such as MPP (massively parallel processing) databases, the Internet, and cloud computing platforms.

So where will Big Data go from here … interesting times!  And    whether you’re a marketer, a data provider, a software business, or an insight and analytics business, those who adopt an agile, creative approach to the issue will be the overall winners.

Click here for more information on TVA’s Data services.

Victoria Tuffill is a direct marketing consultant with over 30 years experience. She founded Tuffill Verner Associates consultancy with Alastair Tuffill in 1996.  She is also founder and Director of Fraudscreen – a data tool that assists in the prevention of 1st party fraud.  Her experience ranges across businesses including publishing, home shopping, insurance, utilities, telcos and collections.

© Victoria Tuffill and Tuffill Verner Associates, April 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Victoria Tuffill and Tuffill Verner Associates with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.