While Channels Change, the Need to Integrate Stays Constant

Integrated marketing: we’re all talking about it, and most of us get it, at least conceptually.  As we continue to evolve our marketing strategies in a changing digital environment, the constant has always been working to integrate branding, messaging, timing and offers across channels. It’s deliberate, it’s coordinated, and I’ll admit, it’s hard because it takes a lot of planning.

The old Rule of Seven― it takes approximately seven impressions before a prospect will act―can take many forms across your organization, so think through your customer touch points to help achieve your goal. Combine broad-based branding initiatives that cast a wide net with direct marketing efforts that get your prospects to take action and engage with you. Then, reinforce those efforts with consistent sales and customer service engagements.

In February 2013, MDR gathered a panel of experts in a live webinar to share ideas for how to integrate across channels. Here are some of the key highlighted tips:

  • Direct mail: Use dimensional mailers to create big message impact on high-priority prospects. Reinforce that message in a personalized follow-up email or postcard to increase response power. (Linda Winter, President of The Winter Group)
  • Data Integration: Mine your inbound and outbound digital interactions to measure engagement and get metrics to guide your next steps in marketing. (Ryan Mantzel, Co-founder of Flywheel 360
  • Trade Shows: Set goals, use careful metrics, and create a strong hot leads protocol to improve trade show ROI. Use social media to extend the impact of show presence before, during and after the event. (Jim McVety, Managing Partner of First Step Advisors)
  • Email: Know your goals and design your metrics for success. Use smart email design and optimization best practices to reinforce successful outcomes. An alignment between direct mail and email—with one or the other taking a support or lead role—is a common strategy, with timing of the delivery being important. Natural extensions are social marketing and web advertising to reinforce these channels. (Derek Fairfield, MDR’s leader of E-Marketing Solutions)
  • Web Advertising: Increase response rates with a combination of animation, clear messaging and a strong call-to-action on ads and landing pages. Use a conversion tracking code to capture click-thru and view-thru conversions for more accurate attribution of web ad impact to overall integrated campaign performance.  (Kim Booth, MDR’s Web Advertising Product Manager)

With a constantly evolving set of marketing tools, how and what channels we integrate will always be changing. But results and research emphasize that the requirement for integration itself will not. Forrester Research found that “…97% of marketing decision-makers indicated they had seen an improvement in revenue that could be attributed to integrated marketing activities.” As integration matures, its benefits will increase. According to The Gartner Group, “By 2014, companies that integrate people, processes and technology will deliver a 50% higher ROMI than companies that don’t.”

Potential customers need to be able to find your information when and how they want it – and that is driving all of us to engage prospects more quickly and in a more targeted way.

Learn more by listening to the recorded webinar.

Talk to us about your integrated marketing challenges and successes in the comments!


February 27, 2013 at 5:07 pm Leave a comment

Funding Updates and Selling Strategies

This past Wednesday, September 5, MDR hosted a free webinar: Selling in a Challenging Environment: Practical Strategies for Finding Funds, Creating Value, and Closing Deals. Nearly two hundred sales and marketing professionals in the education space listened to Anne Wujcik, Senior Education Research Analyst for MDR, and Larry Sugarman and Pat Walkington, partners at Walkington/Sugarman Education Sales Advisors, share information and tips on navigating the industry challenges given the current state of the market.

In Anne’s segment, she gave an overview and update of what’s going on with education funding, and why there is reason to be optimistic or, at the very least, hopeful that things are stabilized for now.

Pat and Larry shared expert sales advice for creating a customer focus and making your product or service a necessity in the eyes of the client.

If you missed the webinar, feel free to play back the presentation and/or download the deck.

Definitely stay tuned for the Q and A–some great funding related questions were posed and answered, along with discussions about how to reach decision-makers that sales professionals will find valuable.

September 7, 2012 at 3:11 pm Leave a comment

Best Practice Tips for Creating Winning Banner Ads

Kim Booth

Kim Booth, Web Advertising Product Manager, MDR

Web advertising is a perfect complement to your multi-channel digital marketing strategy, providing another way to reach educators online, generate leads, and drive sales. To maximize your banner advertising campaign ROI, it’s critical to create ads that enhance your campaign so you see better results. Get started with these four simple tips:

1. Create Banner Ads That Clearly Support Your Marketing Goal

Whether you’re trying to promote brand awareness or customer loyalty, or drive user engagement or conversions, the goal of your campaign is the foundation for a successful campaign.

Campaigns with a defined goal executed through a clear consumer-facing message or call to action garner higher click-through and conversion rates.

If you don’t identify the desired goal of your banner campaign, your audience will most likely shift their attention elsewhere on the page.

2. Know Your Target Audience

Who is your precise educator audience? Elementary special education teachers? High school teachers in the Northwest? Once you’ve defined your target audience, remember who you’re talking to and why you’re reaching out. Step outside of the digital product and marketing expertise box, and use the words and design that will grab the attention of your target audience.

If you’re using MDR’s Targeted Web Advertising solution, your ad will only be served to your desired targeted audience, so you can tailor your message specifically to that audience with confidence.

3. Use Animation

Animated banner ads stimulate the eyes and typically generate a higher click-through rate than static banner ads.

Following the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) standards, avoid filling your banner ad with excessive animation: jumping, flashing, blurring, text going in and out, etc.

IAB recommends that a banner’s animation length should be a maximum of 15 seconds includinga maximum of three loops, making it easier for the consumer to read and digest messaging. Be sure your call to action is clear on every frame of your banner ad.

4. Test Different Versions

Create two or more versions of your banner creative. At MDR, we encourage testing multiple creative ad units, and we don’t charge additionally for multiple creative versions of banners within a reasonable number.

We typically recommend weighting and serving your test creatives equally, and unless a customer specifies otherwise, we run our customer test banners in this manner. As clicks and conversions start to come in on an MDR web advertising campaign, it automatically optimizes and begins to serve a greater percentage to the better performing creative. This type of marketing automation makes following best practices simple and effortless for marketers.

These are just a few ideas for creating effective banner ads. Need more tips and information on web advertising? Visit our Web Advertising Learning Center!

August 29, 2012 at 2:30 pm 1 comment

Five Ways to Reach Educators This Back-to-School Season

Donnine Souhrada

Donnine Souhrada, Product Director, MDR’s WeAreTeachers

As summer winds to a close, education marketing efforts are going into full swing. If you’re tired of the “same old, same old” tricks for reaching teachers, check out my tips to get some new ideas.

1. Get Social: If you’re not using social media yet, you’re missing a ton of opportunity!

In the May issue of our WeAreTeachers client newsletter we talked about maximizing your Facebook timeline, and in June we offered some tips for juggling your social media presences. The July issue focused on Twitter strategies, so these 3 articles provide lots of ideas to help you get started.

You don’t have to jump into all the social media channels at once, but the back-to-school season is a perfect opportunity to really focus on one platform, build it into your marketing plan, and capitalize on the energy of the new school year.

2. Integrate Channels: You know the old saying about not putting all of your eggs in one basket, and that holds true for your marketing strategies, too. In fact, integrated marketing—using multiple channels to reinforce a message—results in maximum exposure and greater “stickiness” for your brand and positioning.

Follow up an email campaign with a direct mail piece, mix up web ads with a social push and email campaign…you get the idea. Multiple impressions on your audience through several channels can yield great returns.

3. Test Something New: While you’re integrating channels, why not add a new one into the mix? This is especially true if you haven’t made the full jump into digital marketing yet. We know educators are online all year long, checking email, researching for their lessons, booking personal travel, and shopping for their classrooms, homes and families. Connect with them there through web advertising or social outreach if you haven’t tried these channels yet.

If you need a turnkey solution for connecting with teachers on the web, WeAreTeachers.com is a destination site with tons of opportunities for you to take your digital marketing efforts to the next level. It’s a great way to get involved in digital marketing with ready-to-go multi-channel programs.

4. Be A Resource to Educators: Educators respond best to brands that they perceive as resources for meeting their needs. Determine what challenges your target teacher pool might be facing this year, and find ways to help them.

For example, teachers feeling the pinch of budget challenges would be excited with a discount or “free” promotion of some kind. Educators working through Common Core implementation could really benefit from a free resource guide to help them through this transition.

Be there for them, and they’ll remember your brand and turn to you first when it’s time to buy.

5. Get Involved: Look for ways to join teachers in online communities. Read what they are discussing, and become a contributing member of these communities so you can respond with your ideas and input.

As you earn the trust of the educators within the communities, you can continue to position your brand as a resource, and use the collective power of these teacher communities to get feedback on your products and services, and show them the ways that you can help meet their needs.

The key is to become part of the community and have genuine interactions with teachers. If you lead with the product pitches, you won’t be able to gain their loyalty. Focus instead on building relationships and creating brand fans, which ultimately leads to sales.

August 22, 2012 at 3:00 pm Leave a comment

Five Reasons You Should Be at the 2012 EdNET Conference

Vicki Smith-Bigham





Vicki Smith-Bigham, EdNET Conference Manager

The annual EdNET Conference is the industry’s premier networking event. It brings education business leaders together to connect with each other, discuss the market, and find opportunities for growth.

If you haven’t yet registered for EdNET 2012, here are five reasons you should do so—today!

1. Networking

Meaningful one-on-one and small group discussions are the hallmark of EdNET. You can forge new business relationships at receptions, roundtables, networking breakfasts, luncheons, and breaks. EdNET’s Kickoff Reception and Business Opportunities Fair exhibits reception provide a perfect atmosphere for conversations.

2. Programming

EdNET’s program offers a unique combination of compelling speakers, energizing roundtables, and in-the-trenches reports. Focusing exclusively on the most pressing business and economic issues impacting our industry,  this year’s agenda addresses major market forces affecting education companies, such as school budget uncertainties, technology developments, and relevant curriculum initiatives and concerns.

Our powerful program concludes with a vision of tomorrow in the highly rated “View from the Catbird Seat” presentation. An expanded panel of our industry’s leading market analysts share their views on where the market is going and what it means for vendors and then lead attendees in an interactive exploration of the critical threats and opportunities for the next few years.

3. Networking

EdNET attendees don’t have to wait until the Conference to start connecting with potential partners. With the EdNET Networking Directory, you can start as soon as you register!

Every registered attendee receives access to the directory before, during, and after the event to maximize their networking opportunities. Registrants can complete their own networking profile—outlining  their reasons for attending EdNET and their organization’s goals—and search for possible connections with compatible goals.

With new directory functionality in 2012, EdNET attendees can also join discussion groups and schedule 1:1 meetings well in advance of the conference itself.

4. Early Bird Discount

Of course, a great reason to register for EdNET 2012 TODAY instead of next week is the savings. Through this Friday, August 17, you can save up to $200 on your EdNET registration using the code deSUMMER12.

5. Networking

Did I mention networking? From start to finish, the EdNET 2012 agenda gives you over seventeen hours of possible networking time! Imagine the connections you could make, the relationships you could foster, and the partnerships you could broker in that time. Your face-to-face networking hours will be even more productive when you seek out potential connections in the directory before the Conference begins.

Whether you’re an industry veteran or brand new to the education market, EdNET 2012 can help you chart, navigate, and deliver in a rapidly changing education environment. I hope to see you there!

Want to learn more about EdNET? Listen to an informative webinar with detailed information on the Conference and the benefits of attending.

August 15, 2012 at 12:30 pm Leave a comment

Five Ways to Turn Campaign Responders into Loyal Customers

With MDR’s Free Hot Leads program, email campaign customers can now download full contact information, including email address, for all contacts who have opened and/or clicked on their campaign. MDR will also send a free Hot Lead Trigger follow-up email to these responders automatically. (Learn more about free Hot Leads and trigger emails here.)

But what comes next? After the trigger email is sent, marketers should continue to nurture these leads to work toward conversion. Here are five ways you can continue to engage your Hot Leads campaign responders:

1. Show Them Your Appreciation: Thank educators on your Hot Leads list for their interest in your product or service with a current discount or promotion. You could also create a special offer for this specific audience, whether it’s a free trial or subscription, an exclusive discount, etc. This is an ideal way to continue their positive interactions with your brand and encourage them to stay engaged.

2. Help Them Get to Know You: Create a messaging campaign just for this audience, giving them more in-depth information about your company, product, or service. It’s a perfect opportunity to help them understand your unique value to educators!

3. Put Them in the Loop: Send program participants an opt-in to your email or newsletter communications and/or include them in your direct mailing lists. By including them in your various communication touchpoints, you can continue to keep them engaged and interested.

4. Get Social: Invite these educators to join your online community by asking them to connect with you on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or any of your other social media channels.

5. Request Their Feedback: Reach out to your leads and ask them to submit reviews or testimonials or complete surveys to inform your future marketing or product development. Add reviews and testimonials to your website and/or highlight them on your social media platforms.

All of these strategies will help you continue to build relationships with each of your Hot Leads, creating trust in your brand and ultimately turning these campaign responders into loyal customers.

August 8, 2012 at 3:42 pm Leave a comment

Three Best Practices for Successful Email Campaigns





Derek Fairfield, Leader, E-Marketing Solutions, MDR

As Chris mentioned in his last blog, personalization and relevancy in your email campaigns are critical to success. Our latest research supports this, indicating significantly higher response rates in email prospecting campaigns that are personalized and sent to more targeted audiences. We also gleaned some pertinent information on deployment timing that may surprise you.

I’ve boiled down our findings into three key research-based best practices to help you create better-performing email campaigns.

1. Less is More. The days of casting a wide email net to try to catch any possible prospect are gone. Marketers are successfully targeting smaller, more precise groups to maximize their response rates.

Our 2011 research results indicate a direct inverse proportion between the size of an email campaign and the response rate. Email campaigns sent to 20,000-39,999 recipients in 2011 saw an average open rate of 7.3%. Open rates for campaign sizes of just 100—999 recipients were double that at 14.6%. Click rates demonstrate the same pattern.

Best Practice Takeaway: Market to a smaller, more carefully targeted group to avoid wasted efforts and maximize your response and ROI.

2. For Personalization, Last Name Rules. Generally speaking, personalized emails do better for opens and click-throughs than non-personalized emails. What’s interesting about our market is the types of personalization that are most successful with educators. By far, the best performing type of personalization was by last name (a 14.3% open and 4.7% click rate, as opposed to a 7.5%open and 1.8 % click rate for first name personalization.)

Education is a profession where the use of an individual’s last name is the customary form of address (at least by their students), and the use of a first name coming from a stranger or corporate entity might seem disrespectful. It’s not surprising, then, that the open and click-through rates of campaigns using first name only are actually lower than those with no personalization at all.

Best Practice Takeaway: Personalization is a reliable way to increase response to your email campaigns, but for educators, personalization by last name is clearly the most successful.

3. Don’t Believe the Day of the Week Hype. For marketers, determining the best day of the week to send an email is a hot topic. Many subscribe to the practice of avoiding Mondays and Fridays, but our research indicates that there’s really no good reason for this.

Of the email campaigns sent last year, 15% were sent on a Monday, 8% were sent on a Friday, and 31%, 23%, and 22% were sent on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday respectively. It’s clear that the bulk of us are sending our campaigns in the middle of the week, but is this really increasing our campaign response? Our research says no. Monday and Friday campaigns actually outperformed the other three days in open rates, and click rates are nearly even across the board.

Best Practice Takeaway: Even though conventional marketing wisdom says differently, research results indicate that marketers should feel confident deploying campaigns any day of the week.

As the education market continues to evolve, so do our recommendations for marketing strategies and best practices. Continuing to refine your campaigns in response to the changing landscape helps you get the best results.

Are you using these best practices? What results are you seeing? Let me know in the comments, or reach me at dfairfield@dnb.com.

Interested in learning about best practices for mobile email optimization? Check out our recently published Guide to Mobile Email Marketing.

August 1, 2012 at 3:28 pm 1 comment

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