Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Big Game, Spoiled

With a general viewership of roughly 100 million people, advertising during the Super Bowl has become, well, the Super Bowl of advertising.  Just buying the airtime costs millions of dollars, and that doesn't even include the production costs.  Many firms spend the entire year working on a Super Bowl ad, all to enjoy the shining glory of those thirty seconds when the world finally sees the magic.

At least that's the way it used to be.  Gone are the days when Super Bowl ads were a closely guarded secret.  No longer do we wait in anticipation to see how companies will dazzle us.  This morning on "Today" Ann Curry was running through a list of ads for Sunday's game - and she was showing the ads!  Some of the ads have been released for a week already.  Many of the ads are circulating on the internet, and there does not seem to be any mystery or surprise about it.

So why spend the money?  Why are companies spending millions of dollars to air an ad that is already playing for free online?  Yes, the potential viewership is there, and that's hard to argue against.  At the same time, are consumers going to feel as riveted to the TV if they know the same ads are available online?  If a viewer is not fearful of missing the ad because it's relatively accessible, doesn't that diminish some of the rationale for buying the spot in the first place?

Many arguments have been made that by showing the ads online and by revealing their content early it will generate buzz.  This buzz will extend to social media, which will extend the life of the ad (and justify its cost over the long term).  Seeing how much social media can make or break a campaign, this is certainly a valid argument.  At the same time, it seems a bit misdirected to use a Super Bowl ad to launch a social media campaign to support a Super Bowl ad.  It's fine to extend the life of a campaign via social media, but that will happen regardless.  

A good ad (or a very bad one) will take on a life of its own.  A truly stunning ad that amazes 100 million people will garner its own following on social media, without any prompting or prodding from ad-folk.  Instead of making ads that need to be propped up by social media, advertisers should be making ads that stand on their own.  If you do something amazing (or amazingly funny or amazingly stupid), it will get attention and the buzz will follow.  Stop showing us the ads early, start bringing back some of the mystery, and get back to making ads that are really worth talking about.  After all, we can all run to the bathroom during the game.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Art of the Cross-Sell

I don't like people.  More specifically, I generally don't like to interact with people when I can accomplish the same thing online.  It is easier and preferred if I can order a product online or otherwise complete a task virtually.  If this is not an option I would prefer to handle things over the phone.  In our modern society, nearly all tasks and services can be completed via these two methods.  There are still some hold-outs however, but even those are not what they used to be.

I recently had to order a new ATM card.  Because the account is a joint account and the other person already has a card, I had to call my bank instead of just requesting a card online.  During the course of my conversation the person on the other end of the phone made two comments that were alarming.  The first comment was that while reviewing my account information, the rep may suggest products or services that may be of interest to me.  The second comment was a phone number for me to call to discuss options for renter's insurance.

As it turns out, the computer system was down so I couldn't order my card over the phone.  I actually had to go into a branch to complete this request.  While sitting with a real live person, and while he was clicking a few things to order my card, he asked me a question in a very nonchalant manner.  "Do you have any credit cards?"  I said that I did, and that I was happy with them.  He proceeded to tell me all of the virtues of this specific card, and what benefits I would receive because I was an account-holder at the bank.  When I politely declined he snapped out of it and said my debit card was on its way to my mailing address.

While driving back to the office I pondered the incredibly invasive experience I just had.  Two different employees of my bank tried to cross-sell me a handful of different products, all while looking at my personal financial information.  What's worse, the cross-sell was scripted and not really tailored to me or my situation.What was intended as a way for the bank to deepen our relationship ended up kind of creeping me out.

As advertisers we are taught how to cross-sell.  As an agency or vendor it's vital to the company to have this skill; it's easier to grow existing business than to win new accounts.  Several of my career highlights and successes are a result of cross-selling, but my methodology was significantly different than my experience at the bank.  Here are some helpful tips to make cross-selling effective without being creepy.

1 - Know Thy Audience: Don't offer me renter's insurance if I am a homeowner.  Try to make the product a good fit for the person you are selling to.

2 - Improvise: There are few things worse than scripted communications.  It's ok to write down a few notes to keep yourself organized, but it's not ok to read directly from the screen.  Personalize your message.  It shows that you have taken the time to know your customer.  It also shows that you aren't lazy.

3 - Be Natural: Try to make the sell a natural part of the conversation, or a progression of the relationship.  Don't fill silence with an up-sell.  Don't randomly interject with new offerings.  Wait for it to come up naturally.

4 - Know when No means No: Your cross-sell may be rejected.  This does not mean that it is a bad idea.  There are a number of reasons why it may not be a good time and/or fit for the customer.  In order to preserve the relationship you have already cultivated, know when to back down and know when to re-introduce the idea.

One of my former clients is a clothing retailer.  Our agency was already managing the paid search campaign and I was managing the comparison shopping campaign.  Because we had success with those offerings and because the client trusted our judgement, it was easy for us to suggest that we manage the local placement listings for their physical stores.  By making this a natural progression of our relationship, and by understanding how this offering addressed some of the client's overall business concerns, we were able to easily sell them this additional service.

We successfully sold this client on an additional offering that they never would have brought to us.  By knowing our audience and by listening to the client's needs we were able to tailor our pitch and guarantee favorable results.