Creating incentives that are mutually beneficial

If you are like the majority of marketers, your first thought is some sort of financial compensation such as money or a gift card. Although this is a good incentive and will usually do the trick, the example above reminds us all that, if we think creatively, we can find an incentive that is mutually beneficial to both us and our customers.

Keys to developing a mutually beneficial

On Sunday I drove up to Grand Rapids to slide down the giant waterslide created by Rob Bliss.  Along with a sunburn (whoops!), I came home with a renewed appreciation for the power of creativity that goes into creating incentives that are mutually beneficial to clients and an organization.

I arrived on Grand Rapids Community College’s campus to find a very long line to go down the 500 foot long waterslide.  I eagerly jumped into the snaking line that surrounded the slide, but not really realizing the impact that the line would have on the wait time.  After 1 ½ hours of waiting in line, I hadn’t moved nearly as far as I thought I would and it finally dawned on me that the line was probably about 4 hours long. Not too long after that realization struck me, a volunteer on the other side of the barrier was going up and down the line talking with people. He came near me and I leaned in to listen.

According to the volunteer, the original plan was for people to go down the waterslide just laying flat on their back, but they quickly realized that, in order for the slide to work, everyone had to go down it on inner tubes. That presented a problem because they then had to devise a way to get the tubes back up the hill.  Their solution was to go up and down the line and ask for volunteers to create a human chain and throw the tubes back up the hill.  The payment for one hour of volunteering to do this was you got to move to the front of the line.

I may not be the best at math, but it didn’t take me long to realize that this was a good deal and meant  waiting in line a grand total of 2 hours vs. 4 hours. Besides, I hate sitting still watching other people work, so I volunteered.  The work was easy, fun, and the hour flew by. Before I knew it, I was at the front of the line and had a fun ride down the slide.

People throwing water tubes up the hill next to the slide
The throwing of the tubes

The experience made me think about how we typically go about incentivizing our customers. If you are like the majority of marketers, your first thought is some sort of financial compensation such as money or a gift card.  Although this is a good incentive and will usually do the trick, the example above reminds us all that, if we think creatively, we can find an incentive that is mutually beneficial to both us and our customers.   

Keys to developing a mutually beneficial incentive

The first key to developing a mutually beneficial incentive is to truly understand what will motivate your target audience.  In the example above, my key motivation was to spend less time waiting in line. For a volunteer for a political campaign, maybe the person would care more about a photo op with an important political figure than a gift card.

The second key is to think creatively about what would most benefit your organization.  In the majority of cases, it’s probably not going to involve giving away money.  For example, if a college has a student that is motivated to publicly speak, this could be a huge mutual benefit. By having the student go out and speak for the college, the college gains positive publicity and the student gets to do what he  or she loves.  It’s a win-win!

So what will motivate your customers and how can you utilize that to create mutually beneficial incentives?

Google Adwords credit union campaign example

An example of a Google Adwords campaign for a credit union.

Below is an example of a Google Adwords campaign for a credit union. Michigan State Federal Credit Union is a real credit union, but not a real client. I just used their name and sites for this example.

 

Creative Brief

 
August 2, 2010
 
Presented to:
April M. Clobes
Vice President of Marketing and E-Commerce
Michigan State University Federal Credit Union
 
By:
Nicole Finkbeiner
Michigan State University Graduate Student
Department of Communication
 
Re: Google Adwords Campaign
 
 
Goal for the campaign
  • Increase the number of home mortgage applications completed through MSUFCU during the months of August and September 2010 (as compared to last year and surrounding months)
 

Target Markets

  • People living within the Greater Lansing (including East Lansing and Okemos), Auburn Hills, and surrounding areas who are interested in purchasing a home and looking for a mortgage for their home.  The majority of these people are first-time home buyers.
  • People living within the Greater Lansing (including East Lansing and Okemos), Auburn Hills, and surrounding areas who are interested in refinancing their current mortgage that is held by a different mortgage lender. 
 
Strategy
In order to meet the goal of increasing the number of home mortgages written or refinanced by MSUFCU, this campaign will seek to drive warmed traffic to the MSUFCU home mortgage application site and related sites using Google AdWords.
I chose this strategy because:
  • When people are looking for information, such as home mortgage rates and mortgage lenders, they look online. And, for many people, the Internet is their ONLY source of information. For example, from May 2008 to May 2009, online searching “increased 20.3 percent year-over-year, from 7.8 billion in May 2008 to 9.4 billion in May 2009” (Source: Nielsen). 
  • Google is the number one search engine used in the United States.  For example, in May 2009, Google was responsible for 63.2% of Internet searches (Source: Nielsen).
  • Google Adwords allows MSUFCU to target prospects effectively without the advertising spillage that is present in traditional forms of advertising. 
    • Adwords will allow MSUFCU to target potential prospects demographically.  Using previous data on successful conversions, MSUFCU can narrow who sees the ads for MSUFCU to a specific geographic location, a specific gender, age, etc. to optimize results.
    • Adwords can specifically target prospects who are searching for information about home mortgages.  By using the Google Keyword tool, MSUFCU can see the key phrases that local residents are using to search for home mortgage information, target the ads to show at these times, and include the key phrases in the ad copy for maximum results.
Ad copy
After using the Google Keyword Tool to analyze MSUFCU’s mortgage websites and reviewing the chart below, I determined that there are two main key selling points that can be used in the ads:
  1. The low interest rate. Currently, MSUFCU has mortgage rates as low as 4.0%. This is an incredibly low rate and many competitors are slightly above at approximately 4.1-4.2%.  Buyers know that, over a long mortgage, the point variation on a mortgage will amount to significant dollars, so even a .1% advantage is truly an advantage.
  2. As shown in the keywords below, another top-ranking search term was a mortgage calculator. People thinking of purchasing a home or refinancing a home will use a mortgage calculator as a deciding factor on whether or not to move forward in the application process.  So, MSUFCU’s free mortgage calculator may lead to mortgage applications after they use it.
 Keyword ideas for MSUFCU
 
Using the top keywords above (mortgage, mortgage calculator, interest rates, first time home buyer, and home mortgage), I developed the following ads. These ads are developed using direct calls to action and multiple keywords to have maximum impact. Each, when clicked on, takes the potential customer to the page that most directly relates to their search term and the ad.
 
4.0% Mortgage Rate New Home Buyer Google Ad
4.0% Mortgage Rate Refinance Google Ad
Free Mortgage Calculator Refinance Google Ad
Free Mortgage Calculator Owning Your Own Home Google Ad
Low Interest Rates Apply now Google Ad
Low Interest Rates Google Ad Refinance
First Time Home Buyer Google Ad
Low Home Mortgage Rates Apply Now Google Ad
Low Home Mortgage Rates Refinance Today Google Ad
 
 
Ad set-up
  • When using Google Adwords, the best way to set-up the ads is as follows:
  • Locations: For locations, I recommend using the custom location feature and creating a 10 mile radius around each branch location by entering each location’s address.  Although some may overlap, this approach:
  • Allows the nearest branch address to show in the ads
  • Geographically targets areas near branches (people trust businesses that are local).
  • Limits the amount of advertising spillage. For example, if we chose the Greater Lansing DMA vs. customizing, the geographic area is much larger than from what MSUFCU pulls. These are wasted impressions.
  • Language: English, unless a significant amount of mortgage applications come from those with another language as their primary language.
  • Networks and Devices: Choose all. With mobile technology becoming the primary way that people access the Internet, it’s important for your ads to show on mobile and other devices and networks.
  • Bidding: I advise to keep this as simple as possible and let Google’s time-tested algorithms work for MSUFCU. Focus on clicks, automatic bidding, no CPC bid limit
  • Budget: To stay within the budget given, this should be set at $166 per day. This can be readjusted during the campaign if necessary.
  • Ad Extensions: Again, because of the rise of the mobile phone web-surfing, I recommend adding a Phone Extension to make it easy for potential customers to call.
  • Advanced Settings, Start Date and End Date: Schedule the ads starting today through the end of September.
  • Advanced Settings, Demographic Bidding: Chose the ages and gender (or both) that most fit the target market (and are typical of the majority of your best customers).
  • Keywords: Click on the link that helps you choose your keywords. They are all pre-loaded. Cross-reference these with the keywords and text/intent of the ad and the above Keyword Tool chart.
 
Effectiveness
  • To make your ads as effective as possible, I recommend adding a call-to-action button (Apply Now!) to all of the web pages linked to your ads. For those sites where the button is currently present, I recommend moving your call-to-action button to above-the-fold; meaning on a place on the page that is visible without scrolling when the customer initially sees the page.
  • To maximize effectiveness, I recommend reviewing the campaign daily.  It is difficult to tell as first what ads will perform well and what ads don’t.  By monitoring the ads, MSUFCU will be able to make adjustments to the ads that are under-performing to maximize their effectiveness.
  • Measuring advertising campaign effectiveness is not a perfect science. However, to best measure effectiveness, I recommend the following:
    • Monitoring the performance of the ads using the Google Adwords tools available in your account
    • Adding a feedback mechanism to your online application asking where the applicant last saw or heard about MSUFCU and how they arrived at the site.
    • Training your mortgage processors, the ones that develop relationships directly with the clients, to solicit feedback from applicants about their decision-making process and any prompts (advertising, family & friends) that encouraged them to apply through MSUFCU.
Brief respectfully submitted by: Nicole Finkbeiner

What burning toilet paper and high school teacher reminded me about marketing and pr

We, as marketers and public relations professionals, need to promote our organizations to the best of our ability through traditional advertising, press releases, digital media, etc. But we must never underestimate the power of interactions with employees of our organizations. An advertising campaign may bring someone to your organization, but whether or not you gain a customer, is all about the interactions that customer has with employees.

 A couple of months ago, I was rushing to a local food place at lunch to grab some food before heading back to the office. On the corner of the block right before the food place sits a local high school. When I rounded the curve, I noticed that students were filing out of the high school and heading to the other side of the road.  I stopped at the corner while student after student came filing out which teachers encouraged them to be calm, but move quickly.  And that’s when it dawned on me; they were evacuating the school.   

Burning toilet paperI wasn’t sure what had happened, but  I  assumed from their pace that it was a false alarm or something minor. The next day, I learned from the local paper that it was because some students were burning toilet paper in the bathroom and set-off the alarms. In any case, I had a lot of time just sitting there watching student after student come out. Like watching a cargo train when you are late for a meeting, it seemed like the stream of students would never end.

But at that moment, what my eyes and ears were drawn to more than anything else was a young male teacher interacting with the students.  He was the one assigned to stand in the middle of the road and coax reluctant students across the road. He was energetic, he was encouraging, and he seemed to have respect for each of the students in the line. There was no yelling or even a heightened sense of stress. Instead, all I could hear was “Great job guys. Keep going. You all are doing awesome. We really appreciate you helping us with this. Keep going.” 

Finally, as the last student emerged from the building and started to cross, another teacher came up and said something to the male teacher in the middle of the road. His shoulders dropped with a sigh. I could tell immediately what the news was; they had been given the all-clear. The students needed to come back in.

After a second of frustration, like a wind-up doll that gets rewound, he perked back up and immediately went back to his work with the same energy and optimism as he coaxed the students back in the building.  By now, many of us had been stopped at this intersection for quite a while and some were getting very frustrated.  As the last few students crossed the road, the male teacher, recognizing this, did an amazing thing. He walked a few steps closer in the direction of each car on the intersection, looked each driver in the eye, waved and shouted “thank you!” When it was my turn, I smiled and waved back.  I was late, and frustrated, but that melted away with that simple gesture.

Before that day, if you had asked me what I thought of the instructors at that school, I’m not sure I would have had positive things to say. But after that interaction, I couldn’t stop talking about that young teacher and how he interacted with his students. A smiling teacher in front of a class of students He reminded me of a simple marketing and public relations principle that sometimes gets lost in our quest to utilize new digital media tools and creative expensive advertising campaigns. At that moment of burning toilet paper, a high school teacher was the face and the marketer for the school.  Had he behaved inappropriately in front of all of those cars, it would have been disastrous for the school.  Instead, he behaved in a way that left a long-standing impression on me about the quality of the teachers at the school and the quality of the school in general.

We, as marketers and public relations professionals, need to promote our organizations to the best of our ability through traditional advertising, press releases, digital media, etc. But we must never underestimate the power of interactions with employees of our organizations.  An advertising campaign may bring someone to your organization, but whether or not you gain a customer is all about the interactions that customer has with employees.

So I challenge you to ask yourself: Are the employees at your organization doing a good job being spokespersons for your organization?