The Marketing Hot Seat: Rachel Happe

hotseatIf you don’t know Rachel Happe yet, you are missing out.  I’ve had the sincere pleasure of getting to know Rachel in the local Boston social media scene, and it was clear from my first conversation with her that she knows social media and the power of community unlike most.  With a background that includes working as a research manager at IDC and a senior director of social media products at Mzinga, Rachel brings a refreshing, thought-provoking view to what challenges large enterprises are facing with Web 2.0.  Before reading her point of view on the Marketing Hot Seat, I’d recommend subscribing to her blog, the Social Organization and taking time to learn more about the business she is building with friend Jim Storer.  The Community Roundtable is a tremendous wealth of value-add resources for social media practioners. (My agency, Rosetta, is a big proponent and partner, and I’ve been referred to as a CR Cheesehead – read on and you’ll see Rachel lives what she preaches).  I’m grateful that Rachel has offered to weigh in this week on the challenge – please let her know what you think in the comments.

  • You’re the CMO.  You have a marketing budget of $1M.  Your company is a consumer product company, relatively unknown / early stage.  Customers who know the product like it. CEO wants ROI within 12 months.  What do you do?

Rachel Happe and Gradon TrippAdam has graciously pulled out his marketing wizard wand and given me the role of CMO at an upstart consumer products company – not a likely scenario but fun to play with none-the-less!  I’m lucky because I don’t have to deal with a lot of organizational complexity, legacy systems, or legacy structures set up for a vastly different information environment than the one that exists today. And luckily, I understand a bit about what’s changed.  The cost of content creation has dropped, the cost of distribution has dropped, and the cost of customer discovery has dropped – all dramatically. That means that my investment will pay off relatively quickly.

My marketing focus is split between two key constituent groups.  My first important constituent group is the channel partners who actually sell my product to the end customer. The second key constituent group is the consumers themselves – driving demand from consumers will help me negotiate more and better contracts with my retail partners.   My goals for the year are to execute 1 exclusive large partner deal (think Target), 5 mid-size partner deals (regional chains,, etc), and 50 niche retailer contracts. Our channel manager will use our website including a blog, an email newsletter, and trade shows as the primary means of outreach to this audience.  All of those touch points will be richly supported with online media from our customers and secondarily supported through our Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and YouTube outreach done with our end customers.

On the consumer end, we’ll start with research and capturing user interaction with our product.  We’ll give our small team of young enthusiastic media makers the gear to video tape, podcast, and take pictures as they talk to users about their reaction to the product and how they use it.  We’ll use that content for regular posting to YouTube, Flickr, Facebook, and Twitter but we’ll also solicit content generated by the users themselves and post that. We’ll also use the research to design two online games – one individual and one team-based – that integrate with Twitter and Facebook. We will use a vendor like Bunchball that makes these games personalized, competitive, and branded. We’ll build a cheap-to-execute but unique version of our product to reward contributors for completing different tasks.  Our team of media makers will also be charged with engagement – proactively and reactively interacting with people who are in our target audience and packaging the best of the resulting interactions and media for re-use. We will identify our cheeseheads and promote them.

Roughly, our marketing spend will look like this:

I’m expecting the following unit flow from each type of retailer:
Large = 60,000 units
Medium = 12,000 units
Small = 600 units
The profit from each unit is $9 and if I hit my planned goals, we’ll have $1,350,000 in profit by the end of the year. Covering my marketing costs by a bit but building a great foundation going into the following year.

What an awesome year!

…And what an awesome post, thanks again Rachel.  What do you think of her approach?

Photo credit: Jim Storer via Flickr

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7 Inputs to a Social Media Strategy

seedsBuilding a social media strategy is not something that can be whipped together overnight.  For context, any company that is looking to develop a strategy for leveraging social media should first check out the POST methodology from Forrester Research.  The “People” part of the approach (followed by Objectives, Stategy and Technology) has a short description:

Don’t start a social strategy until you know the capabilities of your audience. If you’re targeting college students, use social networks. If you’re reaching out business travelers, consider ratings and reviews. Forrester has great data to help with this, but you can make some estimates on your own. Just don’t start without thinking about it.

This is smart, practical advice.  Yet it doesn’t go deep enough.  Here are seven inputs that need to be considered before defining objectives and developing a strategy to leverage social media tactics.

  1. Social Media Monitoring. There are many self-service tools out there beyond Twitter search and Google blog search.  Two that work well are Radian6 and SM2.  No software is perfect, especially when it comes to analyzing sentiment of what customers are saying, but “hunting and pecking” using point-in-time search tools isn’t going to give you the broad array you need.  These tools also can review data back in time to compare tone and conversations year over year or before and after a key event like a product launch.  It takes time to sift through the chatter, but there are gems in there that constitute unfiltered customer feedback worth paying attention to.
  2. Market research. Survey your customers and ask them what tools they use.  If you are a large company, consider leveraging a segmentation that addresses the needs, wants, attitudes and behaviors of your customers.  This can be a significant source of insight to drive marketing strategies – not just social marketing ones.
  3. Forrester’s Social Technographics. Forrester has a great tool to stratify how your customers are actually using social media.  Do your customers heavily index against the average for Creators or Critics?  Perhaps a user-generated content idea or approach would be more suitable.  While the tool doesn’t give you the answer of what to do, it does provide some data points that help justify approaches down the road.  If you know some basic info about your customers, you can get useful data easily using this tool:

  4. Competitive Analysis. What are your competitors doing? Are you behind the pack or leading by deciding to engage in social technologies to drive your business?  It’s important to know where you stand – better yet to know where you want to be.
  5. Stakeholder Interviews. Some tactics in social media will require different departments to work together – perhaps some that aren’t used to collaborating.  Talk to the following groups: Marketing, Market Research, Innovation, Product Management, IT, Legal, Customer Service, PR and HR.  Chances are they will all have something to say about social media and what they would hope to get from it.
  6. Corporate Objectives.  What is your company’s marketing objectives in 2010?  Are you undertaking a brand refresh?  Have some major product launches teed up in Q2?  Any seasonal or cyclical impact to plan around?  Don’t think you can develop social tactics without considering what is going on in the company.
  7. Corporate Culture. Does your company thrive on innovation or on chopping down new initiatives?  Social media tactics can be measured, effective and game-changing – yet the industry is not as mature of a marketing tactic like pay-per-click search marketing.  “Making the leap” requires top down executive support and a bottoms up desire to make initiatives successful from the teams that will own the strategy going forward.  (Or fail quickly and learn from it, as I’ve heard Todd Defren say – this space is still new).

Frankly, I don’t see how the rest of the POST methodology – Objectives, Strategy and Technology – can be developed without these inputs.  Do you agree? What did I miss?

Photo credit: h-d-k via Flickr

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The Marketing Hot Seat: Marc Meyer

hotseatMarc Meyer is one of the few folks who agreed to participate in the Marketing Hot Seat I haven’t had the pleasure of actually meeting in person.  I hope that changes soon.  If you don’t know Marc, his blog is a continual source of thought provoking discussion in social media.  With his experience consulting in both social media and search, his background provides a powerful combo.  Marc is also the co-founder of hashtagsocialmedia, a series of amazing chats over Twitter with folks who are making a big impact in the industry.

Below is Marc’s answer to the Marketing Hot Seat challenge.  I’d recommend you put on some light jazz, turn off your phone, take a few minutes and really digest his post… and be prepared to have your brain challenged.  While Marc went way over the 500 word limit (cough), it’s just good content and shows how deep his marketing mind runs.  Let him know what you think in the comments.  Thanks Marc for taking so much time to make this a thoughtful post.  (Some emphasis added by yours truly.)

  • You’re the CMO.  You have a marketing budget of $1M.  Your company is a consumer product company, relatively unknown / early stage.  Customers who know the product like it. CEO wants ROI within 12 months.  What do you do?

marc-meyerWhat I know is that I have a million dollar budget which is cool, Wooohooo…!!! and I have a pretty decent CPG that the customer likes, double Woohoo…!!! But,  I have one year to make some money. Oh boy…

So I have a couple of options I can try and leverage as many channels as I possibly can, or I can focus on one channel or maybe just a few. The bottom line though is that I only have a year to make it work. So for me I want to have reach, depth and breadth and do it somewhat quickly.

Historically I’ve worked for a direct response marketing agency and I’ve launched a “few” CPG commerce sites, along with some that had DR hooks in them. So I have to seriously consider DR as a viable channel. Why? Because it’s fast, it does work and it’s very measurable. The numbers are black and white. That includes, DR radio, DRTV, direct mail and direct email…Could this alter or affect my spend? Knowing the power and effectiveness of good DR? Absolutely. But I have also seen many big spend DR campaigns fall flat on their face with products that were supposed to be can’t miss. So it’s tempting.

But wait…There’s more.

I also have a solid background in organic and paid search with CPG’s. The power of those two combined can really stretch a budget or tap one out real quick, depending on what you know, what your strategy is and how you roll it out. As well, over the last 3 years I’ve been rolling out social media programs for companies and their products, and thus I know what social media done right, can do. I have to seriously weigh how I can incorporate this into any product launch. Is it the focus of the marketing, a spoke on the hub? Do I even consider it?

Couple of things right out of the blocks that I need to find out or determine though. What’s the message? What’s the price? Who or what is my target audience. What has worked and what hasn’t? And why?  I also want to know as much about my target audience as possible like psychographic, demographic info. And next, what is my competition doing? What are they doing right and doing wrong? Then I want to know what people are saying and where they are saying it- both customers and competition. A lot of this work can be done by implementing certain social media activities into my fact gathering. i.e. listening, monitoring, participating etc. etc…but the gist is, I want to live and breathe this product and really understand the why. Why would someone buy this product and why would they tell someone else to buy it? What are the triggers? CRM anybody? Social CRM anyone? 🙂

At this point I haven’t spent much money.  But I know a whole lot more now than I did before. And thus I can start thinking about strategy. I have a team in place I assume…right? If not then I’m hiring a team. As everyone should know by now, all of these activities require a solid team with solid skill sets that span across a lot of the digital disciplines.

My point is, we’re gathering data so that we can make more qualified decisions. Research, due diligence and knowledge make it easier to determine the spend.

So it’s strategy time:  Make money. Make it in 12 months. Get people to buy the product. Get people to repeat that process. Get people to tell their friends to use the product. Get people talking about the product. Promote the greatness and effectiveness and the value of the product in less than 12 months. Increase sales. Increase buzz. Increase traffic. Increase conversions. Grow. Rinse. Repeat.

Possible areas with associated spends. Note: I didn’t want to get into specifics about measurement so thus we went very high level here.

  • Paid and Social Media-maximize budget with a combo of both paid and social outreach 10k per month. 3 months. Measure. Go or No Go.
  • Broad reach geo-targeted, long-tail, PPC campaign to reach target audience 10k per month. 3 months. Measure. Go or No Go
  • Assuming I don’t have a web presence with this product I’m going to build out a number of sites. First and foremost, there will be an e-commerce site with all the requisite bells and whistles. Site will also include cross promotional contextual upsells with partner products and sites.- Cost- No more than 35k for development.
  • (5) Informational micro-sites built around and optimized for specific key words 25k for development
  • SEO management 1k month
  • E-mail campaign tied back to e-commerce enabled landing pages, includes building out individual landing pages and buying lists-50k for development and programming. Test, test, test. Measure. Go or No Go
  • Radio campaign 30k for 3 months development and media buy. Measure. Go or No Go
  • Direct mail campaign includes, creative, design, lists and postage 50k test, test Measure. Go or No Go
  • DRTV- 150k(optional)
  • Mobile phone campaign-text to win 50k 3 months Measure. Go or No Go
  • Creation of online community/forum 20k Ongoing. May have to hire manager to grow community. 4k/month
  • Creation of Facebook campaign/widget as well as fan page to generate buzz in product and win, trip, prize etc. 20k for development
  • Creation of Twitter accounts to monitor buzz, consumer outreach, and customer service.
  • Create Blog contest on most creative way to spend a million dollars to promote product<grin>
  • PR blitz and Blogger relations and outreach for product testing 5k per month
  • Product reviews and recommendation engines submittal and management 1k/month
  • Celebrity endorsement and spokesperson and sponsors (optional)
  • YouTube video contest on the many ways to use the product with associated landing page 3 month duration. 20k development and management
  • I-phone app 20k

So as you can see I went the route of “let’s approach as many channels as we can and let’s test and then measure them equally.” Most of the channels were essentially a 3 month test. This gives us enough time to evaluate the results, continue it or bag it and move the money and resources towards channels that are performing. The thing to understand with all of these channels is that collectively they all perform the function of branding and marketing on an ongoing basis. So even though we are testing, we are also reaching, we are also penetrating and we are always measuring. Positive movement.

What some might find of interest is that I didn’t throw all of my efforts towards social media, or all of it towards search. I think what some people need to understand is that if my budget was less I would start to really look at the channels that would give me the biggest bang for the buck. Perhaps why social media for example seems so appealing to a lot of people, is that the barrier of entry is relatively low. But what people fail to realize is that the investment in time and labor can be substantial to generate the results that some of the other channels can do.  So yes, I am a social media evangelist and I write and speak about it daily, but that doesn’t mean that you ignore all other forms of digital marketing. It complements and enhances, it doesn’t solve your problems.

I want to thank Adam for throwing this out there. It was fun to actually think about what could be possibly be done with that kind of budget, and even more challenging to keep this post short enough to meet the needs of spending that budget! I could easily have seen this stretching out into quite a detailed document. But nevertheless, I’m honored to have the chance to throw my 2 cents in with some really, really smart people.

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Social Media Monitoring: A Glimpse At the Future

crystalballWarren Sukernek shared this presentation recently and it hit home on a variety of fronts. As we spend time with clients working through social media monitoring, we find more and more examples of how it’s not a precise science.  Sitting side by side with folks who work every day in detailed web analytics who continually look for ways to optimize PPC spend, our social media team has experienced first hand many challenges outlined in Marshall Sponder’s presentation.  Some points that resonated strongly:

  • Sentiment analysis today is too much like Quantum Physics
  • There is a lot of manual work to determine influencer lists
  • Social media monitoring tools are not capable of advanced meme clustering or semantic analysis
  • Clients ask all the time around geo-location – the science to identify local influencers and posts is crucial to many businesses and these tools aren’t anywhere near perfect
  • Great to see Ken Burbary‘s Wiki of Social Media Monitoring Solutions getting some props

As for predicting the future? Integration to CRM and web analytics, factoring in new technologies like Google Sidewiki, and evolution to standard business intelligence practices.  Keyword tools will help down the road too – curious if the same that help with PPC and SEO optimization will apply here.  This is a practical, thoughtful guide on where social media monitoring has room to mature.  For now, my experience is showing that labor (smart, social media savvy, analytical folks) is making up the difference, but it’s challenging to “read the tea leaves.”  What is your experience?

Photo credit: seanmcgrath via Flickr

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