Tag Archives: Marketing and Advertising

Professional Services at the Digital Crossroads

crossroadsI’ve been watching lots of professional services firms evolve to take on the world of digital.  PR agencies are embracing the evolution of communication to online, unstructured and real-time content.  Marketers are embracing the troves of data available and looking at how to craft effective campaigns, content and platforms to reach audiences in new ways.  Ad agencies are extending “big ideas” to be rooted in shareable social platforms.  Even the big consulting firms are finding their way into the digital strategy arena.

These are exciting times for anyone in the advertising, marketing and communications space.  Career opportunities abound, and CMOs of companies in all industries are looking at their agency rosters differently.  Agencies need to “bring it” with compelling, integrated ideas.  In some ways it doesn’t matter if the agency was born from PR, marketing, digital, or advertising.  What matters most is the combination of the ability to understand a client’s business, the ability to generate stellar ideas based on true insights, and the ability to deliver on those ideas.

I am in the midst of a related career transition and will be sharing more details in the near future.  I’m excited to be sharing and collaborating more with peers who understand this space.  I’m excited to be writing again and getting this blog back in gear, hearing from you about what excites you most in the world of digital.  What I am most excited about is the continued opportunity to work with smart colleagues and great brands in a digital landscape.  Describing it as “fun times” would be an understatement.

image credit: PedjaP via flickr

The Digital Five Tool Player

As the convergence of different marketing tactics takes root in agencies, vendors and marketing departments of companies of all sizes, I’ve started to think about what it takes to ultimately be a “five tool player” in the digital space.  Ed Boches wrote a great post yesterday about labels in creative and digital – and that got me thinking it was time to document these thoughts.  What did I miss?

1. Creativity and Appreciation for Technology

Being able to come up with creative concepts is important for anyone in the marketing business, but taking it to a new level with an appreciation for technology is what is going to make or break success with regard to digital.  I’ll be calling out some other technologies separately below, but understanding and being able to leverage tools available is critical to delivering impact.  One of my favorite examples of this application is the Converse Domaination effort (it’s worth the watch, go ahead, I’ll wait).

2. Understanding the Community

I contemplated using “customer,” “audience,” and even “constituents” here, but community seems to broadly cover business partners, customers, and prospects.  Understanding the needs, attitudes and behaviors of the community a digital player is trying to reach or interact with is a fundamental key to being relevant.  It’s more than just market research, it’s the practical application of it.

3. Understanding of Conversational Technology

Social media is providing new tools, technologies and techniques to identify, engage and activate.   Digital players today need to understand the etiquette, ins and outs of how these tools work and how people use them.  A most recent example for me is a conversation with a copywriter trying to craft the “voice of the brand.”  If that voice isn’t conversational, and they haven’t considered how to be so, an extension of any initiative into social media will be very challenging.  One person who has spent plenty of time studying behaviors and what makes social initiatives work is Dan Zarrella – worth subscribing to.

4. SEO

Another critical area of technology focus is search engine optimization.  A few years ago SEO as an industry was on par with voodoo, but today it’s both art and science to understand how people search online and how to best position digital assets to be found.  Without an appreciation for SEO, a digital player will have a harder time delivering the goods to the community who is searching for it.  One of the best speakers and evangelists in SEO is Lee Odden, always looking to understand and push the digital marketing industry along in this space.

5. Business Acumen

Those who have worked with me before know this is a space near and dear to me.  Perhaps it’s obvious, but to be successful in digital a player needs to understand marketing, the relevant industry (regulated industries have very different expectations and limitations), and how to work with people.  They need to be good team players and good leaders, especially in pushing through ideas that are new.  Honoring commitments, adjusting approach to who you are working with (C-level vs. junior resources), ability to multi-task are just some things I look for in a team player – regardless of digital background.

What other qualities make the most well-rounded digital athlete?  Does this apply to all areas of interactive marketing?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.  And if you’re a Digital Five Tool player yourself, I know an agency who would love to hear from you ;)

Photo credit: StarrGazr via Flickr

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Making the Leap: Why Companies Struggle with Social Media

How many people at your company are trained, equipped and empowered to talk to customers?  If your organization is large, chances are the percentage of customer-facing people is smaller.  How many customers does your company have?  How about potential customers?  No doubt the numbers stack up in a heavy ratio against people inside the company that are trained to engage them.  Traditional advertising and marketing provides a cushion, putting out messaging to the large customer population to influence their purchase behavior.  It didn’t require making a leap to engage customers in conversation or to deeply understand how they make a purchase decision.  The approach was always one-sided, and the feedback loop could be carefully and slowly measured with focus groups and research.  Social media provides opportunities for two-way and multi-way conversation, which requires discipline, research, scale and transparency.  Simply put, one way is easier, two-way (and multi-way) is hard.

An Analogy

When I was a freshman in college, a couple friends and I drove to a local quarry that had been shut down.  The quarry was flooded and it provided a great location for cliff-diving.  Was it safe? Probably not, but it was fun.  Deciding to take that last step to a more than fifty foot drop was a daunting task, but the sense of personal accomplishment and fun was rewarding afterwards.  The general sense was, “that wasn’t so bad” and “exhilarating” at the same time.

Three Industry Examples

Making the leap to engage customers through leveraging social media tools can be a similar experience to leaping off that cliff.  (Well, the decision to leap anyway – the benefits can be much more reqarding.)  I’ve worked with clients in different industries, and they all viewed that leap in different ways.  The retailer already tried the leap – they started with the prototypical Facebook page, a couple of Twitter accounts, some user generated content contests.  But they didn’t start with understanding customer preferences, needs, attitudes and behaviors, and they also didn’t use any social media monitoring.  To me that’s like making the leap without knowing how high the cliff is or how deep the water is.  The good news: no one got hurt so far and now they can be more strategic in their approach.

The financial services and banking client is conservative and hugely risk averse.  Regulatory concerns abound.  A strategy was developed and plans were made, but the company wasn’t aligned as an organization on when and how to jump in.  They’ve spent several months examining, evaluating, listening, watching competitors but not yet making that leap to converse and engage.  They have a great brand promise around community and customer service, and when they do make the leap they will be unbelievably prepared.  What’s holding them back? Scale, empowerment, fear of the unknown and fear of failure.  When they do start it will be methodical, and they will see the benefits, but their journey to the leap needs to be vetted as a company first.

The third is a consumer goods company.  They have an “old school” brand that has been around for ages, and have deep roots in the traditional marketing days where the advertising industry boomed.  Their leap decision is more about changing their ways, bringing the consumer to be the focus rather than just the product, and moving away from “broadcasting” on more channels to “engaging.”  Making the leap was inevitable, but they needed to change their mindset in order to understand customers better, why they make a brand purchase decision and how they can participate in conversation without outright selling.

Let’s Hear From You

Every company is different – the culture, the brand promise, the beliefs, the success, the level of focus on consumer insights, and the ability to apply tools and technologies that are new to mutually benefit company and client.  Why do you think companies struggle with social media?  For companies that are succeeding, what do you think got them there – what it brand affinity they could tap into or did they have to work harder to create engagement?

Photo credit: clickflashphotos via Flickr

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On Beyond Snake Oil

Say all you want about people who make a living off of consulting in social media – like any industry where there is buzz, there will be snake oil salesmen who are trying to take advantage of the trend.  A Google search on “social media snake oil” returns over 187,000 results.  There are great posts about how you should beware the snake oil salesman right along side excellent posts defending the folks who are legitimate and hard working on behalf of their clients in the business.  While there will never be a shortage of folks trying to take advantage, it’s time that companies treat finding a partner to help in social media like they would with any other partnership.

Thanks to iMediaConnection.com for publishing my first article submission there this week, called 7 Tips for Choosing a Social Media Provider.  As the services industry changes in this space, evolving models of co-opetition will come and go and analysts will attempt to capture the changes going on in social media services.  What’s clear to me though, is that companies need to evaluate the following when making a decision on how and where to get help to infuse social media into their marketing or other business tactics:

  1. Industry experience of the provider
  2. Your company’s current agency ecosystem
  3. Internal resource support and sponsorship
  4. Social media integration
  5. Social media maturity of the company
  6. Business results achieved by the provider
  7. Provider’s partnership ecosystem

These factors provide a much broader view on how companies need to evolve their thinking to selecting a business partner in this space.  What did I miss?  For more thoughts on what each one means, please see the post on iMedia and let me know what you think here in the comments.

Photo credit: caseymfox via Flickr, with apologies to Dr. Seuss

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Social Media Chat Tuesday, July 21st

There are regular chats on Twitter, and then there’s hashtagsocialmedia.comMarc Meyer and Jason Breed have done an amazing job over the last year plus bringing in some highly respected and social-media-knowledgeable folks like Chris Brogan, Amber Naslund, Beth Harte and Jason Falls.  If I name dropped them all, it would actually like correlate to a good portion of my RSS feeds, and the weekly chat is a way to interact and answer some questions real-time.

Much to their dismay, Marc and Jason have invited me to host the tweetchat this week.  I’m honored to be included among company like this, and from participating in prior sessions I’m looking forward to hearing from some passionate folks.  You can follow along with the hashtag #SM69 (for the 69th time they have had this weekly discussion).  I’d love to hear from you since it’s your participation that matters.  You can also find me on Twitter before during and after.

My topic for this week is “Social media AND…“  If you have been a subscriber here you know that I look at social media tactics as informed strategies leveraging deeper understanding of a brand’s most valuable customers and prospects – truly integrated into other forms of marketing.  When combining social media with other interactive marketing practices, the results can magnify both.  In other words, social media integrated with other forms of marketing is greater than the sum of the parts.

Here are the questions we’ll explore:

Q1) How should marketers approach weaving social media tactics into their marketing arsenal?
Q2) Why does blending social media improve the effectiveness of other tactics?
Q3) Which tactics have the most impact when combined with social media? (Think both digital and traditional)

I’ll follow up here with a link to the live event and transcript afterwards.  See you there?

(Thanks to Aaron Strout, Ken Burbary, Rachel Happe and Amber Naslund for providing very valuable advice beforehand for managing chats like this one – Rachel captured her “fast and furious session” which provided some great input on what to manage and expect.)

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Social Media Does Not Exist

The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist. – The Usual Suspects (1995)

I had an interesting discussion recently about Social media strategies.  When discussing inputs to a social media strategy, an admitted “social media skeptic” replied that she thought there shouldn’t be a need for them; rather that social media strategies were really just customer relationship strategies.  Frankly, well put.   MarketingSherpa recently published a study of companies that are integrating social media tactics with offline and online marketing tactics.  I’d like to see the evolution over time and agree with the premise – “The benefits of integrating social media with other marketing tactics far exceed the benefits of utilizing social media alone.”

Effective businesses manage all customer touchpoints – every customer interaction is a chance to impact the experience, whether it’s an ad, a product purchase, a customer service call, talking in the store with an associate, or replying to a post in a social network.  When companies start to realize these synergies, they will be able to achieve a lot more than focusing on pure social media tactics alone.  The customer lifecycle is a journey, and each interaction point can have multiple tactics that make it more compelling (and ultimately provide benefit) to the customer.

The technologies that are available influence traditional marketing tactics already.  In some cases, they magnify each other.  Take these examples:

  • 50% click through rate increase in paid search when consumers were exposed to influenced social media and paid search (comScore & GroupM study).
  • Email marketing approaches need to factor in calls to action in social platforms, like soliciting ratings and reviews for products and services, or asking customers to become fans on Facebook.
  • Attribution of revenue from interactive marketing tactics like paid search, display advertising and landing pages now need to factor social tactics (shared links, social content on site) to understand the impact to analytics and optimization.
  • Location based services like Foursquare and Gowalla are about understanding who is coming to your store offline, and enabling targeted promotions to reward visitors.  (Imagine that, technology that helps bring visitors in the door, and keep them coming back.)

While social media specific strategies can help companies digest and learn the technologies and approaches that build success, they aren’t the end game.  I’d like to see more companies treat social media as if it were an embedded part of building customer relationships, focusing on making the most of all relevant touchpoints they have with customers.  I’ve been spending a lot of time looking at how social technologies are changing and influencing other areas of marketing.  Despite lots of hype and lots of platforms grabbing headlines, I’m convinced that companies who truly embrace social media, by understanding and engaging, are the ones who treat it as if it doesn’t exist.

Don’t just take my word for it – there are others that think the same way.  Think we’ll see the day when “social media” isn’t a separate line item in a marketing plan?

Photo credit: niemster via Flickr

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Brand Fusion: Creative, Search and Media

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking and talking about the fusion of social media into other areas of interactive marketing (especially how it is being done at my agency, Rosetta).  In some recent discussions I came across this example from Converse, fusing creative, video and paid search marketing (PPC).  For anyone who doesn’t have much of an appreciation for paid search, it will blow you away.  For those in the industry and have an appreciation for using paid search to drive branding campaigns, this will still blow you away if you haven’t heard about it yet.  It’s this kind example that truly exemplifies digital marketing as an art form.  To me it’s an amazing blend of insight, creativity and execution.  It’s not truly social – yet – but I think there could be more life to the content simply adding sharing features in the videos and giving people chances to comment.  Either way it’s still brilliant.

What do you think?  Know of any other examples?  Watch and drop your thoughts in the comments. (Feed readers please click through to see the video, which was shared with me by Jason Tabeling).  You can find the official home page of what’s described in the video at at http://www.thisistheindexpage.com (again, smart).

Converse Domaination from Ross Martin on Vimeo.