Tag Archives: Marketing

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 Content Convergence Dilemma: Where’s the Content Department?

By now most companies have figured out that good content is critical in a digital presence.  That content can take many forms – user-generated, interactive, structured (data), marketing, conversational, and others.  What I’ve seen in the last month is that most companies still struggle internally with content ownership – who owns the generation?  Who owns the publishing?  Who owns the maintenance?  Someone please tell me, where is the Content Department?

Legacy organizational functions are aligned around different types of content, but they converge on the end customer.  Marketing organizations are historically built around generation of “finished” content.  This includes web pages, banners, ads, emails and in some cases video.  PR organizations can be built are “unfinished” content, including press releases and snippets prepared to help media organizations generate their own finished content.  Conversational content is managed across many organizations who touch social media functions – PR, marketing and customer service, for example.

There are two major challenges I’ve seen for companies struggling with the ownership of content: Integration of content creation efforts across departmental functions in a truly collaborative way, and the ‘B’ word: Budget.

Integration requires each department to be candid about their objectives (example: blogger outreach vs. strategic messaging) and to be willing to give and take around a content plan and calendar.  If product marketing teams operate independently, they won’t have the benefit of getting the most out of content and to the customer they may appear disjointed or out of sync.

The budget question comes down to the fact that content generation requires funding – manpower, skills, assets.  I’ve seen clients put all the funding for that in marketing, and others in PR.  The latest version is a suggestion at a client to pool resources to have a joint ‘fund’ for content (in this case video), so that each video produced can serve the purposes and goals for both marketing and PR at the same time and each has a vested interest in allocating resources.

How has your company solved the budget and integration challenges?  How do you hire for content creation roles?  I’d love to hear success and lessons learned stories.

photo credit: atrogu via Flickr

Social Media Success is About The Customers, Stupid

How do you define success with leveraging social media?  With each passing conference and industry event, the perennial mainstays of social media case studies tend to remain the same:  Dell, Comcast, Southwest Airlines, Starbucks.  All deservedly so, mind you – each of these companies embraced personalized approaches to engaging customers and building long term relationships.  “Yadda yadda yadda,” you say.  They all in many ways were first to market, which in an industry like marketing tends to benefit those who create the buzz first.

Being first to market doesn’t guarantee success, nor is it a requirement to gain success.  Despite the maturity of social media practices, I still see lots of companies (some of them clients) still either waiting to get in the game or are in it with a heavy dose of skepticism.  Often times this is because they think of success as whether their story gets placed in AdAge or is mentioned by a pundit at a conference.  It occurred to me that companies who think this way are missing the golden opportunity to focus on their customers first.  Here are some simple thoughts on defining success that may help illustrate the point.  What would you add to this list?

Social Media Success is NOT:
…getting a celebrity to retweet a post
…having more positive than negative sentiment from a social media monitoring tool
…having more “likes” than your competitors
…launching a corporate blog
…getting coverage at PR and marketing conferences

Social Media Success IS:
…seeing a customer come to the defense of the brand in a discussion on your company’s Facebook page
…seeing the sentiment from a social media monitoring tool improve over time
…watching customers share and comment on really valuable and relevant content your team created
…hearing a customer or business partner mention a recent blog post helped influence their decision
…getting coverage at PR and marketing conferences because of business results achieved

Success is about building relationships that “move the needle” with customers – smart marketers understand the needs, attitudes and behaviors of their customers and prospects better than anyone. Leverage that insight to build long term relationships with customers (whether first to market with the tactic or not) and success will follow.

Photo credit: cayusa via flickr

Micromarketing: Relationship Marketing Through Advocacy

When I got the email asking me to contribute a review (for Chapter 7) of Greg Verdino‘s new book, at first I didn’t think it would be a fit.  I haven’t done book reviews here before, let alone since elementary school.  The first notion that came to mind frankly was breaking out a shoebox, some construction paper and scissors so I could start building my diorama. Yep, here comes that feeling of dread before a big book report is due – late nights, criticism from parents who would do it differently, sizing up my project to those built by friends.  And then I started reading MicroMarketing.  Quickly it became clear that Greg’s outreach team had lined up the right chapter with something I’m passionate about.

First, Some Key Takeaways

When I read a business book I have two simple criteria to decide if it was worth it: 1) Did I learn something new and 2) Is it a book I would want my colleagues to read.  In short, MicroMarketing passed both criteria, with a very heavy emphasis on the latter. Since I have been a social media enthusiast for some time, I have heard about many examples, but I would imagine the typical marketer would learn about a lot of new success stories.   Some key thoughts that struck me while reading the book:

- Greg is very adept at taking social media examples and talking about them in terms that “traditional” marketers will understand.

- The book builds on examples from chapter to chapter, while breaking down what worked well and why it worked… not just spewing example scenarios and statistics.

- The business of social media by its nature has allowed me to meet, virtually at first and in person over time, lots of talented minds.  What also appealed about Greg’s book is that it read just like my Tweetdeck group of smart minds in the biz: Shel Israel, Scott Monty, Steve Garfield, Susan Reynolds, David Armano, Chris Brogan, Stacy Debroff, Katja Presnal, and Shiv Singh all come up in various forms, to name just a few respected folks that caught my eye.

- Throughout, Greg uses many allusions or outright callouts to interactive marketing techniques – SEO, PPC, display advertising, web analytics and measurement concepts, and more.  Marketers need to keep those concepts in mind, since micromarketing doesn’t exists in a bubble.

Chapter 7: From Reach to Relationships

Chapter 7 flips the concepts that traditional marketers are used to; “reach” is no longer the means to drive business results, it’s an outcome.  Developing relationships with a core group of influential customers (or people that fit the profile of customers) is a way to activate “many by resonating with the right few.”  The advocates themselves become what a corporate marketers could never be: willing, authentic, genuine and trusted.

Greg outlines the contrast between mass and interruption-based marketing with several examples of companies that have engaged in deep relationships with a select few.  The letter from a family participating in Panasonic’s “Living in HD” program is liquid gold – it shows a value exchange that went beyong the transaction of enrolling the family in the program.  The letter is an example of the “zen” of advocacy: an evangelist that clearly is introducing new customers to the brand.  I’m guessing that if Panasonic has quantified the lifetime value of a customer, developing evangelists introduced enough new customers to justify the program and then some.

Two other key examples are examined – Walmart’s Elevenmoms program and McDonald’s Moms program.  Each are highly compelling – the former an example of picking highly engaged representatives to forge relationships with, the latter an example of creating a transparent communication channel with “everyday” moms.  These companies are building relationships founded not just on the strengths of ties to people who care, but with an emphasis on continuing to build relationships with people just like them.  The core groups represent meaningful constituencies that ultimately drive brand purchase decisions.

This was the first chapter that started to go deeper on helping marketers start to hone in “how” to do micromarketing.  “Making the shift” to developing communal relationships needs to become a business and marketing objective, achieved through control mutuality, trust, satisfaction and commitment.  How many brands actually have that in their core values?  How many don’t just talk about it, but live it?  This chapter starts to get more at how brands live it.

Some Criticisms

I’d like to see more “how” here – take some of the examples and plot out how the company: developed the concept, devised the plan, achieved C-suite buy-in, developed a program roadmap, recruited the right people, identified internal resources to orchestrate the plan, and measured the crap out of it.

I wouldn’t mind some internal strife along the way – an advocate who said something negative in a Youtube post and how the company responded or failed.  Frankly that’s probably asking Greg and the smart folks at Powered to give away the farm, but as a marketing consultant I found myself looking for more.

Regarding mass interruption vs. deep relationships, I don’t believe it’s an either/or scenario.  There is a middle ground that can compel companies to combine them and ultimately build deeper relationships with many.  As Greg clearly outlines, these corporate examples still have huge media and mass marketing budgets that would make even the largest agencies swoon.

Some examples may have been 100% earned media, but I believe most successful case studies have a combination of paid and earned.  The earned media gives the authenticity and relevant connections, among other things, and the paid media lets more of the right people know about it.  Many are already pointing to Old Spice as a prime example – but the campaign was a Super Bowl ad (does it get any more “paid media” than that?) before it was successful social media content.  If paid and earned media are combined it can be very compelling – companies need to adapt to learn this but don’t throw the paid media baby out with the anti-mass marketing bath water.  Would the Truvia example Greg mentions earlier in the book have been as successful without a $20 million mass campaign that ran first?  I’m not so sure.

Greg discusses a great concept called “microcontent.”  Throughout the book examples are given where content at a small scale had big impact.  I’d add to his commentary on each example that the content was successful because it was awesome (said in both the New England connotation of “brilliant” and any other dictionary definition you like).  Paranormal Activity didn’t succeed solely because it started small – it is legitimately scary and over-delivers on the promise of a horror film.  Susan Boyle over-delivered on talent.  Brands can’t just think small, they need to think awesome – good quality and a customer experience that exceeds expectations are at the root of a winning formula; micromarketing can enable it to resonate with the right people.

My Diorama

Thanks to the Powered team for including me in the review for the book, and thanks to Greg for sharing snippets on Facebook and Twitter throughout the process.  This was quite the opposite of those book reports – the book is worth the read.  Greg gave friends and followers glimpses to the challenging process of writing the book – I have to say, I think that played a role in wanting to read it.  By Jove, I think he just micromarketed to me.  How can I show that in a shoebox?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the evolution of relationship marketing, Greg’s book, his approach to solicit microcontent chapter reviews in the comments, and thanks for reading.

More Chapter By Chapter microMarketing Reviews

Chapter 1/9-20: Aaron Strout

Chapter 2/ 9-21: Lucretia Pruitt, Mitch Joel

Chapter 3/ 9-22: Jason Falls, Toby Bloomberg

Chapter 4/ 9-23: Kayta Andresen, Murray Newlands

Chapter 5/ 9-24: Amber Nashlund, Marc Meyer, Chris Abraham

Chapter 6/ 9-27: Ari Herzog

Chapter 7/ 9-28: Danny Brown, Jay Baer, Becky Carroll

Chapter 8/ 9-29: C.C. Chapman, Elmer Boutin

Chapter 9/ 9-30: John Moor, David Armano, Beth Harte, Justin Levy

Disclosure: Powered and my agency, Rosetta, are good pals and evolving business partners, and I was sent a copy of the book.  (I would have gladly bought one.)

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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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