From Personalization To Collaboration…The Key To Connecting With Customers

July 7, 2010

Today’s marketers live in an age of volatility and transition. Instantaneous transactions, multiple touch points, and the merging of offline with online have combined with a multitude of media outlets (including social media) to create ever-savvier audiences that are harder to find and keep. (Source: Business Week survey Sept. 2009)

For those of us who have been involved with direct marketing for more years than we care to remember, the “Holy Grail” was always the goal of personalization. That meant everything from testing closed face envelopes to highly targeted copy/content aimed at establishing relevance and attracting the interest of our consumer or customer.

Amidst this fast moving environment powered by technology, today’s marketer enjoys a rich menu of options for reaching the customer. In return the marketer receives a vast amount of data from which they need to be able to capture the meaning, implication, and importance of that data. Personalization alone is no longer sufficient. Today there are two other concepts that are even more critical to achieving success.

I came across a Business Week survey from September 2009 titled “From Collaboration to Personalization”. Hence the inspiration for my post however, I felt that from my perspective it worked better turning it upside down. The survey outlines three pillars critical to success and I could not agree more. They are: Collaboration, Multichannel Marketing and Personalization.

Collaboration: (Collaboration has both internal and external resonance)

Internally, the opportunity for collaboration exists between marketing teams that transact with all relevant marketing functions stemming from online and offline activity. Without collaboration, marketers may potentially employ both online and offline data and still be unable to serve customers fully. When internal departments and their functions do not exchange customer information, marketers are unable to craft a unified view of individual customers, and thus cannot target them with tailored information, offers, and products.

Externally, collaboration is about the way a marketer coordinates the online and offline customer experiences and data. Many companies today keep what should be “team” functions separated in silos, both internally and externally. Failure to coordinate marketing across silos results in an inability to fully enable multichannel marketing, which in turn prevents an effective personalization strategy. 

Multichannel Marketing:

Multichannel marketing is the act of bringing together online and offline data and functions. By weaving together the functions and consolidating information gleaned from combining multiple marketing activities, marketers can set in motion the actions that lead to full personalization. Only when multichannel marketing is employed will a company be able to personalize and target customers.

Personalization:

Personalization is rooted in the concept that the “customer is king,” and utilizes multichannel data to target customers with products and services specific to them based on their behavior. It requires a 360-degree view of a customer’s behavior so as to provide the most complete marketer-to-customer experience. The full concept depends on an integrated approach (collaboration), which in turn depends on multichannel marketing, without which personalization cannot be attained, and all of which depend on employing the most innovative technology available.

The survey asked Marketers, “Which statement best describes marketing accountability as it relates to activities in 2010?

46% of respondents said that it was about effectiveness.

41% said it was about optimization.

39% said it was about communications strategy.

Despite this apparent focus on effectiveness, optimization and communications strategy, at present only 58% of marketers’ report that they use technology to measure and compare all channels’ performance in one view. To my mind, this appears to be a very rich new business opportunity for agencies that can truly provide a unified approach, supported by all the necessary tools, capabilities and knowledge!


Gatorade Puts Social Media At The Center Of Marketing

June 21, 2010

 

The company recently created the Gatorade Mission Control Center inside of its Chicago headquarters, a room that sits in the middle of the marketing department and could best be thought of as a war room for monitoring the brand in real-time across social media. (Source: Mashable.com)

 According to a recent blog post on Mashable.com this iconic mass marketer is taking social media marketing very seriously.  The goal of this project, says Carla Hassan, is to “take the largest sports brand in the world and turn it into largest participatory brand in the world.” To that end, the company’s not only monitoring its brand on social media, but giving its fans increased access to its athletes and scientists.

 In the realm of marketing, Gatorade is probably best known for splashy commercials featuring some of the world’s most famous athletes. However, a new effort behind the scenes of the sports drink maker is putting social media quite literally at the center of the way Gatorade approaches marketing. 

The company recently created the Gatorade Mission Control Center inside of its Chicago headquarters, a room that sits in the middle of the marketing department and could best be thought of as a war room for monitoring the brand in real-time across social media.

The room features six big monitors with five seats for Gatorade’s marketing team to track a number of data visualizations and dashboards (also available on to employees on their desktops). The company custom built this capability with partners that included Radian6 and IBM. Below are a few of the visualizations that Mashable.com featured in their blog post:

 This monitor is a visualization of tweets that are relevant to Gatorade; the company is tracking terms relating to its brand, including competitors, as well as its athletes and sports nutrition-related topics.

 This monitor measures blog conversations across a variety of topics and shows how hot those conversations are across the blogosphere. The company also runs detailed sentiment analysis around key topics and product and campaign launches.

Mission Control in Action 

While this certainly looks impressive visually, it’s also actually being used on a day-to-day basis, to lead product and marketing changes at the company that might not have happened without it.

Gatorade’s Sr. Marketing Director, Consumer & Shopper Engagement Carla Hassan offered a few examples, starting with the company’s monitoring of its “Gatorade has evolved” campaign. The commercials featured a song by rap artist David Banner, which, Mission Control quickly saw was being heavily discussed in social media. Within 24 hours, they had worked with Banner to put out a full-length version of the song and distribute it to Gatorade followers and fans on Twitter and Facebook, respectively.

On a day-to-day basis, the facility is also being used for more conventional marketing tactics like optimizing landing pages and making sure followers are being sent to the top performing pages. As an example, the company says it’s been able to increase engagement with its product education (mostly video) by 250% and reduce its exit rate from 25% to 9%.

What’s interesting to note is that this innovative approach to social media marketing is not being led by an agency, but more surprisingly by a large traditional mass media marketer. Is this just another missed leadership opportunity for the agency world? Given the significant up-front commitment required in terms of technology and people resources, would this not have been an ideal opportunity from a multi-client agency perspective?

Social media is no longer just a stand-alone communications channel that can exist and be managed in a silo environment. It underpins the way we all communicate with each other and with brands and the companies that own them. Marketers that understand this and embrace it the way Gatorade has will be able to maintain considerable competitive advantage. In fact to put it in their own words…“take the largest sports brand in the world and turn it into largest participatory brand in the world.”



Mobile Marketing ROI… The Key To Incremental New Business Success

May 18, 2010

25% of clients surveyed intend to spend between 15% and 30% of their total marketing budgets on mobile marketing. However, agencies are going to have to demonstrate a quantifiable ROI in order toget their share of the money! (Source: R2i survey, Jan 28, 2010)

When asked what the most critical area of improvement was in mobile, 43% of respondents listed quantifying ROI as their top response. Respondents said the main goals of their current mobile campaigns were raising company awareness and generating leads. To that end, marketers were most likely to measure their success by an increase in customers or sales.

Not surprisingly, more than 50% of respondents were focused on mobile Website development, while 40% used apps for their campaigns. (With iPhone and BlackBerry being considered the most important platform for mobile development).

To date, most mobile campaigns have been developed in silos as standalone initiatives. Creative assets from other channels are often just repurposed to make it appear integrated, even though in reality it is actually nothing more than a tactic. The results of this approach are confirmed in the survey findings.

Mobile actually has an amazing capability of being not only a very effective channel in its own right, but properly integrated into a campaign it has the ability to provide a bridge between digital and traditional media. Increasing the effectiveness of both as well as delivering results within the mobile channel itself.

There is an incredible new business opportunity out there for those agencies that truly understand the role of mobile and the technology platforms and applications available. Integrate mobile into your thinking and your solutions. Explain its role and its unique ability to bridge the other media to make them all more effective. Above all, quantify its individual effectiveness and its ability to generate immediate results.

You will answer a lot of open client questions, differentiate your agency from the competition and win more new business opportunities. I believe that you will find this to be easier and more effective than you might think.


The Future Of The Online Customer Experience…Is Your Agency A Capable Partner?

May 4, 2010

 

To prepare for the future, customer experience professionals should develop multichannel personas, include social media behaviors in ethnographic research, prepare atomized content, establish an environment for testing new experiences, and seek out highly skilled interaction designers” Source: Forrester Research.

 Back in January of this year I read an article from Forrester authored by Moira Dorsey titled “The Future Of Online Customer Experience“ and it has remained top of my mind ever since. As I look at the plethora of agencies out there who all claim to be highly proficient at developing websites (and the associated customer experience), and contrast that with my actual experiences across a broad range of sites, I start to see a huge disconnect – especially when judged by the parameters described in the article!

 In her executive summary, the author gives out the following advice to marketers:

 “To prepare for the future, customer experience professionals should develop multichannel personas, include social media behaviors in ethnographic research, prepare atomized content, establish an environment for testing new experiences, and seek out highly skilled interaction designers.”

 I am not certain about your particular agency, however, I do not know of many who could deliver on the tenants listed above. What’s even more alarming is that many seem to be unaware that they need them in order to create highly engaging online customer experiences.

 After all, it’s not that hard to design a website and the optimum online experience, is it? The reality is that it’s no longer as simple as you might think:

 Information providers ranging from large companies to prolific individuals continue to flood the Internet with a tsunami of online information targeted at increasingly wired consumers. Proliferating Web sites vie for attention and in the last three years, the number of active sites has almost doubled. Literally tens of millions of additional sites divide consumer attention, making it less likely that any one site can both attract and retain mind share. So, what can we do to break through all this clutter?

 According to Forrester, there are four attributes that will define the next phase of online experiences

  • Customized by the end user. Consumers will not only control what they get online, they’ll control the form that they receive it in to a much greater degree than they do today.
  • Aggregated at the point of use. Content, function, and data will be pulled from different sources and combined at a common destination to create a unique experience.
  • Relevant to the moment. This customized, aggregated content will appear on the device that’s best suited to the customer’s context at a given point in time.
  • Social as a rule, not an exception. Social content will be integrated into most online experiences, not segregated into today’s blogs, micro blogs, and wikis.

 The article goes on to conclude that:

 Firms with poor online experiences today will fall further behind their competitors. People prefer rich online experiences — and their interest in new technologies indicates that they will love CARS experiences even more. That means the days of online experiences dominated by the page-and-PC-based paradigm are rapidly nearing their end. But even as online interaction capabilities grow, so too will the complexity of designing those experiences and the number of opportunities for mistakes that will frustrate customers. As a result, the gap between great and poor online experiences will become even more dramatic, and online customer experience leaders will gain even more of an edge over the competition. 

 Multi-touch-point evaluation and analytics will become must-haves. Measuring customer experience across multiple channels is still a major challenge for most firms. But consumers will increasingly use multiple apps, devices, and sites to complete a single goal — online and in conjunction with other channels. In response, customer experience professionals will create centralized groups to coordinate metrics and a common framework for measurement. And to make data integration manageable, they will focus on one channel pair at a time.

 I believe that for most agencies (even those digital icons within our industry) that this is a wakeup call and at very least food for thought. With the right approach, this could be an incredible opportunity for the agency world to regain that long lost position on top of the client value pyramid.


Does Your Agency Have An Effective “Elevator Speech”?

March 23, 2010

Most agencies do not have a succinct “Elevator Speech” that effectively communicates both what they do and their unique value proposition. In fact, if you asked ten different people within the same agency, you are likely to get ten different answers! So how can we expect prospective clients to understand clearly who and what we are?

 

If you do not believe me, I challenge you to take a walk around your agency tomorrow and ask ten different staff members to explain in a simple statement what it is you do and what your value proposition is. I have done this recently on several different occasions and the result has been consistent. Complete inconsistency!

What has been consistent is the gratuitous use of super superlatives that just add to the noise and clutter and make our industry seem naive and commoditized. Common place are words and phrases like:

  • Full service integrated agency
  • Proprietary planning methodology/tool
  • Highly insightful creative
  • Award winning creative agency
  • Channel agnostic
  • Outside of the box thinkers
  • The industry’s leading….
  • Widely known throughout the industry for our…
  • Nationally recognized experts in …

The bottom line is that clients have heard all of these claims before many times. They also tell me that in their experience, no agency to date has ever delivered against their claims and the therefore their BS Meters are tuned way up. I recently heard a well known Search Consultant describe the situation as “Embarrassing”!

My advice is before you do any more new business prospecting that you sit down with your team and take a deep and considered look at how you position your agency. Try not to “drink the cool aid” as you do so. Be honest and ask yourselves the hard questions, such as:

  • What do we as agency really do well?
  • What is it about the way we do it that helps us do it well?
  • Is there anything unique about what or how we do it and what’s our value proposition from a client perspective? Why us and not any one of the 5000 other agencies out there claiming to do the same thing?
  • What proof do we have to support our claims versus just rhetoric?
  • What are the characteristics of our ideal target client? ( Partner vs. vendor etc)
  • What categories are we relevant to? (Not which do we aspire to)

These are just a few of the questions that every agency should answer in order to be successful at differentiating itself from the competition and winning new business. Every day I continue to be amazed at how many agencies out there have not taken the time to do so.


Successful Agencies Don’t Just Excel In One Particular Channel

March 15, 2010

According to Forrester Research…“There will be a reduction in the role of channel specialists. As marketers seek interactivity, agencies that subsist will forgo their role as channel specialists and dedicate themselves instead to determining how to change the relationship marketers have with their end customers”.    Source: Shar Van Boskirk, Forrester Research, Jan 12, 2010

 

Today’s successful marketers have realized that it isn’t good enough just to excel in one particular channel. Multichannel marketing companies absolutely need to spend as much time on their “old” channels as they do with their “new” ones. The biggest problem these marketers face, is finding agency partners that think the same way.

While the entire buzz right now is centered on subjects like making iPhone apps, Twitter strategies, Facebook and search marketing, the reality is, if the rest of your channel marketing sucks, then an iPhone app isn’t going to make a big difference. Likewise, if your in-store (or branch) experience is disappointing, that won’t make up for a lackluster online experience. The key to success is to spend some quality time looking not only at each of the channels individually, but more importantly, at how they intersect with each other to deliver the overall brand experience.

To help understand the philosophy, I would like to share a quote from Jack Aaronson from ClickZ.

“I’ll use a folklore tale of an architect. According to the story, an architect was hired to design a college campus. He put up the buildings but created no sidewalks. When the head of the school asked him where the sidewalks were, he replied, “The students will create the sidewalks.” Sure enough, a year later the architect visited the school and built paved sidewalks where the students had created well-worn paths in the grass”.

This implies a truly customer-centric (needs-based) design approach and we can all learn from this story as we create a methodology for modeling multichannel behavior. You’re most likely aware of how consumers act within a specific channel. You may know how to create the best brick-and-mortar experience, catalog, Web site, kiosk, call center, sales office, Web 2.0 widget, and the like. In the story of the architect, these channels are the buildings. They run fairly well on their own. But how do users move between them? What paths do they create? And, most important, how can we analyze the paths’ success and value?

The first step is to understand the paths people are taking between your buildings and why. Once you create the sidewalks that let them do this easily, everything else will follow suit. The technology exists to track these sidewalks, attribute value to them, and credit the channels appropriately.

Agencies that truly understand this philosophy and embrace it will become leaders at delivering the consummate “Customer Engagement Experience” and assume their rightful place at the head of the client’s agency roster.


Forrester Survey Highlights Clients’ Lack Of Confidence in Both Traditional And Digital Agencies Alike!

February 9, 2010

Forrester Research conducted a “state of interactive agencies” survey of about 100 global interactive marketers. It found just 23 percent believed their “traditional brand agency” is capable of planning and managing interactive marketing activities.

While that would appear to be good news for digital agencies, particularly as digital continues to enjoy increased allocations in most marketing budgets. The Forrester survey however, found few clients are willing to give them responsibility for the brand’s overall direction. Just 22 percent agreed that their interactive agency is “ready to lead my brand.” Another 33 percent said their digital shops aren’t ready, with the rest neutral.

The result is what Forrester calls “the great race” as traditional shops scramble to add digital know-how and digital shops seek to move up the ladder to become brand stewards, rather than Web site and banner ad specialists.

The survey found that in an ideal world, clients would like to work with a single agency with 60 percent saying that they would like one digital shop.  When you look deeper into the survey data it would appear that even within digital, only one in five respondents currently rely on a single provider. Almost 60 percent of respondents currently have two or more.

For every digital agency that manages to secure brand lead responsibilities, there are just as many traditional agencies making inroads into the digital world.  Add to this the increasing number of emerging media specialists (mobile and social media) that appear on a daily basis and you have the digital equivalent of the Wild West.

No matter whether you are a traditional or digital shop, there is no doubt that you have your work cut out for you.

From a digital perspective your agency might be well served… Investing your time and money keeping abreast of new technologies and emerging media versus chasing those elusive brand responsibilities.

From a traditional perspective, your agency might be well served… Protecting your current turf and client relationships, while at the same time expanding your creative and strategic capabilities to include people like Idea Architects and Idea Engineers. Then partner with digital specialists to develop and execute truly integrated marketing campaigns.