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.”



If you are not winning over 60% of New Business Pitches – be prepared to change your approach, your team, you or all of the above!

June 1, 2010

According to the findings of the recent  Mirren/IMI Survey Report… It’s systemic! Either your company/self are excellent –good –or poor … If you don’t close 60% of new pitches or more change your approach, your team, your content, yourself! Every agency should have a minimum goal of 10+ key pitches per year with a 60%+ close rate.  (Source: 2010 Mirren Client/Agency Relationship Study)

 Survey results showed that the top 10% of agencies close 6 times as many new business pitches as compared to bottom 10%. Winning pitches range from 84%for the top 10% down to 16% for the bottom 10% with the average win rate being 43%.

What’s important to note is that performance is based on providing client solutions, experience and relationships that work , while number of pitches, types of pitches, investment in pitches, location of pitches HAS NO IMPACT.

 It is not about YOU -it is about your ability to deliver client solutions that meet or exceed their objectives.

 In 2010 and beyond Clients are buying solutions (i.e. ideas that work) for their business that are measurable –not awards, reputations, or promises. Lip service, credential pitches and talking about your agency to sell clients on what they need is over and ignored.

 Digital expertise is essential –but combining traditional/ non-traditional expertise to drive client solutions will drive your success.

 Be solution focused and media neutral –don’t just say it, do it!

 The move to digital has and will continue to happen, but caution, some of you are moving TOO FAST. According to the findings, clients don’t want you to dismiss traditional media/tactics/executions. Clients believe digital to be part of the strategy and not the total solution.

 Knowledge and expertise that demonstrates how, when and where to use social and mobile media’s is essential. Clients are looking for agencies that KNOW vs. agencies that GUESS.

 In addition, agencies that invest their own R&D $$$ on understanding, educating and providing thought leadership in digital/mobile/social medias, will leap frog other agencies. Those agencies expecting to cut their „digital teeth‟ on client’s budgets are destined to client churn and disappointment.

 

 

 


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.


Six Agency Search Questions Clients Ask…How You Answer Will Determine Your Success!

February 25, 2010

These six questions consistently come up in most agency search RFI’s. Your answers to them play a critical role in the decision as to whether you move forward in the process or are eliminated at this early stage. Take the time now to develop considered points of view rather than a rushed “in the moment” response.

 

What are the exclusive or unique services and capabilities that give your agency a competitive advantage in the marketplace?

 While the actual wording may differ, the question is almost always included in most agency RFI’s. Clients want to know exactly what it is that makes your agency different. What value does your agency bring to the relationship and how will what you offer help them compete more effectively and win. It’s not about a laundry list of capabilities – as every agency claims to have every capability. My suggestion is that you take the time to ask yourselves not only what you do well, but also what it is about what you do that makes you measurably better than the competition. Remember that you cannot be all things to everyone.

Describe the top three trends in the industry as you see it and how is your agency leading and reacting to these trends?

 Clients want to know that the agency they select is a leader and not a follower. They want to make sure that it is at least constantly keeping abreast of current trends if not predicting what the next one will be. In addition, clients are interested in knowing how you are leveraging them to give your clients competitive advantage. Depending on the RFP and your type of agency, the question can vary from broader consumer trends to specific category or vertical developments. 

Why do you provide better thought leadership than your competitors? 

This is just another question aimed at helping the client determine whether your agency is a leader or a follower. This question probes areas like strategic thinking, use of technology, innovative media and communications planning and data analytics etc. Once again they are trying determine what your value proposition is and how do you keep current.

How do you help your clients manage their brand and the total consumer experience in the digital space?

The buzz surrounding brand and customer experience continues to grow exponentially. Lead by Forrester Research, there has recently been a plethora of articles on “customer engagement agencies”. In fact, Forrester was even planning to publish a wave focused on  “customer engagement agencies” in the first quarter of 2010, however I am led to believe that this has been put on hold due to a lack of agencies who meet the basic selection criteria. You can be certain that this question is going to become ubiquitous in the near future so I would suggest that your agency develops not only a point of view, but also a track record of delivering it on behalf of your clients.

How have you used social media to generate business results? How did you measure ROI?

I would be very surprised if your agency has not already had this question thrown at you. Currently this seems to be the question that is on the tip of every clients tongue. It’s probably one of the most difficult questions to answer. I am certain that there are more agencies than not who cannot truly answer this question based on their own experience. I recommend that if you fall into this category that you at least develop a POV and approach that you can share. This will demonstrate to the client that you have given it serious thought and have a strategic approach to answering the million-dollar question.

Explain how you test, measure and optimize results for your clients?

This question is top of mind for most if not every client out there. There has never been in the history of marketing and advertising, a stronger focus on effectiveness, tracking, measurement and ultimately results. ROI is the subject d’ jour with many clients even asking agencies for some type of guarantee or at minimum shared risk participation. Some of the larger companies have moved all of their agency compensation models to a pay for performance model. Take the time to document your philosophy, approach, process, tools and tracking capabilities.


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.