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10 posts from March 2010

03/30/2010 Really, Connect Everything

We talk a lot about the importance of connecting social media to customer service or to other real people working at a company. But in reading a report out from Paco Underhill's Envirosell it's clear that connecting needs to pertain to more than just social media.

The latest report on holiday shopping in NYC in 2009 showed that 88% of people visiting a store also visited that store's Web site. 75% said going on line helped them shop at the store while 26% said that they'd visit the site to continue shopping after leaving the store!

IStock_000008576040XSmall From a customer perspective, it seems pretty clear that they view the offline store and the online store as pretty much the same thing. The former you have to travel to, meet people and feel the actual goods, the latter you can do from anywhere at anytime on your own. Other than that the difference is fairly minimal.

The scary part is that these two completely different company units usually run these two areas. The challenge for brands is to connect the two of these and to offer similar services at each. On the Web side, we've seen an increase in ways to connect with real people, via chat or click to call. On the retail side, the connections are harder to find (and no, I'm not going to talk about Nordstrom again).

One great way to connect the offline to online is to make sure those front line sales staff feed back the questions they get to the Web team and customer service. That way the site can anticipate those questions.

On the flip side, make sure your site deals with all of those post-purchase questions like returns (even if you didn't buy online) or figures out a way for the sales staff to provide continued value to shoppers through the site or email.

It's pretty clear from Envirosell's report that brands can ignore connecting the online and offline shopping experience at their own peril, since 44% of in store shoppers end up visiting a competitor's Web site.

Connect everything. It's worth breaking through the resistance.
03/29/2010 Who Leads Adaptive Marketing?

Sean Corcoran has an interesting post about the roles various agencies can play in the future of marketing. His thesis is that no type of agency is ready to lead. Both agencies, and their clients, know this. The challenge, according to Corcoran, is that in this social media era where customers have more control due to technology enabling tools, traditional agencies still don't have the weight to lead in technology and interactive agencies don't have the background to lead in branding.

Edward Boches has a great take on why he feels energized by the report (it validates where he's going and more people will read it, since it comes from Forrester).  He also offers some tidbits not included in Sean's blog.


What struck me most was this line from Forrester:

"The reality is marketers should own their social media strategy since it is about creating direct conversations with consumers, with agencies playing a supporting role helping develop strategy, identify influentials, build out communities and infrastructure and help with analytics (to name a few)."

That's a huge shift for many companies. One of the reasons they hire agencies is that they don't have to own their marketing. TV ads and Web site builds are but two examples of how companies outsource large parts of their brand.

Owning the strategy and conversation moves companies back into making marketing a part of the core business, not just something added on. The challenge is how companies will find time for their employees to own that relationship. Hire more? Shift job responsibilities? Once the focus shifts from technologies and outsourcing as the sole solution to employees' time and efforts, then brands face a stark choice, since most have used employee "streamlining" as a way to reduce costs and improve profits.

What Forrester seems to be saying is that if brands don't invest in their own ownership of the conversation in social media then no agency or group of agencies will fill that ownership void for them. It's clear who leads: The brand itself, or no one.
03/23/2010 ReInvent Yourself

I spoke yesterday at the 2nd Annual Reinvent Yourself Conference in Burlington, VT.  This event seeks to help people find new jobs, and the day was filled with talks and discussions from various businesses and career advisors.

I was asked to talk about social media. Rather than focus on how to best use a specific tool, like LinkedIn, I channeled people like Seth Godin and Hugh MacLeod to talk about finding your inner passion and then using social media to express it. It's a different way to go about thinking about a job search, but one that has huge potential.

I think I got some people jazzed up, some people turned off, and some just scratching their heads. In other words, a success!

Here's my presentation:

03/22/2010 Age of Conversation 3

The third installment of The Age of Conversation is set for release in April. This great book series, started and continued by editors Drew McLellan and Gavin Heaton, is an aggregation of chapters by leaders in digital marketing. The latest edition is subtitled "It's Time to Get Busy" as it looks to help people move from thinking about conversation to actually doing it!


As usual, Drew and Gavin have assembled a great group of authors. This time I was lucky enough to be included, marking my print publishing debut. What great company to be in. Stay tuned for more as launch time approaches.

Adam Joseph

Priyanka Sachar

Mark Earls

Cory Coley-Christakos

Stefan Erschwendner

Paul Hebert

Jeff De Cagna

Thomas Clifford

Phil Gerbyshak

Jon Burg

Toby Bloomberg

Shambhu Neil Vineberg

Joseph Jaffe

Uwe Hook

Steve Roesler

Michael E. Rubin

anibal casso

Steve Woodruff

Steve Sponder

Becky Carroll

Tim Tyler

Chris Wilson

Beth Harte

Tinu Abayomi-Paul

Dan Schawbel

Carol Bodensteiner

Trey Pennington

David Weinfeld

Dan Sitter

Vanessa DiMauro

Ed Brenegar

David Zinger

Brett T. T. Macfarlane

Efrain Mendicuti

Deb Brown

Brian Reich

Gaurav Mishra

Dennis Deery

C.B. Whittemore

Gordon Whitehead

Heather Rast

Cam Beck

Hajj E. Flemings

Joan Endicott

Cathryn Hrudicka

Jeroen Verkroost

Karen D. Swim

Christopher Morris

Joe Pulizzi

Leah Otto

Corentin Monot

Karalee Evans

Leigh Durst

David Berkowitz

Kevin Jessop

Lesley Lambert

Duane Brown

Peter Korchnak

Mark Price

Dustin Jacobsen

Piet Wulleman

Mike Maddaloni

Ernie Mosteller

Scott Townsend

Nick Burcher

Frank Stiefler

Steve Olenski

Rich Nadworny

John Rosen

Tim Jackson

Suzanne Hull

Len Kendall

Amber Naslund

Wayne Buckhanan

Mark McGuinness

Caroline Melberg

Andy Drish

Oleksandr Skorokhod

Claire Grinton

Angela Maiers

Paul Williams

Gary Cohen

Armando Alves

Sam Ismail

Gautam Ramdurai

B.J. Smith

Tamera Kremer

Eaon Pritchard

Brendan Tripp

Adelino de Almeida

Jacob Morgan

Casey Hibbard

Andy Hunter

Julian Cole

Debra Helwig

Anjali Ramachandran

Jye Smith

Drew McLellan

Craig Wilson

Karin Hermans

Emily Reed

David Petherick

Katie Harris

Gavin Heaton

Dennis Price

Mark Levy

George Jenkins

Doug Mitchell

Mark W. Schaefer

Helge Tenno

Douglas Hanna

Marshall Sponder

James Stevens

Ian Lurie

Ryan Hanser

Jenny Meade

Jeff Larche

Sacha Tueni and Katherine Maher

David Svet

Jessica Hagy

Simon Payn

Joanne Austin-Olsen

Mark Avnet

Stanley Johnson

Marilyn Pratt

Mark Hancock

Steve Kellogg

Michelle Beckham-Corbin

Michelle Chmielewski

Amy Mengel

Veronique Rabuteau

Peter Komendowski

Andrea Vascellari

Timothy L Johnson

Phil Osborne

Beth Wampler

Amy Jussel

Rick Liebling

Eric Brody

Arun Rajagopal

Dr Letitia Wright

Hugh de Winton

David Koopmans

Aki Spicer

Jeff Wallace

Don Frederiksen

Charles Sipe

Katie McIntyre

James G Lindberg & Sandra Renshaw

David Reich

Lynae Johnson

Jasmin Tragas

Deborah Chaddock Brown

Mike O'Toole

Jeanne Dininni

Iqbal Mohammed

Morriss M. Partee

Katie Chatfield

Jeff Cutler

Pete Jones

Riku Vassinen

Jeff Garrison

Kevin Dugan

Tiphereth Gloria

Mike Sansone

Lori Magno

Valerie Simon

Nettie Hartsock

Mark Goren

Peter Salvitti

03/18/2010 Microsite, Social Media or None of the Above?

It’s prom time and two clothing giants have launched campaigns aimed at building relationships with young women in high school. And selling dresses, of course. But Sears and Macy’s have taken different tradigital approaches to this year’s campaigns.

In the more traditional corner is Sears. They’ve built a microsite, complete with everything from a personal quiz to find the right dress, top 10 tips and a sweepstakes contest. It’s traditional because it builds on a concept of a microsite that’s been around for 5-10 years. The goal is to let people feel that this is more personalized through fun questions and a, somewhat unique, result. Think of it as a search-o-tainment.

The idea, of course, is that you get people spending so much time on the site that they’ll either turn that into commerce or they’ll spread the word for you. I used to love sites like this and I used to try to build as many as I could. Before social media, they were one of the best diversions online.

There are a couple of problems with this model today, though. The first is that you have to drive traffic to the site, and this costs marketing dollars. The dream is that the site will be so fantastic that word of mouth will drive traffic, but that rarely happens.

For the Sears site, it seems that they’ve put the usual suspects in the mix. The question is whether this type of site appeals to their audience. Face it: the personalization tools are pretty tame. The expert advice is somewhat expected. Despite the music, there’s not a lot of energy here, and if I think of high schoolers looking for prom dresses, I think energy. More importantly, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of interesting tidbits to pass on to your friends.

Macy’s takes a different approach, launching its campaign on Facebook instead of building a separate property. The built in advantage here is that Macy’s can spend less on outreach as they have a built in publicity tool in Facebook. The bigger question is (and I’m sure Macy’s is looking at their Facebook Fan stats) whether the younger audience is part of their 370,000+ fans.

When you look at Macy’s Prom page, there doesn’t seem to be a lot to it. Maybe it’s too early to tell. They’re trying to tie the Facebook activity to live events, which I think is smart. The challenge now is that there doesn’t look like there’s any activity there. And who wants to go to an empty party? The same is true with their hashtag #Prom2010 which, as far as I can tell, has one total tweet!

The combination of no pictures, no attendees and no Tweets makes it seem that this promotion launched prematurely. It doesn’t feel very personal either. Integrating marketing pushes in social media, like Coke, Unilever or Victoria’s Secrets does can be successful but you have to have the content to make it worthwhile.

I hope this is all too early to tell and that Macy’s does see some success with the social approach. But it seems that they’re missing some building blocks by connecting with stores, sales people and actual high school kids.

Maybe that’s the trouble with both of these: traditional, tradigital or social media, the campaigns feel very top-down and not so customer focused. In the end, it doesn’t really matter where you are from a marketing perspective. What really matters is that you’re providing value to your customers, hopefully in a way that feels personal.

I’d love to see some results from these campaigns in the months to come. But they both show an old truth: If you build it, they may not come.
03/15/2010 The 3six5 Project: Be Aware this Ides of March

Len Kendall and Daniel Honigman created a great project, the 3six5, where they've invited 365 different people to capture their experience for a day and are putting together a year of personal stories.

Monday, March 15, 2010 was my turn. The Ides of March, and the hundredth entry. You can read my story here. Enjoy.

And make sure to read all of the other great authors who've written and who will write.

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Foursquare, Brands and Location-Based Rewards

Foursquare announced a partnership with Starbucks last week. Starbucks' customers who check in with Foursquare have a chance to win a Barista badge. This comes on the heels of another brand, Tasty D-Lite, who’s rewarding loyal customers who check in with Foursquare with points on their customer cards. Ultimately it might be worth a free ice cream.

TastiDLite1Most everyone agrees that we’ll see more and more brands jumping into location-based marketing. The question they’re all struggling to answer is: What’s in it for the customers?

A Barista badge might be cool, but it’s not that cool. Starbucks is playing around with ideas like invitations to special events or online reputation scores (?). Tasty D-Lite is going a more traditional route with the virtual punch card. I wonder, though, if either of these provides very much value to customers.

If you look at the witch’s brew of Foursquare and Gowalla at SXSW, a good experimental lab, you’ll find that many of the attendees find the value of the location-based tools in letting others know where to find them. The connection is the value. Sure, there are badges, but I don’t see anyone tweeting them. While reward is the people, the location can sometimes takes a back seat.

At home, there’s a slight value to mayorship, but not much. Defending a mayorship can quickly become a burden. Instead, there’s a joy in seeing others in the same spot, or asking them about the notes they leave. But even then, there are bunches of people using Twitter who are not using Foursquare or Gowalla, even though they respond to Foursquare tweets.

I’m not sure virtual clip cards or online reputation awards will work. Instead, brands should use those connections to create even greater connections between its customers, preferably at the place of business. I can think of a few of my favorite Foursquare places where I’d love it if they had a private party for their best Foursquare customers. I’m sure people would kill to get into those.

Location-based marketing feels very cool and we’re just starting to understand what it means. But those brands that can use it to make real human connections, and not just give out flimsy rewards, will provide the most value to customers and earn their loyalty.
03/12/2010 Social Media Policies and Guidelines Have Different Audiences

More and more companies, organizations and government agencies have started developing social media policies. There are lots of good examples out there and even some interactive tools to help create them. However, if your company is thinking about putting a social media policy in place here are some things to pay attention to.

Know Your Audience

Who is your policy for? It gets a little sticky since a number of people will have to approve on the actual policy, yet entirely different set of people will end up using it.

Think of this as an internal marketing project: start segmenting your audience so you can get them what they need. Remember, if you need a policy to start your social media effort, you must fulfill the needs of your audience. In general, you can segment them as follows:

  1. Legal, Financial, HR – This group tends to get nervous around social media. They’re usually highly aware of it, but the seeming lack of control and negative viral stories in the press about social media make some want to just ignore it. Or even worse, it makes them want to turn the whole thing off. For this group, you need to show them that the rules governing the offline business apply in social media as well. Spelling out privacy, intellectual property and financial disclosure limitations is key for these people.
  2. Employees – Most people who work at your organization will not participate in social media on your behalf. Unless you’re Zappos, where it seems almost everyone has a Twitter account, most employees will use social media on their own time. They may participate during working hours, but they’ll be doing it on as private individuals. For these employees, you need to tell them what you expect from them as it relates to your company. Should they tell people where they work? Can they comment on work issues? Pretty basic questions, actually, and ones that they probably figure out offline, where their audience is smaller.
  3. Social Media Participants – A few employees will make social media part of their jobs. They may provide updates, content or monitor feedback. In most cases, at some point, they will interact directly with customers online. This group needs to know what the organization expects from them. What can they say and what can’t they say? How do they deal with complainers, for example? When should they pass on information to others?

Create the Tools
Once you’ve identified your groups, you can provide them with what they need. Remember success for each group looks different for each. After you’ve solved those various needs, you can put everything in one document, as some organizations do, or you can create separate documents for each group. Here’s what you might produce:

For Legal, Financial and HR: A Social Media Policy. Start with your employee handbook or code of conduct and move those principles into social media. While you don’t have to spell out specific punishments for transgressions, you’ll have to provide some teeth to make this group feel safer. Focus your policy on making this group feel like you’re doing what you can to minimize risk. If something does go wrong, this group will need that document.

For Employees: Social Media Guidelines. Give these people some common sense guidance on how they’re supposed to behave online. Remember, you want them to help, but you don’t want everyone speaking as company representatives online. How much is enough and when should they ask for help? The social guidelines give them directions or checklists to make sure they don’t do anything they shouldn’t do.

For Social Spokespeople: Social Media Best Practices.
You want to maximize this group’s participation and effectiveness. Create a best practices document that gets more granular and has some real life examples. If these people participate daily or weekly you want to keep these best practices up-to-date and current. Try incorporating customer scenarios; they are great learning tools.

If you put all of these in one document, they may be too much for any one person to digest. Having said that, a number of companies have done just that. If it works for them, great. You may find, however, that segmenting your internal audience helps you move faster and provide more value.

And after all, that’s what social media is all about anyway.

Some good examples of social media policies and guidelines:

Coke – A concise, well-written document. They’ve addressed the three separate audiences in one place. If your organization can keep it this short, you’re doing something right.

Kodak – Labeled “Social Media Tips” this is a great primer on social media and how to use it. It’s like a course for employees. Because the layout is good, it doesn’t really feel as long as it is.

Telstra – The innovative Australian company has created social media training in the form of an online comic book. Probably because they have a younger employee pool. Something like this tells a story, rather than providing a list. It’s a good example of scenario training.

For other lists of social media policies and guidelines, visit here or here.

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03/09/2010 The Hard Boiled Strategist

I’m on a little strategy blogging kick this week, thanks to Google Analytics. You see, except for people looking for the Burton Love boards most of my traffic comes from people searching for “What is Digital Strategy?” Hopefully all of my blog posts add up to an answer, but I’m realizing that my searchers may not have that much patience.

So what is digital strategy? It’s finding the best way for your company or organization to use digital (meaning two-way, immediate, non-linear and customer controlled channels using technology like mobile, web and others) to communicate with people in a way that benefits them and you the most.

Strategy is finding the way. It’s the map. You still have to get to your destination. That’s execution. You want to have a good map and excellent drivers.

I like to look at digital strategy as a Whodunit. I admit I’ve always loved Hammett, Chandler and Ellroy. I channel my inner Op to uncover organizational and customer clues to build my strategies. I look at the usual suspects and try to figure out how they fit into the picture. Let’s push on this metaphor a little.

What’s the Crime?
Sounds weird but it’s really "what problem are we trying to solve?" If you’re not trying to solve a problem or improve a situation, you should ask yourself why you’re really doing what you're doing. Sometimes the problem is a directive from above (We need a Web site, we need a Facebook page).  That problem is easier to solve, but it tends to be less effective. What’s the Crime is really your overall goal.

Who benefits from the Crime? Somebody always benefits from ill deeds in the Whodunit. Always. Ask the Op. The benefits in strategy are your objectives. What tangible and measurable gains will you see from solving the problem? This is one that’s sometimes really hard to agree on because you need to measure these. Digital measurement, so easy in some cases, is pretty messy in others. But you need to figure this out if you’re going to solve the Crime.

Who are the main suspects and why? Remember the Poirot stories where he goes around the room and semi-accuses everyone, providing their motivation? That’s strategy. You have to interview people, dig into backgrounds of company groups and divisions, and study customer interactions to come up with strategies that stand up to interrogation. You have to do your detective work here. Unlike the Whodunit, you’ll have multiple strategy suspects, or maybe only one. But this is where the Marlowes, Spades and Strategists really earn their money.

Remember too that, for digital strategy, you have to show how to build two-way communication in a fast moving mobile world. Most static command and control strategies make lousy suspects.

If you’re getting ready to build your digital strategy, brush off your inner hard-boiled detective, get ready to get your hands dirty and make sure your clients cover expenses.
03/08/2010 Starting with “I Don’t Know”

When someone hires you to help with their marketing or strategy, how comfortable are you with saying those three simple but scary words “I don’t know”? Face it, when a company’s paying you the big bucks (or even the little bucks) they’re hiring you because they think you do know. Or that think they know themselves and they want you to do it for them.

The problem with knowing before you start is that you’ve already drastically limited your possibilities.  Starting with “I know” means you’re not taking the time to uncover new insights and angles that will make the business better. Starting with “I don’t know” means you’re ready to go into an assignment with an open mind and to uncover unique opportunities.

“I don’t know” doesn’t mean you don’t have any experience and it doesn’t mean, “I won’t do anything.”

Those three simple words are the foundation to building a smart strategy that can lead to strong results.

Too many times I’ve heard marketing directors or brand managers start an engagement with the words “I know exactly what we should do.” Usually, they’re leaping from something they’ve seen someone else do, or something they’ve read and applied that to the marketing problem at hand. Usually they’re not concerned with whether or not it will work for their particular business. Usually they’re most interested in a tactical execution they admire.

Ready, fire, aim.

Personally, I try to start my engagement with “I don’t know” and quickly add that my work is to find out. It’s the explorer, the scientist and the private eye in me that wants to find workable solutions for each unique situation.

Some businesses don’t want to hear “I don’t know,” though. It scares them. Not knowing seems scary. It means that things might not be as well under control as they like. The two answers to that are “We’ll find out” and “Get used to it.”

Face it, there’s a lot we don’t know. “I don’t know” is the start of every Nobel Prize winning quest. Imagine what it can do for marketing?


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