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11 posts from May 2010

05/27/2010 Lessons from Cap'n Crunch: Tell a great story

I've been fascinated by the stories about the cereal Cap'n Crunch. It shows the impact of a powerful story and narrative.

Quaker Oats had done market research in the early 1960's and found that kids wanted a cereal that would stay crunchy rather than getting mushy in milk. They developed a material that they could safely add to cereal to keep it crunchy.

Then they went to Jay Ward, who had created the brilliant Rocky & Bullwinkle (one of my all time favorite shows) and asked him to develop a marketing campaign to sell the product. Ward and his team came up with the character of Cap'n Crunch, his crew of four kids (Alfie, Brunhilde, Carlyle and Dave) and a dog (Seadog). He also had an archenemy, Jean LaFoot the Pirate.

Captain Crunch art
Once Quaker Oats saw the first commercials, they fell in love with Cap'n Crunch and only then started producing Cap'n Crunch cereal. The kids fell in love with it too, because it flew off the shelf once it launched.

I used to look at this story as an example of the Mad Men era to show the power of the ad industry. I thought it showed that you didn't need a product to be successful; all you needed was a good commercial.

Well, I think I had it wrong. The Cap'n Crunch history shows something different:

If you create a compelling story, people will buy your product. If you intricately link your story and your product more people will get behind both the story and your brand.

I was one of those kids in the 60s who loved, I mean loved, Cap'n Crunch. It was like an extra dose of Saturday cartoons interspersed throughout the day. I loved the characters and their adventures and I couldn't wait to see the commercials. Of course, I forced my Mom to buy me the cereal, even though she wanted to buy me something healthier. The stories in those commercials, and the characters that played in them, were some of the best TV around, I thought.

Today, we don't need to hire an expensive studio, or rely on geniuses like Jay Ward to create our stories, although it helps. We have the means to produce our stories at our fingertips.

What we don't always have is the imagination, creativity, whimsy and focus to create compelling stories around our brands, products and organization. Many marketers are still stuck trying to spin stories around products, stories that feel contrived or disconnected. Imagine instead creating you story beforehand and building your product or service afterward. What an amazing world of marketing we'd have.

What story do you want to tell? How would you make your story fun, engaging and worthy of following?

There are a couple of key points, for me, in the Cap'n Crunch saga:
  • The initial impetus behind the project was to solve a problem or need: soggy cereal. That input came from actual customers.
  • Once Quaker Oats knew they could solve the problem, they took the most far-out gamble they could - asking Jay Ward to come up with a creative narrative. It was a solution that was way out of the box.
  • The narrative then informed product development. By building that into the product, Quaker Oats ensured that they could build an ongoing story and adventure.
It may feel frivolous, but a great task for your marketing group or agency would be to come up with your own Cap'n Crunch story for your next product or service. Talk about injecting energy into your day-to-day. The question is: are you ready to take a risk and create your story?
05/25/2010 Vermont Matters wins 2 FCS Portfolio Awards

On May 13 in New York, Vermont Matters won 2 awards at the FCS Portfolio Awards event. The Financial Communications Society (FCS) recognized 28 financial services providers for excellence in their advertising, collateral, and digital media. The Merchants Bank's Vermont Matters won Gold in the Corporate Image Web Sites category. The site also took home the Best-In-Show award for Interactive.

You can view the list of winners here. Quite a coup for a local Vermont Bank, especially since it was up against the big financial guns and winners, including Merrill Lynch, U.S. Trust, Ameritrade, e-Trade and Barclays, to name a few.

The VermontMatters.com site tells the stories of Merchants Bank's customers through video stories and interviews. It profiles Merchants employees and allows people to connect with them through social media. We've also used the site to crowdsource decisions about our promotional events.

Huge kudos to Bill Drew and his Cottage 10, the brand and advertising agency that runs the Merchants account and led the Vermont Matters work. My firm Digalicious led the interactive work on strategy, design and development. I worked with Corey Machanic, who led the Art Direction, and Kolody, who led the development work. Bruce Gibbs worked with Bill to create the videos.

Of course, none of this would've been possible without a forward thinking client, Merchants Bank, and the people who oversaw the project, EVP Tom Leavitt and Marketing Manager Betsy Kapner.


05/22/2010 Save August First!

Since I've started working out of my home office, I've come to appreciate those restaurants and cafés in town that have free wireless. It's where I go when I need a change of scenery to get work done and where I meet my virtual teammates when we actually need a face-to-face meeting. Of all the places in Burlington, my favorite, by far is August First. The owner, Jodi Whalen, embraced social media and the BTV digerati when she launched her café and bakery and we embraced August First back.

Lately, though, August First has had issues with its free WiFi and last week it turned it off completely. In talking with Jodi and Phil, it seems that the biggest issue they have is that they have a very limited amount of seating and that coffee drinking WiFi users are taking up valuable space during the lunch hour. Selling coffee is nice, but August First makes its profit from food. If it can't seat its lunch guests, people will go elsewhere.

August first
Here's the rub: the people who work at August First don't want to police their guests. They don't want to tell people to leave. They don't want to keep switching passwords and access continually during the day. It's easier for them to turn off the WiFi and focus on making and selling things like the Jalapeno Cheddar bread.

Well, I don't want August First to turn off their WiFi. I want to continue to go there for coffee, meetings, lunch and baked goods. I like working there and meeting colleagues there for work. I've spent hundreds of dollars there since it opened. But if they don't have WiFi, I'm probably not going to go there as much.

So I think we, the customers, the digital mafia, the Twitter crowd, have to help August First out. I think we, the loyal customers, have to help move those WiFi squatters out of there during lunchtime.

Here's what I suggest:
From 11:45 - 1:30, if you see someone drinking a coffee working on their computer, go up and tell them that if someone needs a table for lunch they'll have to move. The person with the coffee probably won't like it, but that's okay. That's not the kind of customer August First needs.

If you get pushback or resistance, look around the restaurant for another member of the digital mafia. Ask them to help you. Remember, if we do this together, and we do it nicely, it will work.

Explain to them that you're doing it for them, to keep the free WiFi. Explain to them that Jodi and Phil need to make a living from August First or it will close. Explain to them that the lunch business is important.

When they get up to make room, ask for their name. Tell them you're going to Tweet and post on Facebook how great and helpful they were. Tell them you're going to thank them publicly.

There may be better ways to do this, but it's a start. I'd love to hear more. Because I really don't want to stop going to August First. Come on, BTV folks, they need our help!
05/20/2010 One Infinite Facebook Loop

I've started to notice a trend on brands' Facebook pages. Rather than landing on the Wall as the start page, you land on a special page with a branded image that includes links back to the brands' Web site.s This image map usually provides links back to the home page and a few other special pages. It's doesn't provide much more but is certainly more graphical than the normal Facebook stream.

Of course, if you visit those brands' home page, you'll see a link asking you to "like" them on Facebook as the brands try to build their social media following. When you click on that link, you land on that graphical Facebook page with a link back to the page you just came from.

I can imagine some unsuspecting (or merely bored) person clicking back and forth in this infinite loop, only to emerge when their broadband connection goes down.

What we're witnessing here are brands jumping into social media, and especially Facebook, without a clear strategy. The graphical landing pages are nothing more than another bad, static banner ad at best, or a circa 1996 Web site at worst. While I can understand the desire to drive Web traffic from Facebook and to grow the number of social media followers online, these brands have fallen into some common traps

No social marketing strategy - Brands who lead with graphical links back to a Web site don't understand Facebook. In social media you fish where the fish are. If you're on Facebook, do something on Facebook.

The biggest mistake these brands make is that they still want to make their Web site the one and only destination, rather than de-centralizing their marketing. Facebook becomes instead another road leading back to Rome.

There are a number of brands that use Facebook for interaction, conversation and business. Those who do understand that they need to provide value on Facebook itself, rather than trying to bring people somewhere else. Just look how Pizza Hut allows you to order pizza right from Facebook, or how 1-800-Flowers allows you do ecommerce without leaving the site. Brands like Adidas, Coke and Victoria's Secrets have moved their site marketing to Facebook itself.

For smart brands, it doesn't matter where you interact with them or do business, as long as you do it in a place that benefits you and the brand. Brands leading with graphical links back to their site show that they don't have a strategy for social media marketing.

Focusing on the wrong numbers - Infinite loops also show a misguided focus on certain numbers, and often the wrong numbers. By focusing on traffic from Facebook and number of followers, brands award quantity over quality. It doesn't matter how many fans you have if they're not helping your brand grow. The same is true of Web traffic.

The problem is that valuable numbers around interaction, conversation and value are harder to measure. It can sometimes take much longer to show how these increase growth. Lately, firms have developed a media value to fans and interactions on Facebook, showing a dollar value based on the number of "likes." This will only encourage a quantitative focus rather than a qualitative.

While it's a good thing that brands recognize the value of social networks like Facebook, they need to go beyond a picture with links. Here are a couple of things to think about:
  1. It's not about pretty - Even if you can't make things graphically beautiful, people will still like you in social media. Don't worry so much about how you look, worry instead about how you act and how interesting others find you.
  2. What's the Do? - You have a chance to let people do things. What do you want them to do? What can you offer them on your social networks that will entertain and delight them so they'll want to do it again and tell others about it?
  3. Move your marketing - Start thinking about how you can move your marketing to social, rather than keeping it all on your site. Things like microsites have started migrating to Facebook. What could you move?
You might never end up with a following like Victoria's Secrets but that doesn't mean you should give up either. Start developing your social strategy and take time to move slowly and deliberately so you get it right.

Remember, infinity is a very long time.
05/19/2010 Social Media: The Warhol Corollary

In 1968, Andy Warhol said "In the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes." Warhol was responding to the changing media landscape and how fame was evolving from the long-term stars of the 1930's and 1940's to the more fleeting stars of mass media.

So how does social media affect Warhol's statement? I have two suggestions.

In social media, everyone will be famous for 15 individual minutes; or
In social media, everyone will be famous for 1 minute.

Here's what I'm thinking:

A long time ago, when you were famous, you were famous for years. Either you were famous, or you weren't. When mass media reached its zenith in the 60's and 70's, you could be famous, but the length of time for fame started getting shorter and shorter  and would ultimately last only15 minutes).
In the social media age, we're reaching a very segmented audience, in short bursts. You might be famous to a very narrow group, or famous for a very short period of time thanks to blogs, Twitter or YouTube (about a minute).

The length of fame today is much less than it is in Warhol's prediction, which he made before the Internet came along.

I thought of this last month at a social media conference. The conference, which was great, had three types of speakers:
  • Super Stars - There were few of these, but everyone knew who they were as soon as they stepped on stage. Not only did we all know them, but they also truly wowed us. They would've been famous in the pre-Internet era.
  • Stars - Most people knew who they were and they were great on stage. Not as great as the superstars, but they definitely earned their 15 minutes.
  • Everyone Else - These were people that a few of us knew beforehand, but not many. They usually weren't that great on stage, but this group was a mix of both individual speakers and panelists. This was one of their minutes of fame (if they get 15 of them).

That last group intrigued me. A lot of them were doing truly amazing things. They used technology to be generous and to help people. They put in long hours for good causes. They had an idea, and they went for it.

Some of them also personified Warhol's statement to the hilt. One speaker was astounded that I didn't know who he was. Astounded because, as he informed me, he was "kind of a celebrity." Chalk up a minute to this person. Another speaker looked flabbergasted at a group of us when we admitted that, no, we hadn't read her comment on someone else's blog. Clearly her comments were more important than the blog itself! Chalk up another minute.

In social media, that minute goes quickly and reaches few of us. It's one thing to appreciate what someone else does but another to award the "fame" badge. People can enjoy the minute or minutes that come but should recognize that they pass quickly out of memory, or that they reach many of us. Or they can drape themselves in Warhol's mantle of fame and end up looking kind of silly.

If social media is about generosity, content and sharing then who really cares about fame? 



05/17/2010 Social Media Strategy: Put on Your Dating Shoes

When I talk with companies looking to dive into social media, I find it odd that so many them still want a short-term, wow-em campaign. Every time I hear this, I always think of my old college friend Bill.

Bill wasn't the best looking guy in our group, nor was he the smartest one. When it came to Saturday night parties at the frat house or hanging at the local bar, though, Bill had a completely different strategy than the rest of us guys. Bill always had a pile of current events magazines in his room, some of them women's magazines. He would prepare for his social outings by scouring these publications for interesting topics. When we used to give him a ton of grief about this, he'd always answer, "What are you going to talk about? The Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue?" Undaunted, he prepped for weekends like a final exam.

When Saturday night came around, Bill was always talking to several women, wherever he was. While the rest of us hung out at the bar, preening manly and eyeing the best looking women in the house (who rarely looked back), Bill usually found his way to nice women without obsessing over their looks. He knew with whom he had the best chances. While the rest of us usually went home empty handed, Bill always had a telephone number or two (at least) as the result of his efforts. Guess who had the last laugh?

When you get to work in social media, start acting like Bill. Figure out who you should talk with and why. Do your homework and gather or create content that would interest those people. Make sure you have some type of conversion mechanism somewhere in your outreach, so you can tie it back to your business goals.

Chances are you don't have the flashiest brand around. Leave that to Apple and Zappos. Don't worry about fancy clothes or perfumes. Show customers and prospects you're in it for the long haul. Do your homework and follow through.

While most marketing campaigns take the opposite approach, your social media strategy, like a dating strategy, needs to focus on relationships and not one-night stands. You need to imbue your social media team with this type of dating mentality for you to succeed.

It might not sound very sexy, but neither does being alone on a Saturday night
05/14/2010 Social Media, status, stress and defining who you are

Two posts this week really grabbed my attention. The first, via Gavin Heaton's blog, had the catchy title "Why Social Media is More Popular than Sex." Now who wouldn't want to read that? (Remember, it said "More Popular" not "More Fun").

The second post was TrendWatching's latest brief "The Statusphere." At first glance these seemed to be two very different articles. But after digging into them, they both seem to about the same topic.

In social media we talk about how the shift has put individuals in control. In Dennis Price's article on Gavin's blog, he wrote about the negative effects of stress and how workplace hierarchy increased a person's stress (and gave them ill health effects). The lack of control, due to one's boss, was one of the reasons participation in social media has such an allure. The fact that it allows you to listen only to what you want to; to become friends or unfriends with whomever you want to; and the ability to create different profiles gives you the ability to control relationships without the associated stress.

Trendwatching's Statusphere tackles this from another angle. For them, the need for us to have other people's approval is they key, if not main, human emotional driver. They posit that most, if not all, of our behavior comes from our need of status. Typically, in our capitalist society, our status derives from our profession, income and the things we purchase. But Trendwatching notes some new trends, including uncomsumption, generosity and connectivity (the generosity status reminds me of my old Anthropology 101 class where we talked about the Kwakiutl Potlach). The connectivity piece connects directly with Price's thesis.

What jumps out me reading these two articles is the human challenge of letting others define us, or our worth. The struggle, or trend, is about how we want to, on the one hand, receive approval of others, yet, on the other; we also want to be in control of how we define ourselves. Are these two desires in conflict with each other?

Take Price's article on how your boss can increase your stress. In the old days, you'd do as you were told, gain the bosses approval, and rise up on the ladder of promotions until you were the boss. You solved the status and control issues through obedience and meeting other people's expectations. These days, we can't stand this type of obedience, which is why we're so stressed out.

But Trendwatching tells us we'll never get away from trying to meet other people's expectations. Isn't that what status is all about?

What we can do, more today than at any other time, thanks, perhaps, to social media, is to at least define who we are and what we stand for. Are you green? Now it's easier to find other green people who approve of what you're doing. Tea Partier? Don't worry; social media will connect you with like-minded people.
DefineYourself by Big Huge Labs
The ability to define what we like and believe in, to broadcast the type of products we buy and to promote the content we consume makes us feel like we're in control. The more radical types among us, such as Seth Godin and Hugh MacLeod tell us that we don't have to limit this to beliefs or consumption, but that we can change our whole livelihoods based on this desire.

What has changed is that social media has given us a platform and a tool to create and connect. It moves us out of our tight geographic and social sandboxes and exposes us to similar people around the world. It exhilarates most of us and scares the rest of us.

Defining yourself is powerful. It puts you in control.
05/12/2010 How to Develop a Digital Strategy: Part 2

Last week I talked about the need to start your strategy from a business foundation. You can read that post here.

Now that you know (or think you know) what you want to accomplish for your organization, you have to develop strategies to help you achieve your objectives. Remember, though, that since this is about creating a digital strategy, you need to keep that two-way focus in mind.

Just because it's a digital strategy doesn't mean you only have to limit yourself to the technical. A good digital strategy will have offline implications and integration points. I like thinking of digital strategy as the best way to create hybrid marketing. In my experience, starting from the digital point of view results in more connected marketing solutions.

Of course, if you're going to develop successful strategies, you have to know whom you're trying to communicate with.

The Customer (i.e. the person on the other side of that device)
If you're trying to build two-way communications, you have to know as much as possible about the people you're trying to connect with. Two way implies that you get something back, besides attention or awareness. You want them to do something. Actually the boon, or bane, of digital, depending on how you see it, is that we can measure most actions. What behavior do you want to encourage?

In Part 1, we talked about the need to do customer interviews and to dig into the digital habits of people. You have to do this to make sure you have relevant recommendations. It's no use developing a strategy heavy on mobile if your customers only use their cell phones for talking, or if they don't use them at all!

In your strategy, you want to describe different opportunities to engage people digitally. Aside from your primary research, some data you can use include:
  • Groundswell Consumer Profile Tool - While this is general, it gives you a starting place for social media action and engagement.  I've found this to be a thought and conversation starter. If you find that your demographic is heavily inactive, it will probably change how you approach them. It can also help you to figure out where to focus your efforts especially if you have more than one demographic (like most organizations do).
  • Pew Internet - This is a great source of trending data. More than once, it's helped me encourage organizations to focus on digital opportunities, especially in rural areas. While it's not always specific to the organization you're working with, it helps answer some of the critics. I find I use this more and more.
  • Online Trend, Trust and Usage Research - There's a wealth of online research out there. You can usually find recent studies that connect with your target. Some of my favorites include the more quantitative, like Nielsen Research, and the more qualitative, like Trendwatching.
With your own research and outside data, you should be able to build a compelling picture of the needs and desires of your customer and how they use digital technology. That's what you should focus on:
What do they want and need (what do they value)?
How can we deliver that to them digitally (and non-digitally)?

Building Your Strategies
I don't think you need a grand, overall, singular strategy as your approach. If you have one, that's great. Usually, though, you have to make so many compromises to it in real life that it can lose its value pretty quickly.

Instead, build multiple strategies that you can test, measure and adapt quickly. Remember, we're not building dogmas; we're creating ideas to help people and organizations.

Your strategies should solve the problem:
How are you going to reach your objectives by communicating with the people you want to reach?

Let's look at some of the objectives from the previous post and some real life examples.

Objective: Increase the response time of customer service reps.
This was actually an issue faced by Best Buy as they were trying to increase response time and decrease cost. They also found that their customers were both online and engaged with social media. Their strategy?

Strategy: Develop customer service outreach through social media.

This strategy turned into the program Twelpforce. Best Buy trained its customer service and on-floor staff to use social media, and especially Twitter, to listen to customer complaints and respond to them. They now have a better idea of what people are saying about them, a higher "solve" rate, engaged employees and more satisfied customers, according to the Twelpforce team.

Screen shot 2010-05-11 at 3.54.53 PM
Objective: Improve percentage of satisfied customers.

Fiskars was looking to do other things as well, such as increase awareness. But through their own research, they realized that scrapbookers were a dedicated and online group. Their strategy?

Strategy: Create an online community and brand ambassadors.

This strategy turned into the program Fiskateers, a site dedicated to stories, information and training. Fiskateers has recruited ambassadors from the online program and sent them out to train others. They've used the forum to get product feedback and grow sales. Most importantly, though, is the enthusiasm and dedication members feel toward Fiskars. They feel appreciated, needed and satisfied.

Objective: Increase awareness of new radio station.

Several years ago, I was helping an NPR station launch a new channel. It was a big shift from the previous 30 years of broadcasting and a major initiative for the station. While we developed an overall "brand message" the digital strategy couldn't have been simpler:

Strategy: Allow people to experience the new station when they're online.

It was a sampling strategy, really. One of the things we then did was to develop rich media banners for the New York Times (where we knew our target visited). Then we streamed the live radio broadcast of the new channel right through banner. According to Pointroll, this was the first time this had ever been done. We had an interaction rate of 8%; people spent an average of one minute, 10 seconds listening to the banner, then 1.1% of them clicked through. It was a pretty simple strategy, with some great tactics.

A good strategy should help you reach your objective, be flexible enough to allow a range of tactics and ideas, and provide a lens through which you can evaluate how you bring it to life.

When you build your strategies, you should also start mapping out how to bring them to life.  That's really where more of the "digital" will come into play. You also want to make sure that the digital strategies have offline components as well. In the Fiskateers example, the digital strategy provided an excellent training ground for in-person demonstrators. When you think of hybrid solutions for your strategies and tactics, you'll provide the best value for your clients.

There's one more part though: Creating new internal structures for digital and social media strategies. Stay tuned.
05/10/2010 The Age of Conversation 3 is Out

The Age of Conversation 3, the third in a series of collaborative or crowdsourced books edited by Drew McLellan and Gavin Heaton, is now available on Amazon.com. This third books looks to move the discussion away from the theory and thought behind social media to acting upon it in everyday business life.

As previously, Drew and Gavin have gathered (through social media!) a great collection of authors from around the globe, including some of my favorite social media thinkers like Jacob Morgan, Joseph Jaffe, Len Kendall, C.B. Whittemore, Rick Liebling, David Berkowitz, and, of course, Drew and Gavin.

This edition marks my entry into this great group with a chapter on Getting to Work. I can't wait to get my copy and read the rest of the ideas.

You can order the book right through Drew's widget below. It's tied to his Amazon Associates account so part of the money goes to an international children's charity.

Enjoy the reading. I know I will.

05/05/2010 How To Develop a Digital Strategy: Part 1

What is a Digital Strategy?

Digital strategy, simply put, is a plan to use digital, two-way media to communicate with other people. The keys in that sentence are: plan, digital, two-way. A good strategy will provide an overarching lens through which you can view actions. You can create a macro strategy, one that covers your entire communications plan, or a micro strategy, one that covers a single initiative. By taking the time to plan, you'll have a better idea of what to measure, what to create (tactics) and how to adjust both of those once you've put the plan to action.

One of the reasons I'm writing this post is because of the large amount of traffic I receive from people searching for "digital strategy" or "what is a digital strategy" on Google. While I talk about different strategies in this blog, I thought it would be good for those searchers to provide a more step-by-step example of what a strategy is and how to build one.

This will be the first in a series of post describing the digital strategy process.

How to Develop a Digital Strategy: Part 1
The first part of any good strategy will answer the questions:
What are you trying to achieve?
And with whom do you need to communicate to succeed?

It's surprising how often marketers move ahead without answering those questions.

Question one allows you to formulate Goals and Objectives. Question two allows you to determine your target audience. The best way to answer these questions is to do your research. This should include (and this is just the start of the list) items such as:
  • Stakeholder Interviews - Spend time talking with key people involved in your initiative so you can understand both the landscape the initiative will live in, as well as some of the motivations of the people and the organization. You have to recognize these two realities to create strategies that have the best chance of success and support. I find I usually uncover the most interesting nuggets through conversation, and they usually pop up from an unexpected tangent.
  • Marketing/Systems Review - Make sure you dig into current marketing efforts and find out how well they've performed. It's important to make sure you're not recommending something that's already been done; or, if you are, you need to make sure you recommend something that will improve results. The marketing review also provides you nuggets of business and customer success. The same is true for systems. Does the business have a CRM system? If not, they may need one. If they do, can it support your strategies? This step ensures that your recommendations either fit into a system, or have good reasons for creating a new one.
  • Business Documents - These include things like strategic documents and plans, sales and product data, or e-commerce results. Again, if you need to make sure your digital strategy is clearly aligned with larger business goals.
  • Customer Research - Most companies have either surveyed customers or have sales data. You can use this to segment and understand which customers you need to focus on. Remember, you need to focus on well-defined groups of people. Targeting "everyone" isn't targeting and it reduces your chance of success. The whole point with customer research is to find values and motivators that will encourage people to either buy products or services, or to engage in conversation with organizations. The only way to create relevant strategies is to understand whom you're talking with and what interests them.
  • Customer Interviews - Whether this is one-on-one interviews, online brand forums, or Web usability testing, it's important to spend time talking with customers in the same way you talk with key stakeholders. Those two conversations provide the outer limits of your recommendations. Your strategies should describe where these two conversations intersect.
  • Competitive Research - Finally, you'll want to make sure you understand the context of where your client's business lives. Who are the key competitors and what are they doing? Is the regional competition greater than the national competition? What digital and business strategies are you competing with? It's important to understand this so you don't simply duplicate a competitor's effort. Or, if you do, you need to know how to make yours much better.
  • Online/Digital Habits - Most of what you've researched focuses on the business and its customers. That has to be the foundation of a successful digital strategy. But you also have to find out how customers use technology and what how tech savvy or engaged the business is. Remember, you're trying to create a two-way communication through digital channels. If none of the people you're trying to reach use mobile phones, you can't develop a strategy that relies on mobile interactions. You'll need to dig in here with primary and secondary data to understand what types of two-way communication works best.
I often find that this is the most exciting part of strategy. It's the detective phase: you've got to figure out who dunnit (or who will do it) by gathering clues. All of the steps above (and there are probably a lot of others, depending on your client) provide clues for your strategy solution. If you do your legwork correctly, you should have some "aha" moments, where you can see some exciting solutions.

Once you've gathered your information, it's time to start formulating Goals and Objectives.


Goals & Objectives
I don't think I've ever seen more confusion between two words than Goals and Objectives. Some people prefer Objectives and Goals. Use whichever order you prefer. What's most important is to articulate clearly what you mean by them. They work in hierarchical order.

In this instance, we'll put Goals up top. Goals are the overarching business goal you're trying to reach through your digital strategy. Some Goals might include:
  1. Increase sales
  2. Reduce customer turnover
  3. Expand brand awareness
The goals should be very high-level business goals. I find that many marketers aren't crazy about including business goals up front in their strategies. They're afraid that someone will actually hold them accountable (in a negative way). Many times, I've seen these goals ripped out of strategies instead. My advice is to fight to keep them in. They provide an important background element; as you get into strategies and tactics, you can continually ask yourself if they actively serve those main goals. If the answer is no, then you probably shouldn't do those tactics.

Objectives are a sub-set of goals. They describe how you're going to reach your goals through measurable steps. The key is measurability. If you're looking to reduce customer turnover for example, your objectives might be to
  • Increase the response time of customer service reps
  • Improve percentage of satisfied customers
  • Increase the number of return customers
  • Grow customer lifetime value
Again, you can measure each of these and they all provide support for your overall goal of reducing turnover. Objectives define your strategies. They also provide the outline of your measurement strategies. At the end of a strategy document, you'll need to build in how and what you'll measure. Measuring response time of customer reps might be easy, if there's a system in place, but it might be onerous if one doesn't exist.

Now that you've mapped out your goals and objectives, you should define your audience and then start building your strategies. Stay tuned for a post next week.

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