81 posts categorized "Digital Strategy"

08/17/2010 Why Did You Start Your Business?

Mitch Joel gave a great talk at our Burlington Social Media Breakfast club lunch the other day. He emphasized how companies and individuals who want to engage in social media should focus less on what they want and more on what they're customers want. The businesses should try to provide worthwhile content and information so that people seek them out, rather than the other way around.

It reminded me of Adrian Ho's #btvsmb talk in February where he talked about how people want value from brands not relationships. 

In business, we have wants, needs, goals and budgets. We want people to X in Y amount of time, in order to hit our sales numbers. It's a very inward looking process. And it made me remember an old question I used to ask both for-profit and non-profits clients:

"Why did you start your business or organization? What was it you were looking to provide people with, that they didn't already have?"

Usually, it started with some thing to make people's lives easier, or to help out a community, or to provide support for a group of people. Usually, the product or service the entrepreneur developed sprang from fulfilling that need. And it's what drove the early entrepreneurs and non-profits to put so much of their energies into the business.

Later on, after the organizations developed the products and services that actually helped people, the focus shifted completely to selling these things. It's how organizations stay in business. But in shifting the focus from the people it's helping to the product they're selling, can the business can lose the value that once inspired them.

When I hear the Mitch Joels or Adrian Hos of the world speak, I think its time for companies to go back to their essences and to start talking about, creating content about and providing the value about why they exist. They exist to make our lives somewhat easier or somewhat better in a particular way. So talk about that and expand on that. 

I worked with a woman who invented the first federally approved airplane seatbelt for toddlers and lap kids. She started her company because she wanted her grandchildren to fly safely. There's a great story how Bob Stiller of Green Mountain Coffee drank a cup of coffee in Waitsfield and decided that everyone should have the pleasure of drinking great java.  The business came after the desire to change something for the better.

When a business has its roots in making things better, there should be stories and values to share. Some of those might be about your product but some might not be. Alcohol companies seem to have an unfair advantage here, since they're mostly about people relaxing and having fun, and there are lots of ways to create and share interesting content about fun with other people.

But what about businesses that have started from a strictly financial standpoint? When someone goes into business because they know how to make widgets cheaper or they simply see a market opportunity, do they really have any value to share? Maybe. I'd like to see Walmart provide content on how to do and buy EVERYTHING more cheaply, since that's seems to be why they went into business. A blog called The Frugal Bugle? I know people in the marketing business who have no interest in marketing; they're just good business people. I'm not sure what they have to share is of much interest to others, though.

Another question is whether brand agencies help or hurt this process. If you really don't have anything of value, brand agencies try to create one, however tenuous. That might be a good, if somewhat inauthentic tactic. Other times brand agencies but so much stuff on top of the original business value that the original focus is unrecognizable, or they boil the original value down to a generic and meaningless emotion that goes no where.

If you're struggling with what to share, go back to your beginnings. Ask yourself why your organization exists and how it was supposed to help people.  Don't think about your products or services; think about one group of people helping another group of people. Once you get to that place, you'll probably find that you can provide and share lots of valuable content with interested people.


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.
05/05/2010 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.

04/28/2010 Social is a Hybrid

I had the pleasure of spending time with Mitch Lieberman of SugarCRM yesterday. Mitch was back from his SugarCon conference and we were sharing notes on the state of Social. We soon realized that Mitch, coming at social from the CRM/IT side and I, coming at social from the marketing/digital side faced the same issues. The main hurdle with getting companies to go social was a tug of war between groups of who"'owned" social media. Is it IT, which traditionally led technology initiatives, or marketing, which focused on outbound customer communications, or PR, which had experience developing relationships with the media?

We both ended up saying the same thing: It's either everyone, or it's no one. Social can't function as a silo. It's a hybrid. It's ItMarketingPrCostumerserviceOperations. When you develop a social strategy, whether you start from the CRM side or the Marketing, you have to realize that no one group has the knowledge or experience to successfully lead social initiatives alone.

The challenge for most businesses is that people don't operate as hybrids. They operate within silos, with clear role definitions and even clearer budgets. Mitch thought that a lot of the 'who owns' tug of war was really about money, and he's probably right.

One thing I've found in developing social strategies for companies is that the most important strategy might be creating a hybrid structure to lead and manage the social media initiative. This means that people from around the enterprise need to meet, talk and act together, all the while they practice hybrid skills that move them out of their silos. When IT thinks like PR and marketing thinks like customer service, both businesses and consumers win.

Whether or not you or your company can develop into hybrids might depend on which game theory philosophy you follow. In a Zero-sum game theory, someone always wins and someone always loses. The sum is always zero. If you're a Zero-summer, then there's no incentive for you to work with anyone or to become a hybrid.

If you believe in non-Zero-sum game theory, then your gain doesn't always end up as someone else's loss. A Non-Zero-summer can work with others because the sum can end up greater by cooperating. Hybrids work in non-zero sum scenarios because a helping someone else win means the enterprise (and you) win as well.

Hybrids connect things. They develop communications that blend different tactics into one experience. Social media is, I think, a placeholder for hybrid marketing and operations since it doesn't fit cleanly into any one discipline. But it isn't the only place where businesses need hybrids. But to develop into a hybrid means people may have to take some personal risks. I've spoken to a few hybrids who, while providing invaluable services to their companies, lost their jobs when new bosses couldn't understand their function or value.

When you're starting to put your social strategy in place
  • Identify key departments that need to play together
  • Choose a champion from each department and place them on the social/hybrid team
  • Make sure you choose people who will play well together. This might be more important than skill levels, in some instances
  • The team will need a leader to report to upper management. But play around with shifting functional leadership between team members at regular intervals. Think of the UN Security Council as an example.
  • Make sure members evangelize the work of the team back to their individual group. They should also identify people from their group who express interest in playing with the hybrid team
  • When presenting results and successes back to senior management, show how the non-Zero Sum approach has worked
  • Talk about yourselves as hybrids

The bigger question for businesses today is whether they accept hybrid structures and if they support the growth of hybrid individuals. Putting together a social media team with representatives from various groups and funding that group as a separate structure is a good, and necessary, place to start.


04/23/2010 Social Strategy: Plan a Catastrophe

While more and more brands embrace social media as part of their marketing or operational strategy, many of them do so with great fear in their hearts. They craft social policies aimed less at behavioral guidance and more toward legal safeguards. While most marketers understand the need to participate and connect with people in this free-flowing arena, it goes against what most have them have learned about marketing over the years.

Thus the fear. In certain businesses, you can feel the fear from the marketing director right on up through the C-Level suite. Almost all of the fear is about losing control of the message and the conversation. People delve into social media with the fear that they'll meet overwhelming negativity and won't no how to handle it.

You can't blame them. When you read the news, a lot of the social media talk is about catastrophe. Nestle's debacle on Facebook, Domino's land mine on YouTube, Motrin miscalculation with Twitter; we accept the plethora of negative stories while we discount positive stories as exceptions.

If fear is part of the social media mix for most companies, why not embrace it? Instead of sitting around worrying for disaster to strike, why not plan one? Rather than creating a social media strategy still based on broadcasting information and responding if anyone notices, how about building conflict into your plan and directing your resources to respond to it? I know many businesses living with the fear, but I don't know of anyone who's leaning into the fear and disarming it.

The social media fear reminded me of something I saw in Sweden, when I was living there. The Swedes planned a catastrophe to happen on a huge, live TV broadcast in front of 300 million people.  In 1984 the Swedish Herrey brothers won the Eurovision contest with the pop tune "Diggi-Loo Diggi-Ley." It was the first time Sweden won since Abba's "Waterloo." It was a big deal.

For Sweden, the biggest deal was that they got to host the 1985 Eurovision Song Contest, broadcast live to Europe and the rest of the world, in Gothenburg. Sweden chose performer Lil Lindfors to host the show. After the first intermission, Lil walked out on stage, her skirt caught on some staging and fell off. We watched in horror as she stood, live, in her panties and we thought "Unbelievable!" Then Lil unsnapped two buttons on her shoulders and a full-length dress covered her up.

Afterward she explained that when they were planning the show, they sat around discussing the worst thing that could happen. They agreed that a huge wardrobe malfunction would be a disaster. So instead of worrying about it, they built it right into the show. Disaster solved.

Brands in social media would do well to think about this. If you're afraid of what might happen, build it into your plan instead of waiting for it to happen. Once you're on social media with a following, consider:

  • Product/Service complaints - If people complain about your product or service, think about directing some of the complainer to Twitter or Facebook. Ask if anyone else is experiencing the problem. Solve the problem in spades, in front of everyone. You address the fear of product negativity with a plan to solve it.
  • Labor/Employee disputes - Rather than shutting them down, how about inviting some of this discussion to your social media stream? You might no solve all of the problems, but you could use the engagement to strengthen employee ties to your brand in a public place. It meets the fear of the out-of-control employee hijacking your social media.
  • Environmental/Operational practices - Rather than hoping these will never come out, make sure they show up and address them head on. Even if you can only show that you're listening and making progress, it will show you that you're not a Brand Ostrich.

I'm sure there each business has disasters and catastrophes specific to them that can cause veteran marketers and C-Levels to wake up sweating in the middle of the night at the thought of these becoming fodder on social media. Rather than hoping for the best, why not plan for them so you know what to do and have people ready to act?

Remember, if you see a bomb or grenade lying on the ground, it's better to explode it in a controlled manner than have it go off when you're not ready.  That might be your best strategy if fear of social media ends up driving a lot of your decision making.
04/01/2010 Miracle on Digital Street?

I've enjoyed reading Trendwatching's latest report "Brand Butlers: Why serving is the new selling." For those of you who haven't read it yet, do so. It puts forward a good customer focused perspective on marketing. In short, Brand Butlers provide valuable services aimed at helping make their customers' lives simpler. Rather than trying to cross-promote goods, brands, with their wealth of knowledge, can provide an array of services that may or may not have anything to do with what they sell.

As I read it, it reminded me of an old, favorite movie of mine "Miracle on 34th Street." It's the one where Natalie Wood plays the little girl. Macy's Department Store hires a holiday Santa to boost its toy sales, only to find out that they've hired the "real" Santa Claus. The kicker comes when Santa brazenly tells a child that Macy's doesn't have the toy he wants, but that archrival Gimbels does.

The boss is aghast! As he tries to fire Santa for sending customers away, he sees that customers actually like Macy's more because of the service Santa provides. He's helping them have a successful holiday. Is Santa a Brand Butler?

I think you'd have to say he's the first Brand Butler. He speaks from a position of generosity and he always puts the customers' needs ahead of his own (or his bosses). Santa realizes that, in the end, this strategy always pass off. It may take time, but it pays off.

The problem is that most of us, at work, have short-term goals our bosses measure us by. And it continues up the food chain, all the way up to a short-term perspective on profit and stock prices.

Brand Butlers prove their value over time. While some may take a short time to prove their  value, other services may take a lot longer to do so. Unless we take a longer-term perspective on customer service and interactions, providing value in services may go the way of any of the latest fads.

I wonder, though, has any brand really gone out of business by having a long-range view and providing great service without reducing the quality of their products? I'm having a hard time thinking of one.

Brand Butler or Brand Santa. It sounds like a winning strategy to me.
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.
03/18/2010 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 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.
03/09/2010 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.

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