Risk, Innovation & Social – Three days with Forrester

This was my 17th Forrester event. That seems like a lot doesn’t it, and many of you might be wondering why I keep going back. The reasons are; great venues, smart analysts, keynotes by real-world practitioners working to solve today’s problems and stellar networking opportunities. The icing on the cake is the data and insight Forrester collects.

Typically I would provide coverage of my forum experience across several blog posts. But this time I’m taking a different approach. Instead of breaking up the writing, I’m providing a summary of what I deem to be the most critical and essential aspects of the event in this single entry, with one exception. There was a panel discussion at the end of day one that deserved exclusive coverage. Partly because it was relevant to shaping the media of tomorrow and partly because I felt it was out of place; but not in a bad way. Click to read The Future of Media: A Panel Discussion.

The theme was Using the Down Economy to Catalyze Marketing Change. What’s not to like? We are definitely in a down economy, marketers are facing reduced budgets, and there is change all about us, whether we like it or not. The location was Walt Disney World Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. After a typical winter in Chicago this was particularly attractive, even though I knew I’d be inside most of the time.

Swans on top of a hotel? Oh you Disney...

There was representation across more than a dozen verticals, each hoping to find an edge in these tough times. The Disney Company was of course referenced several times during the conference for having vision, taking risk, showing empathy, employing technology and executing on great marketing campaigns. A fitting homage. Here are my personal highlights from the event, culled from all the sessions I attended.

  • Take a risk — Do what’s right for your customers as well as your business. Once you find it’s a good bet, manage the risk out of the process to gain confidence
  • Turn dials, don’t throw levers — Small incremental changes are more easily executed in this climate and are less risky
  • Keep innovation in your vocabulary — This is how step change begins
    • Enhance – Build on existing ideas
    • Include – Bring in disparate sources and perspectives, gain buy-in
    • Empathize – Identify your community, bring it value, take it’s ideas
    • Iterate – Continual improvement, incremental gains
  • Bring your strategy to life with low cost activities — Start-up mode, fast, simple
  • Simplify your segmentation — More segments means more complexity and expense
    • PetSmart uses the metaphor of a 3 story house. They try to move customers up one floor at a time. BTW, fewer bathrooms to clean
Shar VanBoskirk, Christine Overby, Professor David Reibstein
  • Your customers don’t owe you loyalty you owe it to them — Repeat when necessary
  • If you want to innovate, you must make it a social act — It’s a process of inspiring people to change that leads to change
    • Get social or get served – Inside as well as outside your firewall
    • Inspired customers are innovative and can help solve your marketing problems
  • Embrace the new marketing funnel
    • Old Model – Seller makes an offer, buyer considers, maybe buys
    • New Model – Buyer starts the cycle. “I need this.” Seller responds. The faster the response, the greater value to the seller
  • Blend Social Media with traditional marketing tactics for highest chance of success

As seen in the chart below, the marketer’s advertising tool kit has fragmented over time. This growth in channels has increased the temptation to execute cross-channel marketing campaigns. But which ones do you choose?


  • Don’t set out to do a cross-channel campaign unless you can find your customers in each of the channels
  • Everything is converging (Ah, yeah. See description of this blog)
    • Customization
    • Personalization
    • Choice
    • Community
    • Competition
    • Channels
  • Think “Center of Convergence” not Center of Excellence
  • Move at the Speed of Social
  • Consumers are not doing “nothing.” They are just changing what they’re doing
  • Marketing needs to be a function as well as a business philosophy 
  • Engage your target stakeholders as co-creators, co-producers, and co-marketers of your products and services
  • Over the years most online activities have been stable with the exception of Social Media, which has undergone significant change over the past year
  • Social is not a reach play right now, it plays best at the small end of the funnel
  • Social should highlight your marketing efforts, not be your marketing effort

Lisa Bradner, a Forrester Principal Analyst, presented during a workshop as part of the Forrester Leadership Boards called Social Loyalty: Listening and Learning from your CustomersShe defines it as follows:

Social Loyalty: Brand affinity built on the connection of customers to the brand itself as well as to each other.

She illustrates the idea in the tried and true Forrester pyramid. At the top would be an established brand community and could eventually be another common component of marketing.


Hopefully this gives you a little texture and insight as to what this forum was all about. I’ve got so much more detail to take back to the office and share with the team and hopefully give these ideas a try. I’ll leave you with a couple of bookend photos from my flight home.

Departing Orlando International


Thunderstorm over Lake Michigan
Thunderstorm over Lake Michigan
On approach to O'Hare
On approach to O'Hare

Special thanks to my Forrester Leadership Board team who worked hard to ensure I got as much value as possible out of the experience: Erica Seidel, Jennifer Wolfrom and Kate Babineau.

Photos by Steve A Furman See all photos from the Forrester Forum on flickr here.

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