This was my first eMetrics Summit, and I must say I was quite impressed all around. I was asked to present and sit on a panel about social media metrics and so I arranged my schedule to specifically attend that Monday session. Fly in late Sunday and back out early Tuesday. I soon discovered that was a mistake as I would miss two more days of great content, speakers and networking opportunities. Lesson learned.
If you are a metrics enthusiast, and who isn’t, this is the place to be. They cover technology, strategy, practice and case studies. Everyone there is focused on one thing; doing metrics better. It’s a never ending topic of debate. How much data is too much? How do you divine insights from the data? What is important vs. noise? How can it be made more actionable? I picked up some nuggets of knowledge and met some very interesting professionals who are solving real world business problems with the data they uncover.
The opening keynote was given by Jim Sterne, Founder of the eMetrics Summit 10 years ago. He reminded us to not be so seduced by the puzzle of the data that we forget to tell the story we find inside that puzzle. He said, “Data=Calculation while Story=Empathy.” Most C level execs and everyday business partners want to hear a story. Granted they prefer non-fiction to fiction, but everyone loves a good story. Tell one. Mr. Sterne kept bringing his message back to how one would use it on the job. Extremely practical. Another presentation I caught in it’s entirety was given by Larry Freed, President and CEO of Foresee Results. He spoke nonstop for 30 minutes about consumers, channels and information. His key takeaways:
Consumers are multi-channel and your metrics need to be multi-channel
Success should be looked at through the eyes of the Consumer
Often metrics are misunderstood, misinterpreted and misleading
Satisfaction drives loyalty, retention and word of mouth, which drive financial success
You cannot manage what you do not measure
I sent emails out to my analytics partners back at the home office during the summit to encourage them to put the next summit on their calendars.
My session was entitled Social Media Metrics Management. Myself, John Lovett of Web Analytics Demystified and Scott Calise of MTV Networks each presented about 10 minutes on varying perspectives of how we approach social media metrics. The moderator Michele Honojosa got the audience engaged with questions. The questions were great and some very tough to answer, making us think hard. As I went back through the Tweets of the session afterwards I found that it was a grateful but tough crowd. Some comments and questions were still rolling in and I was responding to them via Twitter the next day. Whenever I do these things I am always amazed at how we all struggle with the same things, but each one of has solved a different problem better than the rest of us. Some problems never go away while new ones pop-up all the time. The panel compared notes closely, picked-up tips and learned more best practices. My brief talk focused on building stakeholder alignment around social media in the organization.
Despite all those approving words, I still came away empty handed on my quest to find the perfect web analytics tool. That would be a tool that could capture granular data for the geeks, but also had a web site form factor display with the data masquerading as the user. It would be a tool for the analysts, web designers, information architects and business partners looking to solve a problem. It would be fast, near time, have a user-friendly interface and didn’t require world of site tags to enable it. If you come across that, let me know.
On Friday, January 21, 2011, I had a distinct honor. I sat on a panel before the entire global sales team of Forrester Research in Boston to discuss how firms measure the value of research, as well as what I like most and least about Forrester. It’s one of those things that you wish all your partners would do more of. Listen hard to what their customers are saying. The panel included myself, Jeff Reid, AVP at The Hartford Insurance Company, Neil Clemmons, President of Critical Mass, and Susan DiManno, Research Director at The Boston Globe.
Full Disclosure: I’ve been a client of Forrester since 1997, and sit on one of their Leadership Councils. This blog post represents my personal thoughts, and does not include comments from any other panelist.
The question came up about how I think about and measure the ROI of research firms like Forrester. It’s of course a great question. Certainly in business one must manage spend and revenue, and everything a company undertakes should be reviewed for it’s value back to the firm. But I would posit that not everything has to be about ROI, at least not in the strictest sense. Just because you can measure something doesn’t mean you should. You can’t measure everything unless you have endless analytical resources, and if you try, you’ll probably miss out on key insights because you are too busy measuring. The entire doctrine of driving insight adoption is built on knowing when you have enough information to move forward. Carpenters have a saying, “Measure twice, cut once.” It’s not measure over and over and over. Not if you want to actually finish that house.
I value research and thought leadership the way I value education, knowledge and experience; highly. Do you ask yourself, “Should I hire smart, talented people? Do I need to train and coach them?” There is no way a digital professional can be consistently successful without these tools in their toolkit. Once you have acquired them you need to take full advantage. That’s where research and thought leadership comes into play. They act as finishing stones to hone these tools. To keep them razor sharp. This edge can be the difference between making a good decision or a bad one. It can help you build your business case and be more effective socializing your ideas across the broad cross-functional landscape of your firm. They make you better informed. Here is how I bucket this resource.
I’ll frequently turn to Forrester to to validate my current thinking or approach. No matter how smart you are, it’s always helpful to ensure you’re not blindly drinking your own kool-aid. The greatest writers had even smarter editors.
Many of the best lessons are learned by observing someone that’s accomplished in another realm. Forrester gets to peek under the covers of hundreds of companies and publish a combined, fully informed research paper. It’s a place I can’t go (probably better off most times, bed bugs, etc.).
I am constantly assessing new technologies and tools to help automate processes and in general help me do my job smarter. Frequently Forrester will usually have a Wave report that can help me narrow the field of who would be good candidates to invite into that so well loved RFP process.
Not everyone in your firm thinks about things they way you do. We invite Forrester analysts to add their voice to our own inside the company, helping to educate and spark ideas and activity.
There is no such thing as a fully reliable crystal ball. But if you want to lead, not necessarily bleed, you will need to make some calculated bets on what might happen. Firms like Forrester sometimes make bold, provocative predictions that bridge data with their brains. True, one is left to divine their own future from this, but the value is in breaking the tunnel thinking we can so easily fall into.
Certainly Forrester is not without their opportunities to improve. A potential white space is to partner with the execution agency resources that are employed by their clients. This could serve as connective tissue between desired outcomes and deliverables that achieve them. Over the past 15 years I have gained a lot personally from my interaction with Forrester, and that has clearly translated into value back to my company. The research is great, but in the end it comes down to people. I thank my account manager at Forrester, Michelle Beaudreau, for working tirelessly at making me more successful everyday.
If you are still a stickler for that ROI, then have at it. I’ll spend my time getting smarter thank you.
As the calendar has turned to 2011, we have been inundated with an endless barrage of Social Media predictions compiled by experts and dabblers alike. Some of what I have read are excellent and well informed perspectives backed by data and research, while others appear to be, well, nil-informed. As Yogi Berra once said, “Prediction is very hard, especially about the future.” No predictions here, just some observations about Social Media based on 3 years of experience working inside a large firm.
There is No Playbook
This medium or channel, or whatever you wish to call it, is way too new to have a reliable playbook. What works for some brands will not work for others. I would go so far as to say that Social Media does not have any common marketing ground. Direct mail and basic advertising principles are largely transferrable across brands and verticals even though retail is very different from financial services which is different from manufacturing. Social lacks such helpful fundamental truths.
Outcomes are Slippery
Save one or two examples (Dell Computer coupon codes on Twitter comes to mind), there is low confidence that a marketer could reliably forecast results from activity in the social sphere. Your CMO wants to know what she/he can book if your Social Media team is given $500,000. The CMO isn’t getting good answers to that challenge.
Mobile Adds Complexity
Social and mobile are matching luggage. They just naturally go together. A very different beast from the early web days of the late 1990’s. Back then the channel was confined to the desktop computer, a narrow pipe and a basic interface. We were able to make progress with a measured development roadmap. But with today’s always on, high speed connections and smart phones, there’s so many more variables to consider. Location, screen size, gestures, cameras, text messages, etc.
You Will Always be Outnumbered
One of the things that raises the possibility that there may never be a Social Media playbook is the injection of the consumer into the mix at every turn. They chime in when you least expect it and on topics that are completely unpredictable. When they called you had a private conversation. Today it takes place in public. Consumers sometimes comment because they just don’t understand, or have unrealistic expectations, or forget (don’t care) that we run a business and need to make a profit, or are just plain angry over something. We need to respect the fact that employees in a firm will always be outnumbered by consumers. People will just keep coming at you.
Fail Fast and Often
We can’t take our own sweet time. Social years will make online years look like we were standing still. Remember 2000 when we joked about “Online Years?” One year online was equal to five years off line. If you thought that ratio spun your head, try “Social Years” where one month might equal five Online Years! Social Media is not about what we’ve been doing all along. It’s about what we’ve never done before. We will need to learn faster than any previous time. It’s not just a new language, it’s an entirely new world and the wheel has yet to be invented.
My best advice. Do lots of things and count on failure. In fact welcome failure so you can rule things out. The list will grow quickly, but so will your knowledge. Make Social Media everybody’s business in your firm and eventually you’ll develop an edge over the competition and who knows. You may be able to walk into the CMO’s office and say. Give me this and I’ll give you that.
The theme of the recent Forrester Marketing Forum held in Los Angeles this past April was Adaptive Marketing: How to Design a Flexible Organization to Thrive on Change. As usual there were Forrester speakers and presentations by big brands who have been working to either adapt their own marketing efforts to the fast-changing consumer, or providing solutions for marketers to better adapt. This post summarizes the ideas, notes and quotes that struck a meaningful chord with me and epitomized in my mind the concept of adaptive marketing.
What is adaptive marketing? Forrester defines it this way.
A flexible approach in which marketers respond quickly to their environment to align customer and brand goals and maximize return on brand equity.
Ok, fine. But what does that mean and where do we begin? Well, it begins with data, and lots of it. More data than we as marketers have dealt with in the past. And we need it faster than we have received it before and must be willing to improve our agility and act on the data much closer to real time than ever before. It’s tricky because we have all been handcuffed in the past by analysis paralysis. By not knowing when we have enough data to make the decision. Being an adaptive marketer means giving up a little on the temptation to ask for one more cut of the data to make a perfect decision, and act now on making a good decision, then, well, adapt.
Why is adaptive marketing something we should be talking about today? I believe that it has a lot to do with the fact that consumers are enjoying their new found power of being at the helm, and becoming more comfortable with bypassing traditional channels to research and learn from others who have had real experiences with brands, products and services. It’s a new world for consumers and brands, and the consumers are moving ahead. But then again it’s much easier to be agile as a single person than it is an inertia-laden bureaucratic corporate dinosaur (oh, that felt good). The traditional marketing funnel is breaking down as consumers bounce out and check blogs, forums, networks and friends before making a buying decision. This activity is accelerating an an alarming pace. Power is shifting. Thus, marketers need to adapt or risk becoming irrelevant.
Let me be clear. I am not sounding an alarm or posting my version of the Mayan calendar. Today’s marketing machine is pretty darn good. But change happens faster with each passing year, and the consumer is like Benjamin Button, he’s getting younger all the time. Good firms tend to devote a lot of thought to the future. And a funny thing happens when you raise your head up and peer over the walled garden. You see what’s out there. Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll see.
Adaptive Marketing: Rethinking Marketing Methods in the Digital Age
Among a number of interesting things presented by David Cooperstein, VP of Forrester, was a brief history of media. He took us through radio, TV, and early as well as modern digital media. It was a clever parallel of media and marketing, and in fact he states Media = Marketing
Viewers – customers
Distribution = media fragmentation
Journalists = marketers
The history lesson was backed up by data that shows new media has mass appeal and is being adopted very quickly. People consume different kinds of media simultaneously, but the content they consume is oftentimes different.
This has significant implications on marketing messages, especially advertising. The user’s attention is fragmented. Wireless networks combined with the powerful capabilities of smartphones means consumers multitask to the hilt. Not good news if you want to breakthrough with your new product release. This is an important point. If a marketer can stack their message cross various media and reach the consumer during this multi-tasking moment, it will improve consideration and conversion. An article in today’s New York Times states:
For the first time the amount of data in text, e-mail messages, streaming video, music and other services on mobile devices in 2009 surpassed the amount of voice data in cellphone calls.
Mr. Cooperstein lists three tenets of adaptability one should consider to deal with this new reality.
Think and move differently
Listen more, react intelligently
Target people, not statistics
Probably to no one’s surprise, social plays a large part in adaptive marketing. And of course no Forrester forum would be complete without some new illustrative framework. The Social Intelligence Life Cycle was posited several times during the day and a half. It warns marketers that they must begin to manage the analysis of customer data from social sources, and use this data to activate and recalibrate marketing programs.
Now you may not be sold on the value and importance of social just yet. That’s fine. I would be the first to admit that it’s not mature and can’t compete head-to-head with traditional marketing practices. But there’s one fact no one can deny. It’s a treasure trove of data that marketers don’t usually work with. That’s a critical aspect of adaptive marketing. And yes, it’s 1,000 miles wide and one inch deep. Here are some guiding principles from Forrester.
Adapt your process
Plan iteratively and frequently
Partner for creativity, not durability
Use predictive metrics in addition to descriptive ones
Integrated Customer Marketing™: Technology And Services That Enable Adaptive Marketing
The Merkle Chairman and CEO, David Williams spouted some great ideas from the big stage. Merkle helps companies collect, manage and interpret all types of customer data. Here are some of his wise quotes.
Adaption is how marketers can create competitive advantage.
The digital revolution is enabling and accelerating the customer revolution.
Competitive advantage in the future will live in how effectively an organization can understand, track, engage, measure and influence consumer behavior at the individual level
He showed a graphic depicting how one might leverage data to attain a competitive advantage. As marketers move from mass to conversation the data gets more granular. The more one can collect, understand and act on granular data, the greater the advantage they will have in the marketplace. Makes sense.
He offered the following advice to marketers:
Push more money/spend into trigger marketing
The next decade is about media, not channels.
Real time data needs real time interactions
Create strategies that optimize the value of consumers over time
Move from a campaign mentality to a customer mentality
Mr. Williams had his twist on adaptive marketing termed Integrated Customer Marketing™. Defined as an optimization framework that maximizes customer portfolio value through targeted management of customer interactions across marketing sales and service throughout the customer lifecycle (there’s that word again). He spoke about managing a campaign inside a conversation (social). Interesting. If we could do that we would unlock tremendous value.
Know Me And Be Relevant: How Disney Creates Guest Relationships
I think we would all agree that Disney is a great marketing company. If you have ever been to their parks it gets hammered even further home. Tom Boyles, Senior Vice President Global Customer Managed Relationships for the Disney parks and resorts spoke about how they leverage customer data in a real time world. Here are some of his thoughts.
What is relevance and marketing? Knowing your customer well enough at any point in time or place that you would know exactly what to do next.
He shared real examples of how they are constantly adapting their data collection and marketing practices to improve the customer experience and impact business results.
It’s not so much about did we get someone to the park. It’s more about did we get them back to the park.
A customer never met a channel they didn’t like, so closely manage them all.
Connect with your customers across all the channels and media on their terms.
No one owns the customer, but everyone owns the moment.
Our view is that it’s not just customer relationship management, but CCRM, continuous customer relationship management.
Transforming to a Real-Time Marketing Organization
Steve Sickel, Senior Vice President, Distribution and Relationship Marketing for Intercontinental Hotel Groups (IHG) took the stage. He was an outstanding speaker and had lots of information to share. As the largest hotel group in the world they have lots of experience with customers and data. For Mr. Sickel, it was all about moving his marketing team quickly into the digital world. He echoed what we constantly hear. That customers are more informed, they control the purchase process and demand greater relevance. Traditional media is the wrong tool for the job today because it’s too slow and generic. Customers behave in real time and IHG was behaving in batch. His formula for success: investment, technology and organization.
Investment – Move traditional media to digital media. IHG has now shifted 85% of their media spend to non-traditional channels. This includes search marketing, online advertising, web retargeting, mobile and social.
Technology – Automate marketing systems and transform them from slow, reactive and limited to “Right-Time” marketing where they can do thousands of personalized campaigns at a time.
Organization – Break the silos of customer data and experience trapped in each individual channel and make accessible across the enterprise, as depicted below.
Old IHG Organization
New IHG Organization
Very clear, focused strategy to ensure IHG is poised to market to their future guests. Of all the presentations, this one laid out the best framework for how a company might go about adapting their marketing practices, systems and personnel.
Know Thy Customer: How Customer Intelligence Becomes a Strategic Weapon
The last keynote I’m going to mention came from Dave Frankland, Principal Analyst at Forrester. It was a perfect place for his talk. Much of what was said up until this moment was about data; specifically collecting, managing and acting on it. Mr. Frankland took it up a notch by challenging us to translate that data into customer intelligence for better decision making. He defines customer intelligence this way
The management and analysis of customer data from all sources, used to drive marketing performance and business strategy.
He parses the concept into three buckets.
The way to do this, according to Dave, is to begin to look at your customers as assets and liabilities. Not all customers are alike. Overlay your business balance sheet on your existing customer segments and you will see who makes you money and who causes you to lose money. Here’s a great focusing fact from Larry Selden, Professor emeritus at Columbia University.
The bottom 20% of customers can drain profits by at least 80%… while the top 20% can generate 150% of a company’s profit.
He cited some case studies from Fresh Direct, Farmers Insurance, Best Buy and ESPN. All great examples of how going through this exercise transforms data into intelligence.
What I Didn’t Hear Enough About
Which brings me to something I didn’t hear enough about at the forum, but alluded to earlier in this post. Mr. Frankland’s presentation got at it extremely well. That is marketers must refine the art of knowing when enough data is enough. We don’t need reams of it. We need the right data fast and then we must be able to recognize that we’ve got enough, then act. It also goes beyond enough, into, is it the right data? Marketers need to also look for new sources of data, vs. looking at the same old reports. It’s implied in many of the keynotes and track sessions, but knowing when to stop asking for data and having an eye for knowing what data to collect (it’s not all data) is something we probably could all learn more about. Forrester people, I know you’re out there. Perhaps you can assist here.
I’m a veteran of Forrester Forums, and no matter how many I attend, I’m always rewarded with some great nuggets and outstanding networking opportunities. They excel at monitoring the vital signs of the marketplace and at delivering content right when it’s most useful. Keynotes here were very strong and consistent. Track sessions as always are more uneven.
Here’s my vote for best quote from the forum. I apologize that I am unable to attribute it.
Fast is fine, but accuracy is everything.
All slides are property of the firms that presented them. Content in this post originates from my notes taken during the forum combined with my personal perspective. All photos are mine.
Well maybe that’s a bit of a stretch. The whole topic of establishing metrics has been creeping to the top of my brain over the past few weeks. Today it comes out.
In big companies there are many silos. We all acknowledge that and deep inside we want it to change, but mostly we just want the other guy to see it our way. That would be the fastest path to blowing up silos right? Perhaps, but maybe there is another way.
Sometimes people try to tear down the silos (read: convince others) by establishing, tracking and reporting on metrics; their metrics. Selecting metrics should be a pretty straightforward exercise, and oftentimes it is. However, the pool of available metrics grows over time as measuring tools improve and new channels emerge. Millions of words have been written on how to select metrics and most of the approaches are essentially sound. That’s not where the difficulty lies. Departments or lines of businesses choose metrics that support their particular goals, which gets them through the process pretty quickly. Where it gets interesting is when cross-functional teams are collaborating and must establish metrics for the larger project while ensuring their department’s goals are also well served. This is a challenging situation.
Thank goodness we have a wonderful tool to help at these moments; the Key Performance Indicator (KPI). KPI’s are typically set at the senior manager level and are the equivalent of commandments. They signal to the organization that when you are looking for work you should find a way to improve these KPIs.
All KPI’s are metrics, but not all metrics are KPI’s. This is an important distinction and can be used to great benefit for the entire company.
If you find yourself in a situation where your silo is in a room with other silos arguing over what metrics to choose, elevate the conversation by discussing the company KPI’s. Nobody can argue against that. Start with those metrics and move on to ensuring you can track and report on them, then dig into the project. Now this might mean you give up some of what you want to measure, so be prepared. Beyond the official record, each team is free to develop their own “shadow” metrics that may be required to manage their P&L and meet management mandates. That’s fine. This will help keep momentum and energy focused on solving the larger problem at hand. Good luck, and let me know how it’s going.