Today we honor Martin Luther King, Jr. He was a man who obviously thought long and hard about important things and how to change them so more people could have equal opportunity to pursue their dreams. Dr. King knew his actions were putting him in danger, but he calculated that risk and determined pursuit of this particular cause warranted such action. Thought alone is never enough. Action without thought will not reliably yield desirable results. Pairing thought and action is what moves mountains.
Many firms have set aside Dr. King’s birthday as an official company holiday. I’m proud to say my company falls in that category. As I awoke this morning I casually checked my Twitter stream; nothing unusual about that. But today it seemed to be positively on fire. Maybe it was just me, but it seemed the volume was higher than normal and the quality and deepness of the created and linked-to content was on an elevated level.
I began to wonder about that. Perhaps it was the day itself. MLK day sneaks up on you. Just two weeks after the long holiday break, we get a surprise day off. We have fewer professional responsibilities. And it’s a Monday at that! Much better than a Friday. There is no family gathering expectation, so no spending time prepping, cooking, entertaining or refereeing family conversations. Instead we can relax and reflect. It’s truly a bonus day. Thank you Dr. King for giving us this gift. Perhaps it was the significance of this day that triggered more in depth speculation over what I would have normally seen everyday.
Which brings me back to my theme today. Think; absolutely. Take Action; required. Things will then begin to move.
I purposely left out speech. It could just as easily have been think, speak, then act. The voice is definitely powerful, but one can speak without much thought. Yes, Dr. King moved us to tears many times with his oratory gifts. But as he once said,
A superior man is modest in his speech, but exceeds in his actions.
Here’s one of my favorite Tweets of the day and it has nothing to do with business or social media or frameworks, roadmaps, predictions about the next iPad or anything else that is of marginal value when measured against the backdrop of Dr. King’s accomplishments. Instead, someone thought, took action, then Tweeted. Something is going to happen.
What’s your soul worth? Bart Simpson sold his to Milhouse for $5.00. I would say he may have left some money on the table. Not to worry, this post is not about any particular spiritual compass, but it is the longest post I’ve ever written, 1,486 words.
Let’s say that a soul, for the sake of argument, is the core of one’s being. It’s how you act and what you say when you’re alone. It’s how you react when you face a crucial moment in your life, in public. It’s not planned behavior. It’s a spontaneous response to your environment. It’s the real you. Your brand.
Indulge me for a moment. Think about the brand you work for or a brand you enjoy. Each one likely has carefully crafted mission and vision statements that in turn spawn carefully crafted marketing and advertising messages. This is not a bad thing. It is in fact necessary to help employees of a company understand the brand, stay focused and perhaps work better together as an integrated team. Now if brands would just go the next step and let their employees inhabit the soul of the brand, things would get interesting.
Prior to Social Media tools, this was almost impossible and never seriously contemplated. Customer Service people were the first ones to take the keys to the brand’s soul. They had to answer the phones and talk in real time to customers. Their first priority was to solve problems. Eventually service was co-mingled with selling. Running a service department is a very tough job. Once upon a time customer service reps spoke from their hearts. Now they need to wrap their personality around canned scripts generated by CRM systems that display pop-ups on screens. Nevertheless, these people are on the front lines of a brand’s soul.
Public relations departments also help embody the brand’s soul. But they are often reigned in by the law department and that nagging “worst case scenario” syndrome. Their role is essentially the same as when they were formed, but their constituents go beyond customers. They speak with/to investors, journalists, career seekers and politicians. The biggest change they face now is the growing number of personal zealots who have a blog, the tool sets they need to learn and the speed at which they must react.
If you’re a pure play brand it’s much harder to be soulful because people interact with your site and not your people. Banks with branches have a distinct advantage over online only banks. Branches are full of people who can easily embody the soul of the brand in a familiar form factor; live humans in person. Apple and Microsoft were fierce rivals, even though Microsoft led market share from day one. But when Apple opened retail stores around the country they immediately gained a distinct advantage. Apple has a face and a body and a voice in the local mall. The Genius bar was Genius.
Not all brands can or should have physical locations. But they darn well better start manning public real estate on the web. By that I mean social networks on and off their own web properties. Some brands have come a long way in figuring out how to use these outposts well, others are learning; still others, the laggards, and are being lapped on the information superhighway. This is NOT a case of ,”I’ll sit by the side of the river and watch the bodies of my enemies float by.” News flash: no one’s floating by.
The British IT services and technology firm, Morse, released a study earlier this year that claim UK companies lose £ 1.3 Billion each year in worker productivity because employees shift their time to Social Media during business hours. They estimate about one week per year per employee. Taken at face value and absent of other thinking this may seem high. CEO’s around the world can now be heard screaming, “Shut down Facebook. Block Twitter.” Not so fast there college. There’s a good reason workers drift off into the social realm during the day. The old school ways of engaging are no longer as effective as they once were. Oh, one more thing. Have you explored the thought process of a Gen X or Y? I love the Brits, but why so negative?
The Meeting is Dead
Corporations have created a meeting-centric culture. From 8 to 5 it’s meetings, meetings, meetings. There’s a reason the meeting has become a staple; it encourages collaboration, it’s often face-to face-which means you can have a rich, quality communication experience, and it can help push for decisions. All this is good and it’s definitely social, but it falls short. Only those in the meeting get to participate and many of the words spoken are quickly forgotten. Whole paragraphs are never even heard because of the side conversations. By the way, if you do publish meeting notes, no one will read them.
The corporate meeting paradigm needs to be completely retooled. Administrative assistants schedule and reschedule meetings all day everyday. They select a physical space where the meeting will be held. That space is reserved exclusively for meetings and needs to be lighted, cleaned, heated/cooled, stocked with white boards, tables, chairs and a phone, at the very least. The meeting space can only be used between Monday and Friday during normal business hours. If you actually attend the meeting in person, sometimes you can call in, you physically have to find your way to the meeting place, taking you away from doing anything else. Someone always leaves an important document behind or forgets to bring enough copies for everyone, but it’s alright because, “We can share.”
Does this sound like something you would design from scratch? Unlikely. But how do we get off this meeting hampster wheel? There have been many attempts to stop the meeting madness. No meeting Fridays, no meeting mornings or afternoons, or no meetings over 30 minutes. Some meeting rooms actually have guidelines on the wall. There they are, the meeting rules in 90 point font neatly framed; create an agenda, arrive on time, be prepared, anyone can contribute, no idea is bad, etc. I’ve even heard of firms removing the chairs from meeting rooms, leaving workers to stand around the table in hopes it would speed things up.
People (employees) change faster than companies. Great companies figure out how to keep people passionate about their work, and understand the importance of retaining their most passionate people. In today’s economic environment, firms need as many people as possible engaged, because:
The number of people willing to start something is smaller, much smaller than the number of people who are willing to contribute once someone starts something. — Clay Shirky Here Comes Everybody
Increasing employee engagement is critical to creating differentiation. Many firms conduct employee opinion surveys to measure the engagement of their employees. The Gallup Survey does just that and they have years of data that shows engaged employees drive company success. According to the The Wharton School, a highly engaged culture:
Has respect for individuals – Employees participate in decision making
Practices transparency – Employees have access to the same information as everyone else (within reason and the law), and exposure to senor executives
Empowers employees – Team members feel a sense of purpose, authority and responsibility
Promotes team building – A sense of identity, culture and values, feeling of equality emerges
First and perhaps most important, it allows people to glean knowledge and solutions from the largest team available; the entire company. This is important for large firms. There are smart people all over the place in big companies, but anyone of us probably only engages with not more than 25 of them at any one time. In a firm with 10,000 employees that’s .0025% of the workforce!
Kill the Physical Meeting
Give birth to the Social Meeting. Use social technologies and the social graph to give and get information, and exchange ideas that solve problems. It’s not a replacement for face-to-face meetings, we will still need those. But let’s not spontaneously call a meeting when we can use simple web tools to accomplish that and more.
Setting up an internal social network is a great way to train employees on how to be social in a corporate setting. Don’t worry that someone may say something that’s rude or boring. They already do that using e-mail today. Turn it on and turn them loose; behind the firewall of course. You will see who your social stars are in very short order. Recruit those people, point them to the public social properties and you are well on your way to giving your brand a soul.
Brands that will survive and thrive in this brave new social world will be viewed by consumers as having a soul and not selling it. Don’t end up like Bart Simpson.
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.
Neuro Productions, the company that created this application seems to be one person, Hris Timmerman. He lives in Antwerp (Belgium) and is a self-proclaimed Adobe flash addict, and apparently a good one. He created the Twitter network browser application. It allows you to enter a Twitter name and see their network blossom in your browser window right before your eyes. The results show the avatar of the Twitterite, their last update and all their connections with their avatars and last updates.
You can then click on other Twitterers as well and drag the images around on the page to get a better look at who’s in the various networks. It keeps expanding each time you click. There’s also a full screen mode. So what is it good for? Well it’s hard to say. More than anything it’s just a fun way to see the Twitter networks come alive, and maybe find someone you’d like to follow. Does everything really need a reason?