by Richard Fouts | November 10, 2013 | 3 Comments
When people say “email is dead” or that “email is no longer effective” it sounds like classic kill-the-messenger tactics. You wouldn’t permanently abandon your automobile, even though it consistently fails to perform when you enter the expressway at 5pm.
Same with email. You don’t abandon it because you get junk. In fact, consumers prefer to engage with email more than social media when it comes to learning about and shopping for products.
According to Milward Brown’s study of 1,209 internet users, only 7.6% respondents said they never visit a retail site after clicking on the retailer’s email. More than 77% said they do some of the time, with the remaining 15% saying they often or always go to the retailer’s site. 46% of respondents said they never use social media for shopping.
Email’s trump over social media, at least in the retail space, comes down to one thing; personalization. Years ago, I conducted focus groups around the United States on loyalty. When asked, “why are you loyal to your favorite retailers?” people in five cities across America consistently ranked “because they know me” as their number one answer.
In the digital relationship, this attribute isn’t quite as personal as a human being saying “Hello, Richard .. nice to see you again” when I enter the physical store, but it underscores the most prominent feature of today’s successful marketing: recognition of the customer as an individual versus a faceless member of some larger customer segment.
Read the full report, Retail Marketing, from AdAge, which contains key findings from the Milward Brown Digital study.
Category: Digital Marketing Tags:
by Richard Fouts | October 31, 2013 | Submit a Comment
In my PR days, I crafted a speech for my CEO – to be delivered at a town hall style quarterly update. That speech, at his insistence, encouraged the rank-and-file to “learn to take more risks.” I was one of the poor saps that took his advice to heart – and proposed a plan to apply some aggressive b2c style tactics against, what I considered, a bland b2b marketing plan.
My plan never saw the light of day because it was deemed too risky. And I quickly become known as that “reckless guy from PR.” In an ironic twist, my proposal to take a risk – proved too risky. It’s a scenario we see repeated many times, particularly in social media. Plans to “go social” are heavily diluted to flush out any sign of potential risk. These plans fall straight into the market noise. Why? Because social is a medium that ignores blandness. It demands some level of risk if you’re ever going to be heard.
How do you balance the organization’s need to reduce risk, with a medium that begs you to take risks?
For starters, you and your CEO need to specify the organization’s risk tolerance. If you don’t, you leave people to specify it themselves. When people aren’t sure how high the risk hurdle is, they guess – and they mostly guess wrong. Hence, the risk mantra becomes a hallow battle cry.
Start by crafting the three key dimensions of any risk management plan:
1 Identify the risks (e.g., people might criticize us)
2 Calculate the probability of the risk’s occurrence (e.g. high)
3 Craft your plan to mitigate the impact of the risk, if and when it rears its ugly head
Not a bad approach – and one risk managers have practiced for decades. But my colleague Jennifer Polk has an even better idea: eliminate risks before they occur. Okay, now it’s getting interesting. Check out Jennifer’s research for how Maker’s Mark, assaulted by customers after its decision to dilute its alcoholic content, converted risk to opportunity.
Or how O2 used social media to squelch what could have developed into a PR nightmare. Even the best laid plans carry risk. But – the beauty of social media: you can use the very platform that caused risk – to mitigate risk. Or take Jennifer’s advice and crush the occurrence of risk before it has the chance to see the light of day.
Category: Digital Marketing Uncategorized Tags:
by Richard Fouts | October 13, 2013 | 1 Comment
The current stand-off between the White House and Congress reminded me of the negotiation project, conducted by William Ury at Harvard back in the 1970s during the US-Soviet cold war.
Ury provides a litany of advice for getting to an agreement without giving in, based on his research, which you can read here. There’s one piece of advice however, that forms the cornerstone of his philosophy, “Getting to Yes.” Become the other party.
Mind you, it requires some thespian skills because it’s not just seeing the situation from the other point-of-view but adopting the opposition’s character, for example h/her personality and persona. This gets you close to understanding what the other party wants (even if you fundamentally disagree with their positions) by creating empathy.
I remember trying it before entering negotiations with my customer (the German Airforce; a man named Dieter) to wrap up a contract for the delivery of three automatic test stations. Using Ury’s advice – I scripted – and predicted what “I as Dieter would say” as I immersed myself in his personality and positions. This exercise helped me see where he would likely be coming from once the session began. I had worked with Dieter for two years, so I knew him well.
Imagine my surprise when Dieter practically recited my script verbatim. Now here’s the funny part. I actually sent Dieter a copy of the book prior to these negotiations. He obviously read it, congratulating me for being “on script.” When I articulated that he had also followed my script (but that he had twice jumped ahead) … we both got a good laugh. Bottom line: we negotiated what we both considered a fair and equitable deal. Niether of us felt we had given in.
I have a feeling if Obama became Boeher … and vice versa … the two would reach an agreement.
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by Richard Fouts | October 3, 2013 | 3 Comments
I’m just about to publish results of interviews with 13 professional services firms who enlightened me on how they approach transformation engagements. Here’s a sneak peek:
Approaching digital transformation within traditional project structures doesn’t work. It’s difficult to set quantifiable objectives if the ultimate business model you’re driving toward is unknown. Transformation puts you in discovery mode; treat it more like a scientific experiment versus an engagement with a known deliverable.
For example, most projects are all about delivering on-time and on budget and keeping risks at a minimum. Transformation is about discovering real breakthroughs in current performance versus marginal improvements. It’s about taking risks and working iteratively against unknown outcomes using agile principles of operating. Consultants call it discovery oriented project management where theories are developed to build hypotheses, conduct experiments and launch-and-learn. Other advice:
Keep your core team small: Staff a core team of six to eight business leaders, comprised of C-Level executives (or one of their direct reports) from marketing, operations, finance and sales. Large teams are not as equipped to work fast – and speed is important especially if you’re being threatened by agile startups. Many decisions will need to be made in real time, another argument for a small empowered team.
Understand customers as users: B2B organizations in particular, may know their buyers (division managers, procurement arms or corporate buyers) but know little about the people that actually use their products. After intensive observations many companies find ways to play a larger role in the customer’s day. Fedex and electronics distributor Ingram Micro for example, embraced this exercise to find ways to use their business infrastructure to push their services further up the value chain.
Engage cognitive & behavioral scientists. Be open to staffing transformation engagements with cognitive and behavioral scientists who understand how the digital customer perceives problems, uses information and analyzes data. These guys come to the process with no biases or preconceived notions of how things should be done. They also ask second-order questions ( “Is there a better way to decide how we replenish stock?” versus “What stock should we place on shelves today?”).
Approach the old and new in parallel. Think of transformation as parallel tracks. The first re-positions your legacy model to an altered marketplace leveraging the value proposition that has worked in the past. The second develops new sources of growth through an internal, startup-style business unit. This dual approach is occurring at Xerox, Barnes and Noble, Nike, the New York Times and scores of companies going through customer focused digital transformation.
Get inspiration outside your industry: Most of you insist on consultants that deeply understand your sector. You’re not wrong to insist this, but be open to staffing these engagements with an expert that may have a moderate understanding of your sector, but with a high degree of empathy and expertise in the area you want to impact, for example customer service, delivery, loyalty or user experience.
Don’t treat transformation as a one-time initiative. Every organization needs to build transformation expertise into its core competence, because this exercise will come around again. For example, research from Innosight reveals that in 1958, corporations on the S&P 500 lasted in the index for an average of 61 years. By 1980, that had fallen to 25; today it’s just 18 years. This rate will only accelerate as digital techniques mature.
As Damian Kimmelman, founder of the disruptive data business DueDil likes to remind us, “With the internet barely 20 years old, there’s much more anarchy to come.”
Category: Marketing Strategy Uncategorized Tags: business transformation, digial busienss transformation, digital business
by Richard Fouts | October 2, 2013 | Submit a Comment
Dealing with the realities of the digital business has shaken marketers to their core – in sectors facing “obvious disruption” – for example, media, travel, entertainment, financial services and retail. Now, marketing organizations in all sectors realize innovation is not an option – as the nexus of forces, the Internet of Everything, and business models becoming software provide rich sources of growth for everyone. The question is no longer who’ll transform next, rather when?
As the digital business movement accelerates…
- Marketing teams, big on ideas but short on resources, will forge deeper partnerships with providers (even competitors); they’ll get more aggressive in crowdsourcing ideation to customer advocates (to innovate faster and expand their value propositions); they’ll find more ways to sell products online, move toward massive customization, and make data driven customer insights part of more decisions. Out of sheer necessity, marketers will get more aggressive in distributing tasks to other functions.
- Marketers will also push their teams to adapt to an even more collaborative buying process as customers and prospects find it even easier to tap each other’s opinions through social networks, mobile apps and wearables (which will quickly move beyond the health and fitness markets). Marketers that resist designing experiences for the mobile/social, collaborative-hungry buyer will lose; those that skillfully encourage these interactions will win, not only share, but margins and growth;
- CMOs will lean on their teams to diversify – to grow beyond their traditional markets – and through digitalization – sell new products to new customers (e.g., through internal startup-style businesses). CEOs are seeing how emerging technologies make it possible to tap markets that were previously unavailable due to geographic constraints (or customers too hard to find through old demographic models) – and they will expect marketing to step up.
This is just the start of a growing list. What exciting, career-enhancing, stress-provoking, late-night-coffee-drinking, off-the-wall ideas are on your mind about the marketing organization of the future?
Category: Digital Marketing Tags:
by Richard Fouts | September 23, 2013 | 9 Comments
This quote from Damian Kimmelman, founder of the disruptive data business Duedi, reminds us why building transformation expertise into the organization is a leading priority.
In 1958, corporations on the S&P 500 had remained on the index for an average of 61 years. By 1980, that had fallen to 25; today it’s just 18 years. This means every marketing organization, large and small, needs to build transformation expertise into its capabilities, both in its internal talent and its ability to source talent from external experts.
In our survey of digital transformation consulting firms, we aggregated several pieces of sage advice from a group of firms that have collectively delivered hundreds of digital transformation engagements. Gartner clients can read the full document here.
One of the more common pieces of advice: If your legacy business is threatened by digital, don’t just hunker down and keep doing what you’re doing, claiming that the digital startups that are challenging you aren’t the future (they are) Rather, do what you’ve done before: leverage your strengths. The value proposition that has worked for you (and that your customers are still willing to pay for) doesn’t go away. Sure, it changes in a digital world, because your customers want to engage with you differently – so extending your core business with digital techniques should be a no-brainer.
But sometimes it’s more drastic (and complicated) than that, especially when digital startups have figured out entirely new ways of engaging and stealing your customers.
In these cases, you can launch your own digital startup alongside your legacy business – using your shared services model to support both organizations. It’s a popular model being used at The New York Times, Deseret News, Nike, Audi, Delta and scores of retailers (You can read more about this approach in our research note How to Approach Digital Transformation).
It takes courage, conviction, creativity and grit to run a startup alongside a legacy business. And – when such a model exposes opportunities for growth that can be integrated, in whole or part, into the primary business — the change management task is extraordinary.
Or is it?
The Deseret News, for example, called on Innosight (a strategy and innovation consulting firm) to help launch its new digital startup. The Deseret News’ existing shared services model was used to support both legacy and startup businesses. This approach provided a natural change management solution by exposing legacy employees to new ways of doing things in more natural, gradual way. The result digital business is now 25% revenues. And while the organization’s 150,000 legacy subscribers is impressive, Deseret Digital receives three million visitors per month, changing the organization’s market position from local paper to a national resource for an expanded audience.
Transformation is hardly a one-time initiative. Today’s rapid pace of change is the new normal – and in the 21st century, marketing executives can expect transformation issues to re-emerge in a few short years (especially as The Internet of Everything, wearable computing and trends in massive customization continue to mature).
Category: Digital Marketing Tags:
by Richard Fouts | August 21, 2013 | 1 Comment
Remember the days when television networks signed off at midnight? That changed when TV executives decided to fill the air waves 24/7, from then on. But these same execs also realized they couldn’t just spew random content; to they adopted a programming cycle starting with morning news, weather and sports – moving to daytime, prime time and late night.
Today’s content marketers have a similar cycle; many map content to the buyer’s path to purchase. For example, content applied to awareness marketing might include stories that defend a point-of-view or scenarios that convincingly describe how an emerging trend might play out. If buyers find the story relevant and useful - they advance to interest and desire, where content gets even more relevant, more personal. Creative content not only captivates customers; it helps drive them to purchase.
But first, the vision thing…
Gartner sees a lot of well-intended marketers dive straight into content marketing’s creative process at the expense of crafting vision and goals (it’s understandable; the creative side of content marketing is more fun; see also, http://blogs.gartner.com/jake-sorofman/building-a-content-supply-chain/)
If this describes you, in full or in part, take a step back and formulate your vision for content marketing. How can your leading business priorities, your burning marketing objectives become more wildly successful with skillful application of relevant content? Now set some goals. State the business metrics you’re trying to impact (by how much and by when) by applying content to your marketing initiatives.
Now the creative…
Armed with vision and goals, you can now get as creative as you want, by exploring the many ways you can strategically execute your vision. GE for example, in its campaign to sustain its image as an innovator, hired documentary filmmakers to trace the personal and financial investment (and inevitable setbacks) of innovators that changed the world.
They end with well placed calls-to-action, inviting a closer look at the setbacks and victories that come from GE’s own innovation labs. The message couldn’t be more clear: GE gets what it takes to traverse the financial rigor and emotional demands of innovation.
Others make content marketing interactive. Audi for example, skillfully uses its content to move buyers from interest to action with its showroom of the future, letting buyers explore the Audi fleet in detail. Buyers are then offered tools to design and select their own Audi, guided by their lifestyle preferences. Next, they’re shown content that details pricing, cost-of-ownership analyses – and finance and leasing options. Audi uses its content to drive buyers to an outcome. Delta Airlines provides another example. Like Audi, it lets travelers envision a personal outcome, by describing a dream vacation at its many travel kiosks in airports.
Making this happen is not unlike the editorial process you see at any publisher, whether print, broadcast or multimedia. CSC for example, has done a wonderful job installing a newsroom-style organization, complete with producers, managing editors, writers, and artists (view their organizational strategy in our note on marketing organization design, here). Also, if you’re a Gartner for Marketing Leaders subscriber, read why “Content Marketing Pushes Digital Marketing to Adopt Newsroom Habits.”
Content marketing provides a powerful fuel for your all your initiatives. But it happens best when based on a vision and a strategy for what my Gartner colleague recently described as continuous storytelling. Like television broadcasters, content marketers need to plan their line up with the goal of drawing in, engaging—and delighting—their audiences.
Category: Brand awareness Tags:
by Richard Fouts | August 9, 2013 | 3 Comments
Remember when AdAge asked its readers, “What viral ad made you cry?” The response was fantastic. Consumer marketers don’t apologize for the emotional threads they run through their promotional fabric; their customers seem to love it; and consumer marketers have fun with it.
But, while consumers LOL over Budweiser’s swear jar ad or sob over its Clydesdale story, a business buyer would likely be committed for crying over an offer from Ernst & Young (or at least sent on forced vacation).
B2b marketers are okay with scaring you (insurance companies love that one) or making you fear for your job if your systems are hacked (security firms love that one). Fear seems to be the one emotion that doesn’t scare b2b types. Ironically enough however, b2b buyers say they avoid ads that use fear because it feels manipulative.
Why is emotion such tricky stuff for b2b types? There’s the obvious answer, that emotion isn’t cool in business (remember those books on emtional IQ?). And – business buyers craft procurement processes that are deliberately designed to drive emotion out of the decision. Purchase recommendations are backed by cold, hard logic manifest in spreadsheets, scorecards and management memos.
Why then, do so many of clients tell me they bought from Vendor A versus Vendor B because they “just felt better about them?” Because, unless you’re Mr. Spock, you’re an emotional being whether you’re buying a car or an analytics package. Why? Because as a business buyer you care about your role. You’re passionate about your job, you care about your organization, and you care deeply about getting the best deal especially when you have limited budget (and who doesn’t have that?).
So, if you’re a b2b type, start secretly violating the procurement process of your customer. Don’t fear their emotional realities.
Category: Brand awareness Digital Marketing Personal selling Tags:
by Richard Fouts | August 8, 2013 | Submit a Comment
Simplicity. You don’t have to go far to hear buyers complain that the path to realizing product benefits is often highly cluttered. Sometimes just buying the product is fraught with obstacles.
As consumers, we want choices; lots of them. This is usually at odds with simplicity; in fact it’s the primary challenge of experience designers everywhere. This idea - “give them what they want, but make it simple to make a final decision” played out in a grocery store. On one table sat 24 fruit juice combinations, on another sat the four “most popular”. While the crowded table attracted more interest, the uncongested table sold more juice.
If there’s a lesson to be learned - it’s the dangers of scope creep.
Steve Jobs for example, was famous for asking product designers to de-scope features, then de-scope again until they reached a point where the value proposition took an obvious decline. But his philosophy, which unskilled designers often don’t grasp: less is more.
Low tech versus high tech
I called Nordstrom the other day; in one ring, I heard “Good afternoon” followed by an instant response to my request for Men’s Suits, which answered in half a ring. Contrast this experience with Bloomingdales, where I endured phone tree hell to reach the same outcome in more time by suffering more aggravation.
Technology is often the culprit. Nordstrom descoped their simple answering method by ditching the automated answering, call disbursement system they once had. The result? Customers get to their desired outcome in seconds along an uncluttered path.
Do people yearn for more simplicity? Easy answer (yes).
If you’re in product management, there are three exercises you might try:
Explore how a de-scoping of features could lead to a more efficient experience, and one that is more enjoyable. Look at how JetBlue gets travelers to where they want to go more efficiently and more pleasantly than United with a less-is-more approach to the user experience.
Try the 3 x 3 exercise. What does your customer do three minutes before they use your product, and three minutes after? Such an exercise caused Thomson to re-vamp their product portfolio, including the way its priced and distributed. No kidding.
And of course, try using your own products.
Category: Digital Marketing Tags: JetBlue, Nordstrom, Steve Jobs, user experience, UX
by Richard Fouts | July 29, 2013 | Submit a Comment
If such advice existed, every TED talk would win an award. The fact is, there’s no killer advice about this topic, though presentation consultants could fill a library with their tips, tricks and “must have” techniques for delivering killer presentations.
Trust me, having spent years reading this stuff and having given my share of boring presentations I speak from experience. For those of you that haven’t forged these rivers, I’ll save you some time and ironically, share my top five.
First, you must select something relevant where you have something original to say. Telling people what they already know is the most violated principle of deliverying good presentations. When you look at your final deck, go through each slide and ask yourself: “Am I telling my audience an old story?”
If there’s any doubt, find a deeper level of insight you can share (or share the moment that changed your thinking about your topic). If you must re-hash old territory, say something like “by way of review,” in your voiceover to let your audience know you’re setting things up (with facts you know they know).
Second, you must narrow the scope of your presentation, then narrow it again. Trying to cover too much ground is the second most violated principle in any presentation. If you have a huge amount of ground to cover, fear not ….just find the one sliver of thought you want to amplify. For example, a presentation on business transformation is a big topic, and if you find yourself presenting something this ambitious, explain why traditional approaches to initiatives like transformation don’t work. Talk about the approach business transformation initiatives require versus all of the big sweeping reasons one should transform. This brings us back to knowing your audience. Start with the assumption that they want to transform, then get into the approach that works, and the approach that doesn’t. Try not to bore the audience with transformation lingo they’ve already heard.
Third, expose your passion of why your topic interests you, and why the things you’ve discovered are so mind blowing that you just had to share them. Seriously, if you think you can’t do this, there’s a documentary about the history of concrete you might watch. You’ll be fascinated to see how concrete has played a critical role in the economic development of great nations. Anything is interesting if you look under the covers. If your passion about your topic isn’t authentic, you’re dead before you start.
Fourth, quantify the impact your topic is having (or about to have) on the people you’re talking to. If there’s no quantifiable impact, you’re not talking about anything worth solving, worth exploring, worth thinking about. Sales calls that don’t quantify impact end in “thanks for coming by” versus those that end with, “I want to learn more, I need to learn more, I must learn more.”
Fifth, turn off the PowerPoint, look your audience in the eye and take them through your journey, also known as your storyline. Most of you will ignore this one, because your cultures demand presentation slides. But just remember, history’s great orators weren’t big on PowerPoint. If you need a 12-step program to implement this advice, use slides in spurts. Talk to a slide or two, let the screen go dark while you engage your audience with a personal story. Then, if you must, bring up another slide or two. Think of this practice as the cup of decaf you interleave throughout your day to deal with your insomnia.
As I was going up to the podium at the American Marketing Association a few years ago, the light bulb on the projector exploded (scaring the audience I might add) and no one had a spare. The conference organizer turned white with panic, but I converted the presentation to a Q&A (which is really the part audiences like most). Half the audience came up to me after, exclaiming, “I’m so glad the projector failed. This was more fun, more informative, more real.”
Now, go kill your audience.
Category: Digital Marketing Marketing communications Tags: