Digital Cream is a roundtable event organised by Econsultancy where over 200 senior client-side marketers have the opportunity to share best practice and discuss what is and isn’t working for them. I describe it as an opportunity to do exactly what you would rather be doing at a lot of the conferences and events you go to. After all, its good to talk.
I was moderating a session around Joining up On and Offline Channels and Data. Although I can’t share any of the detail, what is said on Digital Cream stays on Digital Cream, I thought it worthwhile sharing some of my take outs arising from my research and discussions around the subject.
Where delivering multichannel customer experience is concerned there are still a lot of organisations moving from the stage that is considered to one that is capable. That means there are still a lot of brands and businesses working with systems and processes that are customer focused but not necessarily harnessing cross channel capabilities.
It is pretty clear that the two biggest challenges brands and businesses face are structuring their internal and external teams and joining up the numbers, whether that be driving insight or understanding the role and value of each channel.
On the subject of teams and talent I have felt for a long time that there’s a short supply (and hence a big opportunity) for those people that are ‘specialists at being generalist’ and can work effectively across channels and disciplines. These guys and girls take a critical role in driving joined up planning, delivery and measurement. But if you are really are into sharing the burden of joining things up then you need to be developing multidisciplinary silo bashing teams – across your interim and external or agency teams.
Data is of course becoming pretty cool and there’s a lot of talk around datafication, it’s ability to support big leaps forward in our understanding of the customer journey and the potential to help deliver fantastically integrated marketing programmes. It feels like there is a real thirst from brands, businesses and marketers to make that happen. One thing I would say though, especially where attribution is concerned, is set realistic expectations and be careful not to hit the law of diminishing returns around Return on Analsyis Resource (ROAR). Maybe next year will be the year of data driven marketing. Now that would be cool!
Earlier this year I sat on an expert panel looking at travel brands and how they can maintain their brand values in a marketplace where consumers are increasingly swayed by price. You can read the full write up in Travolution Magazine.
Since the glory days of the High Street Travel Agent the way we research, plan and book travel has changed beyond all recognition. That started with huge advances in technology that drove economies of scale where a travel brand could serve lots of people at the same time. In many respects that created an environment where customer service may well have taken a back seat and price comparison became king. Interestingly though, the rise of the social web has given customers a voice and a vehicle for venting their frustrations. The balance of power has changed. The customer now plays a critical role in shaping the dialogue with travel brands and ultimately their reputation.
What is clear, however, is that the strength of your brand is ultimately linked to the strength of the experience you provide and how closely that fulfills the brand promise you create. You might win a single booking on the strength of price but great service will win you multiple bookings and all important customer loyalty. Absolutely. Unsurprisingly, Ryan Air was held up as a case in point but that doesn’t mean there is a clearly identifiable segment of the market that will fly easyJet unless there is no other alternative. Clearly it’s a balance and it is not a case of one size fits all.
Developing sub brands and offering customers the opportunity to trade up to the ‘finest’ range is one way of dealing with that. Interestingly, the role of content creation came up. Creating content that facilitates getting the right ideas in front of the customer and helping them choose the right holiday is another way to add value. Content that is, most importantly, useful and engaging but also findable and sharable becomes much more important in a post Panda and Penguin world. That requires commitment and investment.
We talked about user-generated content, its role alongside brand created content and how important understanding your customers is if you are going to engage with them successfully. One of the most valuable things you can do is engage with your customers at a personal level and get to grips with what your customers feel and think about your brand. I have always been amazed at how few brands actually do that when the opportunity is clear. Increasingly the relationship between a brand and its customers is becoming one of partnership. Monarch asking their passengers to try out some new seats if they have some spare time after checking in is a great example. Interesting too that most of the bigger brands present felt that TV and brand advertising has its place and the clear opportunity presented by paid media is to amplify and scale your earned and owned media efforts.
So, it is likely that the ever present need to deliver a price promise is not going to go away but it would appear that travel brands understand the need to deliver the right brand promise too. There was much debate around exactly how to do that but the themes rehearsed here do appear to be part of the solution. Deliver on experience. Understand and engage with your customers. Use owned, earned and paid media in an integrated way.
I’ve just pinned this to the wall in our office. It pretty well describes my view of things at the moment. Whilst I agree with chasing the small ideas the big ones are important too. Where making it up as we go along is concerned I prefer to call it ‘we are all still learning’. Now that we are all back to school after the summer break I am going to refer to this as a sense check in the sometimes intense run up to Christmas.
Sometimes I feel I’m on a personal quest to make the complex simple. I hate dealing with the over complicated and I absolutely believe that complex problems can only really be solved if you can break them down into their component parts. To that end I have, over time, developed a number of guiding principles that help me (and hopefully the teams I work with) get to grips with Digital and do it better.
Here are three of them.
Digital marketing is really only about two things. Content and distribution. That’s it. We as digital marketers are in the pursuit of the Holy Grail and it goes something like this.
Getting the right content In front of the right customer
At the right time On the right device At the right point in their decision making process To drive the right action
It puts content and the customer at the heart of what we do and helps prevent us taking a channel or technology led approach. That’s good. Really good.
So, along comes digital, followed by the truly empowered consumer and now a super connected world. It turned everything upside down and our marketing departments and organisations were left in disarray. We’ve come up with a range of different solutions to deal with that problem. Businesses send their staff on training courses and we hire consultants to help us develop the right to-do lists. But in their own right neither of them drive real change. In my mind the formulae for real transformation looks like this;
consultancy + skills development + facilitation = change
That’s the way most of our projects work. The really successful ones anyway.
Success in digital is all about people. Never forget it. Things go wrong when you loose sight of the fact that real people are involved. That includes your customers for sure but it also includes your staff and your agency teams. In fact anyone and everyone who is working into the business or project. If you are leading those people your job is really only about three things.
Developing and communicating a clear vision Getting the right people in the right jobs Creating the right environment for those people to thrive
There you go. Three guiding principles for doing Digital better.
Clearly there are plenty more. What are you guiding principles?
Heading back to work after the holidays I wondered how many posts I would be reading around digital trends and what 2012 was going to bring. It would appear the answer was ‘less than I expected’. Maybe that in itself is a sign that our industry is growing up and that year on year the stuff we were writing about last year still applies this year. Maybe this year really will be the year of the mobile!?
Of course the world we work in continues to change and the economic climate we are experiencing sets the tone. What we are experiencing now has become the new normal. Interestingly what is often perceived as the face of adversity is also driving positive and interesting changes in our behaviour. Here are ten to mull over.
I particularly like number two. Live a little. Under a barrage of reminders about what you should and what you should not be doing make sure you do actually live a little and go indulge yourself. At work and play. Pursuing your passion, finding new ways to approach things and a fresh mindset has got to be good for business as well as being good for the soul.
Guess what, that might be exactly what you and the economy needs.
Have you heard of the Do Lectures? It’s all based on the idea that ‘people who go and do things can inspire the rest of us to go do things’… and it came from a small but clever country called Wales. Each year they invite a bunch of interesting and inspiring people down to West Wales to tell their story. The talks are available online and what they have developed is a great resource that anyone and everyone can dip into.
I’ve been following a guy called Gerd Leonhard for some time now. He calls himself a media futurist, I buy into what he is saying and I like the way he says it. He spoke at the Do Lectures last year around what he calls ‘the journey from egosystem to ecosystem’. It’s worth watching.
Thinking about some of the things I am involved with right now – including the interesting and big challenge which is how to get a whole country behind sharing good quality content in pursuit of becoming a more attractive and successful travel destination – a lot of what he speaks about resonates with me. That includes the following … in his words plus some of mine (and I guess that’s the point).
We used to live in an egosystem. Everything was big. Big companies, big government and of course big budgets. That has changed in so many ways. We are starting to figure out the value and benefit in small and the challenges and problems associated with big. We have been hugely empowered and we are living in a hyper connected economy.
Collaboration is increasingly becoming the business model of the future. Whilst not impossible, it is going to become increasingly difficult to achieve things on your own. The smartest stuff is often ‘proudly found elsewhere’ and there is nothing wrong with that. Embrace it. Add to it. Make it better. Success is increasingly dependent on return on engagement rather than return on investment. But in pursuit of that success we might have to give up some of the things we like and have become accustomed to. Including control.
These days nothing is ever finished and things are in a constant state of evolution and flux. Being in permanent Beta can be stressful. We have to get used to it.
Interestingly enough much of this will happen in the developing world. Places which are less constrained by ‘the way we do things’ and the structures that exist around them. Increasingly the wisdom of the crowd is driving new ways of doing things and a win win for all concerned.
Regarding that challenge I mentioned earlier these are exactly the sorts of things we are becoming acutely aware of where rising to that challenge is concerned. And I am pretty excited about it. More on that in the New Year so watch this space.
I mailed Google last week. A technical question about geo-targeting in AdWords. They mailed back. No complacency. No avoiding the question. No generic waffle. Sure they are a sales orientated organisation but you feel like they are listening and they care about what you are saying, thinking and feeling. Like it or not they do that and a whole lot of other things brilliantly.
I remember someone telling me a while back that the single most important factor affecting whether a business is still in business 10 years after it starts is the strength of its brand. Yep, that makes sense.
But what determines the strength of a brand? Branding people talk about the core idea – the thing that drives an organisation, is what the organisation is about, what it stands for and what it believes in. Successful brands project that core idea across everything they do – their products, their environment, their communications and the way they behave. It drives consistency of purpose.
It’s all about people. It doesn’t matter how technical or digital your business is – people really matter. Your customers. Your staff. Your suppliers. I think if you can put that somewhere close to the core it’s going to make a big difference. Now more than ever. I think it’s going to be the single most important thing in determining the success of your brand in an open and networked economy. If not it should be.
Unfortunately I missed two conferences last week that I would really have liked to have gone to. Eye for Travel’s Online Marketing and Social Media Europe 2011 in Amsterdam and the econsultancy JUMP 2011 event in London – an annual event that focuses on the pursuit of better joined up and integrated marketing. Exactly the sort of brainfood that we all need from time to time. For me the benefits of attending these types of events are three fold;
I take my head out of the day to day grind for at least one day.
I take away a few really useful insights that help me on my way.
I tend to come up with some useful ‘thinking frameworks’ that help me solve real work problems on my return.
Sometimes you are just too busy or you just don’t have the budget to attend these kinds of things in person. But that doesn’t stop you consuming the content. Be it in real time on twitter by following the conference #hashtag or afterwards through slideshare and Vimeo. Of course what these events bring with them is a content legacy that lasts long after the event. One that you can catch up on.
That’s what I have been doing this morning. The sorts of things I am working on at the moment include writing a number of chapters for a new digital marketing handbook, a big user experience and design project for a new website and trying to figure out how the hell we are going to come up with an organisation wide content strategy to better deliver everything we do. I need help.
So I came across the following deck on slideshare and what I ended up doing was very quickly flicking through the slides. What I picked up were a number of useful insights and thoughts around content strategy. For example the basis of the problem we face as an organisation; fragmented content management, fragmented organisational structure and fragmented platforms and devices. And a reminder that developing content strategy really is about change management.
Then I looked further and came across this video of the same person doing another presentation on content strategy. I made myself a cup of tea and watched the whole thing. I started to develop a thinking framework around some of the relationships between information architecture (and user experience), content management (and technology) and social media (and marketing). I started to figure out what the processes were that might help me solve or more importantly create the content strategy problem we face. Of course what I was doing this time is properly engaging with the content. It was video content this time but it could have equally been a blog post, a white paper or even the same slide deck I had flicked through earlier.
Now I don’t feel so bad about missing those two conferences I just mentioned. The stuff we do is a never-ending learning journey. One that is never finished and one that you must never neglect. So in the absence of unlimited time and enough budget to attend every conference you would like to here’s a rule of thumb I have just developed that should help me (and maybe you) maintain your staple diet of digital marketing brainfood.
Flick through some stuff once a day but at the very least once a week Properly engage with some stuff once a week but at least once a month Go to a conference maybe once a quarter but at least once a year
I guess it is a bit like your five a day. A useful guide to stick to.
Oh, and make sure you check out Karen McGrane if you are in any way interested in content strategy.
I’ve been on holidays. A three-week holiday in fact. For the most part I didn’t try and check in with the office, keep tabs on email or maintain a blog. Because what I really needed above all else was a proper break. Sure I spent the best part of three months preparing things for my departure, tying things up and handing things over … but guess what … it was worth it.
Paragliding is one of my passions and one that I have somewhat neglected since the arrival of young Tom 627 days ago. But on this trip I managed a handful of really good days flying, amongst stunning glaciers and 4,000m peaks in Switzerland and some ‘chocolate box’ flying around Lake Annecy in France. Paragliding might be boring, dangerous and expensive but for me it represents one of the few times in our day to day lives when you really are, once stepping off that hill, responsible for your own destiny. It’s pure. It’s liberating. It’s reviving.
It’s good for the soul
There’s a lot of waiting around involved but more often than not you are in a stunning, or at least interesting place. That’s good in itself. Once you do step of the hill it’s the simplicity, independence and focused nature of free flying that really works for me. You can’t step off or take a break. You have to deal with what happens there and then. Feedback and results are immediate. It’s a great antidote to the sometimes complex world of work.
It’s good for the mind
A break from work helps you find perspective. Something else to focus your attention on speeds up that process. It’s a kind of disk defrag for the mind. It’s a way of rewiring the neural pathways you develop when working too hard for too long. What’s more that helps great ideas come to light. Like it or not back in the office things won’t change or happen without them.
And it’s often about the people
I have lived, visited and flown in over ten different countries. Many of the people I have met along the way I am either still in touch with, or for the brief time I spent with them, they have often inspired me or at the very least brought a different perspective on things. Mad Dog Chris who I flew with last week for example, who lives in Hawaii and works in a restaurant but spends more time flying, kiting and surfing than waiting tables. These people help remind you there is a whole world out there and there is more than one way to skin a cat.
So armed with a better state of mind, some fresh ideas and maybe a different approach to things I am returning to the office. And that’s good for business.
So take a break and pursue your passion.
And if you want to learn to fly you could do a lot worse than go visit my good friends Rob and Nic at Fly Spain in Andalucía. You won’t regret it.
I remember recently seeing something like this on twitter, ‘When I don’t tweet I don’t get any work. When I do tweet I don’t get any work done’
Blogging is a bit like that and I have woefully disregarded our blog for more than a few weeks now. My head has been well and truly in the “do”. Do as in “doing”, not do as in “do do”. Sound familiar? Well here are some thoughts on how to keep ahead of the always on and everyone is a publisher game … or maybe just cope when you are not.
Prior planning and preparation prevents piss poor performance. Do they actually say that in the British Army? I imagine they probably do and, guess what, they are right. There is a lot of truth in the post Seven reasons why your blog sucks and what to do about it. Have you got a plan?
Of course that is a bit like your Mum asking you where you saw it last when you have lost something. A bit annoying. The other thing you can do is give yourself a helping hand and become better at curating content. For starters try the three things mentioned in the post How to use content curation to add value to your own website.
So, what about when you are really struggling? Well hopefully you’ll stumble across something that really resonates with you and some of the things you are working on. Close to the bottom of the list maybe but there’s even value in recycling good content across your own network.
Here’s a good example. We are talking to a bunch of people around paid search and how we might use the channel differently. Less as a direct channel and more of a brand channel. The video describes it better, ‘A Peer branding campaign. A media buy that is not a media buy. A way of tying Converse directly to consumer interest’. When God made Americans he must have had videos and presentations like this in mind. Neat!