From CIO to CMO, A Data Story


“If you came into marketing because you didn’t like numbers, then you don’t have much of a future.”
-Beth Comstock, CMO at GE

Much has been written about the shift in spending from the CIO to the CMO, Gartner has been out front on this by forecasting that by 2017 the office of CMO will spend more on IT than the CIO function. Whether this proves to be true or not masks a more stark reality for professionals in marketing organizations, which is that their jobs are fundamentally changing.

The era of Mad Men in marketing isn’t over but the creative and communication aspects of the marketing function are diminishing in importance. Marketing can no longer exist as a siloed function, isolated from product, engineering and operations, and more significantly there is a substantial skills gap that marketing professionals will need to fill to respond to a complete shift to digital.  Traditional skills are not going away but the emerging reality is that data-centric strategies for engaging radically different customer behaviors and more complex buyer journeys will not be realized without retooling people.

The other reality that marketing teams cannot escape is that they alone cannot anticipate and develop all of the content that will be required to successfully execute on company objectives. More reliant than ever before on earned and sponsored content, marketing teams will need to better instrument and provide social incentives for the creation and re-use of earned media and that goes well beyond what is the norm today for social media engagements. However, the shift to digital also requires organizations to think beyond text.

Video has rapidly emerged as the new whitepaper, and this should not be surprising given that YouTube is the second most used search engine on the web. If you are tempted to raise your hand and say "hey Jeff you just said Mad Men is over!" let me stop you know and point out that video relies on 2 core strengths in addition to the creation skillset, which is the ability to drive distribution and more significantly instrument video for data collection that enables refinement of creation and distribution. Video is data… and then there is Pinterest which has it’s own unique dynamics but is proving itself to be a powerful contributor to digital marketing success.

Whether text, video or images, the common requirement is instrumentation of the content to measure the interaction and the impact. No piece of content exists in isolation, and just like you measure demand generation activities in the context of a funnel where each stage of development passes through, discards or recycles leads, marketers have to measure content through a parallel funnel that captures people according to interests and things they find curious.

The content funnel is more like publishing than sales development because it is all about building a sustainable audience that trusts you as a source of authority. Measuring the impact of content through social channels, time on site, and referral sources is a valuable technique for sourcing new ideas, concepts, and influencers in your market.

I came across a fascinating post that explores the concept of brand newsrooms as a marketing function. This is something my friend Tom Foremski has been writing about for a long time, the notion that brands are just another form of media entity and this post certainly reinforces that.

In the age of social media, overnight viral sensations and the constant flow of information and multimedia experiences, it’s not surprising that brands find the newsroom idea enticing. In order to keep up with the times and current media-consumption behaviors, brands are starting to shift towards higher-metabolism marketing that responds quickly to culture, much like how journalists in newsrooms act quickly in response to important events.

The Changing Role of Marketing Changes Everything

The fact that IT spending is shifting from CIOs to CMOs is interesting but not a full and complete story, and for vendors who will look at this trend and shift their strategies to selling to a different title miss the point and will ultimately fail. Marketing as a function has to become more integrated with other functions because, like customer service, it is on the front end of business processes that will ultimately prove to be game changers for how companies engage their customers, prospects and ultimately establish competitive position in their markets.

Professionals in the marketing function will need to become more data scientist, looking for every conceivable opportunity to instrument content and then use that knowledge to drive audience and participation. Marketing budgets, as a consequence, will become less campaign and project based, more process and systems based as a result. so while we all may be selling to a different title it may not matter all that much.

Hitching Your Boat to Customer Advocacy

I recently wrote about how McDonald’s and RIM had flamed out with their #hashtag campaigns on Twitter. Not pretty.

However, I admit that I am somewhat conflicted about this because I completely subscribe to the notion that customer advocacy will drive successful companies to sustainable competitive leadership. Gone are the days when a company could rely on IT investments for productivity enhancements and supply chain management for lower cost of goods; those things are still necessary but they are also commoditized, your competitors can make the same backoffice investments and the effect will be nullification of any advantage you previously enjoyed.

Institutions of all stripes are at a crossroads when it comes to how they take advantage of the goodwill that is extended to them by customers who are happy with them. The old way would be for the company to productize customer testimonial and package it up through traditional channels… the problem is that this is like going to a zoo that features puppets and animatronics instead of actual animals. Customer testimonials don’t work because they are not believable, customers have figured out the game and aren’t playing along.

Esurance is doing something that is really worth watching, they have built an advertising campaign that comes down to a simple message, “go to our Facebook fan page and see for yourself”. They let it all roll out in, apparently, an unmoderated format and the effect is that the negative comments actually amplify the positive comments.

I like this a lot, no pun intended.

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Consumers Exert Ownership

I have written on several occasions about how social network users and online community members have exerted their shared ownership of a service to affect changes in policy and feature. This comes about from the reality that a social network without members isn’t much of anything therefore the users in a network have a purposeful sense of shared ownership.

@wendyslea sent me an interesting article in Forbes about how this is spilling over to corporations more broadly. It’s worth the time to read this despite it meandering across a range of topics, although all are rooted in the notion of consumer power through the ability of social networks to form groups.

The one area that I get conflicted on is the notion of showing your weaknesses in order to appear authentic. While there is certainly truth to this, the other truth is that customers want a wide range of things from businesses, but mostly they want to be heard and they seek competence. If all you are doing as a company is exposing the things you are not doing well then you need to ask yourself why that is before you let it all hang out and expect people to just get over it.

Benioff is right, social success is based on trust, much like relationships between people. I think this is where a lot of companies go wrong, they seek trust by attaching people’s names to statements made publicly in an attempt to cloth themselves in the silk of authenticity without actually changing anything else about how they interact with their various constituents… a CEO blog isn’t going to help you if your customers are always pissed off about the customer service they are getting and the quality of your products and services.

The second thing that catches my interest in this is the power of advocacy in an age when the barriers to forming groups in the public space are so low. One person tweeting about the cable guy sleeping on their couch wouldn’t get much attention if millions more didn’t share it, effectively attaching their advocacy to the unstated cause and achieving an exponential effect. Governments in the Middle East would not be falling today were it not for the power of people – everyday people – to connect and organize online (much to the dismay of Malcolm Gladwell).

What does this mean going forward? It’s subject to a lot of interpretation but a couple of no brainer things seem to emerge:

  1. Companies no longer have a behind the firewall presence and a public one. The boundary between employee and customer is very porous so rather than attempting, futilely I would add, to control it the time is right to plow forward and aggressively connect all parts of your company to the customer experience.
  2. Authenticity is critical but so is being good at what you do. Your customers are your marketing team and they don’t care about how efficient your business operations are from a P&L standpoint, they are demanding that you deliver a good product with good service wrapped around it. If your idea of being authentic is to shrug your shoulders, kick the dirt and say “yeah we could do better” without actually making the sincere attempt to change the things that are wrong, then go home now and save us all the trouble.
  3. Connect with your customers where they are because that is where your brand is. Don’t go to Twitter or Facebook or, ultimately, Google + with the idea that you are going to drive that traffic back to your website… engage your customers where they are and if that means you need to invest in technology that connects your front office with social networks, then by all means get it done.
  4. Lastly, and this is the one that will cause the most heartburn in the CEO suite, is that your customers have an interest in your success or failure. Gone are the salad days when all you had to care about were shareholders, now you have to address the needs of customers in ways that go beyond products and services. Customer advocacy is built on the foundation of your customers expressing a deeper connection with you as a company, they care about your values because whether they realize it or not the expressing of advocacy is ultimately the connecting of their personal values with yours as a company.


Community Manager Appreciation Day

The call to action among leading companies in recent years has been that customer service is the new marketing. This is true but it has always been true, companies as diverse as Southwest Airlines, Avis, Lexus and Johnson & Johnson have been at the forefront of the trend to use great customer service as a competitive differentiator and a way to attract that best employees that the market has to offer.

If an appreciation of customer service is not a new thing, then what is? Clearly it is the ability to technology to efficiently connect companies with consumers and with social networks the number of channels that companies have to maintain in order to connect with customers has been blown up to a daunting number.

The role of Community Manager has quickly evolved from a new age social ambassador, a supporting player, to being conductor of the orchestra. Today more than ever before companies are relying on individual customer engagement to cement brand loyalty and leverage word of mouth marketing, The Community Manager has the daunting but essential responsibility of keeping the various resources of the organization in sync and playing to the same sheet music, ensuring that customer needs are met, concerns are addressed, and their product and service ideas and suggestions are brought into the process in order to shorten product lifecycles and better map to needs. If customer service is the new marketing then the Community Manager is the new CMO.

I support Jeremiah Owyang’s quest to make the 4th Monday of every January a time to honor the dedication and hard work of community managers. Today is Community Manager Appreciation Day and at Get Satisfaction there is no group of professionals more important to our success so we put together a survey of community manager insights for you to enjoy, and hopefully learn from as well.

The PR Agency of Satan

UPDATE: I picked up the title for this post while looking at a Twitter search result, not realizing that it was the title of Jacob Morgan’s post on the same subject… so in the interest of credit where credit is due I point you to his post on this subject.

This morning I opened up my email and there was a message to a list called “DigitalBrand” from a PR agency pitching a book. It was bulk email to a list of people, I have no idea how many but as the events unfolded in the morning I recognized many of the people on the list, mostly journalists, authors, public speakers, and other influential bloggers (note that I am in none of the above categories… so I was kind of honored to be included!). The list name was in the CC, meaning anyone who replied to the email ended up respamming the entire list, by the end of the day over 50 messages were traded, not a lot considering but I think that by late morning they had shut down the list server to control the traffic.

Lesson #1: Don’t use lists but if you must then think ahead and put the list in the bcc field. PR pitches should be personal in this day and age, spamming a list isn’t going to make you any friends.

Throughout the morning people, also on the list, were replying back questioning how they got on the list, demanding to be taken off, and sundry other harshly worded messages. I have no idea how I ended up on this mailing list, but a quick search revealed I had nothing from them previously (I only delete outright spam from my inbox, which explains why I have 50k messages in my gmail account.

Lesson #2: Don’t pitch or promote a service or product to an email list consisting of people who didn’t ask to be on the list. Pissing off the people you are trying to court is not smart.

Despite many pleas from people to take them off the list, demanding to know why they were on it, and expressing dismay that it was happening in the first place, no one from the offending agency stepped in to offer an explanation of what happened, why, and what they were doing to fix it. Later came torrent of emails from the list server with unsubscribe help ticket confirmations, it felt a virtual black hole sucking in everyone on the original list.

Lesson #3: Being engaged may seem so 2008 but it still matters. If you are pitching something about social media, make a blatant mistake, and then don’t step up to explain yourself, you have not only pissed off a lot of people but you throw away any sympathy and “don’t worry about it” sentiment that certainly exists. We have all made mistakes with email, and will certainly make mistakes in the future…

The final observation is that because their is no latency in communication today, individual acts like sending an mail to a list and setting off a cascading series of unfortunate events, can happen with blinding speed and far greater amplitude than anyone expects. By the afternoon the twitterverse was picking up on this incident and blog posts were appearing, none of it complimentary and certainly not beneficial to this firm’s clients.

People who communicate for a living and to groups not connected to their firm need to be very careful about these small acts that can quickly spiral out of control. I deliberately didn’t include the name of the firm, although no doubt you will quickly figure it out if you follow the links, because I don’t think they deserve to be burned in effigy… it was a mistake and I’m sure more than a few people had a very bad day today. Having said that, I can’t help but notice that this event underscores the idea that people who are used to being pitched for a living don’t want to be pitched like they used to. In this unfortunate incident are some real lessons to be learned about how PR firms deal with the people they want to court support from.

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SpectrumDNA and Social Media Engines

SpectrumDNA is a really neat company based in Park City, Utah that has developed substantial IP around delivering “social media engines” that are essentially branded applications that companies can use to deepen their connection with constituent groups.

Jim Banister, long time friend and all around really smart guy, has been at this for a while, long before other people started articulating these concepts, and he started the company to realize a vision that companies could engage their audiences in smart and compelling ways instead of trying to trick them into clicking on ad or into giving their personal information away. I have always been inspired by his unique blend of creative energy, industry contacts, a nose for products, and a willingness to not follow what others are doing.

When I met the rest of his team I was duly impressed with their productivity as represented by the amount of product they could churn out, support a growing roster of clients, and do it all with what would be considered a small team. When I learned more about their latest engine I was really blown away that they could build something that is both substantial and complex while at the same time growing their core business.

The first product, Addictionary, enables brands, publishers, and community owners to build and manage the lexicon that grows around successful companies and cultural themes. It’s not surprising that when given the opportunity to engage a community around language that companies can be pretty successful doing it, case in point is the Ellen Degeneres Dictionary.

The growth of Addictionary has been nothing short of impressive and not just with the quantity of user generated content being achieved but also the marquee nature of the brands lining up as clients.

It was that new product that really captured my imagination. PlanetTagger is at its core a location-based social network and the right question to ask next is “why the hell does the world need the 151st location-based social network?”. It’s a good question but not the right question, which is “why have their been no breakout success in LBSN and based on the learnings from what the other products are doing, how do you build something disruptive?”.

Jim and his team made a key observation, which is that almost all of the LBSN offerings are built around a few pivot points, the first being they are consumer grade services and the last two being somewhat connected in that they use location services for friend finding and local search. PlanetTagger is fundamentally different because it is brandable, which is consistent with broader mission of the company to build social media engines, and it uses location to facilitate affinity groups.

This gets a little complex to describe but it’s really a simple concept; everyone has 2-3 deep passions or pursuits that they engage in outside of professional and family activities. The ability to connect online with other people interested in the same pursuits is not new and if you look at forums dedicated to hobbies and interests you will see a lot of message traffic that is essentially location based, like connecting at events, or posting pictures, or “hey I’m here” messages.

I ride my motorcycle every week, summer and winter, and regularly check into the Indian Community Forum where I see message about what other Indian riders are doing… what events they are going to, pictures from rides they took, online friends that they connected with, locations for parts, service facilities, and so on. This is exactly what a location based social network should be enabling and that is what PlanetTagger is aimed at.

My friendship and respect for Jim, the capabilities of the team, the caliber of the board of directors, and the products all conspired to make for an easy decision to join Spectrum’s board of directors. I am really looking forward to seeing them develop and hope that my contributions are additive.

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Techrigy SM2 – Social Media Monitoring

Early last year Rochester, NY based Techrigy launched SM2. Dubbed a social media monitoring service, SM2 is representative of a growing class of services that are going beyond Google Alert type filters to a comprehensive monitoring solution that aggregates content from a virtually unlimited number of network sources.

As an aside, Google News Alerts has really gone to shit in recent months to the point that it can’t be relied on for serious monitoring requirements, there is simply too much noise in the alerts and no ability to fine tune outside of keyword selection. This is opening up a whole new category of services for startups and existing vendors to fill… which is not to suggest that Google News Alerts created the market but rather the visibility they provided is a boost for everyone else.

What is interesting about SM2 is the underlying social media warehouse, which currently houses 1.2 billion conversation records from multiple sources along with approximately 35 pieces of metadata attached to each conversation. The ability to aggregate conversation data and then extend it with proprietary metadata is what makes it valuable.

The fact that Techrigy is collecting data from multiple sources is not special, although this is not to suggest it is easy. APIs and RSS feeds are broadly available that enable applications to harvest user generated content from social networks off all kinds and whatever is left over can be scraped as a worst case method. Gnip is an example of a data service that is built around the premise of aggregating social network data and wholesaling it. Again I come back to the data extensions, like profile and sentiment analysis, being the key ingredient for turning data into information that can be acted on.

SM2 is not a database of information, it is a brand monitoring solution with a workflow driven user interface that takes a keyword filtering approach for identifying actionable content and then running through a workflow approach for prioritizing high yield tasks for attention. The number of reports and dashboards is a little overwhelming at first, but it’s laid out in a way that makes everything very navigable, which flattens out the learning curve. There are even a few nice extras, like the ability to monitor wikipedia pages, that makes SM2 nicely rounded out.

I’ve looked at a lot of analytics solutions over the years and the point about a workflow is really important because that is the component that takes information and turns it into action. People don’t need more information, they need targeted information that they can act on and measure the results.

There are many social media monitoring applications that have emerged in recent years, which is no surprise given the attention that brands are putting on social media channels. I’m starting to see some targeting of these services to specific segments of the market, and SM2 is no exception here being targeted to PR agencies versus Radian6, which is more aligned to the needs to an advertising agency.

SM2 is available on a month-to-month subscription basis (several plans are available) and from what I saw it appears that you can get up and running in a matter of hours.

An open question remains regarding overall performance and latency of data (how much time elapses from publishing to notification) but from what I saw it appears that SM2 is a good solution for PR agencies and in house groups that are monitoring a wide range of content sources and attempting to engage a subset of conversations.