It’s Time for an #EqualFuture

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Facts and figures only tell part of the story. They ignore our sense of justice, the emotional impact of our daily realities and the aspirations parents hold for the next generations.

But there are things that we can do. And should do. Ask yourself:

  • What have you committed to changing today?
  • What did you achieve?
  • What will be different tomorrow?

I love this from ANZ. I hope it catches on across the financial services sector and builds to a blaze that changes all our futures.

Data vs Insight: The Albatross Around the Marketer’s Neck

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We have so much data at our fingertips. Every touch, interaction, click, email, webpage view. It all results in data. Even when we walk from one room to the next our phones are counting the steps, movement, changes in latitude and longitude. We are measured to within an inch of our lives.

Some of this data is captured and reported back to cloud based servers scattered across the globe. Some of it isn’t. But do we know? Do we care?

I was speaking with John Dobbin yesterday about the Data Paradox. We have more data than ever before, but less understanding of what to use it for. We spend our time analysing dashboards and combing through spreadsheets in search of that elusive insight. Sometimes as a marketer I feel like Coleridge’s ancient mariner:

Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.

Data visualisation goes a long way towards solving this challenge. Done well, it can bring your data to life – tell a story – and foreground important details. But with almost every visualisation I see, I am always asking myself, “why”. Why is this important? Why did a change occur? Why didn’t a change occur?

Take a look at my recent TwitterCounter graph below. It shows follower/ following counts over the last month. You can see there are a couple of spikes in terms of follower numbers. But you can also see that “following” numbers remain on an even trajectory. Just the simple act of looking at this graph reminded me of the actions that I had and had not taken over the last month. It made me check back to see what I was doing on March 7.

And on March 11, clearly I did something to arrest that growth. But the following week I was growing again. Not as steeply, but strongly.

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Correlation vs Causation

Again the question of “why” raises its head. What I am interested in is not the correlation but the causation. At the book launch of Martin Lindstrom’s new book, Small Data, he suggested that it is the small data that drives causation and that big data shows the correlation. So with this in mind, I looked to the small things.

  • Ahead of the first spike in follower growth I started using Meet Edgar to more consistently tweet. Prior to that it was randomised and scheduled or ad hoc. It was not a function of what I was saying, but the fact that I was saying it.
  • The second spike built on the earlier week but benefited from my appearance on DisrupTV with GE’s Ganesh Bell and Constellation Research’s Guy Courtin.

While the big data revealed the trend and the results, it was the small data. The personal data. The insight, that actually revealed the causation. As Martin Lindstrom suggested, and as I have written previously, small data – the known unknowns of the marketing world – tell the story we are waiting to hear. The question is whether we are listening for a story or searching for data.

Lufthansa Takes You on a Virtual Journey

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One of the key marketing challenges that we face in the customer journey is moving from awareness to trial. That is, we want potential customers to “try out” our products or services.

This can be particularly challenging when your product or service has a substantial price tag attached.

Think of travel.

There are a whole series of steps that we go through when we are on a travel journey:

  • Ideas and inspiration: We seek out amazing stories, pictures and reviews of places, people and experiences so that we can plan our own adventures
  • Planning and projection: We start to actively curate our activities, destinations and journeys, connecting the dots and figuring out our itineraries and (gasp, horror) budget. In this stage we are not just planning our activities – but actively imagining what it will be like to BE there
  • Lock and load: When we’ve checked, double and triple checked, confirmed our budget and dates, now we wade neck deep into the process of locking dates to a loaded credit card. Yes, it’s commitment time and the pressure is on (so many websites, so many things that can go wrong)
  • See ya, see ya, wouldn’t want to be ya: Wave goodbye to your friends and family and take the leap into the unknown
  • Wish you were here: Well, we say this to be kind, but if the planning and projection phase was well done, you’ll be taking hundreds of selfies all around the world and using them to induce raging envy across your social graph
  • Reflection and longing: Planes aren’t the only things that land with a BUMP. So too does our travel ego. Coming back to “reality” can be a confronting experience. To cope, we return to our #RunningWithTheBulls selfies to remind ourselves just what the travel rush was all about and how we really are #travelheroes.

In amongst each of these steps, there are hardly any that an airline can directly impact. They can inspire us with their media activities, advertising and profile. And they may even help us to plan – albeit in a small way. A good airline will make locking and loading a breeze and but it’s really when you are in the plane that they can make a huge impact.

But experiencing airline travel is expensive, right? And price alone is a barrier.

This virtual travel experience from Lufthansa by 3Spin is a very interesting innovation that I expect will see plenty of others follow.

Lufthansa have touched on many aspects of the travel journey – turning a largely imaginative process into something that is more tangible. More experiential. In fact, it’s not just the destination that is inspirational, it’s the experience of the virtual reality itself. And with a clever mix of digital, analog and old fashioned customer service, they’ve created something far more than just a 360 degree virtual experience. They have created an EVENT – a point in time and space that will create memories. Stories. And hopefully for Lufthansa, bookings.

It makes me think there may be something to this VR lark after all.

The Top 5 Marketing Technology Categories in 2016

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Each year, Scott Brinker goes through the laborious process of identifying and categorising thousands of technologies for his Marketing Technology Landscape supergraphic. As in past years, there are hundreds of new entrants – this year there are 3874 solutions identified on a single page. This means, for the marketing technologist (and that really means everyone in marketing these days), that we would need to review 75 of these each week for a year in order to “be across” this burgeoning technology field.

For those of us who are time poor, however, let’s just take a look at the most populous categories of marketing technology:

  1. Sales Automation, Enablement & Intelligence (220)
  2. Social Media Marketing & Monitoring (186)
  3. Display & Programmatic Advertising (180)
  4. Marketing Automation & Campaign/Lead Management (161)
  5. Content Marketing (160).

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Marketing Tech Priority 1: Cover the bases

There’s no surprise that sales automation, enablement and intelligence is at the top of the list in terms of sheer number of vendors. Not only is this a multi-billion market – with Gartner predicting the market for CRM to reach over $23 billion in 2017, there is still significant upside on market opportunity. While Salesforce, SAP, Oracle and Microsoft lay claim to around 50% of the market for CRM alone, Gartner predicts that we won’t reach 80% saturation until 2025. This is still some years away, meaning that fast moving marketing technology companies (especially SaaS oriented) can lay claim to a significant market.

In the sales enablement and intelligence/analytics space, there is even more opportunity. These areas have been slower to mature and the technology has taken time to prove its power. This is all coming together now with increases in big data computing power and availability of enterprise grade cloud services. We should expect to see more movement in this area next year as growth and capability ramp up.

While I have never been a fan of allowing technology to drive our marketing strategy, the shift to digital has now become almost total. Marketing technology now has the power to track, measure and report on almost every touchpoint (whether there is ROI in the collection/use of that data/information is another thing). If we are not using these technologies to our advantage, you can bet that your competitors are.

This means, as marketers, we need to ensure we are covering the bases in at least two or three of the top five category areas. We need to double down on our sales automation, enablement and intelligence in a couple of areas:

  • Implement out-of-the-box capability: Even a basic CRM is better than no CRM. Seriously, it’s time to ditch the spreadsheets.
  • Use the functionality available: Almost every technology investment is underutilised. We need to get serious about our use of technology and move beyond the basic functionality.
  • Invest in skills: Fundamentally, this means training our marketing teams. Don’t assume that they know how to “do social” because they have a Twitter following. Make sure that your marketing skilling programs has a “business” not “consumption” focus.

Marketing Tech Priority 2: Double down on social and content marketing

While social media has been around for some years now, and most marketers have significant experience in running and integrating campaigns, we are still in the earliest stages in terms of business value and outcomes. We have seen that traditional media channels are collapsing, but we thought that the “digital doppelganger” replacements like banner ads and search engine marketing were going to serve as a valid replacement. This is not the case – just think about 0.06% CTRs that we are seeing for display advertising.

The reality is, that we need to innovate our approaches. We need to double down on social (category 2) and content marketing (category 5). We have had significant exposure to these areas in the last couple of years, and the technology companies are starting to better understand the needs of brands and marketers. Expect to see innovation in this space. More vendors. More cool technologies.

Marketing Tech Priority 3: Marketing automation is a no-brainer

We all want better quality leads, happier customers and more revenue, right? As we reach scale – with CRM in place and a good understanding of our customer journeys, we can start to bring technology to bear. This doesn’t mean that we are automating our marketing teams out of existence. It means that we are doubling down on customer experience – using our creative teams, agencies and strategists to deliver compelling experience that surprise and delight our customers (remember when we liked to do that?).

For those marketing teams who have not yet invested in marketing automation, perhaps 2016 is the year that you did. But beware, there are 161 vendors in that space. You’ll need to get started now, or 2017 will be with you before you’ve scratched the surface.

Download the supergraphic PDF here.

How Do We Do More? CityTalks Inspires Questions

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Sitting in the audience of the City of Sydney’s #SydCityTalk event featuring human rights advocate and former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, it was clear that she was preaching to the choir. The message of “people first” deeply resonated with the audience and spread out like a shock wave from the stalls back. It wasn’t that we haven’t heard discussions about the importance of human-centred policy and action before – it’s just apparent that this style of conversation has been missing from our public discourse for some time.

After all, we live in an age where our sense of humanity has taken a backseat on our roadtrip to the future, and we’ve packed off the difficult issues like climate change, asylum seekers and refugees to live with the relatives.

So hearing a discussion of how governments, business and citizens can work together seems strangely foreign and wildly exciting.

Mary Robinson packed plenty into a short presentation – sustainable development goals, global focus, Nelson Mandela, Richard Branson and Bill Gates and global recognition for the programs and actions of the City of Sydney. Be sure to watch her speech in the video below.

Debunking Trickle Down Economics

One of the most interesting talks of the evening was Richard Denniss, Chief Economist from The Australia Institute. Not only was he able to make economics sound interesting and entertaining, he was able to do so in a way that illustrated his main point – that trickle down economics does not work. While we have seen this for ourselves in the widening gap between rich and poor – and the accelerating distance between the poor and the poorest – the raw numbers from the IMF tell an altogether more compelling story.

The research from five IMF economists, drew attention to the issue of global inequality, dismissed “trickle-down” economics and urged governments to target policies toward the bottom 20 percent of their citizens.

The problem with inequality is that it actually cripples growth. If we invest in the top 20% of our population, then GDP declines over the medium term. While a 1% increase in the income share of the poorest 20% of the population results in a 0.38% increase in GDP.

Where to from here?

Each of the speakers told a compelling and vital story. But the facts and figures from Richard Denniss’ speech coupled with Mary Robinson’s urgent insistence on change made me wonder. In fact, it made many of us in the audience wonder – where do we go from here? The levers of change are being applied to the UN’s sustainable development goals – and Australia is a willing signatory. But there is a yawning gulf between intention and policy, signature and action. Where do we go from here? How do we take these good intentions and make change happen? And precisely who is this WE?

I would dearly love to hear an update on progress at the next City Talks event.

Perhaps it is too soon to expect change to take place – or maybe – just maybe, we need more impatience in the mix of government, business and citizen policy making.

You can watch the full replay of the event below.

The Industrial Internet, Accelerator in a Box and Retail Disruption on #DisrupTV

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Each week, Vala Afshar and R “Ray” Wang host a web series DisrupTV. It’s a 30 minute deep dive into the world of digital transformation featuring the people and organizations that are leading that change.

This week’s episode featured GE’s Chief Digital Officer, Ganesh Bell, Constellation Research Principal Analyst, Guy Courtin and myself.

Setting a cracking pace, GE have become the poster child for the world of digital transformation, coining the term “industrial internet”, establishing startups in Silicon Valley and setting a vision to be a top 10 software company by 2020. In the episode, Ganesh talks about the challenges of transformation – of moving from an industrial company to a digital company and what it takes. It’s well worth watching the replay to learn more about the tangible impact of digital transformation that GE is making not just within their business but well beyond it.

Joining Ray and Vala, about 25 minutes in, I shared some insight into the world of enterprise innovation in Australia:

Guy Courtin joined around 45 minutes in and brought amazing insight into the changing world of retail. From showrooming to the internet of things, he covered a vast terrain of disruption and opportunity, suggesting that bricks and mortar stores still have plenty of advantages over their digital only counterparts, and explaining that to be truly transformative, we need to stop thinking about “e” commerce and connect the dots around the customer’s commercial experience.

While the show ran for just over an hour, it’s jam packed with insight and energy. And DisrupTV is fast becoming an authoritative, must watch series for all those who are serious about the business of disruption and transformation in business. Check out recordings of past episodes here. And watch this week’s episode replay from Blab below.

Marketers as Innovators – Join the DisrupTV Live Stream

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This weekend – at 5am Australian daylight time – I will be joining the hosts of DisrupTV, R “Ray” Wang and Valar Afshar to talk marketing-led innovation, and provide a snapshot of the Australian innovation landscape. This weekly web series is streamed live on Blab.im and is focused on leadership, innovation and disruption in the enterprise and brings together A-list guests, the latest enterprise news, hot startups, insight from influencers, and much more. And when I say “A-list guests”, I’m not talking about celebrities. I’m talking about business and technology leaders who are changing the way that we do, think about and create value in business.

The show has featured:

The discussion with Alex Osterwalder is eye opening and full of insight for those seeking to change the way businesses organise themselves, create value and operate in the world. It’s well worth tuning in (embedded below).

This week’s interview features GE’s Chief Digital Officer, Ganesh Bell. He leads digital innovation and transformation, and is responsible for the digital solutions business and digital engagement to drive business growth. I will be discussing the nature of corporate innovation, how a market-product fit wins over a product-market fit in the enterprise, and will touch on some of the initiatives arising from the Australian Government’s #IdeasBoom. We’ll also be joined in the “Influencer’s Corner” by Guy Courtin, VP and Principal Analyst at Constellation Research.

Be sure to tune in at 11 a.m. PT/ 2 p.m. ET and remember to tweet your questions using the #DisrupTV hashtag.

DisrupTV: Featuring Alex Osterwalder, CEO at Strategyzer 3.4.16

This week on DisrupTV, we interviewed Alex Osterwalder, CEO at Strategyzer. We also caught up with Tradeshift’s CEO Christian Lanng and Constellation Research’s Chris Kanaracus. DisrupTV is a weekly Web series with hosts R “Ray” Wang and Vala Afshar. The 30-minute show airs live at 11:00 a.m. PT/ 2:00 p.m.

For Many B2B Marketers, It’s Time to Set the Foundations

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For all the how-to guides, blog posts on best practices, tips and tricks, there is a simple reality to modern marketing that we often overlook. In our rush to use the technology, spend our budget and brief our agencies, we forget that good marketing is established on firm foundations.

A recent study by B2B International found that the top business challenges relate to growth:

  • 62% of marketers are focusing on growth
  • 59% of marketers are driving / needing innovation.

But in the area of out performing the competition, there are two significant weaknesses:

  • Sophisticated segmentation
  • Unique selling proposition.

In the research, on 43% of respondents indicated that they were using a sophisticated approach to segmentation. This means that almost 60% are leaving the door open to their competitors who double down on segmentation, audience analysis and journey mapping.

Furthermore, B2B marketers are rating their USP as a weak 6.3 out of 10.

Yet on the surface, all these things are under the immediate control of the B2B marketer.  Growth and innovation have tactical and strategic elements and can be tackled through short and medium term activities (yes, this is where those blog posts and tips and tricks can come in handy). Segmentation and analytics is a burgeoning field, and while skilled practitioners may be hard to find, they do exist. And there are great sources of training, conferences and even courses available in convenient online formats.

Messaging and the strengthening of your value proposition can be hard work – but again – there are agencies who can help, freelancers and brilliant techniques that can help you land on a compelling and differentiated messaging architecture.

But the data in this report makes me wonder whether we are looking at the right things. Are we valuing the right things. And are we looking for answers everywhere that we should not? I am convinced that the best marketing investment we can make is in our own skills. And that we should seek out a deep appreciation and understanding of the foundations of modern marketing, get back to basics and make our customers delightfully happy.

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When the View from the Penthouse is not What’s Expected

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It’s not everyday that I notice the tweets from Penthouse Australia in my Twitter feed. But after the marketing industry’s Mumbrella website published this article, it seemed to send the publisher’s Twitter feed viral.

While I only really read the Penthouse tweet stream for the 140 characters, it seems, someone is having way more fun with the brand and its reputation than usual.

penthouseThere is obvious frustration in every tweet, but this serves as a serious lesson for all brands – and not just those using social media in an official or even unofficial capacity. The clear point is that businesses and brands can now be held to account for their actions (or inactions). Sure, taking over an official Twitter account can cause some embarrassment and maybe even brand damage. But there are so many options available for George Costanza would call “the airing of grievances”. It’s no longer a question of whether your brand’s dirty linen will be aired in public. It’s a matter of when.

And with that in mind, business owners, directors and boards should consider updating their mindset, digital practices, approaches and security protocols. Or better yet, understand that we now live in an age of radical transparency, and that “ethical business practices” are the basis of our new social license to operate.

I’m expecting this to be the new case study on brand and crisis management for 2016 marketing conferences. But the question remains – what would you do if your brand was brandjacked?

The Price of Marketing is Innovation

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Marketing teams everywhere are experiencing a profound disruption. It’s a change in thinking, planning, analytics and platforms unlike anything that we have experienced previously. And while the changes happening to us as marketers are unsettling, far more troubling are the changes happening around us as marketers, business people and consumers. We are living on the pinhead of a transition that is sweeping all before us and swallowing the past as it goes.

Living in a platform age has changed the dynamics of our lives. What was personal has become professional and what was “work” has become, well, less clear. Less defined. After all, we can now “work” from home, from a coworking space or shared office. Even a cafe around the corner from your home can serve you VPN access with a steaming hot cappuccino. We are an always-on, digitally connected, wifi enabled workforce that can transform from knowledge worker to connected consumer faster than Snapchat can forget that selfie you posted to your network of faux friends and friendly foes.

And the platforms have come a long way, taking advantage of four transformative technologies – social, mobile, analytics and cloud. The SMAC model. For years, technology companies have known about the power of platforms – using SMAC to create competitive advantage and commercialising the value across networks. Startups have known this too – though often without clear and incisive strategy. They’re too busy moving quickly across the platforms to harness their potential for scale.

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But this is changing. All businesses are changing.

These days, any business can become a technology business. What was once my consulting business – Disruptor’s Handbook – has become a technology business. We are deeply technology enabled – from CRM to lead and opportunity nurturing, communications management, planning, collaboration and execution right through to business analytics and financial management. The intellectual property that we have created has been downloaded thousands of times and is being put to use in 25 different countries including the UK, China, South Africa, South Korea, Japan, India and Mongolia.

This can only happen because we have embraced the SMAC model. We have apps in the cloud, integrated using pieces of string, chewing gum and a raft of zapier zaps, API calls and pre-made plugins. It means we rely on a dozen services rather than a single suite, but it holds together and works almost flawlessly. Until it doesn’t. But it provides a scale that would otherwise be difficult to achieve without a significant technology budget.

And if we can do it, you can too.

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Swallowing the past

Just when you start to feel comfortable with your technology choices, the rubber bands and sticky-tape that you use to hold it all together, the worst possible thing happens. Well not exactly the worst, but modern marketing’s closest equivalent. A new technology is released. Or an upgrade or a patch. And this new thing is so bright and shiny, you feel like Cory Hart in a film clip straight from the heart of the 1980s. You can’t help but to download it. Sign up. Trial. Share it with friends and colleagues.

And this one new thing makes you question all that has gone before it. Imagine Facebook before it bought Instagram. Or Google before it bought Urchin. These companies are moving so fast, transforming their user experience and brand promise so quickly that we hardly remember what life was like before the change occurred. These platforms are swallowing the past moment by venture-funded moment.

But where do we start? In the marketing technology field alone, Scott Brinker estimates that we are dealing with over 2000 technology choices across almost 50 category areas. In each of those categories we face a dazzling array of choices, capabilities and technologies. So much so, that we often elect to do nothing. As marketers we are suffering from one of our own invented marketing conditions – decision paralysis. We refuse to take a step forward out of a fear of being wrong-footed.

Yes, the future is bright and it is long, yet we are living a constant present.

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Marketing technology – it’s not a footstep but a journey

Traditionally, marketers have always had their eye on the customer. But in the rush to transform their approaches, update their skills and stay ahead of the competition (all while still delivering ROI), many of us have been blinded by the technology light. The problem is that this is not a light. It’s a train and it’s heading in our direction. Marketing technology has put us on a set of rails that are almost impossible to escape from.

But there is a way.

Rather than following in the digital footprints laid out in front of us, we must consciously choose an alternative – the customer journey.

When we start with our customers and their journey it changes the game for us. Rather than generating campaigns, leads and opportunities, we are seeking to understand our customers’ needs, expectations and path to purchase. It’s less about how we sell and more about how they buy. And when we understand this, we can then select the technologies that help us deliver that experience.

How do we do this?

Clearly it requires new thinking and new skills.

Agile marketing and the new world order

In many agencies, agile marketing has been the order of the day for sometime. Building on the old “traffic management” model popularised in publishing houses, digital agencies have been adopting agile methods and approaches to deliver their marketing solutions for years. But in this world of constant change – with a need to swim upstream to where the new sources of business value lie, client side marketers are having to adapt their own ways of working. Out are the old metrics and in are the new. Same with skills. Creative. And technology. Many of our marketing platforms have already been superseded – yesterday’s cutting edge marketing cloud is already burning like acid rain.

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Our increasingly complex world is expecting increasingly complex solutions. We can’t just work in broadcast or print. It needs to be omni-channel. Mobile. We need the best of social and the power of analytics. We need predictive modelling and on-demand forecasting. There are so many new acronyms that we need a new urban dictionary just to keep up. I have been exploring these topics on the Firebrand Talent blog – seeking to match the changing landscape a framework for marketing renewal.

In fact, I am finding my work in innovation is meeting my work in marketing. They complement and reinforce each other. And in the best instances they catalyse and accelerate each other’s effectiveness.

These days the modern marketer has no choice but to create a new world order. Gone are the certainty of ratings and public statistics. Gone are the guaranteed budgets and elastic ROI figures. In are hard numbers, data analytics and real time bidding. It’s like working with an armful of tactics while building strategy on the fly. We can do it, but we do need to ask – is it best for the business and best for the customer? Is it brand-wise?

The time has come to shift not only our thinking but our practice. It’s time that we recognise that customers are not going to buy something just because we interrupted their continuously connected life with the right offer in the right place at the right time. We need accept that we need to build new products for new conditions, not just create new campaigns to spruce up a tired offering. It’s time we stopped talking about “agile” and started “being” agile. We need a marketing system for the disruption that we are all living.

But what is it going to cost? I hear you say.

It’s not a cost. Modern marketing is an investment. And innovation is the price of getting a seat at the customer’s table.