Consumer Behaviour Has Changed. Your Content Marketing Needs to Change Too

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It wasn’t really until Joe Pulizzi came along and started talking seriously and meaningfully about content marketing that anyone realised that’s what we were doing. As marketers we had been creating collateral, whitepapers, insights, case studies, quizzes, articles and presentations forever. And I mean forever. But we had been producing all this content from a particular point of view – from the inside. After all, up until social media really hit its straps, we were living in a largely broadcast – one-way communications world.

And as we had our heads down, chugging away on our daily tasks, weekly WIPs and month-end reports, something strange happened. Unexpected. Unprecedented.

The audience shifted.

It wasn’t that we weren’t paying attention. It’s that we didn’t have a response. All of sudden, people were reading reviews on the web. They were taking notice of blogs – and complaining about bad customer service. In public. The closed-loop channels that we had developed no longer held any sway. Our customers – whether they loved or hated us at the time – were taking their opinions, feedback and recommendations out of our hands (and channels) and talking directly to each other. Without us.

Fast forward a decade or so and many brands have caught up. To be honest, there has been huge acceleration over the last year or two – and content marketing leaders are rapidly outstripping and outcompeting the rest of their industries. Take a look at the work that Commonwealth Bank is doing. Or ANZ with their BlueNotes initiative. Then look at other industries.

Those that are leading the way have put in place a strategic approach to content and it is paying dividends.

As a member of the ADMA Content Marketing Expert Community, I workshopped key (and continuing issues) with content marketing with leading Australian marketers. We examined the challenges and the processes, skills gaps and opportunities. We looked into ROI and analytics, native advertising and changes in audience behaviour. The resulting whitepaper provides marketers with a solid framework for becoming more customer centric.

This seismic shift in the ability to communicate with audiences from the organisation to consumers demands a radical rethink in marketing strategy. It is no longer the case that businesses can produce marketing materials to support their product cycles. For messages to achieve cut through, organisations need to have a social licence to discuss the topic, putting permission to engage squarely in the hands of the audience. Credibility and media both need to be earned.

You can download the full paper on the ADMA website.

Qantas Hackathon: Feels Like Innovation

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After a busy first day of briefings and coding, the stage was set for the last, desperate rush to the midday deadline. Pitches were scheduled and rehearsed, last minute bug fixes were released and some even found time for a relaxing morning tea. But what, really could be created in a mere 24 hours. Would it be useful? Interesting? Would there be true innovation found amongst the lines of code and discarded lolly wrappers? Only time would tell. And time was the one thing that really was in short supply.

Here’s how Day 2 of the Qantas Hackathon played out.

The Cheating Strategist’s Guide to Mary Meeker’s Digital Trends

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Each year around this time, the web goes into a slow motion melt down over the much anticipated Meeker Report into internet trends.

This year is no different. And as I did last year, I will encourage you to reflect on your own business and priorities before diving head first into the report. I call it the “Three What’’s and a Why”. Consider:

  • What mattered in mid 2014?
  • What matters now?
  • What are you measuring?
  • Why are these things important?

And if you’re time poor or just bone lazy and don’t want to click through the hundreds of slides in the report, you’ll love Michael Goldstein’s summary for cheating strategists. It’s 10 times the punch at 1/10th of the effort. Now that’s what I call a good strategy.

Why Digital Marketing Transformation is Important

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I recently spent time with IBM travelling as part of their IBM Connect conference series in Auckland, Sydney and Melbourne. At each location, I hosted a panel discussion that centred on the “voice of the customer” – drawing out the experience and knowledge of panels that included ADMA’s CEO, Jodie Sangster, CIO of Tennis Australia, Samir Mahir, City of Melbourne’s Executive Manager, Commercial and Marketing, Lucan Creamer, Think Global Research’s Mark Tyler, and Twitter’s Head of Data Sales, Fred Funke.

I spent a few minutes with the IBM team to share my thoughts on why digital marketing transformation is important – and how you can use the “Marketing PANDA” to focus your efforts around customer centricity.

Social: The Present is Mobile. The Future is Wearable

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There was a time when the battle for social media was simply one of recognition. For some time, brands and businesses held out. Restricting firewall access to social networks. Directing marketing spend to broadcast. Ignoring the trending shift to digital across a range of categories – from marketing to HR, supply chain to finance.

Now, this pent up force has been loosed and it is transforming the way that we work, why we work and how we work faster than we could have anticipated. As a result, we are seeing disruption almost everywhere we look:

  • Who – this is not just about “digital natives” or “digital immigrants”. We now have no choice but to adopt a “digital nomad” perspective. We need to move with the digital times, building and refining skills, networks, and connections. It’s touching every one of us in profound ways.
  • What – we used to be able to cordon off “home” and “work”. These days, there is only what Nina Simosko calls a life continuum. What we consider work is no longer restricted to what we do and is becoming more closely aligned to “what and who we are”. This is having an enormous impact on the nature of work, the workplace and what it means to have “purposeful work”.
  • Where – the disruption began at home, in our palms and quickly spread through the networks.  But as we know, culture eats location, and that means our “where of working” is infinitely more mobile, flexible and time-shifted. This is challenging workplace structure, services and cohesion.
  • Why – We are paid to work but businesses continue to struggle with motivation, morale, and engagement. As our Baby Boomer generations retire, we will be left with a massive experience and capability gap within our organisations. To attract the best talent, we’ll need a much better understanding of the needs and expectations of our employees.
  • How – this is where the most obvious disruption and transformation is taking place. The “tools of our trades” are increasingly digital, data driven and mobile.

Kate Carruthers brings this together elegantly in this presentation made at the recent CeBIT conference in Sydney. She makes the point that we need to keep looking towards the horizon – for while the present of social is mobile. The future is wearable and the internet of things. And that future is not far away. In fact, it’s already in your pocket.

Don’t Throw Out Marketing Skills with the Digital Bathwater

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The marketing skills gap is a hot topic right now. No matter how many clients, colleagues or competitors that I speak with, it’s clear that the marketing industry is facing a skills crisis. And the questions and discussions are often the same:

  • Do we have the right people?
  • How do we understand data and put it to work?
  • Do we have the right technology?
  • What do we do with the technology we’ve already got?
  • How do we plug the gaps?

But it is NOT all doom and gloom. Many of the marketing skills and processes that have been developed over the last few decades are still eminently useful in the digital world. They just need some retraining, cross-training. As I explain on the newly revamped Telstra Exchange blog – marketing is from mars, digital is from venus:

In the traditional world of marketing, we’d think about this as media. We’d break it into paid media, owned and earned. It’s media that is created from a central point and pushed out, interrupting the lives of our audiences with its urgency. Even where that media is “earned” or “social”, it’s still created with a particular focus and intention. And from the inside of our marketing command centre we run the sums. Counting, measuring, assessing and reporting.

Read the full article here.

The First Rule of the Consumerverse

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Let’s face it, big numbers are sexy. The bigger they are, the more business leaders, marketers and yes, even economists, become excited. So any report on social media that delves into those massive network numbers is bound to cause a flurry of activity. But the big numbers are not what should be interesting us in the latest Global Web Index report on social media engagement. The first rule of the Consumerverse is:

“It’s the little numbers that matter most”.

But before I explain why, let me share the big numbers with you. According to GWI:

  • Over 170,000 internet users were surveyed across 32 markets
  • Data is collected in the last six weeks of every quarter, making this Q1 2015 report as up-to-date as possible
  • Stratified sampling ensures that responses are representative of the internet population aged 16 to 64 in each country
  • Outside of China, over 80% of internet users have a Facebook account (indicating a plateauing)
  • Tumblr and Pinterest continue to show impressive growth
  • The average internet user has 5.5 accounts and is active on three platforms
  • More internet users now visit YouTube each month than Facebook.

Now, these are fascinating figures. But the dot point that drew me in most was the last one. In bold.

Why is this important?

It comes down to one of the basic tenets of online participation – what we call the 1% Rule:

  • 90% of users are “lurkers” – read, consume and observe
  • 9% of users intermittently produce content, engage in comment or discussion
  • 1% of users create content.

The GWI report highlights this gap – the participation gap. The figures – on the surface – indicate that internet users have a growing preference for consumption. We visit but don’t contribute. But this has always been the way.

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But what if we turned the big numbers inside-out?

  • Only 18% of internet users DON’T visit YouTube
  • Only 27% of internet users DON’T visit Facebook
  • Both are approaching saturation points in terms of consumption
  • YouTube still offers significant room for contribution growth.

In my recent presentation, experience is the currency of your brand, I talked about the importance of understanding your customer journey and overlaying that with your business’ sales cycle. This is often a challenging task. But it reveals important insights.

What we call “engagement” is the most trafficked element of the customer journey, yet is often disconnected from the complete picture. It operates in isolation from the sales cycle – from the technology (devices), spaces, channels and processes that deliver business and marketing outcomes. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Start by looking closely at your own “little numbers” and find the insights they reveal. It’s the first rule of the consumerverse.

Experience is the Currency of Your Brand

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Back in 2007 when Drew McLellan and I got together with 100 other marketers from around the world to create the first edition of The Age of Conversation, we did so with a particular plan in mind. Social media was in its early stages and we weren’t yet clear about how it would play out. Where the value lay. Or how to bring it into a framework for business. On the back cover of the first edition I wrote:

If ideas are the currency of our times then this is, undoubtedly, the Age of Conversation, for without the art of dialog, the cut and thrust of debate and discussion, then the economy of ideas would implode under its own heavy weight. Instead, the reverse is true. Far from seeing an implosion, we are living in a time of proliferation – ideas built upon ideas, discussion grows from seeds of thought and single headlines give rise to a thousand Medusa-like simulations echoing words whispered somewhere on the other side of the planet. All this – in an instant.

The book itself, which has now had three editions and around 500 contributing authors from 15 countries, turned out to be far more than a book. Each of the authors would unbox their copies and share “book selfies” with their audiences. (This was way before Instagram – and Twitter had only been around for about a year.) There were blog posts, pictures – and even a Second Life book launch. But it didn’t stop there. In 2008 over 100 of us got together in person to spend a weekend together. Known as “Blogger Social” it confirmed something special.

What we realised was that “ideas weren’t the currency of our times”.

Experiences were.

The new consumerverse

Taking this concept into the world of business, it became clear that we were living in an inverted universe. The keys to the pandora’s box of innovation were no longer kept in the corporation’s cupboard but were available to all. In fact, our customers could innovate faster than us. They had the tools, the technology and the time.

RethinkFunnel Consumers were driving this new universe and the centre of gravity was not us or our businesses. It was them. In this “Consumerverse”, analytics are revealing, on the one hand, the hit and miss randomness of broadcast messaging, and on the other, the growing importance of guided conversation designed to engage consumers.

Every view, click, link and interaction can now be digitised. With low energy bluetooth beacons now cheaply available, we can track, follow and engage people through their digital device in the “real world”. Just as we would track users on our website, seeing where they go, where they stop, where they buy etc, so too can we do this in today’s wifi-enabled shopping malls and open areas.

But we’re not talking the “internet of things” … we are talking the “internet of me”. Increasingly, vendors, brands and businesses are building value into networks. And the value answers the consumer’s question – what’s in it for me (WIIFM)?

Consumers make decisions at the speed of networks

One of the strongest answers to the WIIFM question is “speed”. With access to networks and knowledge, as consumers we are able to make decisions at the speed of that network. What we are looking for is:

  • Trust – can we believe what we are told? Is there a way to validate that trust through the network – who else trusts and believes this person/brand/business?
  • Authenticity – is opinion offered openly and without hidden inducement?
  • Authority – is there deep knowledge or experience on offer?

And with 60% of buyers making a decision before engaging a sales rep, we’re effectively living in a world where there is a mis-match between the buying journey and the selling cycle. We need to find a new way to engage our customers at the right time, in the right channel with the right answer to WIIFM.

The importance of the customer experience map

cx-mapWhere once we’d develop detailed account plans for “selling”, these days we need to build maps to help our customers buy. And to do this, we need to understand the journey they take to purchase. This means mapping the journey across five dimensions:

  • Device
  • Space
  • Engagement
  • Channel
  • Process

How do we do this effectively?

When we understand that “experience is the currency of your brand”, we have a focus for engagement and interaction. From here we can bring our social. mobile, analytics and cloud capabilities to bear on the challenge. We can answer WIIFM at every customer touchpoint. And we can build experiences that not only centre on the consumer, but are designed to create value for both our customers and our brands.

I go into more detail on this subject as part of Sitecore’s #DigitalSurvivor webinar program this week. Register for free and join me to discuss how we can all survive in today’s customer centric environment.

You can join us live this Thursday, 12 March 2015 at:

WA: 11am-12pm
NT: 12:30pm-1:30pm
QLD: 1pm-2pm
SA: 1:30pm-2:30pm
ACT, NSW, VIC, TAS: 2pm-3pm
New Zealand: 4pm-5pm

Rethinking Marketing: From Media to Experience

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In the marketing industry, we have been talking, writing and even creating a shift in the way that we do business for over a decade. Early blogs and (what is now called) social media provided an inkling into where the shift was going – away from paid media into “owned” and “earned” media. This was a difficult, but relatively understandable transition because we were essentially talking the same language – the language of media. Accordingly we shifted from media planning and strategy towards “content planning and strategy” – we were still talking about the same processes behind the brand curtain – it’s just that some of those activities happened on the other side:

  • Paid media – traditional advertising like print, television, radio, direct mail, retail/channel and the kind of placement that you have to pay for. The benefits of paid media is that you get (mostly) what you pay for – control over the context, content, use of your logo and other branding, messaging, focus and tone of voice.
  • Owned media – your own properties like your website, microsites and blogs, forums or branded communities. To an extent, your Facebook fan pages, Twitter profiles and YouTube channels etc fall into owned media – though you have less precise control over interaction/commentary, overall look and feel (ie your Facebook page is always going to look like it belongs to Facebook).
  • Earned media – the word of mouth, social mentions (tweets, status updates, mentions, reviews, blog posts) and so on that are produced about your brand by your fans. You have little influence over the structure, timing or even appearance of your messaging or branded assets – but it ranks as one of the most influential forms of media.

But while we (marketers) were talking about the different kinds of media, technology companies and startups were out there changing the form and function of that media. They weren’t interested in the marketer’s view of media – looking instead for ways that technology could extend, enhance or accelerate the flow of that media from brand to consumer. Accordingly they focused their efforts on four technology trends – creating an enterprise-scale IT model known as SMAC which combines Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud. And while this works from an inside-out point of view, it must be revisited and reframed to deliver value and relevance to our customers.

Experience as the beating heart of brands

It’s easy to rant about poor customer experience. We see it on social media all the time. Sometimes it is warranted. Sometimes it isn’t. But SMAC has removed the barriers to entry for the vast majority. All we have to do is take a photo upload it to Facebook or Twitter and tag it with #fail and it will reach not only our friends and connections but others who monitor and amplify these kind of failures of brand experience (yes, these people really do exist).

Take a look at this single tweet from Mashable about a “Valentines Day flower failure”. With over 5 million followers and hundreds of retweets – a poor customer experience can turn a bad day into an unfolding disaster.

The point, however, is that we – as consumers – experience brands at a very personal level. With this in mind, it is worth reframing SMAC and media from the outside-in. It’s time to understand the behavioural triggers that arise out of SMAC and create engagement that works for our fans, customers, and advocates.

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  • Social: The Social dimension has the potential to deliver powerful, personal yet scalable CONNECTION. It offers a single conversational channel, builds trust and offers a way to accelerate a resolution or conversion process
  • Mobile: The Mobile dimension delivers LOCATION. With a connected device in your pocket (close to your beating heart), a mobile phone is the convergence point where the digital and the “real” worlds collide
  • Analytics: The power of big data is not in crunching everything known about a customer. The real value is in delivering AWARENESS to a network. This effectively means creating USER context from the social, mobile and business data signals available
  • Cloud: And the cloud provides the mechanism for SERVICE. To remain relevant to customers, brands must re-acquaint themselves with the value of service. And Cloud provides the mechanism to do so.

Combining SMAC with an understanding of customer behaviour means that SERVICE can be delivered conveniently at the right time, in the right space in the right context. And even in the right environment.

Is it the future of marketing? Don’t look too far towards the horizon, for this future has already happened. Only some heard it knocking on the door.

Marketing and Dating: How to Get a Date by the Numbers

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Dating is big business. There are generic dating sites designed to help you find a date, a life partner or someone just to hang out with. There are also incredibly focused dating sites that are designed to introduce you to other people who have the same particular passions and interests as you. Maybe you are looking for a “sea captain” or perhaps you just hate it when Movember finishes and need to sate your passion for the tache. Whatever the case, if you look hard enough you’re bound to find a dating site designed just for people like you (yes, you crazy cat lady).

In many ways, the challenge of dating is the same challenge that marketers face. We’re all looking for that one-to-one connection – though often we struggle to a way to meet and start a conversation. In both cases (marketing and dating), digital disruption is creating both opportunities and challenges. And at the heart of this is data.

Inga Ting reveals that what we say in our dating profiles and what we want are often completely different. Dating sites – just like data-driven marketers – are less interested in “stated intentions” and more interested in actual behaviour. By looking at online behaviour – the things that we like, connect with, share and return to – marketers can adjust their profiling to reach and more deeply engage potential customers. This algorithmic approach relies not on focus groups and market research but on an adaptive approach which operates between your stated profile (self designed) and the actions you take online. In the world of online dating it means operating in-between spaces:

Behaviour-based matching is adaptive. It compares what you said you wanted with how you behave to work out things you might not even know about yourself.

For example, you said you wanted a partner with a steady income but you keep messaging “pro-bono computer game testers” and “freelance writers”, so the algorithm changes its recommendations.

Our profile

But, of course, while there can be volumes of data about ourselves online – we are also highly visual. The rise of photo based apps like Tinder for example shows that sometimes dating (and even marketing) is only skin deep. Relying on your photo and your location information, Tinder matches people based on whether they are close and interested (you swipe a prospective date’s photo to the left to reject and to the right to connect).

For those who are serious about dating, perhaps a single app is not the answer. The “multichannel” approach that works for marketers may yield better results. Take for example, the data from Axciom’s infographic (ht Will Scully-Power) that reveals that, in Sydney:

  • Single females outnumber males at all ages except the 18-24 age group
  • Potts Point is home to the most singles
  • Wine enthusiasts are most likely to reside in the Eastern and Inner West suburbs

If you were a male in the highly competitive 18-24 age group, a multichannel (or omnichannel) marketing approach to maximising your chances would include:

  1. Establishing your base profiles on high traffic sites
  2. Create a profile image that shows your passion for fitness and interest in fine wine (please be tasteful)
  3. Spend time in cafes in Potts Point using Tinder

Of course, you could pepper your profile with quotes from Shakespeare, but that may be overkill. Remember, that the algorithms will override your stated profile anyway – so your true intentions will always be revealed in the data – based on who you swipe right and who you swipe left, who you message, like and connect with. And like all good marketing, the question comes down to ROI, engagement and outcomes. I hope you get your algorithm right!

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