Synthalitics – setting a new benchmark for customer engagement

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Have you noticed recently that your web browsing experience is becoming narrower, more confined and focused? What about those pesky ads that follow you from one website to another? Do they annoy or help you? It seems that all it takes is one visit to a retail website, and next thing you know, that retailer’s ads are stuck to your computer screen, appearing in every available ad spot across the web.

If this sounds like you – then you’re not alone. You’re actually part of the newly emerging real time web that combines big data and analytics to track and target you in search of that all-consuming sales conversion.

Businesses are putting their data to work

There has been significant progress in the world of analytics in recent times. The masses of data that has been collected for decades is now, thanks to the meshing of powerful, purpose built hardware and software, available to business decision makers at the touch of a screen or click of a mouse. This on-premise information is a rich source of vitality data that – with the appropriate mapping and analysis, can reveal hidden truths about our customers, their lives, lifestyles and even their futures.

Meanwhile, customers are themselves, increasingly self-tagging, self-identifying and self-analyzing their daily activities, weekly routines and personal aspirations. This information, in turn, is floating around the web, being stored, collated and cross-referenced to improve the effectiveness of our communal and personal web experiences. From the captcha codes that Google uses to improve its OCR book scanning to the social media check-ins that Facebook and ad networks use to micro-target and re-target advertising, the potential for augmenting a business’ on-premise data with publicly available “big data” is revolutionary.

The emergence of synthalitics will change marketing

“Synthalitics” is the combining of public data with business data, cross-pollinated with customer’s business and credit history, matched with their real time social and location-based information – and made available for a business rules engine at point of interaction. It may sound far-fetched, but it already available in a crude form that will improve as software and hardware improve. Just look to real time bidding advertising networks and ad re-targeting.

These are the pesky ads that follow you from one website to another. The technology clearly works, but advertisers have yet to apply creativity and insight to the re-targeting process. Rather than playing the same ad over and over, ad networks and advertisers will need to become more nuanced in their efforts and connected in their digital storytelling before these feel anything other than intrusive. But this will happen. And what currently appears clunky will, in very short order, become common place – and if we (as consumers) are lucky, it may even become useful.

The growth in real time bidding (RTB) display advertising indicates that businesses are rapidly acclimatizing to this digital world. In the US, RTB spending was expected to hit $3.34 billion in 2013 representing a massive 73.9% growth over the previous year. By 2017, eMarketer suggests this figure will hit $8.69 billion. The automation of digital display will create a gulf between those brands that understand and can integrate digital formats into their strategy and those that can’t – and clearly, this will accelerate through 2017.

Synthalitics deliver one-to-one engagement at scale

However, RTB is just one part of the digital story. Marketers need tools that can absorb the vitality data, augment it with big data-like, location based, self reported data (available through smartphones and social check-ins) and corporate CRM data and synthesize it in such a way that it reveals new and potentially predictive patterns (see diagram below). This is about knowing who your buyers trust.

imageIncreasingly, sales and marketing teams will need to work through a central platform to be able to contextualize business critical information about a prospect’s digital behaviour, needs and expectations. Or if no central platform or suite of tools are available, the need for frictionless data and aggregation points will become vital. The gulf between digitally-enabled and analogue businesses will grow, with the former over-running and out-innovating the latter.

Businesses without a digital transformation agenda need to rapidly reassess their strategy and go to market models. In short order – synthalitics will transform marketing and sales as we know it. And it is synthalitics that will deliver on the promise of one-to-one engagement at scale.

The question for you and your brand is not whether you are READY, but whether you have even STARTED.

The New Physics of the Consumerverse

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If you weren’t able to get along to the inaugural DiG Festival in Newcastle, you certainly missed an amazing event. But not all is lost. The DiG Festival team are making a great number of presentationsavailable for viewing. They’ve just posted mine – and it seems they’ve nicely edited out some of the glitches I had with the slide controller. Would love your feedback – drop me a message in the comments below.

The Digital Tool Landscape

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For years, I have been collecting tools that help me get things done. Some of them run on my computer or on a web platform. Some of them have become obsolete or were closed down when the startup money ran out. But almost always, digital tools have some value to the marketer – even if it is just to stimulate our thinking about the way that consumers engage and participate online.

As the market has matured – and as we have found more business focused benefits that come from digital engagement – categories of use have begun to emerge. We can now find various use cases for digital technology, white papers, research and even case studies. But often we still struggle with determining which tool to use when. For example, we may look at crowdsourcing for insight rather than ideation, or collaborative platforms for brainstorming rather than development.

Now, rather than just applying trial and error, this great interactive tool from strategy+business can help you choose the right tool for the right job. Now, you can spend more time doing and less time trying to figure out how. No more excuses!

Digital is Getting More Fragmented Not Less

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There was a time when the only “digital” device in your home was likely to be an alarm clock.

These days, we live with a range of internet connected devices from refrigerators to lightbulbs, and CCTV systems to VOIP phones. And that’s before we start counting computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones. When network security firm Sophos surveyed gadget users around the world in March 2013, respondents indicated that they carried an average of 2.9 devices with them. Smartphones and laptops were the most popular, with eReaders rounding out the list at 29%.

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But these days, “digital” isn’t just about hardware. In fact, it’s not even about software. It’s about BEHAVIOUR.

When we think of digital we are thinking of modes of production and consumption – what we create and what we consume. And since the explosion of the social web, we have seen a massive fragmentation of what can be described (for want of a better word) as “digital channels”. In the early days of the web, the only digital channel you had was email. And then the world wide web came along and began to nip away at the edge of our digital experiences. It promised much but seldom delivered.

When Brian Solis introduced the Conversation Prism in 2008, our digital experience had grown to embrace the fledgling social media platforms like Flickr, LinkedIn, kyte, Zooomr and Facebook. Along for the ride was Ning, Pownce, eventful, WordPress and Twitter (amongst others). Of course, not all survived, but they paved the way for many who followed. And vitally they transformed our digital behaviour, our online body language and set our expectations for online experiences.

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The latest version of the Conversation Prism has now been released. And you can see that consumers are presented with a vast array of options for both production and consumption of content. There are many more ways to engage online – more platforms, more approaches and more niches. And with each of these comes rules, regulations, terms of service, user etiquette and community cultures. It can be a minefield for users and a battleground for inexperienced marketers. This presents marketers with serious challenges:

  • Strategy is execution: We have to make our peace and realise that the pace of change is never going to slow. We must now view strategy as execution – something that happens in real time with real customers. We need to work with a continuous digital strategy to not only survive but vitally, to remain relevant.
  • Digital skills must be prioritised: This is not to say that traditional marketing skills no longer have a role. Far from it. But digital will continue to grow in prominence. If you have not begun to refresh your skills, start now. Check out cheap and low cost online courses from Coursera, Skillshare and Udemy. For those in Sydney, Vibewire also runs regular skills based workshops that are tremendous value. Also check out what is on offer from ADMA.
  • Automation for marketing at scale: The dream of one-to-one marketing is upon us – but comes with discipline, requires strategic planning and technology investment. Identify those repetitive marketing tasks and investigate the marketing automation solution that is right for you and your business. You’ll be amazed at the revenue impact.

So before you go wading into the sea of digital channels, be sure you’ve got your floaties on – and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Marketing Provocations from We Are Social, Singapore

My Chernobyl Adventure part 2: Fallout Danger

The WeAreSocial team in Singapore consistently produce thought provoking research and showcase the powerhouse that is Asia. Their regular reports (available on Slideshare) aggregate data from across the web and make connections between the trends and the reality on the ground. And for those wanting to understand the shifts in marketing in Asia, they provide a great series of primers. (Of course, the best thing to do is to GO.)

The latest presentation by Simon Kemp, shifts this up a level, offering eight provocations on the future of marketing. No matter whether you are  client-side or work for an agency, these provocations offer a powerful challenge to the status quo of the way that we carry on the BUSINESS of MARKETING.

  1. Social equity drives brand value. Think participation rather than broadcast.
  2. Communities have more value than platforms. Think outside-in rather than inside-out.
  3. All marketing must add value – Think why rather than how.
  4. On the go is the way to go – Think mobile only rather than mobile first
  5. From big idea to leitmotivs – Think traction rather than blast
  6. From selective hearing to active listening – Think signal rather than noise
  7. Experiences are the new products – Think benefits rather than features
  8. CSR evolves into civic engagement – Think doing good as the price of doing well

Now, if these indeed are provocations, they are aimed precisely at the way that we marketers do our work, conceptualise it and execute on it. It becomes personal very quickly. So the question we must ask ourselves is – “which of these most impact me, my work and my customers – and what will I do about it”. I would love to know your thoughts!

Kickstart Your Campaign with Video

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The crowdfunding platform, Kickstarter, is a fascinating microcosm – it brings together all the elements and challenges of a business often before that business exists. So in many ways, a Kickstarter project is a pre-startup startup – and accordingly it faces many of the same immediate challenges. But where startups sprint towards product, Kickstarter forces a path towards market development. Those who can’t market, don’t win. And like current marketing trends indicate, video plays an increasingly important role in that process.

Research from MWP Digital Media shows that Kickstarter projects that have a video are 85% more likely to achieve their funding goals. This tends to match some of the trends we are seeing in broader marketing circles – with YouTube and Vimeo consumption continuing to rise – impacting not just brand and engagement metrics but also working at crucial junctures in the path to purchase.

Video, however, is a steep learning curve – so there are obvious benefits to outsourcing. But new features in familiar apps/platforms like Instagram and Twitter (via Vine) make it easy to experiment. And I have a feeling that the role of user (or brand) generated video content is only going to accelerate in the next 12-18 months. I have already begun testing this out for myself and with clients.

These days marketing never sleeps. I hope this shift isn’t catching you napping.

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Clearing the Marketing Cloud Fog – Adobe Completes Neolane Acquisition

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The sunset factoryWhen I began researching the marketing automation market late last year, it seemed like a crowded market. It seemed clear at the time that the competitive fog produced by the various marketing platforms was obscuring the very real benefits that technology delivers to marketers, and that the end result would be consolidation.

Yesterday, Adobe helped clear some of this fog by completing its acquisition of privately held marketing automation vendor, Neolane. What impact will this have? My news analysis can be found here – and the official release here.

From a platform point of view, Adobe is filling the gaps in marketing technology arsenal, with:

  • Analytics – the data and data crunching at your fingertips
  • Target – personalisation and targeting
  • Social – executing and measuring social marketing programs
  • Experience Manager – cross platform content digital asset management and optimisation
  • Media Optimizer – managing and optimising cross channel campaigns

And with Neolane joining the Marketing Cloud offering, Adobe is aiming to be the marketing technology partner of choice. Expect to see more activity in this crowded market.
Image: Creative Commons License Kevin Dooley via Compfight

Adobe Symposium Sydney – Sets the Eagles Amongst the Clouds

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Over the last few years, Adobe has been quietly acquiring companies, building and extending their enterprise focused suite of products and – to some surprise – integrating and consolidating their marketing software into a powerful “marketing cloud”.

At today’s digital marketing symposium, Adobe showcased much of this hard work – with products that are focused around their four pillars:

  • Listen
  • Predict
  • Assemble
  • Deliver

They have done the hard work of consolidating the various platforms into a cohesive and comprehensive offering built around marketing roles and functions. But of course, recent acquisitions like marketing automation platform Neolane takes all this to a new level. I fully expect to see a new pillar – “automate” – being added to the pillars in the next 12-18 months.

I will look to take a deeper dive into each of the aspects of the marketing cloud, but this Storify captures the events of the conference – from presentations to case studies and demos. I even tried out Vine as a way of capturing some of the demos.

But one thing is clear in amongst all the hype of the day and the power of the presentations – Adobe’s marketing cloud takes enterprise software to a new UI level. And the promise of the integrated offerings will have traditional marketers wanting to go digital and digital marketers needing to know more about traditional approaches.

Don’t Market Like it’s 2003. Get With the Program

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Over the last six months or so, I have taken a deep dive into the world of Marketing Automation, Digital Disruption and Mobility and Marketing Trends. And with every report, I see evidence of the situation playing over and over again – there is a growing distance between business and customers. It’s not just a gap anymore – it’s a chasm:

In reality, we are not really dealing with a gap. It could be better described as a “mismatch” – after all, a “gap” would indicate some alignment. But the problem for brands is that the distance between the two sets of expectations [customers and businesses] is growing.

The pressure in this relationship rests firmly with the marketing team. Digital and social media has not only transformed the way that most marketers work, it has significantly added to the process of marketing. There’s so much more technology involved, more analytics, reporting and monitoring. There are more agencies to deal with and more relationships to manage. And targets. And budgets. And so on.

So the title of Mitch Joel’s new book struck a chord with me. Ctrl Alt Delete – we certainly need a reboot in the world of marketing. Let’s take a look at just a couple of the mind blowing stats he starts with:

  • 14% of businesses are not prepared to deal with the speed of today’s competitive landscape. Think about it. What happens to them? Do they just disappear Kodak-style? What happens to their customers and their employees?
  • 74% of businesses don’t have a plan to stay competitive in the mobile world. How many nimble competitors are already eyeing the potential markets that will become available?

The cost of entry to existing markets is so much lower than the cost of TRANSFORMATION. This is why new business models and disruptive competitors are able to quickly gain traction in YOUR markets. Here are a few ideas that you can use to help you cope:

  • Start a customer conversation: Who are your customers? I don’t mean “segments” or “personas” … I mean “real names”. Run a quick check over your records and identify 10 of your best customers and 10 of your worst. Reach out to them and ask them what they like and don’t like about you. See what you can fix and what you can do more of.
  • Run a poll on your website: Get feedback on one or two of your products by running a poll on your website. SurveyMonkey is great – or you could just use Twtpoll. You might be surprised about what you learn.
  • Dig into your website analytics: Don’t tell me you haven’t even installed Google Analytics on your website! If you haven’t, do so. It’s easy. And if you don’t know how, ask Twitter. Once you have stats coming through, look up “Traffic Sources” and learn about how your customers find you. Look at the search terms they use and the links they click to come to your site. Are you solving the right problems?
  • Make your website mobile friendly: “Responsive design” is a hot topic at the moment. But most of the robust content management systems have responsive design templates or plugins that can be easily added to your site. At the minimum, add responsive design templates/capabilities to your blog – after all, Google Analytics will show you that about 25% of traffic comes from mobiles.
  • Start or update your blog: What? Still no blog? That’s so 2003. If you haven’t started a blog, it’s never too late to do so. Start today (just check out IBM’s cool Tumblr as an easy-to-run example). Download WordPress and get going. And if you have a blog that hasn’t been updated for months, write a post and link to this article. Explain you are getting back on the bandwagon because you WANT to hear from your customers.
  • Go social: Whether you like it or not, social is here to stay. But you need to get your hands dirty. Setup an account on Twitter or on Facebook. Do a little stalking to find out what your customers are talking about. Connect and slowly build out a strategy. Be sure to own that strategy – and don’t delegate it to the intern. Make it part of your business and use it to learn more about your customers, partners, suppliers and even employees. CEOs all over the world are doing it, why can’t you?

Mid-Year Digital Marketing Trends 2013

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Report-2013trendsAs we begin to ramp up our efforts for the second half of 2013, it’s always worth taking a moment to reflect on what has emerged, what is emerging and the gaps that are becoming obvious in our marketing strategy and tactics.

For me, one of the things that has solidified is the notion that consumers are not only king, but the entire universe. As such they have become the centre of gravity around which brands now orbit.

Understanding and navigating this new “consumerverse” is a core requirement for any marketer.

My snapshot report on Succeeding in the New Consumerverse reveals four strategies to help marketers win in a state of disruption as usual:

  • The shift from participating to serving with purpose
  • Becoming connected and connectable
  • Realising that channels are dead
  • Embracing tech sector innovation

Register and download the report from the Constellation Research Inc website.

And if you would like to learn more about how this connects to real businesses, some of the interesting proof points that are emerging and how businesses can embrace disruption as a business imperative, take a look at my interview with Which-50’s Andrew Birmingham.