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

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.


Hack the Hacker: Using Analytics to Respond to Cyber Security Threats

When your computer network, PC or laptop is compromised you know you are in for a world of pain. Not only do you face significant down time, there are additional problems:

  • Identity theft – have stored passwords been harvested and shared via dark nets like 4chan?
  • Credit card fraud – have your credit card details been sold in a bulk lot online?
  • Business data – have you exposed your company or employer to reputational and other damage?
  • Digital reputation – has the breach caused Google to take your site or platform down?

The problem is the scale of the challenge. In 2014 there were:

  • Over 42 million cyber attacks worldwide
  • Representing a 50% increase year-on-year

The thing is, 100% – that is, all – cyber attacks used valid credentials. Which means you need to be thinking proactively about your cyber security. It’s too late once the attack has started.

This infographic from Sumologic sets out facts and figures that will make your eyes water. But what is clear is that cyber security is no longer just the responsibility of the CIO. It’s now an important part of your brand.


Influencers and Social Recommendation

In a world where the impact of traditional advertising is shrinking and where the option to simply block ads from our internet use is an easy option, it is clear that marketers the world over are having to rethink the way that they do business. In fact, they’re having to rethink the way that they do everything.

Some are leaping onto the hackathon bandwagon. Some are becoming more social. Some agencies are diving head first into data. And some are imploding, sending shockwaves through the lives of the freelancer networks who rely on their steady patronage.

And while everything is changing, in many ways, it all remains the same. Back in 2009, I came up with a concept I called the Auchterlonie effect. It was the digital version of playground storytelling and the concept seemed to ring true. In order for a story to spread through a network (think a class of 12 year old boys, or a group of connected Twitter friends), there are certain conditions which need to be met. It is about building and spending your social capital within that network. It is about generosity, action and reputation.

Years later, and despite various efforts to map and score our “influence”, it still remains elusive. But we do know a little more about the conditions and the triggers. And this infographic from the Smiley360 folks helps connect some of the dots. It’s just that there are always new and emerging dots that we have to take into account.


Retail Disrupted-Consumers Get Smarter says IBM Study

I have a love-hate relationship with shopping. Actually, when I think about it, I quite like shopping as an experience. What I don’t like the way retail transforms that experience. You see, retail shopping is filled with frustration:

  • There’s no or limited stock
  • Loyalty programs are more of a burden than a benefit
  • The digital experience is out-of-kilter with the in-store experience
  • Customer service is an after thought.

And it seems I am not alone. The 2015 IBM Smarter Consumer Study: Shoppers Disrupted gauged global sentiment about consumers’ shopping behaviour. The extensive survey of 28,500 online respondents across 15 countries saw more than 1,800 Australians respond to the survey.

Some of the key findings include:

  • Australian shoppers are less loyal than ever – 10% act as advocates while 37% act as antagonists
  • 38% of 20-39 year olds prefer to shop online
  • Online shopping is up across all categories (esp consumer electronics)
  • Shoppers prefer to be in control – and that means a mobile experience.

You can register and download the full report here.

Now, much of this is not new. I have been analysing the structural, technological and strategic problems with retail for years. But Australian retail, in particular, has been slow to respond to the challenges (and opportunities) of digital disruption. And when they do respond, they often do so with the blinkered vision of incumbency. Does this leave the door open for nimble competition or does is just breed consumer mistrust and apathy? I’d love your thoughts.

The big question, of course, is when will retailers fix these problems? Those that do will reap the reward of an increasingly digitally-savvy customer base. Those that twiddle their thumbs will see their customers switch allegiances – or worse – become antagonists.


Even Your Boring Brand Can Be Sexy on Social Media

I often wonder if there is such a thing as a “boring brand”. Sure we have exciting, innovative and even “cool” brands – these are easy to spot. Big budgets. Celebrities. Airplanes. But not all of us work for or with these kinds of brands.

And that is the real opportunity. But to understand that opportunity, there are three steps you must take:

1. Think beyond your product

It may be your job to evangelise your product, but the challenge for social media is to step outside of your comfort zone. Rather than thinking of the product you are selling, think of the problem you are solving for your customers.

One of the  best examples that springs to mind for me is an old NRMA ad where the product being sold is roadside assistance. A middle aged couple are dressed up, driving to an evening at the opera. Along the way the car stops in the rain. He has forgotten to renew their roadside assistance insurance. While attempting to fix the problem, somehow the hapless gentleman removes the distributor cap and attempts to hide it in his tuxedo while his wife hits him with her handbag.

What is the ad selling? Not roadside assistance. Not even insurance. It’s selling peace of mind for all the non-mechanics out there.

2. Build customer relationships

Given that customers these days buy in their own time (not just when suits brands and marketing campaigns), we need to find ways to build customer relationships ahead of the buying curve. Learn to speak the language of your customers. Participate in their activities. Show that you “are one of them”.

This is something that startup Canva do exceptionally well. They manage to balance on the one hand, a community of designers; and on the other a growing community of business people who need graphic design for personal or professional reasons. It is clear through their Canva blog and their Design School that “sometimes you win, sometimes you LEARN”. And the more you work to bring both together, the more value is created in and around the Canva platform.

3. Advocate for your customers

As shown in this interesting infographic (below), Tampax’s Awesomely Active Girl Challenge was a great way to engage women, encouraging them to remain active during their period.  But it’s not just a matter of encouraging activity – it’s about being “awesomely active”.

As brand ambassador, surfer, Bethany Hamilton explained during the 2013 campaign, “I am happy to be partnering with Tampax Pearl Active because they offer high performance protection for high performance girls just like me who would never think of letting their periods keep them from hanging ten or biking hard. This contest is all about cheering on each other and celebrating those active moments when all eyes are on them”.



Man sleepingCreative Commons License Timothy Krause via Compfight

The Sum of All Your Social Media

What happens when two of your social media friends get together? Well, this week Sum All, the social media dashboard and Buffer, the social media management tool, hooked up to share some salacious social data. By working together they were able to compare the the effectiveness of posting frequency. And they came up with some pretty interesting insights.

For those who are active on social media, the recommendations may come as a surprise. After all, it’s easy to schedule or post  multiple updates to run WITHIN AN HOUR – not just across the course of a DAY. But it seems for the most part, that INFREQUENT posting may be the most effective route. For example:

  • Twitter: probably the noisiest of the lot, Twitter can explode on a particular topic. Just look at “today’s” fascination first with llamas and then later, with #TheDress. Research suggests that the level of engagement begins to decrease after only the THIRD tweet each day – and that means #TheDress flooded most people’s quotas
  • Facebook: there’s an ongoing debate over the Facebook newsfeed algorithms and the level of organic reach, but the research also indicates that two posts is the max point for “Likes” and comments
  • Blogging: perhaps the most interesting of the stats – is that doubling your blogging efforts from around once a week to twice a week doubles the number of inbound leads. And here we were thinking that blogging had died a quiet death

The big question is …

As with all research, there will always be outliers – and exceptions to the rule. But for those who actively manage brands on social media, how do you find this correlates with your experience? Have you tested for post frequency? What about time of day? Or “best day” for posting? My thinking and experience suggests:

  • B2C brands may need to post more frequently – especially where there is a customer experience / service angle
  • Brands that are in the early stages of growth will always take effort to establish a follower base. Activity can ease off as community activity begins to increase
  • Standard time of day posts still tend to work when your audience is receptive – during work breaks and in the evenings (note this can be challenging where your audience is comprised of shift workers)
  • Some channels work better on weekends. And yes, that can mean email too. Be sure to test all opportunities to engage.



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

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!


No Left v Right Brain – And Other Mythconceptions

I love this infographic on various urban myths that permeate our modern existence. By author, David McCandless, it visualises some of the most Googled myths and misconceptions – with larger bubbles indicating that it is a common search term. Some of my personal favourites include:

  • That you SHOULD wake sleepwalkers
  • That bats are NOT blind
  • There is no solid division between the LEFT and RIGHT hemispheres of the brain.

What surprises you?


Why Do People Leave Jobs?

When I begin working with clients I work to understand what their ambassadors think about them. I look to their customers and suppliers to get a sense of what is working and what is not. But there is no better source of insight than a company’s employees. These are the people who are actively engaging and promoting the company every day. They are the face of the brand and are – in many instances – the custodian of customer experience. If an employee is having a bad day, your brand is likely to feel the impact.

This infographic from Bamboo HR is based on interviews with over 1000 US-based employees. And they look not just at the reasons that people leave, but the conditions that make people unhappy. Because unhappy employees perform worse than happy ones. No surprises there, right? But there is a substantial difference between an employee who is unhappy and a company culture that MAKES people unhappy. And far too often, the reasons that people are unhappy is not to do with the people that they work with, but the conditions that they work under.

Take a look at the statistics in this infographic. Do these situations worry you? Do some of these apply to your business? Do you even know?

There are ways to fix this and it may be easier than you imagine. Let’s chat!



Influence: Be the First to Give

In the digital world we are fascinated by influence. We want to know who has influence and we want to know who is influenced by whom. We strive for influence in our personal and professional lives and we reject the overt nature of influence that impacts us through advertising and messaging (even though it still affects us).

Robert Cialdini’s book on Influence is a must-read for marketers. His six principles of influence work together to connect intention and action and are vital to the success of any marketing activity. However, in digital and social marketing, the focus tends to rely on just two elements – social proof and liking. It’s partly why we often feel marketers and brands are “yelling” at us online. There is a simple antidote to this:

Be the first to give.

In this infographic from Everreach, summarising the six principles, they call out that proactive use of reciprocity as a “weapon of influence”. Working this way creates a faster and more immediate bond between brands and their customers. More importantly, it sets the scene for the remaining elements. So, next time – before you ask someone to buy, think about what it is that you can give.