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

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.

twittercounter

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.

The Top 5 Marketing Technology Categories in 2016

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.

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

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

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.

Done Right, Content Marketing is No Swindle

In my first real marketing role, I felt like a complete fraud. I had stumbled into marketing and strategy while working for IBM and had the good fortune to work with a “startup” (whatever that was) developing a platform for online communities. I was simultaneously a product manager, sales exec, marketing director, tech support and partner manager. I was the only person within IBM who knew anything much about this amazing new technology and it was my job to convince the sales teams that their media, sports and retail clients needed to learn more. The thing was, I had no idea what to do.

I needed a plan.

Each day I would arrive early and trawl the intranet. I’d find templates for presentations and customer pitches, information and technology architecture, marketing plans and branding. It seemed like there was a system to marketing that could be pieced together if I just had the time. But it was IBM. No one had the time.

So I doubled down. I chose to study late and early and put what I learned into practice. I set meetings with sales execs and asked them lots of questions. I listened, followed up and gave them what they needed. Gradually, a strategy came into view. By the time I moved to a new role, I had a mental system for sales enablement. I had a marketing plan. And I knew how the puzzle pieces connected.

Suddenly in a new role for a management consulting firm, I was amazed to learn that there were no fundamentals in place. No messaging. No positioning. No brand consistency. Certainly no aspiration. There wasn’t even a presentation template that could be used. It felt like the brand had stepped out of the 1950s and liked the cut of its own jib.

So I started planning. I needed the sales team on side. I needed the consultants to rethink the way they talked about the brand. And I needed to set an example. Most importantly, I needed to overcome the massive store of legacy collateral that consultants carried around with them. After all, our challenge was growth, and it’s hard to grow when your eye is locked on the past. The solution was staring me in the face – content. Good quality content.

Quality content is a business asset

I realised that if I wanted to get consultants to use my (and by “my” I mean “our”) new branding, case studies, templates and so on, then they needed to be better than what was already available. The presentations needed to be fresher and more direct. The case studies needed to be current and relevant to client needs. And we needed to focus on recognisable talent – CEOs of major clients, CIOs that knew how to bring business and IT together, and CFOs who wanted to prove they had business nous to take the next step.

So again, I started with a plan.

Our research and client interviews yielded vital insights. We needed data. We needed real world business problems. And we needed proof points that reinforced our new, strategic offerings and traditional service lines. So we scheduled interviews and follow-ups. We measured website traffic and downloads. I worked with my team to write dozens of new offering briefs, solution profiles, case studies and one pagers. All of these were on-brand and on-message. Then we briefed the CEO and the Board, sent out internal communications, updated the intranet, shared new templates and tools and launched the new website. We even had new plasma screens installed in the reception area to greet clients, with a customisable message and co-branding.

Pretty soon we realised that we had created a whole new class of business asset. Consultants from across the country started requesting interviews and case studies using our new formula. We produced internal podcasts – or what we now call “podcasts” – as downloadable MP3 files containing the latest news updates, client wins and thought leadership interviews. It was content marketing way before content marketing. And it worked:

  • We improved our revenues
  • We improved our profitability
  • We launched new products and service lines in record time
  • We scored new clients.

Perhaps most importantly, we gained the respect of our colleagues.

Content marketing is old school B2B marketing in a new frock

These days we have better tools and processes. We can create content much faster. We can generate whole infographics not just charts with just a few clicks. Videos can be shot, compiled and edited, uploaded and distributed right on your phone. Checklists, lists and websites can be updated more easily – and marketing automation not only sends emails but tracks, nurtures and sequences a whole customer journey.

Even still, the principles are the same. Content marketing is a lot of work. It takes effort and planning. It’s still B2B marketing, just gussied up in a new frock. But it does the heavy lifting of marketing super effectively. As Sarah Mitchell explains on LinkedIn:

When done well, content marketing turns your marketing expense into a long-term business asset. It’s a highly effective way to attract an audience and build trust with your customers and prospects. It’s less expensive than traditional marketing and advertising methods – a lot less expensive. If decision makers and budget holders think content marketing doesn’t work, they vote for the easy alternative – advertising and traditional marketing. Both are less effective and leave you with no asset from your expenditure.

Sarah also shares some great tips to help you figure out whether your content marketing team (or agency) are delivering the value you need. There’s 25 indicators that help you determine “if a swindle is in play”, but these three are my favourites. Read the full list here.

    1. If you’re buying into content marketing without taking the time to develop a strategy, you’re being swindled
    2. If your content marketing is focused on social media with no plan to convert or move your audience off the social channel, you’re being swindled
    3. If there’s no plan on how to measure your effectiveness, you’re being swindled.

Reputation Even Over a Resume: Why Personal Branding Matters in 2016

Take a moment to look back over your career. Even if you are “new” to the workforce, you’re likely to see a hotchpotch of connected experiences. There will be paid and unpaid work, some volunteering maybe. You’ll have passion projects that took weeks or months of your time – like the time you decided to build your sister’s website to save her money, only to find that after it’s all up and working, she took a new job and was no longer interested in “going freelance”. There may even be whole folders of documents filled with words that one day will become your great business, breakthrough book.

Now, take a look at your LinkedIn profile and ask yourself – what’s the story it tells?

I have been saying this for years – but it’s a fact that grows stronger over time. Your resume is as dead as the tree it is written on.

In 2016, you are what you publish.

LinkedIn as an inbound channel for your personal brand

I used to think of LinkedIn as a place of business, connection and social selling. It was a vastly under-utilised space where a strong profile and a good network would help you stand out from the crowd. But a crowd it certainly is. It is the place where careers and connections collide.

In short, LinkedIn has become the “internet of careers” – the internet that we look at when we are looking to find a job, an employee or a customer.

But these days, LinkedIn has a broader agenda, transforming from a massive database of resumes to a business publishing platform and a social selling engine.  Every person with a profile can publish their thoughts, ideas and status updates just like Facebook. Or Twitter. Or Google’s Blogspot (remember that?!). And with the opening up of the LinkedIn Pulse publishing platform, there has literally been an explosion of content – some of it written by individuals and some of it written by ghost bloggers. Some is pure PR spin. Some is heartfelt and personal. There are even birthday notifications (as a side note, I find this mildly disconcerting).

And while this has made it more difficult for the average person to attract and engage potential business collaborators, clients or employers, there is still a great opportunity to use LinkedIn as an inbound channel for your personal brand. What does this look like?

  • Share the message, own the destination: Ever noticed how everyone’s profile on LinkedIn looks the same? Makes it hard to stand out, right? Like all good strategy, I suggest you share the message – post your insights, presentations, speeches and updates on LinkedIn by all means, but own the destination – have a website or a portfolio that keeps track of all you do. Use that destination to more fully contextualise your work, purpose and outcomes. I use gavinheaton.com as a catch-all for my activities and ServantOfChaos.com as a showcase. DisruptorsHandbook.com focuses marketing-led innovation and practical strategy. And everything that is posted on one of these sites is cross-posted to LinkedIn.
  • Treat your LinkedIn summary like an elevator pitch: Can you describe your job, best projects and outcomes in 30 seconds? Rather than writing a career summary for your LinkedIn profile, write a summary of how you can help clients, employers and business partners. Make it less about you and more about the value you create.
  • Write case studies on your best projects: Sure LinkedIn’s publishing platform is a hot mess of content, but every time you publish an article, it reaches into the feeds of your network. That means that people you know, or would like to know, are learning more about you. So give your networks something worth reading – warts and all case studies of the projects you’ve worked on. Include the passion projects, the skunkworks and even elements of your day job that is reasonable to share. Showcase not just the results, but the workings of how you delivered value. Connect the dots, tell the story and bring the dull parts to life with anecdotes, quotes and images.
  • Treat yourself like your #1 client: Imagine you are writing a brief for a client – except that client is you. Determine your value proposition, key message and proof points. Put your best storytelling foot forward and explain just why you are the best person for the job/project/collaboration. Just remember, it’s hard work. Keep refining your message. Get feedback. Listen honestly and always seek to improve.

For more great ideas on building your personal brand, take a look through this presentation from Leslie Bradshaw. It’s chock full of practical suggestions that can help you shift from being a “thought leader” to a “do leader”. And in a world where you are what you publish, it’s not about the what you say, it’s all about who believes it.

My New Book: Skills for the 21st Century – It’s Marketing But Not As We Know It


It is clear that the skills that brought us through the 20th Century have not prepared us for the next 100 years. Or even the next decade.

Technology, social media and consumerisation has disrupted industry after industry, and while marketing operates in most firms at the forefront of customer experience, many marketers feel out of their depth with the vast array of skills and capabilities that are required. The disruption adds to the anxiety that ripples out across the organisation.

Over the last year I have spoken at conferences and forums in Australia and internationally, consulted with organisations and governments and helped develop new capability roadmaps, skilling programs and events. And the challenges and fears are largely the same.

What I have found, is that this anxiety is reverberating far beyond the marketing department. In the 21st Century, we are all marketers, and we are unprepared for this new future.

In response, I have written an eBook that builds on a series of blog posts and articles, observations, projects and presentations that I have made throughout the year. It looks at the shifting landscape and suggests ways forward for individuals and teams.

This eBook is available for immediate download as a PDF.

Don’t Tweet at Me in that Tone of Voice

Setting tone of voice in social media is a challenge. How do you balance the assertiveness and authority with a sense of engagement and approachability? How do you strike a tone that delights your customers and attracts new prospects? And what is that “distinctive” personality that can only be expressed through text and how do you create it consistently?

Tone of voice is not just a problem for social media. In a business world where communication occurs largely through the written word – in email, messaging, enterprise social networks and so on, a misplaced word or misconstrued meaning can cause much drama.

Consider the hastily worded email that you sent after a bad meeting. Or the tweets you made in response to a troll. What about the situation where you really wanted to recall an email but realised that you could not?

IBM has been experimenting with language and semantics for some time. Their Watson platform specialises in natural language processing, and with the Tone Analyzer service, you may just catch an overly aggressive email in the nick of time.

How Tone Analyzer Works

We often rely on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to help us profile individuals. It is still widely in use despite being largely dismissed as a scientific method – but I have always found its indicators lacking. I much prefer Sam Gosling’s OCEAN framework. It measures:

  • Openness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Extroversion
  • Agreeableness
  • Neuroticism

watson-tone

This framework is used by IBM to assess your social tone of voice. Watson also gives you a score on writing tone and emotional tone. You simply cut and paste your text into the field on the demo page and have Watson analyse your words. It then returns a visual assessment. This is the assessment from the first half of my last blog post. You will see, the post was:

  • 80% analytical (good for this kind of article)
  • 96% confident (I do want you to believe me)
  • 87% agreeable (please, please like and hire me).

You can also integrate this platform into your enterprise tools using the API platform. That could make for a very different form of communication within and beyond the enterprise.

But here’s a question – would you dare to run your marketing copy through this system? What would you find?

Marketing Skills of the Future, Now

I have dozens of conversations with marketers every week. And in almost every conversation, the topic turns to skills. Skills shortages. Employee capabilities. And technology. The rapidly changing marketing technology landscape shifts each quarter with new features, functions, platforms and data coming into play. Meanwhile, universities are pumping out graduates whose capabilities are already out of date.

It is becoming clear that we need marketing skills for the future. But we need them now.

I recently discussed these skill gaps with MediaScope’s Denise Shrivell, AOL’s Yasmin Sanders and RadiumOne’s Adam Furness. Each week Denise presents a 30 minute live video chat on the topics impacting Australia’s media and advertising industry, and this episode focusing on skill shortages was a cracker. On a positive note, we are seeing forward momentum. But are we seeing the gap closing? Watch a replay of the episode below.

Addressing skill gaps by improving your innovation fitness

Over the last 12 months I have been working with a range of clients on their digital and marketing strategies. As part of this work, we map out not just the strategic landscape, but the skills needed to deliver. Sometimes this means:

  • In-house teams need training
  • Finding the right agency to fill the gap
  • Every now and then, creating something entirely new – which is when the project gets really exciting.

One of the programs we have developed to help organisations to continue to move forward in this environment is called Innovation Fitness. The Innovation Fitness program, with its bootcamp, ongoing mentoring and support and target skills audit process is not just about closing the gap, but about delivering changes in the ways that you work.

After all, the future is not determined by technology but by our reactions to it. The questions we all need to ask ourselves is “How clear is our future skills strategy? And are we even on the right path?”.

Digital and the Future of Marketing

When we think of the future of marketing, we often think of our customers. What trends are they adopting? Which devices? Where are they and how can I reach them? But there’s a double-sided impact to the future of marketing – and that is to do with the future of marketers.

There have been some massive improvements in the world of technology – with automated content and engagement platforms seeming to do amazing work. Just look at the journalism robots created by Associated Press that now publish around 3000 stories every quarter. This is journalism content “without a human byline”. It is a cocktail of 1 part excitement, 1 part absolute dread. After all, what happens when those “journo bots” turn their attention to marketing?

It’s time for us to grapple with the future of marketing

I recently spoke at the Marketo MarketingNation roadshow – and discussed our marketing-technology future. I will leave you to watch the video in your own good time, but I will also raise a couple of points:

  • Data is not your only answer – you need to work with the PANDA principles to deliver broad and deep value as a marketer
  • You need to create not inherit the future – what is the future you’d like to see? If you have a vision for a creative and vibrant marketing career, it’s time for you to step forward and voice those ideas
  • Time to skill up – if you don’t have any tech skills, it’s time to work on that. As we rush towards an increasingly connected customer experience model, technology will feature more and more. It’s essential you at least have the foundations (this is covered in the presentation)
  • Get some digital muscle on your Board – the same principles apply to Boards. Without the digital expertise available at a strategic level, you’re business longevity will decline. It’s time to bring diversity and divergent thinking onto your Board.