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

The True Value of Social Business is Still to be Unlocked

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Realising the value of any business initiative – especially when it involves some form of transformation or change management – can take months or even years. In fact, the benefits of some changes can continue to accrue for decades. Little wonder then, that business is taking time to bring its social media / social business programs to account. After all, it’s not just about allowing Facebook access through the firewall and launching a new Fan Page.

For business to generate value from their investments in social initiatives, integrated programs need to be rolled out across five dimensions:

  • Goals – it’s essential for your program to set goals. These goals will, over time, become more refined, but even ad hoc programs should establish clear parameters
  • Commitment – understanding how your teams will use social media helps determine the level of resourcing, governance and support that will be needed. Essentially, you need to determine your organisation’s accepted level of commitment
  • Ability – how will social be deployed within your organisation and by whom? What level of training and best practice sharing will be put in place? How will you formalise this?
  • Measurement – are you achieving your goals? Are you failing? And are you even measuring the right things?
  • Scalability – who’s job is social? Thinking through this question will help you confront the challenges of scaling social within your business.

To understand the way that organisational maturity can be built over time, I created this social business maturity model. But when it was first developed back in 2011, there was a paucity of data available on the impact of social business. This is now beginning to change.

The Sloan Review/Deloitte’s findings from their 2014 global study on social business reveals that as social business matures, value begins to build across the enterprise – not just within the marketing and sales divisions. Almost 60% of B2B companies are finding that social business initiatives are “positively impacting business outcomes”. And that central to the realisation of business value is the support of the C-suite.

Those experienced in the world of change management will know the importance of “top down” support. And social business transformation is no different.

Read the full report here – and then roll up your sleeves. With only 51% of business sitting in the early stages of the maturity model, there’s plenty of opportunity to grow and create value.

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Disrupting Banking? It happened in a snap

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When we think of banking, as consumers we rarely think of the complex mechanisms behind the scenes. We just think of our financial institutions as very large, powerful brands – rather than individual businesses that focus on deposits, investments, mortgages and loans, payments and clearing, risk management and insurance, broking etc. But the reality is far more complicated.

Even within one area – like payments and clearing for example – there are several different dedicated systems. From cash to cheques, direct entry and EFTPOS to BPAY and credit cards and beyond, these systems ensure that our economy ticks over day-in, day-out. And while the banking system – especially in Australia – is highly regulated, we have seen a great deal of disruptive activity taking place over the last couple of years. Innovators like eBay and its flagship PayPal have had their eye on the lucrative payments prize for some time. And with the iPhone 6, Apple is moving into the space with its Pay product.

And now, Snapchat – the massive online messaging service that turned down Facebook’s $3 billion acquisition offer – has stepped into the contest, partnering with payments innovator, Square, allowing Snapchat members to pay another member by sending a message with a dollar amount (eg $19.50). Called Snapcash it takes online payments to a whole new level, bypassing banks altogether.

Currently only open to Snapchatters in the USA, it requires that the member have a debit card and be over 18 years of age.

It’s an audacious move. And one that is bound to be rolled out to other countries in the near term.

But more than that – its a warning to all slow-acting executives – especially in countries like Australia where the pace of digital transformation has been abysmally slow. A recent report by Frost and Sullivan calls out Australian executives as some of the most digitally complacent in the world, leaving plenty of opportunity for smaller, more nimble innovators to sweep up market share faster than you can say Bankcard.

Looking more closely at the financial services sector, however, I see a much graver issue. Take a look at the launch announcement. Look at how it was amplified. Look at the production and messaging. And then think about who it targets and where their financial allegiances lie.

If the Boards of Australian banks are not rethinking their strategies, then the problem runs far deeper – and change will come faster than we (or they) could possibly imagine. In fact, it could happen in a snap.

The SMEG Police Brought to You by Adobe

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You’ve probably met the type – or had them pitch you. They’re the FUD masters, sewing fear, uncertainty and doubt, knowing that at the end of the conversation they have a lead to follow up or maybe even a project. They talk big numbers, after all, 40% of the Australian population use Facebook, 3 million on Twitter and well, everyone in the country on Google. Surely you can’t afford NOT to have a presence in these digital territories.

In the world of small business, we’ve been hearing these pitches for years. These “Social Media Expert Gurus” (SMEGs) would sweep in, dazzle business owners, soak up budgets and then disappear when it came time to report back on results and outcomes. More recently, we are seeing larger enterprises follow this same course. Sometimes the entree comes through the Board or senior executives. They are swayed by the “social media savvy” and “digital swagger” of the SMEG and quickly find themselves signing up for hefty retainers attached to uncertain outcomes.

But the immediacy and impact of social media can be addictive. And even the most cynical executive can find themselves enthralled.

Every time someone reads, clicks or shares a link or piece of content that we have created, it sends a small dose of dopamine into our brain. This release provides us with a sense or reward, pleasure – and encouragement. It’s why (for the marketer) digital marketing or social media can be addictive. It is also why those who don’t use social media fail to understand the way that participation can become contagious – or how content can go “viral”.

Adobe have taken aim at this phenomena with their Mean Streets video. It’s a fantastic take on the rollercoaster of social media vanity metrics – Likes and Fans. Will it help you spot a SMEG in the crowd? Perhaps not, but you know who to call when you need to be bailed out.

Marketing Led Sales – a new era for Hubspot and CRM

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Back in the beginning of 2013, I released a research report into the field of marketing automation. It investigated the challenges faced by marketers – from the explosion in digital and social channels to the newly emerging connected consumer and sought to map out the strengths of the various marketing technology vendors and their software offerings. In this report, I had identified that:

HubSpot looks to upset the apple cart.

With the focus on inbound marketing I predicted that HubSpot was well placed to become a future category leader.

At the recent INBOUND2014 conference, HubSpot announced a bold new offering – HubSpot CRM. Now, HubSpot, along with many other marketing automation platforms have long provided a simple CRM-style database – or tight integration to dedicated customer relationship management platforms such as Salesforce. But this feels different. It is different. It is FREE – as part of your HubSpot subscription.

But it’s not the pricing (or lack thereof) that feels revolutionary. It’s the fact that the HubSpot CRM reverses the priority of CRM – from sales first to marketing first. So now, rather than CRM and sales leading the customer process, HubSpot reaches out through its marketing platform to engage customers and then automatically connects them through to the sales teams seamlessly. The CRM platform works almost behind the scenes, logging your sales emails, phone calls and leads as they are made, not after the fact. And because it is part of the one platform, the marketing data that has been accumulated through various touch points, from web, to download, to webinar and so on, is also immediately available to the sales team as the relationship moves closer to conversion.

This new extension to an already powerful mid-market solution will strengthen what is already an attractive software platform. More importantly, it presents small and medium businesses with a compelling proposition – all in one, integrated sales and marketing automation.

And while this is a welcome mid-market addition, I am most excited about what this means for those organisations actively engaged in strategic digital marketing. Sure, most companies are shifting to digital, but those organisations with a mature approach to digital will be able to quickly deploy this kind of solution to create a competitive advantage. With HubSpot CRM, customers – and the customer experience – is more tightly connected to the sales process. It’s marketing led sales, not sales driven marketing. And this is a revolution that has been waiting in the wings.

Now I can’t wait to see what the next act brings.

Going Viral for all the Wrong Reasons

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Every time someone reads, clicks or shares a link or piece of content that we have created, it sends a small dose of dopamine into our brain. This release provides us with a sense or reward, pleasure – and encouragement. It’s why (for the marketer) digital marketing or social media can be addictive. It is also why those who don’t use social media fail to understand the way that participation can become contagious – or how content can go “viral”.

Unfortunately, the concept of “virality” has positive and negative connotations. And while the highs that come with a viral “hit” can be dwarfed by the lows that come with a viral “miss”. Where once we held that there was no such thing as bad PR, we now know that there IS such a thing as bad social media – and there are very real impacts on our reputation (personal and corporate) and even downsides for our corporation’s share price.

For those who have one eye on the audience and another on your corporate reputation, Sprinklr’s recent whitepaper on crisis management will be a must-read. Covering the five essentials for crisis preparation, it includes a handy score card to help you assess when a crisis is likely to move from medium to critical, and even includes a sample flowchart which you can adapt to your own organisation.

The whitepaper by Rick Reed (Intel), Melissa Agnes (Agnes + Day) and Sprinklr’s Ali Ardalan and Uyen Nguyen is a handy document to model your own crisis plan on. And it might just be your saviour should you find yourself “going viral” for all the wrong reasons. Download your copy here (registration required).

Earned Audiences–Where Twitter Meets TV

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There was a time when sitting down in front of the TV was a family affair. It was me, Dad, Mum and maybe a dog. The little brother was tucked up in bed and the little sister, well, she was far off into the future. And while there would be the occasional conversation – mostly during the ad breaks between episodes of Prisoner – or when the footy would break at the end of six – watching TV was a shared experience with limited variation.

These days, the tables have turned.

Sure, we still arrange rooms around a large glowing screen. But it’s not just one glowing screen in the room any longer. The big one on the wall fights for attention with the various smaller devices – smartphones, tablets and notebooks that adorn our laps. TV is no longer the centre of authority in our night’s entertainment – it’s just the context for a much broader conversation.

TV shifts from content to context

One of the most interesting transformations that has come about in recent years is the demotion of TV from centre of an experience to the frame for that experience. These days, TV is just the start of a conversational journey that happens within a home. From there, hundreds, thousands, millions of streams of opinion, humour, sarcasm and even spoilers, issue forth from the devices of the people who are consuming shows while simultaneously co-creating as-yet-unwritten meta-narratives via Twitter, Facebook and specialist apps like Beamly or GetGlue. The shows provide the context into which “prosumers” pour their creative energies and content.

What does this look like?

ABC’s Q&A program creating earned audiences

QandAtweetsA great example of social media connecting audiences is Australian Broadcasting Service’s Q&A program. Actively curated for live amplification during broadcasting, the #QandA stream prompts conversations amongst participants, friends and connections along with a generous smattering of online trolling and vitriol.

Some participants argue with points raised live on the show, some share links supporting their arguments and others just simply throw their best lines into the void hoping that their 140 characters will somehow be picked up and shared with the TV audience. One of the more prolific protagonists, Wolf Cocklin, has gone so far as to create a line of #QandA related merchandise that he sells via creative community/marketplace, Red Bubble.

Tellingly, this audience sprang up organically, adopting the #QandA hashtag and generating a massive stream of content. At first, the QandA producers appeared unaware or uncertain of how to approach this new community of viewers. After all, they were at times, unruly and prone to swearing. But as an “earned audience”, it was icing on the cake of broadcasting. For while TV runs multiple rounds of surveys to understand (and extrapolate) viewership, people who participate using #QandA:

  • Self identify
  • Reveal a range of interests via their profile and publishing
  • Share networks of others
  • Rally audiences and grow reach

In many ways, this audience is the programmer’s dream. So it makes sense that before too long, tweets began appearing on-screen and spurred on by the promise of 5 seconds of fame, participants responded, growing a massive audience that spans Australia’s three timezones.

The last couple of months has also seen participants publishing their tweets many hours ahead of broadcasting. This strategy seems designed to maximise the possibility of a tweet being broadcast. After all, the views of the show’s panellists are known in advance as are the hot topics of the moment. And if you can give the producers a few easy, early tweets that can be loaded into the system, then everyone wins.

Bridging the brand and consumer gap with earned audiences

While the lessons from #QandA are interesting, it would appear at first glance, that going from “conversation to conversion” is more challenging. For some time, marketers have been keen to identify the connection between social media and sales – with many giving up the ghost. But new research sponsored by Twitter seems to suggest that Twitter-based brand exposure does indeed drive action. This includes:

  • Visiting brand websites
  • Visiting brand Twitter pages
  • Searching for the brand
  • Consider trying the brand
  • Retweeting the brand

As expected, the tweets that originated from the brand were less effective than those that originated organically (or appeared to be organic).

While this is interesting research, it smacks a little of research that shows that “radio ads are more effective”. For no matter how engaged or how “managed” a branded social channel may be, Twitter chats, hashtags and the like remain wild, contested territories for brands. Yes, there can be cut through, but it comes with risks.

And while the stickiness, energy and passion that comes with social media may be the flame to the marketer’s moth, an earned audience is not a PERMISSIVE audience. And just because people are talking about you, doesn’t mean that they want to talk TO you. That requires a whole different level of trust. And it’s a world away from TV.

Print

Take the Australian Social Business Survey 2014

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To call out the term “social business” seems almost anachronistic in 2014. After all, aren’t we all now working in “social businesses”? Haven’t we all been part of the digital transformation sweeping every business?

Well, yes and no.

When I ran my first social business survey back in 2011, I was interested to gather some data on Australian-based businesses. After all, there was plenty of information available about the US – but anecdotal evidence suggested that we were behind that curve. Way behind. And again, in 2012, the survey revealed that there was a gap – not only between Australia and the US – but between businesses and the customers they served. It was what IBM called a “perception gap”.

These days, despite what we hear at conferences and read on news sites and blogs, it seems that social business, digital transformation and (dare I say it) innovation continues to struggle. Sure there are pockets of connectedness. Campaigns for transformation and change. And even some success stories. But what is the true picture?

Participate in the survey and receive the report for free

When you participate, you not only have the chance to share your perspective on the state of social business / digital transformation in Australia. You will also receive a copy of the report when it is complete. This will allow you to get a sense of where you and your business stand in relation to others.

Please take a few minutes to complete the survey. And if you already happen to have AskU on your smartphone, simply enter the Private Code social2014 [case sensitive]. And be sure to share it with others. The more responses we get, the better the report will be.

When Big and Data got together, it was love at first Like

Love´s in the air!! Muuuitos corações!!!!

Breathless. Heart beating. We all know the feeling. It’s all heart, feeling, emotion. We’re waiting for the brain to kick in – but there is no relief. It’s really a sign of madness.

Love is merely a madness: and, I tell you, deserves as
as well a dark house and a whip, as madmen do: and the
reason why they are not so punished and cured, is, that
the lunacy is so ordinary, that the whippers are in love too.
— Shakespeare, As You Like It, 3.2

But these days, meeting and falling in love is not just a physical thing. It’s virtual … and played out on social networks.

Facebook-Love

The Facebook data science team has been digging through the mountains of interactions that take place between people before, during and after they fall in love. They looked in detail at the number of posts exchanged going back to 100 days before the “couple” changed their relationship status from “single”. What they found was that social media interaction plays an important role in the formation of the relationship:

When the relationship starts (“day 0″), posts begin to decrease. We observe a peak of 1.67 posts per day 12 days before the relationship begins, and a lowest point of 1.53 posts per day 85 days into the relationship. Presumably, couples decide to spend more time together, courtship is off, and online interactions give way to more interactions in the physical world.

And this is where big data gets interesting. We are now starting to see digital traces of behaviours that have real world impacts. The things that we do and say online can be correlated across thousands of data points to reveal actions that take place in our so-called “real lives”. But where does it go from here?

  • Social lifestyle mapping: Facebook (and other collectors of big data) can map and improve personas, track shifts and changes in community trends and lifestyles over time
  • Predictive targeting: With social lifestyle mapping in place, algorithms can be used to predictively target individuals and groups with relevant information. This could take the form of advertising, public health messaging/recommendations, career suggestions and so on. In fact, the possibilities are endless
  • Location awareness: As a large number of Facebook interactions take place on mobile devices, location awareness can add a greater degree of relevance to any of these predictive or realtime offers.

High level barriers:

There are some immediate barriers to usefulness that spring to mind:

  • Brands are slow to catch and embrace technology innovation: Facebook (and indeed Google) have a great deal of work ahead to prepare brands and governments for the power and opportunity that this presents. Thus far we’ve seen precious little in the way of focused education and leadership in this area and without it, organisations simply won’t be prepared (or interested) in this
  • Organisations lag in digital transformation: For these opportunities to be embraced, most organisations have to undertake digital transformation activities. Ranging from change management and education to strategy, business system overhauls and process improvement, digital transformation is the only way to unlock organisation-wide value – but few are seriously committed to such a program
  • Privacy is shaping up as a contested business battleground: Many governments, corporations and individuals fervently hang on to notions of pre-internet era privacy. Laws and regulations have struggled to keep pace with the changes taking place in our online behaviours. Meanwhile public and private organisations are conflicted in their use of, protection and interest in privacy. We’ll need to work through this to understand whether privacy really is dead.

Love´s in the air!! Muuuitos corações!!!! erika k via Compfight

Trust is Up across Australia–Edelman Trust Barometer

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One of the more useful and interesting regular reports is the Edelman Trust Barometer. Each year, thousands of people are surveyed – and the global and national results for 2014 have now been published. It’s well worth a deep dive into the information, statistics and analysis. But one of the standout observations is that “Trust in every institution is at its highest point”.

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This is particularly interesting for a number of reasons:

  • Locally we have emerged from a particularly tumultuous election cycle. While trust in government has improved – the growth in trust in the NGO sector has accelerated. We increasingly place our trust in independent organisations NOT governments
  • Business leaders and CEOs remain at the bottom of the trust heap. This may not be an issue for many organisations but for businesses that operate in high-touch environments, CEO profile can have a significant impact on a range of indicators from share price to employee morale, net promoter score etc
  • Experts are back on the favoured list – with the public increasingly supportive of experts and academics.

If – as we expect – the connection between social media / business / life becomes much more nuanced and integrated through 2014, then trust will become a much more important factor in our business, professional, personal and social lives. And for organisations wanting to remain relevant in the lives of connected consumers, that trust counts.

The question for marketers is – have you built trust into business DNA? Because now more than ever, marketing = business and business = marketing.