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Marketers, Welcome To 2008! January 8, 2008

Posted by Elana Anderson in Customer Experience, Integrated Marketing, Marketing, Marketing Strategy, Marketing Technology, Online Marketing, Web 2.0.
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2 comments

I hope everyone had a wonderful Holiday Season! My 2008 is off and running at a fast clip and, once again, the blog had to wait while I dealt with matters related to my pocketbook. But, here I am and I simply couldn’t resist the urge for my first post of 2008 to be my own set of [perhaps wishful thinking] predictions for marketing in 2008. I mean, what kind of marketing blogger would I be if I didn’t throw my two cents into the discussion?…

Before the holidays, I shared some thoughts with Barney Beal over at TechTarget. He’s just released a podcast of our discussion. So, if you want to hear my voice (including a bunch of “ums”, “you knows”, and even a few giggles), please check it out. I’m also joined by my friend and former colleague, John Ragsdale, as well as Rob Bois from AMR. My lesson learned: don’t attempt to record a podcast on your mobile device while on the go!

So, here’s my outlook on marketing in 2008:

  • No sea change events will rock the marketing world in 2008. What kind of prediction is this!?! I don’t think I’m copping out here… I recently looked back at my predictions for 2005. Short of adding more focus to social computing and Web 2.0, I could republish that document now and call it a day (of course I’m biased, but I think it’s good stuff). My point is: marketers (and industry pundits) need to avoid the urge (and thrill) to seek out the next trend to turn into hype. While it’s certainly important to keep an eye on what’s on the horizon, don’t jump into the next new thing without a clear business hypothesis regarding its potential value. And, by all means, measure against your hypothesis.
  • The Web 2.0 hype will moderate and we’ll get down to business. I’m bullish that we’re past the days when all marketers seemed convinced that they needed start a blog or spend money in Second Life. While these tactics (yes, they are tactics – i.e., not strategy) make sense for some firms, for most they don’t. There’s no doubt that social computing behavior is having a tremendous impact on the way business gets done but it’s no excuse for taking the cart (tactics) before the horse (strategy).Ok, so what is important here? Ever since I joined the industry (late 80’s), I’ve heard statements like “customer is king” and “listen to your customers.” But in those days, marketers had the bullhorn. Today, social technologies give customers a platform and a bullhorn of their own. Companies that aren’t listening run the risk of being caught unprepared (and that costs money). There’s no question that there is tremendous potential to leverage social communities, but we’re still in the early days. In 2008, we’ll start sort it out. For many companies this means sitting on the sidelines and keeping an eye on the developments. For early adopters, be clear about the objectives behind what you are doing and establish how you will measure against those objectives.
  • Marketing organizations will get a social conscience. In line with my previous comments, firms need to recognize that today’s consumers are really good at sniffing out and publicizing inconsistencies between what corporations and their brands say and how they act. In 2008 companies must take this bull by the horns – or risk getting trampled. Specifically, I mean walk the talk and align your brands and your behavior in the marketplace with what you say. Whether you are a cataloger of outdoor living that happens to send up to 40 catalogs a year to some customers on your file, a consumer goods brand that purports to promote inner beauty and self-confidence among young women while marketing other brands that paint women as objects, or a financial services firm that invests in companies with business interests in areas rife with genocide – you need to get on top of this.

  • Significant emergence of on demand marketing technology. Tired of dealing with internal technology groups? Well, some good news for marketers on the technology front. The on-demand marketing technology sector is heating up and more viable (yet still not comprehensive) software-as-a-service options are emerging to help marketers plan and organize their activities more effectively, design and launch multichannel campaigns, and measure results. For more insight on this one, see The “On Demand Marketing Suite” Is Becoming A Reality.

  • More focus on behavioral targeting. “Behavioral targeting” is definitely a term that is generating an increasing amount of interest in the online marketing sectors. But, I also find that the term means different things depending on who you are talking to. I take a broad view. Specifically, I define behavioral targeting as:

    Leveraging aggregated and individual behavior data to deliver targeted and customized content to an individual — through online ad networks, on site messaging, as well as other online and offline direct communication channels.

    If companies would only define it this way, they’d recognize that they may very well have behavioral analysis experts sitting in one part of their company while individuals in another group are struggling to figure out the basics and complaining that they don’t have the right skills or tools. I’ll focus more on this one in future posts, but I want to say here and now that it is high time to get those cool spec wearing web data gurus together with the database marketing quant jocks.

  • Companies will start to sort out the role of the CMO. OK, I couldn’t resist. I know that this is one that tends to turn up every year and maybe it’s wishful thinking on my part but, we’ve all seen the stats about the CMO revolving door and I think it’s time for marketing to step up and take ownership. As I said in my recent post about the role of the CMO, I fervently believe that the role of the CMO is to “define and lead a customer-focused marketing strategy that crosses product, channel, geographic, and even functional boundaries.” If marketing fails to transform itself into this role, I believe that the CMO title will eventually die out and marketing will succumb to a future as a tactical, services-oriented role within the enterprise. As a related aside, I was heartened today to see the news that David Norton who has accomplished so much great stuff heading up relationship marketing at Harrah’s Entertainment has been promoted into the CMO role. We need more CEOs that think along the lines of Harrah’s CEO, Gary Loveman:

“In today’s complex multi-channel marketplace, we must continue to strengthen customer relationships and deliver high-quality brand experiences across our entire portfolio.”

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Web Analytics Needs To Grow Up (Web analytics series, Part 1) December 11, 2007

Posted by Elana Anderson in Customer Analytics, Customer Experience, Database Marketing, Integrated Marketing, Marketing, Marketing Measurement, Marketing Technology, Online Marketing, Web Analytics.
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3 comments

Last week I was privileged to spend the day in the company of several thought leaders in the field of Web Analytics. Dr. Alan Hall, Avinash Kaushik, Judah Phillips, and I participated in several taped panel sessions that focused on how to best leverage web data to improve marketing effectiveness and how to effectively leverage investments in web analytics technology. We were joined by, Steve O’Brien, Akin Arikan, and Karen Hudgins from Unica which sponsored the get together. What struck me most about our conversations (on camera and off) is how committed each of us is to moving Web analytics beyond what today is largely a passive, report-centric discipline towards one that:

  • Improves the effectiveness of individual customer interactions
  • Actively contributes to the understanding of the customer
  • Is a key part of improving marketing’s ability to measure across channels

Five key stages of web analytics maturity

One of the bits of original thinking that I contributed to the discussion was a framework that breaks down five stages of Web Analytics maturity.

Web Analytics Maturity Framework

Don’t pay attention to the stages for the moment… This is not a new picture (I pulled the base graphic from a from a client deck I presented in 1998). And, few would disagree. If a marketer is not leveraging any data to drive marketing communications, just adding a little bit of filtering or segmentation will have a tremendous positive impact on results. But, at some point, our ability to continuously improve results through segmentation levels off. At that point, the way to get the next hockey stick impact on results is to use individual customer data. Definitely not new thinking, but I think it helps level set us that is what “1:1” or “customer-centric” (you pick the cliché) marketing is all about – using knowledge about the individual customer to drive interactions that, at the end of the day, benefit both parties.

This framework can also help us think about how we are using the mountains of web data that we’re collecting to help us move up and right on the chart. I break the role and the progression of web analytics down into five stages:

  • Stage 1 – Site analysis: When we get started, we’re really just trying to get our arms around the data and the traffic on our site. The focus is to understand how visitors are getting to the site and what they’re doing there. But you also need understand why they’re there and whether they were able to accomplish what they set out to do. How do you do that? Avinash suggests that’s quite simple, ask.
  • Stage 2 – Site optimization: The goal, of course, is to avoid analysis paralysis and look for ways to leverage the insight we are gaining about how visitors access and use the site to drive more visitors to the site, to optimize the experience of visitors once they are on the site, and to help more visitors accomplish what they were trying to do.
  • Stage 3 – Segment targeting: As we continue to focus on improving customer experience, we inevitably start to look for ways to segment visitors into different groups either through data explicitly provided by the visitor or through insight inferred from the session and prior interaction data. We then apply the segmentation to customize visit experiences and target content.
  • Stage 4 – Individual customization: At some point, our ability to continually apply finer segmentation and impact results levels off. That’s when we start to apply individual-level web interaction data to customize online interactions.
  • Stage 5 – Integrated marketing: Of course, the holy grail of all of this is fully integrated and customer-centric marketing in which we seek to integrate insight from online behavior with what we know of an individual across other channels. And, we do this in order to inform and optimize all interactions – regardless of channel – with the individual.

The sad part of all of this is that few companies have matured their Web analytics capabilities beyond Stage 3. In fact, I’d estimate that 80% (not based on a quantitative study!) of firms are at Stage 1 or 2. Why? Well, it’s darn hard! There’s tons of data to wade through, the industry is learning as it goes, and the technologies that help marketers move up the curve are still pretty immature and poorly integrated.

So, how will this framework help?

Use the framework to understand where you are today and what you want to work towards and over what time frame. Each stage of maturity focuses on unique business objectives, requires a different level of analytical savvy, and demands different functional capabilities from your supporting marketing technology.

Over the next several weeks, I will continue to drill down on this topic with additional posts. Please add to the discussion by commenting and providing feedback on the blog or feel free to contact me directly.

Direct mail: Not dead yet (and won’t be any time soon) November 12, 2007

Posted by Elana Anderson in Customer Analytics, Database Marketing, Integrated Marketing, Marketing, Online Marketing.
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7 comments

Thank goodness it’s Veteran’s Day — I have a USPS-free day to clean up all of the mail that is piling up all over my house. Must be the season, but I’ve dedicated a few posts to the direct mail industry lately (I promise that I’ll find someone else to pick on once we get through Christmas). Just to give you some more proof that direct mail isn’t going to die on the vine any time soon (article from Direct Magazine):

Early next year, Neckties.com going to make its first foray into direct mail, says Herschberg.

We have a direct mail campaign we’re going to be working on after the fourth quarter,” he says, noting that while the firm’s younger customers prefer to shop online, they tend to spend less than their older counterparts.

“People in 50s and 60s more likely to be swayed by combination of online and direct mail,” says Herschberg, conceding that the direct mail effort is “something of an experiment.”

Neckties.com is not alone. Per my previous assertion that ecommerce is actually responsible for increased direct mail circulation… I get a ton of mail from Netflix. If Netflix bothered to match its rented list to its own customer database, they would find that my household (thanks to my husband) is already one of its most active customers (my husband rents movies weekly and has rated over 1900 movies Netflix.com to date!). I have also recently received mailings from online mailings from ecommerce stalwarts like Overstock.com.   

To continue my rant… The most ridiculous catalog I’ve gotten so far this holiday season is the one that was entirely dedicated to field hockey from Longstreth. I’m sure it’s a fine company, but my household has no interest in field hockey (I’d love to know where the shoddy analytics that determined I am into field hockey came from)…. The connection must have been that mouth guard I ordered for my daughter (as required by her SOCCER coach) through one of Amazon.com’s merchants…. My request to Amazon: Don’t just pass me off to the to the privacy policy whim of your partner merchants! Take some ownership and add functionality to your ecommerce site to allow customers to opt-out of catalogs and email when they buy from a partner. 

The weekly catalog take in my household October 26, 2007

Posted by Elana Anderson in Customer Experience, Database Marketing, Marketing, Online Marketing.
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Catalogs                    Catalog Poundage

To further the points I made in yesterday’s post, I thought I’d display the volume of catalogs that come into my household on a weekly basis. I get rid of them every weekend so the picture shows what arrived in my mailbox between Monday and Thursday. The stats: a grand total of 41 catalogs weighing in at 12.2 lbs. And the holiday season is just getting started!

 Why do I get so many catalogs? I am an avid online shopper. It is a matter of pride to me that I haven’t set foot in a store (other than Costco) to do any holiday shopping since 2000. But, I don’t think that individuals that shop online expect — or want — to be overwhelmed with catalogs as a result. To my point yesterday: we in the direct marketing industry need to be leaders in driving the solution. Starting with opt-in (or at least opt-out) to catalogs is a reasonable place to start.

Catalogers, green is in! October 24, 2007

Posted by Elana Anderson in Customer Analytics, Customer Experience, Database Marketing, Integrated Marketing, Marketing, Online Marketing.
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9 comments

Last week’s article in the New York Times about Catalog Choice got me thinking about the catalog industry.

Now a new online service called Catalog Choice (www.catalogchoice.org) is facilitating attempts to unsubscribe. The site was developed by three nonprofit environmental groups — the National Wildlife Federation, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Ecology Center — to relay requests en masse to specific retailers. Since it was introduced last Wednesday, more than 20,000 people have registered.

Now, I know a little something about how a catalog operation works because I ran very large database marketing technology projects at Staples and Eddie Bauer in the mid-late 90’s. So, here’s my take…

The Internet is partially to blame for increased catalog circulation

Despite predictions that the Internet would decrease direct marketing postal mail volumes, a 2005 study by Forrester Research (disclosure: I edited the report) showed that 60% of high-volume direct marketers (those that mail 50M or more pieces annually) planned to increase their mail spend. What that report didn’t say is that the Internet is actually deserves some of the blame for the increase.

Maybe this bucks conventional wisdom, but think about it. In the old days, catalogers could only build their house file by buying lists and participating in cooperative data sharing initiatives like Abacus. Now, if someone comes and buys on my site, then of course I’m going to add them to my house file. And, I’m also going to add them to my list for my sister brands too. It’s a no brainer. So, today, catalogers still use tools like Abacus and they also assume that every online shopper also wants a catalog. Pretty presumptuous, don’t you think?

Well, today’s over marketed and increasingly environmentally conscious consumers won’t have it. That’s what gives rise to organizations like Catalog Choice. And, this is just the beginning.

The industry needs to take action

I definitely don’t have all the answers here. Catalogers are in a tough place and I sympathize. When each catalog turns a profit, it’s hard to come up with a business case to stop. But I think the industry needs to take the lead and start working on the problem. Here are a few ideas to get the ball rolling:

  1. Enable online customers to opt-out (better yet, IN) of catalogs on your site. You do this for email right? Technically you don’t have to –the CAN-SPAM law only mandates that you honor an opt-out. But, you do it because consumers fought back against email spam. So do it for your catalogs too (catalogs are a lot more expensive than email after all). It’s not hard to add another flag to your database that you check in your campaign list pull process. I am not aware that any retailers are doing this today – it’s time to start.

  2. Allow customers to limit the number of catalogs they receive. Some retailers I’ve worked with send as many as 60 mailings a year to a single household – that’s a lot of paper! Take the catalog opt-in a step further and give your customers a choice to limit the number of catalogs their household receives every year. Now, it’s up to you to figure out – through modeling and contact optimization techniques – which catalogs will drive the most return from that household within the customer’s set limit.

  3. Tighten up the deduplication rules. So, my husband and I don’t have the same last name. That doesn’t mean that we want duplicates of every catalog in our house. I had this argument with a client in 1995. The response I got was, “The catalog could be going to a sorority house or an apartment – we want to get as many eyeballs on each book as possible.” Well, with a little external data and a tad more technical elbow grease, you can easily determine that I live in a residential suburb in a single family home. So, please, don’t send me two catalogs and save yourself a tree and a few bucks in the process.

Sure, the ideas I’m proposing will limit your reach, but they WILL help the environment and be viewed as a step in the right direction by your greening customer base. You can get some leverage from this – publicize the fact that you are committed to being more green and helping the environment. But be careful with this part, don’t say you are green and fail to walk the talk – today’s consumer is watching and now has plenty of channels through which to be heard.

How [poorly] integrated marketing impacts experience October 23, 2007

Posted by Elana Anderson in Customer Experience, Integrated Marketing, Marketing, Marketing Technology, Online Marketing.
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6 comments

I recently treated myself to a new laptop. A Sony Vaio – it’s chic, sleek, and tiny. After I got rid of all of the marketing crud – you know, the start up gobbledygook and free trial software, I fell in love with it. I love it so much that I also fell for the “Register and save 20% on accessories” offer that came in the slick little catalog insert in the box.

Sony Discount
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, I went to the Sony registration site, fully expecting that after I provide a few nuggets of personal information I would be launched directly into a shopping experience worthy of Sony Style. Unfortunately, that was not my destiny…

First off, the entry form breaks all kinds of standards. For example, the birthday field isn’t marked as required but must be because, after several failed attempts with no error messages, I finally entered it and my registration was accepted. Whew! Now I’m ready for my Sony Style shopping experience…. Sadly, I was disappointed again…

Sony Confirmation

Now what? How do I get my discount? After three days, my hunger for the cool accessories had not abated so I called the 800 number provided on the catalog. The polite individual I spoke to informed me that I should receive an email with a discount code. “No ma’am, you can’t order the accessories now and get the discount. If you ordered online, you should receive the email in a few days. If you don’t get it, give us a call back.” Sigh…

Finally, after 11 days (!!) I got the long awaited, “Thank you for registering” email. Here’s what it had to say:

Thank you for registering your Sony product on our web site. This email confirms you have successfully registered the following Sony product on our web site: VGNTZ150N

Name: Elana Anderson
Issue Date: 9/25/2007
Model: VGNTZ150N
Serial Number: N/A

A Special Offer from Sony Card:
1500 Reward Points after your first purchase*
http://www.firstusa.com/cgi-bin/webcgi/webserve.cgi?partner_dir_name=sony_1500&page=cont&mkid=6RS3v

No, I don’t want a credit card! I want my 20% discount! Refusing to relent, I called the 800 number again. This time I explained my situation and the service representative agreed to take my order and give me the discount. Mission accomplished – FINALLY! What should have been a simple seamless process took two weeks.

Lessons learned

What does the Sony brand engender for you? If you are like most then great design, high quality, stalwart brand probably top the list. But my experience gives me a view into the inside: big organization, internal silos, and politics. The campaign I described here doesn’t have that many components — it shouldn’t be THAT hard to get right. But, this kind of campaign does touch different parts of the marketing department (people who probably don’t know each other and sit in different offices) and the broader business.

My advice? If you can’t get a simple integrated program like this right then don’t do it at all. Why? It damages your brand when you mess it up.

If you are running campaigns with multiple components that cross organizational silos then you need to organize the stakeholders and nail the process down. Understand the steps, define the handoff points, map the time between them. In the end, it’s all about the process. Ideally, a campaign like this is automated. But, sufficient testing is required up front to make sure it works. And, don’t forget to put some process checkpoints in place so that if something breaks along the way you get an alarm bell. You can have great creative (Sony does) but if the process is disjointed you lose business and look foolish.

The “on demand marketing suite” is becoming a reality October 17, 2007

Posted by Elana Anderson in Marketing, Marketing Technology, Online Marketing.
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10 comments

For the last year and a half at Forrester, I was incubating the idea of the “online marketing suite.” Yes, I did author the Forrester Big Idea, “The Marketing Technology Backbone” in 2004 and I’m not dismissing the idea now — I still believe in the vision. I just don’t believe that most marketing organizations are ready to swallow it. There are too many barriers including the (to name a few):

  • Structure of the organization and all of the competing fiefdoms.
  • Mutual disdain that marketing and IT professionals often hold for one another.
  • Priority of short term results over long term investment for growth.

Furthermore, the enterprise marketing technology leaders in the market today only offer installed solutions that require a lot of technical manpower to implement and manage over time. These applications – like any other installed software – are hard to update so marketers, who always want the next new thing yesterday, have no choice but to cobble something together in order to get their job done. The cobbling results in more disconnected silos (data, process, etc.) which make it harder to execute seamlessly and measure effectiveness. An unfortunate cycle that marketers have a tough time getting out of…

Enter the “on demand marketing suite”   

So what does marketing need? Over a year ago, here’s what I wrote in Forrester’s Marketing Blog:

Marketers are always looking for the next thing that will help them differentiate the way they approach their audience. In my opinion, the vendor that figures out how to provide a framework that integrates the marketing process while enabling marketers to “plug in” new features, functions, and extensions will ultimately win the marketing technology race. What does this vendor need to “own”? The customer data layer, a consistent way to define and roll up marketing activities, campaigns, and programs, the marketing plan, the marketing calendar, marketing measurement, and so forth. All of the design and execution tools that leverage the customer data can fall within “the network.”

To date, Omniture has been the most successful (just look at the nearly $2B market cap – not bad for a company that has yet to turn a profit) at pushing the vision. But, while Omniture has made some recent acquisitions – namely Touch Clarity and Offermatica – which provide it some marketing execution capabilities, the company still has a long way to go before it can claim to be a marketing suite (which, by my definition, needs to support the marketing lifecycle from planning and design through execution and measurement).

It’s easy to argue that Responsys has more right to stake a claim on the suite… Away from the spotlight of the public market, Responsys has been aggressively bringing in senior talent, expanding its platform, and getting deeply involved in customer success. Then there’s Unica, which has as much (if not more) of a right to stake its claim on this space than anyone else. But, Unica has yet to really aggressively go after the on-demand “marketing suite” and seems to have spent much of the 18 months since its acquisition of Sane Solutions simply competing for Web Analytics deals. My opinion? This is THE key issue that Unica (which is pretty close Omniture in total revenue but only has a market cap of $233M) needs to address in order to get Wall Street drooling as it is doing for Omniture.

The battle is heating up

Just yesterday Eloqua announced that it had closed a $23M Series C round of venture funding (see the press release). Eloqua, which has largely focused on the high-tech sector to date, arguably has the broadest (not necessarily deep) set of suite functionality encompassing light data management, web analytics, chat, email, print, process-driven campaigns, and so on. From the press release, Eloqua is clearly renouncing its roots as a mid-market player to go after the enterprise.

Today Eloqua has more than 25 clients with more than $1 billion in revenue each – clients who need us to support them around the world with our industry-leading technology.

Eloqua will likely use this money to aggressively move into new vertical markets as well as to expand geographically. Hopefully the company will also invest in beefing up its engineering team as well. So, the marketing technology sector is heating up! But, my word of advice to players that want to be on the battlefront is to focus on two key areas:

  • On demand
  • Interactive (digital) marketing

That is where the heat will be for the next five years. During this time, I hope we’ll learn something that will help us get on track towards the ultimate vision of “The Marketing Technology Backbone.”