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How Can Marketers Harness The Social Web? January 22, 2008

Posted by Elana Anderson in Customer Analytics, Marketing, Marketing Strategy, Marketing Technology, Web 2.0.
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This month’s topic over at CustomerThink focuses on how companies can leverage the social web to drive business results. Here’s the topic description:

Blogging, word of mouth and social networking can have a tremendous impact on how your company is perceived. But it’s a lot like herding cats. How do you manage all the people who can have an effect on your brand?

It is a lot like herding cats and I think the key question that the topic overview sets forth is a good one: How do you manage?…  Rather than attempting to manage the Social Web, I recommend that marketers:

  • Put down the bullhorn and listen. Corporations and their marketing arms love to be in control. While we will learn many more lessons from the Social Web in the coming years, a crucial lesson learned to date is that we – the marketers – are not in the driver’s seat. The community is in control. As participants in the Social Web, we must set aside our desire to control and manage the message. We must listen, interact as peers, and learn from the community.
  • Adopt technologies to help listen and learn. Social computing technologies provide a platform for anyone to rave or condemn the companies with which they do business. At the same time, they create a searchable public record of what people are saying. That’s the beauty of it! We now unprecedented access to what people say about us. But, it doesn’t make sense to have a fleet of staff running Google queries every day. To help, there are monitoring technologies and services from companies like Nielsen BuzzMetrics, Cymfony, MotiveQuest, and others that automate the task of capturing and organizing what people are saying.
  • Define processes to communicate, consider, and leverage the insight across the business. Positive or negative, we can learn from what people are saying and we can leverage what we learn many ways: for R&D or product development, to improve customer service, to refine messaging, etc. I believe that Marketing should be the conduit from which the entire company taps into this new valuable source of customer insight. Marketing execs need to take the lead internally to get processes in place to ensure that learnings are effectively communicated and considered for their impact on how the company goes to market and serves its customers.
  • Choose to participate with eyes wide open. While I do believe that all large companies should be in listen mode on the Social Web, I think the decision regarding whether to actively participate is more complex. Does participation help you sell more stuff, identify new market needs, or retain customers? It depends on your business and, beyond that, early adopters are still trying to blaze a path that leads to business results. As with any investment of marketing budget and time, make sure to establish goals – or at least a hypothesis – that define what you expect to gain. If you don’t do this, you can’t measure.
  • Always be genuine. We’ve already seen well publicized examples of fake blogs. The community loves to seek out and expose those who are disingenuous. Again, Marketers must relinquish their desire to manage, control, and manipulate. The Social Web offers an unprecedented opportunity to interact directly with your target audience, don’t blow it.
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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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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.”