When It Comes To Social Networks – Think Small

April 26, 2011

Perhaps the most important outcome due to the explosion in social networking is the realization that selling is again personal. It is the relationship you forge with your customers through all interactions that influence feelings towards brands, customer service, and value.  A billboard saying “I’m good – try me” is not as impactful as a friend saying the same thing.

Of course we have always known this, but in the past decade the ability to put messages in front of customers inexpensively (the web, email) clouded the practice strong personal messages.  The challenge now is that many organizations are focused on gathering as many ‘friends’ as possible without considering how to interact with them personally/locally.  Yes, there are still big-bang programs that work well with a huge number of followers (free tacos @ 12pm for example).  But how often does the typical marketer do a large scale event – and at what cost?

Let’s look at our own personal networks.  Many of us have hundreds of friends on Facebook or connections on LinkedIn or Twitter followers.  But how many do we truly interact with on a personal level.  If we only interact with 5 or 10% of our personal networks why do we think it would be any different for our business/corporate networks?

This brings me to the meat of this posting.  Think small.  Segment your business networks into categories and cater communication not to the masses but to the segment.  Pretend it is 1987 and we are diving into database marketing.  That is the mind-set we all need to have to successfully deal with our growing network of friends and followers.  Not sure where to start?  Here are a few suggestions 

  • When groups become too large, create sub groups for people to join.  Friends of “Acme Mousetraps” could become friends of “Acme Outdoor Mousetraps” or friends of “Acme Indoor Mousetraps”.  Force your customers/friends to be in smaller groups – so you can communicate on a more targeted/personal level
  • Enhance the data you collect with demographic/psychographic profiles to create clusters.  Use these clusters to design a communications plan for each segment
  • Test messages among the groups you create and roll-out with the best performing creative – or overall communications plan.  Social networks are not a stand-alone channel.  They need to be part of a larger strategic plan
  • Understand who among your friends are customers, strong prospects, or just lurkers who liked a cool video you posted.  Do not invest too much time in the lurkers – just as you would not invest as much in a non-performing list segment.  Over time I think we will all realize that the lurker is a good a segment as the “premium grabber” who registers to win a free gift but is not ever going to convert to a profitable customer

Until next time, happy marketing.



Improved Analytics Are The Key To Understanding The Social Web

December 14, 2009

I am fascinated by the parallels between the early days of email and the current social network landscape. Back in 1999, I was part of a team that defined email best practices, developed creative templates, and interviewed major email providers. The findings were then rolled out to our clients – who were very eager to hop on the email bandwagon. The process was a mix of good research, bread and butter testing, and a few leaps of faith. In the end we got it mostly right.

Jump to today and we see the same thing occur with social networks. There is a lot of discussion about how to understand and use social networks, which vendors are leaders in the field, and which benchmarks to use to define success. There is also a lot of talk wrapped around the idea of “monetizing” an organizations social network. But there are no hard and fast rules yet.

The truth is we are still at a point where learning and ROI are inferred more than actually known in social networks. Tools such as Rapleaf provide a good snapshot of social network activity but not a living view that tracks interactions. Digging into networks and identifying key influencers is a manual, time consuming, and possible inaccurate process.

Over the next 12 to 18 months we will see increased consolidation among the listening tools as standardization begins to take shape regarding how and when to listen. Every analytic package will have a social network listening module – most of which will have been purchased from a previous start-up – and every organization will have someone managing the interactions on their social network platforms.

However, the learning derived from these tools will not have a significant impact on an organization’s bottom line until 3 things occur;

1) Documentation of what is working and what is not is studied. It’s the wild-wild west out there and we are all in a learning phase. The more we learn now the better we’ll be tomorrow.
2) Social Networks are viewed from an integrated and not silo approach. This was a common problem when email was new – a lack of integration with overall communications planning.
3) Analytic tools not only identify influencers but also score and predict how customers and prospects will behave to an organizations message – eliminating a large portion of the time required to manually find key influencers.

This last item will be difficult because analytics tool such as those used for search and display advertising look at responders to a marketing event and optimizes in real time. Analytic social network tools will have to resemble customer acquisition models that identifies who is likely to respond to a marketing event. This will be complicated because a typical acquisition model relies on a relatively stable set of data. The number of social networks changes daily and the activity level on even leading sites can be variable. The provider that figures this out first wins in the space and puts actual campaign development in the hands of the marketer.

One last thought, the inclination of many marketers is to think of social networks, email, even the phone as tactics, our customers use these as communication channels. We need to be respectful of this both in our outreach as well as understanding that not everyone is going to have a Facebook page or tweet about a sale down the road. It’s the customer who decides which channel they use. Not us.

Happy Marketing

Jon the Marketing Guy
BTW: I am wrapping up an assignment and am seeking a new full-time engagement in 2010. If your organization is seeking a marketing services expert (data, analysis, vendors, and strategy), I’d like to help you. Check me out on LinkedIn, http://www.linkedin.com/in/joncohan or reply to this post.

Knowing When To Say Goodbye – Terminating a Client

August 13, 2009

Probably one of the most difficult things to do in client servicing and consulting is terminating a client.  This is difficult for several reasons – not the least of which is that they generate revenue for your business. In situations where the relationship is toxic the separation is easy, but what happens when the reasons are more subtle?  For example they happily pay for your advice but never execute on it?  Or the client always seem to be planning assignments, but pulls the work at the last minute or stops half way through a project?  These types of clients can wreck havoc on your staffing and resource management.  Here are a few suggestions to handle clients that do not benefit your business plans 

  1. Schedule an account review to discuss the issues surrounding the account.  (This is a good activity to do quarterly regardless of how well the account is doing).  Discuss what is working, what is not and what goals there are for the account for the next 3 to 6 months.
  2. Bill the client for every minute you spend on the account.  Many of us are a little conservative in how we bill.  With difficult clients, it’s important to show the cost of the time they waste – and what could be done with it if better spent.
  3. Renegotiate your contract.  Maybe there is a price where the business relationship makes sense.
  4. Replace your agency/self with a person better suited for the business.  Maybe you can refer an associate to the client and extricate yourself from the situation.
  5. Aggressively pursue new business so there is no impact when you quit the client.
  6. (Last resort) Suck it up and take it

It’s been my experience that only option 1 really preserves the relationship and the revenue we need to operate.  It is also the most client friendly option.  However, if client behavior does not change, start searching for new business and when the time comes; end the relationship on a professional manner.  The world is a pretty small place.

Happy Marketing!

8 Warning Signs Your Measurement is Not Measuring Up

July 22, 2009

OK so your campaign is out the door and everyone wants to know how it is doing.  Before you go and report on the performance of the program, take a moment and think about these red flags.  It will save you a lot of grief later on. 

1)     There are responses where you did not expect them.  This happens when old promotion codes are pulled or data is misdirected.  For example you get responses attributed to an inactive 800 number or a there are spikes in response when media is not running

2)     Orders or registrations exceed clicks or calls.  Causes for this can range from double counting results or clicks from an email vendor not matching what Google analytics is reporting.  Sometime this is caused by a bad code – other times it’s as simple as not understanding the tracking methodology of the vendors you are using.

3)     Customers or prospects can not be tied back to your database. Check to see if the correct responders are being matched to your program.  Another cause is incorrect customer IDs being used.

4)     There is a significant decrease in the results of the control population.  Unless you are spinning gold from lead silk, your control package should never turn into a dog in one campaign.  Check to make sure that codes are not reversed or if there were deliver issues with the program or non-function links.

5)     Results are only attributed to a single cell.  See #4 for causes.  Again it is illogical for all results to come from a single cell/tactic.

6)     It is taking a long time to get results from your vendor.  If seemingly simple reporting (such as clicks and opens) is taking days to obtain or are partial, there is probably a problem with the vendor providing the reporting.  In these cases, it’s best to be direct and either ask for reports by a given data or ask what the problem is.  Quite often you will have to take this ‘problem’ data and do some back-end work-arounds to get resolution and it is better to be proactive than wait for the bad news.

7)     The numbers keep changing.  If you have fewer sales than the day before, stop all reporting and see what the cause is.  Here are a few simple things to check – has the date range of the reporting changed, were clicks/quotes counted as sales and then changed but you were not told, was it the end of the month/quarter and someone fudged the numbers to look good for financial reporting (I’ve see all this happened at one time or another).

8)     Results are far better then industry (and internal) norms.  The days of 15% response rates for DM or 50% click rates for email are long long long since over.  Question anything that appears to be too good to be true.  I worked on a project a few years back where the roll-out of 50,000 mail pieces were sent with a test of 10,000.  For a few days everyone was ecstatic with an 8% response rate – until the lettershop called to tell us about their mistake.

Do you have other warning signs or experiences you want to share?  Post them to this blog entry.

And as always if you need help fixing a broken marketing program, give us shot.  Remember, we fix broken marketing programs so you do not have to.

Happy Marketing

 Jon the Marketing Guy

R.I.P WBCN – Now Let’s Move On

July 15, 2009

A venerated radio station is going off the air next month in Boston. For over 40 years WBCN defined rock radio. The move is being made by CBS radio in part to add a sports talk station to the FM dial. This decision has created a sizeable uproar among listeners. This uproar underscores part of the issue.

Almost to a tee all the negative comments about CBS killing WBCN centers on how great they used to be in the 1970’s and 80’s and how the listeners grew up with the station. No one has talked about the relevance of WBCN today. No one is talking about how influential the current morning show is or how new acts are broken with one play from the station.

People are missing the idea of WBCN and not the reality of the station and the listener. The reaction is not different than killing any other brand. Ultimately does anyone really miss Plymouth, Oldsmobile, or the Quasar TVs? The answer is no – yet there was great distress when the brands were killed (well maybe not Quasar, but you get the idea).

If you asked 20 year old consumers about where they learn about new music it will not be from the local rock station. It will be from places like Pandora, friends’ downloaded playlists, or social networking sites. That is the direction music is following. CBS made a business decision that I think will be of benefit to the corporation and maybe provide some entertaining listening in the car and I seriously doubt any of you will be suffering from a vast empty feeling every time you hit 104.1 on your preset and not hear WBCN. It has not been what you remember it being for quite a while

Stupid Reasons Why Marketing Programs Fail

July 8, 2009

Here are ten “duh” errors that will cause a lot of pain and distress if you are not careful. 

  1. Links and 800 numbers and tracking codes are not tested in advance of going live
  2. A ‘manual’ spell check of the document is not completed
  3. The wrong file is mailed
  4. Legal review is skipped
  5. Fulfillment or service teams are not aware of the program’s launch
  6. The lettershop’s postage meter (or display property) is not funded
  7. The wrong artwork/creative is used
  8. The URL is not renewed
  9. Transposed data in results reporting
  10. Key dates/vendors are not adjusted to accommodate delays in the schedule

Always check and recheck your work.  Remember nothing is actually wrong until it is in the hand of the consumer.  It is always easier to fix something before it goes live (or to print) than after.

Enough said.

Michael Jackson: An Under Appreciation

June 29, 2009

I don’t get the intense media coverage allocated to Michael Jackson.  True he was a good dancer and entertainer.  But most of his life was a freakish train-wreck.  I’m not sure his was a life worth celebrating.  Especially since his death took away from more media worthy events such as events in Iran, national health care and yes Farrah Faucet’s death

Do we really want to celebrate a person who tried to lighten his skin, change his face and diddle little boys (allegedly)?  It this what’s important to us?

My guess is that the idea of Michael Jackson was bigger than the reality of the person.  The more the media light shined on him the bigger the world made him.  This raised the bar for what was expected of every performance and in a large part made him more eccentric than he may have been otherwise.  As a result we paid even more attention to him.  He would have been better of if we just left him alone.

The “Dead People Server” on the internet best sums up Mr. Jackson’s life

Michael Jackson (singer/songwriter) — Dead. Cardiac arrest. Died June 25, 2009. Born August 29, 1958. Wildly eccentric performer, youngest member of the Jackson 5, major pop icon of the ’80s (“Thriller”, “Billie Jean”), married briefly to Lisa Marie Presley, acquitted child molester

Why Twitter Does Not Matter

June 22, 2009

I keep hearing people tell me that as a marketer, you have to be on Twitter.  In fact I have been a Twitter user for a little over a year and I still do not get why the channel is so important.  I liken Twitter to a movie title from the 1970’s – “A Bridge Too Far”.  What I mean by this is that it is one marketing channel too many – with fewer capabilities than other channels such as Facebook.

From my vantage point Twitter is nothing more than IM slightly turbocharged.  Over the course of the last few months I have noticed a significant decrease in relevant tweats.  As a result I pay less attention tweats overall and tune out the channel

There are only a few things Twitter does well.  These are;

  • Instant surveys
  • Posting job opportunities
  • Real-time commentary – with the caveat that you have to make sure the person doing the posting is real and not a ‘fake’ persona.  In the recent Iran protest, a number of pro recount tweats were really from the government and visa versa.

Here is what Twitter does not do well

  • Share information.  The whole tiny URL read this link sending it too crowded and increasingly ineffective.  No one has time to read everything that is twitted.
  • Create connections.  Facebook allows more flexibility in creating a full view of the user. 128 characters and a small profile photo are insufficient create a real bond
  • Create a brand.  A extension of the above comment

 It’s also important to remember that Twitter has not made a profit as of yet.  Adding ad units to tweats will only diminish the value of the channel to the user.  My prediction: In a few years we’ll look at Twitter the same way we viewed the Betamax and McDonald’s selling pizza.

What’s in a Name?

June 1, 2009

I renamed by blog today.  A lot of people have commented that “Yeah, Whatever” sounded too-much like a teen-age arguing with a parent.  Since this is a marketing blog, I figured I’d forgo the cool name and become a little more ‘on-brand’.

This got me thinking what’s in a name.  Specifically why do some companies decide to risk the brand equity of an established brand by changing it?    Here are a few examples:

Boston Chicken to Boston Market.  What is a Boston Market?  To this day I have no idea what to expect from a store with this name. 

KFC a.k.a. Kentucky Fried Chicken.  Whatever happened to “Finger Licking Good”?  I think KFC misses the point that their fried chicken is what made them popular.  Now they are offering a bucket of not fried chicken.  I’m thinking the next product is some sort of potato substitute with a tofu based gravy. 

New Coke – What was wrong with “old Coke”?  This is not so much an example of a name change as a needless tweaking of a product that had no problems to begin with.

Cingular is now ATT – Here’s a good idea, let’s take a brand known for service and innovation and replace it with the name of the company that people were switching away from.  I still write my AT & T checks to Cingular in protest of the name change.

Any established retailer to “Macy’s”.  I’m sure Macy’s would do better regionally if there were still a Jordan Marsh or Marshall Fields store down the road. 

Cleveland Browns to Baltimore Ravens.  So lamented, that the NFL not only granted a new franchise in Cleveland, they returned all the old trophies/awards back to the Browns.

Montreal Expos to the Washington Nationals.  Well no one misses the Expos and the Nationals have yet to excite the Majors, so I guess it’s even on this one.

Got other ideas?  Send along a comment.

Happy Marketing!


Why Marketing Programs Fail -Reason #6

May 27, 2009

Spamming the Customer

For this post I will consider spam any communication that is ill-timed, irrelevant, or over-used.  These are the type of communications that make customers scratch their heads – communications such as;

  • Dog food coupons to fish owners
  • Discounts to try a product when you are already a customer (and can’t use the offer)
  • Birthday greetings on your anniversary
  • Loyalty/rewards for items you do not have nearly enough points for

Regardless of the number of customers (or prospects) you have.  It’s important to have a plan for when and how frequently we communicate with them.  For organizations where there are multiple departments communicating with customer (such as field sales, inside sales, and online) it’s even more essential.  I am not suggesting everyone go out and buy a CRM system – although I know a number of Unica sales reps that would love the idea.  I am suggesting that in 80% of the cases you can have a streamlined communication flow if you do the following;

  • Have a 12 month marketing calendar and update it monthly on a rolling basis.
  • Flag records as they are used.  This can be as simple as a date/time-stamp.  Put rules around how long the record needs to ‘rest’ or under what conditions can the list be used again.
  • Be aware of other company initiatives and how they will impact the customer – have a monthly round-table with other departments to discuss what will be in market.
  • Piggy-back off other communications.  For example, if you do monthly billing add one of your messages to the invoice package so there is not a second communication going out to them.
  • Allow customers more options on opt-in pages so they can tell you when and how they want to be communicated with.

 By following these simple steps you will have happier customers and fewer headaches in the office. 

 Until next time, happy marketing.