December 30, 2012

Process is Not a Dirty Word

I am unabashedly a Harvard Business Review (HBR) blog fan and a recent HBR blog post from Sarah Green called Making Process Planning Cool Again really struck a chord.

As Green mentions, just the simple utterance of the word 'process' tends to elicit shudders of horror from Millenials and paints the speaker as an out of touch, anal retentive school-marmish librarian -- ouch!

While Green's post focuses on the work of the Toyota Production System Support Center (TSSC) - a non-profit within the auto company, process isn't just beneficial for manufacturing.  It's also necessary for effective marketing.

As any marketing leader will tell you, it's the execution of that amazing, integrated marketing strategy that moves your business metrics! And that execution means keeping many different balls in the air - from brand management, to search keyword optimization, to banner and/or print creative development, to social media posts, to media planning, to event planning, to promotions, to website A/B testing, to metric dashboard development - and the list goes on and on.

Each ball with its own discipline, specializations, tools, strengths and weaknesses.  Each element needing to pull its weight driving cost effective awareness, adoption, trial, purchase and retention while also consistently reinforcing the brand and addressing customer needs and pain points. If this juggling act doesn't scream for process, I do not know what does.

Here's why I believe process is cool. It's because for my marketing teams, process doesn't constrain, it liberates.  Process allows the blocking and tackling of coordination and optimization to be part of the "routine" -- daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly -- thus allowing us the mental freedom to invest time/energy in exploring new ideas and new tests.  It is the fact that there is a process that allows us to be creative and out of the box while also not dropping any of the many balls in the air.

So, to 'borrow' a sentiment from A Few Good Men (let's say it together with your best Nicholson impression), "somewhere, deep down inside in a place you don't talk about at parties, you want a good process, you need a good process!"

December 19, 2012

Legos Brand Core to their Success

My son, Roark, is 6 and loves his Legos. This is not an over-statement or hyperbole. Every single entry on his letter to Santa this year was a Lego set and our most effective 'carrot' for good behavior continues to be access to his Legos.  In fact, this picture was taken just this morning on the floor in his room and yes, that is an industrial sized storage tub full of them...

A recent NPR story on Legos gets to the heart of it.  Legos help my child express his 'story' - whatever his story happens to be on any given day - pirates, ninjas, cops and robbers, school, etc.

Despite its patents expiring some years ago, Lego continues to dominate in its the market.  NPR reports it is 70% with its closest competitor, Mega Blocks, at 30%.  Legos has made many smart business decisions -- including exclusive licensing of Star Wars, Toy Story and Harry Potter experiences.  These popular branded experiences appeal both to kids and to the adults "helping" them to build the sets.

While these licensing deals are key for differentiation and demand, I would also suggest that Lego's longevity and success also has a lot to do with their commitment to their intrinsic brand promise: that every single Lego piece fits with every other Lego piece.  NPR reported that even their manufacturing process is designed with this in mind.  They imprint information onto every brick to make it easy for them to identify and correct any 'bad' batches so the consumer only has positive experiences building with Legos.

Because, as any parent of a Lego obsessed child knows, every set that has ever been painstakingly built for hours will sooner or later be dismantled in order to create something new.  And that something new is more than likely something from the child's own imagination.  And Lego's ability to continue to allow my child to play and create even after his interest in any one set wanes...well, that's something I'll keep paying for!

December 12, 2012

Emotion First, Then Rational Thinking

This morning I read an interesting article on by Kimberly Whitler linking the discipline of marketing with the study of neuroscience. She reinforces an idea from my Mind Pops post last month, tying the discipline of marketing with an understanding of how our brain process information and stimuli.

Whitler shares that our brains first react emotionally and, only then, after reacting emotionally, does it access our rational thinking. It is this ‘emotion first’ order of our brain’s processing that is likely behind our sometimes seemingly “irrational” decisions.

All marketers should remember that our brains are wired to always work this same way: emotion then rational.  'Emotion first’ processing is as relevant to B2B as to B2C marketers. because our neuroscience physiology doesn’t change just because we’re working or making decisions in our professional life.

‘Emotion first’ is why strong brands matter.  Brands influence how customers feel about our companies and our products and about buying and using our products.  ‘Emotion first’ is also why benefit and solution messaging (when executed well) tends to be most effective.  

Of course our target audiences still need marketing content with all of the facts, figures, graphs, charts, videos, comparison tables, case studies, testimonials and white papers, etc.  All of that is still necessary to address their subsequent rational thinking.  It's never "just" emotion or "just" rational -- it is always both.

Building and executing your marketing strategy thinking about your target's emotional and rational thinking will lay the best foundation to successfully influence your customer's behavior.

December 6, 2012

It's not boring to your customer

Earlier this week I read Sean McVey's Content Marketing Institute blog post on how it's possible to create engaging content even for "boring industries".

His case study was a supply chain professional services firm offering supply chain focused educational and thought leadership content in its blog for its 7,000 supply chain managers.

Ummm, yeah -- that makes sense.  A supply chain professional services firm would want to offer supply chain managers the information, insights and community interaction around what they need to be successful.

Maybe it was the use of the word "boring" and the implication that "no one" could possibly be interested in supply chain management.  And that this firm somehow achieved the impossible and made the topic interesting.

"Boring" is great, provocative copy for a headline about content marketing. But supply chain related guidance, tips and white papers are not at all boring to supply chain managers.  I would like to believe that this is the career these folks have chosen, where they have developed their skills and proficiencies over time and where they find their flow

So to me, this case study once again illustrates the goodness that can happen when you learn about and understand your target audience.

November 30, 2012

Mind Pops and Marketing

The science and discipline of psychology is very much aligned with Marketing, and recently I read this great PsyBlog post about "Mind Pops". Mind Pops is the author's term for those images and/or ideas that to pop into your mind seemingly out of the blue and apropos of nothing.

Researchers learned that "mind pops" happen to everyone, on average, once per day. They have learned that these "pops" are not at all random.  

People unconsciously process much more of the stimulus around than they are aware of. The images and ideas in "mind pops" can even be from triggers experienced weeks, or even months, in the past.

Think about that...images and ideas that you were exposed to, and may not even consciously "remember" are actively simmering in your brain. These ideas stay in the background of your brain, generating more synapse connections until one day, when the context is right, it "pops". 

What does this have to do with marketing?  Everything!

In a previous post, Attribution is Not Marketing,  I talked about Google's Zero Moment of Truth and how there needs to be "something" that triggers a person to go and search and that the "something" is marketing.  

This Mind Pops research supports my point about it being good marketing strategy: you need to be where your customers are, with compelling and relevant messaging, ads and content. While an action may not come out of each touch your content and messaging and brand is making an impression that may subsequently trigger a "mind pop" in them to take that desired action.

November 26, 2012

Attribution is Not Marketing

Today I read a TechCrunch article by Josh Costine relating the news that Twitter and Facebook were attributed tiny percentages of Black Friday sales (source: IBM's Black Friday report).

McKinsey recently released a report called The Social Economy saying that up to 1/3 of consumer spending is likely impacted by social shopping.

So what gives?  All my good marketers out there reading this are nodding knowingly. We all live this every day.

Attribution isn't "real" and there are many challenges with it (learn more here). It doesn't tell the buyers' actual behavior taking them from  awareness to purchase. It just shows their last click before purchase. It is definitely an important thing to know, but it's also not the whole story and it can't be the sole driver of your marketing strategy.

I like Google's Zero-Moment-of-Truth (ZMOT) construct because it clearly articulates that "something" needs to triggers buyers to go and search. It has to be on the person's mind for them to actively go and visit a search engine. And, you know a person must be fairly far down the funnel once they type in your product's or brand's name into that search box.

What is this mythical, mystical "something" that triggers a buyers to go and search? It's not a mystery - it's your integrated marketing strategy and programs. It isn't magic, it's just marketing.

You know need to be where your customers are, with compelling messaging and ads and content relevant and engaging enough to persuade them to take the next step. And their 'steps' aren't linear. It can take many touches as the buyer researches, compares, asks his social network, views it in a store, etc. ZMOT study the average number of touches at over 10! That may not be true for every brand and every product - but it's never just one.

At this time, it is hard (perhaps impossible) to know "precisely" the sales impact of your social channels. Yes, it makes our job as marketing leaders tougher, but that's why you're there!  If marketing were simply a numbers game, an engineer would have automated it by now.

So continue to set your marketing strategy and allocate your (always too limited) resources - optimizing appropriately where you can, but always keep in mind that attribution is just a tool - it's not marketing.

November 16, 2012

Facebook is Changing

Today's TechCrunch article from Robin Grant confirms what all of us marketers have been talking about for awhile...that fewer and fewer people are actually seeing our Facebook posts! For all those people who were engaged enough to "like" our page?  Too bad, because our posts are not showing up in their feed anymore....

But I'm not wringing my hands, or gnashing my teeth.  I get it.  I get why Facebook is doing this.

From a consumer experience perspective, the content in the user's stream needs to be compelling and relevant. But, perhaps more importantly, this provides Facebook increased opportunities for monetization.

As a marketer and business executive, I can't get mad at Facebook for this.  Facebook is a public company - it needs to be showing its investors regular, "up and to the right" movement of its top line revenue each and every quarter.  

So now it means I will likely need to pay to insure my content is seen by my target audience on Facebook.  And I ask myself - is my target audience there?  Do I want my content there? Do I want my target audience to see and engage with and share my content there?   Yes, of course I do!  So, yes, I will invest to accomplish this.

How much will I invest?  Like everything else, that is determined by the business goals and the performance of the investment. Since social marketing has always been an integral part of the marketing strategy I plan to approach it the same way I would with any new idea - start with testing and increase investment as we learn what works.

So please, don't waste any more time or energy bemoaning how Facebook is changing.  Start with the fact that you know your target audience is there and you want to reach them there.  And then do what you do with every other media: allocate a test budget, review the results, optimize and repeat.

November 9, 2012

Small Business Marketing is Consumer Marketing

Recently I saw Megan Totka's article on Marketing to Small Businesses and just had to applaud her point that "business to business (B2B) marketing to a small business can be much like business to consumer (B2C) marketing".

Of course it is!!

Data shows that the majority of US firms are sole proprietors and less than 10 employees. The people running and working in these businesses are the very same people when they are working and when they are not. And while I don't have research stats handy as evidence of this, I expect that for these business owners, their line between work and not-work is very, very blurred. They think about work during their "non-work" hours and they think about non-work during their "work" hours.

So why would we think these people turn into new, strange, alien creatures just because it's a service for their business?  

There isn't a "small business buyer" - there is just the person purchasing something s/he will use in his/her business.  Most are comfortable using consumer technology at work, so let's start acknowledging that our marketing of business services needs to reflect consumer marketing sensibilities.

Marketing always begins with understanding the customer.  The more that we can remember that it is people in these small businesses, the more successful every small business marketer will be in engaging and converting them into profitable customers.

November 6, 2012

Freemium - It's Just Like Flying a Plane

Earlier this week TechCrunch published another article about "freemium".  Written by Jules Matz and Daniel Barney, it addresses that pressing question of: Should Your Startup Go Freemium?

Having spent years running marketing for freemium, SaaS businesses, I love reading and talking about this very topic!  And this article does a great job of walking through the various metrics and levers that need to be thought through before selecting a freemium business model for your business.

I often compare what it takes to manage a freemium, SaaS business to a pilot flying a plane. The pilot needs to watch all of the dials and levers in the cockpit at all times as each provides insight into one key function that is helping to keep the plane in the air.

Similarly, with a freemium business, there are multiple areas  - across product experience as well as up and down the marketing funnel - that need to be actively measured and managed. The business can't over-correct on any one element to the exclusion of the others else "the plane" will fall out of the sky. Of course different areas may need more attention than others at any given time, but in the end, it all needs to work together.

Future Deep Marketing Thoughts posts will cover each of these areas in more detail.