Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Don't read this if you should be doing something else

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"Multi-taskers often think they are like gym rats, bulking up their ability to juggle tasks, when in fact they are like alcoholics, degrading their abilities through over-consumption."

That's from Clay Shirky's latest piece on Medium about why he is banning his students from using laptops, tablets and mobiles in class (wearable tech, too, no doubt).
Give it a read - but only if you aren't trying to concentrate on something else right now...
My own experience is that if I want to get something done I have to close everything else down - even to the extent of putting earplugs in to avoid the distraction of the office I usually work in.

Students, even in the 21st Century, tell me the same when they have a deadline due.
Connect to learn, connect to share, connect to develop, connect to grow. Disconnect to do?

What do you do when you want to get something done?

Monday, September 08, 2014

The Amazonisation of Everything

The hard-to-say-but-easy-to-understand term 'Amazonisation' is proving very useful to me in conversations with business leaders.

But how do you understand it - and how can it be delivered?

Don't expect all the answers in the body of this blogpost by the way. That's the point of blogging (something I've been doing way too little of recently). So, I'm reminding myself: It's a conversation starter - an opportunity to think out-loud (and have others join in - that's your role).

Transformer. Wouldn't be complete without Perfect Day...
What makes Amazon special?
Amazon's ambition is to become the most customer-centric business on earth which means eveything they do is focused on better serving the customer. And what we mean by that is that they are driven by a desire to provide an ever more excellent customer experience.

Note - this is not just about how they respond when things go wrong; it is about knowing enough about you that mistakes aren't made in the first place. No one wants great customer service, they want great customer experiences.

In previous posts and discussions I have talked about the top down and bottom up creation of trust (trust defined as knowing that the other party has your best interests at heart).

The bottom-up version is illustrated by moments of over delivery against expectation, delivered by real live humans: The guy in the Disney store who takes back the obviously dropped and broken salt and pepper shaker with the words "Gee, I'm sorry, I didn't wrap that well enough"; The bespoke booking service a car rental company delivers in response to expressed need on twitter. These are the moments that wow us and inspire us to become advocates to our peers (the most powerful marketing there is|).

Amazon delivers its wow at scale by knowing us. That's the data. That's delivered by systems of Enterprise Data Management (EDM) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM). But crucially it required Amazon to be customer-led in all its business processes (and management thereof - BPM) to deliver the experience so many now aspire to.

I say customer-led because 'centricity' implies they want to do something to the customer, led means they work in partnership with the customer, and that is the real key to building trust. Partners have each other's best interests at heart.
It's not just about the data (not even just the social data), it's not just about the CRM, it's not just about the EDM. It's not even just about the BPM. And this, I think, is critical for our understanding: A business that wants the advantages of Amazonsation (the almost psychic ability to match supply with demand, to anticipate need, to build a relationship of trust with its customers, to populate the world with wow-moment stories) requires a piece of big picture, vision-led thinking.
Of course firms need help to work out how best to fix the problems they have. But they don't just want a repair. They want to be taken to the next level - beyond what the best delivers today. That's just hygiene in a world operating at the pace we see around us. So if you find yourself moving to solutions; listing out the tactics to deploy, pause and ask if you've spent enough time working out if this is the right problem to solve.
Those of us engaged in trying to build a better future know that this is not just to fix the problems we see around us now, it is also to provide a vision of what's that better future looks like.
No senior exec buys a CRM program or invests in BPM. They buy a better company. They care more what that better company looks like than about the tactical and technical tools you will use to deliver it.
So assuming we can take all that as read it seems to me we should be spendng more time helping create visions of the perfect customer (or other stakeholder) experience, their perfect day, and only then starting work on the tools and processes which take us there.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The strategic role of content in proving brand promise

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Social Media has confused many marketers for many years. Mostly because it isn’t a media. It’s an exercise in relationship building.

It tends to be thought of as a channel of amplification – “hey social guys, here’s my great idea/piece of content (ah hem, advert) go do magic to make it famous”.

It is, of course, a channel of advocacy.

In many ways social has more in common with the promise proving role of CRM and loyalty than it does with promise making role of brand strategy - not least because social is and always has been the single most effective way to have an open door to your customers at scale.

Whether you open that door to gather data (information about the needs and wants of customers and potential customers) or to build relationships (with customers, and potential customers) what is clear is that you don’t throw that door open and try shouting through a megaphone through it.

So, to help clarify the role and effectiveness of social content – and that of other content, I’ve developed this simple model (see diagram above).

You’ll note that I’ve annotated each of the bands with ‘Awareness, Consideration, Conversion’. This is something of a simplification (evaluation is, for example also taking place in social – and there are cross-overs, social can also deliver awareness and consideration, and it’s not unheard of for ATL (above the line) to trigger an immediate sale) but they do, I believe, focus on what each of Brand/Content/Social strategy is best at delivering – and therefore a guide to where the focus of each should be.

Social is a conversion channel because it is the truth medium. It is where we report the truth of  experiences – and it is where we turn (to each other, to our friends) to discover the truth behind the promises. This is where the proof of the promise a brand strategy makes and a content strategy brings to life is either made or has its bubble burst in spectacular fashion.

Google’s ZMOT (Zero Moment of Truth) - the point at which the purchase decision is made (a conversion is delivered) is therefore the point at which we discover a friend’s positive report of the truth of the brand’s promise. So social’s focus is on building advocacy in small audiences (right down to one to one) through rich relationships in modes of content where the user has the control.

Content that has value in this is that which inspires, discovers, aggregates and/or amplifies reports of the proof of the promise. Why? Because that’s what drives conversion. The more easily a potential customer can discover a positive user-generated report of the brand’s promise being true – at the right time in their own decision making process, the more likely a customer is to buy.

A test for this comes when the shiny content guys come to call. “Hey social guys, here’s my shiny thing, make it famous for me!” To which the answer should be:

Sure. So long as you can give me positive answers to the following:
        Will it build advocacy?        Will it build trust/relationships?        Is it in the user’s control?

If so feel free to ‘amplify’ through the relationships social has built. If not, stick to the channels most appropriate for building awareness…

Friday, June 27, 2014

The two killer apps of 21st Century marketing

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Neither of the two killer apps of marketing in the 21st century is part of most marcomms plans or marketeers skill sets.
How so?

A quick reminder on where I stand on how consumers make choices today:
1. Brand: Makes the promise
2. Marcomms: Brings the promise to life
3. Social Media: Is where we turn for proof of the promise (in the experience of our peers, the Google ZMOT if you will).

This is driven of course by who we trust. If we trusted brands and marcomms we'd accept their promises. Sadly its a rare brand which can command that level of trust today. Mostly we ask each other for the proof. This means of course that much more spend and focus should be on number 3 versus 1 & 2.

It also begs the question: how do you inspire people to publish the good experiences (the proofs of the promise) they have had.
First, of course, you must prove that promise.
Over delivering seems to do the trick. Go beyond the normal and I'm likely to post a positive review or comment.

Our ability to generate “wow” moments worth sharing with peers (reviews included) come down to what we are prepared to GIVE over and above normal service. Primarily the give is great customer service (delivered by a human) or an upgrade of some kind ( a cost).

This is bottom-up proof that the brand has our best interests at heart (the true measure of trust). That's killer app one.

Scaling this is tough and relies on peer-to-peer discovery and pass on. Often this can appear too slow to a brand with a broken connection to its promise they are desperate to fix. They may not have the will or capacity to deliver the small moments of wow which have made google, amazon, spotify etc more trust-worthy than long established rivals. They use your data to deliver things to you in a way that makes us feel they have our best interests at heart. We can rationalise and note that they have a business imperative. But actually, us consumers aren't very rational at all when making decisions. How we feel is most often more powerful than what we know. (Read Mark Earls Herd for a primer on that if you aren't convinced from your own experience).

With what brands can learn from your data, we can deliver the feeling that the brand concerned has our best interests at heart: Top Down - killer app two.

The magic, the wow, is not now in what we are given by way of over delivery of goods or services, but in the surprise and delighting we do by showing we know our customer's needs so well that they feel we really do have their best interests at heart (the foundation of building brand trust in a world of relationship marketing (as discussed in my book The 10 Principles of Open Business).
My guess is that we will continue to need BOTH top down and bottom up.
Trust in the brand can be built at scale via the top down approach, but to deliver the TripAdvisor-topping reviews and publication of peer recommendations we will need to continue to GIVE more than expected, not just fit need exceptionally well.
After all, when was the last time you tweeted about how well Amazon made you a recommendation?

Monday, June 16, 2014

The value of not knowing the right way

I watched a young band play in a pub garden recently. As they went through their covers routine it struck me that when I had been playing in bands at that age(ish) I'd gone straight past the covers phase, direct to playing my own material.
Guess why? I didn't actually know the right way to play other people's songs - so I wrote my own.
That lack of knowing the right way forced me to find a new way.
 In fact I'd go further. There appears to me to be an increased risk of not being able to discover new ways if you are too keen on learning the 'right' way.
Be happy if you don't know the way things have always been done. Yours is the road to the new.

The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?