December 27, 2011
Don’t try this at work.
A discussion recently erupted within an online marketing mavens’ forum. Someone wondered if Do It Yourself (DIY) market research using social media would eliminate more traditional forms of research and many of its freelance practitioners. I responded that amateur efforts create amateur results, and that SMBs would thus find new and exotic ways to stay small through inappropriate research.
Oddly, everyone agreed with me, which is surely a sign of the End Times.
Services like Survey Monkey have created a great deal of poor research because research is a scientific pursuit and Survey Monkey is a digital chemistry set for DIY researchers. The internet is now littered with invitations to participate in surveys, and as a result people have grown numb to these invites (which makes our research work here at Silicon Strategies Marketing more difficult). Sadly, the results obtained by ad hoc surveys and trolling through social media forums ranges from useless to endangering. Poor insight from poor research produces poor decisions, which in turn produce longer unemployment lines.
Though the list is extensive, there are several common areas where DIY market research fails:
Lack of scientific approach: All research processes, and especially surveys, have rich and deep scientific histories. There exist very wrong ways of conducting surveys, which lead to skewed information and inappropriate analysis. Since product or corporate decisions are based on research, having solid methodology, sound survey question design and statistically valid analysis are essential and never achieved by junior marketing staff using rent-a-survey suites.
Unstructured everything: The question is all important, because if you ask the wrong question you never get the right answer. DIY researchers often initiate projects that lack defined goals or even structured approaches to finding answers. The fuzzier the focus and source of input, the less structured and more opinion-influenced are the results.
Social shouting: Social media has its place in market research, but suffers from presenting the opinions of people with the loudest voices. Akin to self-selecting surveys (and all surveys are self-selecting to some degree), spelunking social media to ascertain market metrics is nonsensical and dangerous to your paycheck’s health.
Strategic decisions require strategic thinking, which requires good data, which eliminates DIY and unmanaged, qualitative ingestions. DIY research is not unacceptable, but presents many potholes that, at best, take your revenue growth for a rough ride, and at worst will wreck your company’s shocks, bend your frame and trash your tranny. As grating as spending money on market research is, it remains better to invest in sound data than risk DIY disasters.
December 20, 2011
Intersections cause collisions, but also opportunities.
A basic marketing strategy is practice to find the intersection of what customers want to achieve (expected outcomes) and where the market is not providing that solution. Alternately, one can look for places where different technologies can, for the first time, be combined and create previously unavailable value.
Smart phones are now ready to facilitate SoLoMo.
The three raging factors in markets and marketing today are SOcial, LOcation-based apps and MObile. The real-time enabled combination of these three may well be the next major moment in consumer technology and marketing. The ability to reach people in tight geographical clusters, who are sharing an experience or looking for one, will be an exciting market in which to pitch.
Social is about sharing. As witnessed by Facebook posts, it is the moment in which the user has the impetus to share that is important. What one is thinking, feeling and experiencing is what they wish to share. To a limited degree Facebook and Twitter enable such sharing since you can Tweet and post from your handsets. But it lacks location services that enable bridging the people in or near a location (after all, why not share what you and another 25,000 people at the Rolling Stones concert are experiencing).
The other weakness is the asynchronous nature of current social media. Most people open Facebook during lunch or after a day’s work. Some folks browse Twitter weekly (which rather defeats the purpose). Real-time enablement of interaction between near-by individuals, especially when it pulls people in from slightly larger distances (say drawing people into a hot night club from the competing bars on that block) creates new interaction potential (mostly pleasant).
More interesting yet to marketers might be the ability to pool information about people clustered geographically. Merging big data pools of demographic and psychographic information, combined with location identification of individuals could provide real-time promotional opportunities (which will take a real-time arbitrage so the demo/psychographics enable the right advertisers). What if in real-time a common profile of a particular Rolling Stones concert attendee was a 70 year old man (this time is coming) that prefers bourbon? No bother selling ads space to Dr. Pepper.
Like social media a few years ago, this is a largely undefined area for experimentation. On the marketing end, the ability to create highly local participation, or to market to people sharing a location at the same instant, offers the marketer some unique targeting opportunities.
Which means Google (local, Android, Plus, ad trafficking) has all the necessary tools to make this happen now.
December 14, 2011
Your brand stinks when even terrorists disassociate from you.
Such is the fate of the fast fading Al Qaeda franchise, whose violent tendencies led to market backlash, a CEO who was abruptly dismissed/dispatched, and a rapid drop in brand equity. So much has the Al Qaeda brand been tarnished that entire regional divisions are spinning-off in order to avoid their own public images from being destroyed, and perhaps their own leadership from being prematurely retired.
What does a terrorist have to do to get a little respect?
Often a brand itself becomes negative, be it Al Qaeda or Microsoft. Since a brand, per Silicon Strategies Marketing definition, is what people think and feel about you, then a negative brand becomes an organization-wide anchor in deep water. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has dropped Al Qaeda from it’s name, something that Microsoft can’t do (rumor has it that Steve Ballmer was distressed to learn that his first choice for a hip, new corporate name was already taken, forcing him to chose something other than “Buggy Whips R Us”). In recent political times, a corrupt organization named ACORN rebranded itself after being caught facilitating prostitution via subprime mortgages. Sometimes a brand can be so poisonous, nothing short of vanishing and rebuilding will help.
Let’s hope Charlie Sheen doesn’t figure this out.
Early recognition of a damaged brand is essential to avoid a painful and expensive rebuilding project. Microsoft was late in recognizing that people were increasingly hateful of their operating systems (though they were surprisingly nimble at moving past the Vista fiasco). They have been less successful in their ham-handed attempts to portray Microsoft products as cool. Apple, recognizing a near universal disgruntlement over Microsoft operating system flakiness, attacked with authentic hipness and humor in the now legendary Apple vs. PC advertising. Microsoft has yet to recover, and might not given how tablets, integrated cloud cross-platform services and other modern conveniences have raced ahead.
A brand can survive if the negative aspects are recognized early and the core problem is dealt with effectively. Failing this, little more than braking-up the franchise is possible. The marketing lesson here is that CMOs need to make brand measurement a routine activity, which given the Internet and social media can be perpetual and affordable. CMOs must also convert bad brand news into bottom line projections, and force the issue at the board room table.
A lesson OBL learned a little too late.
December 8, 2011
The word “consternation” could be illustrated by faces of B2B technology marketers trying to leverage social media.
Social media is plate tectonics under marketing terra firma. It is a fundamentally new way of reaching people that at least augments, and in many cases replaces, traditional marketing. Getting unpaid people to carry your message to potential buyers seems to be a gift from the Gods, or at least Mark Zuckerberg.
Well, for B2C marketing mavens. B2B has uneven results in social promotions.
Part of the reason is that motivations for sharing a YouTube video with Grandma are very different from sharing anything with your co-workers, boss or peers. And whereas Nanna might forward your email to cousin Don, your boss might never forward it to anyone. Motivations for sharing are the center of any social outreach, be it passing the collection plate at church or making off with the offerings.
Business buyers share when they must, when it builds better relationships, or when they are compelled for selfish reasons.
My favorite example of a B2B social sharing comes from Nearsoft, a software outsourcing company in Mexico (yes, Mexico). They eliminate many of the aggravations of outsourcing to India, less chance of theft than outsourcing to Russia, and similar low costs to coding American. Long ago they created their 53 second video (which they admit is over 80 seconds long) and would have accumulated a longer list of views had they not moved it from place to place. The video is so low budget that it makes the montage a bit lovable, like a dog pound mutt, and yet has made the rounds so often that years later, people still regularly email it to me.
What makes their B2B social promo effective? Why would people pass this around? Sure, it has humor, but so do most promo videos and they don’t get the same traction. The Nearsoft video has the added benefit of plainly, clearly and quickly summarizing why the viewer should be interested. Within the first twenty second you know who they are, what they do and which types of companies they serve. By the 45 second mark, you know their differentiation and top value propositions. At the 60 second mark there is a clear call to action.
People decline to share what lacks value. Sending Uncle Phil a video of a politician’s pants falling down has all the value Phil needs, and you don’t hesitate to pass it along. B2B is about selling to businesses, and behind every promotion there is the risk of receiving an unwanted sales call. Knowing the full value and differentiation provided by a company lets the viewer know the promo will not waste the time of bosses, subordinates or peers. Making it humorous makes sharing a social activity as well as a business one.
The lesson is that social media works for B2B, but has to cleanly combine both business and social.
November 29, 2011
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Video is a great marketing tool that people use poorly.
The current vogue in online video, aside from cheap distribution of funny commercials on YouTube, is the animated 60-second-or-less landing page. These short videos relay the primary value proposition of a product, and perhaps some insight into how the product works. In the chain of discovery that buyers endure, this is the very first step — understanding why they should care about you. Short landing page videos give buyers a reason to investigate further.
They then are forced to either divulge personal information in ham-handed calls-to-action (and risk getting a sales phone call), or wade through increasingly dense web copy in order to learn important product details.
Why do companies stop using video after the landing page? This came to mind while reviewing case studies of Silicon Strategies Marketing clients. We once scripted a series of “deep dive” overview videos for DeviceAnywhere. These videos guided prospects through what DeviceAnywhere products did at a level of detail that technical buyers needed. End-to-end, the videos took about 30 minutes and were broken into sections that addressed specific needs their technical customers typically had.
DeviceAnywhere reassigned two of their three technical sales teammates who had been performing online demos all day long, and DeviceAnywhere saw zero declines in conversions.
Videos have a great deal of potential for guiding different buyer genotypes through the phases of discovery, and allowing them to engage your sales teams at the moment their curiosities are completely satisfied. This is important because selling is a little like dating: leaping from a first date to a marriage proposal rarely works. Buyers go through phases of learning and trust building — from discovering they have a need, through investigating solutions, gathering details, sharing information internally, etc. Yet nearly nobody is chaining videos in such a way as to help people rapidly learn during each of these sales cycle phases.
In our 15-second, sound-bite driven world, it may well be essential.
As always, leading buyers by the nose throughout this discovery and learning process is essential. Unsupervised thinking is discouraged. In each phase, you need to:
- Create specific content that picks-up cleanly from the previous phase, and leads logically into the next.
- Provide escapes and multiple calls-to-action so a buyer at any time can take actions that accelerate sales.
- Separate content based on buyer genotypes and tailor each throughout the chain.
Video communicates better than any salesman, and works twenty four hours a day. Put it to work through the entire sales cycle.