Data: Decide, Act, Test, Amend

Successful digital and social marketing programmes are built on interconnected modules, all needed to deliver the best possible results for customers, at the best possible returns on investment in resources and budgets for the organization running the programmes.

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The thread that connects these modules, like DNA, is data, driving every aspect of a successful marketing programme. Here’s how.

Strategy defines the intent, direction and objectives for the programme: what you need to achieve, including targets for revenue, sales, market share, profitability, or some combination of these, the reasons for those objectives, the consequences of meeting or missing them, how success is to be measured and what success looks like – in short, what you need to do to win. Data clearly influences strategy at the start – market size, product and service scope and scale, audience insights, customer service, and more. But data also allows you to track progress against strategy, and to test strategy when new opportunities appear. Without data, strategy is strategy-lite.

Creative and content define what you actually say, across multiple social and digital platforms, including alignment with audiences, content planning, and measurement. Data provides the detail needed to get this content right: its format, length, frequency, messages, and delivery – and most importantly of all, consuming insights. What do your audiences expect and prefer? How best can you engage with your audiences and in which channels?

Influencer engagement invokes your external ambassadors: data defines who they might be, their motivations, influence and expectations. True (meaningful) influencer engagement requires a win-win-win: for the brand, the influencer, and their audience. Data also gives you the must-have insights into who really has influence, and shines the light needed to track influence engagement, and to support them as trusted partners. After all, as my colleague Emma Lo Russo has pointed out, consumers trust influencers before brands.

Community and customer service – the process of directly engaging with customers using social media and digital channels. Use data to connect the front-end engagement and advocacy management with the back-end customer delivery and product logistics systems, so that you can track how the promise of service, and the reality, mesh.

Optimization of budget spend and performance: without data you can’t optimize, and without data you don’t know what’s working, what isn’t, and what you need to do either to change or accelerate. True optimization needs to look at social media and digital channels in a way that presents a complete picture, in real-time. And optimization applies to every part of this data-driven marketing DNA chain.

Analytics means the science of understanding the meaning behind results, audiences’ activity, activations, engagement and sentiment. Using real-time data, across platforms, brings sharper analysis to bear. And once you’ve analysed the reasons for success and failure, repeat.

Without DNA, it’s impossible to crack genomes. Without data, it’s difficult to manage real-time marketing programmes, and provide customer value, improved customer experiences – and, ultimately, sales.

Time to use data – to Decide, Act, Test and Amend.

(This article is also published on LinkedIn.)

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Fact will beat fake in the end

I enjoyed Paul Smith’s interview with Atlassian’s Mike Cannon-Brookes in Monday’s Australian Financial Review. In particular, I noted Cannon-Brooke’s calling out of the misstatement of the facts, as he saw it, about (in this case) energy policy.

Closer to home, I’m witnessing a fascinating public relations campaign from a local residents’ association objecting to a new transport system proposed by the NSW State Government. (Declaration: I have no part to play in either side of the campaign, but I am a fan of the proposed new system and it will run through the suburb I live in.)

As I’ve noted elsewhere, effective communications always includes two elements: facts and emotion. Emotion arguably carries the day. Certainly in politics, emotional arguments are to the fore, as they are in my local campaign against the introduction of new, high-speed buses. Interestingly, though, a recent leaflet from the objectors had, in its small print, a declaration that nothing it stated in the leaflet should be construed as fact, and that they were in no way liable for any claims made or advice offered. Needless to say, the equivalent State Government leaflet did not carry any analogous claim: in any case, as an elected body, it presumably is to be held accountable for any claims its makes, if only at the next election.

So the objectors can raise the possibilities of disruption and destruction, which of course might happen, and certainly could happen, without any facts to support that either will, necessarily, happen.

And, of course, there’s Donald Trump’s active campaign against media outlets (and others) he feels are peddling fake news as he sees it, and climate change in which science (always the victim) is discarded in favour of vested interest.

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Across all of these, emotional arguments tap emotional predispositions. It’s a great public relations strategy: after all, it takes real effort to consider the facts, even more to change one’s point of view.

And yet: this current cycle of so-called fake news is only, after all, 16 months or so old. The possible repercussions, once audiences realize that facts have indeed been ignored or denied, have yet to be felt. That will indeed be new territory, especially if livelihoods have been directly affected.

Call me naive, but I suspect that eventually facts will prevail.

For PR professionals, striking the balance between playing to the emotions of an audience, and plying the facts of the case, remains as important as ever. If facts alone were enough, we’d never have started smoking in our teens. If emotions were all that were needed, we’d all be bankrupt by now, having bet our life savings on any number of can’t-lose financial offers.

And, after all, most PR professional are acutely aware of the consequences of fudging or faking, whether by being called to account by our professional bodies, journalists or regulators, or by our individual ethical compasses. Most of us know what it feels like when the spotlight is turned on us, even when we’ve done nothing wrong.

We know that to mess with the facts is a no-win option.

Watch this space.

This article is also published on LinkedIn.

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Know where to go, know what to do: plug into data and act on those inputs to maximize your marketing effort

I used to take flying lessons, many years ago. Although I never got my private pilot’s licence, learning how to master a light aircraft was some of the best fun I’ve ever had – and the concentration (for me, at any rate) was so intense that, during lessons, I forget everything else, leaving me with a brain cleansed of clutter.

Whether taking your first flight in a light aircraft, or your last after a career as a senior training captain with one of the world’s airlines, data are central to flying: you rely on the instruments around you to feed you with the data you need to make your next decision. Aircraft, after all, have always impressed with their dashboards. Sure, you can fly solely by the seat of your pants (even, in extremis, in an airliner): it’s just that you wouldn’t want to, given the option.

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It’s obvious when flying that you need to know where you’re going. That starts with filing a flight plan and then, once airborne, looking out of the window (as one of my instructors once forcibly reminded me).

But you also need to know how much fuel you have left, whether or not the headwind is too strong to make your destination, whether your engine is icing up, what your alternative diversion airports might be as a consequence, whether storms are a risk (even if they weren’t when you started your journey) – and more. All this applies when learning, and applies big-time when you’re the captain of a Boeing or an Airbus with hundreds of passengers sitting behind you enjoying their in-flight catering.

The same applies in today’s marketing: no marketer today would follow the simplistic approach of filing a flight plan, taking off, and flying by looking out of the window. Yet many “land safely” without actually knowing that they would when they took off, and many fail to rely on the data they now have to hand to fine-tune their marketing, consider alternative destinations, or even pause until more data are available about what to do next.

Consider a recent example of one of our clients here at Digivizer: the client is a technology startup with a unique product offering in an otherwise established market sector that our client now seeks to disrupt.  Being a startup, budget was tight, and quite literally every dollar had to count. The target audience was the general public, the messaging centred on creating new experiences, and the pricing proposition was compelling. Acting on our client’s behalf, we used our social media and digital analytics and tracking technology to see how the programme performed as it happened. We could analyse the performance of the web site, the social media outreach programmes, how individual pieces of content performed (or didn’t), the returns on paid campaigns in registrations, purchases and content viewing, and whether or not the programme should continue as originally planned. All viewed through a single set of data presented using our dashboard, to get the complete picture of how the journey was going. (When flying, you never want to switch between different instruments – that’s why modern jet aircraft present everything on single screens.)

Tapping the aviation analogy again, a storm hit, and we landed as a precaution, we reset our flight plan, and took off on a different route with (as it were) a tank full of fuel and a new set of coordinates.

Bringing this back to the marketing world, we understood, through data, the impacts of influencer advocacy, paid media advertising, content performance, and sentiment. By using the data to make decisions, we reduced touch-points to purchase by customers by 90%. We added new elements to the campaign, tested them in real-time, and confirmed how we could target prospects, who now responded because the content was now relevant because it was built on inputs from data. Sales grew 200% month-on-month, and that rate more than doubled to 500% in the last month.

The result was that the client’s business objectives, on sales, costs and deadlines, were met.

Marketing, like flying, takes skill, training, determination and experience. Real-time data makes it faster, safer, more effective, more accountable, and more affordable.

Time to switch on those instruments.

This article is also published on LinkedIn.

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The power of brands (and public relations)

A week ago (on 5 September 2017) the LEGO Group announced its first decline in half-year revenues in ten years, a drop in profit, and 1,400 job redundancies.

My eventual reaction was surprise and interest – I am after all a LEGO watcher in a professional (marketing) capacity, but also an adult fan of LEGO.

My immediate reaction, though, was almost one of sorrow. I was upset for the company, not at the company.

Such is the power of a brand that knows what it’s doing.

I noted Chairman Jørgen Vig Knudstorp’s tone in the media release, expressing sorrow at having to make 1,400 employees redundant, all of whom had made contributions to the company’s success, and acknowledging the pain this will cause those affected.

Jørgen Vig Knudstorp’s narrative went further: he was candid about his part in the dip, and equally candid about not being able to guarantee growth for a couple of years. The tone of the media release was calm and clear. It was language unusual to me in such a scenario – and I’ve written, and been part of, many similar announcements in my career.

The reaction around social and mainstream media has been equally measured. The LEGO Group has built a reputation for being open and authentic.

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A brand connection 50 years in the nurturing: a LEGO motor, new in 1966, from the author’s collection

In my own case, I also realized that my brand connection has been built over 50 years. I still have LEGO I had when young (a common experience). There are few brands that can maintain that strong a connection over that length of time, ride the highs and lows with its community and come through intact, and create a genuine reservoir of goodwill with its audience on which to draw in harder times (a tenet of great public relations).

The last time the LEGO Group faced financial uncertainty was back in 2003. Last week’s announcement is nowhere near that serious – but it will be interesting to follow the company’s declared changes, observe (and be part of) these changes, and see how it communications them – all the while maintaining its brand values.

The company took the lead in communicating the news, creating and establishing a position it could defend, and making what appears to be business decisions very quickly. This is a company with steel beneath the smile on the minifig’s face.

Interesting times.

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Let’s have meaningful marketing conversations

It’s the digital equivalent of eyes glazing over, that unfortunate side-effect when a conversation you think is interesting is boring the other person.

And the effect is bad enough when it’s face to face with just one person (especially if it’s your partner). Imagine the compound effect over thousands of prospects, some of whom might love you, some of whom might want to love you, some of whom are wary of you, and some who are just downright hostile. McGraw-Hill Magazine’s famous print ad. springs to mind.

Even with the advent of the Internet, on-line tools, CRM systems, database management tools, blogs, and more (all now familiar stuff) companies still spend seven-figure sums on digital content and outbound marketing, only to struggle to justify the investment.

Worse, they know it’s not working.

The digital difference then means merely arriving at this sense of unease faster.

But there is another digital difference, the most wonderful asset a marketer could want. The social web is your on-line radar receiver, a means of trapping and making sense of the noise in the digital ether. What’s more, it’s operating in real-time, so you now get closer to prospects and customers as the conversations are taking place.

Mapping individuals to organizations and industry sectors already in your customer database clearly lets you re-cast the messages you want to use with these individuals, potentially to each individual in turn if you wish. And it lets you package products, offers and services in the same way, either to respond to specific opportunities, or to wrap a ‘cover’ round an existing offering to reflect the in-bound insight you’ve just gleaned from the conversations you’re now part of.

When I first wrote about this four years ago, these conversations were couched in terms relevant and meaningful to marketers and, if we were lucky, sales managers. Today, boards are demanding to see the opportunities because they now understand that their organizations can distinguish between those that are immediate and real, and those that are irrelevant. They are quickly qualified because they reflect actual needs being expressed in detail by real people.

As every marketer knows, it’s good to get as close to reality as possible.

(Also published on LinkedIn and at digivizer.com.)

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In light of recent events…

I’m no political commentator but, re-reading Henry Mintzberg’s (@Mintzberg141) book Managers Not MBAs, I chanced across the following passage. I think it casts light on possible context for both last week’s US Presidential Election and the earlier Brexit result in the UK. What’s especially telling is that he’s quoting data from the late 1990s, in a book published in 2004.

He notes:

‘The facts…tell a different story [relating to the facility of the notion of a rising tide benefitting all on the back of increased shareholder value]. In 1989, the United States had 66 billionaires and 31.5 million people living below the official poverty line. A decade later, the number of billionaires had increased to 268, while the number of people below the poverty line increased to 34.5 million… In 1996, 26 per cent of all workers were in jobs paying poverty-level wages, a larger proportion than in the past…’

Notwithstanding the various aspects of racism, xenophobia and other unacceptable positions, comments and behaviour demonstrated on both sides of the Atlantic, what seems clear to me is that the political class indeed has become disconnected from those it purportedly represents.

My answer to a question from my late-teenage son, who simply asked “why, and how?”, seemed straightforward: citizens (I think, certainly speaking for myself) seek job security, good healthcare, opportunities for themselves and their families, and safety, with adequate infrastructure to deliver all of this. It’s my belief that most individuals are prepared to pay for these services through fair taxes. I suspect they are less-interested in political dogma or global systems, either capitalist or socialist, per se. Easy to say, difficult to deliver, even more so when preoccupied with aligning with others and to systems always underpinned by vested interests. That is, though, the point and purpose of elected officials.

And they’ve just been reminded.

(See Managers Not MBAs – A hard look as the soft practice of managing and management development, by Henry Mintzberg, Berrett-Koehler, 2004.)

 

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