- Tony Quin
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We’ve all heard of the experiment that was done in the 60’s where kids were promised big treats, but only if they didn’t eat the yummy marshmallow sitting in front of them. The researchers were testing the degree to which kids could delay gratification in order to receive a greater reward in the future.
The kids didn’t do very well, and since then our increasingly instant gratification world has left many with the impression that perhaps our culture suffers from a lack of self-control.
An article in the New York Times last Sunday outlined recent studies that seem to point to a different reason why people opt for short-term rewards vs. the promise in the future. The research points to our uncertainty of the future as a key influence in decision-making.
The basic idea is a bird in the hand is real, but who knows what could happen if you go for the two in the bush. This reflects our universal experience of the unpredictability and uncertainty of the future.
For example, if you arrive at a train platform and it is packed with people, do you assume that the train is likely to arrive soon or that it has been delayed? Without more data, many would be influenced by the unpredictability of life and some might opt for a cab rather than an undefined wait. On the other hand, a simple clock showing when the next train was due would take all the uncertainty out of the situation.
In another version of the marshmallow experiment, two groups of kids were promised a reward from a researcher for not eating the marshmallow. In one group, before the experiment started the researcher demonstrated behavior that showed he was unreliable, in the other group the researcher showed to be completely reliable. The kids with the unreliable researcher waited 3 minutes before eating the marshmallow, the kids with the reliable researcher waited 12 minutes.
All of this got me thinking about behaviors brands ask of consumers such as filling out forms, watching videos and so on. In so many instances we require a consumer to do something based on the promise of something that will (or more likely may) happen in the future.
All too often, consumers do not know when it will happen, how long they will have to wait, or what will happen while they are waiting. I can easily see this feeding that fundamental sense of future uncertainty that the researchers talk about.
So, how as marketers can we bring a sense of certainty to these interactions?
One answer is to tell people how long things are going to take. We can also tell them exactly what is going to happen while they are waiting.
It’s clear that before consumers invest time in an action or an activity they go through a risk or reward calculation. If the uncertainty of the future is a part of their calculation, it’s up to us to come up with ways to minimize its effect.
What do you think? Tell us in the comment section below!
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If you’re a marketer, you hear the term customer experience a lot. It’s a convenient catch phrase for all the experiences that a consumer has with a brand from awareness to advocacy and it’s the product of user experience design (UX) work, which focuses on creating superior customer experiences.
While many people intuitively understand that customer experience is pretty important, however, they don’t always see the value of user experience design. Value is the keyword here because at some point you are probably going to have to justify an investment in UX.
For example, the ROI (return on investment) of the user experience for a website has been a comparatively easy to figure out in the digital world. You can value and compare the conversion rate before you redesign a website using UX and also afterwards. Improvements in simplicity and relevance invariably deliver better results, which can be easily measured. The calculation gets harder when a brand has to consider investing in a unified customer experience strategy and execution, however.
Since people hop from channel to channel so quickly and frequently today, a brand can’t have a good experience in one place and a lousy experience in another, especially when all it takes is one difficult, inconsistent experience to damage all your good work.
A friend recently went into Home Depot looking for a sawhorse. After looking in vain and not finding anyone to help him, he went to Lowe’s and used a prominently displayed Product Finder to quickly find it. He then posted to Facebook that he was done with Home Depot and Lowes was his company. He has over 200 friends, so what’s the cost of that customer experience faux pas?
As Forrester says:
“A good user experience builds brand equity with every interaction, but a bad one can completely erode that equity on all levels. Worse, it can cause a customer to leave you for a competitor, never to return again.”
What brands clearly need is a unified experience that reflects an in-depth understanding of what the consumer is trying to accomplish while clearly differentiating the brand. The good news is that consumers still want relationships with brands; the bad news is that their standards are so much higher than ever before, and they do not have patience for brands that don’t do their homework.
The work of user experience results in the design of all the interactions that a brand has with consumers. That includes interactions on websites, mobile apps, social channels, the telephone or in the store. Its purpose is to design experiences that not only succeed in their purpose, but reinforce the brand promise and identity. UX design must therefore be based on a comprehensive understanding of the consumer, the context and the category. That means starting with research, journey mapping, competitive analysis, content strategy and all the other foundational work that informs UX design.
It’s not cheap and it’s tempting to skip it, but according to numerous studies it costs 50-100 times the original investment to fix an experience that’s not working, to say nothing of the cost of repairing a broken brand perception.
Many would argue that the field of battle between brands now is customer experience. But seeing the relationship between a better customer experience and the UX work required getting there isn’t always clear.
A few of the numerous benefits great UX delivers includes more consumer engagement through increased conversion rates, ease of use, higher satisfaction and higher comprehension, better ROI from larger transactions, more lead identification, improved brand equity, higher customer retention, reduced costs from fewer redesigns, fewer errors, less maintenance and support.
Of course it would be terrific to have an easy ROI calculation that makes the business case for investments in UX. Some organizations claim that every dollar invested in UX delivers a return of 2-100 times, but in the end it is a very difficult calculation.
It’s akin to asking the value of a great advertising campaign versus one that’s just OK. We all know intuitively it can be huge, but how do you measure its value in advance?
The bottom line is that in a world where consumers rule, great customer experience is table stakes for any serious player. That means taking a serious, systematic, scientific approach to getting there, which requires great UX.
What do you think? Tell us in the comment section below!
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Just like your stock portfolio needs to be rebalanced when market conditions change, you need to take a hard look at your media and channel mix in your 2014 marketing plan.
Discussions of mix have usually been about how to distribute media dollars among channels, but you need to look at channels holistically and include all costs, not just purchased media. With the continuous behavioral and attitudinal shifts of consumers, seeing your go to market plan as an integrated ecosystem is more important than ever.
1. If your channel mix does not reflect target audience behavior
Hopefully you know how your target audience uses media channels and when and where they are most receptive to brand interactions. You would be surprised how many marketers start by picking a channel without that knowledge.
Suffice it to say that the way consumers of all ages and types discover, explore, and evaluate products and services today is completely different to the way it used to be. You must therefore use a data driven, evidence based approach to determining your channel mix.
2. Because channels need to be weighted to reflect the dynamics of the Consumer Decision Journey
The difficult, but essential, challenge for a brand is to insert itself into the Consumer Decision Journey*. Your channel mix should reflect a comprehensive understanding of when and where people can and should be influenced. These are the inflection points where you should concentrate your resources. (*McKinsey & Co.)
3. The budget in a particular channel is insufficient to rise above competitive noise
A common mistake is not having an appropriate budget to achieve the mission. TV is a typical example of where budgets are often insufficient to accomplish minimum reach and frequency goals.
To use a war analogy, don’t split your army unless it is larger than your opponent, and concentrate your force on a narrow front for maximum impact.
4. You’re trying to win everything
You probably have short-term goals, but building a brand is a marathon not a sprint. So look at all the channels where your target audience is congregating and start with the areas that are uncontested by your competition. Then only select those that you can afford to do effectively (see previous point).
5. Because too much of your budget only has short-term equity
So much of marketing spend is ephemeral. So look for marketing investments that have long term value for the brand. For example, instead of buying banner ads, invest in evergreen content that can be used for search and syndication.
Over time these marketing investments will become the fabric of your brand’s marketing ecosystem.
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As the chairman of the board of SoDA (The Society of Digital Agencies), I am delighted to share with everyone the latest SoDA Report, the second Digital Marketing Outlook for 2013. This is our 8th DMO and has become one of the most influential trend and research reports produced about digital marketing today, with each issue viewed by more than 150,000 marketers around the world.
This new report is without doubt our most thoughtful and provocative yet, a must-read for every digital marketer. Please share with your networks and spread the knowledge.
Most marketers are well into planning their 2014 budgets–an arduous process that runs the gauntlet of budget approvals. And even though it’s invariably about the numbers, at some point you know someone will be asking you, “What did you accomplish?”
With that in mind, here are a few questions to ask yourself about your 2014 marketing plan to ensure you have a great story to tell this time next year.
1. Does Your Plan Reflect The Way Your Target Audience Engages With Media?
You would be surprised by how many marketing plans still start with traditional media and then add digital. That doesn’t mirror the importance of digital media to your consumers, which is why it’s time for a digital-first plan. That doesn’t mean you cut out traditional marketing–it just means you start with digital at the center of your plan. Consumers form their buying decisions through digital influences so much that to approach consumers in any other way is foolhardy.
2. Have You Done Your Strategic Homework?
The path to purchase is now so complex that you have to map it as the Consumer Decision Journey. This is a channel-agnostic process, which maps the journey for each of your target audience segments so you can see where the critical interaction points are. When combined with other audience research and competitive analysis, you get an accurate picture of when and where it’s most effective to influence your prospects.
3. Do You Have A Content Plan?
How you communicate with prospects when they are exploring your category is different than when they are evaluating options. So whether it’s the copy in an ad or a video on your Web site, you have to know exactly what to say to each audience segment, at every stage in the journey. The only way to know for sure is by doing the work of a content strategy, which acts as the messaging guide for all of your communications.
4. Does Your Plan Prioritize Owned, Earned, And Paid Media Intelligently?
The good news is many opportunities for exposure exist today that do not require you to buy media. This exposure saves you money, but has more influence on consumers than paid advertising. Therefore, your plan should start with owned and earned media before jumping to paid media. If your agency suggests otherwise, then it’s probably making money by spending yours.
5. Do You Have An Integrated Measurement Plan?
Marketers have correctly come to expect detailed metrics and analytics for everything they do. This not only allows you to optimize as you go, but also to measure your performance against goals and plan ahead. In order to really get the value of all this data, you need to plan with clear goals and KPIs, an integrated view of data from all media (both digital and traditional), and a really good analyst to tell you what it all means.
6. Is Your Digital Infrastructure In Place?
The basic idea of an integrated marketing plan is to tie together your marketing touch points into one unified system across all forms of media. This requires some basic pieces of digital infrastructure, which you can’t do without.
This includes probably the most important piece: a mobile-friendly Web site. According to Nielsen, consumers trust brand Web sites more than any other marketing, so your Web site has to be designed for mobile devices.
But technology is not enough.
The Web site is where you must cultivate that trust and convert general interest into sales. This requires state-of-the-art strategy and user experience design. Remember, it’s up to your site to convert interest into action, so make sure yours is best-in-class. Other areas that are often part of digital marketing infrastructure are your social presence across social touch points, search engine optimization (SEO), and search engine marketing (SEM), email, ratings and reviews, mobile Web sites or apps, and marketing automation.
7. Is Content A Priority?
Perhaps the biggest problem with most plans is a lack of focus on content. The word “content,” of course, is a catch-all that includes everything from banner ads and TV spots to videos and interactive tools. All of your planning, media, and infrastructure are there to deliver content. That’s because content is the part of the equation that influences the consumer.
Brands that commit to creating an ongoing stream of high quality, original, compelling content in all forms win hearts and minds. Brands that don’t, regardless of the rest of their marketing investment, cannot win.
In the recent annual “Trust in Advertising” report for 2013 from Nielsen, we learned:
“Brand websites are now the second most trusted form of advertising, second only to recommendations from people I know”.
This is a clarion call to all marketers to get their website up to scratch or risk becoming irrelevant to the modern consumer. To that end, here is a list of the 10 most important elements of a good brand website today.
A website only works if it’s built on comprehensive strategy. Your strategy is the iceberg under the surface that keeps the whole thing afloat. If you don’t do this work you will not get a site that cultivates and converts prospects, you will get a brochure.
Consumers come to your site in order to accomplish something. Identify what those things are and then execute the most important ones better than anyone else. Whether someone is there to explore your offerings or accomplish a task, your job is to make the experience easy and worthwhile. This is where modern user experience (UX) techniques are invaluable. They help you craft a site that unfolds effortlessly in a compelling, personalized experience. That’s what it takes today to convert prospects and strengthen bonds with your existing community.
Social interactions and content bring your brand credibility, activate your community and amplify your brand. They attract search through SEO and include everything social from simple integration to ratings and reviews. While companies used to shy away from the associated risks, the lack of social not only sends a negative perceptual message, but means you have less influence over the conversation.
Search Engine Optimization makes your website, and more importantly the content within it, findable. It’s an art and a science. Every page and every piece of content needs to be optimized to your maximum advantage. That means keeping up with the latest search engine developments like Google Hummingbird, which recently changed the game again. SEO is cheaper marketing when compared to just about everything else you do. So remember every time someone discovers your content through search, it is one cost-per-click you don’t have to buy with AdWords.
Analytics are not the same as metrics. Metrics tell you how you’ve already done, but analytics tell you what to do next. The many analytics packages you can buy will actually feed you metrics, albeit in an easy to consume form. What they don’t do is tell you what those metrics mean, and what you should do as a result of them. This is the work of the analyst and where the rubber meets the road.
These software platforms provide the missing link between your marketing and sales. There are many options now, and as a result these technologies have become inexpensive and much easier to integrate. They allow you to track the activity of individual customers, and in many cases prospects, not only on your website, but also across the digital spectrum, including email, blogs, search and social media. They are especially important if you have a large database of customers and prospects with email addresses. They enable personalized, automated email marketing and integrate with many CRM systems.
If you have an integrated marketing strategy, then most people coming to your website probably enter at a landing page. This is because landing pages allow you to tailor a visitor’s first impression based on their point of origin. Personal relevance is one of the key elements of persuasion and tailored landing pages are how you begin a compelling personalized experience.
Soon, most people will view your site on a mobile device of some kind. Your site should be designed to work optimally on every mobile device. This means you have to navigate whether to use Responsive web design, which creates a web experience that adapts to the device it is being viewed on, or to create native apps for different device platforms, which unlike responsive sites allow you to use the built-in capabilities of the phone. Either way you need to offer a flawless mobile experience that fits what the user will be doing.
The experience of your website should reflect your brand’s attitude towards customer service, which is a key consideration for consumers. You are either an easy brand to work with or not. Your customer service capabilities should therefore be built into your site from instant chat to intuitive search.
Last but not least comes content. Content is the lynchpin of modern marketing in digital channels, and your website is just a vehicle for organizing and presenting it. Consumers have figured out that they are no longer a captive audience for advertising.
So instead they are looking for content that makes them smarter and/or entertains them. That content can be a video, an article, or even an interactive tool. In the end, however, it is how you are being judged. Therefore, it’s not good enough to just tick the box.
If your content is not compelling, engaging, valuable and original, people will ignore it. If you do everything else right, content will still be the difference between success and failure. It is what search engines will value and will activate your social networks. It will be the basis of a relationship started and the trust that is cultivated. Once you have the infrastructure of your marketing ecosystem in place, of which your website is a key piece, an ongoing flow of content will become the fuel that ignites the brand engine and keeps it running.
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Acxiom, a big data company, released a website called About the Data yesterday morning. It’s a website where you can see what data they have on you. Of course, in this time of Edward Snowden and the NSA, the press picked up the story of this good brother of big brother and their egalitarian concern for the public good.
Curious, I went to the site and eagerly anticipated seeing into the secret KGB files, not deterred by the requirement to enter in all my critical information (figuring they already have it).
To my surprise, the only information they seemed to have right was the information I had entered in order to find my file. They did, however, have pages of data points about me that were wrong.
My interests were all wrong. My purchase habits, all wrong. My home ownership and credit card use, all wrong. Happily, however, next to each erroneous piece of information about me there was a button that I could click to fix their error.
“Ah ha!” I said to myself, now I can fix all these errors at last. Finally, I could set these big data guys straight and get the facts right. No I didn’t like hockey (I’m a tennis man) and I don’t shop at Walmart (I like Target) and…wait a minute! Suddenly my addled consumer brain switched on and I realized I was looking at a fiendish plot from the same people that brought us credit scores.
Did they think we were so stupid that we would do their work for them? Did they think I would just tell them everything about me? Did they think that consumers would be so naive as to think that this website was some kind of good deed?
According to the New York Times’ Scott E. Howe, the chief executive of Acxiom said all the company wanted was to give consumers greater control over their data. Sure, and Miley Cyrus was just looking for her contact when Robin Thicke bumped into her.
Well I’m impressed by their audacity, but I’m not stupid. I made sure I didn’t give them my real email address. That should hold them at bay for about 5 seconds.
I have just returned from the annual global member meeting of SoDA (Society of Digital Agencies) and thought I would share a little bit about this truly remarkable organization.
I was one of the founders of SoDA seven years ago and now serve as the board chair. I have watched it grow from the original 13 members to 74 agencies with almost 200 offices around the world. Many of these agencies are what we think of as full-service digital agencies, but there are also creative production companies and specialists in particular disciplines such as user experience, technology, and social media. The result is a diversity of experience that inspires new ideas and perspectives.
SoDA is a very exclusive organization. Only 11% of agencies that apply for membership are invited to become SoDA members. It’s a rigorous process. First agencies are nominated by a member, then a regional membership committee reviews their work and gets to know their senior management. Those that pass are reviewed by the board, which presents its recommendations to the entire membership.
Members vote on the candidates and can strike any that they do not believe meet SoDA standards. This commitment to only having the best digital agencies in the world in SoDA has produced an extraordinary peer group that is unique in the digital marketing world.
Unlike most trade associations SoDA requires active C-level participation, and despite frequent competition between members, operates with a transparency that some might find shocking. The culture of trust and candor that is the foundation of SoDA enables every member to share their knowledge, experiences, insights, and advice.
Our mission is to help one another create more successful digital companies and we believe that we gain much more by collaborating than by operating in isolation. We recognize that many factors influence the success or failure of a digital agency, but we choose to compete based on the quality of our ideas and innovation not on the mechanics of our business.
That means we share best practices for everything, including: documents, techniques, technologies and systems. This rich knowledge exchange is spread throughout our agencies with additional peer groups for the leads of our 16 primary disciplines. The result is that the best digital agencies in the world keep getting better.
SoDA also produces extensive research, thought leadership, and events throughout the year for the agency, brand and marketing communities, including the regular SoDA Reports, which have a readership of over 150,000 per issue worldwide.
As SoDA enters its 7th year as an organization, it is gaining significant recognition and momentum around the world. In the coming year I am more excited than ever by the ambitious agenda we have laid out and the continuing contribution SoDA will make to the digital agency and marketing communities.
To learn more about SoDA please visit www.sodaspeaks.com
The big merger announcement of Omnicom and Publicis focuses squarely on the data side of the marketing business, specifically the use of data to target advertising and messaging. While this promises huge opportunities for brands to spend their media money more effectively, it doesn’t speak to the other big shift in the marketing world. That shift is the evolution of the consumer decision journey, a concept originated by McKinsey.
The consumer’s path to making a purchase and what happens after has been inexorably changed by technology. Consumers still consume advertising, but only as a part of many influences that determine who gets the sale. This is now a game of content, user experience and customer service, as well as advertising.
So while spending client media dollars more effectively is an attractive prospect for brands, they will need even better soft skills, such as strategy and creative, to succeed. This will be even more important with medium and smaller sized brands which cannot just throw media money at consumers like the big brands, but are forced to produce smarter more creative marketing in order to win.