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9 Ways to Win at Warp Speed

Winning at Warp Speed

I just read an article in the New York Times in which an engineer talks about how technology now allows us to embrace complexity instead of run from it, and how the process from having an idea to testing it can now happen in hours or days versus the years it took in the past. This allows companies to test many more ideas, measure their potential and quickly weed the good ones from the bad.

The result is more good ideas found much faster. Of course, this is how all innovation happens. The difference today is the velocity.

This concept of the velocity of ideas makes me think of two conversations that are very active in my agency and the industry. The first is about data. Everywhere I read about “big data” but I have begun to just think of it as just data, and more specifically as analytics.

Our ability to measure everything we do in real-time is not only holding marketing accountable, but more importantly allows us to really understand what’s working and what’s not.

The second is the conversation about agile marketing, an evolution from the agile development approach used in technology. The essential idea of agile is to move faster with less developed work in order to discover problems and opportunities sooner. Some have called it being in a perpetual state of beta.

Both analytics and agile marketing support this concept of increasing velocity. At its core is the fundamental notion that we just don’t know if our ideas will work until we try them, and the more ideas we try the more likely we are to hit something really big.

The number of industries that use this approach is remarkable; financial services, movie studios, toy manufacturers, big food companies, all take a portfolio approach. In essence, they are admitting, that despite their knowledge and experience, they just don’t know what’s going to work, so they are hoping that probabilities will do the trick (and the truth is most times they do).

Movie studios, for example, produce a slate of movies knowing that some will be disasters, most will barely break-even and one or two will become hits. Those last two pay for all the others and then some.

Faced with a much more complex marketplace thanks to digital channels, it’s time for brands and their agencies to take up this velocity approach. With nearly real-time analytics at our side, we should produce and test many more ideas, evaluate them quickly, dump the dogs and move on with the winners.

This approach requires, however, a change in how we do business.

It means we need to rethink how we develop ideas. Instead of working toward the launch of a single idea, we need to develop and test many ideas simultaneously. And not just test them with research, but put them out in the real world where we can see the real consumer dynamics.

With this data in hand, either real winners will reveal themselves, or we will discover clear insights that tell us how to craft a winner. Then imagine doing it over and over again.

As I think about many of the brand and agency organizations I have worked with over the years trying this, the challenges are many, but not insurmountable.

First, you need a culture that from the top encourages risk-taking and embraces the value of appropriate failure. It’s why Google wants to hire entrepreneurs who have a history of trying and failing. They want people who are comfortable with tactical failure and don’t give up. It’s the way of science where famously inventors and scientists are encouraged to try and fail hundreds of times only then to find the prize.

I believe we are rapidly moving back to a marketplace where ideas instead of technology and process will drive success. That’s why I think it’s time for our marketing world to embrace the velocity of ideas approach. It will take changing old cultures, but for the brands that pull it off the results will be spectacular.

9 Ways to Win at Warp Speed:

  1. Ideas drive success, not technology or process.
  2. Rethink how you develop ideas.
  3. More ideas means more chances for the big win.
  4. Don’t launch a single idea. Develop and test many ideas simultaneously.
  5. Move faster with less developed work in order to discover problems and opportunities sooner.
  6. Measuring performance in real-time allows you to know what’s working
  7. Try many ideas, measure and quickly weed the good from bad.
  8. Publish in the real world with real consumer dynamics.
  9. Rinse and repeat

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5 Reasons to Rebalance Your 2014 Marketing Plan

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Have You Been Scraped Lately?

Has Your Site Been Scraped Lately?

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, scraping has to be right up there.

Last week, we discovered a website hosted in the Bahamas called www.iqadvertisingagency.com. Some delightful individual, who was clearly not raised right, decided to scrape (or steal in the old vernacular) our website for some nefarious purpose. They changed the contact info to the address of an internet café in Toronto and replaced our telephone number with theirs. Worse, they seem to have persuaded my entire team of executives to go and work for them…traitors.

I can’t help but wonder what they think they can achieve. Opinions in the office range from they are trying to get a loan and needed a cool site to show their banker to they are trying to sell themselves as us to get business. Clearly they have never been in any competitive pitches. Most clients today not only want to meet and grill the entire team before they hire you, but many actually want the agency to do the work in advance to see how good you are.  Good luck with that.

We sent off the necessary communications to the hosting provider and requested that the site be be removed from Google which should put them in hot water, but part of me thinks that maybe we can do an outsourcing deal where IQ can handle any business they bring in.

*Note: after sending their hosting provider a formal DMCA take down request, it seems the site is now “under construction”.

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How to Clone Your Best Salesperson

How to Clone Your Best Salesperson

Imagine this: sales people that never get tired, never need vacations and happily work 24/7; they don’t need commissions and you always know where they are and what they’re doing. Best of all, every one of them is as good as your best salesperson.

Believe it or not, that is exactly what your company website can and should be.

Too often, brand or company websites are just glorified brochures or worse, repositories for tens of thousands of documents. Enormous amounts of time and money go into expensive content management systems and complex technology that make these sites function, but nobody really seems to answer the most important question: how is our website going to drive sales?

First, you should recognize that your website has become pretty important to your prospects. As the 2013 “Trust in Advertising” study from Nielsen revealed, brand websites are now the second most trusted form of advertising, second only to personal recommendations. This is important because it means that brand sites have become the preferred way that prospects explore a purchase. It’s where they form opinions about your company and about the only place (short of a face-to-face pitch) where you can completely control the story that you tell.

That’s why your website is where your one-on-one sales process should start. The idea is not for the website to replace your salespeople, but rather for it to qualify the opportunities and lay the groundwork for the close.

Today’s technology allows a modern website to simulate a great deal of what a salesperson does. As in a face-to-face pitch, the ideas is to quickly find out what’s important to the prospect and adapt the pitch to be as personally relevant as possible.

Unlike any other marketing medium, a website is uniquely able to become relevant by adapting instantly to a viewer’s choices, responses to questions or behavior, all while keeping them engaged. The result can be a site that tells a story that is personally relevant to each viewer, keeps a dialogue going, and then identifies people ready and qualified to talk to a real salesperson at the right moment.

It’s time to see your website not only as a valuable marketing tool, but equally important as a valuable sales tool. When prospects arrive at your site, they should discover an experience that is as persuasive as your best salesperson.

This experience should be exciting and engaging, presenting your story step-by step, and adapting it to fit the interests and needs of each prospect just as you would if you could have a salesperson there every time. Then when prospects are clearly ready and qualified, it should deliver them to sales for the close.

Today’s technology and design make websites capable of this kind of smart, personalized selling experience. It doesn’t replace sales, but instead leverages technology to let you scale your story and maximize your sales potential.

When a website becomes part of an integrated digital selling system, it enables you to connect, cultivate and convert consumers with more predictability than ever before. This new model replaces the old, simple funnel model and recognizes that today’s journey to buy anything is really complex. It’s a journey that needs a new model.

For a more comprehensive look at the “Connect, Cultivate, Convert” model, view the 3C’s presentation.

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A Level Playing Field: How Small Brands Can Win with Digital

david and goliath malcolm gladwell

The marketing playing field is a lot more level than it ever used to be thanks to how digital has changed things. As a result, small brands now have the chance to fight and sometimes even beat big brands.

The David & Goliath legend would have us believe that beating powerful opponents is about luck or divine providence.

The true story of David and Goliath, as told by Malcolm Gladwell in his new book, tells us that Goliath, despite his size and apparent power, was actually slow, and suffered from double vision as a result of the medical condition that had turned him into a giant. David, on the other hand, also contrary to appearances, was not just some shepherd boy.

He was actually a highly trained slinger, the marksman of his age, who could let fly a projectile traveling as fast as a .45 caliber bullet, with sufficient accuracy to bring down a bird in flight.

So what appeared on the surface to be one situation was in fact something else entirely. David used intelligence, insight, strategy and speed to beat the unbeatable giant. He used his advantages while turning his opponents disadvantages against him.

Digital channels offer similar opportunities for smaller brands.

In the pre-digital days, brands had little choice but a head to head battle. Usually the brand that could put up more media money, usually in broadcast and print, won. While the originality of creative could have a multiplier effect, as it always does, the key was always the weight of paid media a brand could bring to bear.

Jump to today and a marketing environment in which paid media has become much less influential as owned and earned media have gained power. Now brands have the opportunity to use intelligence, insight, strategy and speed, just like David, to run rings around the giants. Of course many of the giants have figured out their weaknesses and are not quite as lumbering as they used to be. But at the very least the battle is now one of wits, not just about size.

This presents smaller brands with the opportunity to punch way above their weight if they take advantage of the digital opportunities in front of them. These mostly revolve around smart search optimization, content creation, social media, brand websites and mobile experiences.

If a brand’s digital ecosystem is imagined and managed with insight and creativity, David can hold his own against Goliath – and sometimes even beat him.

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Presentation: 10 Key Ingredients of a Modern Brand Website

At the center of an integrated marketing ecosystem (I hate that word too, but it works) is the brand website. But it still amazes me how many brands don’t get what it has to do. This deck tells the story.










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Delayed Gratification and the Fear of the Future

Delayed Gratification and the Fear of the Future

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 himself 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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How to Calculate ROI for Customer Experience

How to Calculate ROI for Customer Experience

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, however, when a brand has to consider investing in a unified customer experience strategy and execution.

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 now his vendor of choice. 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 at the same time differentiating the brand. The good news is that consumers still want relationships with brands; the bad news is that consumer standards are so much higher than ever before, and they no longer 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 ensure that interactions 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 not technology or even creative, but customer experience. However for many seeing the connection between a better customer experience and the UX work required to get 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 less 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 the value of originality in advance? Some might also point to the cultural orientation of a company as an indicator as to whether UX will be recognized as a value or not. Companies that have internalized a marketing culture, which are few, are more likely to see value vs. manufacturing and distribution oriented companies that often have a deep mistrust of marketing.

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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5 Reasons to Rebalance Your 2014 Marketing Plan

Marketing Plan

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.

Click here to read part 1 of this series

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The SoDA Report Volume 2, 2013

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.

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7 Questions for Your 2014 Marketing Plan

2014 marketing plan

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.


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