Posts Tagged "Technology"

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The Benefits of the Agile Process

Clients love Agile agencies

In my last post I discussed what Agile and Scrum are, how they can work at an agency, and the 4 top reasons our clients tell us they value working in an Agile way.  Today I want to dive a little deeper into an example of how Agile is flexible, and saves clients time and money.

Many agencies that have moved to Agile claim productivity increases. I’ve seen everything from 25% to 600%!  Of course, a lot depends on how dysfunctional the delivery method was in the first place.

What we do know (and have good data for) is the consistent failure of the traditional waterfall or spiral methods to achieve success, especially with complex engagements.  Since this describes practically all projects that a modern agency is called on to deliver, you can see the problem. We believe the answer is Agile.

At IQ, we had the opportunity to compare the performance of traditional and Agile methods in creating a website for a client. The first version we built using traditional methods and then sometime later we redesigned it using Agile. The results were astonishing.

Agile saved the client over 25% in cost and launched the project 2 months quicker than the previous site. Compared side by side, there was an amazing 75% improvement in both the cost and time to implement.  Equally important the client enjoyed the process and felt they were actually a true partner instead of an adversary.

Let’s take a look at a few specific elements of what happened:

1. Can you get me something earlier for my conference?

There is always something around the corner like a big dealer conference, or a meeting with your CEO.  In both instances we got the question: “Can you get me something quickly to show our progress?”

With the traditional delivery method, all we had was a series of wireframes with arrows and descriptions, plus a static image of what the home page might look like.  That was because the project team wasn’t at the design phase yet. It wasn’t very inspiring and was tough for those with little imagination.

Contrast that with Agile’s iterative method where we get a working prototype every two weeks.  We didn’t have to make anything special, because we already had something ready to go.  The presentation of the working home page drew “oohs” and “ahhs,” our client was a hero and no one questioned our progress.

Strangely, with both methods we were actually at about the same percent complete, but by changing from the assembly line method to Agile, reality really shifted.

2. I just saw this new thing and we gotta have it.

Change is inevitable in any project. At some point you want to make a change because you see something that was hard to know at the beginning.

I used to consider this dreaded “scope creep,” which always resulted in requirements meetings, reviews of the SOW, days of arguing over the scope, more meetings, lost time, hard feelings, and often three steps back to rework previous phases.

What a waste of time and money, and aggravating for a client, who just wanted to make the final product better.

Now, as an Agile agency, we look at ideas as a blessing and even encourage them. In fact, often the most difficult thing is to get our client to understand that they can come up with ideas and get them realized whenever they want.

The client in this case, for example, had the good idea, late in the game, to add some localization.  With Agile it was easy. We moved it into the very next sprint and two weeks later — there it was.   No push back, no forms, no negotiation, just delivering what the client wanted, when they wanted it.

These are just two examples from one project, and there were many more on this project alone. They demonstrate that Agile is flexible, and saves time and money as a result.

Interestingly, however, I have found that it’s the removal of stress, and the shift from an adversarial client/agency relationship, to one of true partnership, that clients notice and value most.

For more insights into how Agile can work for your brand feel free to email with your questions at steve.bevilacqua@iqagency.com.

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  • 02.25.14

YouTube: The Next Big Thing Is Already Here

Originally presented at the social media conference SoCon14, this deck from IQ’s Assoc. Director of Strategy Noah Echols and Assoc. Director of UX Rachel Peters will show you how to prioritize YouTube in an effective way to leverage active communities to get serious results — something your competition probably isn’t doing.









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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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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 10 Key Ingredients of a Modern Brand Website

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.

Strategy

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.

Focused UX

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 Integration

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.

SEO

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

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.

Marketing Automation

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.

Landing Pages

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.

Mobile

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.

Customer Service

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.

Content

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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Popcorn Video Tastes Good

Popcorn for videos

A new type of video content creation.

 

This post is about a brand new digital technology for video called Popcorn. It’s one of a number of technology led efforts to broaden what video is capable of, and in a world where soon 90% of data on the internet will be video, that’s good news for marketers, but first a little context.

My career and IQ, my digital agency started out in the video business. Over the years I’ve seen big changes as we moved from film to HD video, and from expensive post-production to a million dollar edit bay on a laptop. But despite these changes the basics of video creation haven’t changed that much. It’s still a linear experience made out of the combination of visuals and sound. It still a demanding art that takes quality writing, acting, lighting, sound design, animation, and post production, to say nothing of great ideas, to make quality videos.

Now, with the Content Age in full swing and a general mad scramble for video content creation, companies are finding that while they might be able to produce a talking head video of the chairman or an interview with a customer, it still takes experts to make the quality of video that captures the imagination or moves us emotionally. Today companies can go out and spend a couple of thousand dollars on a camera that would’ve cost a fortune a few years ago, they can buy microphones, lights and editing software and be fully equipped for chump change. But in the end it’s still the experience and expertise of the people using the equipment that’s the difference between wonderful and OMG.

Many forces are driving this demand for video, not the least of which is that it’s become incredibly easy and cheap to put high quality video in digital channels. So much so that video has replaced many of the interactive experiences we used to make. This is good and bad. The bad, at least for brands, is that we have moved away from interactive experiences which required the participation of the viewer. Instead of two way experiences we’ve gone back to a one way traditional video experience. Until now……

With the introduction of a new technologies like Popcorn that may have changed. Popcorn is open source technology that allows us to put links, images and even dynamic content into a video stream. That can be as simple as a link to where to buy that sweater you’re looking at, or a photo and email address for an insurance agent in your area. Popcorn essentially turns videos into mini-websites so that when your video travels around the web from person to person and site to site, it has the same capabilities you could have on your home page.  The possibilities are as many and varied as the technology is flexible. It can adopt the dynamics of “choose-your-own-adventure” and allow brands to follow viewer preferences and interests, or it can enable the functionality of shopper video without the big platform cost. On first blush it looks like Popcorn is moving video into the digital age with functionality capabilities that could reshape what we think of as video. It’s early days for Popcorn, but it appears we’ve been given a new paint box for video and I can’t wait to see what’s possible.

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Mobile Analytics

There has been an explosion of mobile devices – both in smart phone and tablet format – in the past year. It is predicted that by the end of 2011 there will be 70 million smart phones in use across the US (33% of the mobile audience). That statistic does not even take into account the new proliferation of tablet computers that also account for today’s mobile computing.

With so many people turning to mobile devices for data consumption, it’s only natural that companies start investing in ways to leverage these devices. In the past companies primarily focused on mobile optimized web sites, however with the rise of the iPhone and Android and the popularity of their apps, it’s only natural that companies also begin to invest some of their resources towards app development as well.

Early statistics are already showing that mobile apps are more successful than mobile optimized web sites:

  • Mobile apps show a 26% lift in conversion rates over mobile optimized sites
  • Mobile search has an 8x better click-thru rate vs. desktop search, and even higher when using a dedicated search app.

As companies start to spend revenue on developing mobile apps, it will be critical to show how successful (or not) these apps are being – and this is where mobile analytics come into play. Using tracking similar to web analytics, mobile analytics can help show the performance and troubleshoot mobile apps in near real-time. Some of this data would include information like:

  • How many times has the app been downloaded, and onto which devices?
  • How often are users launching the app? Do users of one kind of device launch it more than others?
  • How often is the app crashing? At what point and on what device does it crash the most frequently?
  • What is the conversion rate from app users vs. mobile optimized site / web site?

Answering these questions, among others, will help determine not only the performance of the app, but also help troubleshoot and improve the app over time.

While the web and web sites are unlikely to go away anytime soon, mobile apps present a new opportunity in online marketing that should be taken advantage of wherever it makes sense to do so. To do so will require an understanding of the analysis of mobile apps in order to make the most of them.

Next-Generation Mobile Applications

The adoption of smartphones is increasing at an incredible rate. Nielsen predicts that smartphones will overtake feature phones by the end of 2011. This shift will be the catalyst for innovation in the mobile marketplace. Marketers and their partner agencies need to consider how they’ll create for the next-generation mobile devices.

These next-generation mobile devices will push far beyond current devices in both hardware and software capabilities. Increases in mobile broadband, processing power, image resolution, storage, and connected services will drive innovation.

A competitive mobile platform marketplace dominated by RIM, Apple, and Google has been the primary storyline over the last few years. Previous market leaders such as Nokia and Microsoft are poised to challenge the current leaders and regain market share.

The operating systems that have dominated the marketplace for the last few years have focused on an app-driven paradigm. The central focus was on the capabilities of the individual mobile application. Nokia, RIM, and Apple built successful platforms based around this type of user interaction. More apps in a platform’s market provided the end user with more options and a perceived greater value than other competing platforms.

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Why Omniture Summit 2011 Was the Best So Far

Omniture 2011

I recently attended the Omniture Summit 2011. This conference has really worked on transforming itself from purely a “users’ conference” to an Online / Digital Marketers’ Conference. As a web analyst, especially one who specialized in Omniture products, I have made it a point of attending this conference every year, since I started using Omniture SiteCatalyst in 2005. This year was definitely, in my mind, the best so far for a number of reasons.

Quality Keynote Speakers

This year the two featured keynote speakers were Michael Eisner, former CEO of Disney, and John Gerzema, a world-renowned social theorist on consumerism and its impact on growth, innovation and strategy. They both were very engaging speakers and shared a lot of their wisdom with the attendees.

Michael Eisner’s keynote centered around the theme of “from Gutenberg to Zuckerberg,” looking at how far we’ve come since 1455 in the realm of mass communications. One point in particular that struck me was “to punish failure, is to encourage mediocrity.” His point being that everyone makes mistakes (he personally pointed out the failure of Disney’s Go.com to jump on the paid search bandwagon far too late to rescue that effort against Google and Yahoo). However, if you don’t take risks (and risk making errors), you end up wallowing in mediocrity and never have the chance to achieve something potentially great.

John Gerzema’s keynote centered around the theme of his newest book “Spend Shift.” He discussed concepts like consumers moving from “mindless spending to mindful spending.” Overwhelmingly consumers are migrating more towards brands that share similar values to their own and that they now value brands known for kindness and quality over brands known for mystery and trendiness.

Much Improved Breakout Sessions

The breakout sessions this year were very well done. In years past the breakout sessions felt more like sales pitches, and I often came away from them disappointed. Also there were often problems getting a seat at some of the more popular breakout sessions. This year there were a number of excellent changes to help reduce this. First they encouraged attendees to register for breakout sessions ahead of time – this allowed them to plan the capacity of each better. Additionally each breakout was done in 2 parts – the first half focused on the topic in general, presented by an Omniture speaker. Outside of the specific Omniture product focused sessions, there was a lot less “sales pitch” in these presentations. The second half of each breakout session was a case study from a current Omniture customer. All the ones I attended had very thoughtful case studies that illustrated the point of each session quite well.

Entertainment

It wouldn’t be an Omniture Summit without entertainment and this year there was once again plenty to be had – from the opening reception on Tuesday night, to the lavish party and concert on Wednesday night (with Lenny Kravitz this year), to the after and after-after parties thrown by the various executives from Adobe/Omniture.

That sums up exactly why I felt Omniture Summit 2011 was by far the best Omniture Summit I have yet attended.


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I Love Android

I’ll admit, it’s a newfound love. I’ve always been a Google kind of girl, but when I bought my first smartphone, I went with the iPhone without hesitation.  At the time Android was relatively new, I was already on AT&T and the iPhone app store was miles better (I also hadn’t reached my annoyance threshold with Apple yet, but that’s another story). But then I had the recent good fortune to be able to get my hands on a Nexus One.  There were many things about it that I immediately liked.  Widgets on my home screens give me instant access to data without having to open the app. It synchronizes with my Google account which is really nice for me since I use that account for almost everything. If I lose my phone, I won’t lose my contacts. Hooray! And of course with the newer versions of Android you can view Flash content on your mobile device, which is quite nice.  My largest concern was that the apps available would be lackluster in comparison to those in the Apple app store, but that turned out to not be the case. In fact, I could find nearly every app I had on my iPhone in the Android Market, and those that I couldn’t find had equivalents built by different developers. Oh, and Angry Birds was free!

But none of that is really why I love Android.  It’s a love born of nerdery.

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