Posts Tagged ‘Marketing’

Ten emerging Enterprise 2.0 technologies to watch

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

Two significant and closely related trends in enterprise computing this year are the growth of Software-as-a-service (SaaS) and social computing. By most accounts, both are gaining ground quite rapidly while still not being used for core business functions or mission critical applications in most large firms, at least not yet.

The reality is that broader social and cloud computing trends continue to evolve faster than most enterprises are able to absorb. It may be years before many organizations are comfortable with and ready to adopt either of these technologies strategically despite apparent benefits.

However, that doesn’t mean that it’s not important for organizations to closely track both of these leading computing trends (both have solid double digit industry growth) and understand the emergi

ng technologies that are likely to shape their use in key business functions in the near future. In fact, quite the contrary, particularly when it comes to Enterprise 2.0.

The potential overall impact of enterprise social computing (aka Enterprise 2.0) is significant for most organizations, at least in the medium term. The business functions that are likely to be affected and transformed by these new social business models (and its associated delivery model, SaaS) includes general purpose communication and collaborationproduct developmentcustomer relationship management,marketingoperations, and business productivity solutions. And certainly, ad hoc use and early adopters have already being doing this for years, but as we’ll see, many Enterprise 2.0 technologies are only now becoming a reality. What then, are the areas to watch and build competency in this year?

Keeping social technology in perspective

In terms of innovation, 2010 is shaping up to be another important one in the early development of social technologies in general. To get a sense of this, you can read my recent exploration of what’s happening this year with the latest consumer-oriented Social Web technologies and standards. Though the enterprise aspects of these are often far behind, that hasn’t stopped the industry from moving quickly ahead in terms of creating actual products and new business-ready solutions based on the latest lessons learned.

For organizations looking to keep current, both good timing and judicious application of new Enterprise 2.0 technologies will be needed as organizations increasingly look at their future in terms of a social computing driven knowledge economy. To do this though, we have to put them in the context of the big picture.

When I encounter a successful E2.0 project, it’s one where the process of managing the changes entailed are equally balanced with the savvy application of technology. It’s the concepts behind social computing and their application to economic activity, aka social business, that are the ultimately driver of success with Enterprise 2.0. A full solution is achieved when these ideas combine well with the technology — which is an enabler and not an end in itself — though it is important not to forget that technology does strongly shape and define the art of the possible when it comes to social computing, both in the consumer space and the enterprise.

However I still encounter tool myopia in many discussions of social computing and Enterprise 2.0. It’s sometimes too easy to focus on the specifics, like social tools and their technologies, instead of more difficult and less tangible concerns like driving usage or measuring ROI. Fortunately, this seems less pronounced than a year ago and the “soft” issues surrounding adoption and long-term success, such as community management and other important practices are now getting their due on equal footing with the often flashier and attention-grabbing social tools and technologies themselves.

Now, on to the latest developments…

Ten strategic technologies for enterprise social computing

Below are ten social computing technologies that I believe will be actively developing or maturing this year and either worth exploring or otherwise watching closely for 2010 and beyond. Note that many of these technologies are not based on standards or for which standards often don’t exist, which will be problematic for some organizations. Many of the technologies listed here are primarily embodied in new product categories and for now are represented primarily by commercial products. It likely won’t be long, however, before open source and open standards enter and play an instrumental role in many of these spaces.

  1. Community management tools. One of the signature realizations of the Enterprise 2.0 community in the last year and a half has been theimportance of community management in driving the success of the endeavor. Now, you don’t necessarily need tools to successfully manage an online community, but it can genuinely helps in terms of acquiring good practices as well as automating and scaling the many routine tasks that already harried and frequently overworked community managers are faced with today. The latter is because many enterprises are still learning about social computing requirements and are frequently under-budgeting this essential role. Commercial software is the norm in this space and some of the top solutions include RollstreameModerationTempero, and Essentia.
  2. Open identity. There are many issues swirling around enterprise identity and consumer Web identity at the moment. I’ve postulated in the past that OpenID will actually become a viable vehicle for enterprises to create a single sign-on across the Web for their workers, giving them centralized administration and control of worker identity on the Web and social media (as appropriate), especially in B2B scenarios. But is this actually starting to happen despite folks from large software companies like SAP making the business case? No, not yet, and enterprises are as much as fault as anyone for not demanding better identity integration. Instead, off-premises SaaS and cloud computing offerings are offering basic synchronization with LDAP and other corporate identity repositories. Also becoming more and more important is identity authenticity (which Twitter tried to address with Verified Accounts). Watch for a raft of social identity issues to accumulate and for new enterprise open identity solutions to attempt to address them as our identities on the Social Web increasingly compete and conflict with our enterprise identities.
  3. Microblogging. While wikis have been one of the more common Enterprise 2.0 tools, more popular than blogs by quite a bit from my experience, microblogs are now seen as potentially achieving a higher level of overall traction than both their heavier-weight brethren. There’s a lot to like about microblogs in business settings, along with the valuable activity streams that they generate. Gartner went on record recently saying that they believe integrated microblogging will be in 50% of enterprises in two years, though they are much less sanguine about individual, standalone microblogs. I did a detailed round-up of the space a little while back and came away with the finding that microblogs do make enterprise social media both time efficient and focused while still preserving most or all of what makes Enterprise 2.0 special.
  4. Social CRM. Applying social computing approaches to customer relationship management is getting quite a bit of attention these days. Services such as GetSatisfactionHelpstreamLithium, and many others are aimed at helping enterprises engage with their customers using social tools in new and innovative ways that can reduce support costs and improve customer satisfaction. Along the way Social CRM is also changing the very nature of the relationship that businesses have with their customers and the marketplace, from customer support or contact management processes like they exist today, to one that is more like a long-term partnership of contributing equals. Like so many Enterprise 2.0 subject areas, the big vendors haven’t really arrived in force in this domain and many firms are just opting to use tools like Twitter and Facebook for now to engage with customers while the technologies and products mature. But make no mistake, this space is approaching prime time after a couple of strong years of development and growth.
  5. Enterprise platforms gaining a social layer. As we’re seeing withMicrosoft SharePoint and with Salesforce Chatter, enterprise software vendors are starting to incorporate social computing features within their products at the platform level. This has a number of advantages including providing a consistent, integrated social experience in and across existing apps, unifying security and identity, and so on. For many scenarios, close integration can be more useful than standaloneEnterprise 2.0 products which might not be as connected to actual business activities. However there are disadvantages too, in that there’s often little choice in such models in terms of picking and choosing best-of-breed social capabilities. But the stage is set and social features are increasingly perceived as standard fare in modern software. Expect most large software vendors to have Enterprise 2.0 features of some kind across their products lines in the next year or two at most, which will lead to a discussion of the advent of social operating systems. For now, open source is not a real player in this space, but will likely be in the future.
  6. Activity streams. The output of most online social interactions is a reverse chronological list of activity, such as status updates, posted photos or videos, or shared links. The result is called an activity stream. It’s what you see when you look at a Twitter feeds, your Facebook news feed, or what your co-workers are doing on your enterprise social network home page. There are now standards developing around activity streams, and this will help the business tap into the value they offer. This includes capturing them, archiving them, and using them to further business objectives using a wide variety of practices including social analytics, community management, and compliance monitoring. Look for activity streams to become increasingly popular in enterprises as communication, learning, and situational awareness tools. I expect that standards support to make them interoperable will be of growing importance. Unfortunately, like so many Social Web developments, there are no specific standards for enterprise activity streams yet, though I do believe they will be created at some point in the near future.
  7. Social search, analytics, and filtering. As Enterprise 2.0 makes a much larger volume of actionable information available within organizations, there will be the growing challenge of keeping track of it and finding what you need. While we don’t want to stop this flow of information, we do need to make it manageable and useful. Unfortunately, search, analysis, and filtering tools for social computing environments are still in their infancy and few strong technical solutions exist. But as enterprises realize that employees are going to potentially spend even more time to find the information they need to do their work, some will begin seeking out and applying solutions. For social search, companies such as Coveo and Baynote are starting to offer useful enterprise products. Enterprise social analytics is finally coming in its own and some of the leading offerings include Ingage NetworksConnotate’s Enterprise 2.0 BI and IBM’s new Smart Analytics Cloud.
  8. Enterprise social media workflow. Those that use social media know that there’s a general workflow to the activities, from preparing content and publishing it, then promoting it, tracking the results, and participating in all the conversation that ensues. With multiple channels it can become burdensome to do all of this manually, and while consumer social media have had basic workflow automation tools for some time now, such as and tarpipe, only now are we seeing enterprise-class versions of these same tools. These are often getting added to existing content management workflow tools such as those from HP and the workflow and social networking capabilities of Microsoft SharePoint 2010.
  9. Automated compliance monitoring. One of the less discussed but more important (and often unstated) objections to Enterprise 2.0, especially for public companies and regulated industries, is ensuring that their use is compliant with all local and foreign laws, rules, and regulations. When any worker can easily disseminate information across an entire organization, or even across the world, some organizations want to be aware of problematic situations before they occur. While social media policy for workers has evolved steadily to provide upfront guidance, many companies still want to ensure they can detect compliance violations as quickly as possible before they become an actual problem. Unfortunately, it’s all too common for FRCP, Sarbanes-Oxley, European Union Privacy Laws, HIPAA, eDiscovery, etc. to be somewhat neglected in E2.0 discussions, where most of the focus initially is on benefit and not potential risk. The good news is that even though most large firms using social media today don’t actively police their users (IBM is a good example of this), I do find that most firms that already have automated compliance tools like CompliantPro are usually covered. However, expect that compliance will become an increasingly important feature of Enterprise 2.0 platforms, and firms like Blogtronix actively advertise their E2.0 apps are compliance-friendly for individual industries, like finance.
  10. Next-generation unified communication. Just when enterprise communication was about to get truly unified, social media showed up and fragmented it again. While instant messaging and even SMS is now usually integrated in many enterprises, microblogging, wikis, social networks, and other channels are mostly not, even from leading vendors that get social computing, like Cisco. IBM remains one of the few large vendors that has addressed this and currently supports some Enterprise 2.0 channels in its Lotus SameTime product. Relatively soon, I expect to see a new wave of enterprise unified communication products that include Enterprise 2.0 as a first class citizen. I believe that when this happens, these next-generation unified communications products may actually become a powerful driver of social computing adoption in the enterprise.

While there are certainly other interesting Enterprise 2.0 technologies, in my opinion these seem to be some of the most interesting and/or under-appreciated areas that are worth paying close attention for the near future. While I still find that so much actual Enterprise 2.0 adoption is surprisingly grassroots or otherwise local, the fact that many of these technologies above are just starting to emerge from infancy is also a major reason that social tools are taking longer to appear in the workplace than in the consumer world. Consequently, I do think most of these technologies will genuinely begin to address this disparity.

–Dion Hinchcliffe

In the Game: The New Rules of Social Media Part 3

Friday, February 19th, 2010

By now you’ve read all the myriad ways to start marketing through social media in Part 1 (In the Game: New Rules for Social Media) and Part 2 (In the Game: New Rules for Social Media Part 2) of our debut In the Gamecolumn.

But with all these ideas comes one fairly sizeable risk: fear of wasting too much time on social networking—in addition to uncertainty over the effectiveness of that networking—has kept many advisors who are interested in using social media on the sidelines. But like anything else, once you know how to use social media efficiently, you will start seeing results. Here, in our final look into the rules of social media under FINRA’s new guidelines we reveal how to avoid the major faux pas of adding social networking into your marketing plan—the time suck.


To avoid wasting time on social media, advisors should focus on their target market and centers of influence, not just catch up with old college buddies. One way to make sure of this is to see whether your clients are online—and if they are, which sites they’re using. After all, there’s no point in having a Facebook profile if none of your target market uses that site. One tip to keep in mind, however: Women over the age of 60 are the fastest-growing demographic on Facebook right now, says Kristen Luke, principal of Wealth Management Marketing. Surprised?

You can begin to find out if your clients are social networking by simply asking them in their quarterly meetings or by adding a question to your annual client surveys. If you don’t feel comfortable asking clients if they participate, let them take the reins by adding links to your Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn profiles to your monthly client newsletter.

Just how long should you be spending on social media? To get started, Allie Herzog, president of Integrate PR, recommends spending an hour each day across all of the sites getting comfortable with the conversations, joining industry groups and trying out the different tools. Once you feel comfortable on each of the sites—this could take a few weeks—spending just three hours a week on social media efforts can provide significant results, Herzog says. That’s not so bad now, is it?

To keep track of the amount of time spent using social media, Luke suggests setting aside an hour one day a week, say every Monday, to read an interesting article and post about it on a LinkedIn group’s discussion board and on Twitter. Luke also recommends using applications like Hoot Tweet, which allows users to schedule all their Tweets for the week.


Like all good marketing plans, results are important. But experts insist on being patient with seeing results from social networking—and to expect opportunities to acquire clients, rather than direct referrals.

“Even those who are great at this say it can take a year to get a client,” Luke says.

That’s how long it took for one of Luke’s clients who has heavily integrated social media into her firm’s marketing plan to acquire a client directly from her efforts. However, thanks to the online presence she built for herself, the client was asked to speak at several industry events and was quoted in various magazine articles—all of which produced a bevy of new clientele. See, patience really is key; all you have to do is stay open to the opportunities that may arise through social media.

Patience was also important for Carl Richards (Movers and Shakers 2010). Richards, founder of planning firm Prasada Capital, is now a staunch believer in the power of social media, which he equates to “going to lunch with 1,000 people any time you want.” Not long ago, Richards emailed The New York Times columnist Ron Leiber and told him he appreciated the work he was doing for the planning industry. After several email exchanges—and a quick look at Richards’ Twitter account (@behaviorgap) and blog,, Leiber offered him an opportunity to be a guest expert on the NYT’s “Bucks” blog. Today, Richards is quickly climbing the ranks of the social media universe and is one of the leaders in this space amongst financial planners.

“All you have to do is start saying things you passionately believe in,” Richards says. “I’ve been doing this for five years, pretty heavily for two, and for the first one and a half years it was cricketville—not a word. Then, slowly, one to two people started communicating. It’s amazing what you can accomplish.”

The Portal Pattern: Core Conversion Marketing Strategies

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

The second of the five “core” conversion marketing patterns is the “Portal” pattern. Last month, I talked about the “brochure” pattern. In future posts I will discuss the “eCommerce” pattern, “considered purchase” pattern and “site as a service” pattern.

My goal with this series is to explore three strategies that are conversion deal-breakers for five categories of web sites. Get these strategies right, and you should be able to optimize your way to higher and higher conversion rates. Get any of these wrong, and you will find yourself struggling to improve.

For this discussion, I assume you are generating reasonably qualified traffic and that your offering has a demand in the marketplace.

The portal pattern

Also known as the “advertising model” and “subscription model,” The portal pattern can be identified by the following characteristics:

  • The site itself is the service. Portals are most often content focused.
  • The site “monetizes” the content through advertising, with some sort of pay-to-view strategy, or by offering complimentary products and services.
  • Consumption is usually spontaneous. Visitors don’t think long about whether or not they are going to consume the content.

Sites built on the portal pattern include news sites, research sites, educational sites, forums and association sites. Most revenue-generating blogs follow the portal pattern.

Overall, the primary goals of a portal are to get people to stick around, to view more pages, and to join or subscribe. Here are the conversion strategies that will impact these goals most.

The home page

Many businesses design their site believing the home page is crucial to conversion. In this case, it is. If designed correctly, the home page will be the primary landing page for the site, though portals are often well suited to bringing search traffic to internal pages. Great content is the best organic search strategy.

I invite you see the home page as a traffic driver for the content. Just as you would advertise on other web sites, you advertise your content on your own home page. In this sense the home page is more akin to a search engine result page, or SERP. It helps a visitor identify which content they will investigate within your area of focus. For the information portal, the home page is like a magazine cover.

The home page must be laid out to quickly route the visitor to items of interest. Specific content should be featured. Many of these sites provide their most important stories on the home page. This is particularly true of the blogosphere, where the most recent articles appear on the home page.

The home page should say little about the company providing the information. If it is important that your company or products be highlighted, you probably should look at the “considered purchase” pattern, which I will discuss in another post.


Visitors have different navigation needs. The brothers Eisenberg have a nice way to model this in their book Waiting for Your Cat to Bark? where they define four “modes of persuasion,” or whatSitetuners professor Tim Ash would rather call “cognitive styles.” Your readers may favor some of these modes, and this model will help prioritize investments in navigation features.

A visitor in a “competitive” mode may be trying to solve a problem or stay up-to-date on a topic.Site search is critical if you’re attracting such visitors. Make sure your search engine doesn’t return a raft of irrelevant results. These visitors may lose patience quickly if they don’t find what they’re looking for near the top of your search results.

Visitors that in a “methodical” mode want to go deep on a topic. They will appreciate the traditional “drill down” style of navigation that most sites employ. Nested menus and category trees appeal to them. Links to related content on are also appreciated.

Visitors arriving in a “spontaneous” mode may be browsing. They are looking for an excuse to engage. They move on quickly if they don’t find something relevant content. Advertise specific content on the home page for these visitors. Intuitive categorization of the content will also help them find something of interest. They may also be drawn to categories like “Newest” and “most popular.” They’ll respect a site that categorizes content using terms that they are looking for, not just by industry conventions.

A visitor arriving in a “humanist” mode may be relationship-oriented and interested in what others think. Let them explore content on an author-by-author basis.

Site maps and bread crumbs are additional navigation tools that have proven to aid stickiness and conversion rates.

Your internal content pages are your landing pages. Each should offer the reader ways to explore additional content. Consider adding site search, proper categorization, author pages and related content features to these pages in addition to your traditional navigational menus.


What a tragedy it is to entice someone to subscribe to your site with your fine content, only to chase them away with a poor purchase process. It’s easy to rationalize that these visitors weren’t really ready to purchase. However, web site optimization efforts have proven successful in decreasing abandonment rates in shopping carts and registration processes. Maybe you’re the one who’s not ready.

While some abandons are the result of a visitor getting distracted at their computer, many are the result of unanswered questions and poor trust-building in the purchase process. For someone you’ve asked to provide their credit card number, anything your site does that leaves a question in their mind—or places one there—will cause them to reconsider.

Of the three strategies listed here, you might focus on this one first.

The first step is to know what your abandonment rate is. Subtract the number of people who become customers from the number of people who click your “join” button. This is the number of visitors who abandon your process before finishing. Divide this number by the total number of visitors who click “join,” and you get the percentage of people who don’t—or can’t—get through your purchase process.

It stands to reason that, if you have a pay-to-view business model, you’ve got to make it easy for people to sign up. Most visitors have a natural resistance to parting with their money. Any friction generated by your purchase process will increase your abandonment rates and decrease the number of paid readers you have.

Maybe the portal pattern should be called the “obvious” pattern. These strategies are the primary concerns for many web sites. However, this pattern stands as a contrast to the other patterns: Brochure, eCommerce, Considered Purchase and Site as a Service. These patterns have different make-or-break strategies, which I will explore in future installments.

Examples to explore

How well are these portal pattern sites serving their visitors?

–Brian Massey

How To Boost Your Super Bowl ROI

Monday, February 8th, 2010

Consider that $3 million you just dropped on a 30-second Super Bowl spot a waste of money — unless you’ve got a smart, calculated search-and-social-media strategy behind it.

Last year, the ads from the big game racked up 99.5 million collective online views, according to Visible Measures, which talliesviral-video data; 98.7 million people watched the game on TV, per Nielsen. It’s further proof that while Super Bowl is still valuable because it’s one of the last high-profile, mass-media TV events, it’s maximized with an ongoing online effort.

“Social media provides a longer shelf life for people’s campaigns,” said Anthony Iaffaldano, senior director-strategy and innovation at Reprise Media. “It’s about who’s got a plan in place to take the equity they’re building through all this activity and activate it after the game. Social media becomes more valuable as you continue to engage.”

About 90% of brands had their Super Bowl ads up on YouTube in 2009, estimates a Google executive, although that’s just the bare minimum. A quarter of the brands in the Bowl tapped social networks to try to drive additional comments, ratings and conversation. And more than two-thirds bought paid-search ads against their brands or products.

This year, those figures will be even higher, setting the stage for what might be the most significant study to date on the interplay between paid and earned media. Marketers such as E-Trade are already planning how they’re going to extend their spots online.

And while the buzz of the game’s commercials will provide a healthy dose of PR value, most of the big winners from past years alsorelied on paid-media support. Visible Measures said paid promotion more than doubled the reach of a Super Bowl ad on the web. In that regard, brands in the game have come a long way. In 2005, only 21% bothered buying paid search around Super Bowl ads; last year that figure more than tripled to 65%, according to Reprise Media, which creates an annual Super Bowl scorecard rating advertisers’ online efforts.

So it’s no surprise the online-video-sharing sites are building major programs around the Super Bowl, hoping to capitalize off the dollars marketers will be putting against the game. YouTube is again promoting its Ad Blitz, and has created an entire editorial channel around the event, complete with its own custom content it can sell.

“One thing marketers are struggling with is ‘Do we put [the ad] up on our site and try to drive people there?’ or ‘Do we put the content on other sites?’” said Andrew Budkofsky, senior VP-sales and partnerships at “It depends on the marketer and its goals — if you’re running a specific promotion you might send people to your site and that’s why we do the custom content — so we can speak to a promotion and do editorial plugs. We can create custom content in a video.”

Here are lessons from Super Bowl’s past to make sure you make the most of the big game.


According to Google, searches for “Super Bowl commercials” start rising about a week before the game at a rate of 10% to 20% a day leading up to the game. (They peaked the day after the Bowl.) Meanwhile, Visible Measures reports pre- and post-game buzz can account for more than 50% of a campaign’s reach.

E-Trade is the poster child for a smart pre-game strategy; last year it released outtakes from its talking toddler campaign several days ahead of time. It took over the YouTube home page the Thursday before the game to promote the spots.

E-Trade also bought search terms on YouTube as well as on the main engines and set up a Facebook and Twitter account. Today, the E-Trade baby is still yammering away to its 3,000-plus Twitter followers. (A recent gem: “Can someone give me the 411 for the tooth fairy? Are milk teeth a commodity? If not, mine are staying in my mouth.”) No surprise, it’s back in the game again this year and already working on its online push.


Doritos has epitomized this for the past two years, running contests to see who could create the big game spot. The strategy capitalizes on the fact that friends and families of the finalists spread the word around the web since votes help determine the winner.

GoDaddy falls into this category as well. While its ads appeal to the lowest common denominator, the narrative it’s built around them generates interest. Several weeks before the 2008 game, CEO Bob Parsons started moaning that early versions of the ad were too racy for network TV — but not too racy for In 2009 the ads were approved in advance, but viewers got to vote on which ones they wanted to see in the game. Visible Measures also advises leaving room for social interpretation — will the ad be spoofed? Is there something for viewers to discuss?

BUY SMART SEARCH TERMS recognized competition for search terms such as “Super Bowl ads” would be stiff, so it also bought terms related to its incredibly detailed ad about a genius named David Abernathy. Among its more obscure paid-search terms were “Gompers,” the name of Abernathy’s pet rabbit, and “Aristotle,” his guinea pig.

Smart search is also about recognizing what people are likely not searching for the day after your ad airs. “People searching for Super Bowl ads may not be directly interested in peripheral marketing campaigns,” said Jerry Canning, finance industry director at Google.


Gone are the days when a CMO can enjoy an uninterrupted game in the network’s luxury box. Today smart marketers will be talking on Twitter, tweaking search campaigns and leaving no rock unturned in their quest to drive impressions. Like E-Trade’s baby, the star of H&R Block’s spot, Tax Guy Murray, turned up on Twitter and actively reached out to people talking about the ad or taxes — during the game. “My prediction is this year you’ll have armies of marketers fanning the flames of their ads on Twitter,” said Pete Blackshaw, exec VP, Nielsen Digital Strategic Services. “‘Did you like it? Check out this link. Thanks so much for the high five.’ Marketers are getting smarter about taking the earliest signals, even from early PR events, and parlaying those into something that would increase odds.”

Real-time thinking also applies to media buying. Search is a near-immediate channel and marketers can monitor the conversation and help that inform their buying. You might also consider holding money back so you can make short-notice buys on the sites where the campaign is getting the most traction.


Denny’s had one of the most-talked-about promotions — a free Grand Slam breakfast — but forgot to offer up a URL or other direction where people could get more information. According to Reprise Media’s Scorecard, the marketer’s website crashed right after the ad aired and was down for the rest of the game.

And if you’re going to do some sort of call to action — or buy paid media or search — make sure the landing page fits. In other words, don’t do what Pixar did last year. According to Reprise, it had a call to action and a URL with previews — something the other films in the game lacked. But, it wrote “in spite of this, the actual site was not integrated at all with the Super Bowl ad and there were no paid search ads to help direct confused searchers to the ‘right’ page.”

Technology leading to more invasive marketing

Monday, February 8th, 2010

Sure, flying cars may not be zooming near the windows of our 40th-floor lofts and robots with aprons aren’t cooking our meals, but the future is getting here. Unfortunately, it’s starting to look like something between “Minority Report” and “1984” – at least when it comes to marketing.

Advertisers and retailers are increasingly using technologies to mine for consumers’ demographical information, create super-personalized ads and zero in on people’s shopping habits.

Proponents say new technologies are getting products that consumers want into their hands faster and eliminating ads that don’t speak to them. But privacy advocates are concerned no one’s asking people if they want targeted ads or if they agree to be studied as they shop.

Last September, a Castrol oil campaign in London used cameras along roads to capture license plates of passing vehicles, then cross-referenced them with vehicle registration records, and displayed in a digital billboard a few feet away a targeted ad suggesting which type of oil the drivers should use.

The campaign, however, lasted only four days. Shortly after it started, British transportation authorities launched an investigation of the oil firm’s access to vehicle registration records.

Meanwhile, a handful of Whole Foods grocery stores in Chicago and Canada installed cameras last year that use facial recognition software to analyze passing shoppers and cater ads to them.

According to an Intel video showcasing the anonymous video analytics detection software powering the digital ads, the program helps marketers “understand how many people watch their displays, how long they look, what content is viewed, as well as audience demographics.”

And for almost a decade, a few retailers have studied the way costumers navigate through their stores using radio frequency devices attached to shopping carts and baskets that track their path through the aisles. When the data of thousands of shoppers are processed, marketers can produce what looks like a heat signature map that reveals the most and least visited spots in the store.

“Retailers have a very poor understanding of what shoppers do in a store,” said Herb Sorensen, scientific adviser for TNS Global and the creator of the radio-frequency identification device PathTracker. “What we’re doing is finding a way to help the shopper get what they want much faster. The faster we can sell to them, the happier they will be.”

In a report released in late January, the World Privacy Forum said retailers aren’t doing enough to inform consumers about how they are being recorded, how their information is being used or even allow them to consent to the practice.

“While most consumers understand a need for security cameras, few expect that the video screen they are watching, the kiosk they are typing on, or the game billboard they are interacting with is watching them while gathering copious images and behavioral and demographic information,” the report said.

In particular, the forum expressed concern about the lack of rules regarding how images of minors are used and the possibility of price discrimination based on consumers’ age, gender and ethnicity.

“Just because the companies have decided that the lack of storage or recording of the data is equivalent to privacy does not mean that consumers should be left in the dark about such technologies,” the report said.

Sorensen argued that in a public space people don’t have any presumption of privacy.

“People’s lives are becoming more transparent. Everything that can be done will be done.

“Everybody can be tracked, everybody will be tracked,” he said.

–Alejandro Martínez-Cabrera

Industry Calls for Standardized Email Metrics

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

The Email Experience Council is pushing to standardize metrics it has developed after a two-year research endeavor that included surveying dozens of email broadcast vendors.

The bottom-line reason for its call for industry-accepted metrics, it says in its blog, is that it has become impossible to compare response and deliverability rates when terms are based on different calculations.

The result of the work of its volunteer committee, Measurement Accuracy Roundtable, is a newly created and vetted list of definitions of key measures,  [pdf]. The EEC is asking for industry input with a survey on its site as well as feedback on the definitions.

Ongoing Debate

Much of this debate has been taking place in the email marketing community for some time. Almost a year ago Loren McDonald, co-chair of the EEC Measurement Accuracy Roundtable, posted his views on why the EEC wanted to see the term ‘render rate’ replace ‘open rate at the Deliverability blog.

“The open rate has become extremely inaccurate because disabled images, use of preview panes and HTML-unfriendly mobile devices lead to an underreporting of the true number of opens,” he wrote. “Fellow EEC Roundtable member Morgan Stewart has done analysis across several ExactTarget clients and estimates a typical underreporting of from 5% to 35%. Meaning a measured 30% open rate is actually from 31.5% to 40.5%.”

Industry Trends

As the industry talks about new metrics it would also be helpful to consider the changes in the larger shifts taking place. In a recent Mailer Mailer Email Marketing Metrics Report [pdf], the company again noted that open rates are becoming less accurate with many people reading email from hand held devices and disabling image downloading.

“The fact that click rates remained fairly steady suggests that people are still reading the messages even though fewer opens are being reported.”

Alternative Measures

There is also a case to be made for considering – if not formalizing – alternative metrics, according to a post by Chad Horenfeldt at Eloqua.

Besides the typical benchmarks such as those provided by MarketingSherpa, Horenfeldt suggested the following:

  • Automated Email Metrics. “The goal is to demonstrate that key email metrics such as opens, click-throughs and conversions are much higher while unsubscribes are much lower using an automated program such as lead nurturing when compared to manual email sends (“one offs”). It would be very useful to B2B marketers to have benchmarks to track if their automated campaigns are trending upwards or downwards year after year.”
  • How Email Contributes Further Down the Sales/Marketing Funnel. Increasingly marketers need to prove the value of their marketing spend in even greater detail, he says. “Email opens as an example is not good enough. What we need to see is metrics such as the number of marketing touches (including email) that lead to an opportunity and/or closed deal. This data needs to go beyond the communications that marketing is sending but should combine the efforts from marketing AND sales.”
  • Database Accuracy Metrics. “I would like to see metrics that include the percentage completeness of contacts for key contact fields and the resulting email response metrics for campaigns that involve data that has been cleansed.”
  • Multi-channel Metrics. “It would be very helpful to see which channels combined with email were the most successful in certain situations.”

5 Signs Signs You Need a Website Redesign Now

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

Back in 2005, you took your business online with the latest and most cutting edge eCommerce technologies. Now, almost half a decade later, your website is still chugging along, but that once shiny layer of digital paint is now showing signs of age.

Does this story sound familiar?

Standards, styles, and best practices on the web change at lightning speed, and although your website may still be completely functional, you may be warding off potential customers and clients unknowingly. Here are 5 questions you need to ask yourself to see if your website needs a redesign, pronto.

Question 1: In terms of speed, how fast is your website? You’ve worked hard to get your visitors to show up at your website’s door – don’t put them to sleep with long load times. Numerous studies have been conducted and all of them have found the same result: Longer load times = less visitors = less business.

A study conducted by Akamai in 2006 found that if your website takes longer than four seconds to fully load, 33%, or one-third, of all visitors will abandon your site. Additionally, Amazon found that a 100ms increase in site load time would result in a 1% decrease in sales, while Google found that an increase of 500ms on load time would directly result in a drop in traffic and revenue by 20%.

Whatever numbers you go by, the one takeaway is that your website needs to load, fast. Try optimizing your website by compressing images for the web, aggregating and cleaning out your CSS, and removing old, unnecessary content to reduce HTTP requests. You can also try switching webhosts if loading issues persist.

Question 2: Does your website lack consistency? Although it may not seem like it, consistency in major elements on all pages of your site is a must. Elements like navigation, fonts and colors, URL format, and editorial style should show consistency throughout your website as it shows your professionalism and attention to detail when conducting business.

If your site is riddled with typos, mismatching font sizes, and non-loading images, not only will it impact the credibility of your website but can also negatively affect your search engine optimization strategy, which can result in lowered sales.

Sites like Yahoo!, eBay, and the BBC have hundreds if not thousands of pages online at any given time, yet almost all of those pages have a similar feel, design, and editorial style. Browse through, compare, and take notes, and see if your website maintains a solid level of consistency when compared to some major leaguers.

Question 3: Does your website scream sensory overload? Don’t try to throw text, imagery, links, icons, buttons, ads, or whatever else at your visitor right off the bat. Information overload will prevent you from surfacing the most important information on your website while delivering a load of clutter your visitor will have to sift through. You’ll be shocked to see how quickly a set of eyes can glaze over. (Check out this info-mess here.)

Take a minute to review the different types of information hierarchies used today at, and while you’re at it, analyze how the information on your website is organized. Matching the contents of your website up with the right information architecture will not only produce more efficient visitors but will also produce more efficient shoppers as well.

Question 4: Does your website look old-school? Technologies aren’t the only thing that evolve at a break-neck pace online – styles do too. Whatever style was hot back in ’05 probably isn’t what’s hot right now. Here’s how Message Web Designs explains it:

Just like hairstyles, websites date. What was all the rage a couple of years ago is now seen as passé… Sometimes this is down to design trends – like the 3D buttons and interfaces that were so popular a few years back when graphics tools made it easy to create bevel and emboss styles. Other times it’s because the web is maturing and web designers develop a better understanding of what visitors want. For instance, Flash intro pages were all the rage until web designers realised that users didn’t like them and wanted to get straight to the content. Flash introductions are the beehive hairdo of the web design world: dated, impractical and utterly pointless.

Question 5: Does your website render perfectly? And by perfectly, I mean perfectly, in all browsers on all operating systems, and on all platforms with no text overlapping and no extra scroll bars anywhere, etc. You absolutely do not want to degrade your customer’s user experience based on their choice of browser, regardless of if it’s Internet Explorer on Windows, Firefox on Mac, or even Safari on iPhone.

You don’t need to install every browser and operating system ever created to test out browser compatibility. Check out 9 Tools For Multi-Browser Web Development to take a quick snapshot of how your website may look through another user’s shoes – you might be shocked at the results.

20% of Tweets are Brand-Oriented

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

A study by a research team at Penn State has found that 20% of Tweets tend to be brand-related, for better or for worse.

“People are using tweets to express their reaction, both positive and negative, as they engage with these products and services,” said Jim Jansen, associate professor of information science and technology. “Tweets are about as close as one can get to the customer point of purchase for products and services.”

Alongside IST doctoral student Mimi Zhang, undergrad Kate Sobel and Twitter CSO Abdur Chowdhury, examined the phenomenon of micro-communicating, particularly its value as a word-of-mouth medium. Over a half-million tweets were reviewed over the course of their observation.

Specifically, the team sought out tweets that mention brands to find out why the brand was mentioned — to review a product, inform others, or otherwise — and discovered that brand-tweeters do so in order to connect with products.

“Businesses use micro-communication for brand awareness, brand knowledge and customer relationship,” Janson said. “Personal use is all over the board.” He added, “It may be right up there with e-mail in terms of its communication impact.”

20% of the tweets contained product information in the form of asking or providing, lending companies — which increasingly use Twitter for brand-building, brand awareness and CRM — a “rich source” of information regarding their wares.

“A lot of the brand comments were positive,” he admitted. “There are some good products out there, or at least products that people are happy with.”

This is among the first academic studies in the arena of micro-communication in business. Jansen is using it to lay groundwork for other oeuvres, including a study that queries how companies manage and use their Twitter accounts.

Word-of-Mouth Marketing

Monday, June 2nd, 2008

Word of mouth is the most powerful and sought after type of marketing. If your people are referring you to to their friends and family, who in turn refer to their friends and family, your likely-hood of closing is much, much higher – and its free!

There have been numerous studies done that found other customer’s testimonials are much more believable than shout advertising. WOM is so powerful there is even a Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) that meets every year.

Why is it so powerful? Its trusted, its self-reinforcing (here it from many personal sources and its got to be true), and its self-perpetuating (the viral effect of others spreading it).

What are some technologies that employ WOM?
Community forums and ratings & reviews. Forums allow the product enthusiasts to discuss with each other your product. Check to see if a forum about your product or service already exists. If not, you can easily start one and kick off the forum which relevant questions. Let your lead customers drive WOM inside the forum to other spectators.

Ratings and reviews are huge. If you saw 30 Five-star ratings for a podcast with 30 positive reviews in iTunes on a topic you’re considering learning about (i.e. the stock market, real estate) and the other podcast had little or no activity, which you would consider downloading and listening to? iTunes’ ratings and review section is a huge initiator of downloads and subscriptions. Utilizing these features can add big-time listenership to your podcast.