iSPOT uSPOT Super Bowl 2008

iSPOT uSPOT logoThe folks at CW Consulting Group are excited about Super Bowl XLII this coming Sunday, February 3rd. Like millions of people, we won’t only be watching the game–we’ll be viewing what promises to be the most talked about TV spots this year.

In the spirit of Social Media–CW Consulting is soliciting comments as part of its iSPOT uSPOT program. Join in the conversation, and tell us your impressions of the :30 and :60 spots aired on February 3rd.

  • Spot and report on an example of social media marketing in a Super Bowl ad. (see suggestions below)
  • Tell us why you think it works.
  • Were you enticed to visit the company’s website and join a conversation?

The most insightful post will receive a Tom Brady replica Jersey. Five runners up will receive a Amazon.com mp3 gift card for $25.

Winners will be announced by close of business on Monday, February 4th.

Tell us what uSPOT!

Suggestions from CWCG Blogger, Amy Rosenfield:
As you join in the conversation on Sunday, telling us what uSPOT regarding social media in Super Bowl ads, pay particular attention to how advertisers are engaging you as a customer. Today’s social media strategies attempt to solicit conversation. However, this conversation is no longer about “announcing” or “delivering,” but instead, about “talking” and “participating.” By watching the ad, are you enticed to visit a web site? Are you invited to offer an opinion on a blog or message board? Effective marketers should make it easy for you to join in the market conversation, eliminating any boundaries to involvement and creating, instead, the sense of taking part in something big. The “word of web” can be highly powerful!

Have fun as uSPOT and GO PATS!

  • Employees and contractors of CW Consulting Group and their families are not eligible for prizes.

Begin by Being Curious

curious george

“Time is too slow for those who wait;
Too swift for those who fear.”
-from Henry Van Dyke

Everyone seems to be talking these days about how technology is enabling people to connect in ways we haven’t been able to before. How social media is revolutionizing the ways businesses are communicating with consumers. And how the way to succeed this year will be by embracing new marketing tactics.

Frankly, all this talk about social media and web 2.0 has made me flashback to the late 80′s and 90′s, and the awe my co-workers and I felt the first time we used PC’s, watched our first incoming fax, used browsers on our desktop, sent an email to not only one individual–but an entire department.

Even as those technologies unfolded before our eyes there were still many among us who insisted to wear blinders, and ignored making the Internet a major component of our marketing plan. For some reason they couldn’t accept that communication was changing. Changing big time.

You know what? It’s changing again.

But what do you do if you don’t feel ready–have doubts, or are fearful about change? As Seth Godin suggests, a good place to begin is by being curious; having a desire to understand, a desire to try, and a desire to push the envelope.

Here are two steps you can take this week:

  • Listen to the recording from the January 23rd teleseminar with Seth Godin, Chris Anderson, Tim Ferris and John Jantsch. You can even download it to your ipod.
  • Register for “Reveal the One Thing That Will Make or Break Your Marketing Efforts in 2008″ the January 29th teleseminar scheduled with Seth Godin, Tim Sanders, Andy Wibbels, and Pamela Slim.

Now, take a deep breath and repeat after me–change is good.

Say goodbye to the "average" customer

Thanks to MITX for hosting last week’s “The 2008 Digital State, Social Media: the Opportunities and Implications for Marketers” panel event. I left the session with some great insights on the emerging world of social media. One concept that particularily interested me involved micro-segmentation. As the session moderator, Larry Weber, of W2 Group stated, “Micro-segmentation is where marketing is going.” Where traditional marketing tended to go “mile-wide, inch-deep” – the social Web is taking marketing “inch-wide, and mile deep.”

Micro-segmentation is a marketing strategy that refines a market into smaller segments based on common traits. From a B2C perspective, micro-segmentation in the Web 2.0 world is more overt. As consumers participate in online communities and social networks, whether it be Facebook, MySpace or Eons – they are, by default, placing themselves into micro-segments. As panelist, Suzanne Skop of MySpace discussed, they can easily group visitors with similar likes and interests – such as a favorite band or CD.

With the increased transparency and onset of social media, what we used to call “the average customer” really does not exist. As marketers we need to communicate with a larger number of “smaller” groups to deliver a more targeted campaign. Companies, whether B2C or B2B, are required to produce more relevant communications and content for their specific audiences. As Larry Weber stated, “content will still be the king.” Visualize your audience and gear specific content toward it. Marketers need to provide content across various forms to ensure their customers are finding the information they require in the proper medium they prefer – such as podcasts, online video, blogs or social networks. The “one size fits all” approach is no longer viable.

The new ROI, social media style

Social Networking DiagramLast night, Amy, Debbie and I attended Massachusetts Innovation & Technology Exchange’s (MITX) Social Media: the Opportunities and Implications for Marketers, which was held in Boston’s Faneuil Hall.

The place was jam-packed with marketers from the top Boston agencies and CMOs from hundreds of companies, all looking for insight on how to use social networking in their marketing mix. Panelists from the B2C crowd were from studiocom, mySpace.com, eons.com, and facebook.com.

The great news is that we learned about the B2B side, too. Pauline Ores, IBM’s Social Media Marketing Strategist shared how she is creating social networks for the behemoth company of over 300,000 employees, giving customers direct access to technologists who can help them solve problems, citing that the intellectual resources of a company are extremely valuable to the customer. Social networks that support technical help desk and customer service are some of the examples of how the employees who already touch your customers via the phone can be of help to a broader audience in a blog or another social network program.

As always, the question a marketer wants answered is: what the return on investment? How do I quantify these networks? Social networks may have some click-through type metrics, but just like conventional PR, customer satisfaction and brand exposure are difficult to quantify.

Tom Arrix, VP of Sales, East for Facebook told me that the new ROI is Return on Involvement. When your customer gets help in solving their problem, when your company’s thought leaders interact with them, the return is customer satisfaction and brand loyalty.

A special thanks to Larry Weber of W2 Group for moderating an excellent panel. We look forward reporting on all of the social media programs that MITX has to offer in the coming months.

A World Without the Internet?

labyrinthDavid Pogue of the New York Times wrote a post this past week, “Imagine a World Without Apple, Bloggers, Google or Dell,”which included a parody of original lyrics to the tune of John Lennons “Imagine.”

“You may say it’d be a nightmare
Without Google, Mac or Dell
We might have real conversations–
But the world would be dull as hell!”

Albeit the lyrics are humorous but at the same time they’re thought-provoking. Pogue says he was inspired to write the song after hearing someone comment how electronics and the Internet are now completely meshed into the fabric of our society–what would it be like if it all went away?

You know as well as I do, simply typing anything into your favorite search engine–and voilà there’s your answer and so much more; everything from the preposterous to the plausible.

For me, I realize my feelings about the Internet are fairly simple–it’s about a longing and quest for information. Truth be told, I feel the same way about libraries and bookstores.

As an employee of a division of Harvard University Press many years back, I had the benefit of having access to the stacks at Harvard’s Widener Library. For me walking the floors of Widener was akin to a labyrinth—like a spiritual journey into a vast land of information.

I still feel that way today as I follow the Dewey Decimal signs around the circular second floor of our local public library; in search of a book I’ve looked up from the comfort of my home, through the online catalog.

Recently I was delighted to stumble upon Lewis Buzbee’s book The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop. I completely identify with his sentiments:

“When a bookstore opens its doors, the rest of the world enters, too…books of facts and truths, books newly written and those first read centuries before, books of great relevance and of absolute banality…I can’t help but feel the possibility of the universe unfolding a little, once upon a time.”

Not only does the Internet unfold the universe before our eyes, once upon a time– but also back to the future, and to the future and beyond.

Time Magazine wrote a great piece in June 2007, “25 Sites We Couldn’t Live Without.” Many of the sites I would find hard living without are on their list e.g. Amazon, Google, Technorati, Deli.icio.us, and YouTube.

What would it be like if the Internet went away? I have to admit, for me, the world would be a much duller place; void of a world of information separated by only a few clicks away.

How about you? I’m curious–what would it be like if the Internet suddenly went away? What are the sites you couldn’t live without?

Social Knowing

global conversationsI couldn’t help but to overhear a conversation in a bookstore the other day. A customer asked the clerk whether they had a book about Pakistan that she heard discussed on the radio a little earlier that morning. She thought it was a new book, but didn’t catch the title or author’s name. The clerk tried to look it up on the New Books in Print database, but said it would be too hard to find with such limited information.

The clerk, determined not to give up, called over a few aisles to her co-worker and asked if he was aware of any new books about Pakistan, explaining her customer had heard about it on a radio interview. “No…what station was it on?” he asked. The customer said it was National Public Radio. They decided to go online to search NPR’s website. From the sound of excitement in their voices, I could tell they found what they were looking for. Wouldn’t you know it, my cell phone rang at that exact moment, confirming the place I was to meet a friend. I needed to leave.

I was thinking about the conversation later in the day. It came to mind for a few reasons:

  • I’d been in the middle of reading Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin, a book about Pakistan, for my next book group– which probably explained why my ears perked up in the bookstore.
  • I’d been thinking about the deadline for today’s blog post and the book, Everything is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder by David Weinberger, which I had intended to write about in an upcoming post. I’d heard about the book several weeks ago on Paul Gillin’s blog.
    The ideas all converged in my mind, and reminded me of the chapter “Social Knowing” in Weinberger’s book where he writes:

    “Social media is about ways to share information with one another. It’s about tags, categories, bookmarks and the rest…Knowledge isn’t in our heads: It is between us. It emerges from public and social thought and it stays there, because social knowing, like the global conversations that give rise to it, is never finished.”

    The knowledge was definitely between us that morning. It was between the bookstore customer, the clerk, a book about Pakistan, the Books in Print database, the co-worker, NPR’s website, my cell phone, Three Cups of Tea, my unwritten blog post, and Everything is Miscellaneous.

    A few minutes ago, I searched NPR’s website to find the title and author of the book in question. In case you’re wondering it was A Golden Age by Tahmima Anam. The interview was on Morning Edition with Lynn Neary and aired on Friday, January 11, 2008. After reading about Anam’s first novel, I’ve added it to my reading list.

    And so, the global conversation continues as this post makes its way into the blogosphere– and onto your screen. Where will it go next?

The marketing budget blues

I had dinner with a former colleague last night.  Our paths initially crossed about five years ago when the software services firm I was working for began outsourcing its PR activities.  Sarah was my go-to person at this PR agency.  Ironically, since that time, our roles have somewhat flipped.  Sarah is now on a steep learning curve on the “client-side” of marketing for an engineering services organization, while I am enjoying the unique “agency-like” challenges that marketing consulting brings to the table.  

We enjoyed dinner, exchanging personal stories and reminiscing about old friends and co-workers.  Our conversation shifted to work.  ”How’s work going?” I asked.   Sarah raised her glass and replied, “let’s just say we need to toast to the fact that I survived my first year of managing the marketing budget.”  Sarah shared with me some of her marketing budget blues- many of which sounded way too familiar to me. 

#1   We both had experienced what is called a top-down approach to marketing budgets, meaning you get what seems to be an arbitrary decree from finance or the corner office that you have $X to spend over a set period of months. The problem with this budgeting method is the lack of alignment with company performance and growth. 

I’ve seen the dollar figure change randomly, rather than be treated as a percentage of a company’s annual revenue.  The popular marketing resource center, Go-to Marketing Strategies suggests in a recent article entitled, “Tackling the Marketing Budget Process,” that when dealing with a top-down budget approach, you “should look to get a commitment from management that makes the marketing budgetary number a percentage of revenue to keep the number from increasing or decreasing at whim.”  There are various schools of thought on what this magic percentage figure should be.   As a general guideline, Go-to Marketing Strategies indicates that 8-10% of annual revenue should be spent on marketing, with about 5% of that spent on labor resources.

#2  We both have wrestled with the appropriate budget allocation of marketing dollars between traditional marketing tactics such as tradeshows, direct mailers, etc.  and online marketing programs.  This challenge is now exacerbated with the expansion of social media. 

I’m not aware of any rule of thumb regarding a magic percentage of the marketing budget that should be dedicated to online programs.  Your marketing mix is highly dependent on your target audience, product and/or service offerings, as well as your business goals – to name a few factors.  Blackfriar Communications recently published its “Sizing US Marketing 2006 Report.”  Findings show that B2B companies spend more online than B2C companies (17% for B2B and 15% for B2C).   This largely appears to be due to more online advertisting.  Although as Jon Miller points on his recent post on Future Labs Marketing and Strategy Innovation blog, “this average number masks a wide range, with some companies spending 100% of their marketing programs online and some companies spending nothing.”

Do our marketing budget blues ring true for you?  Or, if you’ve also toasted to sweet success in your budgeting efforts, I’d love to hear your success stories.

 

 

Making it Really Simple

rss feed icon

The other morning my newspaper wasn’t delivered. Not a big deal, it only happens a few times a year. Although it did make me think that if the paper wasn’t delivered right to my doorstep every morning, I probably wouldn’t make a trip up to the corner store to buy it.

I’m receiving news more and more these days from online sources–some stories are delivered to my inbox via Google Alerts and others through Really Simple Syndication (RSS). If it wasn’t for RSS, I wouldn’t find the time to visit most of my favorites sites.

RSS feeds are still fairly misunderstood and underutilized.

  • Marshall Kilpatrick defined it this way, “RSS is a system you can use to set up a special inbox to receive automatic notification of any new information available from a wide variety of sources: news sites, blogs and even searches. Just subscribe once and you’ll get updates from whatever sources you chose automatically.”
  • Blogger, Stephanie Quilao, has a rather interesting way of explaining RSS, which she refers to as Oprah speak – think of RSS as standing for: “I’m Ready for Some Stories.”
  • Lee LeFever of Commoncraft made a great video (embedded below), where he demonstrates how RSS works, and how to set up a connection between the reader and your favorite websites.

I use Google Reader as my feedreader, and as a result am keeping up with the news much more efficiently. Home delivery doesn’t get much simpler than this. Hmm, at least for now–that is.

Who knows what will be coming down the Pike next?

Was your holiday party this interesting?

Watch Your StepToday at the CW Consulting Group holiday party we shared our experiences about Stumble Upon, an online tool that serves up websites to you based on your preferences. It refines what it delivers based on the ratings you give each site– either a thumbs up or a thumbs down. The tool also allows you to forward sites to your friends and colleagues as they are served up. We talked about how we might use this tool for fun and for professional discovery. We have had similar discussions about Del.icio.us, a bookmarking site that allows you to share your bookmarks with your colleagues and friends.

Amy Rosenfield, who also posts this blog, created a profile with her age and photo on Stumble Upon, and wondered if she should have. The conversation turned to our online photos, to what information is out there in internet land, and how is could be good or bad.

Amazon recommendations and Stumble Upon service are two examples of how the database engines behind these tools are automated to provide you with content that you value, and eliminating the stuff you don’t. Some folks feel that these tools are invasive, but when you consider that it is a computer algorithm that is serving this up for you, rather than a guy at a desk deciding what you like, it takes on a different tone.

Many years ago, I was leery of web site cookies until Paul, our CIO, explained the benefits of saving information so you didn’t have to repeatedly type it in. Cookies can also be used covertly to track your browsing history, but it doesn’t make sense to throw out the tool because some people abuse it. This case could be made for so many online tools as well as old fashioned implements — a knife can be used to cut your food at dinner or as a weapon. Should we banish this valuable utensil? I think not.

What is said about this new level of communications was said about the radio, then the television, now the internet. With this new technology comes more information and the ease of acquiring it. It also comes with downsides. I love Stumble Upon. I love Amazon recommendations. I enthusiastically use Linked In as a networking tool. I have profiles on Facebook, MySpace, Friendster, YouTube and Plaxo. Some I use more, some less. As we navigate this sea of new tools, we must decide what to share and consider the trade offs.

The good news is, social networking provides us with new ways of connecting, gathering information, and learning about our world. As a perpetual student, I raise my glass to all those who are helping to create this exciting social world.

Business bloggers playing catch-up

RunnersI recently came across an interesting study conducted by UMass Dartmouth’s Center for Market Research (CMR).   According to this study, charitable organizations are outpacing the business world in their use of social media. The study was based on a nationwide telephone survey of non-profits named by Forbes Magazine’s list of the largest 200 U.S. charities for 2006.  Some of the most telling findings from the 76 participants including organizations like the American Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity International, Easter Seals, and Catholic Charities USA were the following:

  • 75% use Web 2.0 tools such as blogs, message boards, online video, wikis, podcasts, and social networking to reach out to their constituencies 
  • One-third are blogging
  • 50% of their blogs are available vis RSS feed
  • 46% find social media important to their fundraising strategy

It’s evident that charitable organizations are relying on Web 2.0 to engage their audiences.  Specifically in terms of the blogosphere, charities are blogging at a rate similar to college admissions departments, but are clearly a leg up on the business world.  Consider previous research indicating that only 9% of the Fortune 500 and 19% of the Inc. 500 are blogging.   

I am intrigued by the significant lead non-profits have over businesses.   Non-profits are successfully implementing Web 2.0 technology tools to increase awareness and gain a more personal connection with their constituencies.   They have adopted social media, particularily blogging, as a key element in their overall marketing strategies.  On the flip side, the business world continues to wrestle over incorporating social media with traditional marketing methods.  I say, let’s stop the fight and start playing catch-up to the non-profits instead.  Acknowledge that social media and traditional marketing can balance well together to form a cohesive marketing strategy.