Tuesday Nov 12, 2013

A Letter for Your CEO About Social Marketing’s Future

We’ll leave it to you to decide if or how to sneak this in front of them.


mailbox boyDear Chief:


This social marketing thing looks serious. It’s gone beyond having a Facebook page and putting our info and a few promotions on it. It’s seriously disrupting how we’ve always done marketing. And its implications reach well beyond marketing.


My concern is that we stay positioned ahead of these changes and are prepared to embrace, adapt and capitalize on these new capabilities as opposed to spending valuable time and money trying to shoehorn social into “the way we’ve always done things.” I’m also concerned about what happens if our competition executes on this before we do.


The days of being able to impose our ad messaging on the masses to great effect are numbered. The public now has the tech tools and ability to filter out things that are irrelevant to them. And frankly, spending ad dollars to reach unlikely prospects isn’t the most efficient path for us either.


Today, our customers have to genuinely love what we do. That starts with a renewed, customer-centric focus on the quality and usability of our product. If their experience with it is bad, they now have very connected, loud voices that will testify against us. We can’t afford that.


Next, their customer service experience, before and after the sale, has to be a pleasant surprise. That requires truly knowing our customers and listening to them. Lip service won’t cut it. We have to get and use as much data on the customer as possible, interact with them wherever they want to interact with us, and commit to impressing them. If we do, they’ll get out there and advertise for us. Since peer-to-peer recommendation is the most effective marketing, that’s money in the bank.


Social marketing is about forming relationships, same as how individuals use social. We want them to know us, trust us, and get real value from knowing us. That requires honesty and transparency that before now might have been uncomfortable. I propose that if we clearly make everything we do about our customers’ wants and needs, we’ll have nothing to hide. It will solidify customer loyalty, retention, and thus, revenue.


These things can’t happen without certain tools and structural changes in the organization. There are social cloud platforms that integrate social management into all of the necessary areas: CRM, customer service, sales, marketing automation, content marketing, ecommerce, etc. This is will give us a real-time, complete view of the customer so their every interaction with us is attentive, personalized, accurate, relevant, and satisfying.


Without it, we’re just a collage of disjointed systems, each gathering data that informs only its own departmental silo. The customer is voluntarily giving us everything we need to know about them to win them over, but we have to start listening and putting the pieces together.


There’s still time. Brands are coming to terms with this transition to the socially enabled enterprise, but so far they aren’t moving very fast. Like us, they’re dealing with long-entrenched technologies and processes. CMO’s and CIO’s have to form new partnerships. Content operations have to be initiated and properly staffed and funded. Various departments must be able to utilize interconnected big data.


What will separate the winners from the losers? Well chief, that’s why I’m writing you. It’s in your hands. These initiatives won’t get the kind of priority and seriousness that inspire actual deadlines & action unless they come from your desk. You have to be the champion of customer centricity. You have to be our change agent. You have to be our innovator. Otherwise, it’s going to be business as usual, and that puts us in a very vulnerable place.


Sincerely,

Your Team


@mikestiles
Photo: Gary Scott, stock.xchng


Friday Nov 08, 2013

Say What? Podcasting As Part of Your Content Marketing

microphoneWhat do you usually do in your car on the way to work?  Sing along to radio? Stream Pandora or iHeartRadio? Talk on the phone? Sit in total silence? Whatever it is you do, you could be using that time to make yourself an expert in any range of topics…using podcasts.


We invite you to follow or subscribe to the daily Oracle Social Spotlight podcast, a quick roundup of the day’s top stories around social marketing and the social networks.


After podcasts arrived in 2004, growth was steady but slow. The concept was strong: anyone with a passion for any subject could make a show for anyone who cared to listen. Enter the smartphone, iTunes, new podcasting platforms, and social, and podcasting became easier than ever and made more sense for both podcasters and listeners. Stats show 1 in 5 smartphone owners are podcast consumers and 29% of Americans have listened to a podcast.


The potential audience is also larger than ever. “Baked in” podcast apps on over 200 million devices expose users to volumes of audio content with just a tap. 97 million Americans are driving to work every day by themselves. And 38% of Americans listen to audio on a digital device each week, a number that’s projected to double by 2015.


Does that mean your brand should be podcasting? That’s part of a larger discussion about your overall content strategy, provided you have one. But if you do and podcasting is a component of it, here are some things to keep in mind:


  • Don’t podcast just to do it. Podcast because you thought of a show customers and prospects will like that they can’t get anywhere else.
  • Sound quality matters. Good microphones are not expensive. Bad sound is annoying, makes your brand feel cheap, and will turn today’s sophisticated ears off.
  • The host matters. Many think they belong on the radio. Few actually do. Your brand’s host should be comfortable & likeable. A top advantage of a podcast is people can bond with a real person. It’s a trust opportunity, so don’t take it lightly.
  • The content matters. “All killer, no filler” means don’t allow babbling just to fill enough time for an episode. Value the listeners’ time, because that time is hard to get.
  • Put time, effort and creativity into it. Sure you’re a business, but you’re competing with content from professional media and showbiz producers. If you can include music, sound effects, and things that amuse the ears, do it.
  • If you start, be consistent. The #1 flaw in podcasting is when listeners can’t count on another episode or don’t know when it’s coming. Don’t skip doing shows just because you can. Get committed.
  • Get your cover art right. Podcasting is about audio, but people shop for podcasts by glancing through graphics. Yours has to be professional, cool, and informative to get listeners interested.
  • Cross-promote your podcast on all your channels. The competition for listeners is fierce, so if you have existing audiences you can leverage to launch your show, use them.
  • Optimize it for mobile. Assume that’s where most listening will take place. If you’re using one of the podcast platform apps, you should be in good shape.


Frankly, the percentage of brands that are podcasting is quite low, and that’s okay. Once you move beyond blogging and start connecting with real voices, poor execution can do damage. But more (32%) marketers want to learn how to use podcasting, and more (23%) were increasing their podcasting throughout this year.


Bottom line, you want to share your brand’s message and stories wherever your audience might be and in whatever way they prefer to take in content. Many prefer to do that while driving or working out, using the eyes and hands-free medium of audio.


@mikestiles
Photo: stock.xchng



Tuesday Nov 05, 2013

In Social Relationship Management, the Spirit is Willing, but Execution is Weak

In our final talk in this series with Aberdeen’s Trip Kucera, we wanted to find out if enterprise organizations are actually doing anything about what they’re learning around the importance of communicating via social and using social listening for a deeper understanding of customers and prospects. We found out that if your brand is lagging behind, you’re not alone.


failure signSpotlight: How was Aberdeen able to find out if companies are putting their money where their mouth is when it comes to implementing social across the enterprise?

Trip: One way to think about the relative challenges a business has in a given area is to look at the gap between “say” and “do.” The first of those words reveals the brand’s priorities, while the second reveals their ability to execute on those priorities. In Aberdeen’s research, we capture this by asking firms to rank the value of a set of activities from one on the low end to five on the high end. We then ask them to rank their ability to execute those same activities, again on a one to five, not effective to highly effective scale.


Spotlight: And once you get their self-assessments, what is it you’re looking for?

Trip: There are two things we’re looking for in this analysis. The first is we want to be able to identify the widest gaps between perception of value and execution. This suggests impediments to adoption or simply a high level of challenge, be it technical or otherwise. It may also suggest areas where we can expect future investment and innovation.


Spotlight: So the biggest potential pain points surface, places where they know something is critical but also know they aren’t doing much about it. What’s the second thing you look for?

Trip: The second thing we want to do is look at specific areas in which high-performing companies, the Leaders, are out-executing the Followers. This points to the business impact of these activities since Leaders are defined by a set of business performance metrics. Put another way, we’re correlating adoption of specific business competencies with performance, looking for what high-performers do differently.


Spotlight: Ah ha, that tells us what steps the winners are taking that are making them winners. So what did you find out?

Trip: Generally speaking, we see something of a glass curtain when it comes to the social relationship management execution gap. There isn’t a single social media activity in which more than 50% of respondents indicated effectiveness, which would be a 4 or 5 on that 1-5 scale. This despite the fact that 70% of firms indicate that generating positive social media mentions is valuable or very valuable, a 4 or 5 on our 1-5 scale.


Spotlight: Well at least they get points for being honest. The verdict they’re giving themselves is that they just aren’t cutting it in these highly critical social development areas.

Trip: And the widest gap is around directly engaging with customers and/or prospects on social networks, which 69% of firms rated as valuable but only 34% of companies say they are executing well. Perhaps even more interesting is that these two are interdependent since you’re most likely to generate goodwill on social through happy, engaged customers. This data also suggests that social is largely being used as a broadcast channel rather than for one-to-one engagement. As we’ve discussed previously, social is an inherently personal media.


Fig1


Spotlight: And if they’re still using it as a broadcast channel, that shows they still fail to understand the root of social and see it as just another outlet for their ads and push-messaging. That’s depressing.

Trip: A second way to evaluate this data is by using Aberdeen’s performance benchmarking. The story is both a bit different, but consistent in its own way. The first thing we notice is that Leaders are more effective in their execution of several key social relationship management capabilities, namely generating positive mentions and engaging with “influencers” and customers. Based on the fact that Aberdeen uses a broad set of performance metrics to rank the respondents as either “Leaders” (top 35% in weighted performance) or “Followers” (bottom 65% in weighted performance), from website conversion to annual revenue growth, we can then correlated high social effectiveness with company performance. We can also connect the specific social capabilities used by Leaders with effectiveness. We spoke about a few of those key capabilities last time and also discuss them in a new report: Social Powers Activate: Engineering Social Engagement to Win the Hidden Sales Cycle.


Fig2


Spotlight: What all that tells me is there are rewards for making the effort and getting it right. That’s how you become a Leader.

Trip: But there’s another part of the story, which is that overall effectiveness, even among Leaders, is muted. There’s just one activity in which more than a majority of Leaders cite high effectiveness, effectiveness being the generation of positive buzz. While 80% of Leaders indicate “directly engaging with customers” through social media channels is valuable, the highest rated activity among Leaders, only 42% say they’re effective. This gap even among Leaders shows the challenges still involved in effective social relationship management.


@mikestiles
Photo: stock.xchng

Friday Nov 01, 2013

Let Me Show You Something: Instagram, Vine and Snapchat for Brands

PhotographerWhile brands are well aware of how much more impactful images are than text-only posts on social channels, today you’re additionally being presented with platform after additional platform for hosting, doctoring and sharing photos and videos.  Can you play in every sandbox? And if you do, can you be brilliant on all of them?


As has usually been the case, so far brands are sticking their toes into new platforms while not actually committing to them, or strategizing for them, or resourcing them. TrackMaven found of the 123 F500 companies using Instagram, only 22% of them are active on it.


Likewise, research from Simply Measured found brands are indeed jumping in, with the number establishing a presence on Instagram up 55% over the past year. Users want them there…brand engagement has exploded 350%, and over 1/3 of the top brands have at least 10,000 followers. BUT…the top 10 brands are generating 33% of all posts, reaping 83% of all engagement.


Things are also growing on Twitter’s Vine, the 6-second looping video app that hit 40 million users in August. The 7th Chamber says 5 tweets a second contain a Vine link. Other studies say branded Vines are 4 times more likely to be shared and seen than rank-and-file branded videos. Why? Users know that even if a video is pure junk, they won’t get robbed of too much of their valuable time.


Vine is always upgrading so you can make sure your videos are worth viewers’ time. You can now edit videos, and save & work on several projects concurrently. What you can’t do is upload a finely crafted video into Vine, but you can do that with Instagram. The key to success? Same as with all other content; make it of value. Deliver a laugh or a lesson or both. How-to, behind the scenes peeks, contests, demos, all make sense in the short video format.


Or follow Nash Grier’s example, which is to just have fun with and connect to your viewers, earning their trust that your next Vine will be as good as the last. Nash is only 15, has over 1.4 million followers, and adds about 100,000 a week. He broke out when one of his videos was re-Vined by some other kid with 300,000 followers. Make good stuff, get it in front of influencers, and your brand Vines could break out as well.


Then there’s Snapchat, the “this photo will self destruct” platform. How can that be of use to brands besides offering coupons that really expire? The jury is out. But with an audience of over 100 million and a valuation of $800 million, media-with-a-time-limit is compelling. Now there’s “Snapchat Stories” that can last 24 hours and be shared to the public at large. You might be able to capitalize on how much more focus gets put on content when there’s a time limit on its availability.


The underlying truth to all of this is, these are all tools. Very cool, feature rich tools, but tools. You can give the exact same art kit to 5 different people and you’d get back 5 very different works, ranging from worthless garbage to masterpiece. Brands are being called upon to be still and moving image artists. That’s what your customers are used to seeing, from a variety of sources. Commit to communicating with them accordingly.


@mikestiles
Photo: stock.xchng

Tuesday Oct 29, 2013

Are You Afraid of Each Other? Study Shows CMO’s/CIO’s Missing Benefits of Collaboration

Scared guyRemember that person in school you spent months being too scared to talk to?  Then when you finally did, it led to a wonderful friendship…if not something more. New research from Oracle, Social Media Today and Leader Networks shows marketing and IT need to get over whatever’s holding them back and start reaping the benefits of collaboration.

See the details on the Oracle study

Back in the old days of just a few years ago, marketing could stay on their side of the building, IT could stay on their side of the building, and both could refer to the other as “those guys.” Today, the structure of organizations is shifting from islands to “us,” one integrated body where each part knows what the other parts are doing, and all parts work together in accomplishing job one…a
winning customer experience.


Ignore that, and you start losing. Give your reluctance to change priority over the benefits of new collaborations, and you start losing. You’re either working together and accelerating forward or getting in the way of each other’s separate agendas and grinding down…much to your competitors’ delight.


The study reveals a basic current truth: those who are collaborating in marketing and IT report being more effective, however less than 1/3 report collaborating even “frequently.” In other words, this is obviously a good thing, so we’d better not do it. Smart.


The white paper, “Socially Driven Collaboration,” set out to explore how today’s always-changing digital, social and mobile landscape is forcing change across the enterprise, whether it’s welcomed or not. Part of what it found is marketing and IT leaders are not unaware of what’s going on and see their roles evolving. And both know the ability to collaborate more effectively now exists. And of those who are collaborating, over 2/3 say they’re “more effective” professionally because of it.

Collab slide


Yet even if you don’t want to take the Oracle study’s word for it, an August 2013 Accenture study of 400 senior marketing and 250 IT executives revealed only 10% think CMO/CIO collaboration is at the right level. There’s a lot of room for improvement here, and not just around people. Collaboration is also being called for across processes and technologies.


Business benefits of such collaboration cited in the Oracle study include stronger marketing messages, faster speed-to-market, greater product adoption, faster discovery of product and service shortcomings, and reduction in project costs. Those are the benefits you will cheat yourself out of by keeping “those guys” at arm’s length and continuing to try to function in traditional roles while modern business and the consumer is changing around you.

“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.” –Stephen Hawking


@mikestiles
Photo: istockphoto

Friday Oct 25, 2013

Eloqua Experience 2013: Mystique, Modern Marketing and Masterful Engagement

The following is a guest post from Erick Mott, a social business leader at Oracle Eloqua.

Robin Thicke

There’s a growing gap between 20th century marketing and a modern marketing way of doing business. I can’t think of a better example of modern marketing in action than what more than 2,000 people experienced in San Francisco at #EE13; customer-obsession, multichannel content, and real-time engagement all coming together at one extraordinary event.


This was my first Eloqua Experience as a new Oracle Eloqua employee. In weeks prior, I heard about the mystique but didn’t know what to expect. What I’ve come to understand with more clarity is everything we do revolves around customer success, and we operate and educate at all times with these five tenets in mind:


1. Targeting: Really Know Your Buyer

2. Engagement: Create a 1:1 Relationship

3. Conversion: Visualize Guided Thinking

4. Analysis: Learn What’s Working

5. Marketing Technology: Enable and Extend the Cloud


Product News from Eloqua Experience 2013

We made some announcements that John Stetic, VP of Products, Oracle Eloqua covers in this brief ‘Modern Marketing Minute’ video recorded after Wednesday’s keynote; summarized below, too:


Oracle Eloqua AdFocus: While understanding the impact of a specific marketing channel was formerly relegated to marketers’ wish lists, the channels we now focus on are digital, social, and mobile. AdFocus gives marketers a single platform to dynamically create, manage and measure display ads alongside owned and earned media. AdFocus enables marketers to target only key accounts or prospects you want to reach with display ads, as well as provide creative content or personalized ad copy based on their persona and activities.


Oracle Eloqua Profiler: The details of what we now know about customers have expanded into a universal customer profile, which can be used to create highly targeted segments. Marketers now can take data that’s not even stored in Eloqua to help targeted and score prospects for a complete, multichannel view of the customer. Profiler gives sales reps one, detailed view of the prospect to extend views beyond Oracle Eloqua asset activity (emails, forms, page views) to any external assets stored in Oracle Eloqua.


Marketing Resource Management: New capabilities create more secure and controlled access to marketing resources and data. New integrations provide greater insight into campaign resources and management through a central marketing calendar and simplify resource management.


Integrated Sales and Marketing Funnel: An integrated sales and marketing funnel view gives marketing and sales users, cross-functional teams, and executive management a consistent and clear view of pipeline performance. It also quickly provides users with historical metrics across different time spans and conditions.


Eloqua AppCloud: More than 20 new AppCloud partners have been added to the community, which now includes 100+ apps. Eloqua AppCloud now provides modern marketers with an even broader range of marketing applications that help expand and enrich sales and marketing efforts; easily accessible in the Topliners Community.


Social Capabilities: Recent integration between Oracle Eloqua and Oracle Social Relationship Management (SRM) deliver a comprehensive, scalable and integrated modern marketing solution. New capabilities include better tracking of social activities for a more complete customer profile. Engage Facebook custom audiences with AdFocus to deliver ads and meaningful experiences through trusted social networks.


Biggest and Best Eloqua Experience

There’s a lot of talk in the industry about the Marketing Cloud. At Oracle Eloqua, we have been on a mission of delivering the most advanced and integrated modern marketing technology on the planet. It’s not just a concept but reality with proven execution, as seen first-hand this week in San Francisco.


In this videoKevin Akeroyd, SVP of Oracle Eloqua, provides some highlights of what made this year’s Eloqua Experience, exceptional, including Steve Woods’ presentation about the journey of modern marketers and Andrea Ward’s conversation with Vince Gilligan, creator of the Breaking Bad television series.


The 2013 Markie Awards

The Oracle Eloqua Marketing Cloud was best exemplified for me as 19 Markies were awarded to customers for their exceptional creativity and results as modern marketers. Wow, what a night to remember with so many committed and talented people working to create an extraordinary experience!


To learn more about how to become a modern marketer, check out these resources. We look forward to seeing you next year at Eloqua Experience.


More on Erick: 20 years experience at Oracle, Ektron, Sitecore, Lyris, Habeas, Nokia, creatorbase, Mark Monitor, Cisco Systems, GlobalFluency, Sun Microsystems, Philips NV, Elm Products and CBS TV. Patent holder with agency, Fortune 500, media, and startup company expertise.


@mikestiles
Photo: Bryan Kramer



Tuesday Oct 22, 2013

Get Fanatical About Your Followers

football stadiumIn the fourth of our series of discussions with Aberdeen’s Trip Kucera, we touch on what fans of your brand have come to expect in exchange for their fandom.


Spotlight: Around the Oracle Social office, we live for football. So when we think of a true “fan” of a brand, something on the level of a football fan is what comes to mind. But are brands trying to invest fans on that same level?

Trip: Yeah, if you’re a football fan, this is definitely your time of year. And if you’ve been to any NFL games recently, especially if you hadn’t been for a few years previously, you may have noticed that from the cup holders to in-stadium Wi-Fi, there’s an increasing emphasis being placed on “fan-focused” accommodations. That’s what they’re known as in the stadium business.


Spotlight: How are brands doing in that fan-focused arena?

Trip: Remember fan is short for “fanatical.” Brands can definitely learn from the way teams have become fanatical about their fans, or in the social media world, their followers. Many companies consider a segment of their addressable social audience as true fans; I’ve even heard the term “super-fans” used. So just as fans know and can tell you nearly everything about their favorite team, our research shows that there’s a lot value from getting to know your social audience—your followers—at a deeper level.


Spotlight: So did your research show there’s a lot to be gained by making fandom a two-way street?

Trip: Aberdeen’s new social relationship management research suggests that companies should develop capabilities to better analyze their social audience at a more granular level. Countless “ripped from the headlines” examples, from “United Breaks Guitars” to the most recent British Airways social fiasco we talked about a few weeks ago show how social can magnify the impact of a single customer voice.


Spotlight: So how do the companies who are executing social most successfully do that?

Trip: Leaders, which are the top-performing companies in Aberdeen’s study, are showing the value of identifying and categorizing your social audience. You should certainly treat every customer as if they have 10,000 followers, because they just might, but you can also proactively engage with high-value customer and high-value influencers. Getting back to the football analogy, it’s like how teams strive to give every guest a great experience, but they really roll out the red carpet for those season ticket and luxury box holders.


Spotlight: I’m not allowed in luxury boxes, so you’ll have to tell me what that’s like. But what is the brand equivalent of rolling out the red carpet?

Trip: Leaders are nearly three times more likely than Followers to have a process in place that identifies key social influencers for engagement, and more than twice as likely to identify customer advocates for social outreach. This is the kind of knowledge that gives companies the ability to better target social messaging and promotions like we talked about in our last discussion, as well as a basis for understanding how to measure the impact of their social media programs. I’ll give you an example. I hosted an event at one of my favorite restaurants recently. I had mentioned them in a Tweet several weeks before the event, and on the day of the event, they Tweeted out that they were looking forward to seeing me that evening for the event. It’s a small thing, but it had a big impact and I’d certainly go back as a result.


Aberdeen4Fig


Spotlight: So what specifically can brands use and look at to determine where their potential super-fans are?

Trip: Social graph analysis, which looks at both the demographic/psychographic trends as well as the behavioral connections, can surface important brand value. Aberdeen’s PR and Brand Management research indicated that top-performing companies are more than three times more likely than Followers to both determine demographic trends through social listening (44% vs. 13%), and to identify meaningful customer segments through social (44% vs. 12%). This kind of brand-level insight can complement and enrich traditional market research. But perhaps even more importantly, it can serve as an early warning system for customer experience failures.


@mikestiles
Photo: freedigitalphotos.net


Friday Oct 11, 2013

Ghosts in the Demand Machine: The Hidden Sales Cycle

ghost handToday we continue chatting with Aberdeen Group’s Trip Kucera on how enterprises are using social to find and do something about online activity that’s happening every minute, and that’s affecting sales every minute.


Spotlight: What are the forces bearing down on organizations right now that are affecting how sales are surfaced and executed?

Trip: Since it’s just a few weeks until Halloween, how about a ghost story? This one’s not about the unrested souls of the dead, but for marketing and sales executives it’s an even scarier tale. Their customers are possessed, haunted by a hidden sales cycle of unseen influence shaping their preferences and priorities. This unseen influence, of course, is the reality of today’s empowered, ultra-informed customer brought about by the frictionless access to content and community. And it’s driving the approach that many organizations take to social media.


Spotlight: And you guys went out and got the numbers that prove it.

Trip: Aberdeen’s social relationship management research shows that the top two pressures shaping social media initiatives are the proliferation of new channels for engagement, which 63% of respondents identified as a top pressure, and the influence of third parties on customers’ decision journeys, which 56% of respondents identified as a top pressure. To put it another way, customers have an increasing number of channels on which to access an increasing supply of information. This is the “hidden” sales cycle.


Fig1


Spotlight: Hidden doesn’t sound good. How do we un-hide it?

Trip: The objective of social relationship management is essentially to first un-hide this sales cycle by understanding the customers’ decision journey, and then to influence it. There are two primary approaches organizations are taking. The first is to engage the influencers – the tastemakers and pundits – that are shaping the social conversation. This is more achievable in some markets like specialized or highly technical product markets that often rely on a relatively small corps of mavens for information than others, like general consumer or luxury goods markets.


Spotlight: Right, so like it or not, influencers are out there either helping the sale or hurting it, depending on their opinions and experiences. What’s the second approach?

Trip: The second is to become a source of influence through direct engagement with customers, which can happen through both organic “earned” media and paid channels. These approaches can also come together when customer advocates become influencers themselves.


Spotlight: I’m going to guess the better you treat your happy customers, the more effective and active they’re going to be at participating in this hidden sales cycle.

Trip: To this point, Aberdeen data shows that Leaders, the top performers as identified by Aberdeen’s research methodology, are not only more likely to identify both influencers and customer advocates, but to also then engineer engagement through social media marketing programs that include incentives, integration with marketing programs, content, and paid channels.


Spotlight: Bottom line, people are going to be out there talking about your brand, disseminating information and influencing people one way or the other, and the more you can listen to what’s going on and participate in that conversation, the better chance you have of turning this hidden sales cycle to your advantage.

Trip: Yes, losing “control” of your customer might be scary, not that you ever really had it to begin with, but not having a plan for engaging buyers in the hidden sales cycle should be truly frightening.


Fig2


@mikestiles
Photo: kasiakay, stock.xchng

Wednesday Sep 25, 2013

Oracle OpenWorld: Day 3

team usaOpenWorld rolled into its third day in San Francisco with excitement in the air both about new cloud product announcements from Oracle (Database as a Service and Java as a Service, both with 3 levels of Oracle management to choose from, which stand ready to drop costs and operational complexity for the enterprise), and about the amazing comeback wins by Oracle Team USA vying for the America’s Cup.


And, of course, the focus on Customer Experience at OpenWorld continued. Here now are the easily digestible thoughts that came out of two of those key sessions.


Socially Enable Your Enterprise to Maximize Your Customer Experience, with Meg Bear and Lisa Gidich:


"A business absolutely devoted to service will have only one worry about profits. They will be embarrassingly large." -Henry Ford


"There is only one boss. The customer. He can fire everybody in the company by spending his money somewhere else." -Sam Walton


"If you build a great customer experience, customers tell each other about that. Word of mouth is very powerful" -Jeff Bezos


It took radio 38 years to reach 50 million users. It took Twitter 3 years.


Are your ears burning? Fortune 100 companies are mentioned 10,400,123 times per month on social.


They won't take it sitting down anymore. 75% of consumers have posted a negative comment on social after a poor customer experience.


1 in 3 users prefer to contact brands using social rather than the telephone.


Employees have actionable data at their fingertips - and a way to send service inquiries from social to Right Now.


Hello? Hello? 58% of those who tweeted about a bad experience never got so much as a response from the brand.


Brand reality is not meeting customer expectations. 81% of users who reach out on social expect a same-day response.


Exceed your customers' expectations. Their perception is your reality.


The benefits of an integrated Social Relationship Management platform include savings, reduced complexity, smoother workflow, and better customer experiences.

cloud services

Forget B2B and B2C: Technology Enables B2P Marketing, with Angela Wells and Marius Ciortea


B2B or B2C, no matter what you're selling, success depends on connecting with decision makers.


91% of B2C marketers use content marketing. In fact, 78% of CMO's think it's the "future of marketing."


Think there’s a disconnect? 90% of consumers find custom content useful. But marketers spend about 25% of budget on content marketing.


This Just In: B2B buyers and decision makers are people too!


Executives have access to information, peers and influencers on social. So there’s less need for information from vendors “trying to sell me.”


Marketing has to understand the business issues of customers via listening and answering that add value to each step in the buying cycle.


B2B wants content that’s original, consultative and pertinent. Vendors are giving them promotional and technical content instead.


The CMO Council says too few marketers grasp the role and value of content in lead acquisition, qualification, conversion and closure.


It’s not about fans or clicks. It's about the viewers and their engagement.


Latent Semantic Analysis presents themes that filter out noise and refine search in order to get the most accurate signal.


Leverage your experts. Asked how social information would affect health decisions, 60% said they trust info posted by doctors.


Deemphasize lead generation to focus on customer interactions. Concentrate on customer needs. Provide value.


Understand how prospects interact with messages, content and each other. Develop personas so you’ll know exactly who you’re talking to.


Day 4 of OpenWorld lies just around the corner. Keep following @oraclesocial for live tweet coverage of sessions like:



@mikestiles



Friday Sep 20, 2013

Social Media Today Social Shakeup Roundup

wCongrats to Social Media Today for a very successful inaugural Social Shakeup in Atlanta this week. It’s an appropriate name for a conference as social is not only shaking up the way the public interacts with us as brands, but also shaking up the organization itself; mandating social be extended across all customer touch points, bringing the CIO and CMO closer, and offering vast amounts of social data that when married with enterprise data can yield stellar customer experiences.


Being a bit of a stream-watcher, I’m always interested in which takeaway tweets from conferences seem to resonate loudest. As we know, retweets and favorites don’t happen unless an emotional or intellectual chord gets tweaked. Seeing which points get the most “buzz” gives us telling insight into the current collective mindset of social marketers.


Tweet: @lizalgold (Liza Landsman) says social should be across multiple functions of the enterprise.

Thought: It’s exciting to see brands are quickly understanding the need for and inevitability of the socially enabled enterprise. Results of Oracle’s study with Leader Networks and SMT announced at the Shakeup reflect this as well.


Tweet: Brand voices are indistinguishable from each other. They're all the same 20-something year old person @briansolis (Brian Solis)

Thought: Your brand has an image, a personality, and it should be distinct. Many feel we’re homogenizing social with lazy, uncreative hiring decisions. If social voices are all the same, fans may as well just follow one Page called “Corporate America.”


Tweet: Maybe everyone who works in acquisition should work in retention first. @lizalgold (Liza Landsman)

Thought: This one got big engagement. Clearly there’s a strong feeling that knowing how to keep an existing customer happy is quite relevant to what you communicate to a new customer prospect. Is retention the harder of the two? Is it the more valuable one? Discuss.


landsmanTweet: From the customer perspective, "you either know me, or you don't know me." @lizalgold (Liza Landsman)

Thought: Customers are getting hard to dupe. They’re very aware of how much info about themselves they’ve given to you. If you show that despite that, you aren’t listening, know nothing about them, and don’t care, they feel appropriately devalued.


Tweet: Brands need to get over "jargonization." They have to start talking to people in the voice of the customer. @getsatisfaction (Wendy Lea)

Thought: There’s a growing realization the corporate-speak businesses love so much and get so excited about internally is a joke to real humans. For a public that values honesty and transparency, it makes you look like you’re obfuscating.


Tweet: People who Like you then never engage with your brand are as worthwhile as empty calories. @lizalgold (Liza Landsman)

Thought: Turns out as brands, we want customers to prove their love just like they want us to prove we care about them. Never calling, writing, shopping or buying shows no authentic love, and businesses are growing less interested in distant fans.


Tweet: A very different breed of employee is needed for social, one that's quick, nimble, human. @jay_bartlett (Jason Bartlett – Xerox)

Thought: Organizations are still grappling with the real-time nature of social. The PR flack with a hotline to legal that needs 5 weeks to craft and clear a tweet is now doing damage. The future belongs to employees who can and who aren’t afraid to be as social as the customer, and to the policies that empower them to do so.


solisTweet: CEO's need to be leaders, not just managers @briansolis (Brian Solis)

Thought: There’s a big difference. “Managing” tends to mean avoiding all possible disasters. “Leading” tends to mean actively urging and inspiring big things to happen. It means driving intelligent change and innovation. The engagement this got seems to indicate employees wish their leaders were doing more leading.


Tweet: In the org, social should cross swim lanes…but each lane has to know how to swim. @jay_bartlett (Jason Bartlett - Xerox)

Thought: Marketers feel like the socially enabled enterprise makes total sense, but each department has to integrate social to semi-equal effect for true cross-departmental social integration to happen.


Tweet: One way to express value is ROI. But it's not the ONLY way to express value. @sheldrake (Philip Sheldrake – Euler Partners)

Thought: Will we one day have an indisputable formula that connects every sale to a tweet? Perhaps. But it’s more likely a buyer is influenced over time from a combination of various touch points and info resources. Until the magic formula comes along, we have to be able to tell value stories that positively connect social to stated, measurable business objectives.


Tweet: Putting out short, shareable "social white papers" has led to 25% more leads and at lower cost for UPS @brianpember (Brian Pember - UPS)

Thought: It’s a content thing. Do you want your prospects to actually read your assets or just download them so you can get the lead capture? If you want content read (and shared), get your head out of your corporate asset-making and start communicating the way humans like consuming info.


Overall, sounds like marketers think things still need a good shaking up. Yes we’re steadily embracing what needs to be done in terms of brands relationships with customers, but the task of getting old line thinking, staffing, limitations and processes out of the way still seems to be a daunting one.


@mikestiles

Friday Sep 06, 2013

Mobile Social Raises the Customer Experience Stakes

pokerAs organizations embrace the realization that today’s consumers are empowered in ways like never before, the task becomes meeting customer experience expectations when those customers engage their brands on mobile and social.


Boy is that easier said than done. In a recent Social Media Today webinar, VP Product Strategy for Oracle Cloud-Social Erika Brookes and 60 Second Communications CEO Jamie Turner agreed that mobile and social are no longer two separate things. They’ve merged into the primary way consumers want to interact with providers of goods and services.


They also agreed customer expectations of brands today aren’t necessarily new, just different. When consumers have a need, they want to be able to reach the brand, they want the brand to answer, and they want an actionable solution within a reasonable period of time. What Mobile Social does add to the equation is that it doesn’t allow brands to quietly get away with failing miserably at customer service.


Nor will it allow a brand to get away with bringing up the rear technology-wise without paying a price. If there is no clean, useful mobile experience that accomplishes what customers want to do, they will a) publicly bash you for it, b) leave and go look for someone else who can give them what they need, or c) both a and b.


Studies show that 67% of people are more likely to purchase from a brand with a mobile-friendly site, and more likely to return to that site. Yet only 1/3 of businesses say mobile optimization is a top priority. Brookes thinks that number should be much higher because mobile is where CX is being played out. A non-existent or negative mobile social experience is akin to trying to drive with the emergency brake on.


It’s the C-suite that has to take the emergency brake off, sending down the firm message that it matters and understanding the business value of CX. For instance, Turner feels social is stronger as a customer retention tool than as an acquisition tool. Stats say if you can reduce churn 5%, you can increase profits 25-125%. Yes, marketers have led the way, but this is not a marketing-only endeavor. Departments must integrate for a seamless, personalized customer experience that affects P&L.


Brookes says it’s an internal revolution that’s not going to happen overnight, but there’s a huge opportunity to take signals from social and use them to initiate one-on-one customer service interaction. To make that happen, integrated tools are a must. The age of the standalone solution is slipping away as a much larger, shared view of the customer is required in order to meet them where they are and get them what they need.


They’re expecting nothing less.


@mikestiles
Photo: stock.xchng

Friday Aug 23, 2013

Oracle’s 8 Social Business Best Practices

social mediaToday, Oracle Sr. Director of Product Management John Nolt had the opportunity to address those gathered at the MediaPost Social Media Insider Summit in Lake Tahoe, where the future of social business is being thoroughly discussed and prognosticated.

The view of social business is far different today than it was just one year ago, when many organizations were still viewing social as that marketing thing that may or may not be worth serious, long-term investment.

That marketing thing is now not only an imperative, it’s becoming the “enterprise thing.”

Social is not about pitching your stuff. Social is how the public builds its perception of you, how it lets you get to know them, and how it wants to interact with you for any number of reasons. And it’s about the resulting overall customer experience that wins you raves or slams…very public ones.

Social has flipped the customer/corporate dynamic on its head by empowering consumers with an always-connected, always-on, very loud voice. And those empowered consumers are only getting more numerous and powerful.

  • They spend over 2 hours per day on smartphones.
  • Smartphone penetration in the US is 55%.
  • There are over 1 billion smartphones worldwide.
  • 63% of smartphone users are social networkers.
  • 55% of social consumption happens on mobile.
  • 72% of online adults use social sites.
  • Social is the #1 online activity.
  • In 2017, 87% of the US population will have mobile Internet devices, more than homes that have broadband.

Businesses see these undeniable changes, yet far too many still believe it doesn’t necessarily call for a revolutionary reimagining of the enterprise. “This is the way we’ve always done it” is a powerful, seductive force.

Gleanster & YesMail’s “Customer Lifecycle Management” study showed marketers continue to struggle to incorporate cross-channel touch points and data, even though optimizing customer engagement is the #1 perceived source of revenue growth. 8 out of 10 organizations fail to utilize available customer data that could improve personalization and relevance.

Tracking, understanding and predicting a customer’s journey is more critical than ever. Customers don’t care how you want things set up internally, they care about being known and having a seamless brand experience across every touch point.

If eyes stay closed to this social business revolution, change will come to the organization anyway. You just won’t be directing those changes to your benefit. The Oracle-sponsored Economist study “Cultivating business-led innovation” shows companies with cross-collaboration, taking advantage of disruptive technologies, are the most successful.

At Oracle, we believe the silo corporate structure is an endangered species. A holistic, unified approach is called for, with social capabilities woven throughout the fabric of operations. Here are 8 prime best practices to get the ball of change rolling:

  1. Support: The C-Suite has to buy in, give their backing, and create a culture of commitment to it.
  2. Strategy: Social efforts must be aligned with business objectives & goals.
  3. Collaboration: Across departments, particularly between the dynamic duo of the CMO & CIO.
  4. Guidance: There should be clear social guidelines and policies.
  5. Leadership: We’ll bet there’s already an impassioned advocate for social at your brand. Let them lead the charge.
  6. Integration: Integrate social across all key areas, both internal and external.
  7. Results: Illustrate the results and showcase social success stories.
  8. Education: The data is there, so always be using it to learn and adapt.

@mikestiles

Tuesday Aug 20, 2013

Social Images: How Are Your Brand Selfies?

babyfaceYou’ve heard it again and again.  Using photos and images in your social posts is the best practice to beat all best practices, increasing the likelihood your post will be seen in the news feed and win some engagement.

And while it’s fine to pragmatically know that, you’ll do much better to internalize just how wild the public has gotten about images, and why. Maintaining a constant awareness of this passion is the only way for your brand to match that passion for imagery, which will then drive the effort and quality of the images you use to show the world your brand’s face (your brand selfie).

While blogs and conferences and webinars and ebooks are advising brands on that elusive issue of “how to increase engagement,” the public is jumping up and down right in front of us, showing us the answer as clearly as they can.

  • 300 million photos uploaded to Facebook daily.
  • An average 7.3 million daily active users on Instagram as of August 2012.
  • Instagram's average daily mobile visitors up 724% leap in 6 months.
  • Total unique visitors to Pinterest up 2,702.2% in one year.
  • Average 257 minutes per user spent using Instagram on mobile in one month.
  • Average 1 hour, 17 minutes spent by Americans on Pinterest.
  • One new user gained per second on Instagram
  • 58 photos uploaded per minute on Instagram


Is there still a doubt that images on social can move the needle and get you the attention and engagement you want?

  • Over 80% of Pinterest pins are repins.
  • 59% of Pinterest users bought an item they saw on the site.
  • 79% of Pinterest users are more likely to buy things they’ve seen on Pinterest.
  • Articles with images get 94% more views than articles without.
  • Pictures on Facebook get over twice the engagement of text posts.
  • Facebook posts with photo albums get 180% more engagement.
  • Tweets with images get twice the engagement of text tweets.
  • After Twitter added built-in photo sharing, photo sharing increased 421%.
  • When searching, 60% are more willing to consider or contact a business if an image shows up in search results.

rosepiano

Your fans are taking photos, uploading photos, liking photos, sharing photos, commenting on photos, and shopping from photos. Which means your social marketing success is quite tied to how well you execute on imagery. Brands are starting to get it. Indeed.com found jobs requesting Instagram skills are up 644% from 2012. 25% of F100 companies have Pinterest accounts. And the number of photos posted by brands is up 20% over last year. But just why is imagery so powerful that it (along with video) is key to social marketing?


Aside from pictures being eye-catching, fast & easy to consume, worth a thousand words, and transcending language, Robin Kelsey, a professor of photography at Harvard says pictures aren’t about capturing and storing memories anymore. They’re becoming the real-time way we communicate. Consider Snapchat at 200 million images per day, none of which are meant to survive. Wireless trade association CTIA sees images replacing texting. Texting was down 5% over the year, but MMS (multimedia messages) soared up 41%.


Still feeling stoked about your 50-page, text heavy white papers?


Brain scans
show us that seeing something attractive triggers the part of the motor cerebellum governing hand movement, causing us to literally want to reach toward what we see. Pretty easy to understand why food is the top content category on Pinterest, huh? 67% of consumers say the quality of a product’s image is very important when decision-making, even more important than product info, long descriptions, and ratings and reviews. They want beauty, they want to feel something, they want to be moved. So, your social publishing tool has to give you a canvas that can present your images in the strongest light.


If brands want fans and followers to “reach out” for their products, those selfies need to look really awesome.

@mikestiles
Photo 1: Benjamin Earwicker, stock.xchng
Photo 2: stock.xchng

Tuesday Aug 13, 2013

Social Mobile: Catch the Customer If You Can

gingerbread manWe’ve mentioned that more than ever, social is mobile. And while we’re at it, we should also point out that Internet connectivity is also mobile. There’s an old song called, “I’ve Got the World on a String.” Lyrics that were a fantasy in 1932 are now a literal expectation. We expect access to all the world’s information in our pocket, all the time, no matter where we are. No strings attached.

We also expect to accomplish whatever we need to get done, no matter where we are. That’s right, most mobile users are now surprised and even a little ticked off when an organization they need to interact with can’t be reached via their device. For social marketers, the opportunities are earthshaking. But at the same time, the task is ominous.

Consumers are moving at the speed of life, and you have to match that speed. It’s getting increasingly unlikely they’ll patiently wait for you and not look for alternatives.

Warning: Numbers Ahead:

  • Number of mobile subscribers around the globe: 5 billion.
  • Using smartphones to access social apps: 1 billion.
  • Number of times the average smartphone user checks social daily on mobile: 20.
  • Twitter time spent on a mobile app: 96.5%.
  • Facebook usage that comes from a mobile phone: 80%.
  • Amount of their online time mobile users spend on social: 30%.
  • Number of tablet units in usage today: over 70 million.
  • Amount of public Wi-Fi connections represented by mobile: 60%.
  • Time Pinterest’s audience spent on it via mobile app: 120,486,00 minutes.
  • What the number of Android activations exceeds: the US birthrate.
  • #2 tablet activity for users age 18-29: shopping.

To effectively execute as marketers on social, maybe we should think of ourselves as personal shoppers. Personal shoppers know what their clients like. They know when they’re going to need something. They know where the best choices and prices are. They’re not only responsive when the client reaches out, they’re proactive and do the reaching out if they have something they know will be of interest. They’re also readily available after the purchase in case something’s wrong. The keys to being the best personal shopper to your customers:

Know Them:
Use social listening tools to gather as much preference and behavioral data as you can. They don’t mind. One fourth even say ads on social don’t bother them provided the message has been tailored to them and makes their life easier.

Get Them What They Want:
Info, help, and goodies. Amazon’s PriceCheck app can scan an item in-store and show you the price and availability on Amazon. Instant reassurance you’ll get the best price. That’s your target, instant reassurance and gratification. As for help, 47% of consumers used social customer service, with 1 in 3 preferring to contact companies that way vs. phone. Goodies? Only 48% who used a check-in service got an incentive of any kind as a reward. That sure doesn’t pass the “why should I” test.

Be There 24/7:
Waiting until their need for you has passed isn’t going to do you any good. Better to have a proactive or real time strategy than to only operate in “crisis response” mode. However, for real time marketing to work, brands have to get a lot more nimble and empowered to respond.

Be Where They Are:
About 26% of tablet owners and 15% of smartphone owners look up product info after seeing a TV ad. Yes, 45% use their phone to compare prices while shopping, but a whopping 67% actually use their phone at home to shop and compare items. So don’t assume mobile means “not at home.”

Make it Easy:
The experience has to be fast, attractive, and relevant. If you’re going to make an app, make sure you know what your customers want to do on it first. Otherwise, keep your mobile site clean, simple and optimized. 90% report having to zoom to enlarge product text or images on mobile sites. Blah. Also, consumers are using more than one device, and using each differently. So consider relevancy not just in content but also in device context.

@mikestiles
Photo: posterize, freedigitalphotos.net

Friday Aug 09, 2013

The Social Cloud Primer

templecloudThe foundation for the socially-enabled enterprise is cloud-based platforms and software. It has increasingly become the accepted foundation for facilitating integrated processes and data across the organization. And there’s a lot of good news about that. After all, who thinks better efficiencies, more actionable data, improved customer experiences and lower costs sounds like a bad idea?

First, a refresher on what it means to be a socially-enabled enterprise.

Social has become essential for every consumer-facing department and business application. As silos crumble, an integrated approach to data is no longer an innovation or luxury…it’s what is required to remain relevant and competitive.

The socially-enabled enterprise is key for modern customer experiences. Social users are perpetually connected, mobile, and vocal. And because they expect gratifying, real-time responses, corporate workflows are getting spun like a top. Altimeter Group says companies manage an average 178 corporate-owned social media accounts, meaning that for social, systems are needed for publishing, analytics, listening, moderation, engagement, paid social, content management, social app development, marketing automation and admin…none of which can be islands unto themselves.

And that’s just social data. Enterprise data growth is expected to continue at 40% through 2020. The ideal scenario is for the value of all that social data you’re now pulling in to be amplified via integration with other core business applications. Now you’re discovering insights you didn’t know existed, you’re developing dynamic, real-time dashboards, reports and alerts for rapid decision-making, and you’re maxing out your Customer Service, Sales, and Support applications.

About now, you’re getting an idea of the speed, flexibility and processing power this ideal scenario calls for, and that’s where the cloud floats to the rescue. Only a cloud-based, enterprise infrastructure, platform and applications suite that extends social’s power across all consumer-facing touch points can give you the social insight + enterprise data combo that make actionable, real-time views of the customer work.

A 2012 Gartner Data Center Conference poll showed almost 9 out of 10 organizations were planning, piloting, or already using a private cloud. Others are deploying public/private hybrid clouds. But increasingly, businesses are seeing a) the need to process and utilize the vast amounts of Big Data now available and b) the need to rapidly, confidently deploy technologies that become available faster and faster.

With that kind of workload becoming the norm, on-site, traditional IT infrastructures are quickly becoming the most expensive, most inefficient proposition available. Data analysis is faster in the cloud, resources can be added and deployed as needed, and stakeholders can tap into the same data pool to satisfy their varied goals.

However…despite the benefits of systems being integrated in the cloud, many businesses are choosing the quagmire of using multiple cloud vendors for multiple processes. Recently, polled business managers reported staff downtime, missed business deadlines, and stunted innovation initiatives thanks to poor/no integration of cloud applications from multiple vendors. The 2013 InformationWeek State of Cloud Computing Survey showed 66% are using 2-5 providers, and 33% don’t integrate cloud services. It’s a one shop, legitimately integrated enterprise cloud that delivers the kinds of user experiences that make competitors sweat.

Adoption is happening. In 2012, spending on cloud tech was expected to increase by about 25%. IT departments inside the enterprise are standing toe to toe with the future, and must decide whether or not to up their strategic importance by embracing its changing role. Because with the enormity of intelligence that social offers, data collection, processing and analysis is the only hope of bringing order to metrics chaos so brands can fully reap the monetary benefits of intimately knowing their customer.

@mikestiles
Photo: stock.xchng

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