Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Does content marketing work just on your own sites?

I've been considering the question recently about where it is possible to carry out content marketing. Or to turn this into an actual question: "Can content marketing activity only be done on your own sites?"

My initial answer to this question was a clear "Yes, all CM activity needs to be done on your own sites". Or to put it into more 'consultant speak'... Content Marketing activity only utilises 'Owned' digital sources and does not involve 'Earned' or 'Paid' ones.
Note: Owned online properties are those where you have the ownership and means to change the content. Company brand sites, eCommerce portals, brochureware sites, Facebook pages (where your organisation manages what is posted there) and campaign microsites are all included in this definition.

However, whilst writing a blog post to this effect and therefore thinking it through in more detail... I realised that this initial response might not the correct one. Most content marketing efforts do start on your own sites, but ignoring the paid and earned sources means you are missing out on a significant amount of content marketing potential.

To try and explain my thinking, I've pulled the following quick diagram together:
This diagram tries to explain the following:
  1. Your owned properties can be used to push content into the earned space. E.g. Via the use of social sharing tools you can extend the reach and impact of your content.
  2. Your earned media can help shape influence and therefore build traffic to your owned media.
  3. Paid media can help to directly bring traffic to your site.
This might be presented in some other way that conveys value or link juice more, so as-always I reserve the right to revisit this diagram in some other blog post.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Offer sites are NOT digital shopper marketing

I was recently shown the discount & offers website Casabu and was quite impressed with it. This useful registration-based site has several promotions that offer up to 90% discounts for items that mums might want to buy for their children.

This site was shown to me by a friend as with the description "Hey, you work with digital shopper marketing projects. This is a great example of an online shopper website". However, on this point I took exception.

In my opinion sites that provide discounts and promotions are not digital shopper marketing initiatives, they are what they are... useful platforms for registered people to buy a restricted set of products at heavily reduced prices.

For me, digital shopper marketing sites (in theory part of your multi-channel shopper marketing strategy) should not just give you offers or promotions, which are tasks that you carry out once you've decided to make your move towards purchase. Online shopper marketing should also be there to to guide and influence the shopper's decision to buy with persuasive content.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

A data-driven digital strategy

Having a digital strategy for your organisation is a stepping stone to taking advantage of online channels to: make money, save money, maintain & improve service and deliver your brand promise.

Easy eh?

Well... no.

Having a digital strategy is better than not having one, but having the wrong one (or half of one) can be detrimental. And typically the wrong digital strategy is one that doesn't focus on the right things. For example just basing a digital plan on the deployment, use and support of online applications is giving yourself too narrow a scope.

If I could therefore give everyone just one  piece of advice, it is to create a data driven digital strategy; an approach that is:

1. Powered by information from your digital analytics

2. Informed by insight from analysts, who use different data sources to give your organisation a true picture of what your customers are doing and also want from you.

3. Continually updated based upon the most recent understanding of users, trends, their goals and the value this creates for your business.

4. Full of facts, rather than assumptions and guesses

Improving the multi-channel customer experience

I recently read that that 40% of organisations cite 'complexity' as the greatest barrier to improving multi-channel customer experience (hint: it was here).This may at first seem a large proportion of companies who are struggling to either specify, deliver or improve on their multi-channel efforts... But perhaps its not entirely unexpected for several reasons:

1. Understanding the multi-channel customer IS complex

2. The technology to implement it can also be complex to a marketer or other senior exec who has not grown up with it.

3. There is no senior stakeholder commitment to push forward change. Perhaps why only 28% of companies say there is ownership of the customer experience at board or ‘c- level’ (same source)

Friday, May 17, 2013

Who’s afraid of the big bad penguin?

If you’re around the search engine optimisation industry (or in any way connected it to it) then you will hear the words ‘Panda’ and ‘Penguin’ being mentioned more and more in hushed tones these days.

Fear not… these are not some frightening polar animals we are all cowering in fear of, but updates to the Google algorithm that can affect your site’s organic search rankings. Or to be more precise, they are actually a series of different updates to the algorithm to clean up the search engines results pages to display ‘better’ sites that Google thinks are a more relevant match for our query Panda updates started happening in early 2011 and were aimed at reducing the impact of low quality websites in Google’s results. Penguin updates started happening a little later in April 2012 and targeted sites that used ‘black hat’ SEO techniques. Both have had updates by the clever people at the world’s most popular search engine since their launch and are now key events that the digital marketing community gets excited about…. trust me, we do!

However, Google’s head of search spam Matt Cutts has recently stated that there will be a large Penguin update in 2013. One that will have a big impact that could affect a lot of sites. Sites who have so far used search engine optimisation approaches that sit in that grey-ish area between entirely ethical SEO and the darker world of dodgier techniques. The original Penguin release had a big effect on organic rankings for a number of sites (and not just the black hat technique ones). However the forthcoming update is due to be deeper and have a bigger effect than those before.

What effect? Well that's anyone's guess, however anyone who has used less-than-legitimate to get their site up the organic rankings may soon find out that this new penguin makes search engine optimisation a lot more black and white.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Businesses need to get strategic with digital

Oh for heavens sake, can every company that talks about creating a digital strategy actually mean it?
In the last few months I've had a bunch of meetings and calls with business prospects who claim "we want a digital strategy" when all they really want is either:
  1. A document that bolts online stuff into existing processes or technologies
  2. A presentation that just scares the exec board and therefore gives certain people permission to ask for more budget or grab power
However, these aren't strategic digital aims, they are either tactical online plans to try and push digital into the current way of working or political manoeuvring to better specific careers.
A digital strategy is neither of these. Instead it is a plan of how your organisation is going to enable and optimise its digital ecosystem

Friday, May 10, 2013

Insight, the one digital metric we don’t measure

I hope that by now most large company execs by now will have heard of the existence of website analytics. Some (especially the more marketing and technology focused) may even have seen dashboard reports from their analytics suites.

These displays of graphs and numeric tables can help the senior team quickly get an idea of the value of their digital channels, with ‘Goals’ (online results such as sign-ups or purchases) and ‘CPA’ (Cost per acquisition) figures being obvious KPI’s to get regular updates on.

These hard and fast numbers can go a long way to dispelling half-truths, rumours and ‘gut feel’ that humans instinctively use when there are gaps in their knowledge.
Note: I still see and hear of execs citing ‘hits’ as a great indicator of online greatness, with no understanding of how this figure is derived nor the understanding that traffic without purpose just creates a burden on IT infrastructure more than anything else.

Receiving and reviewing these dashboards might be one way of checking the digital success of an organisation, but a few pie charts and year-on-year comparisons does not even start to show the key output that needs comes out of these figures… insight. Insight that your digital analytics team (perhaps only made up of one person or even just part of a role somewhere) should be craving to provide

Measuring facts from all your digital touch-points is now possible and relatively easy in the online world. You insert a tag or two into each page (or action) of your website and sit back and watch the numbers scroll before your very eyes. Real-time reporting is now a reality, with even the free packages such as Google Analytics telling you where, when and what your visitors are doing at every step of their connected customer journey. But gaining insight from these figures is a different matter and measuring the value of this insight is exponentially more difficult still. Perhaps that’s why to-date it isn’t measured

But actually, it is...kind of. Insight derived online reports can show up in all sorts of ways, usually when there is a feedback loop from this data back into the business, for example:
  • Geographic data about where website or app visitors are coming from can inform business strategy. Imagine the mergers and acquisitions team knowing which counties the biggest increases in valuable business traffic have recently come from
  • Significant differences in the search engine keywords entered by users to reach your sites can predict market or investor trends. Data that could be of potential use to many central functions, including finance, proposition and commercial teams
  • Site bounce rates can not only inform your User Experience team of potential issues, but can reflect on product price, content quality or site speed (or a possible combination of all three plus other factors
It’s a shame however that this contribution to the organisation can’t be effectively measured. You can’t really put a price on the provision of internal data within a company, without coming up with some sort of mad model that will be more hypothesis than fact… the very thing thatdigital analytics tries to constantly minimise

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Why I want automated check ins

My wife says she trusts me. I know this because she tells me on a regular basis. She doesn't have to tell me, but it's nice to be told anyway.
However, when I asked her recently why she trusted me, I didn't get the response I expected. Instead she said "I know where you are all the time because you check in on Foursquare". After I got over the shock of her not having unmitigated faith in my activities, I began to realise what she actually meant.
You see she has now got used to seeing my digital waypoints appear at difference intervals throughout the day. Those automated announcements of my majorships appearing on Facebook are actually mini notifications that I'm out there somewhere and activity posting my whereabouts.  Or to put it another way... she has a certain amount of reassurance from knowing I'm voluntarily checking in on one of the most popular location - based online service.
However I can see a time where I'm going to stop using Foursquare.  I'm actually tiring of it a little and am not getting the rewards from using it I want. Why? Well the gamification seems to be getting poorer (for example I don't seem to get many badges for constantly visiting places) and I have such a geographical spread of friends that I'm getting notifications from as far afield as London, Sau Paulo and Somerset.
But if Foursquare automated their service, I would still keep using it. In fact, I'd turn it on, leave it on and have it poll my location on a regular basis. I'd still use it's user generated comments feature to find out useful stuff and still check to see who else is nearby. But importantly Mrs S would get more regular reassurances that I'm alive and on the go.
Or to put it more bluntly.... if I turned automatic notifications off, I could understand why she mighy trust a little less.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Is there a future for tablet computing?

I got asked yesterday what I thought about the statement made by Thorsten Heins ,the Blackberry CEO, that tablets are not a good business model. Mr Heins claimed that there will be no need for tablets  in five years and consequently the news sources have said he’s either a complete loony or a wise technological sage. “So is he completely barking?” I got asked by this friend…. Well yes and no.

As you may have read in an earlier blog, one of my future predictions is that technology will become more complex and yet more usable (complex in the number and types of devices and systems, usable in their interfaces), with the speed of change only increasing too. This speed of digital transformation should manifest itself in the ability of technology suppliers to design, build and launch devices much quicker… meaning they are both more responsive to customer demands and able to plug identified gaps in their products portfolios.  In effect… this all means that we should get more devices, more quickly and doing more things in more ways (that’s a lot of ‘mores’!).
So what does this mean for the tablet, a market sector that has only really existed in its current form for only 3 or so year? Well in my opinion it means the complete fragmentation of the tablet market into a range of smaller, bigger, wider, slimmer devices that more closely fit the task(s) required of them.  The computing market has been in a state of flux for some while, with different machines rising and fading in popularity as processors, displays and batteries all increased in specification and capacity.  So will the Tablet continue to exist? Yes, in the short and medium-term. But in the longer terms...  the tablet as we know will it evolve and diversify until the word means as little as “personal computer” does these days.

Note: I was wrong about the take-up and scale of the iPad market when it launched. I could therefore well be wrong now...