The Marketing Measurement Maze: measuring marketing is a mess.

Forgive the illustrative nature of the headline  – but I had to laugh out loud about this whole thing or else I would cry.

This post is a follow up to my previous post about how fragile measuring marketing technology really is based on a real time experience I was having with Technorati regarding the authority ranking of this blog.    Unhappily, my initial concerns about marketing measurement were realized so it is worth recapping.

About a week ago, by accident, I learn that according to Technorati this blog, getting a mere 1,000 visitors a month, vaulted 4x in authority rankings to about 400 when previously I ranked about 100. For about a week, I jumped up and down a few times going between 400 and then 600 (see pictures in my previous post).I contacted Technorati and told them I think there is a glitch. I got a very polite answer to tell me they are updating their rankings system and some blogs are radically shifting in position as a result.  Sounded rather fuzzy to me, but hey – what do I know?

After that response, over the course of the next 3 days, my blog bounced around some more in the 400 to 600 range and then yesterday I seem to have settled back into my original humble ranking of about 100. OK – I think – that sounds more reasonable – except now I am not even listed in the directory at all!

I went from a blogger superstar to a non entity in just three days and it is still not “unglitched”.

To put this into perspective, I get that when you are making improvement to a site, things go weird for a bit. But since Technorati is largely viewed as the authority on blogging ranking (and thus ad value), this whole episode is ample proof of the sorry state of measuring marketing efficacy. You often can’t trust the measurement data because of innocent technology glitches and then you have no way to verify the accuracy of the measurement reporting data you’re getting.

While it’s tempting to brush this aside as some little blimp in the world of marketing measurement – you can’t because the financial consequences can be significant. Imagine if my blog was a commerce oriented site or if I am advertiser trying to assess what’s the audience reach of all these blogs. Such variations in rankings can mean a lot of money gets spent or not depending on which side of the glitch you happen to fall on.  And this type of glitch is just the tip of the iceberg. I have seen measurement issues across the marketing landscape from traffic reporting to ad buys to data you get from PPD or CPL marketing programs.

Bottom line. It’s time to get serious about measuring marketing efficacy. Now it is a mess!

Judy Shapiro

What’s face time?

    

Whoopi Goldberg had a funny special on Bravo a while ago about modern life as it is being experienced by those of us weaned on free love and then conscious parenting… She observed, rightly, that while our children are smarter than we are, we are raising a generation of “barbarians”. She was commenting on the fact that our children are proficient tweeters, and IM’ers and texters. But they have too little interactive with real people in the real world.

 

Enter face time.

 

I would bet that some enterprising young graduate student has already tracked how much less face time kids have today versus even just a generation ago. It is obvious – the only question is how much less face time do our kids today have versus even 20 years ago. I would bet the actual figure would horrify most of us.

 

Our kids spend more time in front of devices instead of spending time interacting with human beings. And they are the worse for it. It was Whoopi’s point and it is well worth noting.

 

So what to do? Instead of bemoaning the situation and throwing up your hands in surrender. Fight fire with fire. Use technology to solve the problem it created.

 

Enter video chat.

 

You heard me. For those of you who think it is not for them - think again and get over it. Our highly mobile kids need to be with us even if they are not with us. Video chat has become so easy, that most anyone can figure it out. There are a few ways to do this, including a free video chat software from a company called Paltalk. With this software (and a webcam) you can see your kids and they can see you. In fact up to 10 of you can see each at once. Go get it and get on with it.

 

Face time – delivered technology style.

 

Judy Shapiro  

Can you teach a new dog old tricks?

 

The buzz around all the new digital marketing tactics can be so confusing – Web 2.0, social marketing, D-PR, blogs, viral marketing, widgets, WOM and on and on and on. I sometimes get the feeling that all the Web 2.0 companies and agencies want to keep this all very mysterious so we all have to go to the “experts”.

 

Well –  think again.

 

Believe it or not – despite all the buzz – the principles that drive the good marketing have not changed and it is really quite simple.

 

1) Know what your target wants and satisfy the need.

 2) Know what your competition is doing and why you can satisfy your customer’s need better than the other guy.

3) Get the word out within a structured and disciplined plan approach.

 

This simple outline does not minimize the complexity there can be in understanding and executing – but the deliverables need to be crisply reduced to these basics.

 

And when it comes to #3 – don’t let any “new media” agency tell you that it is impossible to do a digital marketing media plan. That’s just plain rubbish. The ability to create a “digital media plan” like any traditional marketing plan absolutely is possible. Digital marketing campaigns are centered around planning content campaigns where strategic themes are developed and seeded across the digital media landscape. These content campaigns can be done within a specified timeframe (e.g. 90 days) and can be measured to see how they drove search volumes.

 

So indeed you can teach a new “media” dog old tricks – it is called marketing and media planning.

 

And if your agency does not get it – find yourself a “new” new dog.

Judy Shapiro    

The downside of doing the corporate “Let’s throw it up against the blogging wall to see what sticks” approach to digital marketing

 

I come from a simpler marketing time.

 

As David Meerman Scott explained in his recent book, The New Rules of Marketing & PR, I was one of those cool agency folks who, “…sit in hip offices dreaming up ways to interrupt people so that they pay attention to a one-way message”.

 

I worked at a large ad agency (NWAyer) on accounts like DeBeers – diamonds is forever, AT&T – Reach out and touch someone and I even got to bring back Punchy of Hawaiian Punch fame when P&G bought the brand in the 1980s.

 

They were simpler days because marketing was able to be planned. You wanted “awareness” there were relatively few ways to do it and it costs money. Lots of it.

 

And so we cool agency folks became insulated and complacent. I remember when “Prodigy” did a major presentation at the agency and people bet on how fast it would fail (if you know what Prodigy is – please raise your hand and email me. If you don’t – never mind). My agency colleagues were only half right. Prodigy did fail – but the concept of connectivity lived on to what we now know and love as the Internet.

 

Now however, a corporate marketing exec type has to integrate traditional media with all these emerging concepts and make sense of it. Worse, any program he does now involves legions of people NOT from marketing. A corp marketing exec needs people from development and database management and web deployment teams and on and on. Gone are the “one department decision/ deployment” days.  

 

And if that wasn’t enough – agencies that know digital marketing tend to be run by twenty something’s who are just bigger kids just with bigger toys. They never had to stand in front of the CEO or CFO and explain why you needed another $50,000 to talk to people who aren’t even reporters!

 

Well it’s enough to make any corp marketing exec cry. I know because enough of my friends are in those roles and they come crying to me.

 

But there’s hope.

 

The trick now is for companies to find ways to plan these programs within predictable parameters just like a good old fashioned media plans because corporate budget are not known to be nimble. “But wait”, I hear you say, “viral IS UNPREDICTABLE”. The paradox of social marketing is that it often catches you unprepared and by the time you get your budget act together, well, your moment is gone.

 

The way to manage that within a corporate environment is to create a platform that organizes content distribution (which is the heart and soul of digital marketing) across media within a “campaign” model. Rather than throwing lots of social marketing toys onto the scene to see what sticks, plan campaigns around content distribution and key phrases that coordinate across functions – SEM, PR, article syndication and so forth within a specific timeframe that can be planned. This approach won’t cover all unexpected activities, but it beats trying to get any CFO to warm up to the idea of spending $50K so you can have a presence on Facebook.

 

Trust me – it ain’t pretty.

 

Judy Shapiro  

PR or D-PR – how to get the most from your PR agency

  

 

I can’t stand it anymore.

 

If I hear one more friend or colleague complain about their PR agency, I will scream. Within the past week alone I heard 4 complaints about PR agencies. “They don’t get it”. “I am disappointed with the results”. The drone is the same. The question is why does it seem that level of complaints has reached a loud pitch?

 

The answer is because we have not updated our understanding of how to use PR in the increasingly digitally focused marketing world. Well it’s best to start right now.

 

We all know that there is “new media” (a.k.a. digital media) and traditional media (such as TV). Well PR has the same distinction that looks like this.

 

Traditional PR = media outreach. Period. That means your PR agency gets reporters to pick up a news item about your company. If that’s what you want – then many PR agencies are just fine. But for many eCommerce centric businesses, an occasional media pickup does not seem to have the value it used to. It does not build an audience reliably or consistently. And it does not seem to create the “buzz” many companies are looking for.

 

So what happened? A great pickup in the New York Times used to give a business more lift in the past than nowadays. But don’t blame the PR agency.  

 

Part of the reason for the decline of the power of traditional PR is the decline of the power of the media as sole purveyors of our news. Now news can be procured through complex and open channels. Private individuals can capture a video segment on their cell phone that becomes front page news. A person networking on a community site reports on her experience with the government and an investigation is launched. But many PR pro’s continued to cultivate the traditional media outlets even as their influence declines. .

 

That’s how D- PR (digital PR) is different. D-PR is about the ability to create and manage a public conversation through a myriad of digital tools that drive public opinion.  This approach allows for a continuous presence that sustains a business rather than a one time article that drives short term results. That type of planning and execution takes digital PR savvy in knowing the new tools needed to target new audiences that traditional PR agencies don’t normally address.

 

And D-PR turns traditional PR planning on its head. Rather than hiring a PR agency to pitch a story and hope users will follow, D-PR takes an alternate approach. It uses digital technology to seed usage among key user groups and gets them talking about it. Once these champions user groups have been established (they need not be big numbers – just passionate about you), then do the “traditional PR” outreach. D-PR is the “new PR” – true public relations in its broadest and most inclusive sense.

 

So please stop beating up your PR agency. Start understanding what you are paying for.

 

Judy Shapiro

“Viral marketing in a box” for free — for real.

Your site is new and there you are. All dressed up and no one is buying. You know that to make this work, you need to get traffic but more important you need to convert traffic into a sale. And you know that viral marketing is a powerful “lubricant” that facilitates this process.

But you know you can’t afford to spend as much as you would like and more to the point you are not sure what to do in the first place.

To the rescue is a new initiative from Comodo, a large Certification Authority,  that delivers something no one else is – a “viral marketing program in a box” –for free – no cost. This initiative is called UserTrust and it creates a viral marketing platform where people can submit ratings for you. This is one of the most effective ways to build credibility and trustworthiness among prospects.  This is viral marketing at its best.

The cost to you is nothing because that’s how we will help build more great eBusinesses that we can deliver great products and services to. It is how the Internet will grow and our success with it.

So ignite your own viral marketing campaign today. Join UserTrust and let the power of people’s opinion drive your business.

Judy Shapiro

“But it’s not fair!”

As children, we cling to the notion that life is fair. It is how we, as children, can make sense of a world. After all, if there are 3 candies and 3 kids – fairness helps kids know what they can expect.

This notion of fairness unfortunately is not how life often works. Long ago I abandoned my childish attachment to fairness and replaced it with a more mature devotion to balance.

While superficially “balance” just seems to be another word for “fairness” – they are really quite different.

Fairness is used to manage expectations, like 3 candies – 3 kids. Everyone knows who gets what. But it is also a passive, static activity. The principles of fairness drive the action and the participants are subjugated to the rules of fairness.

Balance, on the other hand is a created thing. The participants are the ones who create the energy of equilibrium creating the balanced state. And balance is always shifting – never static.

This week I was reminded of this lesson and how it pertains to emarketing. Stuff happens in the big city. Sometimes in marketing great stuff happens – you get a great review from an important publication. But sometimes – you get a bad review because the editor did not understand your solution. How unfair you rage.  On first instinct you want to call the editor and appeal to his sense of fairness.  You want to scream into virtual cyberspace … “But it’s not fair…”

I had the chance to relearn this lesson when we recently got an unfair review by a reporter for a desktop security solution. Sophisticated technology can take a bit of time to fully understand and it would be easy to overlook a feature. And that’s what happened here. The editor just got his facts wrong. And based on wrong facts this editor posted a blog entry on his popular technology blog declaring our product unreliable. Not good for a security product.

Not good at all and I immediately launched into my instinctive crisis management action plan. Get to the editor, show him the error of his ways and then I imagined, he would change his posts to be “fair” to our solution.  

But I was able to observe that crisis management in the online world isn’t about fairness. I learned this week that crisis management in the online world is about balance. It is about owning the trajectory of the balance that is to be created. The party that drives pace of the equilibrium is the one that wins the emarketing war.

That translates into closely monitoring how the incorrect blog cascades through the blog-o-sphere and responding to the incorrect assumptions. That translates into being very vocal and very candid about your concerns in public. That translates into being sure that your point of view is visibly out there.

It’s not a perfect science. How far do you push? But the fundamentals are straightforward. Quickly get your perspective out in as many places and ways as you can. Control the conversation so you can create the balanced state.

Fairness won’t win an emarketing battle – balance will.

Judy Shapiro

Let’s schedule our lives – including when we fall in love.

I am working and out of my peripheral attention vision, I hear an eHarmony commercial telling me in an affirmative tone to,  “Make 2008 the year you fall in love.”

According to the commercial, we can summon on queue that which usually seems beyond our ability to summon. Many of us think of falling in love as something that just “happens”, something we can’t control. Yet this commercial challenges that notion. It asks in effect, can one “summon” things to happen in our lives on demand? Is there is some secret to getting what you want?

Actually I don’t think it is a secret – but rather more of an observation. It seems to me that most people in fact do get the things they ask for. Unfortunately, most people are not very discriminating about what they want.

And if there is a secret- that’s it. The old cliché, “Be careful what you wish for”. got it right – but it’s actually quite hard to really commit yourself to that disciplined way of thinking. People “want” all sorts of things. But unless you really think about you really want within the context of your life – the “want” list just becomes a jumbled, meaningless set of “stuff” – no punch and no energy.

But if you construct a well considered “want” list, then you do get what you want because the list reflects the reality of your world. Your world – perhaps at its most optimistic sense – but you’re world nonetheless.

And oh – BTW – once you really really get this (and to be honest most people probably don’t) – don’t be surprise if people around don’t believe you when you’re quite certain about your “wants”. I remember, a while back I had a discussion with a friend about how much would it take for me to be satisfied. I said $10 million. My companion shot back – “you would not be satisfied. Once you had that you would want more”. I tried to convince him that I really really do not want more. I failed. I could see he did not believe me and I could also see I would never convince him. He did not understand that I understood the consequences of what I wanted. I have learned to be was very very careful in what I ask for because I know if I want it enough it will come to me – one way or another. He didn’t believe me then – but I suspect one day he will.

So go ahead, “Make this the year you…” – Just consider your “wants” well.

Judy Shapiro  


 

           

The 2008 prediction for where the smart investment $$$ is going – and why

I love this time of year because it is only during this season that the heat is turned down in business – just a bit. During “the season”, the capitalistic oven that normally burns at high heat at every successful, growing tech company, now feels warming rather than scorching. So it is at this time of year I can luxuriously imagine what’s next? How will technology fare in the coming year?  

With those questions in mind, I seemed to all of a sudden notice how much media coverage there is about lots of new technologies being launched. The news is not different – “CEO Mr. Bright had an idea which got funding” but the sheer numbers of these news-bytes has gone up recently – way up. And these new ventures are playing with “stuff” involving digital sharing, web 2.0 (like virtual worlds), virtual commerce and more. It seems like we are “virtually” swimming in a sea of interesting ideas. That point was driven home recently when a VC buddy of mine hunting for ventures he could invest in called to ask whether any interesting ventures had crossed my path recently. That hadn’t happened since 2002.

There is now a new vitality and diversity of ideas I haven’t seen since 1998. In those days, I was at Lucent, working within the Bell Labs New Venture Group as Marketing Director where I helped evaluate technologies for commercial potential. I got to see all sorts of “technology stuff” – AT&T stuff, Bell Labs stuff, other people’s stuff. Stuff that evoked more “gee whizzes” than I thought was possible. Then, there was a sense of optimism and I sense that optimism is here again. Then, there was a feeling that there was always investment money to be had if you had a good idea. Now, the optimism is tempered with a new sense of maturity reflecting this new breed of entrepreneurs who know they better have a damn good revenue engine at the end of that damn good idea.  Gone are the days when ventures were launched with almost no profitable revenue in sight in the foreseeable future.

 

The sheer volume of news surrounding venture launches are indicative of the work that has been quietly going on behind the scenes for the last 6 years at the smart and growing technology companies. These companies have been building an impressive patent portfolio by, among other things, buying smaller technology companies that were the casualties of the last bust. Next, these companies are integrating these portfolios in new and very very interesting ways involving better ways to digitally communicate, play, and share – you guessed it – “stuff”. Then, in the final stroke of cyber luck, just when these companies needed new development tools to get this interesting “stuff” out there, we see a flurry of innovation in development technologies. Coming on line now are new pools of qualified labor using an explosion of new application development tools. Ruby on Rails is a prime example of a development platform that is open source (a.k.a. free) and which lets developers quickly add new capabilities to existing software reliably and without too much fuss.

 

So mix it all up – and you have it – the ingredients for a boom. This is the moment smart investors and smart technology companies have been waiting for.

 

The next logical question then one might ask is where to focus your investment attention? For fun, I decided to join the legions of people making New Year’s predictions and offer my predictions for where the smart money will and won’t go in 2008 …(use with caution J)  

 

Money will go into …  

  • Companies and platforms that can create social marketing campaigns with a similar organized approach that now dominates the execution of traditional advertising campaigns.
  • Companies that promote more integrated ways of communicating and sharing – across platforms (e.g. IM, mobile etc etc) and digital media types.
  • Companies that enable better online play experiences across platform migrating from a PC to a cell phone seamlessly. e.g poker that can be played on a PC and an iPhone.  
  • Companies that deliver online authentication, security and online trust –  especially involving authenticating digital transactions, identities and even content.
  • Companies that deliver wireless, proximity based marketing programs. 

Money will avoid …

  • Community sites that have their business model solely dependent on advertising because there just won’t be enough advertising dollars to go around to all the community sites being launched now
  • Mobile marketing companies that rely on next generation wireless phones
  • The next best “version” of a YouTube or Facebook. Sorry folks, but these guys created new distribution channels not to be easily repeated in this space. If want to succeed in this space, the difference had be better humongous – not just incremental.

There you have it. My predictions for 2008. Lots of promise with lots of risks wrapped up in the classic high risk high reward situation.

 

Let the boom games begin.

 

Happy New Year

Judy Shapiro

Five New Year’s resolutions for Marketers for 2008 – on becoming a lean, mean marketing machine

 

It’s true. It seems that many things I know about marketing I think I learned in my health ed class. You should know that I now avoid exercise at all costs, preferring to live  according to Churchill’s axiom, “Why stand when you can sit” (I actually think I am allergic to exercise). But in marketing, staying fit is needed because that’s how to generate results that builds business.

But before we make our new year’s resolutions, it’s useful to have a consistent understanding of what marketing is. Why is this necessary? Because you have to know what it is you’re looking to improve before you can make concrete steps to get into marketing shape. I am also amazed that a lot of the time people only understand marketing in the context of what it is not – it is not operations, or sales or product management – so what is left over must be marketing. Right? Uh – not exactly.

So what exactly is marketing? Well anyone that took Marketing 101 in college will raise their hand eagerly to spew back what surely we all remember – marketing is about the  4 “P”’S – Product, Pricing, Promotion and Place. But that line of thinking is not only dated – it is also largely irrelevant a lot of the time. Today, it is far more useful to think of marketing in terms of the three “M”’s — Magic, Muscle and Method, in equal measure. Magic is the ability to use your intuition, creativity and imagination to understand how your customers will perceive your offering. Muscle is the ability to inspire teams to follow your visions and finally Method is the ability to create the systems and processes to execute.  Don’t expect one person to be brilliant in all three “M”s. I myself might be talented in the first two Ms but the Method part of the equation is not my strength. The trick though is to create an environment where all three M’s can be operative and contribute to the fitness of your marketing machine.

So now that we have a basic understanding of what marketing is, let’s look at the healthiest way to use the three Ms to best advantage. And for that, let’s turn to the lessons we are learned in school during our health education classes.  

Prepare a well balanced marketing diet.

When looking at marketing programs it is tempting to put your energy into grand programs. The ones that are big and important and are expected to serve the business in multi-dimensional ways. Go ahead but remember that there is a need for balance. Be sure your marketing diet is also filled with quick hits that can generate revenue quickly while the more lavish programs are baking. The balanced diet I suggest is 2/3 long term planning to 1/3 quick hits.  

 

Do not overindulge in marketing sweets.

You get an email or a call from a sales person. “We can develop a program that will pay itself back in [fill in the blank] weeks.” You think about it, consider what has worked in the past. But in making a decision I suggest two things. First, don’t deny yourself all opportunities to try new things – that’s how you learn.  But second, don’t be an easy mark for every sales pitch either. Here is a brutal truth. There are no programs that can really deliver guaranteed highly qualified leads — not the best run social media program or telesales program. At best they can generate contact information from people who seem to have some interest in your product or service — maybe. Creating a truly qualified lead requires cultivation that only you can do. Don’t get seduced by a lovely box of marketing bon bons that promise the world – but do allow yourself an occasional treat.  

 

Get you daily dose of marketing veggies.

Not only do you have restrict how many marketing sweets you allow yourself, you also need to add the marketing equivalent of fiber and leafy greens that builds healthy marketing bones. That includes reading and learning about what drives your market, information about your customer segments, industry and technology trends and marco economics that impact your business. For instance, if you work at a bank, by understanding how a tight labor impacts wages and savings rates you can take advantage of opportunities your competitors might miss. You may not have loved your veggies as a kid – but your mother was right. You need your marketing veggies – reading and researching are a necessary part of a balanced marketing diet and you must discipline yourself to get your fill of the healthy stuff.  

 

Watch your marketing caloric intake.

This one is probably the simplest to understand in your head but the hardest to live. If we remember that one of Ms is method, you must develop an understanding of what your organization can execute in terms of capacity. Don’t take on more than you can execute because, well – it’s obvious isn’t it. But this can be really hard to manage if the needs of the business are immense and there are many opportunities. Discipline is needed because the temptations are great to over commit. Resist the urge.   

 

Engage in a daily dose of marketing calisthenics.

How do you exercise your marketing muscles? By actually doing some of the work yourself. It seems the height of irony. The higher you go in your career – the less you actually do. So just when you are at your professional best – you are probably doing less than ever. And worse, if you only have others do the work, then you get out of practice – the marketing equivalent of “If you don’t use it you lose it…”  To keep your marketing muscles strong – use them daily. Do one functional task a day. Write a response to a news item, do a quick article, work on a web site yourself. Don’t overdo it – but it is worth the time to stay current. 

Let me end by wishing you a 2008 filled with buzz and brand fitness. May your new year’s resolutions not evaporate once the buzz of the champagne fizzles out.

Happy New Year.

Judy Shapiro

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