The Future of the Future of Marketing (not a typo)

The future of marketing is now! Actually, it happened already.

After reading through a plethora of “the future of digital marketing” predictions permeating the digi-sphere so far this year, I’ve come to observe two common consistencies among them (aside from the incessant Mad Men references):

  1. Almost everyone has predictions, and they’re almost all the same.
  2. Many marketing foretellings have already been in play with modern marketers for some time.

For those with a seat at the head of the evolutionary marketing spectrum, the conventional future is yesterday’s news. Mobile. Social media. Automation. The list goes on. But what comes next?

Here’s just a few trends on the digital horizon for the future and for.. the future future (evil laugh).

The future: Inbound-focused marketing

The future future: Consent-only marketing

Does your organic opt-in traffic convert better than traffic from strangers? Yes? So does everyones’.

For this reason, many outbound batch-and-blast focused efforts have a newfound skewed inbound rod-and-reel twang. Conversion rates rise and consumer aggravation over unwarranted marketing inundation falls.

As new emphasis on attraction grows stronger, it trends towards a world where all traffic is organic and all outbound communication is full-blown double-opt-in consensual.

Sound crazy? Check out Canada. As of last summer, all email marketing to Canadian recipients (B2B and B2C) must be opt-in according to law. That even includes non-Canadian companies marketing into the country. Violation of the rule could result in a five figure deep slap to the wrist… per email sent.

Some speculate that the new Canadian laws might serve as a litmus test for other countries, who could eventually decide to pass similar legislation depending on the outcome in the great white north. If the US follows suit, it would change top-of-the-funnel strategy for-ev-er.

The idea of full consent is bound to apply to more than just email. We’re approaching a landscape where digital advertising is more intelligent and so tailored to behaviors, it only makes sense that each and every web surfer will eventually have a totally unique user experience on the web wherever they go, ads included. No irrelevant ads? Believe it or not, we’re getting there.

The future: Big data

The future future: Smart data

In marketing, smart is the new sexy. As companies continue to amass multitudes of consumer intel, the protocols to store and leverage that data must become more intelligent to use it effectively. This makes the fear of big bad data kind of irrational.

In an old blog post, I likened such smart data structures to an everyday bath drain. If the drain is in place and is water-tight, it doesn’t matter if the tub is half way full or at the brim, the water will pass through its predetermined path.

With a database that has smart fields, stored in a medium (your proverbial tub) that could handle the volume, and integrated into other systems (your drain), then chances are you could take your plumber’s number off speed dial.

The future: Content marketing

The future future: Content outsourcing

Who cares about content marketing? Everybody. Well, almost. 74% of small businesses say they’ve used content marketing and only 4% had no plans to do any in the near future, according to recent survey results by Business Bolts.

I can’t quite imagine a business that wouldn’t benefit from releasing informative, lead-bearing content deliciousness to its target audiences. A webinar. An eBook. A blog about the future of digital marketing. (See what I did there?)

But already we recognize the king that is content. It’s the lead generation gift that keeps on generating. What’s new is the trend forming into a new standard of outsourcing the actual content creation.

In the early days of content marketing’s rise to the top of the priority list, copywriters, designers, bloggers and the creative likes were hot commodities. DM teams were being outfitted with a diversified fleet of content curators. A worthy investment given great ROI on organic content marketing.

However, as the value of good content rises so does the need for more of it. And it becomes a bit daunting for marketing departments of any size to handle internally.

A lot of groups now have the content process down to more of a streamlined scientific structure, leveraging trusted part-time consultants, agencies and even overseas freelancers for help.

I don’t mean to imply all things content are brushed off to others. The department of course steers the ship by providing outside crew with things like outline, topics, defined voice and style, while third-parties handle the tactical creation elements based on those guidelines. Low commitment, high impact content goodness.

The future: Targeting

The future future: Geo Targeting

Targeting audiences is nothing new. Basic spray-and-pray tactics have boiled down to demographic and behavioural targeting and eventually to mobile targeting. Even geolocation targeting is nothing brand new, but the way it’s combining with mobile and being used with more pinpoint accuracy is.

Targeting geo is becoming so intelligent that some retail stores are able to push coupon notifications to consumers the moment they enter their store.

On the data front, tracking geo down to the footstep allows marketers to uncover actionable trends of how and when you shop, and allows an even more relevant and personalized content experience for consumers. Creepy, perhaps. Effective, definitely.

The future: B2B Marketing and Sales Team Synergy

The future future: B2B Sales Team Displacement

For the past few years, we’ve seen an interesting new intimacy among sales and marketing groups within B2B organizations. Formerly dueling parties living under a universal mentality that sales makes the money while marketing spends.

With the rise of smarter marketing, content nurturing, lead funneling and clear attribution, many teams have bonded in a newfound love affair. But will the honeymoon last? Sources say… yes, and no.

While synergy between groups is likely to remain strong, and even intensify in nature, new trends suggest marketing roles within corporations increasing, while B2B sales roles are declining. This only makes sense if you think about it.

Good marketing teams run programs to nurture and generate wallet-out leads that need just a bit of personal touch during the process. Marketing nurtures with content so the buyer learns what they’re getting, and marketing operations enable a simple user experience to buy.

As things move in that direction, the need diminishes for old-school sales team roles like cold callers to start conversations, explainers to personally nurture things to the next level, and order takers to deal with non complex buyer dynamics

Hubspot posted some research from Forrester that suggests 1 million B2B sales jobs to vanish by 2020.

Marketing warms up the leads and sales supports that process and closes the deals. That dynamic lets groups not only play nice together, but reduces redundancy on the sales side and makes both teams equally as imperative to the sales cycle. Some modern marketing-centric B2B companies like Marketo have this mentality in mind, and employ about the same amount of marketers on their growth team than sales reps, according to sources.

Conclusion

The future of marketing is exciting. The future of marketing’s future.. even more so.

Formulating more intelligent systems to streamline elements like acquisition, data and content while getting to know consumers more intimately than ever will be key to taking digital marketing to the next level of evolution.

So may you stay relevant as the ground continues to shift, or may Darwinism take its course.

3 Key Ingredients to Kick Ass in Digital Marketing

There is certainly no shortage of content out there that spells out the critical best practices for success in ultramodern digital marketing. Automation. Integration. Lead generation. ROI attribution. And all of the other great digital tactics ending in “ion” that ooze with impact-bearing glory.

Thinking outside the granularity of tactical digital marketing to high-level strategic building blocks, critical to supporting all those finer points, I’ve boiled down to just three. And if you’re utilizing them, you’re likely already killing it in DM and attacking all those “-ions.” If you’re not, you could be.

Empower yourself.

Modern marketing operations require focus, tenacity, forward thinking and creativity. Those inate qualities come naturally to some and are harder for others. To really bring those skills out of yourself it’s critical to nurture your body and mind to enable them.

Your diet, daily activity, sleep habits and environment play a huge factor in how your body and mind run. Eating food for self-indulgence is old school. The modern go-getter eats for self improvement. Find the foods that give you energy, better focus, good nourishing sleep without the grogginess, elevated mood. For me it’s an organic high-fat-low carb diet with a lot of nutritious veggies.

Many people on paleo, keto, Bulletproof diets report positive effects on work, relationships and life in general. And it’s no surprise. Food is fuel. When you run on high octane, the effects lend high impact to everything you do in life. The right amount of sleep, exercise to relieve stress and boost mood, and even engaging hobbies like art and music to upgrade creativity and focus all add value to what you do every day. So, the first step to kicking ass at life is taking care of yourself and the rest could easily follow.

Always be learning.

You don’t know everything. It’s an important realization to have for us more confident folk. Not even the excessively successful pros currently crushing it in their careers do.

In marketing, it’s even more true. Just when you’ve gotten a stong grasp on all things modern marketing.. BAM! something new comes along and the ground shifts. As a result, there’s zero place for the “I know enough” mentality in marketing, except for the proverbial graveyard of antiquated marketers who have already faded into the abyss of obscurity, many due to that mindset.

Always be educating. There’s an overabundance of free content to take advantage of in marketing to stay ahead of the curve. Leverage it and never settle for “I know enough.”

Prioritize.

Ugh. More pounding of the “prioritize” drum, which has likely already ruptured many an eardrum. But in DM, “kicking ass” could very quickly become “ass kicked” without a focus on it. 

When I say prioritize, I don’t just mean plan out your day and order tasks by level of importance. (But, if you’re not doing that, do it you arrogant rebel you.) I mean on a larger scale that many neglect.

Define your key goals (yep, another cliche. Deal with it). Make each goal a figurative bucket. Everything you do – each task, all your time,  any effort should align with one of those buckets. If it doesn’t,  how important could it be?

Seeing things through this lens is incredibly helpful in avoiding spending valuable time and skills on distractions. Even things that may seem important at the time may prove to not land in any goal buckets and quickly reveal itself as a non priority, which may not have been noticed otherwise. Focus on goals and extinguish the distractions; or at least move them down the list.

Before building a house, lay a foundation. And before getting buried in the tactical elements of digital marketing, empower your body and mind,  prioritize and learn all you can. Then, let the kicking assing ensue.

Cool Shots of #INBOUND14

If you’re like me, then you did not make it out to Hubspot’s INBOUND 14 event. Hopefully, you’re not like me and you are soaking up all of the inbound goodness the event has to offer.

Attempting to join from afar as much as possible, I’ve relied on my digital marketing maven peers to capture some visual goodness so I may attend vicariously through their smartphone lenses.

Though I have not seen a fraction of the #INBOUND14-bearing images shared in the social-media-sphere, a few of what I have seen have painted an illustrious picture of the event. Thanks to those photo journalist inbound enthusiasts for sharing the experience!

(Uploaded as screenshots to credit the publishers.)

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I’ll Have What She’s Having…

Provoking Word-of-Mouth Marketing

One of the harder-to-ignore trends in modern business is becoming what I’ve dubbed as “provoked word-of-mouth,” and it’s becoming increasingly pervasive.

There’s thought that 50% of purchase decisions are influenced through customer referral. Even better, according to influencer advocate solution Branderati, those referred buyers have a 37% higher-than-average retention rate.

The statistics are staggering and businesses are noticing. Endorsement of a product or service by a trusted friend or even common stranger lends the credibility that a brand is hard-pressed to provide on its own. It’s a more organic and less schlocky way of permeating a “don’t just take our word for it!..” concept.

This differs from traditional affiliate marketing as customers are urged to provide the influence, not just other businesses. Rather than sitting back and hoping happy customers share their tales of positive experience, many modern businesses are doing a great job of enabling such discourse by use of tech tools.

Perhaps the best way to depict this provoked influence phenomenon is through great example. Recently altering my subscription to Dollar Shave Club lead me to a widget that enabled sharing through email and social media, right there through the page’s interface. They even wrote the referral, so you don’t have to!

provoked word of mouth marketing - Dollar Shave Club

Cha-ching indeed, Dollar Shave Club; a dedicated sharable link to attribute influence and even a financial reward. This and many other similar approaches – leveraging pleased buyers to acquire even more business – are becoming increasingly prominent as an innovative business growth channel. With provoked word-of-mouth marketing, happy customers become the sales people.

Just to name a few other subjects I’ve noticed employing such a partnership program are 99 designs, Uber, and even Google Apps. An email with an affiliate offer from Mercedes-Benz just hit my inbox while writing this post.

Provoked Work Of Mouth Marketing - Mercedes

The technology behind such partnering programs, if not proprietary, is sometimes powered by some innovative third-party platforms, like Ambassador and RefferalCandy. There are also niche-focused players like Referral SaaSquash for subscription-based business.

Easing and incentivizing the process for people to tell friends about you is one of those marvelous channels in marketing where everybody wins. Happy customer gets a reward and satisfaction as a value emissary, referred customer gets needs met, brand expands its market reach. Smiles for everyone. The questions becomes, is your product worth talking about?

The Virility of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Campaign and Why You Ought to Participate

Ice Bucket Challenge Marketing

By now, you’ve probably seen enough ice bucket challenge videos on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and other social networks to make you pray winter comes early. And, if you’re like me, you’ve probably seen a lot of differing opinions that have followed in the wake of the movement. Some common ones I’ve seen are:

  • How does dumping cold water on your head help ALS?
  • The people who are creating videos and not donating are not helping
  • People are using this and the cause for attention
  • ALS Association is lavishly spending and not using the money as people desired

Whether you like it or not, I’m going to provide yet another opinion. This time, it’s from a marketing perspective – through the lens of use of viral content. Something many marketer folk try to emulate but few succeed with. So here’s the effect taking place. The best way I could think to describe the cold-and-wet phenomenon is through basic analogy. I’ll preface with how this describes how even posting a video without (gasp!) contributing cash could actually make a difference.

Non-Digital Viral Effect

So, let’s say you’re a person walking down a city street and you come across a young homeless soul who looks like they need some immediate help, perhaps at least a meal. They look ill and frail. Someone’s quick financial help sparing just a couple bucks could provide some nourishment and make a difference.

But let’s say you have no money, or just don’t want to spare any, but you don’t want to just walk away either. Instead, you turn to somebody also walking by and challenge them. You propose to give a couple of dollars to help this person buy a meal or, as an alternative, help you some find somebody who will.  

The approached person may say “you know what, I don’t have the money to spare but I do have a little bit of time, so I will accept and help your recruitment effort.” They then reach out to somebody near and they make the same proposition. Maybe that person then encounters the same situation and spares their time to help spread awareness. Someone will turn to another person who will turn to someone else who turns to somebody else and ultimately you’ve created a large network of people all working together for a unified cause. The unified mass may not be contributing directly to the solution, but indirectly, they’ve created a powerful awareness army who will ultimately spread to someone – or most likely a myriad of people – who have the money and willingness to spare.

Viral Ice Bucket Challenge Network

The influence of the recruitment effort in this hypothetical eventually has a greater effect than the few dollars that would have been spared in the beginning. In the case of the “ice bucket challenge,” many may not even realize they’re contributing to this effect. The viral campaign might not cure the disease in the same way the hypothetical homeless subject gets their sandwich, but it demonstrates the power of influence. Some cynics are proving unable to think through the shallow surface to uncover the true impact. It explains how sharing ice-dumping videos on social media – even without donation – helps this cause. There is a message that flows through a messenger, then a network of messengers to achieve a defined result. Content marketers often try to spark this effect and nurture to a ubiquitous blaze.

Why Don’t Marketers Leverage this Effect?

Unlike viral videos or other media forms, elements are there in this case for a really successful viral effect. Quick and low-commitment to participate, ability for participants to showcase themselves and get creative, compelling cause that influences participation, a “challenge” that influences people to meet. If the cause wasn’t as compelling, would people still pursue it? If it involved creating a video about ALS without ice, a bucket or a challenge would anyone participate? All the nuances align here that influence desire to take part, which an often organic occurrence that is quite difficult for marketers to emulate so perfectly.

As for the Haters..

Some folks might be doing so for attention, generating creative scenarios which are often over-the-top (see Bill Gates’). The intentions of participation may be attention-craved in some cases but what really matters in the end is the effect it has. The effect here: from July 26th to this post the ALS Association has raised $15.6 million. That’s less than a month-long period. This is compared to only $50k in last year’s same period.

Regarding conjecture on the foundation’s use of the funds… welcome to the world of non-profit. The business involves little regulation on how your donated money is used regardless of how you hope it is. This doesn’t make it okay in this or any case, however, think about the awareness of the disease that’s spread. This being an ailment that few even knew about before this trend. When a supermarket would ask to tack a $1 donation to your bill for ALS, you may not have been likely to comply without knowing what it was. Now and going forward for years, I think more people will because of recalling this campaign. Talking about ALS, writing about it and understanding it helps pave the way for progress in helping find a cure as awareness hits the people who could make a huge difference. In the end, the long term, indirect effects that this viral challenge will have will be pretty significant for a historically relatively neglected disease.

Every Drop Counts

For those who have not participated in this or other benefits to greater good – perhaps under the old philosophy of “what difference will one person make?”… the effect this fundraiser is having should be your answer. There’s a great old saying “no single raindrop believes itself to be responsible for the flood.” It works both ways. Individuals taking action on something has a collective impact.

So kudos to all those who have helped make this unprecedented campaign a phenomenal one, and show the world the immense power of influence through digital means. If it’s not your bag then, hey, this might start a trend of charitable viral social challenge campaigns and one may hit that grabs you. For now, I’d implore you to let fundraising and good vibes flow.

HBR Asks, Are You Modernized?

Any marketers who happens across Harvard Business Review blog from time-to-time is surely privy to some excellent content around general leadership, the psychology of business and – especially as of late – specific emphasis on the evolving marketing function. One of the more recent posts –  titled appropriately as The Rebirth of the CMO – is one of the more profound I’ve checked out which, I’m sure even at first glance, begs the old nail-on-the-head cliché from most readers in the contemporary marketing niche.

First there was traditional marketing, then there was modern marketing.

Harvard Biz slices up the components of what makes up the disparity of old and new marketing. Not to suggest the author believes these factors to be the only ones that bridge the modern marketing divide, but rather points out that these activities seem to represent what’s not only important, but now required of all CMOs to success.  So, according to them, here’s what wasn’t there before but is now, so use them!

  • Insight measurement
  • Strategy to manage/integrate cross channel communication
  • Influencing transformation within the organization

Insight measurement

 “When it comes to who asks the provocative questions [and] who agitates for customer-led change, it is the group closest to the customer and the group with the data. And that really is on the backs of marketing.” – Tariq Shaukat, the CMO of Caesars Entertainment, The Rebirth of the CMO.

To traditional-focused marketers, if there existed an activity to build into the overall marketing approach that scientifically suggests the result of x2 likelihood to outperform on profit and 23x more likely to acquire new business compared to peers the without it, logic would dictate they ought to pursue it. That’s why a great deal of marketers are infusing analytical measurement; to uncover growth-driving indicators as well as signs signaling growth suppression and flat performance. However, some aren’t doing this. According to HBR, just about 30 percent of companies believe they have enough understanding of their customers to identify what approaches will drive growth.

Why the mystery if the technology is there for enlightenment? Once such indicators are revealed, marketers could delve deeper and understand how their group affects the business and how strategy could be amended to saturate marketing plans with the good performance indicators and shed the time-wasting ineffective ones, resulting in a streamlined overall process.

Thinking philosophically about the incorporation of customer demographic and psychographic criteria measurement into the equation always leads me to personify the marketing function. Knowing what’s going on in the buyer experience is like marketing opening its eyes for the first time. With open eyes, marketing, like with people, are able to gather more information to make more informed decisions based on true facts, not speculation.

Strategy to manage/integrate cross channel communication

“Point solutions, such as focusing on the call center, the store, or the website, no longer cut it in a multichannel environment, not when delivering excellent customer journeys can increase revenues up to 15 percent and cut costs by up to 20 percent.”The Rebirth of the CMO.

In a past post I wrote –  Seven Habits of Highly Effective Digital Marketers – I describe the crucial perspective of seeing all marketing-sales cycle activity in “funnel vision.” Strangers ultimately become customers by travelling through a set of actions and channels within the Awareness, Interest, Desire and Action stages, which guides them through the different pieces of the sales funnel and determines they should be treated: as a stranger, a hot sales lead or something in between. This view gives marketers a sales hat and allows them to see marketing as an influence of revenue, instead of a branding or ad center.

It would even be a fair case to say there are even more touches in the customer process today than the age-old, text book AIDA model. Within all of those stages involve a voluminous set of nuances that the stranger flows through in their buyer journey down to retained customer. Managing as many of these nuances as possible will tighten up marketing efficiency and thus revenue influence significantly, and it’s not a one-and-done job. As HBR describes,  “to stitch it all together meaningfully, CMOs are increasingly expected to act as general managers with P&L or shared/shadow P&L responsibility that drive revenue growth.”

Needless to say, to manage optimized revenue-driven marketing, the CMO needs to manage the process that leads up to such a result. In modern marketing, this process involves content, market attention and data flowing through digital channels like social media, website, email, ad and others, along with some traditional (perhaps digitally-infused) tactics. The more diverse the multi-channel approach to MarCom, the more insights could be developed that improve strategy (see previous activity on insight measurement). Integrating the channels together helps turn disjointed avenues to customer engagement to a unified ecosystem that the customer flows through, keeping them in marketing reach longer thus retaining their attention more effectively.

Influencing marketing transformation within an organization

“If marketing is not driving the change agenda then either the agenda is wrong or marketing is not being effective.” Ian Ewart, Head of Products, Services & Marketing at Coutt, The Rebirth of the CMO.

As with any proverbial ground-shifts, the moving floor beneath the feet atop may go unnoticed without someone blatantly pointing it out. Most CMOs are recognizing the changing tides, while some more members of the C-suite are noticing too. Others will require a bit of cheerleading and education to recognize change much needed to effectively sell to the modern, empowered consumer of the digital age. WSJ’s CMO Today covered this concept of CEO enlightenment well in a post back in March, going on to describe how it’s even directly effecting tenures for CMOs.

The modern CMO has a significant task of, not only supporting inclusive marketing process evolution, but also making the case internally of why such a monumental strategic change that effects most aspects of the business is necessary so they could allocate their time an budget to doing it at all

Delivering such change involves a steady shift, which constantly tests results of how movements are effecting the bottom-line. Even CEOs who achieve enlightenment and demand modernization  in their marketing departments would not want a hasty jerking of marketing operation to damage the integrity of overall business performance. The CMO, according to HBR, needs a well-crafted agenda, strategy and the right tools and team to push it forward.

Reading through the full post by Harvard Business Review paints a clear picture of how some new-age, digital-enabled approaches to marketing are more than bells and whistles but imperative to compete in the modern-day. The general vibe I soaked in from this post is same as I’ve continued to encounter within the marketing operations community for quite a while and increasing in intensity with passing time: marketing is undergoing momentous, disruptive change.

What I get out of a more select few pieces like this one, is how these changes will allow marketing functions more influence on the overall business. With their department having more influence as does the CMO that leads the charge, which raises their profile in the world of business. Those who will reach that pinnacle will have recognized change need, adopt protocols to support it and revolutionize businesses using cutting-edge strategy, technology and creativity. As for the others…

Seven Habits of Highly Effective Digital Marketers

While not an incredibly original post (or title), I believe marketing to be such a subjectively defined and rapidly evolving field that all takes on marketing and what it takes to operate it effectively are original. Of all the tips, tricks and intrinsic qualities needed to manage an optimized digital approach that I’ve seen, I’ve found some to be good, some to the great, others to be poor and a select some to be essential.

“Habit” is, in most contexts, used as a negative word to define the ritualistic activity performed regularly by people that cause some sort of overall damaging outcome; like smoking, overeating, excessive shopping. The word, I fee,l is not used enough as a positive – as by Stephen Covey in his “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” – to describe habitual activity that causes positive effects. Good habits are what digital-focused marketers want to uncover and saturate their strategy in to promote a fully optimized approach. Here are some I feel should be included in that:

Knowing thy goals

Any project in any job in any function of any business should always start with the question of goals. What are they!? To make an accomplishment, a finish line must be determined. A goal and timeline for completion helps marketers back up into a process that then determines the strategy.

A goal is difficult to reach if it is undefined or vague. Knowing where you’d like to end helps to determine the best course to get there and then where to start, along with the different nuances, tools and people that will support getting there.

A great way to look at projects is to visualize a house; If you know the goal is a house with specific features, you could decide the process to establish those features, then decide where to start to set the stage to bring them to life, like a foundation, a frame and other infrastructure. This is needed before other additional pieces, like decorating the interior design. In marketing, that infrastructure includes a goal, a strategy to reach that goal and the different  variables that will support it. As things flesh out, bare bones turns to a complete whole with all the bells and whistles that are all supported by the initial framework and eventually reaches the goal.

Always be learning

Everything in life is a learning experience. Even challenges and failures help to enrich the knowledge and skills of those who face it. The more marketers pay attention to fine details and new developments, the more they will learn to optimize their approach to full efficiency.

The ground beneath marketing is shifting. Strictly traditional marketing technique is not delivering the provable impactful results that the C-level is now demanding to turn their marketing departments from a mysterious cost center to a more organized and transparent revenue source. Those who have embraced this change and learned how to leverage digital technology and progressive technique to develop a business are being noticed and demanded as the new leaders of the new age of marketing. The landscape of marketing technology is vast, and growing rapidly every day to enhance this shift taking place. Keeping abreast of these new technologies, how they work, and if they could add value in your efforts is a tremendous learning experience that will enrich a career.

There are tons of other great ways to learn as a marketer, like taking notice of great leaders and emulating the traits and skills that make them successful, gaining subject matter expertise in a given industry, and more. Each learning experience requires an open mind and special attention to details. The desire to always be improving will help a marketer’s mind soak up all of the great information that could boost their performance and value significantly.

Beautiful mind-ing” your data

If you’ve seen Russell Crowe’s depiction of Jon Nash in the film A Beautiful Mind, you may already know where I’m headed. If that’s the case, you may already be a master of this habit.

A truly valuable marketer sees opportunity everywhere. John Nash’s character early in the film was able to view a schema of seemingly arbitrary data and visualize patterns, ultimately cracking hidden codes. A digital marketing talent (perhaps on a more basic scale) could view campaign results, analytics, contact databases and other sources and detect interesting behavioral patterns.

For instance, if consumers are displaying consistent behavior in recent time, clicking on links, viewing webpages, sharing social media posts, all that relate to a particular less-highlighted product, the modern marketer would pick up on this pattern and recommend a strategy to enhance the efforts around that product. The market seems to be demanding that particular product even without saying a word, and the analytical marketer could read between the lines and use that insight to improve strategy and boost business.

Although it might seem to be the case, you don’t need to have extraordinary analysis or wizardry skill to accomplish this Nash-like performance indication. Some people are born with great innate skill that supports this while others spend time learning how to measure data, learning about patterns to look for and how to interpret them, understanding those patterns and what it means for the business and how to take that understanding and implement it into strategy that will have a significant impact in optimizing marketing effort.

Funnel Visioning

Every great, modern marketer that I’ve met has a different focus and approach to marketing. However, all also bear some similarities. The digital masterminds with focus on the end result of revenue growth all tend to see the world through the scope of the marketing funnel.

The funnel is tied to the buyers lifecycle, which traditionally has been going from ignorance of a product, service or brand, to Awareness of its existence, to Interest in consuming it, to Desire to consume it, to Action toward purchasing (see AIDA model). A marketing function’s responsibility in this lies in guiding the market from stage to stage successfully.

The marketing funnel helps marketers to navigate this motion from Top of the Funnel (TOFU) where the Awareness starts to the Bottom of the Funnel (BOFU) where the action takes place, and to know where each potential customer sits in it. The stage in the funnel helps to determine strategy; i.e. customers at the TOFU or Awareness stage wouldn’t be a fit to receive a hard sales pitch yet as they’re still nurturing; and conversely someone at the bottom, ready-to-buy stage shouldn’t get introductory content describing the general business and their offerings, as they already know if they’re in this stage.

Marketers with focus on results for the overall business are often the most valued, and many of those in that category view everything via funnel-vision. Each piece of content, each inbound or outbound communication, each idea, etc are all visualized as where they would fit in with the funnel structure and how they would support each stage. If all focus includes the funnel, then all focus includes overall revenue goals in mind. Attention to this mindset is what helps marketers connect with sales, and blurs the lines a bit between the two functions to promote synergy.

Thinking a few steps ahead

Living in the here and now is important in some cases. Letting things ride spontaneously is a fun and adventurous way to live; however, in marketing, there almost always needs a focus on proactive strategy as well.

Great marketers learn from their experiences. They also know their market well and how it might react to different strategy. So, instead of knee-jerk marketing, viewing things in the big picture is vital, which also requires to attempt predicting the future. If a communication takes place, its recipients land into the funnel. How are they approached then? What about after that? Viewing ahead gives a birds-eye-view of the approach and helps marketers to sync their different efforts together and avoid ad hock marketing – performing tasks as needs arise instead of already proactively fulfilling those needs with overall broader efforts.

Test, measure, understand, optimize

In the past, I’ve sometimes described marketing operations as orchestra conducting. A conductor organizes orchestra members, the instruments involved, the placement of each and then begins to teach. At first, the symphony will not be perfect, no matter how talented the members. The conductor will continue to tweak components, make improvements, detect flat notes, and tighten up the overall process to improved result. Using his or her ears as their tool, the conductor tests the performance, understands if it is adequate or what improvements could be made, and then determines how to fix flaws if they exist to optimize the result a bit closer to perfect.

In marketing, it’s a similar structure to promote peak performance. A symphony of data, content, technology and strategy that all must work together in such a way that performs actions that lead to goals. Performance will rarely be perfect at first – open rates may be lower than ideal, CTRs, site traffic, response rates and overall revenue beneath goal benchmarks – however, through scrutiny, testing with innovative technology tools, understanding the flaws, fixing them and improving the process gets things a bit closer to perfection. This cycle for improvement is never ending.

Split testing content in email and landing pages, A/B testing email subject lines and social media posts is just one great technique to tighten up the process through measurement and understanding. The more you test, the more you understand about your audience and your overall strategy.

Integrate everything

We exist in a fascinating age of digital marketing. Over the years, tech tools that support the marketing and sales process have surfaced, developed and continue to grow. As is inevitable in such evolution, ultimately many of the fragmented technology tools peppered throughout the landscape began to see value in leaning on each other, and thus many have develop ability through API and other means to talk to each other. Just as an iPhone syncing with your car stereo provides and convenience and service to consumers, as does a CRM integrating with an Automation tool, or a social media management tool syncing with a CMS, etc.

Since the ability to leverage is there and increasingly available as this trend continues, marketers must look to use it to their advantage. Marketing functions should no longer settle with use of a number of standalone tools or marketing channels, but rather look to tie them together and create a cross-functional ecosystem. Tools exchanging data with other tools, marketing channels like a website exchanging customer navigation flow to other channels like social media pages. Once a system is created, customer data flows smoothly to each component like cells through veins, which expands and enriches overall market interaction with a business’s branding.

Other habits of ultramodern digital-focused marketers may certainly apply and, for some businesses and industries, perhaps even more so than those listed above. I’d love to hear your feedback and what you believe are key behavior patterns of top digital performers. Contact me here or on Twitter @Vince_Tech.

Hell or High Numbers

I’ve been asked over past weeks frequent times by friends and virtual connections about recent notable social media follower growth in my networks, which in part inspires this post. According to a third-party tracking system with Twitter API, I’ve averaged just under 100 new followers per day over the past month, along with about 100 new Linkedin connections and several hundred Linkedin requests per month. Best of all, they are real, engaged and relevant users that required no investment of funds and little investment of time to acquire. Everyone have a different approach to social networking, and I thought I’d take some time to reveal my personal social growth strategy.

First Off, Should You Buy Followers?.. No.

Buying growth on social media simply doesn’t pay off and is not involved in how I operate it, for my own account or those  of friends’ businesses I’ve grown. There are a slew of posts around that discuss this topic, but many focused on the ethical and reputation implications of buying an audience. Actually, I don’t entirely discredit new businesses for buying followers or likes in order to jump start their establishment as a credible and recognized entity to spite their infancy. The bigger issue is that this illusion of fan base is the only value follower purchasing has, and it’s only temporary.

How “Follower Trafficking” Works

The follower trafficking industry works, for the most part, as follows. Someone or a group of people, in most cases somewhere offshore, will market “buy followers” online and via social media. The customary “get more followers” communication is practically ubiquitous, especially on Twitter. Once someone bites and forks over some funds, followers get achieved in one of two ways:

    • One way is through masses of fake accounts created by the group solely for the purpose of following customers that will begin to follow your account. Fake names, stolen or default profile images and fickle followers are notorious for these accounts. Because there is nobody actually behind these accounts engaging with your tweets, the value of having them follow is basically limited solely to the perception of a large following. Since Twitter limits every user’s following-to-follower ratio (in a mysterious algorithm that only Twitter seems to know the specific configuration of), at some point, all the fake accounts top out and either get banned by Twitter or, in some cases, the group owners begin to unfollow past customers to make room for the new ones. As a result, even the value of follower perception only lasts as long as the fake accounts do, and the numbers will eventually drop almost entirely.
    • Another way involves actually handing your username and password over to the seller. Once they could login as you on Twitter, they will follow a multitude of people that they feel will follow back (i.e. those people who insistently tweet #followme, #followback and/or are followers of “follow back” accounts, of which there are no shortage on Twitter). They will continue following the people who followed you, and unfollow those who didn’t follow back to keep the numbers level. Software like “JustUnfollow.com” or “Unfollowers.com” is normally used for this. The result is having more following accounts, more follower accounts (who are actually real), but followers who don’t particularly care about the specific universe or brand that your represent. Someone who’s passionate about cars, and tweets mainly around #auto, might find only a small percentage actually engage and create any value for their account. “FollowBack” people I find also tend to unfollow users, even ones that follow them back.

Forcing Real, Organic Growth

A strong method for real, engaged Twitter followers who care about your content is what I use, which could even translate to value in other channels as it does for me. I follow targeted users who appear to be incredibly relevant to the things that I like and tweet about regularly (in my case technology, digital marketing, growth/bio-hacking, among some others). I do this “user following” at very specific timing, normally around 8:45 to 9:30 PM EST during the week and Sundays, – when east coast is checking out Twitter before bed and west coast is finishing up dinner – and midday Saturdays. If someone is actively on Twitter at the time you follow them, the likelihood of them clicking the notice of a new follower and thus following back I find is much higher.

It’s important though, when a user sees a follow from someone new, that the first visuals they see on the follower’s page are pleasing and strikingly relevant. My page is simple in design so it’s easy on the eyes. No bright colors or background images; Twitter interface already has a lot going on visually, adding more detail comes off a bit erratic and overwhelming in my opinion. As a result, eyes focus on my profile image and bio. My bio contains my personal definition of “modern marketing,” a topic that I and those I follow care about: “Modern #Marketing is the Elegant Collision of #Creativity #Technology and #Strategy.” Because the message is relatable, reaction is favorable. I very often get followed back, and my bio quote frequently even gets copied and pasted into a tweet that @ mentions me. If the bio is not enough to establish commonality to merit a follow back, my latest tweets often are. Since all my tweets run consistent with my bio messaging – quotes, memes, and articles on the topics I like and follow people based on – when a newly followed user first scrolls through my activity it seemss to often solidifies the relevance and desire to connect based on the frequent follow back reaction. I’ve found due to these variable, along with strategically targeting followed users using hashtag searches and viewing the followers of relevant friends, I achieve about a 75-80% follow back rate.

But what about those 20-25% non-followers? Well, there is simply little value in following people who don’t follow you back, unless you really enjoy and retweet their content. Otherwise, they are simply taking up room on your following list and, even with an incredibly high follow back rate, even a small non-follow back percentage will eventually skew the ratio unfavorably. As a result, I use JustUnfollow to monitor non-follows (people who have not followed back) and unfollows (people who had followed mutually but then unfollowed me). After allotting a couple weeks’ time to act, I will assume they do not find relevancy between us and I will unfollow them as a result.

How Does This Create Broader Value Outside of Twitter?

Diversifying your brand to other social networks is important. Not everyone uses Twitter or uses it often enough, and showing an extensive reach on multiple channels shows multifaceted success. For me, Twitter is the nucleus that other networks revolve around and feed off of. One cross-channel influence is my handle for Instagram and link for LinkedIn posted in my bio, beneath my quote. For people looking to expand all their networks, they have easy access to connect with me on different levels with just a couple clicks. More effective is my use of automation using a JustUnfollow feature that sends an auto-direct message to new followers, which I use to push them to LinkedIn with this automated note: “Hey there – let’s connect on LinkedIn! Linkedin.com/in/vincechiofolo.”

Those who follow many people on Twitter will notice many auto-DMs, often starting with “Thanks for following,” “Thanks, nice to meet you,” etc. For mine, I get right to the point. Albeit a nice, friendly gesture, I notice myself disregarding a DM once I see the first word “thanks,”  anticipating the rest to be an auto-message. Instead, I use a seemingly personal opener then jump right in to the call-to-action to Linkedin connecting. It works. Out of about 100 Twitter followers per day, I get 10-15 Linkedin requests alongside them, sometimes much more. To keep Linkedin clean, if some requests are irrelevant or appear to have little networking value, I simply ignore the request (but never deny, AKA “I don’t know them,” which could hurt their reputation with Linkedin). Ignoring sounds rude, but if we’re not relevant to network, there is little potential value for either of us to connect.

New people  in addition to simply people following back follow too. If even loosely relevant, users should always be followed back. Not following back is a poor way to enhance your follower-to-following ratio, as people using a similar approach to mine will see that you don’t follow, render you uninterested in a connection and thus unfollow you.

The overall approach is quite simple really: follow targeted, likeminded people at optimal Twitter times, set up a strategically-crafted profile, an auto-DM for cross-channel connection, a platform for intermittent unfollowing of redundant users, and post good relevant content. With this strategy, followers on multiple networks will stream in by using only minor efforts and time equating to just minutes per day. Even days I forget or don’t have time to follow anyone or post anything still result in 40-50 new followers carrying over from efforts of previous days. Good strategy, the right technology, with a splash of creativity avoids need to spend money on rubbish and instead harvests organic gold.

Happy networking.

Controlling Evolution: From Growth Hacking to Bio Hacking

“Hacking” comes in all shapes and forms. Common conception is the negative form of illegally accessing restricted networks to accumulate data for ill-gotten gains. But not all hacking is bad hacking.

What “hacking” really means…

Any form of hacking boils down to one common theme of gaining control. Just like some computer hackers unethically gain control of networks for personal gain, other types of hackers gain control to steer chaos to valuable positive structure. In business, “growth hacking” has become a pretty popular term among the business development community. In the process, marketers take control of the strategies of gaining awareness and generating business by testing different methods and finding the effective ones to achieve scalable growth. The customer lifecycle flows from ignorance, to awareness, to interest, to consideration, to action, to purchase, to loyalty and beyond. Strategic marketers are able to use intelligence and planning to gain control over that evolutionary process and guide as many people as possible from one end to the next. Placing a newspaper ad and awaiting phone call responses is an example of a traditional, likely antiquated marketing strategy. Placing an ad in a targeted publication with a link to a customized landing page, monitored via analytics, that contains a strategically planed sign-up call to action to capture data is an example of a growth hack.

Hacking business performance…

Growth hacking involves a blend of strategy, technology and insight. In the print ad example, strategy is infused into the situation with help of modern tech. Instead of broadcasting general messaging hoping for response, a strategically planned digitally-powered workflow is generated to turn broadcasting into lead retrieval and ultimately business. Effective approaches like this that yield results are often reached through a series of attempts, tweaking efforts to find an efficient strategy. It’s insights that allow marketers to tweak the framework to an eventual optimal result. What was the strategy, and what was the result? Testing the approach with different variables and monitoring the effects on traffic, lead and revenue growth is what streamlines marketing efficiently and turns traditional marketers to ultramodern business accelerators who control the process. Even a basic growth strategy that has  abysmal effect could often be slightly tweaked, monitored and repeated ultimately to become a key growth accelerator for a business.

Hacking body performance…

Hacking biology has a similar fundamental structure of gaining control of ourselves, and involves the same essential blend of strategy and insight. Bio hacking is commonly regarded as infusing technology with the human body to create a sci-fi-like cyborg human race. The more reasonable reality is utilizing technology to learn more about our bodies and how to improve their performances. Several hundred years BC, ancient Greek physician Hippocrates memorialized the notion of controlling our intake and lifestyle to better ourselves by advising to “let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Bio hackers practice the notion of monitoring our body’s functions – like sleep, illness, energy, sexual health and cognition – and improving them through natural remedies. The more natural foods, supplements and physical activities a person tries, the better they could narrow down what works and what has no (or negative) effects on them. Then, it’s a matter of crafting efficient strategy of ridding the bad and saturating ourselves with the good to yield a streamlined, optimal result of high performance.

Becoming a growth hacker and/or bio hacker…

I’ve tested a number of both growth and bio hacking experiments throughout the years and have found that both involve and ever-changing agile methodology that never feels totally optimal, and likely never will. However, when comparing where you started to where you’ve become using hacking methods reveals exceptional progress, which is what both concepts are all about. Expert bio hacker Dave Asprey states on his website how he’s invested $300,000 and 15 years to achieving his approach to peak performance, which he shares with others via content and product marketing. The best way to hack anything is to monitor results as you try, fail, and try again.

Experts in each hacking field help influence quick succession from problem to solution and the fine-tunes involved between each. Like in any process, borrowing insight from others rather than reinventing the wheel and learning them yourself is important. No methods of hacking anything are cookie-cutter. Businesses, customers and needs differ in each case just like body chemistry, nutritional effects and health goals do. But like in many experiments, building up a set of variables to test and monitor could be assisted through using others as examples.

There are a myriad of great growth hacking resources out there to help beginners all the way through experts fine-tune their efficient marketing approaches. Some of the best blogs from marketing tools that I’ve found are those of Marketo,KISSmetrics and HubSpot.  eConsultancy is a great go-to independent research publisher that puts out blog-style informative articles for marketing pros along with in-depth research reports on just about all aspects of marketing and business development, like marketing automation, social media marketing, search engine marketing and other key tactics to inhibit controlled growth.Growthhackers.com and Quora offer community forums of like-minded professionals helping each other to reach their business objectives.

There are fantastic resources to help influence effective bio hacking technique.DIYbio and Bulletproof Executive offer and abundance of health resources (and even great products) to upgrade overall performance. Both sources also include content from top specialists and physicians involved in the field offering well-rounded, professional advice. There are also many wonderful TedTalks available with focus on hacking health.

Testing different strategies, using technology to gain insights into effects is the common foundation to both growth and bio hacking. Tech tools alone aren’t what comprised hacking, but using technology to gain intelligence used to improve our mentality and strategy. Aaron Ginn, head of growth at Stumbleupon, defined the notion by saying “growth hacking is more of a mind-set than a tool kit.” As technology allows us to supplement our brain power and earn more intelligent insights, the strategies we use to improve things becomes more intelligent and thus effective as a result. Better performance is an incredibly satisfying sensation, so hack your bio, hack your business and enjoy controlling the evolutionary process to rewarding success!