I LOVE VISITING the Apple Store. Corner any employee and ask a question. Odds are you won’t get just an answer. You’ll get a gushing, aren’t-our-products-are-amazing? answer. Out of the millions of people who are sold on Apple products, no one appears quite as sold as Apple employees themselves. Their excitement is downright contagious. They make it nigh unto impossible for me to keep my wallet holstered.
It’s a great reminder to the rest of us marketers. Too often, we take care to romance and sell our mobile applications to outsiders, while with employees we default merely to “explaining” or, worse, “training.” After all, reason not a few managers, these people work for us. It’s their job to be enthused, right?
Wrong. Employees are customers. As with any customer, it takes more than a cursory introduction to get employees to march under your banner with gusto. You cannot afford to assume that they are innately psyched about your mobile strategies and other offerings.
This matters, because employees are hugely influential. At work, they interact with customers. Many are responsible for selling in person, on the phone or online. Those who aren’t directly responsible for sales still encounter customers and make an impression. Away from work, employees interact with family and friends who are customers or potential customers. Their insider status gives them greater credibility than your paid advertising. If they are versed and enthusiastic, their enthusiasm will shine convincingly through. If they aren’t, their lack of it will be an open, yawning, warning abyss.
So here’s a thought. Keep your employees plugged in. Let them know what you have cooking, who you’re cooking it for, and when you predict it will be ready. Let them know what makes it so cool. Give them sneak peaks. Don’t just send them a memo with operational procedures. Don’t just explain or train. Get them jazzed. Sell to them.
On May 20-21, I’ll be speaking at Kontagent Konnect 2013 in San Francisco. (Register now–space is limited.) To warm things up ahead of time, the folks at Kontagent asked me to write a guest blog for them. Here it is.
Mobile Marketing: Waiting for Darwin’s Shoe to Drop
By Matt Wilcox
IT USED TO BE STANDARD practice, almost obligatory, to open articles like this one with statistics about the number of your customers who are, or who soon will be, shopping via mobile devices. No longer. The patent ubiquity of mobile devices has rendered the use of scary, “get-with-it” statistics all but quaint. Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you already know that you can throw a stick and hit a dozen people shopping on mobile devices. And you also know that it’s imperative to accommodate these customers or risk losing them. But the question becomes how do you convince them that your mobile experience is better than the competition? … (Read the rest of my post on Kontagent’s website by clicking here now).
IT’S HARD TO NAME A VERTICAL upon which the Internet age has not wrought upheavals. In marketing alone, in-house departments and outside firms look nothing like they did as recently as when I began my career as an intern at 17, and I’m only in my 30s. (My early 30s, thank you very much.)
Successfully revamped marketing groups have some traits in common. Here are a few I have observed:
Technology and creative are one. No longer can a marketing group get away with having a writer and designer cook up an ad which they hand off to a programmer for uploading. Successful interactive work is born within the context of knowing the technology—how it works, what it can do, and how markets use it—along with that of knowing how to appeal, seize attention, and generate action. If the requisite skills do not all reside in the same people (likely they do not), then be sure these folks work together, not in separate vacuums, and not in competition.
Emphasis on search. The strongest message is useless if the right people can’t find their way to it. Expertise in organic and paid search becomes even more crucial with the rise in mobile devices, where showing up in anything lower than the Number Three spot is not much better than not showing up at all.
Emphasis on dialog. Wisely or not (I think not), marketing once largely consisted of sending out a message. Today’s markets can have true interactivity and, it turns out, they demand it. More than just letting customers reply, true interactivity means encouraging customers to get involved, listening to them, letting them know you’re listening, and acting on what you hear.
Living (not pushing) the brand. Gone are the days when you could cook up a warm, fuzzy image, buy lots of target points and, voilà, people swallowed it. Millions of customers using social media make up a powerful mass medium in their own right. This is a world where you attain a brand image not by claiming it, but by earning it. It is a two-edged sword. Just ask Delta Air Lines.
Marketing participates in policy decisions. In too many organizations, policy is made in a vacuum and, after the fact, marketing is told to make it fly. But not in smart companies. By definition, a truly interactive marketing group dialogs with your customers. If they’re doing their job, they bring perspective that you must consider when forming policy.
Preaches less, publishes more. Markets will talk about you with or without your help. Savvy marketers facilitate dialog with blog comments, forums, and user communities. User communities allow your passionate brand advocates to hold you accountable and identify when you make a bad marketing move, e.g., BMW and Vanguard. It builds customer trust and holds your feet to the fire.
Still honors craftsmanship. Having your message appear on a device in front of the right audience is still no guarantee that you have reached anyone. It’s tempting to mistake the glamor of sexy apps for marketing. It’s equally tempting to let online tools lull people who aren’t writers or designers into thinking they are. The toys are a must, but so are the crafts of connecting and persuading.
Never assumes having arrived. Interactive marketing is dynamic. Not just devices, but apps evolve daily. So do the environments in which they—and you—work. The moment you think you’ve mastered interactive marketing, you’re in danger of falling behind. The best any of us can do is to continue running as fast as we can to keep up.
Partners with IT and Analytics. Interactive marketers can no longer afford to lock horns with these two groups. Make them your best allies and you can conquer the new world.
WHEN IBM SPEAKS, it’s generally a good idea to pay attention. They are, after all, IBM. Perhaps you’ve heard of them. But with this year’s iteration of their annual State of Marketing Survey due soon, this strikes me as a good time to share some observations about last year’s State of Marketing Survey.
Not familiar with the IBM survey? That’s OK. This post is really about how to read research reports with a critical eye. No matter whose research you read, the advice applies.
Let’s start with the footnotes in the back. “… The margin of error for this sample at the 90 percent confidence level with a 50 percent response rate is ±4.3 percent.” Hold on. That’s the statistical margin for error, which would be great were we dealing with empirical data. We’re not. Look at the survey questions. “How much ownership do you and your marketing organization have for …” “Please rate the level of responsibility marketing has for …” “To what extent does your organization face …” These are not the sorts of questions that get you to empirical data. They get you to personal perceptions. The answers aren’t subject so much to statistical as to human error. There is no reason to assume that respondents’ perceptions are accurate. Nor is there any reason to assume respondents are leveling. Sometimes unwittingly, sometimes not, it is not unusual for respondents to provide the “correct” answer—one that makes the company look good, makes respondents feel smart, makes them feel like they’re being fair, or that gets back at that senior vice president for being so rude. Answers will reveal more about the biases and naiveté of respondents than about the subject they’re asked to comment on.
The report compares responses from low versus high performing companies and suggests causation. The leap is unwarranted. One should equally consider reverse or even no causation. “No causation” is another way of saying “coincidence.” Despite what New Age gurus say, there really is such a thing, and mistaking it for data can be costly.
The report suggests that large differences between low and high performers are significant indicators of how to do things right. This is selection bias at its best: what makes our point matters; what fails to make it doesn’t. There are almost as many instances of no or inverse differences between high and low performers. The authors could as easily have cherry-picked those as significant.
Finally, the questions themselves fail to impress. They are not so much insightful as a marketer’s wish list dressed up as a survey. It looks designed to produce “data” for marching on management and making demands rather than to yield real information.
I’m not accusing anyone of deliberately misleading. Bias and fallacy have their way with the best of us, despite best efforts and intentions. That’s why controls are important. So is a working knowledge of logical fallacies and biases.
I’m not above fooling myself. Neither is anyone else. But if we’re serious about real data that yields real insights, we need to exercise vigilance. Even upon ourselves.