Forget B2B and B2C; Hello, E2E

December 21, 2012
(Tune your Software Layer)

Forget B2B. Forget B2C. Embrace E2E: Everyone to Everyone.  Business and consumers alike are voting with their wallets and making mobile, tablet and personal 2-in-1 devices the “first screen” – relegating laptops, desktop PCs and wall-mounted flat screen TVs to “second screen” status.  They are messaging one another.  And they are talking about you. Are you listening?  Hello?

A few organizations have adopted the playbook to address this shift.   It seems, however, that most are not even thinking about the user-centric, user-generated, user-driven, mobile-first, E2E experience.  That makes it a huge opportunity, if you set your mind to it.

Aaron Shapiro, blogging for the Harvard Business Review, cited the “Software Layer” as an area of focus for optimizing this E2E User experience, no matter what business you are in.  I have incorporated some of his thoughts into the following 20-page storybook.  It’s a quick read (lots of pictures), and it outlines a framework for how Users interact with your Business through a Software Layer. Enjoy!

Who Uses You cover shot

Enjoy the brief SlideShare preso

I hope you find it useful in framing your thoughts on how to compete and excel.

Suffice to say, the race is on, and competing is not optional.

Make this the year you embrace the Software Layer of your business to drive User engagement, new opportunity, and new levels of success.

How is your organization adapting to the “Everyone to Everyone” world?   Love to hear your stories.

Cheers, Ed

@fanfoundry


Big Data in Marketing: 3 Prep Steps

October 11, 2012

In preparing case studies for my talk titled “Be a Big Data Voodoo Daddy” at Boston’s October 2012 FutureM conference, I noticed that almost half of our 40+ client projects over the recent years had to first devolve from “Implementation” projects to “Readiness” projects – equally valuable, and absolutely necessary.  How’s yours going?

Is your marketing automation, CRM, analytics, email marketing or other automation project going to deliver your desired payback?  Here are my top 3 warning signs that it may take longer to pay off than you think.

Stated differently, here are 3 must-do’s to ensure near-term ROI.

1.  The Right Stuff (Value based Goals).

Let’s first assume that you’ve already connected with the concept of Marketing as Moneyball.   Still, you may find that you are not gathering useful, relevant data to help you accomplish your stated strategic goal and implement the right CRM or analytics solution.  This may stem from having broad, imprecise goals.  For example:

  • “Grow revenue” is a great goal, but the paths are varied and nuanced.
  • “Increase Partner Channel Revenue” is, well, getting warm.
  • “Double Partner Channel Service Contract Revenue” is more like it.  Now you have a specific channel, identified players, and a specific product/service element attached to a numeric goal.  Specific, measurable goals and then measuring the right things are both essential elements if you are to to yield any meaningful analysis to motivate and support change.  No matter how efficiently you automate the wrong data, you risk stretching out the time horizon for any meaningful payback or, worse, running in multiple or wrong directions and wasting effort.  Strategy comes first.

2.) The Stuff, Right (Data Analysis and Process Maps).

Typically, your data is not homogeneous and some necessary processes don’t exist yet.  Data often exists in a variety of formats ranging from locked spreadhseets and various departmental databases to unstructured documents, such as paragraph text and visuals.  Processes that don’t yet exist can’t be mapped to a system; you can’t automate a vacuum.

Significant effort is involved in standardizing and preparing data for upload into your new automated solution, as well as  selecting the right tools to enable you to access and mine insights from unstructured  information.  At Fan Foundry, we are familiar with an array of powerful tools, and can develop custom, reusable upload frameworks to help clients address current and future needs for unstructured data.

This is where the scope of a project almost always expands, as additional valuable information repositories become included, because we often discover additional insights using all available data that just would not be possible otherwise.  You never know where the breakthrough “aha” discoveries may lie.  If you don’t have the luxury to expand your analysis, though, then rigorously insist on only analyzing the most salient data.

3) The Players (People).

The talent shortage is legendary.  If you are inadequately staffed or trained to assume the role of data manager, analyst and strategist, or transformational leader, let alone carry on administratively after implementation, you shouldn’t start the project.  The time to assign roles is up front.  Get any necessary talent aligned first so they can be involved in the project.  Some of your team can adapt; sometimes you need to extend your team to include a capable partner.  The single most effective way to stretch out the payoff time horizon is to not involve its eventual owners and primary users, or not have the stomach to lead a transformation effort.  Be prepared to change, or else don’t start.

The full list of must-do’s is extensive, but if you tend to these three first, most of the rest will fall in line, and you’ll enjoy a successful implementation.

Toward a “Measurement Culture”

You’ll know you are succeeding when you have established a “culture of measurement” in which the right things get measured, the data supports meaningful analysis, all meaningful data is reflected in a single, integrated, centrally accessible “record of truth”, and you are using the insights you have gained to achieve transformations like improve margins, speed to market, pricing accuracy, supply chain efficiency, sales growth, and other incremental and transformational improvements.

Finally, it must be stressed that human judgment is not taking a back seat to data.   Interpreting analytics in light of pragmatic experience and using that knowledge to take calculated risks is a hallmark of success.


Be a Big Data Voodoo Daddy (or Mama)

August 22, 2012

A recent IBM survey found that over half of business leaders today realize they don’t have access to the insights they need to do their jobs.  They just aren’t harnessing the data.

View / get my SlideShare preso here

Today, surrounded by sensors, apps and systems, we have ability to generate and store data cheaply like never before.  Ironically, as the data piles up, the ranks of organizations able to process it is declining, and the talent shortage for managing it is increasing.

The ability to harness and leverage data is now a big competitive advantage.  This doesn’t mean that experience, judgment and intuition are less relevant; on the contrary, you need those attributes to evaluate data.

You do not need a million dollar budget or a Ph.D.in Computer Science to be a Big Data Voodoo Daddy – one who knows where the data is, can harness it, and mines it daily to delight customers and boost revenue.  Devise a basic plan or framework, select a few tools, apply them to your most important data, and you’re started.  Just be sure you’re improving on existing data and processes; you can’t automate a vacuum.

Basic Framework

Ask: Where is your data?  What does it look like?  It generally has 3 characteristics:

  1. Volume – nobody is scared anymore by the prefix “giga” as in gigabytes (GB).  The average hard drive stores hundreds of GB.  So, the average U.S.  household has a place for it.  Of course, there is always the cloud computing and storage option, as long as you don’t mind internet and power outages bringing your business to its knees.
  2. Variety – here it gets a little hairy.  Data is everywhere, but not organized.  Some of it lies dormant in locked spreadsheets; some of it is in silos, like Point of Sale receipt reports, accounting ledgers, and customer records. Some of it is “unstructured” i.e. not contained in nice neat rows and columns, but rather in text records and notes.   You need tools to organize and standardize data so it will fit nicely into your main database.  This is tedious and messy, but worth doing.  Fortunately, most major software providers understand this too and have enabled their products to interoperate with one another.
  3. Velocity – some data is historic; some is collected periodically and batched; some data is streaming live (example: your location in a GPS app, your favorite mobile shopping app).  Does live streaming data matter to you?  It should if your customers are mobile, and these days who isn’t?

Basic Tools

You need 3 things to harness the volume, variety and velocity of your data:

  • a database / storage place (love that cloud storage option!)
  • software to help you access, manage, report, cleanse, update, analyze and act on it;
  • helper apps to get help standardize data from multiple “feeds”  so they can enter your main storage place.

While some of this may sound geeky, be assured that the tooling and resources are becoming more usable.   For some large organizations, however, expert talent and technology remain the best option.

One Big challenge Remains

The single biggest challenge of data these days is its quality. In that huge haystack of data, there are some gems and usually a bunch of stale (call it historical) data.  Stale and historical data are okay, and even valuable for trend spotting and progress reporting.  You can easily take steps to update it via customer surveys, sorting, web / email response forms, etc.  Most people and related data sources will happily keep their info in your database current if it helps you stay relevant to one another.  Just be sure to keep that process easy, and clearly spell out the benefits.  Consider sharing your data discoveries with them, too – at least to the extent that you do not infringe on people’s privacy.

Best Uses for Big Data

According to McKinsey Global Institute, big data has five broad opportunity areas:  increased transparency and use, improved performance management, better decisions, greater precision in meeting customer demand, and more targeted R&D.   If you are in Sales and Marketing management, web and social media analytics, financial reporting, call center reporting, fraud and security detection, energy usage, safety management, risk and opportunity management, inventory, assets, logistics, agriculture or health care, you have the opportunity to excel and lead in your marketplace by leveraging available data.

You must use these powers only to do good.  Concerns about privacy, access, security, intellectual property rights and liability must be factored into our thinking, policies and practice concerning the use of data.

Got data challenges?  Drop a comment.  I’ve listed a few helpful resources below.

Cheers, ~Ed

Additional Resources (see sidebar on this site for tool ideas)

Pluris Intro (Pluris Marketing) – OCDP (omni-channel dynamic profiling) so big orgs can treat people as individuals

Aryng (“A-ring”) – Analytics help, e-zine, training etc. for big data people

Big Data – What is It? (IBM)

Don’t Build a Database of Ruin (HBR)

Big Data:  The Next Frontier for Competition (McKinsey Global Institute)

Make the Case for Better Data Quality (HBR)


The New Consumer Demand: I Want My MDV *

December 2, 2011

*MDV (def.) Massive Data Visualization

It’s my data.  Give it to me.  Oh, and help me leverage it, too.

This demand is customary in the business world, but increasingly it comes from the mouths of consumers.

How Did We Get Here?One way: be your own landing page link!

The consumerization of data analysis is not new. You could put your finger on any point in the timeline of humanity, as far back as the invention of the printing press.

A key inflection point in the 1980’s occurred when the widespread adoption of personal computers made us all publishers.  Later we got networked and could share our documents and spreadsheets.  It continued in the 90’s with email, and the advent of the Worldwide Web for searching and sifting, managing virtual folders, bookmarking, saving, copying, sharing etc.  In recent decade,  we built a habit of  tapping data stores for making decisions – in online shopping with its price comparison engines.  For most of us, a Google search is our first resort.

Today our social media tools help us to sort and manage our relationships, connections, conversations, and the statistics about those sorting processes, into visual and mental maps about our lives.   Hmmm….Is your organization generating customer data that’s worth sharing with your customers?

As Clay Shirky remarked in his book “Here Comes Everybody“, the problem is “not information overload, it’s filter failure”. We really can only care about the most meaningful data.  Which data is that? How do we decide? What tools are available?  I mention a few cool ones below.

The Tyranny of Time

That issue is inflated by the tyranny of time.  We each only have so many waking hours in each day.  Joke alert: I booked a couple of hours this Saturday afternoon for some spontaneity, but I may have to time shift it to Sunday. Hmm, I’ll just mark it as Tentative on both days. We’ll see.

We depend on data, and love when it is presented visually.  If you have used your smartphone to scan the merchandise QR code, or compare prices with a Google search while “showrooming” in a store, you get the value of massive data visualization on a small scale.  If you use a free GPS app on your phone to navigate to a new destination, you get it.  If you filter your Twitter feeds using Lists, you get it.

Who’s Doing It?

InMaps sample

Visualize and zoom in on your LinkedIn connections via InMaps

The new mantra is: Gimme my data, in a way that helps me gain insight to make better decisions faster.

One problem:  detecting the useful faint signals in all that data is often a daunting task, but usually yields a few “Aha!” moments if you know how to leverage tools, whether you are a consumer, producer or business.  A few people are making progress in this area, like Coloci and LinkedIn Labs’ InMaps (visit http://inmaps.linkedinlabs.com ) which gives you a new way to visualize your connections and discover new relationships – an absolute must for any sales prospector.  In the enterprise space, new entrants like Qliktech are invigorating the space long dominated by established players like IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, and Microstrategy.  In the catalog retailer space, we now have Pluris Marketing.  Have you tried them?  Have you found others you’d recommend?  Are you onto the “Quantified Self” movement?  Have you synced your FitBit fitness tracking device today?

What are you doing to give people transparent access to their data?  Whatever you decide to to, it just might make you their hero.


Marketing Automation: Masters of the User-verse

October 6, 2011

The customer is King, but Users are your Universe – your “User-verse”.   How do you stay at their center?

According to Forrester Research, by mid-decade over half of all purchasing will be done online.   For post-digital people (think: Millenials & their iGen progeny), who represent the incoming wave of buyers, influencers and decision makers, this has already come to pass.  Millenials are comfortable with technology; iGens are uncomfortable without it.  Today’s post-digital citizens deftly filter and apply information to move smartly through life.   Socializing and transacting online is ordinary and commonplace.  Today’s cadre of decision makers, too, use mobile and social filters to navigate decisions and find relevance in the bit-torrent of change.  Collectively, we are your expanding User-verse.  For us, B2C and B2B are becoming less different.  Now it’s U2E (Users to Everybody), and therein lies a challenge: filtering and relevance.

The challenge is especially acute for Marketing leaders, who are now being held accountable for ROI while also striving to maintain respect and relevance with audiences.   Some organizations do a great job at meeting the needs of our always-on audience. I call them Fan Foundries.  We recognize them by their digital presence in our lives: everything real-word is mirrored and ehanced online, where it can be detected and consumed by customers, suppliers, employees etc.  In turn, our digital travels are observed by these smart Fan Foundries to determine how best to help us through our decision journey and, where appropriate, engage and buy.  You know you’re dealing with a Fan Foundry when your next interaction feels like a continuation or enhancement of the prior one, rather than another blind date.

How are you doing?

How is your organization doing?  Are you at the center of your Userverse?  You probably know that answer, but try this experiment.  Visit Amazon, iTunes, or some other online account you admire.  Compare that online experience to that of your own business.  If you don’t measure up, be assured somebody is going to steal your business soon.  How soon?  How about…while you’re reading this?  If you’re still doing mainly interruptive, outbound marketing, yet your audience is filtering out your messages (via spamblock, TiVo, Unsubscribe, delete key, etc.), what are you doing to help yourself get found and stay relevant?

Fortunately, you no longer need a massive budget to master your User-verse.  What, then, do you need?   What does a balanced, humming Fan Foundry look like?  Layer by layer, it might resemble this:

A Marketing and Sales Governance Model

click to enlarge

  1. Front end – Web interfaces (desktop, mobile, kiosk, email, social media, etc.).   The online experience these days is spotty at best, but many good examples exist and they’re in plain view.  Good poets borrow, so why not learn from the best, then adapt and refine it based on what you learn from your User-verse as they navigate your content, make choices, and send you signals about what they buy and why.
  2. Content layer – main website content, product/service literature, user-generated content (reviews, comments, etc.), custom apps, partner portals, blogs, e-newsletters, online forums, social media, customer care & service channels, etc.   Rich content, re-formatted for channels and micro-audiences, is a golden opportunity to anticipate and delight users, keep you appropriately centered, and signal you on when and how to engage.  Just like your web navigation, your content navigation can be tested and refined based on user behavior.
  3. Information management layer – CRM, marketing automation, analytics, modeling, planning, supply chain, financial datastores, etc. Here, with an array of connected technologies, you can dashboard, orchestrate and analyze the flow of people, information and material to discover competitive advantage and facilitate progress.  Don’t let the geek factor frighten you from implementing some basic, essential tools.  Dig in and ask for help. Or not.  And be toast.  (Suggestion: call us)
  4. Records/data layer – In an age where more and more data is publicly available and public-generated, your ability to harness data to learn and adapt more quickly could spell success or failure.  Master this layer, and you can spend more time selling, transacting business and nurturing future customers while cutting out time-wasters.  By cultivating your own data sources and applying your own relevance filters you can speed learning and adaptation, and improve your ability to reliably forecast a profitable future.

What stands in the way of progress?  The usual responses are resources, people, skills, time, money, and appetite for change.   Okay, but wouldn’t you like to delight customers and win new ones?   Wouldn’t you like to substantially and sustainably grow revenue? Wouldn’t you like to still be in business and growing – or, if losing, at least know why you’re losing so you can adapt and improve?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, and you just need resources and expertise to make it happen, contact us.

 ~

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