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Data-Driven Marketing Step One: Get Smart, Get Strategic

When companies pass over creating a strategic vision what happens? Technology—not strategy—becomes the driver. I’ve seen far too often just how much that can hurt a company. Technology is never the panacea. It’s the enabler. The system is not the solution, but your ideas are. That’s why aligning behind a shared vision is essential—not only among the marketing team, but across the entire C-suite.

A shared vision helps build a case that the broader organization needs to support. It will:

Connect the dots between projects

Demonstrate how projects drive value

Achieve alignment when change sparks turf wars

Once you’ve created the vision, other items will start to fall into place. And once you have the vision, you can get smart and strategic.

Each business is unique, which means starting points, visions and final plans will vary from marketing team to marketing team. However, when you’re ready to put data-driven marketing into action, think strategically and break down your strategy into basic components. Why, you might ask? Because you need to give each one the attention it deserves, while still staying true to your vision.

Here are my five basics for “getting strategic:”

1. Customer interaction strategy. Map out the journey your buyer takes, from first touch through to purchase and aftermarket relationships. Next, identify the cross-organizational company changes that need to occur as well as the systems and data to transform and deliver on your customer engagement plan. The goal here is to develop a consistent, omnichannel customer-centric journey. I recently had an experience with a retail company that doesn’t have this synergy. Their ecommerce and inventory systems aren’t yet integrated, which made the return of my online purchase to their local brick and mortar store in my area a less than an ideal experience. Make sure you create a customer interaction strategy that will empower your customers instead of making them feel as though they’re being “managed.”

2. Analytics strategy. In my book, Tom Davenport explains that there are three main categories of analytics: business, predictive, and prescriptive. Data and technology will drive analytics, so you need to identify where you are today and what kind of analytics you’ll need to compete and frame your organization for the digital disruption age.

3. Data strategy. Because silos of information exist across the enterprise and data-driven marketing needs credible data, developing an enterprise-wide data strategy is essential. To have an actionable data strategy, it needs to permeate the enterprise, and it needs to be a partnership between marketing, IT, and other major business functions. In addition, you’ll want to link the data strategy to your overall business objectives, gain senior level sponsorship and be mindful of data management issues like compliance data and data hygiene. Lastly, be sure your organization’s most talented employees will be able to execute your data strategy successfully. In “Big Data Marketing” I share examples about my work with Peggy Dyer, CMO of The American Red Cross, to help them move from a vision to a clear strategy. It’s been so incredibly rewarding to experience this transition with them!

4. Organizational strategy. Because big data goes beyond departmental walls and challenges traditional approaches, it is disrupting organizational structures and silos. The C-suite should collaborate regarding organizational models, evaluate current structures and create new approaches to optimize revenue growth in this new day and age.

5. Technology strategy. The most successful organizations don’t just foster strategic partnerships between CMOs and CIOs, they know how to marry business and technology strategy. When debates or roadblocks come up in these companies, the CMO and CIO can use the broader vision to continue to drive change. Companies are also looking to new roles, like a vice president of customer experience or customer engagement to enhance CMO/CIO relationships.

Are you ready to begin your journey towards data-driven marketing? Don’t panic but don’t delay getting started, either. Take a little time to work towards your vision and strategy. When you’re there and ready to move on, check out my next blog post: Step Two: Tear Down the Silos (to be published next week).

Main Category: Lisa Arthur

Lisa Arthur is the author of “Big Data Marketing” and CMO of Teradata Applications, the leader in integrated marketing software. Lisa meets with thousands of CMOs and marketing professionals annually through public speaking and events.

Confounded by the complexity of the web?

A complex system of media owners, ad networks and exchanges is taking online advertising beyond the ’old world’ of page views and cost-per-click. Yet the potential of this for brands is at risk of being lost because marketers lack the technical skills to exploit it. Now is the time to get to grips with the ways of the web.

 

 Pitch’s angle on advertising on the web

Online is the new orthodoxy in marketing, yet for many marketers the inner workings of the web are not well understood.

What is clear is that spending on digital media is growing as a proportion of advertising expenditure, and consumers’ habits are changing too. By 2012, the percentage of people in Europe who use the internet at least once a week is projected to surpass those who read a weekly newspaper, according to data from the European Interactive Advertising Association.

With detailed figures of click-throughs and conversion rates available to demonstrate how users interact with ads – and how many make purchases as a result – the trend of marketing activity moving online is unsurprising. Targets are not only met but seen to be met.

However, as the internet itself expands, so too do the number of intermediaries involved in placing online ads on behalf of brands. As a result, understanding how and where marketing messages are seen on the internet becomes more complex for marketers. There are more cogs than ever within the machine and it is a task in itself to determine what each one does.

Digital immigrants

While many marketers seem pleased with the returns and the accountability provided by online ads, it appears that fewer have intimate knowledge of the process of buying them. Miles Lewis, vice-president of international sales at music site Last.fm, says marketers and their suppliers within media agencies are often not natives of the web environment, and are still learning how to use it. “The majority of planning and strategic buying in the UK and globally is done by people who are ’digital immigrants’, and that is a problem,” he says.

Because of this lack of knowledge, most marketers have to rely on experts outside of the business who do understand the inner workings of online advertising. But the decision about where an advert goes is being passed through several lines of command, meaning that marketers are losing track of exactly where their advert will be seen. As well as marketers briefing their media agencies to buy directly from publishers, advertising is also being placed in increasing volumes by these agencies through ad networks and exchanges, many of which are owned by large media companies.

There is a benefit to this multi-layered approach, claims Nigel Gilbert, chief marketing and development officer of Orange-owned ad network Unanimis. Although marketers might not know exactly which website their ad will appear on, it should be reaching the right audience.

Gilbert explains that ad networks and exchanges are used to identify groups of websites that the brand’s core consumers are likely to visit – the former through a managed service and the latter through a self-service real-time auction.

These networks and exchanges initially began as a means of selling space that publishers had not been able to fill directly, but are now no longer a destination of last resort for media owners seeking to sell space or advertisers seeking to buy it.

Eurostar head of marketing Claire Hutchinson, who oversees how online ads are bought, says buying through these channels has the benefit of reaching highly targeted groups of internet users, but can also have some unexpected consequences because marketers cannot always choose which sites their adverts are going to appear on (see case study on Eurostar, below).

Hutchinson recalls that purchasing through ad networks has previously resulted in Eurostar ads appearing on the website of airline Ryanair. As a competitor, in this case the outcome proved beneficial to Eurostar. However, there is also a risk of advertising appearing alongside inappropriate content, where the website’s audience profile happens to fit that of the advertiser’s target market.

But the advent of ad networks and exchanges has shaken up the market and is providing more options for businesses. Marketers no longer have to rely on traditional publishers, or have to accept low average click-through rates that were once presented as the norm.

Paul Hood, head of digital for Mirror Group’s national newspaper brands, admits that traditional media companies have suffered from complacency born of the early days of web publishing.

Advertisers seemed happy with the 0.01% click-through rate because there was nothing else. If you fast-forward ten years, you see that the advertising ecosystem is pretty complicated

Paul Hood, Mirror Group

At an NMA Live event on online display advertising, Hood said: “Advertisers seemed happy with the 0.01% click-through rate because there was nothing else to give them anything better than that. That was the accepted average. If you fast-forward ten years, you see that the advertising ecosystem is pretty complicated.”

Both Hood and Lewis at Last.fm concur that the growth in online ad revenues taken by publishers has not matched the growth in the market overall, and that one reason for this has been a historic under-investment in audience targeting on the part of publishers, agencies and advertisers. Ad networks have been swifter in catering to these demands, developing targeting and retargeting technologies – the latter allowing ads to be served for types of products that users have previously looked at, thanks to cookies saved on their web browsers.

On the subject of exchanges, Matt Brittin, UK and Ireland managing director of Google, which owns the DoubleClick ad exchange, argues that adding another layer between the advertiser and media owner does add value for both ends of the supply chain: “If we can offer an advertiser an auction in the instant that a page is loading, that gives them the best possible return on that space. And, in old media terms, it gives the media owner the best possible yield on its ad inventory.

“We think that brings value to that media owner, the publisher of the website. It also brings value to the advertiser because with better targeting, the advertiser which bids the most for that space is the advertiser which values that lead most.”

Advertisers are increasingly opting to use these channels to buy space rather than going to publishers directly. Hood, of the Mirror, says prices have been pushed down both as a result of this and of the huge number of websites on which networks and exchanges can place ads.

But brand advertisers may not be taking full advantage of this added competition because instead of relying on expertise, they are depending on suppliers’ targeting software uncritically to deliver the right audience at the right price. Julia Smith, head of the association of Internet Advertising Sales Houses (IASH), told the audience at NMA Live: “I do not know how much planners and buyers are spending on actually planning and buying, rather than just using technology to buy.”

Expertise in targeting online audiences is therefore something that marketers could take greater responsibility for, according to Smith: “Should brands start taking ownership and bring those skills in-house? Potentially, yes.”

A more active interest from marketers might also help ensure that the effectiveness of online advertising is better understood on terms that reach beyond click-through rates. Its ability to raise brand awareness as well as to demonstrate a path to purchase is a topic that is slowly gaining traction.

Motorola interactive marketing manager Marco Ottonello says: “All the experts in the industry now agree that click-through is not the only index to evaluate a display campaign, because there are people that, if they do not click directly, might two or three days afterwards remember and go to the website through Google.”

He adds: “We try to understand the impact generated by an ad, not only through the click-through rate. We also try to understand the increase in traffic.”

Conversely, there is the possibility that some online purchases might be attributed to online advertising when brand awareness generated by other means might have played just as important a role. Eurostar’s Hutchinson gives the example of customers who make a booking after clicking through from a travel website: “It is questionable whether this is an incremental sale or whether that person is someone who would have been on the site anyway and booked Eurostar.”

It is clear that marketers, perhaps under the influence of their finance departments, are sometimes reluctant to take risks with online advertising in ways that might prioritise brand awareness over firmer measures of performance. Jane Nicholson, regional director (UK, Ireland and Nordic) of 2010 Engage Award winner Tourism Queensland, says that in these markets, the organisation would not use online media for simple brand advertising.

“In terms of online, it is about the click-throughs. It is about engagement, and the length of engagement, on the site from those click-throughs,” she says.

However, it cannot be taken for granted that increasing the proportion of ad spend going to online channels will automatically lead to better results – even in terms of click-throughs. Recent data from the MediaMind Global Benchmark study found that click-through rates are higher when users view fewer ads, indicating that the law of diminishing returns might apply to the constant growth in online advertising.

Consequently, marketers will probably need to push for more creative and innovative approaches to online campaigns to avoid future stagnation. One way brands are doing this is by becoming content providers themselves, drawing in their audience through news and entertainment. Some, like Orange, are also providing advertising space on their own websites against this content, with their own ad networks selling this inventory.

American Express, meanwhile, has taken the approach of sponsoring and advertising around online music and guides to particular events – the London Restaurant Festival, the BFI London Film Festival and Christmas Winter Wonderland – on the websites of LoveFilm, The Guardian and Spotify. Banner ads appear against sponsored content that is collected in dedicated areas of the sites and is viewable without the user being directed elsewhere. All of the content also appears in one place on an American Express website.

As well as creating a brand association with these publishers and events – and with the video, audio and editorial coming out of them – the click-through rate has been ten times higher than for a typical online campaign, according to American Express.

Also crucial to the future of online advertising and the formats it takes is the biggest cog of all – Facebook. Research from comScore shows that in the US during the third quarter of 2010, 23.1% of all ad impressions were served by the social network. Mirror Group’s Hood says that Facebook – even more so than the ad networks and exchanges – is “setting the market rates for display advertising”, typically at about 50p per impression. Facebook has itself also developed ways of making ads relevant to specific users and innovating with display formats.

At NMA Live, Facebook UK commercial director Stephen Haines said: “All the engagement ads you see [on Facebook] are based on user behaviour.” He added that, through the site’s “like” button, “what we have done with the engagement ad is add social context”. When users see ads on Facebook, they are also shown information about friends who say they like the brand, or have interacted with it in some way.

His example of one brand that has used Facebook with particular success is Starbucks. The Starbucks Facebook page has over 18 million fans at the time of writing, and according to Haines: “Starbucks has actually structured its client team around Twitter, Facebook and Google, and it has made a proper resource to conquer social media. It can update those 18 million people free of charge, as many times a day as it likes.”

Starbucks has actually structured its client team around Twitter, Facebook and Google. It can update 18 million people free of charge, as many times a day as it likes

Stephen Haines, Facebook UK commercial director

It is apparent, then, that there are options available both for building brand awareness and for demonstrating concrete results online – and many more options are likely to arise as brands strive to stand out from the growing number of ads. The market is also changing, however, with traditional relationships between advertiser and publisher interrupted and new forces driving the economy in online ads. To stay in control, marketers will need to get into gear quickly.

Case study: Eurostar

Star player: Eurostar has increased online spend because it has proved a powerful and effective medium

Eurostar is a brand on the cusp of a significant marketing push. “We have got a big brand job to do next year,” says director of marketing and sales Emma Harris, referring to a planned shift of focus towards connecting passengers to European destinations further afield than Paris and Brussels.

What role online advertising plays in that activity remains to be seen. For Eurostar, digital spend is focused primarily on delivering return on investment, with click-throughs and conversions monitored closely. Brand building is left mostly to offline media, Harris says.

Head of marketing Claire Hutchinson, who reports to Harris at Eurostar, adds that using internet display formats for brand advertising is a difficult strategy to execute when the target audience is focused on particular interests and not easily distracted. Reaching these people means attracting their attention for enough time to elicit some kind of emotional response.

“It is hard to do that online with an audience like ours, which is very smart and engaged but also very busy,” says Hutchinson. But, she adds, youth brands might have more success in this endeavour, as their audience is broadly more receptive to marketing messages online.

Between 2007 and 2010, Eurostar increased the proportion of ad spend going into digital channels from 7% to 40%. According to Harris, Eurostar’s digital activity has two focuses. The first is targeting its principal audience, which is identified as “urban” and “intelligent”. The second is reaching areas of the internet where users are likely to be interested in travel.

“By focusing on those two core areas we get a really healthy ROI online,” she says. Hutchinson puts return on investment at about 50-1, and 180-1 for pay-per-click advertising.

Harris continues: “What is great about online is that you can change your messaging. You can test and change and see what is returning. That is why we find it so powerful, and over the past three years we have shifted more and more of our spend overall from offline to online.”

This does not necessarily mean that Eurostar takes the role of online display advertising for granted. There is still plenty of scope for experimentation with formats and techniques, says Harris. “We want to find ways to use it more creatively. We think there is a lot more depth to it.”

As an example, Harris cites activity surrounding the brand’s Tri-City-Athlon event, organised as part of its sponsorship of the London 2012 Olympics. “We used online ads in specific areas to get people to visit the triathlon microsite.”

With crucial work to be done in the coming year and a marketing budget that Harris says is “pretty reflective” of this year’s, Eurostar has a need to establish a brand message while the long-term trend towards greater online activity continues.

Like many other brands, it has the task of either justifying more above-the-line activity or finding ways to achieve brand awareness online.

Hutchinson notes: “That is quite an interesting challenge for marketing people, particularly with TV consumption changing and media consumption changing. How do you do the big messaging piece and then convert down the line?”

Best Practices For Choosing The Right Managed Network Services Provider

managed network servicesYour company has IT needs. You are contemplating whether you should hire an in-house expert of if you should team up with a managed network services provider. There are disadvantages and advantages for both options. With an outsource partner handling any in-house functions deemed as critical, you can be assured that you are investing in something that can prove to be invaluable for your business. But you also need to remember that if you want to achieve what you are set on accomplishing, you also need to make sure that you have clearly defined a set of goals.

Below are some tips that can help you choose the right provider.

Tip #1: Take a look at the level of support provided by the provider.

What do we mean by support? The support that we are referring to here is how accessible the provider is if ever things do go wrong. Why? Because things can go wrong at any time of the day and not just within office hours. You want to have a service provider that can give you support twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Having this kind of provider will certainly put you at peace when you leave your office at the end of the day. You know that if anything should go wrong, they have your back.

Tip #2: Do a test run.

Before you sign an agreement or contract with any service provider, you have to make sure that you already have an insight on what you can expect to get from the provider. How can you get this insight? Ask them to do a test run. This way you will be able to see with your own eyes how a managed services provider will perform.

Tip #3: Do they have a local presence?

It is good for a company to have 24/7 support. But you should not just stop at that. You might want to check if they are available physically. A company that has established a local presence means you will be able to stop by every now and then and observe their internal operations. This kind of security is something that you will only get with locally present providers.

Tip #4: Take a look at their track record.

As you can see, this does not need much explanation because it is quite self-explanatory. But let us have a quick discussion about it anyway. Think of it this way, when you book a service or buy a product, would you really opt for one that has gotten bad reviews or one that does not have a good track record? You would not, right? When it comes to outsourcing your IT needs, you should also set the same standards. You want a company that is reputable when it comes to delivering as agreed on.

 Tip #5: Before you sign any contract, make sure that you do a financial analysis.

You want to be with a provider whose cost is within your budget and is realistic. Do not be afraid to ask the provider about the financial details.

IT Consulting Companies and When You Should Consult Them

IT Consulting Companies and When You Should Consult ThemIt is obvious how information technology has played an important part in today’s society and the different fields in it like commercial and industrial fields among many others. It is prevalent in today’s world and in order for a business to stay relevant, be easily accessible and more efficient and productive, they should be able to have an IT support group and know how to utilize them effectively. This is where IT consulting companies come in. Since not many of us have sufficient knowledge on Information technology, there are those who offer and provide advice and support on how to handle IT services and operations in the best possible way. If you are thinking on whether you should try contacting an IT consulting company, here are some of the things that they can do for you to help you decide on whether you need them or not.

Provide IT Strategy

Whether you are just starting your business or have been managing it for a long time, there is always room for improvement. This companies offer advice and strategies to help you develop a better and the best way to improve your IT operations and therefore increase your business’ productivity and efficiency as well as to help you reach the goals of your business. Remember that having a good strategy in everything is important and consulting for them is necessary especially if you do not have enough knowledge on a specific field.

Looking for Professional IT Help

If you are on a hiring limit or just want to save budget for other improvements, they can also offer professional IT technicians and staff to your business to help you manage and troubleshoot operations and functions. This way, you can have easy access to IT support and be able to be confident in your business operations and IT functions as well as software problems, data base storage, and protection.

Having an IT support group is a big advantage for your business since they will be able to provide help and support easily when you need them. They can also offer solutions and improvement that you and your other team may have not thought about before because of their different skill set and knowledge.

Wants to Have Faster and Efficient Operation

IT professionals have specialized in making operations and function easier, s, and more efficient. They are always looking for improvement and solving problems. Because of this, they are very helpful in providing ways for a business to achieve faster and efficient operations, functions, as well as production. Therefore, you are able to increase your profit and good reputation in the industry and to customers in the long run and can help you achieve your business goals faster and easier.

From consulting to providing strategies and operations and staff, IT companies are able to provide many things to both small and big businesses.  Consulting IT companies can greatly help a business improve and be able to become more competent and efficient. With the help of this type of company, you can be confident with not only your IT related system but also your business’ overall output and competence.

 

What is Remote Tech Support and its Advantages and Disadvantages

Why Even Small Businesses need IT SupportWith the busy world that we live in, we have developed many ways of communication that will give us convenience and speed. Being able to communicate quickly and efficiently is very important in today’s society especially in the business and commercial world. This is why companies have developed what people now call the remote tech support or help desk support. These are software that enables a representative, which is usually an IT technician to connect to a remote computer from their own devicethrough the Internet. The software used by the IT technicians is also able to synchronize and transfer files, and desktop sharing among others.

If you are planning on having IT support but cannot decide on whether to hire full time employees, outsource the service or just opt for remote tech support instead, here are the few things that will help you see and realize the convenience of choosing remote tech support as well as its drawbacks.

Can provide help and support from a distance

Being able to have support just a phone call away is a good thing especially for those who are located in remote areas and wants something fixed immediately or do not have the luxury of time to go out and try to find someone who can fix something IT related. If you want to hire the best IT technicians but cannot do so due to distance and the location of your business, you can opt for choosing a good company with good remote tech support reputation.

The bad thing that can happen from this is since the two parties are not together side by side, some misunderstandings can occur and solving the problem may take a little time if clear communication is not done.

Is convenient

Opting for remote tech support can be considered convenient if you seldom need IT support and maintenance. This is why it is better for those who are running small to medium sized businesses. You are able to save money since you can only ask for their service when you only need them.

But there are times when having a permanent IT support team are more convenient especially if you often run into problems. If so, you might want to choose going for full time employees or outsourcing. It will also be better for you since you can have more control over the IT technicians that you will hire.

Can save money

If you are on limited budget or just simply want to cut cost, you can opt for availing remote tech support for your office or business’ IT needs. This is especially recommended for those who are running small to medium sized businesses. On the other hand, if you have a big business, it would be better to just hire full time IT technicians since there will be a lot to handle and you might need help constantly simply because of the size of your company.

There are many ways that you can get IT support and what is best for you and your business depends on what kind of services and operations you do as well as the overall size and budget of your business.

 

Why Even Small Businesses need IT Support

Why Even Small Businesses need IT SupportOur world today mostly runs on computer software and the internet. This is why businesses, small and big, also need to keep up and provide service and operations online. If you are planning on running or building a small business, it is important for you to not overlook the importance of having an IT group or support. Although it may be wiser for small businesses to just outsource instead of hiring a full time IT group in order to save money and be able to control their funds. Nevertheless, having an IT service is something that every business should have. Here are some of the reasons why having IT support is essential.


Database and backup

Having IT service or support means that your business will have an easier time accessing and keeping records by creating a database in which important information can be stored. With the help of technology, inputting and passing information around the office or departments can be easier and can save time. Backups can also be created in order for the data to be recoverable in case unexpected problems arise.

An IT support group can also help in issues or problems that are related to their department. If the business or office encounters a problem related to IT, they can easily fix it and will help the business not lose profit and important time.

Protection

IT support also provides extra protection to the information that your business has. Protection from viruses as well as hackers is very important in a business. Remember that if certain information stolen by competitors or hackers who wish to do harm, it may cause your business and you name’s downfall. Your clients or customers may have a hard time trusting you and your business again. Protection from viruses is also important in order for you to not lose the important data stored in your network. If a virus is able to get into your computer or network, aside from slowing down your computers, there is also the risk of corrupting your data and even stealing them and your passwords.

Provide convenience and accuracy

You can attract customers through the internet and this can help small businesses in having more exposure as well as a wider market and more since people usually opt for easier and more convenient ways to search for the services or products that they are looking for. And what is easier than looking and filling up or ordering through the internet?

Aside from this, inputting information to the database can be more accurate since the text and display are easier to read and understand compared to differing handwritings. Machines are also able to provide accurate calculations and this will leave a smaller margin of error to the information provided in your database.

There are a lot of things that can happen if you do not have an IT support. It can affect your business’ profit and productivity and even your customers’ contentment with your services. Aside from this, having an IT support group can also help your business in being more updated with the trends which can help you in improving and growing your business.