Tuesday, 29 December 2009

My internet 2009 Top 5 List

I'm a huge fan of lists. That's why I love so much 'High Fidelity', Nick Hornby's novel on list-making music fans. It's also why I like Tyler Brûlé's column in the Financial Times weekend edition: he's such a great and genuine list maker. He doesn't always make lists. But only from looking at the lay-out of his column, I can tell if it's a good one or a great one: if I can see a list in the lay-out, I'm confident I'll love his column.

Since I like lists so much, I sometimes talk in lists. When I like a tune, I love to say: 'that's in my all-time top 10', instead of just saying 'I really like this song'. I remember also asking my friend @Michaelnotte last year to make a 'Web Analytics Top 5 for 2008' in his blog. I was thinking myself on making such a list, but hadn't started with my blog yet. So I asked him to talk in my list-making language and to sum up his favourite internet-moments of 2008.

Now we're at the end of 2009, and I want to share with you my Top 5 internet moments of this year.

Coco & Lola

I'd like to write a separate post on all 5 of them in the next couple of weeks.

3 things which just missed out on the Top 5:

Avinash launches his new book 2.0 – and he really launched it the way we all should market launches nowadays. He involves you in the developing and launching of the book, so you feel like you're a part of it. He uses time in a very clever way, so you feel the building up and it makes you long to see the result. And he's very clear in his communication, which gives him the credit to promote his book on his blog in a very direct way, without having to fear to launch empty marketing promises. He delivers on his marketing promise.
It's not on my top 5, basically because I haven't' read the book yet.

Music concerts on the web – 2009 was the first year without Fabchannel on-line, and I'm still sad I didn't enjoy Fabchannel as much as I could have while it was there. 'The Reasons why we stopped', a letter published when Fabchannel was taken of the internet, is still as relevant in the discussion about music in the on- and off-line world. Since then, initiatives from U2 on YouTube, and some concerts on the Belgian website DeStandaard.be give me the impression that the idea behind Fabchannel was the correct one, and that the only reason they're not there any more is because they were too far ahead of their time. My #4 of my Top 5 makes a good case of how sports coverage is embracing the internet and all things 2.0 for their own good and for the good of the audience, so sport is getting a win-win out of internet. Music needs to do this to. Spotify (my #2 from the Top 5) is just one great initiative who understands this. Hopefully we'll only get more of these.
And hopefully the film industry starts to move to. It's about time.

LinkedIn – I got my new job on LinkedIn, and that makes me proud. It's just another reason to hail LinkedIn as my favourite social networking site. It's been like that for a while now, and I hope that this year it will keep me surprising.

3 things that are not in my Top 5 are:

Twitter – I've been on Twitter since this year and it's OK, but I use it only exclusively to get referrals to interesting blog-spots. So it's actually good for the #1 of my top 5, but just to get me to read lots of stuff, but not much more. I think twitter is pretty lousy at connecting me with other people and I must say it bores me to twit about my own whereabouts.

Social media: So much talking about social media in 2009, it's been too much. Let's just start seeing social media as something normal. It's there, everybody's using it. Now let's move on. Let's start to focus on the messages we can deliver, the value we can add. Lets' focus on what we want to do, not so much on the fact that we want to be in Social Media. For this, see my # 5 of my Top 5: Coco & Lola.

My own blogging-experience: if you're reading this, you're one of the (hopefully) happy few, and you now I've been pretty crap on updating this blog.

You'll find posts on all of my Top 5 topics in the upcoming weeks!

Happy New year!

Related Posts:

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Our job in internet marketing: To listen carefully.

Our customer is constantly talking to us on the internet. Our job in Internet Marketing is to know how to listen to him. Are you a good listener?

Let's see if you recognize this: you've got a new product launch or a campaign coming up. Or you have an idea for a new tool or a new section on your web. This is the process of how you could start working this launch or this new tool:
  • You start with defining your target. Most companies have decent studies on who they want to sell their products to.
  • This target definition outlines what other products this target tends to buy, the media they get their information from, what their family looks like, where they live and how they take their coffee.
  • Your product department or the department you want to make a new section for gives you information on the new product or of the requirements of this new section or tool.
  • You don't forget to have a look at competitors - you make a benchmark. This competitor sells this and they do it like this and like that. And that competitor already has this new feature on their web, and they do it this and that.
  • You define a budget and a timing and a sales forecast.
  • You take all the above, and make a nice briefing for your agencies.
  • Your agencies come up with an idea, a timing and the production agenda.
  • There are various discussion back and forth. And of course lots of changes and updates and meetings. This goes on for a while, until you have something that both agency and client consider as a good interpretation of the brief, and there is belief that things will work.
  • You ask feedback to your target in a focus group or you perform some tests to see if everything looks OK.
  • You launch the new product with a nice big-bang campaign: rich-media, brand-days, all gunz a-blazin'. You put the new feature or tool live.
  • You generate some reports: weekly report, monthly report, KPI report. You have a close look at the reports.
  • Some changes are suggested for future launches or features.
  • You move on to a new launch, or start working on a new briefing for your agency.
Do you recognize this process? Is this how you work?

Let's have a look and see where the customer is in this whole process. When do we actually listen to our customer?
We listen twice to our customer: first when we define target and see who this target is and how he behaves. The second time we listen is when we are ready to launch, and we take a focus group of 7-9 people to see if all the work has been done correctly and if the launch-campaign or the tool or feature will work.

I must say I think it's a bit thin, those 2 times we listen to our customer. The targeting is a pretty difficult and expensive study, so they're done maybe once a year, and if you're unlucky they're done worldwide or on a large scale, so the targeting can differ in your local market. Or you have to use the study of the big-selling country which is next to your smaller country.
The focus groups or the testing are very useful, but they're always performed in artificial circumstance and with a pretty limited audience.

What's missing in this whole process is all the talk we're missing from our customers after we've launched our campaign or our tool. From the moment we've launched a campaign or put a tool live, we'll have hundreds, maybe thousands of visitors visiting your site and using your applications. All these people are talking to you and we really need to start listening to them.

Once we launch a tool, we can see almost instantly see our visitor's digital footprints in our clickstream data: where did our clients click, what page did they abandon, which options did they select most. This is really valuable information, and it's already there, you just have to look at it. This is maybe the most basic way of listening to your customers. It gives you an idea if the t
he tool serves it's purpose, if people can finish to do what you want them to do.

Besides the clickstream, we can launch an on-line survey to ask directly what the clients think. Within a couple of days, you'll have a lot of feedback, not from some target-study performed months ago for a pan-European audience. No, it's feedback from the people who have been using your tool, right there on the spot. Clients tend to be generous with sharing their opinion: we only have to ask and listen to them. With the information we have, we can act immediately.

When it comes to the launches, there are even more ways of listening. Every launch will cause posts in blogs or discussions in forums. With the internet, your client has become pretty ha
ndy with sharing his views, opinions and issues he might have with your new product on-line. You won't have to ask for his opinion, especially when his opinion is not that positive:
he's already expressed them.
Today with the widespread use of social media this is getting very pertinent. Your client is talking, and you want to be the first to know what he's saying. Start listening.
With social media, this gives also an bonus: you can start a dialogue. Clickstream and surveys aren't really fit for answering your clients, but in social media you can start a conversation, and this will give you very valuable insights: how can my product be improved, how do my clients persieve my campaign, is my new tool useful for my clients.

On the internet, your client is talking constantly to you. You only have to learn how to listen, and to listen carefully.

To give you an (real-life) example: this week we had an agency presenting a couple of
designs of some landing pages (excellent agency, btw). They brought 2 different designs and the main difference was that the colours were different. They asked us for an OK for 1 of the designs and which one we preferred: the one with the red button or the one with the black button.
The point is that it can't be decided in a meeting between client and agency which colour would be best for a web design. The only valid opinion on this is our customer's opinion.
The 2 designs looked perfect for a A/B test: you serve to 50% of the audience the red option, and to the other 50% the black option. After a while you'll have enough impressions and feedback to see which of both pages had the best conversion. So by listening to your customer you g
et the best option.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Just a thought

Having a writers-block for my blog is about the opposite of having a writers blog...

Friday, 21 August 2009

Rule #1: The king stay the king

Before something goes live on our website, someone within our organization has to give his final OK. In case of small changes, I can give the go-ahead myself; for more important things the OK has to come from above. But in my opinion there is just 1 relevant opinion on what you publish on your web, and that is the opinion of your customer.

It’s such a simple rule and it sounds like an obvious one. Your client is king. But for companies this is very easy to forget, also on the web. We as a company, we think product, we think competition, we think brand awareness and brand values, we think top-of mind. But we sometimes tend to forget it’s our client we need to keep in mind. And like I said in my previous post: marketing is like a game of chess and the client is king. Always. You get the king, you make the sale.

One of my heroes and content management expert, Gerry McGovern, always says ‘You are not your customer’. And right he is. Our websites are something that is used by our customers and that at any time should serve the interest of our customer.

So is the best website for your client also the best website for you company?

Good question, not an easy one to answer. In my opinion the best website for your client is indeed the best website for your brand. And this since there should not be such thing as ‘a best website for your brand’.
There are a lot of reasons for this. The most obvious reason of this might be control. Who’s in control on the web? Your client is in control on the web, not your company.
You can publish websites and banners as much as you want. If you don’t talk your customer’s talk, you wont get him to your website. Or he wont stay: he’s only 1 click away from leaving your site. The ‘Back’ button and the ‘Close Window’ cross are always there, just one click away. Keep that in mind. Is what you are doing relevant for your customer? Will he visit your website? Will he want to visit your site, also if you don’t pay him to do so? (By paying, I mean – getting paid visits via banners, prize draws, e-mailing). Will he stay or just leave right away?
Are you talking the language of your client on the internet? Are you relevant for your customer? He decides, he’s the king. It might sound trivial; it’s not.

In my previous post I put a picture of a scene of The Wire. In that scene chess is used as a metaphor to a drug dealers crew. A friend of mine replied that The Wire can be seen as metaphor for life – so also for on-line marketing.
If you’re on Spotify – listen here to what D’Angelo Barksdale has to say about the king in a chess game. The king stay tha king.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

If marketing were a game of chess, is the Internet a pawn, a rook or a queen?

Let’s say marketing is like a game of chess. To get your marketing right, you have an army of pieces: you have a queen, a couple of rooks, 2 bishops, 2 knights and some pawns. I'll explain you what these pieces mean.

The queen is your strongest piece. She can move around quickly, she can go almost anywhere, she get’s things done. Depending on what business you’re in or what company you are, your queen can mean different things. For some companies, the queen is Television Advertising. For a car-company television drives traffic to the dealerships. We know that. In our case, television can be seen as our marketing queen. For other companies, the queen can be the Pricing. Ryanair comes in mind. For McDonald’s, their marketing queen is probably Location. Obviously your Product can be your marketing queen. It’s the marketing tool that makes you strong, that differentiates you. It’s how you make your sale. To get an idea of what the marketing queen in your company is, have a look at the marketing budget, it will give you a pretty good indication.

A piece like the knight can be very useful. It can jump over other pieces and attacks in a not conventional line (the ‘7’ form – a move the queen can’t make). This sounds to me a bit like organizing an event for your company. You market your company in a non-conventional way, and it can get your message where other marketing tools can’t get. The problem with the knight is that it moves rather slow, and you need a different mindset to use it right. An event is normally for a pretty limited audience, and it tends to work on a longer time-scale.

Pieces like the bishop and the rook can mean different things in your marketing strategy: promotions, print advertising, packaging. What do they stand for in your marketing mix?

Pawns aren’t very powerful pieces. They can move just one way, and they are very vulnerable. But when the pawns reach the other side of the board, they get promoted and they turn into any other more powerful piece.
Internet was once a pawn. In a decade or so, it crossed the chess-board all the way to the other side. Internet isn’t a pawn anymore. Depending on which company you are, internet has turned into your marketing queen (your main tool), or it has become a rook (direct result for money with AdWords) or a knight (some surprising virals and actions in social media). For some companies, the pawn called ‘internet’ is still crossing the board. I’m sure that pawn will get to the other side and will get promoted to a more important piece.

And the king? I think the client is the king, and you want to get the king. When you have the king, the sale is made, the service is sold. The client is king, and he’s even more king on the web.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

My mission: design a strategy

What actually convinced me to start this blog was my manager who asked me to give a ‘new angle’ to our on-line strategy.

Don’t think I’ve mentioned it yet, but I work in on-line marketing for an automotive company in Spain. I deal a bit with everything, but most of my time I take care of content management and search. When I say ‘I deal a bit with everything’, I actually mean ‘I sometimes get lost in everything we do or try to do’. As an example I’ll try to explain how we organize our web-activities and you’ll see right away how you can get lost sometimes:

We currently run our web activities between a couple of departments in our organization. We have 3 agencies helping out: media, creative and digital. Our corporate site is hosted and developed in our European headquarters in Brussels, who get their work split between a marketing department and an IT unit. We do translations and local adaptations here in Spain, and we run and develop some local sites and applications from here, through our digital agency which gets support from our systems department for hosting.

Anybody still following?

Now if that quick introduction to how we run our web-operations went a bit too fast, then I completely understand. It’s not straight-forward at all, and many times this leads to confusion, misunderstanding, inefficient work. It just does and I’m sorry about this.

Organization is just 1 example of how difficult this job can be. I don’t believe that it’s actually a problematic issue for our company – everybody knows what to do and does a great job. Don’t get my wrong when I used this example. The point I want to make is that I (or anybody for that matter) can get lost some times.

So when my boss asked me to give a new angle to the overall on-line strategy, I started thinking. I got lost quite easily. So then I started writing things down a list – I ended up with an endless list of ‘important’ and ‘strategic’ topics. I tried drawing some structures, ideas, models. I didn’t get very far, it felt like I needed at least 1 more dimension: drawing in 2D just couldn’t express all what we are doing or what needs to be done. It had to be at least in 3D or even 4D!

So then this idea came: let me write it all down in a blog. Reading blogs have been helping me so much these years in finding answers to problems, and has inspired me very much … maybe writing one can make me organize everything that working internet means for me. In this blog I can organize what we’ve been doing, what I have seen around, people who have influenced me. Things I like, things I don’t like (and why). Things we should do, things we shouldn’t do. Things we try out and what the result is.

There it is: a means to an end. I write this blog to work on our on-line strategy. And in the long term I hope it will help me to learn, to test and to improve.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Let's get this party starting

There are 2 reasons why I write this blog.

First one is the obvious one. The one reason why maybe all blogs exist. A bit like keeping your CV updated, let's say.

The second reason is to learn. I work as an internet marketer and I like what I do. I hope that writing this blog will help me get better at doing what I do.

Of course there are other reasons. Maybe you like what I write, or maybe you learnt something. That would be great, but the 2 reasons mentioned above will do for me right now.

My name is Stefaan. This is my blog.