Like OMG! Klout is not the sharpest tool in the shed…


So I periodically visit Klout to check my score (43 at press time by the way) and to see if they’ve actually changed (or fixed) anything – and today I learned that I am influential on the topic of “teens”.

I tweet, retweet, comment, Like, +1, Instagram and blog regularly about social media, marketing, leadership, customer relationships, and globalization – and since one of the articles I shared last week was the very popular “How Target Figured Out A Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before Her Father Did” from Forbes, these knuckleheads at Klout think I am influential on teens rather than “data mining”, “retail marketing”, or “predictive analytics”.

Obviously the inference engine is broken…

Now, I understand that the reason this happened is likely because this sharing on my part was amplified by my network through their retweets, comments, likes, etc – but that doesn’t make the results any less wrong.

So for you marketers weighing heavily on using Klout scores and influencer topics  as a key piece of data in your social marketing plans, here is another reason to think again.

Will the REAL Trent Dilfer please stand up?


For many years, a common nickname for me during football season has been “Dilfer”.  This began when Trent Dilfer burst onto the NFL scene in the early nineties with the Tampa Bay Bucs, and continues today as he is seemingly on ESPN 24×7 talking football.  True Story – in my mid-twenties, I made my way through a night club red rope or 2 in the Tampa area as a result of this resemblance.  “Welcome Mr. Dilfer, right this way…” 

Not all look-a-likes are created equal

When it comes to acquiring new customers, I often advise my clients to build RFM analytic models that examine their existing clients across many dimensions, resulting in a segmentation that quickly identifies their “best” customers.  From this point, the statistical factors that define the top performing customers can be applied to databases of consumers (or businesses), looking for prospects that most resemble the best customers.

While this provides great results and should be part of any serious marketer’s arsenal of approaches, the ongoing explosion of data worldwide is changing the game a bit.

MJD vs. Dilfer - Tale of the Tape

It’s the differences, dummy

Data points related to sentiment and intent are harder to identify, but are proving that the differences in our customers are sometimes more important than the similarities.

Do you agree?  Let’s discuss at #DMA2011 in Boston next week – DMA 2011

Living in a Windowless Home (almost)…


No, this is not my house.

Have you ever imagined living in a Windowless home? I have always had windows in my house, in my office and even my pocket. By now you may have guessed that I am not referring to the framed glass that allows light into our lives. I am referring to the much-maligned operating system marketed by Microsoft since the 1980s.

Professionally, I have worked with versions ranging from 3.0 to Vista, on PCs, Servers, and Mobile devices in every imaginable use case. I have owned a Windows PC, well, since there have been Windows PCs. I used to joke with my wife that there were only 2 remnants of my single life – that damn dog and the Dell desktop PC that had run faithfully, almost uninterrupted, for nearly 10 years.

Sure, I upgraded the disk drive, added RAM, and had to regularly herd the dust bunnies from its deepest regions – but that’s like changing oil and brake pads on your car. This past week, that dusty, loud, vibrating PC has been put out to pasture. Before the tree-huggers out there lynch me for not properly recycling, I have to tell you that I took the time to reformat the machine, and reload with Windows XP (with service packs) and Office Pro 2003, before donating the machine to a coworker for his kids to hammer on it.

How did this come to be? I guess it all started with a 1st Generation iPod Nano, although I never really got on the iPod train since I was a heavy user of Windows Mobile and had my “thousand songs in your pocket” that way. I only used the Nano at the gym and when cutting the grass or anywhere else I didn’t want to risk losing or breaking my phone. When I last changed jobs, Blackberry was the corporate standard so I made the switch, and my wife got an iPhone 3G in the transaction (it involved a carrier change to AT&T from Verizon, but thats another story). My wife was very happy with her device, but still felt no urge to go “all in”. That is, until the iPhone 4. Once my company deemed the iPhone 4 secure enough, my wife and I went out and made the trade up. This opened up the flood gates, and now our home boasts a total of two iPhone 4s, an iPad2, and lastly, our new MacBook Pro. We are now living in a Windowless Home – almost – I still have a laptop from work running windows.

Now that I am at this point, I feel the duty to warn others that despite what the media says, life without Windows is not all its cracked up to be. Maybe its 25 years of Windows, but the OS X user interface is not very intuitive, and I am still struggling without an easy way to right click on the MacBook touch pad. Be prepared for file format issues, driver issues if you choose to retain your Windows peripherals, and just wait until you try to keep a terabyte of music and pictures on 2 iPhones/Apple IDs, an iPad, and a MacBook synchronized. I assume iCloud fixes this?

I will say that I seem to spend less time on the MacBook (vs the Windows PC), but I reckon that is because of my iPhone and iPad. Warming up a baby bottle? Pay the American Express bill with 3 clicks on an app. Notice a cool landscape scene that doesn’t look so cool in the picture you just snapped? Just add the “1977” filter with the instagram app – instant high quality and artistic photography. I think of it as the same dominance Microsoft garnered when there was an army of developers creating “apps” back when they were called applications. Overall, “computing” seems to be fading from my everyday life, blending in almost unnoticed. But, I will say that the den is now a guest room with the arrival of my daughter this past month, meaning I no longer have to “go get on the computer”, and besides, with a 3 week old, who has the time anyway?

If this is Steve Jobs vision, kudos. Although, as a former tech guy, I almost miss tinkering around. Jailbreak anyone?

Fueling the Army of Stupid


The 24 hour news cycle was first popularized on television and led to the creation of a multitude of “news” shows and channels.  This conditioned consumers into believing that all of this “news” was actually “news” worthy and hence, needed to be consumed.   The internet has exploited this human condition and is continuing to spiral out of control with the online media outlets and social networks enabling the masses to share, tweet, like, +1, or worse yet, comment on these largely sensationalized and manufactured news stories – resulting in the current real-time news cycle.

This is all well and good if those that are most “engaged” are not members of the Army of Stupid.  So who exactly pledges allegiance to this flag of ignorance?

My totally unscientific study concludes that approximately 75% of internet users who comment on articles, stories, and other postings, suffer from a debilitating symptom of the “real-time” news cycle.  Stupidity.  These consumers share no common demographic or geographic traits (unlike a closely related faction, UFO abductees) other than a narcissistic belief that a) they are right, and b) someone cares.  Not to be confused with ignorance, which is somewhat excusable and even curable, this condition can be best summed up by the great Ron White – “You Can’t Fix Stupid“.

Let me offer three recent maddening observations:

The Casey Anthony verdict – If you were not a) a jury member, b) an observer in the courtroom, c) a lawyer with access to all of the evidence, or d) a Kardashian, please don’t clog up the social sphere with your opinions.  It’s pretty bad when national TV networks and the plethora of cable news channels are streaming tweets and comments across the screen – since when does “Joe”, a plumber from Des Moines, have a newsworthy opinion on a criminal court case?  And don’t get me started on the “legal” media figures propagating and rewarding this behavior, ahem, Nancy Grace, you know who you are.

Facebook’s integration with Skype / Launch of Google +1 – I have been in or on the periphery of the technology industry for about 20 years, and it still amazes me how polarizing technology can be, with legions of (blind) followers on each side of the proverbial fence accusing the [insert favorite tech giant] of “copying” [insert hated tech giant].  IBM vs Apple, Apple vs Microsoft, AOL vs Compuserve, Yahoo vs Google, Google vs Microsoft, Microsoft vs Yahoo, Google vs Apple, and so on – bottom line is that once you become “giant” the innovation largely stops – they just keep repackaging the same stuff with improvements to design and functionality – appealing to the audience of the moment.  Video chat is not new, nor is social networking – and frankly, the combination of the two isn’t new either.  No one accused Mercedes of copying BMW when they added Bluetooth as an option, right?

The belief that [insert favorite tech giant] is infallible – While many believe that the likes of Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple will never be anything but dominate in their pursuits, one doesn’t have to look too far back to see former darlings reduced to rubble (AOL, Netscape), slowly plodding along with little growth (Microsoft, Cisco) or even fighting to hang on (Nokia, RIM).  There will always be something newer, shinier, better, cheaper, and faster around the corner – companies were not made to last forever and the giants of today will eventually be displaced.  So save your “so-and-so is the greatest” and “so-and-so sux” (the ending in “x” is another greater marker for stupidity) comments to yourself unless you can back it up with some sound supporting evidence.

Spray and Pray is NOT a Customer Contact Strategy


My family and I recently moved  into a new house, and in the process I utilized the “moving” services offered by Big Satellite Company [name changed to protect the guilty].  I was a little perturbed when I was unable to coordinate the moving service online, but that’s another topic.  Anyway, all went well and the move went great – they even threw in some free premium channels for free as a “value add” to using the service.  Great way to protect against attrition to competing companies or, god-forbid, cable.

Here’s the kicker – a day later I received an email from Big Satellite Company asking me “Did you know that you can manage your account online?”.  My first inclination was to reply and ask them “Do you know that I had been doing so for my 10+ years as a customer?  Not to mention that the account service I most recently used was not accessible online?”.

Obviously there is a business rule trigger that sent me the email, likely because I called in to the service center to request the moving service, but the automation rules failed to recognize the fact that:

  1. I am frequent user of their online system for account changes.
  2. The service most recently used in not available online.

To borrow from the ESPN crew, C’mon MAN!

I know this is probably rocket-science to some, but companies can do better!

Spray and Pray is not a Customer Contact Strategy – by this I mean that automating communications with your customers should not be done simply for the sake of doing it, and furthermore, not all customers are created equal.   A sound Customer Contact Strategy should span each and every potential interaction a company could have with a customer regardless of contact or delivery channel.  And, these contacts should be well thought out, situational, and personalized to maximize relevance to the customer.  This results in improving sentiment towards your brand with the big payoff being not only the retention of customers, but perhaps more important, the recommendation of your product or service to the customer’s extended “network” of friends, family, and colleagues via social networks .  This is often exacerbated by the  interactions being handled through different software platforms and the wide spread practice of outsourcing portions of CRM processes to different companies (or handled internally by different teams)  as well as the proliferation of subcontracted delivery channels – but trust me when I say that it can be done!

Ask me how…

If the World is Flat, why do you need a Sherpa?


Flat Earth Sherpa

By now, I am sure you all have read The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Friedman?  If you haven’t read this book yet, I highly recommend you read it right away – it will change the way you think about the future that is already here.  With that said, the basic premise that I took away from the book in a single sentence is that technology has essentially “flattened” the  Earth by enabling real-time collaboration on a global basis. The concept of a small manufacturer in India, sourcing raw materials in China, perhaps on Alibaba, with funding via micro loan from the UK, and selling finished goods on eBay to an American consumer is now a reality.

This is where the irony enters.

This new flat Earth has been a tremendous enabler for small and medium-sized businesses, but has muddied the waters for much larger companies.  I spend a great deal of my time consulting with some of the world’s largest and most recognizable consumer brands, and for the most part these companies recognize and are actively trying to exploit this new flat Earth, but frankly they have no idea how to choose the best countries for expansion, how to maximize growth for those countries they are already in, and in either case, how to navigate the myriad of technology, data, cultural, legal and consumer privacy challenges.

Hence, the need for a Sherpa (hint: ME).

If your company or if you have a client that is facing these types of Global Expansion challenges in this new flat earth, please let me know – I can lead the way.

It has been a while since I have posted an article, and I certainly have no shortage of topics to write about; the fact remains that  I simply do not have enough time in the day.  And to add insult to injury, my travel schedule and client load keeps me flush with article ideas, but  no time to write about them.  I actually did some of the final editing for this post on my new iPhone 4 (more on that in future articles) while my son drank his milk and watched Little Einsteins from my lap!

Anyway, thanks for stopping by and keep your eyes open for a few rapid-fire posts over the next week or so – having not written in a while, they will be based on my travels and observations over the last couple of months.  Don’t forget to leave your comments and provide feedback.

Thank you for reading and Happy Hunting!

Restoring Faith in the Universe!


EarbudsEveryone has heard the expression “bad things happen to good people” and for about the millionth time in my life, I was thinking it to myself last week.  I was traveling on business (again) and in my typical, helpful fashion I was assisting an older woman lift her “way-too-large-to-be-a-carry-on” bag into the overhead compartment, and painfully watched in slow motion as one of the ear buds on my BlackBerry headset launched into the air and tumbled end-over-end into the darkness between 2 very large passengers seated below.  Rather than put myself in the middle of that mess and and hold up my fellow boarding passengers, I simply moved on, mumbling under my breath.  This meant that a) my in-flight music would not be in stereo  and b) the client call I had planned during my trek through the Atlanta airport would now carry a higher degree of difficulty given the background noise that can only be produced on a weekday morning in that mammoth airport.

Upon arriving in Atlanta, I made a beeline for one of those airport kiosks for a replacement, and found that the gentleman wanted $8.99 for a set of 5 pairs of different ear buds in multiple sizes, shapes and colors.  I told the guy I’d pass, and as I started to walk towards the newly opened Blackberry store across the way,  he called me back.  What happened next might go down in history as a business traveler miracle – wait for it – he reached into a drawer and pulled out a single pair of replacement ear buds, shrink-wrapped oem-style, and handed them to me with a smile and a Merry Christmas.  I patted his shoulder and said Merry Christmas to you too.

So carry on good people of the world – give and you shall receive!

So what does this have to do with marketing?

Take your pick – whether it is asking for permission to market to your customers or resolving client complaints without them going ape-crazy on you first – do the right thing and it comes back to you!  I promise.

What do you think?

 

If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing RIGHT…


We’ve all heard variations of this sentiment – many credit it’s creation to Hunter S. Thompson in his epic adventure “Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas” (yes I called it epic).  Having spent nearly 7 years in the Army, I vehemently subscribe to this train of thought and often find myself discouraged when business owners and marketers take short cuts to save a buck now, when in reality they could be costing themselves more in the long run. 
Here are 2 recent “personalization” experiences that illustrate the point (I have changed the names to protect the guilty).  In both cases, these prestigious, national brands are applying technology to reach consumers with personalized communications, but the effort is lackluster at best due to some shortcomings on the data side:
 
I am a subscriber to the print edition of Super Cool Business Magazine, although I have not activated or created an online profile with the companion website.  My subscription to the magazine was offered to me via direct mail, and I responded (and paid) via the web, and this is not the only title from the publisher to which I subscribe.  So – let’s recap.  The publisher has my name and postal address, as well as information about other magazine titles they offer to which I also subscribe.  They have my personal email address derived from the online subscription activation/payment as well as online profiles associated with other titles
 
Herein lies the rub – over the last month or 2, my wife has been receiving emails from Super Cool Business Magazine and “trusted partners” personalized to me (“Dear Mark”).  Obviously they have performed some sort of email address append to their file and/or performed some data massaging to “household” my record – the result is that my wife’s personal email address is associated with my name and postal information.  I say to her – “No problem – just forward me the email, and I will go online and update my communication preferences to include my email address instead of yours”.  Easier said than done.  When I clicked the link in the email to make changes to my profile, the only option was to completely unsubscribe.  So I did – too bad for this publisher – now their database is short one email address and who knows how many others experienced the same thing?  All of this results from having the right intentions (combination of marketing + technology) but with poor execution. 
 
My second example comes to us from a respected German automaker; my wife and I both drive cars from this brand and we loyaly use the local dealership for our maintenance and repair needs.  Our vehicles are both model year 2004 sedans, but different models.  The dealership’s use of email as a CRM extension and marketing tool has been sporadic at best.  The various emails we receive related to marketing promotions, coupons, and service appt reminders all seem to be coming from different systems – to the point that the email templates (colors, logos, fonts) seem to have no cohesive design elements connecting them. 
 
Herein lies the rub – the dealership cannot seem to get my email address associated with me and my vehicle, and my wife’s email address associated with her and her vehicle.  They will personalize a marketing message with “Dear Mark”   and reference my Model/VIN# in an email to my wife and vice-versa.  Sometimes, the emails will have her name and my VIN# to my email address.  There does not seem to be any rhyme or reason.  To add insult to injury, there is no way to go online and self-police the data in a communication preference center – again, the only option is to unsubcribe, and the unsubscribe page for each email is different.  We have even made calls to the dealership providing updated information to no avail – it appears that the dealer marketing system, the dealer service scheduling system, and the corporate marketing database are not synchronized. 
 
So what’s the lesson?  Don’t take shortcuts and make sure your data is in order before personalizing communications or at least offer a 2-way dialogue that enables consumers to contribute to the conversation.  Here is a great article on personalizing email communications from MediaPost:
 

How to increase customer response with trigger-based marketing (via MySalesHero’s Blog)


I have written about this topic before, but here is another angle and great insight from my colleague, MySalesHero….

How to increase customer response with trigger-based marketing You don’t have to be a superhero to know how important it is to be in the right place at the right time. It’s the same for your marketing programs. Timing is everything. Photography services for the recently engaged. Accounting assistance for an expanding company. Lawn care services after a new home purchase. By delivering the right offer just when your customer is ready to buy, you’ll improve buyer response every time. These trigger events in yo … Read More

via MySalesHero’s Blog

ReBlog – Good Article: Exploring the Sudden Rise of the Scannable Square (via ProspectsPLUS! Blog)


I had been planning a post on QR codes and other response mechanisms, but thought I would give you some words on the subject from a friend of mine. Enjoy!

Exploring the Sudden Rise of the Scannable Square QR CODES RAISE THE BAR(code) FOR INSTANT CUSTOMER INFORMATION GRATIFICATION It’s a funny thing about technology isn’t it; one day you’ve never heard of a product or service and the next day you can’t turn a corner, a magazine page, or an internet browser tab without seeing it. That’s how quickly and exponentially QR codes have taken their place in the world. In fact, as I’m writing this, I’m sitting in a doctor’s office with my daughter and I loo … Read More

via ProspectsPLUS! Blog

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