Archive for October, 2010

All metrics are not created equal

In an Internet-driven, ROI-obsessed world there’s a natural tendency to keep one eye on the road and the other on the dashboard.  So how can you be sure that the gauges you’re looking at are delivering the information you really need?  Or that you’re even looking at the right gauge(s)?

For a metric to be useful it must reveal not just data but information you can synthesize into actionable knowledge. Consider the example of Twitter and what Megan Berry at Klout had to say about it. Is is applicable to your business?  You might be surprised. Essentially, lots of people believe a big crowd of followers equates to big influence.  The assumption being that a follower is a follower is a follower.  So the name of the game is to grow the following, right? Turns out it’s not.  It’s highly unlikely that all those people are in fact “following” you. And how many of them are all that influential to begin with?  The 80-20 rule applies here and in some cases might be more like 95-5.  The relevance to you is this:  Trust, but verify.  And keep verifying over time.  You might be getting accurate data, but is it relevant given a changing competitive landscape and marketplace?  Are you rewarding the right behavior and offering the right incentives?  Are your metrics delivering the right readings?

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Ask the right questions, get the right answers, build the right product.  Easy, right?

In journalism and in police work, the five Ws — who, what, when, where and why — amount to the framework of investigation and the building blocks of a story or case.  In marketing, the same Ws apply.  But the order is slightly different.  The first question to ask: Why?  Why are we engaged in this effort in the first place?  If the reason is valid, you then gather the data you need to answer the second question: Who, as in who is the target of this effort?  That determined, you now have some notion about what it will take to get this target to act.  Only then can you determine the where and when of the “what” it is you’re up to.

Just remember that this is an exercise all about asking the right questions. Ask the wrong question, get the wrong answer.  Get the wrong answer(s) and you mobilize the wrong effort (read: waste a lot of money).

This is one of the great problems of today’s Internet-driven, DIY world.  There are countless amateur pollsters and market researchers crawling all over the Web today.  They work hard, they are resourceful, they are astute and, more often than not, they are gathering garbage.  As in garbage in, garbage out.

The wrong questions do not yield useful information.  Ask any cop.   The secret sauce is in the right question(s).  As BrandSavant (AKA Tom Webster) says, “The really great questions…are the ones that reveal what (users, customers) want, need and desire without them having to articulate what they want, need and desire”.

Would an iPod, an iPhone or an iPad have been developed if Apple had merely asked focus groups what they wanted in music, telecommunication or mobile computing?  The apocryphal story here is the one about Henry Ford saying that before the automobile was a reality, people told him what they really wanted in transportation was faster horses.  Here’s Webster again:

“No one is passionate about a product they haven’t seen yet. The art and skill of the research professional is to ask the questions that can root out that passion without placing a cognitive burden on the respondent, or requiring them to do your jobs as marketers.

“In market research, as in computer science and cooking, one law remains true: garbage in, garbage out. I earn my keep asking questions. I’m humbled and grateful when people ask me to help analyze their data, but the truth is – you asked me too late”.

Hubspot’s tips to get your business content out there are good reminders that nothing useful comes from hiding in plain site.  And once again, common sense prevails:
1. Go to family and friends first. AKA, employees and customers.  They know you, trust you, and most will be only to happy to be a force-multiplier on your behalf.  Ask them to comment on your posts or post something themselves.  Note: inquire in advance about the way they want to be reached (email, etc.).   They are also the people who can be sources of your blog material.  Don’t be shy. 

2. Merchandise your link. Incorporate it into your email signature and business card for starters.  But think how else you can give it visibility.

3.  Be a guest blogger – Include a link back to your blog as a credit for your contribution. This strengthens your search engine authority, widens your audience, and drives additional traffic to your blog.

4. Be active online – Example: a LinkedIn group or a more traditional online forum. Use tools like BoardReader to identify online communities consisting of your target audience, and then listen and become active in those groups. Don’t promote your blog– just answer questions to establish yourself as a thought leader. As you do this, other members will check out your profile (which should include a link to your blog) and may even subscribe.

5.  Drop names – Industry watchers, analysts and  influencers know when their name is mentioned.  Mentioning influencers in your content increases your chances of being mentioned to their audience.

6. Investigate content networks – Content networks are sites and services that exist to aggregate content on a certain topic. Example:Networked Blogs, a service that allows blog authors to syndicate their blog content. Many industries also have their one content networks, often run by industry trade publications. Determine the best content networks for your blog.

7. Invite guest contributors – By inviting guest authors to contribute to your blog, you are creating an opportunity for them to also share your blog with their online and offline networks. Regularly including them can help increase your new visitor traffic.

8. Run a contest – They work because people like them. Just make sure yours is easy to enter. The prize could be as simple as a free-gift bag related to your business. The contest could be for sharing a link to your blog with others, for leaving the most comments, or something else that engages your readers.

9. Mix-up the content – Include audio, video, and animation and cartoons. Upload video to YouTube and embed it video into a blog article. You also increase exposure to that new readers that may visit your blog.

Sometimes, what you don’t say speaks volumes.   Today, with so much new jargon cluttering a function already bloated with techno-speak, it’s time to call a spade a spade.  Or, a call a “landing page” a “lead-generation” page, as the case may be.  With apologies to the sharp blades at HubSpot, here are few tips for turning terms that are turn-offs into euphemisms to make the people in the C-suite more comfortable with your pitches:

1.  Never say blog.  Say publishing platform, as in a platform for publishing content.  “Blog” is a turn-off term for more senior executives than you may think.  To them, “bloggers” connote trouble, disruption, antagonism.  “Publishing platform” is neutral, manageable, even positive.  And perfectly descriptive of what blogging is all about.
2. Never say RSS.  Say syndication and subscription technology. RSS stands for really simple syndication, the term created by developers and picked up by everybody in the ecosystem. RSS drives the syndication and subscription of much of the content on the Web today.  Describe it as such and it will be immediately understood.

3. Never say social media, or social-media marketing.  Say real-time media and real-time marketing.  Author David Meerman Scott:  “In many companies, the term ‘social media’ has a negative connotation, so I use ‘real-time media’ instead, and management pays attention.” Follow suit.

4. Never say search engine optimization (SEO).  Say higher unpaid search- engine traffic.  “SEO” is not common lingo in boardrooms.  So if, instead, you say “increase unpaid search-engine traffic” you go to the heart of the matter of what you’re pushing for. Beats hell out of “SEO” everytime.

5. Never say social network.  Say online communities.

The Social Network today, after all, is a damn movie. And one you can be sure people of a certain age will never pay money to see, or be see seeing it.  Ditto most CEOs.  “Online communities” or even “online groups” speaks to marketing opportunities. Music to the ears of the C-Suite. When you have their ears, be speaking their language.
6. Never say pay-per-click, say click-based search-engine advertising.   Many of us are confused about the difference between paid and organic search-engine marketing thanks to SEO and PPC.  Clear up the confusion.  Use clear, and more direct, terminology.

7. Finally, as noted at the start, avoid landing page.  Call it what it actually is: a  lead generation page. A “landing” is not a benefit. A lead is.  Mention that magic word in any meeting where a sales executive and/or people are within earshot, and you will enjoy  instant attention.