It is the season to be predicting the future, but that is almost always a career-limiting move. So I'm not going to do that.
It is a lot easier to predict the present. So I'm not going to do that either.
Rather, I'm going to share a clump of realities/rules garnered from the present to help ready you for the predictable near future . Now here is the great part… if you follow these rules and act on these insights I believe you'll be significantly better prepared for the unpredictable future.
Now here's another surprise: These rules/insights/mind shifts are not about data!
Here's important context (before we get into the rules for revolutionaries)…
The Fundamental Web Analytics Problem Is Not Data!
A huge part of the last few years for me have been about bringing more data, better strategies, more powerful tools, ever more impactful keynotes to people around the world.
One of my biggest learnings?
That frustrating reality is the source of numerous problems for the company (and the web as a whole), but it also means Executives ask for unimaginative data. "Count Impressions, in real time!" "Show me Clicks and the count of Facebook Fans!" "My dashboard should have Page Views and Exit Rate!" Sad, unimaginative measurements of their sad, unimaginative campaigns.
If you are doing lame stuff, why try harder in an analytics context by asking for Economic Value or Visitor Loyalty or Conversation Rate or a thousand other super powerful and insightful metrics ?
The problem is not analytics or data (or your blood, sweat and tears). The problem is Marketing and lack of imagination in using the web/digital channels.
And here's the thing… if you are a "Web Analyst" in the broadest sense of that word, then this is your problem. Solve it or suffer the indignity of making decent money doing work that will have no impact on your organization. If you are a digital marketer then this absolutely is your problem. You're the massive, under-appreciated, hidden part.
In the last eighteen months or so, I've spent a lot of time trying to solve that problem. Get the senior-most people in the largest companies in the world to unlock their imaginations when it comes to their digital existence via impactful digital strategies. Convert them to be revolutionaries for their companies and customers.
I've discovered that if we can just get them to imagine a better existence, undertake serious risks, experiment with new better ideas, and spend money executing them… they will ask for more robust measurement! Because you need serious new good analysis to understand the impact of serious new good stuff!!
In the same spirit, if they don't do wonderful, beautiful, imaginative things, we people who play with data will continue to play a marginal, at best, role in most corporations in the world. Even if these unimaginative companies spend a ton of money on Omniture, IBM, WebTrends, Yandex Analytics and Google Analytics, we digital analysts will lead unimpactful puking tagging lives.
And no one deserves that.
In case you are reading this and you are the aforementioned Digital Marketer, then your life is sadder still. How good can it possibly feel to do unimaginative things that barely even worked on TV/radio/magazines/catalogs?
Whether you are the Marketer/CMO or the Web Analyst/Ninja, it is imperative that we unleash imagination.
Why doesn't everyone do that already?
I know that this sounds utterly simple but we, people and companies, don't always realize that the "rules" have changed. Our mental model has not shifted enough to the existing reality. This lack of internalizing the rules jeopardizes our current state to some extent, and our future to a significantly greater extent.
A lot of my work is making companies realize the implications of these rules on their company strategy and structures. You've probably seen these rules sneak into my blog posts. I want to share them below as a collection with the hope that it will motivate you to create a veritable primordial ooze from which new ideas (or indeed life) will spark for an imaginative digital existence.
7 Rules for Digital Marketing Revolutionaries!
These are my observations on changes already underway, changes that are dramatically affecting what marketing is and should be. You might have observed at least some of them in bits and pieces, but perhaps you have not considered them as a whole. Adapting to the implications will allow the creation of a more future-proof you.
#1 Customer expectations on the web are insane, will get super-insane.
We expect more.
High bounce rates show how horrible slow-loading websites are. Lack of loyalty shows simply re-publishing AP stories is useless. After 19 visits, www.bloomberg.com should create a home page around my interests, not their one-size-fits-all pimping to everyone. With an iPhone there is no friction between me being in your store or on your site (or, omg, getting a mobile geo-targeted coupon from your competitor for 5% off your price while I'm in your store!). There are 12 different alternatives to your site that provide free return shipping. Just because your site is B2B, you do not have the right to create a 1940s website and force visitors to type their name, precise GPS coordinates and underwear size to get a PDF that should have existed as a webpage in the first place (as HTML has been invented).
It is no longer acceptable to just meet past expectations. Alternatives to you are one click away, one Google search away, one tweeted recommendation away. Aim to meet super-insane customer expectations and you'll future-proof your business.
Oh and yes, I do get that this is hard. You have to rethink everything. Price of greatness, sadly.
#2 Multiplicity: Competencies, Campaigns, Systems, Everything.
This is something we are most unprepared for.
You can no longer be good at just one thing, or two. It is a 10-thing world now (and maybe a 20-thing world soon).
If you are a catalog company you have to be good at catalog marketing (as long as it continues to provide incremental revenue ), and you have to be good at NASCAR (as long as it provides incremental revenue), and you have to be good at Facebook, and you have to be good at email, and search, and YouTube and… a hundred other things. All while constantly optimizing your portfolio via controlled experiments .
You have to be good at sourcing your products and you have to be good at delivering them.
You have to be good at using clickstream and surveys and competitive intelligence and heuristic evaluations.
You have to be good on every device of every screen size in every country with a monetizable audience.
You have to be good at… many things all at the same time. For far too long we've been able to be successful by relying on our sheer strength on one thing. Catalog. Paid search. YouTube. Billboards. TV. With every passing day that strategy now ensures we are rejecting tons of revenue and tons of prospective customers.
It is hard to rewire the company's DNA to truly execute a multiplicity strategy. That's why you allocate 15% of your Marketing budget to getting good at multiplicity. All the time.
#3 One-trick ponies are going to be a liability.
This is a subset of the one above, but I wanted to call it out separately because I am madly, deeply convinced of its importance.
Increasingly, your people can't be one-trick ponies. Especially not people you consider stars.
If your Marketer is not savvy in basic finance and analytics and writing some html and creating mobile campaigns and tag clouds then you have a long term liability on your hands, and not an asset who is really, really, really, really good at writing copy for display campaigns.
The web demands immense agility and flexibility from every company. Having one-trick ponies can limit your capacity to think smart and move fast.
If you have an Analyst who is just good at Omniture and has never done an online usability study, and used Compete, and taken a whack at a rough digital P/L, then it is time to set them on a path to evolve, or get someone else.
If you have a Finance person for your web business who has never run campaigns on Facebook, and who doesn't understand the uniqueness of mobile applications, and a little bit about the insanity of ad exchanges then over time try to hire someone who does.
At one time, it was okay to be 100% good at one thing, and only one thing. But today companies with people who are 70% magnificent at one thing and have filled the remaining 30% with being good at everything in the periphery of their jobs will rule this world.
You want to change HR hiring practices now to nurture such 70/30 people inside your company, and to make that a mandatory condition for all new hires. Then you'll rule this world.
PS: Here's the raw brutal truth for you dear reader… no company is going to invest in you. The most precious Digital Folks are those who choose to invest in themselves, on their own time. Especially in the 30% area referenced above. Now you know.
#4 Attention is the most precious commodity.
We live in a hyper fragmented world with, quite literally, hundreds of TV channels, thousands of social connections and millions of websites. The single biggest gift any brand can get is attention. And not just the few seconds you get by showing 19 ads on one web page, or tweeting one relevant link in 1000, or showing the same ad for DirecTV six times while watching one 23 min program on Hulu, or showing up for a query for "flights to Sao Paulo" when you only offer flights to Europe, or… a million other ways.
Attention results from understanding the true strength of each channel and then engaging uniquely with your audience. Here's a good example. I bike ride a lot. I walk a lot. In general, I'm a big fan of exercise. I would follow Gatorade on Twitter with the exercise connection of that brand. But you know what they do on Twitter? They retweet other peoples tweets about them. The most lame thing you can imagine using Twitter for. (That is if they don't waste time with condescending tweets like "We've got your back xyz.")
How could Gatorade have my attention? With a Twitter stream about hydration. If their tweets supported their bio on Twitter: "Helping athletes get the most out of their bodies before, during and after activity." I could not find a single tweet of the 250 I reviewed that fell in that category. Why not try that? Why not go for grabbing my attention and then keeping it? Why not go from trying to have a Gatorade ad on every TV sports event in the hopes that I'm watching to doing that plus doing social media right and have a direct relationship with me?
Not one or the other. Both done exceptionally well. That's how you earn attention.
Or consider this example. Why do Priceline or Expedia mobile apps only do prices? Why do they not have a TripIt-like functionality built in? If they did, I would go having to remember which app to use to search for a hotel to having an app that is central to my life (and TripIt provides such value that it is) that I use all the time and that I will of course use when I have to think about booking any travel.
Get it? Attention. Via incredible daily utility.
One more example. With 55k RSS Subscribers and 110k Visits a month, this blog could make a few dollars with AdSense or Display ads or annoying interstitials offers. It could also make a few more dollars constantly pimping my two books in posts. Yet it does not. It simply gives you content (my goal: "incredible, relevant, of value"). You see, I don't want your AdSense clicks. I want your attention. And I know I can monetize that 100x all other things combined.
So what is your business shooting for online when it comes to digital marketing? What are you doing to earn, and keep, attention?
#5 Brand destruction is insanely efficient now. Beware!
United breaks guitars. Kenneth Cole goes too far with Egyptian protests. Gap logo. Bank of America everything. You can add 100 more examples in 100 seconds.
Those are big ones. But there are small ones too. I told 20 people that Nikon's site is slow and profoundly sub-optimal on mobile. (Guess what I had on hand when I saw their sexy ad on TV? A mobile device!) Now these 20 people will tell others. Small, silent brand destruction.
Yet so few companies have built organizational capabilities with this efficiency in mind. The distance between a story and an audience is six pixels (as my friend Mitch Joel might say). It is ever more important to live your values, walk the talk, deliver what you promise, not say stupid stuff, be real and accessible, and all those delightful things.
You see, the power that can so efficiently destroy your business, is also the power that can boost you to untold heights. And that's marketing money can't buy.
Oh, and you are right that people bought Kenneth Cole stuff even after the insensitive tweet because only a few people are on Social Media. The challenge is that everyone will be Social in ways they can't even imagine. Then we move from six pixels to two. Then what will you do?
Imagine a better future for your company.
PS: It is no longer optional for you to just create TV ads and not have the most brilliant, engaging and helpful mobile websites. In case you were wondering, the year of the mobile was two years go.
#6 Being good at the Long Tail matters just as much as the Head.
I've talked about the long tail on this blog, especially in context for Search. But the concept applies across all channels.
Here's a good example. You can spend all your money on the four standard channels on TV and get in front of 1000 people. But you can probably find 1000 people *relevant* to your brand and message by advertising on 28 *relevant* channels in the long tail (those after channel #14). Or the relevant 50. It is much harder to do, and much harder to explain to your boss who is still looking at GRPs, as GRPs for the long tail mostly don't exist. But if you do, you'll be more efficient, shout less, and deliver more value to your company and delight to your customers.
In every channel we have, Facebook or YouTube or Google or AOL or AdMob or pick your favorite, we have the capacity to shout at concentrations of irrelevant people, or show up for the dispersed hyper-relevant few. While I can't dissuade most Executives from the former, I try as hard as I can to help create strategies for the latter. I'm convinced it is the ability to do the latter that makes you future-proof.
Oh, and this is why Multiplicity matters (TV AND Catalog AND Mobile). This is why owing your own strong digital outpost (your own website) and being present in a space someone else owns (Facebook) matters. This is why having multiple trick ponies matters. They combine to get you really good at the Long Tail execution complexity and massive bottom-line benefit.
#7 Glory will come to the precious few who are willing to embarrass themselves.
We don't take risk and try things, imaginative (possibly glorious) things, because we believe the price of failure is so high. And it is in the real world. Consider creating a TV commercial or re-packaging a product or trying a new offer. First, it takes a very long time to actually try something (add longer plus infinity for risky things). Second, when you fail, you fail spectacularly. Heads roll. Companies get entrenched in what they know and end up constantly optimizing for what's always worked, meanwhile the world changes and these companies die, albeit slowly.
Now consider the web. You can have your most embarrassing idea for a redesign/new offer/product launch/whatever out there in one day. AND you can control for risk! You can only show the redesign to 1% of the site traffic. You can try the offer with just one affiliate or some Bing ads. You can launch the product to a selected group of opted-in customers (or only to people in New York). You can literally control for risk should everything blow up in your face. AND you can have analysis of your risk in almost real time to get an early read and in a few days with statistical significance!
And yet it is the rare company that is able to get over its mental model from the real (old) world and try imaginative things in the digital world where the rules are different and stacked in your favor. Yes, brand destruction is easy in our world, but we are not talking about destroying our brand. We are talking about taking controlled risks and optimization. What marketing program in the universe does not need that?
If you are an executive, encourage your company to check its old world thinking at the door. Consider rewarding people with new ideas. Allocate some of your aforementioned 15% budget to experimentation and testing. If you are a large company don't live without someone with strong Design of Experiments skills. Don't brush off Twitter or Google+ because you are B2B or A2K. Try. With 100% effort . Then do more of what works, or kill ruthlessly.
If you can't embarrass yourself, in controlled quantities, you can't become magnificent. and you can't future-proof your company.
Bonus: #8 Data is your friend.
You did not think I would miss this one did you? :)
This blog is about the joys of measurement and the transformative power of data. So I won't talk about it a lot more in this post.
Let me just say this… more of marketing is becoming algorithmically driven and a lot more decisions we make using reports today are being automated to be made faster, more efficiently, on our behalf. The ability to have a real analytical competency will mean the difference between winners and losers.
So do the 7 things above, but ensure you have a clearly articulated Digital Marketing & Measurement Model. Fill it with the best web metrics to measure success. If you partake in analysis, let that be at the intersection of custom reports and advanced segments.
Data + You = BFF = Business & Personal Success.
Eight simple rules for digital revolutionaries to follow in order to unlock the imagination of their companies and be massively successful in the future. Absorb them. Undertake the very hard task of slowly evolving your company to adapt to them. Monetize the opportunity presented, future-proof your company.
I wish you all the very best.
It's your turn now.
Do you agree with my learning that our primary problem is not web analytics/data but, rather, it is unimaginative web strategies? Have your own stories to share about brand destruction? Do you agree with the eight rules for revolutionaries above? Got your own?
Please share your feedback, ideas and awesomeness via comments.