Archive for March 31, 2014

Social media 2

Posted: March 31, 2014
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Is social “CRM” or “marketing”?

Since the beginning of time people in business have built silos. The classic two are “sales” and “marketing”, which have been the subject of battles won and lost for as long as I can remember. These days the complexity of business has increased and with it the number of potential territories and conflicts, but while we’ve been busy fencing-off these newcomers, the real momentum has been in a different direction entirely. So much for marketers leading the way!

The word of the day is “convergence”. Yes all the disciplines, channels and media are coming together in a new marketing model that requires a fresh perspective and a different way of working and sadly, all but a few businesses and marketers are late to the party. However, amongst the scramble to catch up there’s a new potential conflict to disrupt the nether-world of traditionalists.  This time the protagonists are “CRM” and “marketing” and the subject is “social media”. Now, I’ve just built a marketing department from scratch where CRM and all the other traditional marketing disciplines happily share social media with no conflicts, but I can see other businesses aren’t finding it so easy and its all because of a combination of the tradition of compartmentalising functions and the miss-labelling of social media. Such companies need to stop thinking of social media as a discipline and understand that it’s a communications channel and like a telephone anybody can pick it up. That includes the CRM and the marketing guys. Once you get that you just have to manage the conversations.

I also can’t get over the marketers who seem to think that by ignoring social they’re adopting a neutral stance. There’s no “neutral” position on this. Either you are in the game or you are not doing your job and while you are working out which it is you are allowing possibly the most accessible and potent communications channel out there to work against you. In The Drum this week Ishbell MacLeod highlights a report by Eptica that suggests that only 39% of companies respond to customer queries raised on Twitter. This doesn’t just mean that 61% of companies aren’t easily accessible, it means that that those companies are being labelled “non-runners” by their marketplace. In fact, according to MacLeod this is only the tip of the iceberg. The more you look into customer service responses the worse the picture becomes.

Social media is the communications channel of choice for a dominant and growing group of consumers who are judging companies on their social media behaviour and to make things a lot worse this behaviour is being highlighted in a public forum. Ignoring the forum is at best putting your business at a disadvantage, but to establish a social media presence and then fail to manage it is dereliction of duty on a criminal scale, so you can’t do this casually, you have to be fully engaged in social media.

There’s another great piece on this subject out this week. In this Vit Horky from Brand Embassy, who are pioneering what they call “social care”, picks up on the abject failure of companies to harness Google+. It seems, once again, companies’ inertia in leveraging Google+ is the product of their lack of decisiveness over who is managing it.

However if Vit’s very convincing argument doesn’t put this subject at the front of your mind you need to bear in mind that even being reactive to social media isn’t enough. I told you this social media thing is on a roll! Remember, social is where your market is meeting and conversing. You can be sure that your business is the subject of a load of conversations that you are not privy to. This represents as big an opportunity as it does a threat and marketers need to be on to this.

F&B retailers I have worked with have been using pro-active social media tactics to engage and build frequency and acquisition for years. Intercepting conversations on social media where your product is mentioned has proven fruitful territory for many restaurateurs, but if you’re not in the game you can’t win it and you need to be able to monitor and respond to social media chat to leverage this asset. Until now that has been the challenge.

That’s why I like Brand Embassy’s social/CRM platform. It not only picks up social media conversations that would normally pass you by, it allocates them to the appropriate person anywhere in the organisation and manages the response process. You only have to decide on your process and re-structure your department accordingly.

While we are on the subject I personally don’t believe that twenty and thirty hour response times are even close to acceptable in what is a live and immediate environment like social media, although I’m well aware (and deeply ashamed to admit) that there are marketers out there that seem to think that these kinds of response times and even longer, are acceptable even in non-social CRM interactions. A while ago I raised the matter of the retail group Halfords in the UK who on their e-mail response platform promised to response within fourteen days! If that isn’t customer abuse I can’t imagine what they think it its and I hope they have fixed that by now.

This also introduces the debate about the scope of a CRM operative’s role. Maybe social care operatives require training that will equip them to resolve an issue single-handedly, but that’s for a different post and a different day. For now, we just have to wake up and smell the coffee. Those who work out how to leverage social media first will be the winners.

Fire hose edit

Posted: March 26, 2014
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Predictive analysis – the realistic big data alternative to drinking from the fire hose?

I sympathise with marketing managers who believe that big data is more of a curse than a cure. After all, we’ve trotted along quite nicely for decades making decisions on the basis of hearsay, rumour and suspicion and now one of your competitors gains insights that help them steal your customers and all of a sudden its game change and we all have to start looking for real insights!

The source of these insights of course is data, and there are loads of data available to any business from all manner of sources that can help you understand your customers’ decision-making process. In fact, a lot of this data has been accumulating for years in some hard drive somewhere. It just arrived, was greeted with a shrug by some IT guy and put aside for a rainy day. Well – News Flash – it’s raining now!

Even the most ardent ostrich couldn’t deny that this is the age of big data. Yes folks, its time to dust off those hard drives and see what you’ve been missing for years! There’s no get out of jail card here. This is serious. If you don’t start working out for sure why you are selling or how, you are simply going to be consigned to the “where are they now” file. If your competitors know what makes customers tick and you don’t, you’ll lose.

So, here’s the problem. Big data is … well … BIG! If you haven’t been analysing the stuff that you have been collecting for years it will take you a good while to get up to speed anyway and then what? Data collection as well as its analysis has to be organised and even then you are only going to use a fraction of what you collect. In fact, according to Chris Matty in a piece in iMedia connection this week there is one CRM company out there that already admits that 40% of the data it collects is inaccurate and unusable. Imagine the time you could waste just working out what bits you need?

This is the source of the love-hate relationship that is emerging between marketers and big data. As the great Tom Lehrer once suggested, it’s a bit like a Christian Scientist with appendicitis – you know what it will take to survive, but its against all your instincts to get involved! Data analysis takes time. Lots of it, and expertise. Lots of that too, which means lots of money. Now we are getting to the point. How do you make all this data collection and analysis viable? After all if the process is all about selling more to make more, you don’t want to spend twice that planning your moves and you easily could.

So the race is on. Again according to Chris Matty, Reuters quote anticipated growth in data application to be around 45% per annum until 2015 and if you are in business, any kind of business, anywhere in the world, this is going to make a difference to you. Denial doesn’t work. If that’s your approach, forget it, you are good as dead. You simply have to find a way to collect and use data to your advantage.

Enter “predictive analysis”. Actually, its nothing new. The principle has been around forever and only last month I referred to it in passing in my piece on Tesco’s Clubcard (One of the secrets of DunnHumby’s early success was their approach to predictive analysis, primitive though it may seem now). Of course it’s a science like any form of analysis and it still takes time and resource, but nowhere near as much as tackling this the long-way around. However, if even this is too big an ask for your humble resources then Chris also tells us that help is at hand in the shape of consultancies that can plan and manage your data and analysis for you. In fact Chris introduces the idea of scoring your consumers in much the same way as you can credit score them now using external sources in the form of specialist consultancies. Who better to offer this kind of service then that a business like Experian, who have been managing data and providing credit scores for years and, through their Clarity Blue acquisition a few years back, have already worked on the application of data analysis in the marketing arena. They are not alone of course. Ex Experian Clarity Blue partner Tony Mooney now heads up SkyIQ and, of course, there are people like SapientNitro and Chris Matty’s own Versium to name just the obvious big players. There must be hundreds of smaller firms out there itching to give you a hand.

We all know that the shape of marketing will change dramatically in the next few years and data is going to be a major driver of that change. Whether predictive analysis is the answer to the volume issue remains to be seen. My prediction is that it will be right there at the centre of things within the next couple of years.

How predictive scores are changing big data by Versium CEO, Chris Matty is on iMedia. Read more.

strategy 2

Posted: March 25, 2014
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Owning your clients’ strategy is the route to agency success.

There’s an interview in The Drum this week with AMV BBDO’s Ian Pearman in which he highlights some of the core issues facing an agency in today’s world of very complex integrated strategies. This struck a chord because many years ago my Full Effect Marketing was prompted by my own thoughts on this subject.

In the early days I was focussing on marketing communications stimulated by work I had been involved in at Saatchi & Saatchi and the problems and opportunities I had identified and experienced there. It made sense to me that if all your communications were pulling in the same direction and focused on a simple, clearly defined message you would get a better return on your investment, but it quickly became clear to me that “communications” embraced a whole lot of things that rarely came into the sight-line of an advertising agency. Consequently my work started to expand to where today Full Effect Marketing recognises that the term embraces pretty well everything that an organisation does and drives strategies that go far deeper into the functions of the organisation. However, while I may be tackling hiring and training policy, designing a product or developing a process for billing customers, in this new, enlightened world it’s all now part of marketing.

The realisation that communications include behaviour outside of the direct organisation/customer relationship poses problems for clients and agencies alike. While Full Effect Marketing provides the methodology for strategising, as we all know, most failures happen in implementation.

An integrated strategy is necessarily complex and involves many disciplines, many of which would, in a traditional business be siloed. Full Effect Marketing seeks to overcome the negativity of silos by creating universal project teams, but finding and financing the expertise you require is challenging for many businesses.

Having, in response to this realisation, spent a few years playing around with the idea of employing a Marketing Director with the brief to produce strategy and expecting that person to assemble a team of internal and external specialists to affect the delivery, the indications are that clients are now largely looking for a single all-purpose agency again.  It makes sense for them. Its cheaper and more responsive, but it does rather abdicate responsibility and places the emphasis on the agency to come up with a solution to the resourcing issue.

Along with my direct clients I’ve advised many agencies over the years on their own business strategy and development and I’ve always pointed out to them that agencies that can develop and “own” their clients’ strategy earn the biggest opportunity. I felt vindicated when in 2005 Jim Taylor revealed in his book Space Race, that, at that point, the businesses that had benefitted most from the growth in integrated thinking were business consultancies and not advertising agencies. His rationale for this was that business consultants were already acknowledged as having the hard business and strategic awareness and agencies were seen as arty-farty, implementational and self-interested.

I agreed with Jim on that score, but didn’t believe that agencies should be rolling over and leaving the “good stuff” to the guys in suits and ties. Not only do clients value strategy more highly than implementation (which has been on the slippery commodity slope for decades) and are consequently ready to pay for it, whoever devises the strategy, is in the ideal position to cherry-pick the execution.

However, as I have already pointed out, modern integrated strategies involve more disciplines than any agency can expect to resource. To my mind this has always made the proposition of 360 degree delivery, one-stop-shop or through-the-line agency proof perfect that any agency referring to itself in those terms doesn’t understand the principle of integration, but what kind of model does work?

My agency clients all had inherent implementation skills and I have never proposed that these were ignored. In fact in most instances the approach to creativity, as one example, is a key differentiator between agencies. Likewise an agency with its feet in a specific area of implementation, such as promotions, DM, events or any of the digital specialities will come at strategy from a particular perspective, which may not always be the best thing, but certainly makes an interesting and educational experience for any client calling a pitch.

I have tended to encourage my agencies to distill what they are best at and focus on developing it to a point where they are a centre of excellence in that discipline while prioritising the development of their strategic capability. However there still remains the matter of resourcing all the other disciplines that you may require to implement a strategy. My view has been that the strategic lead agency should manage the entire strategy, not just those elements that they are delivering themselves, so I have encouraged the agencies I have worked with to seek strategic alliances with centres of excellence in the widest possible range of specialist skills. Relationships that my agency clients have entered into with other agencies range from strategic partnerships or trading groups to acquisition, shares exchanges and buy-ins.

Those of you who are familiar my Full Effect Company will acknowledge that I am at least consistent, as this is how we operate – a strategic core with an extended band of specialist partners, who undertake the implementation within an agreed code of practice and methodology.

Ian Pearman AMV BBDO editThis all leads me back to Ian Pearman’s comments in The Drum. Apart from giving voice to another pet subject of mine – the use or not of the term “digital” and the distraction this represents from what we are actually trying to do – Ian points to the trend among agencies toward a model such as I have described. I’ve always liked AMV BBDO and the fact that they picked up my old client Dixons in January gives me hope that the retailer will finally get its message together and out there. As long as the agency sticks with the thinking we seem to share I am sure they’ll continue to produce all the good stuff we know them for, but see what you think. Read the article.


Posted: March 18, 2014
Comments: 1

British creativity is “shit” says Sir John Hegarty

Sir John Hegarty talks a lot of sense, which is probably why he is where he is today, so it was good to hear his views on the state of creativity and the role of advertising. He’s never been one for dressing things up, which is probably why he’s such a good communicator, so when he says that the standard of creativity in the UK is “shit”, you tend to listen.

He’s right of course. We used to say that the best stuff on TV was the commercials, but you don’t hear that said these days. I know people who would question whether it matters as long as you get a sales uplift, but of course it does. Getting a short-term benefit isn’t what shareholders are looking for. They want something more sustainable. People love great stuff whether a good book, a TV production or a theatre play and if that great stuff is yours they’ll love you for it. Its all part of building powerful brand communities. Who ever earned friends by being adequate?

Besides, what’s the point in setting out to produce anything that isn’t the best in its class? Usain Bolt didn’t earn our respect by doing “just enough”. He made it by setting out to be not just the best, but the best by as big a margin as he could possibly make it. People like “great” but they love “spectacularly great”. Don’t you want your brand to feel that kind of love?

So, why is British creativity falling off? I guess it’s a combination of things. Pressure on client budgets, the need to move increasingly fast to maximise the opportunity and the diversity of media routes, as John says, have all played their part. I also think that there has been a general dumbing-down of marketers, again probably also in the pursuit of savings.

Good ideas take time and money to put together, but settling for what you can do in a limited tame scale or budget is a false economy. The diversity of media routes is also a pet subject of mine. I’ve always firmly believed that creative people have particular strengths. A guy who creates great TV commercials isn’t likely to be as good at point-of-sale material – it takes a different eye. How then can we expect the same creative to stretch to all the newly emerging channels? The short answer is we can’t. As long as your creative resource is a one-man-band that person is always going to produce one great element and the others will be less good. This is the kind of compromise that is driving down the quality of the product. Hegarty is also on the button when he pointed out that the idea doesn’t always, as seems to be the view these days, have to start with digital media. Why can’t it start with a great TV commercial or press ad. and the other media follow? Digital might be important, but its not the centre of the universe and it certainly doesn’t have to be the nucleus of your creativity.

His point about the advertising agency model is also one that I’ve been banging on about for years. If its true that we can’t expect our creatives to be flexible enough to deliver all media equally well and on the other hand there are pressures on the price of creativity, we have to find an affordable way to have all the creative specialities on tap whenever a client needs them. Hegarty talks about free-lancers and retainers, which can work and there have been many other approaches tried with varying degrees of success. That’s why The Full Effect Company is structured the way it is, with a choice of experts in a wide range of specialities signing up to an agreed philosophy and business model and making themselves available as members of project teams assembled for individual clients or projects. It works for us.

Tesco Clubcard

Posted: March 14, 2014
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Tesco look to raise their Clubcard game

You could be excused for thinking that your universe has been turned upside down when the world’s leading loyalty exponent is struggling, but international supermarket retailer Tesco, whose success is largely acknowledged to have been a product of its Clubcard programme, is definitely feeling the heat.

Tesco’s partnership with DunnHumby, the company that it now owns and that changed the face of loyalty, is the stuff of legend, but it seems the insights provided by their data management has taken the retailer as far as it can for now. Despite investing more than 2.5billion in its stores in the last year, sales at the supermarket giant fell 2.4% in the six weeks to January 4th and CEO Philip Clarke is under pressure to fix it.

With Tesco’s media and creative in, what is generally considered to be the safe hands of Initiative and Wieden & Kennedy, Clarke has turned to his head of Clubcard development Rebecca Pollard to shift up a gear and she’s NDA-ing CRM big guns right now in preparation for issuing a brief. Currently Havas EHS handle Tescos CRM. I like Havas, but nobody is flameproof and it seems that even the kings of the loyalty hill need to do more these days to stay on top. Maybe Tesco needs bigger guns?

There is always a “weakest link” in any sales process. Clubcard may be state of the art, but the challenges are mounting for all of us and we simply have to raise our game every day. No business can afford to be squeezing anything less than 100% from their resources and too many marketers have got away with less than that for too long already. Now it just won’t wash.  Even if you are maximising your potential today, unless you already have a plan to up your average tomorrow you’ll be left behind. Earlier this month I wrote about the need to change before it becomes necessary. Maybe Tesco missed a beat.

Clubcard may be the best and most connected customer communications platform out there, but maybe it needs different thinking and new ideas. Bringing in some fresh blood to really leverage its advantage might be the answer. This isn’t simple stuff after all and there must be hundreds of ideas that haven’t even occurred to Tesco’s team yet. Managing the data and refining the insights that Tesco have on their customers is a big task in itself. A new survey by Experian, who I’ve partnered with in the past, reveals that 20% of marketers are still struggling to get a fix on their customers’ motivations because they can’t handle the flow of data they are getting. Believe me, there’s far more data on the way so they need to get their act together.

With advances in direct marketing and telesales and the proliferation of digital channels in recent years media selection and management is another massive logistical task. Then identifying the opportunities and composing the messages for each of the innumerable customer segments is additional. A while ago a Tesco spokesperson was heard to say that they had the capability to send individually tailored messages to every one of their customers – eye-watering stuff!

Businesses who haven’t yet reached the lofty heights of companies like Tesco really can’t appreciate life at this altitude, but they need to wise-up. Just as Dunhumby’s approach to segmentation became the basis of loyalty programmes around the world, the stuff Tesco are doing now will be the daily grind for any retailer a very short time from now.

Its not that loyalty is losing its edge. Like most things loyalty is an ever-changing and improving discipline and its convergence with CRM, direct marketing, digital, telesales … you name it are just evolutionary phases. Each coming-together represents a host of new opportunities that we have to explore and exploit.

You don’t have to be Tesco to do this stuff, I’ve been working on loyalty projects for businesses of all sizes, but you can’t afford to stand on the touchline we ALL have to get into this stuff or be left behind.


Posted: March 14, 2014
Comments: 0

Have our kids finally fallen out of love with Abercrombie & Fitch?

One retailer that seems to have not been paying attention to my “change while you are ahead” advice is Abercrombie and Fitch. If there was ever a better illustration of a brand as a community this was it. An exclusive club for the wealthy, popular and very young with an in-your-face attitude that typifies America the Abercrombie and Fitch brand was/is unashamedly exclusionist, but now it’s losing friends in both the form of customers and investors. It seems to have excluded everyone. 

I always wanted to like the stores, but felt almost compelled to slap the presumptuous door-greeter, had I been able to find him in the gloomy lighting that they seem to make their trademark. As I said though – I’m not the target and the brand is exclusionist, so I guess the more I hate them, the more they like it? I’m also actually intrigued that they managed to sell any shirts, as all the pictures I can recall in their publicity were of bare-chested jocks with six-packs, but maybe that’s just sour grapes on the part of one-pack me.

The thing with this story is that the business has been on the slide since 2007, so you’d expect the management to have had plenty of time to make the changes necessary to maintain its success. Maybe the management team believed their own publicity a little too much, but as their consumer segment moved on, gained a sense of decorum and social responsibility and the new generation of socially sensitive kids took their place in the malls, A&F ploughed on like the up-himself, cheer-leader-shagging quarterback that typifies the brand. All of a sudden the most popular boy in town has become Johnnie No Friends!

It seems that A&C have two choices – change their brand model to something more compatible with the new kids – probably too radical and unbelievable – or chase their old customers into thirty-somethingville. The rumour is that they are contemplating the latter. Time will tell if they can pull this off, but I suggest they start by turning up the dimmer switch. As you get older failing eyesight tends to make it difficult to do your shopping in the dark!


Posted: March 13, 2014
Comments: 0

Firms Where Everyone Agrees But Nothing Changes

I recently shared a few stories of experiences with different businesses around the world with transformation specialist Rob Llewellyn. I have come to understand through discussions like these with experts from all areas of business in many parts of the world that wherever we are many of the issues we encounter are the same. In this post Rob talks about one of the most common, the inability of organisations to turn agreement into action.

Rob Llewellyn is an independent program manager who has helped companies transform their strategies into reality throughout the world since the 1990s. He is an evangelist of BTM² and works tirelessly to encourage more organisations to adopt the fundamental principles of good practice transformation management.

Passive-aggressive firms are happy places to work. People are cordial and friendly, conflict is infrequent, and they pride themselves with a harmonious working environment. Building consensus to make major changes in these places is a joy as things all seem to slip into place – but implementing these changes can feel like sailing around the world in a boat full of holes.

In the Passive-aggressive firm, even failing to change is “OK” as the organisation justifies to its workforce why progress has not been made; everyone agrees, and so it goes on. These places often strive to achieve ‘just average’, and mediocrity is quietly accepted and even celebrated when achieved. e.g. the one year transformation programme which took three years, triple the agreed budget to complete, and which realised only 30% of the original benefits which had justified the business case.

This kind of firm is not necessarily held back by passive-aggressive employees, but they are staffed with mostly well-intentioned people who are the victims of flawed processes and policies. Quite commonly, a growing organisation’s poorly thought-out plans to decentralise give rise to multiple layers of managers, whose authority for making decisions becomes increasingly unclear. Consequently, some managers hang back, while others won’t own up to the calls they’ve made, inviting colleagues to second-guess or overturn the decisions. In such organisations, information does not circulate freely, and that makes it difficult for workers to understand the impact of their actions on company performance and for managers to correctly appraise employees’ value to the organisation.

The Solution
. Breaking free from this pattern is hard as a long history of seeing corporate initiatives ignored and then fade away tends to make people cynical. But if leaders are able to ‘step outside’ of their organisation and take a look in from the outside, they might well recognise that it’s best to bring in an outsider to signal that “this time things will be different“. The external consultant will need to address every obstacle all at once: clarify decision rights; see to it that decisions stick; and reward people for sharing information and adding value, not for successfully negotiating corporate politics. But to do this, the consultant must also have the full backing of the leader who had the wisdom to engage the external consultant.

But if steps are not taken to really change things, it’s only a matter of time before the haemorrhaging elements of a passive-aggressive organisation overwhelm the remaining healthy ones and drive the company into distress. Ironically, this profile fits many organisations and it’s not difficult to identify them after spending a short time inside. Having secured a large and defensible market position, they fiddle around with a few projects while Rome slowly burns.

Gary Neilson of Booz & Co wrote an excellent paper called; “The Passive-Aggressive Organisation – Converting Consensus Into Action” and you can download it here. In it, the symptoms of the passive-aggressive organisation are described as follows:

Passive-aggressive chart

Source: Booz and Co. The Passive-Aggressive Organisation. By Gary Neilson

Big Data small file

Posted: March 9, 2014
Comments: 1

Are you ready for big data?

Love it or hate it big data is here to stay. Personally I love the concept, although I sympathise with those who feel its more trouble than its worth. Unfortunately for them, they are going to have to get over it and knuckle down to organising their own big data strategy. We are already seeing the advantage gained by businesses that are embracing the subject and in a very short space of time it will be difficult for any business that doesn’t manage the big data thing to compete.

The problem with big data is that it’s … well … BIG! The average business could easily drown while trying to drink from this fire hose of knowledge and insights, but that doesn’t mean that you can afford to opt-out. The trick is to prioritise and manage your data. I doubt any business is capable of even analysing all the data it collects, let alone acting upon it. Its all back to your business/marketing strategy, a fact that reinforces my own personal belief that just as technology is converging so have business and marketing strategy. These days these two subjects are synonymous.

There is probably no business sector for which big data offers greater scope than retailing. For years retailers and mall owners have been experimenting with innumerable Heath-Robinson point-of-sale solutions in an attempt to influence consumers at the very point when they make their purchase decision.

In many parts of the world mall owners have already introduced clunky PoS communications initiatives using things like GPS technology to facilitate sending SMS messages to shoppers when they are in the vicinity of the mall or even individual stores, but these are just the green shoots of a growing capability. The accelerating development of mobile technologies means that connections will be the least of our concerns in months or years to come, the real challenge will be to manage the deluge of data that these connections will deliver.

We are already tracking customer flow around malls and even individual stores and logically its feasible to match that data with user profiles to predict the routes that individuals will take to optimise store layouts, refine PoS presentations and head customers off with personalised on-shelf messages – flashing digital screens that say “Hey Phil, you’ll love this!”

The data integration company Informatica are heading in that direction with their latest generation of personalised mobile solutions, but they aren’t the only show in town, there are numerous businesses, large and small, in the race.

I am frequently approached by over-enthusiastic organisations, fearful of being left behind and desperate to establish themselves on the data-driven marketing ladder. There’s nothing wrong with the fear part, but in many cases it leads to them biting off more than they can chew. Even on a purely Social Media level businesses can be brought to their knees by the demands of managing their new social media strategies. The way to approach big data, as with everything else, is to start with a clear objective and plan a progressive strategy that you are sure you can resource.

Sure, you need to push a little outside of your comfort zone. I see this in much the same way as a professional sports coach. You can always tell a good squash coach from a bad one for example because the poor ones tend to take the view that its their job to kill you on court, which should be no challenge for them with the skills they possess. A good one will use his skill to push you just a little way beyond you capability or fitness level each time and assure you of steady incremental improvement. The same applies to the world of digital marketing.

You should collect all the data you can of course. That’s the easy part and when you get good at this you’ll want to go back and analyse your historical data, but once you have clarified your objective, decide what data you need to realise this and corral it for immediate analysis. You’ll need to define a process for analysis too, otherwise you’ll be inconsistent and you should set KPI’s to help you identify where and what actions the results of your analysis dictate.

Of course you need to be prepared to act upon your discoveries, otherwise there’s no point and a relatively minor insight could generate a significant incremental workload, so as the Boy Scout said… “Be prepared!”,


Posted: March 7, 2014
Comments: 0

Engaging employees – the key to the future of your business

Rubbish in, rubbish out, or so the saying goes, so its hardly surprising that the success of a business revolves to a large extent on the way you treat your employees.

It’s not rocket science of course, happy customer-facing staff have always been acknowledged as the key to good customer relationships, but if you step back and take in the bigger picture the impact of employee relations is about more than the point-of-sale

An important focus of my Brand Discovery programme and where it mainly differs from the way other consultancies see the brand development process, is in how you share the objectives, vision and values of a business with employees. Since I was old enough to recognise how these things work its been clear to me that the efficiency with which an organisation brings its brand to life is pretty well entirely dependent on the relationship it has with its employees in every area and at every level of their business. Employees who enthusiastically embrace the business objectives, values and philosophy will pull together to produce products and services that make customers love their brand. Had I been in any doubt though I’m sure my thoughts would have been focussed by the experience of working in the Middle East.

Here the relationship between employers, who are mostly owners of businesses, and employees and even consultants at all levels is often dysfunctional.  This is mostly a cultural thing and it is unsurprisingly most noticeable in Saudi Arabia, which is culturally and socially one of the most remote of the Arab states from the rest of the world.

Here, seniority within an organisation is not conditional on capability. You might think that this is the case where you work, but for all kinds of historical reasons there are people here who find themselves owners of sizeable businesses through no personal merit, many of whom wouldn’t command even a junior management role in a Western organisation.  Yet, ownership of a business is frequently considered synonymous with superiority in every regard and owners impose a clear hierarchy, especially within their business where even Westerners are not considered their equal. As an employee, whatever your status, you are expected to do as the business owners wish, regardless of how illogical or ill-advised that may be. You may be the expert, but they make the decisions and to disagree is considered disloyal.

Imagine how this plays out in a brand-building scenario. Employees, particularly those further down the food chain, which includes a retailer’s critical customer-facing staff, are considered dispensable and the relationship is antagonistic, to say the least.  Rarely does either party respects the other. The owner resorts to monarchical management and the employee won’t put him-or-herself out in the least to help the employer or the business. There’s clearly no scope in this relationship for building a brand.

It is against this backdrop that I read the announcement that the UK’s Iceland supermarket chain had been voted “The best big company to work for in 2014”, a title that they also acquired two years ago.

Iceland’s Chef Executive, Malcolm Walker commented “We have always lived by the principle that happy staff make happy customers, and happy customers put cash in the till”, which is most enlightened and great to hear. Stories like this remind me of an article by David Kelly of The Fast Company in which, way back in 2011 he extolled the merits of “Designing Curious Employees” or Time Magazine’s “Curious Capitalist” interview from 2008 with John Mackey founder of Whole Food Markets and Kip Tindell who set up Container Store when they both underlined how essential it is to share your visions and values with your employees.

There is simply no future in a business with a monarchical culture. It will never deliver what it should and it won’t respond quickly enough to change. So next time you are working up to a sales conference or presentation to employees you would be well advised to ensure, at the very least, that it includes more invitations to contribute than instructions on how to think and behave.