Friday, September 25, 2009

Hiring a Digital Agency

Hiring (and firing) an agency goes with the territory for brand marketers. But what was once a multi-year (or longer) relationship between the brand client and their agency has become much more fluid. Whether you're talking about bringing in a new agency of record or adding another player to your agency mix, brand-side clients are always evaluating agency talent, and the fast pace of digital means that brands will likely have to sign on the dotted line with greater frequency.

There are a number of places to start when hiring a new agency, start by asking, "Why do we need a new agency?" Maybe you've inherited them and you just can't work together -- you've tried, but it's a chemistry thing.

Why do we need a new agency? -- will always lead to some rather profound insights, if the brand can be honest about its own corporate culture as well as what's gone right (and wrong) with the relationship at hand. While that may sound like simple advice, it's a pill not easily swallowed by many clients.

Broadly speaking, ask yourself if your company culture supports the changes the agency is trying to make? Examine your relationship to see if it allows for shared risk. Is the agency forced to stay inside a box or are they given some freedom?

Those answers may not always be available because in some cases, the relationship may have become so bad that it's nearly impossible to see the forest through the trees. Take the time to reflect on your own corporate culture and how it interplayed with their previous agency stand a much better chance of getting it right with their next hire.

Beware of the specialist search
Scan the tech blogs and you'll quickly see that digital creates new communication channels faster than advertisers can figure out how to use them. But CMOs who want to integrate their media strategy face a difficult dilemma: Do you opt for a "specialist" agency -- a social media shop, for example -- to work in a highly technical area, or do you hire one agency that can bring it all together at the risk of sacrificing some key knowledge in an emerging area?

The answer depends more on your own organization's strength and weaknesses than anything else. It's all about orchestration, if you have the time and staff to orchestrate across multiple specialists, then you have the option to spread the love. If you're like most organizations, however, and you're short-staffed and time-crunched, then you should find and assign a lead agency and have them sub-contract for the specialists.

If you have a lead agency responsible for bringing holistic thinking, then they will have the responsibility to be constantly searching for specialists and providing you with thought leadership and success.

Restless can be a winner
No matter how exhaustive your hiring process is, you will always face the same problem: All agencies look great before you hire them.

They always put their best foot forward when you're looking at a new agency. A lot of times you're looking at their work, and maybe it wasn't all their original idea, but they executed on it. Or maybe they had the big idea, but some other agency put it in action -- no agency is ever going to tell you exactly what they did. So, there's always some mystery there.

It's not about what the agency did to get in the room with him -- that's all prelude. In a nutshell, he says, he's always on the lookout for a "restless" agency. It's really about doing great work, but having that mindset to say, okay we hit all of our goals, but how could we have done it better? That's the kind of restlessness you want from your agency.

Find an agency that experiment
It is important that the agency is adding expertise. There's always something new, something that's experimental, and it is important that the agency is keeping up with the times. That's critical, and experimentation is a sign of a good agency.

Look for existing partnerships
For better or worse, most brands use a mix of agencies these days. But whether those agencies work together or fight each other tooth and nail for a larger share of the client's business often depends on two factors.

First, it's up to the client to set the tone for cooperation, and while some brands prefer in-fighting among their agencies, most at least say that they want team work.
My experience on both the client and agency sides shows that regardless of whether the agencies work together; there will always be a level of competition going on.

You need to communicate the ground rules before, during, and after the contracts are signed -- what the rules of engagement will be. If you don't want to see or hear the campaigning, then you need to let them know that and chastise their senior management when they do.

But ground rules will only take you so far, and if you haven't hired an agency that knows how to play well with others, you're going to be in for bumpy ride, which means that even before you set the ground rules, you have to seek out the right kind of agency partner.

If a firm already has existing strategic partnerships, this bodes well for them being willing to share the sandbox with others. A smart agency realizes they can't be the best in every area, and a focused agency will usually want to work on that which they know they can produce superior results.

Chemistry counts, but chemists aren't needed
Nearly all great teams have some level of chemistry. But whether you're talking about the chemistry between your staff and your agency, or the relationship between your various agencies, it is possible to go overboard. And in fact, some CMOs tend to focus too much on chemistry.

Chemistry is probably [the] No. 1 [thing a CMO should look for in an agency. You've got to be able to work together. But don't let a personality glitch blind you to the attributes of an agency if you'll never have to work with that person.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

When Agencies Should Defend In a Review

Understand the average: Your agency has a 95% chance of losing a review.

When to participate?

• Mandated reviews (e.g. government contracts; rules set by procurement or purchasing departments).
• Roster reviews.
• Agency consolidation reviews.
• When you have very strong, deep relationships and the results to back them up (and there's been no change in management).

When not to participate?

• When there are serious concerns (from either side) about the agency relationship or business performance.
• Management changes, particularly when you know that the incoming leadership has successfully worked with other agencies.
• Announcement of an unscheduled review.
• Announcement of a non-roster review.

Like the emotion of wanting to get even, defend yourself, or inflict equivalent harm that you might feel when thinking about sueing someone, it's easy to get caught up in the emotion of wanting to fight and "spend whatever it takes" to keep your hard-won or long-tenured client. However, the smart new business decision may well be to spend the money winning a new piece of business.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Optimizing Your Facebook Initiatives

Traditional search marketing holds that there are two ways to get search engine traffic. The first is to pay for it via pay-per-click advertising, and the second is to earn the traffic with optimal search engine placement. In the earned search marketing business of search engine optimization (SEO), a Facebook fan page is merely a web page, just like any other, except that it has the built-in benefit of residing on a very powerful domain. The same goes for YouTube, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Smart optimization, combined with the strong domains that house them, can propel your social media pages to the top of search engine results for relevant searches.

With that in mind, here are tips for optimizing your Facebook initiatives, as well as some brands that are getting it right.

Quick tips for optimization:

Provide regular updates. Like most social media, a Facebook page is only as good as the content available for fans to interact with. Generally speaking, the more digital assets (videos, photos, etc.) the better. Provide regular updates (at least daily and preferably more, though this will depend on your niche) that encourage user participation. Respond to user feedback. To keep from falling behind, consider creating a calendar of updates at the beginning of each week or month.

Choose a good name for the page. The name of your Facebook page is arguably the most important early decision you will make because this is the very first thing the search engines will see when they visit your page. At the very least, you should include the name of the business. You might also include targeted keywords if appropriate.

Choose a good username. A username allows you to have a "clean" URL. For example, if you choose "dwaynejohnsonrocks" as your username, your page URL will be "" These URLs look nicer on business cards and letterhead, and they are easier to remember.

Vanity URLs, as they are called, also provide an opportunity for further optimization with your business name or a selected keyword. Given the choice between the two, the business name will be more appropriate in most cases.

Take advantage of the "about" box. The "about" box is a great place to include relevant content and keyword-rich descriptions. This is one of the only places on a page's "wall" that allows for fully customized copy to be written. Many pages use this space to simply provide a link back to the corporate website or place their tagline, but it is an ideal place to help the search engines understand more about your page.

Customize your page. Facebook allows for a moderate amount of customization. You can't change backgrounds or otherwise skin the page, but you can completely customize other things. For example, you have a large degree of control over how your tabs appear. In addition to adding unique content inside "boxes," you can frame a page hosted elsewhere, which allows for full control over the look and feel of that particular tab (within the confines of the Facebook page that surrounds it, of course).

A customized page immediately communicates credibility to the user and also shows a commitment to your brand's involvement with not only Facebook but also social media as a whole.

Who did it great
The online T-shirt company Threadless has been active in social media since its inception. Its business model of printing user-submitted and user-voted designs requires an environment that encourages feedback and user interaction.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Importance of an “Agency of Record"

If getting the most of your agencies means harnessing the power of collaboration to bring about an environment where the big idea can come from anyone, it would seem that a brand has two clear choices. On the one hand, it can use one agency (perhaps calling it an agency of record) to lead all other agencies. On the other hand, the brand can choose to forgo the agency of record and instead manage its agency teams directly.

While either approach may lead to a collaborative environment (since the dawn of digital, agencies have come a long way toward working together) brands that opt to go without an agency of record run the risk of forfeiting the strength of a knowledgeable partner capable of thinking about the client's strategic interests.

The concept of an agency of record remains vitally important for major advertisers and marketers, agencies of record provide continuity, stability, and efficiencies that one-off, ad hoc, or project partners simply can't meet.

The notion of an agency of record that drives the strategy and the brand is more vital now than ever. But traditional agency revenue models where money is made on production and media commission is waning. And that means that someone ultimately must take responsibility for the brand's strategic vision.

A brand also needs people on the inside who understand what marketing is and how it works, and who live, eat, and sleep your brand. These are the nuts-and-bolts people who will move your business forward. They're the CMOs of tomorrow, but today they're trying to prove themselves and (hopefully) trying to learn as much as they can about marketing.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Why agencies lose clients...

When you ask seasoned agency executives why they lose clients, you hear a multitude of reasons. The agency's client changed and the new client came in and cleaned house; the agency paid poor attention to budgets and timelines, or their strategic ideas, creative, and execution fell below client standards; the client feels they have "outgrown" the agency and they need a new agency with fresh ideas. Alternately, the client left because of the agency's arrogance and intransigence. And so on...

Though all these are potential reasons, the overarching foundational reason agencies lose clients is that they do not adequately satisfy the clients' basic human needs. Their basic human needs for food, safety and love -- yes, you read it right -- and their basic needs for esteem and self-fulfillment.

Understanding that all clients' needs at their core are basic human needs and passionately fulfilling those needs is the key to keeping most clients an agency would have lost. You must repurpose your agency's strategy, people, operation and processes to meet those basic needs to enjoy increased client retention.

In our client-agency relationship and process improvement work with interactive, direct marketing, branding, promotions, advertising and PR companies we have identified what clients need from agencies [see list in figure below]. If you compare those needs to the Maslow's hierarchy of needs, you find that "excellent ideas and delivery," "value for money," and "meet my goals," map to the clients physiological need for food. The "responsiveness" and "develop fast solutions" requirements map to the client's safety needs. Continuing, the "good to work with" and "understand my business" requirements map to the client's desire to fulfill their need to belong.

You may not agree with the specifics in this example, and may want to build a Clients Need Map that best reflects your clients' specific requirements. The key insight is that your clients, at a deep psychological level, want to satisfy their basic human needs.

We have found in our client-agency relationship and process improvement work that agencies with a laser-beam focus on delivering those needs well tend to keep their clients a lot longer than those that do not. The secret reason your agency is losing clients unnecessarily is that there is not enough leadership focus and emphasis on this concept and its execution, and that your agency's strategy, personal, operation, and processes are not yet geared towards achieving this goal. Let's take a look at how to remedy the problem.

Building a solid foundation
First, you must understand your client's lower and higher order needs. For example, think back and remember your favorite pizza or ice cream place. You always go back there because of the taste of the product. You may even drive past several of their competitors to get to your preferred vendor. They are meeting your lower order needs. For some people, the key need could be taste, good service, ambience, or belongingness (a key attractor for Starbucks customers). For others it could be "value for money."

In the ad/marketing services world, a key lower order need might be "fast execution" or "be very responsive." Therefore, you must start by identifying the client's priorities for these most basic needs, and put a plan in place to meet them in a consistent manner, right from the start. No matter how well a company is doing in delivering the clients higher order needs, if they fail to meet consistently the lower order needs, they will lose the client.

In the same vein, if the agency wins all sorts of industry awards that the client is genuinely proud of (higher order "esteem' need met) but fails to drive volume or awareness (lower order needs not met) will the client keep using them?

Finding the lower order needs
The clients lower order needs are those that fundamentally must be met. They are the results that the client wants from you and why they hired your agency in the first place. If the agency continues to perform poorly in meeting those lower order needs, the client will definitely fire the agency.

There are two types of lower order needs. The first are the types of needs that are no big deal when you meet them, which I call the "no big deal if met" client needs. The second are the types of needs that the client is happier the more of them they get, which I call the "get more the better" client needs.

The "no big deal if met" client needs. The "no big deal if met" client needs are those that the client expects you to meet without them necessarily requesting that they be met. They are customary and normal needs that must be met in a relationship. For example, the client expects you to give them a bill or invoice for the services you provided, or a statement of account telling them how their budget was spent.

Just like when you stay in a hotel or go out to dinner, you get a bill. It should not be a big deal for the business to give you a bill, an invoice, or a statement of account. It is an expected, customary, and normal part of the day-to-day engagement.

You get no kudos for meeting the "no big deal if met" client needs. However, you will get a lot of grief if they are poorly met. Have you ever stayed in a hotel and while checking out you found that your bill was wrong? Did you feel they were doing you a favor when they corrected it? No. They just wasted your time for something that should have been correct in the first place. They won't get any kudos for billing you correctly, but chances are you'll remember if they messed up on something as simple as this. Similarly, no matter how creative or strategic an agency might be, a client will eventually fire an agency if they continue to perform poorly on meeting these basic expectations.

The "get more the better" client needs. The "get more the better" is another form of basic client needs normally agreed upon in the day-to-day working relationship with an agency. For example, in a client agency briefing, if an agency committed to providing three concepts and not only delivered these on time but shared two additional ideas for looking at the marketing challenge, they are meeting a "get more the better" need. The more of it the client gets, the more satisfied they become -- to a reasonable limit, of course.

For the same budget, by giving the clients more concepts than they expected, you are leveraging the "get more the better" concept. Delivering what was promised earlier than promised or for much less than the agreed upon budget are other examples of "get more the better" client needs. By understanding your client's "get more the better" needs and strategically giving them more than expected, where appropriate, you can significantly deepen your relationship with the client.

Just as with the "no big deal if met" client needs, you get no kudos for just meeting the "get more the better" client needs. However, by going beyond what is expected, the client will likely appreciate your thoughtfulness, your creativity, and see you as a proactive partner who is working harder to make them more successful. It does not necessarily cost you more to deliver additional "get more the better" needs.

Determining higher order needs
Determining the higher order needs -- esteem and self-actualization -- may be a little more complicated. For example, a client that relies on your agency for "strategic counsel" and for "creative that makes their brand famous" is looking to meet a higher order needs with your services.

Please note that a lower order need for a client working with an agency may be a higher order need with another agency. For example, the "strategic counsel" need may be a lower order when the client works with a large, top-of-the-line ad agency. However, the same client working with a promotions company may classify this as a higher order need since they already have a primary agency to do the strategic counseling.

Mapping client needs
To determine your clients' lower and higher order needs, try building your own Client Needs Map for each one. When doing this, remember that higher order needs contain numerous esteem and self-fulfillment needs and, in some cases, they can become very personal. It may be helpful to split the higher order needs to "formal" and "informal" needs. A "formal" higher order need is mostly a client's company need; while an "informal" higher order need is very personal to the client you work with directly.

An esteem need, such as, "drives my volumes and brand awareness while winning agency awards," or "creative that makes our brand famous," which can be shared with appropriate persons within the client's organization, is an example of a "formal" need.

On the other hand, an "informal" higher order self-fulfillment need, could be something like, "the agency's work must help me get promoted." I hope you would agree that it is best to keep such very personal needs confidential. For example, one of my clients, a director of a large consumer packaged goods company, was promoted to VP because of the high-impact improvement work we completed. We recognized that the self-fulfillment need of "to be promoted as a result of the improvement work" is an informal client need.

Meeting higher order needs to reinforce your relationship
Naturally, you should focus on meeting the lower order needs first, and use meeting the higher order needs as "icing on the cake." No matter how well a company is doing in meeting the higher order needs, if they fail in delivering the lower order needs well, they will, over time, be fired by the client.

The process:
Losing a client is particularly painful at this time of economic hardship, so ad/marketing services companies and interactive agency leaders can use this model to plug those avoidable client losses, now.

In a nutshell, start the process by auditing your current joint client-agency relationship and processes to identify what is working well and what is not. Next, map what your clients need from your agency, and the hierarchy of those needs. Then identify the gaps in meeting those needs and develop solutions and strategies to close the gaps. After that, roll out agreed solutions after proper testing. Finally, use performance tracking and effective client-agency change management to sustain the client retention strategies you implemented.

Now, take a look at how to execute those steps in more detail.

Step 1: Conduct relationship and process audit
Determine your clients' lower and higher order needs and how they map to the hierarchy of needs.

Is your company's operation set up primarily for business "hunting" or "farming"? It is best to balance the two; for example, a business model geared towards farming that spends significant agency resources on acquisition may not have the bandwidth and good supportive processes for keeping clients they acquire for a very long time.

- How strong is the chemistry between the agency teams and the client teams? How can you tell the chemistry is working?
- Are your work practices and processes geared to delivering the client's basic needs, and doing them very well, such that the client never entertains leaving the agency? What are the sources and causes of client dissatisfaction in your work processes and practices?
- Are your practices good at meeting the clients' budget and timeline requirements?
- Are they good for executing flawlessly?
- How would your clients score you on caring and being very responsive to their needs? How well would you score on whether they would recommend you to a colleague?

Step 2: Prepare a client needs map
Through the relationship and process audits, you discovered the low and higher order needs of each of your clients, which could vary significantly among them. However, most clients will expect you to meet their goals, provide excellent ideas and delivery, understand their business, be responsive to their needs, develop solutions fast, and give them value for their money.

With this information in mind, prepare the lower and higher order maps for each of your clients.

Step 3: Close gaps in lower order needs
To be effective, you must focus on the most important lower order needs first. A transformative understanding and appreciation of basic human needs, and how to meet those needs effectively, is critical to retaining your clients.

When an agency fundamentally understands the client's basic needs, from the top down, the whole agency operation, strategy and processes become repurposed around understanding, identifying, delivering and tracking how well those basic needs are met. This type of agency is equipped to consistently meet these needs, and will likely start enjoying significant increases in client retention and win-backs.

Step 4: Uncover and deliver higher order needs
The very first step in meeting the higher order needs is to be sure the agency is already meeting the clients' lower order needs consistently.

Next, develop a strategy for delighting the client through meeting their higher order needs. Revisit the higher order needs you previously identified in the relationship and process audit, and then develop strategies for delivering them.

Step 5: Test solutions and strategies
Though cast in a hierarchical form, all client requirements must be delivered simultaneously to keep the client happy. To test solutions and strategies, start with the lower order needs and make sure they are being met. Then progress to higher order needs.

Key questions to ask as you do your testing:
- How often does the agency fail to meet the timelines promised?
- How well expected campaigns results are achieved (increased brand awareness, increased sales, etc)?
- Does the client feel they are spending all this money with the agency but not executing enough campaigns or driving required results, no matter the reasons?
- To what degree does the client see value in their working with your agency?

Step 6: Training and rollout
Train key employees and account leaders on the solutions and strategies you have developed. Then, train key stakeholders on how to manage the client relationship so they can progressively improve the economic performance of the agency and the client.

The training should cover:
- How your account teams can turn problems into opportunities
- How to understand and fulfill all basic client requirements (lower and higher order needs, formal and informal needs)
- How to execute your client work fast and flawlessly
- How to measure performance and drive changes in behaviors, with client and agency organizations, required to improve results
- Ultimately, how to focus on giving the client more with less

Step 7: Track and take corrective action
Track and take corrective action on how well the agency is meeting all identified needs. As you do this, recognize that your agency must be passionate about being strategically aligned with the client. Be clear about what this entails and how to live it credibly by passing decisions through that screen.

In addition, the agency must be an enthusiastic brand steward for the client. Know the brand so well that you become the source of knowledge about the brand for any of your clients' new and transferred marketing managers.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Making A Brand Relevant In Social Media

There are two components to advertising in the broader sense. One is the content that you manufacture, and the second is the channel and method you use to distribute that content. My sense is that the issue here is one of distribution and manufacture. So from a manufacturing point of view, the messaging that sums up the message of brands and even creates them is in a state of very, very rapid evolution. It's in a state of evolution in a number of dimensions -- in terms of the duration of messages, the formats of messages, and everything that goes with that. The world is not doing badly in terms of involving that manufacture. So that's a good thing. And the good thing for the agency business and the creative community, if you like, is that there has never been a bigger demand for more granular messaging to go in different formats.

The purpose of brand communication -- pretty much above everything else -- is to create social relevance for brands. What social relevance means is having a substantial cohort of the population, or certainly a big enough cohort of the population that justifies the cost of whatever it is you were planning to do in the first place -- that knows what the brand is, like it, feel it's relevant, and that is suitably exposed to it. That's what social relevance is. You still need to do that. So the question is: Has the bar for social relevance gone up? Yes, it has, and so the way you do that is to create a platform of some description, and you build social relevance around that platform.

Where can digital fill in the holes that traditional often leaves behind or completely ignores?
Digital fills holes in a couple of ways. The first thing it does is it helps by replacing the reach that's lost by the somewhat diminished use of other channels. But what digital really does is break the relationship between cost and duration. One of the reasons why the structure of the market was positioned the way it was in the old world is because it was limited either by the number of pages the magazine publisher could use to print and distribute and carry around on trucks, or the amount of spectrum that was owned by a broadcaster, and so forth. So the industry was capped before. When you think about advertising, think about it in two ways. Part of it simply pushes visibility into the market, and another part is much more directional. And what that direction is doing is taking people from a fairly superficial form of contact into the opportunity to engage much more deeply with that content.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

U.S. Hispanics Repesent 10% of the Online Market

True to its reputation as a "melting pot," the U.S. boasts an increasingly large Hispanic population -- the implications of which, when it comes to advertising, go far beyond a language barrier. A recent report from Pew Hispanic Center stated that U.S. Hispanics have represented more than half of U.S. population growth since 2000.

Marketers may have been tempted in the past to ignore this group -- or, at the least, did little to tailor messaging to it -- but it is no longer financially wise to do so. According to a 2008 comScore survey on U.S Hispanics online, 5 percent of U.S. born and 17 percent of foreign-born Hispanics said they pay more attention to online video ads than TV spots, and 17 percent and 26 percent, respectively, find them more engaging than TV ads. The same survey also states that 13 percent of U.S. born and 22 percent of foreign-born Hispanics said they are more likely to respond to ads targeted to Hispanics.

The comparison of TV and online advertising as it relates to response rates should be viewed in context of the language barrier. In the U.S., there are television networks such as Univision, which are broadcast in Spanish and include direct cultural relevance to Hispanic audiences. These types of channels are certainly not the only ones that Spanish-speaking audiences may view, but they are a specific destination on television where they know they can see programming in their language. Similarly, the internet is a much vaster marketplace, but those same types of destinations exist, even though Spanish-language sites are not the only ones viewed by Hispanic audiences.

As more ad dollars shift to this growing segment of the U.S. population, those destinations will become in-demand (i.e., expensive) online inventory for marketers. So how do you reach out to other cultures in an effective and cost-efficient way?

Behavioral targeting can help marketers reach across the cultural divide, helping to identify Hispanic online audiences, or any other ethnic group for that matter, and deliver messaging that is relevant to not only their language, but also their overall culture. It can also expand the inventory marketers use to reach Hispanic audiences.

Behavioral targeting is used to create Hispanic audience segments first based on users who have visited Spanish-language sites or any sites with Hispanic-relevant content. You can then create sub-segments based on not only ethnicity, culture, or language, but also interests and purchase intent behaviors observed on those or other sites. You can even identify "purchase influencers" among U.S. Hispanic populations, based on browsing and buying behaviors plus geographic location. You may then serve culturally relevant marketing messages to these segments when they travel to any other site online.

You will also find re-targeting useful, once you have begun to build these behavioral segments. As you serve ads to your Hispanic audiences and sub-segments, you can then re-target them across whichever network or sites you choose, with upsell, cross-sell, or discount offers. As a marketer, make sure you're making the most out of these types of programs by using bilingual creative, or messages in Spanish, with themes and designs that will resonate with a Hispanic audience.

Finally, ensure that you are integrating your marketing into these segments with your other media programs. With your search program, you can strengthen your segments by layering your behavioral data with your search data. Behavioral profiles that have been tagged as part of a Hispanic audience or sub-segment can be given a boost by search data including Spanish-language or Hispanic content keywords or search engines that have been set to Spanish.

Consumer education is a challenge no matter what language you're speaking or audience you're trying to reach. If you decide to embark on a Hispanic-focused BT campaign, ensure that your privacy policies are clearly communicated in both languages on your site, as well as any type of opt-out or opt-in functions you provide.

According to SMG Multicultural CEO Monica Gadsby, 19.5 million U.S. Hispanics are online, 70 percent of Hispanic women are online, and Hispanics make up 10 percent of all online users. This might be a significant portion of your potential customer pool, and reaching out to them can be just as easy as reaching out to any audience segments, with a few process and creative changes. Based on its ability to accurately segment audiences, behavioral targeting is by far the most efficient way to market to the Hispanic population. And remember, these same principles can be applied to any cultural group that you want to reach out to in the country.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Beginners Guide to Twitter

Having a profile for your brand on the popular microblogging site isn't enough. You have to create a real presence. Our expert shows you how.

It is important to recognize and understand the nuances of Twitter as a communications channel. The genius is in its simplicity, but it's still a tool that consumers and businesses can leverage many ways.

My team conducted an exhaustive and extensive survey of the Twitterverse and how consumers use the platform for their needs. Check out some of the ways people use Twitter.

It is significant to note that 56 percent use it in some professional, marketing, or work-related capacity.

Conversations on Twitter happen quickly, and there are many benefits to your brand. Below is a tweet from Scott Monty from Ford on the value of Twitter as Ford sees it.

So how can and should your brand use Twitter? And more importantly, what are the most common mistakes and pitfalls on Twitter that could have a negative impact on your business or brand?

Let's take a look.

You need to have a unified experience consistent with your brand so as not to confuse consumers. Your Twitter profile is where people go to quickly discover how you are using Twitter and learn more about your business. Make sure that you get your brand or business messaging across using the 140-character descriptor field.

It is acceptable to tell them how you are going to use this Twitter channel and set expectations. For example, if your account is strictly for distribution of an RSS feed and there will be no human interaction, tell them so. Companies like SUN and Dell have multiple Twitter channels -- each specifically geared to deliver niche content to a target audience.

Tip: Update your Twitter page background with an image that conveys the positioning of the brand. A good example is Dunkin Donuts.

Notice how the company uses a visually branded background, page font, color, and an icon that are all consistent with its brand. Also note that the bio is descriptive, concise, and links to the Dunkin Donuts' homepage.

"Bio: Dunkin' Dave here, tweeting on the behalf of the DD mothership. I'm an American and I'm certifiably running on Dunkin."

Twitter effectively allows you to be the "fly on the wall" at a cocktail party. When an opportunity presents itself to join a conversation and interact, you should be ready. But you have to listen in order to do this efficiently.

Listening is a critical part of using Twitter if you want to be relevant and add value for the people who matter the most to your business. You can search Twitter as a lightweight form of brand and reputation management. Go to to set up a number of persistent searches for your brand, as well as keywords that your users might be tweeting, and monitor them so you have the relevant knowledge of what is being said. This will allow you to respond and react accordingly in a timely fashion. You can also set up these searches as an RSS feed to monitor with something like Google Reader.

When users tweet @yourcompany, they are specifically reaching out to you and expecting some sort of response. User expectations are that if a brand or company is on Twitter, then it is there to interact. Failure to respond can have negative ramifications and is most commonly looked upon from a consumer's perspective as a sign that you don't care enough to respond. This is not what you want to have happen.

Responding in a timely manner and in a public fashion can have a very positive impact, as your followers and the followers of the person that you are interacting with will see that your company is engaging.

The bar has been raised, and the expectation for response from your brand has been increased dramatically. Now is the time to take this opportunity to increase your brand's engagement levels.

Most marketing people create a "message" and push it to multiple distribution points. That tactic does not work well in the Twitter ecosystem. While using Twitter to push press releases or automatic distribution of an RSS feed from your company blog might be appealing, the consumption model is minimal. Only linking to your website in your tweets will quickly become boring to your followers.

When you have people follow you, they follow for a reason. They have effectively "opted in" to hear what you are publishing and sharing. Focus on adding value and giving them what they want. Use this channel as a way to communicate industry news and trends -- insights that are valuable to your target audience.

Interaction is the key to building influence on Twitter. Share openly and don't only talk about your services. Find a way to mix it up and be interesting and human in your interactions.

Tip: Focus on adding value to the people who matter most and you can't go wrong.

There are several ways to measure the ROI of your efforts on Twitter. You need to choose clearly defined metrics for how you will measure and rank key criteria. The easiest -- but least valuable -- metric is how many people follow you. While this is a general indication of "popularity," it is not a good metric of influence, customer interaction, or customer satisfaction.

You will want to measure the number of interactions, the number of people you touch, and the net outcome of those interactions and conversations. For example, did you take an initial negative brand detractor and move that person to a higher satisfaction level, or to the point where they have become a brand evangelist?

You might also want to consider looking at the number of mentions of your brand as a general way to measure buzz or velocity as a topic of conversation in the ecosystem.

Also, consider the number of times your content is re-tweeted (noted on Twitter as "RT @yourbrand") and pushed through the network by multiple people. What is the effective "reach and influence" of the people that re-tweeted your content? This is actually an important metric when you look at how often people find your content interesting and "sharable." Interesting and valuable content is more likely to get re-tweeted by your followers.

You should also track the landing page of your site and how many people come from Twitter and what they do once they are on your site. This will help you to determine the behavior of the people that come from Twitter and what they are interested in.

It is important that, somewhere on your main site, you have a "directory" of people from your business that tweet on behalf of the company. It is also important that these people's bios are descriptive.

Companies like Dell use the word "Dell" in the user name (richardatdell, lionelatdell, etc.).

Kodak employees clearly identify themselves on Twitter via a visual branding profile image. Note the brand logo on the lower portion.

Many marketers make the rookie mistake of setting up an account on Twitter and not clearly defining how it will be used. Just because you are "on Twitter" does not mean you are using it in the most valuable way.

In fact, your company might need several different Twitter accounts that align with the target market and desired communication/business outcome. The low-hanging fruit that most companies are using it for is customer support or brand and reputation management. This is far from the only way that Twitter can be used.

As an example, Ford has six different Twitter accounts. Each account serves a specific purpose as a communication channel to address different market segments:
• FordTrucks
• FordDriveOne
• FordDriveGreen
• FordCustService
• FordMustang
• FordRacing

Here are just a few examples of how you might want to use Twitter:
• Customer support and service
• Brand reputation management
• Polling and product feedback mechanism
• Lead generation
• News distribution
• Brand awareness and establishment
• Product promotion and launch
• Humanizing of a brand
• Public relations

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

What Are The Right Social Media Networks For You?

More than 30 million baby boomers now connect on LinkedIn, and even more are on Twitter. And it doesn’t stop there. According to recent data from Inside Facebook, the number of U.S. Facebook users over age 35 doubled in 60 days–and is still on the rise.

No longer dominated by tweens, social media is a viable channel to market to business and family decision makers. And that means long gone are the days when you could just optimize your Website content and create meta tags and expect serious results from the Internet.

You need to get involved in social media and optimize your entire online presence. Before you begin, though, you must understand where your target audience resides online.

With the many options available to companies in the social media realm, it’s important to first learn about your audience. Where are they most likely to be engaging in social media?

Today it’s no longer enough, or even smart, to post a profile to MySpace and Facebook just because those are popular, and call that good. Your audience may be on Facebook or MySpace, or maybe it’s LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter or something else entirely. Do a search to see where your brand is being talked about.

How? You can do this directly from a major search engine or by using the search capabilities the social media outlets provide. For example, you can search twitter using And a great way to view your brand’s social media presence is to use

Is your company being discussed on any of the social media sites? If it is, you need to be there engaging in the conversation.
Coca-Cola is a great example of this. Did you know the Coca-Cola business page wasn’t actually set up or controlled by Coca-Cola? Two of its fans actually got there first.

But instead of getting angry about it, Coke used this to its advantage. It embraced its fans, inviting them to talk to them personally.

Think of the insight Coca-Cola gleamed from this meeting! And today, Coke has the second highest number of fans on Facebook for its corporate page–topped only by Barack Obama (

Can’t find any mentions of your company? Don’t panic. That means you have the unique ability to start the conversation—the way you want to start it.

But don’t wait. Get involved now and start talking about your company positively in social media channels.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Social Web Crisis Communications

Businesses, individuals, and organizations will, from time to time, make honest mistakes or in some unfortunate cases, intentionally support unethical decisions to dissuade or conceal something significant from its public.

Whether it's an oversight or a matter of deception, savvy companies usually employ and deploy a crises response team to prepare for, manage and attempt to positively spin the potential backlash from customers, partners, and employees related to almost anything.

Crisis communications is a branch of PR that is designed to protect and defend an individual, company, or organization, usually from a reactive response, facing a swelling public challenge to its reputation, brand, and community.

Throughout the course of history, we've learned that all that's required to ignite a negative firestorm is a spark from a single voice or an organized congregation.

If a conversation takes place on the Web and you're not there to hear or see it, did it really happen?

More often than not, we miss the very things that provide insight into a future response simply because we're not conditioned or trained to proactively discover and diffuse threats or negative experiences.

Our weakness, however, is also our opportunity to manage and also respond to any potentially damaging or menacing public groundswell.

Conversations related to your brand, company, executives, products, and competitors take place each and every day, without our knowledge and perhaps worse, without our participation.

In the era of the Social Web, a story, and the ensuing public recruitment, rallying, and support, can rapidly spread unlike any crisis wildfire witnessed or experienced in previous generations.

Social Media is pervasive. At the very least, it is transforming how we communicate with each other and also how we discover and share information. As the adoption of Social Tools and applications progresses from the left to the right of the bell curve, Social Media will simply coalesce back to "the Web." But, its migration, exploration, experimentation, and education will only contribute to its significance and resilience and ultimately change behavior and expand the infrastructure for corporate communications in the process. Regardless of genre, the sum of all social channels today equate to a powerful, influential, and revolutionary archetype for exposing and diffusing public opinion.

Perception is formed through the unique, individually-filtered experiences we each bring to the table. In that regard, our brand, and more specifically, our actions are open to public interpretation, support, and dissection. It’s what you say about you, what they hear, how they share that story, and how you weave that insight into future product and service iterations, communications, corporate infrastructure, and public conversations.

The tools and platforms available today are sophisticated, evolved, and designed for social distribution and redistribution. The Social Web forces a new level of understanding and participation in order for all communications professionals, in addition to crises response and reputation management teams, to understand its dynamics and the prevalence of information, positive, neutral, and especially negative.

To date, crisis communications and reputation management were relegated as a reactive response, while the groundwork for a potential predicament and the development of strategic communiqué is among the best practices for proactive crisis planning.

The traditional crisis communications planning and response workflow:
• Crisis Planning
• Negative Groundswell
• Crisis Response
• Public Relations
• Assessment/Monitoring

In the Social Web, I propose that many, if not a majority of potential crises are now avoidable through proactive listening, engagement, response, conversation, humbleness, and transparency (repeat).

I'd like to introduce you to an old, but new again, dynamic process to integrate into the existing corporate communications and marketing workflow. Today's social tools and communities that can work against us can also work with us, when proactively managed and embraced with an open mind, sincere intent, and genuine participation.
• Active
• Listening
• Observation
• Conversation
• Learning
• Planning
• Continued Adaptation and Engagement

The art and science of proactive listening, observation, and participation will not only inspire the creation of in touch, relevant, and poignant PR and marketing strategies, but will also dramatically reduce the potential for reactive response and crisis communications programs. Crisis communications teams can also partner with those responsible for monitoring online brand reputations (ORM - online reputation management) or vice versa, to jointly listen, respond, and incite change from within. This creates a more effective "public relations" organization.

The point is that this is about proactively diffusing visible, but not yet large-scale predicaments before they're full-blown public crises. And, also through direct listening, engagement, and actively addressing concerns both inside and out of the organization, we're diverting the momentum from tropical storms before they have an opportunity to form unforeseen and unanticipated hurricanes. It's the ability to avoid a storm without knowing a storm was brewing by identifying weaknesses and opportunities as they emerge.

This is community-driven communications in its purest form which begets a community-focused and customer-centric organization.

Everything starts with openness and the ability to learn and adapt. It's the acceptance that it doesn't matter if the customer is always right. After all, a happy customer will share their good fortune with a group of friends and peers, but an unhappy customer will tell everybody.

Perception is everything.

For communicators, it's our role to actively listen and translate conversations into actionable next steps. It's not an automated process. It requires dedication and empowerment. Much of this responsibility is falling upon community managers and the new role of research librarians who are quickly acclimating to online conversations and how and where they apply to the internal decision makers, traffic coordinators, and metrics analysts. By partnering with these new, socially adept resources, Public Relations can…can more accurately and genuinely participate with influencers, whether they're media, analysts, bloggers, or tastemakers. When we step back and assess our markets, we just may find that they're collectively one in the same.

What if you don't yet have these roles or resources to help you listen and follow meaningful conversations? It's not impossible for you to proactively monitor conversations and the cultures and behavior associated within each digital society in order to identify and prioritize opportunities for engagement, reform, and evolution.

Start with using free search blog search tools such as:
• (set up Google Alerts via RSS or email)
• Technorati
• Blogpulse

As we all know, or should know, the social web extends far beyond blogs, relevant online conversations are pervasive and rampant in social networks and microforums as well. In that regard, be sure that your initial waves of search include:

• Ning
• Facebook
• Google and Yahoo Groups
• Uservoice
• Getsatisfaction

For those with a moderate budget to evaluate dedicated SRM (social media relationship management) or ORM tools, consider:
• Trackur
• BuzzGain
• Radian6
• BuzzLogic
• BrandsEye

Search for keywords related to your business, such as the company and product name, key executives, as well as scouting discussions for the "suck" or "die" factor. This includes adding a combination of the following criteria in your search process:
• "product+sucks"
• "company+sucks"
• "die+company"
• "i+hate+company"

As the Web itself grew in pervasiveness, it also paved the way for customers to easily launch sites to vent publicly. Examples already number in the thousands, with some capturing significant public attention including,, and

Fairwinds recently released a study that documents the power of Internet gripe sites. The Wall Street Journal explored the topic with an in-depth article, "How to Handle ','" which explored what some companies are doing, or not doing, to protect their brands online.

In its study, FairWinds researched the Web to identify gripe sites specifically containing "" The study uncovered over 20,000 domains with only 2,000 ending in the phrase "" Of the major consumer-facing companies surveyed, only 35% own the domain name for their brand followed by the word "sucks."

But domain names are only one of the many opportunities for customers to share their discontent, and in the new era of the two-way web, communications, customer service, and brand and reputation management teams must all work together to actively survey the landscape to detect and diagnose negative experiences.

The Social Media and conversation landscape is a diverse universe. In order to identify a potentially dangerous asteroid on a glancing or full-blown collision course with your brand, you'll also need a powerful telescope, or, a "Conversation Prism."

The Conversation Prism was designed to provide a snapshot view of dialogue within mainstream and vertical social networks and communities that may be consequential to your brand. Every network provides a search box to unearth threads of discussions tied to connected keywords and inherent developments, negative or positive that may affect the company brand and reputation.

Conversations and developing crises are probable across a multitude of online channels, including:
• Blogs and Comments
• Microcommunities aka Microforums
• Social Networks
• Lifestreams
• Customer Networks
• Groups

The ensuing conversations tied to your brand can quickly and easily amass, across multiple networks simultaneously. Don’t let those conversations fall upon deaf ears.

For the first time, we have the ability to identify and address potential crises as they surface. And not only do we have the ability to engage with people to address their grievances or discontent, we can also learn from each engagement and feed the corresponding lessons, experiences, and criticisms back into the sales, service, and product development departments to change everything for the better.

It's the difference between simply placating customers and improving our business and products to satisfy many others who would have been potentially exposed to a potential deficiency.

Customers are among the new influencers and have the tools and platforms readily available to them in order to share their experiences and potentially incite the masses.

It's not just about the gripes we've identified, it's about the dialogue and actively and publicly addressing each issue to minimize the unforeseen eruptions from those who have yet to publish or rally others against us.

While our control has been crowd-sourced, perception management and crisis communications are ours to lead. Perception is reality and it's our responsibility to invest in the relationships and the correlated activities that will help us cultivate and manage an industry leading, market relevant, and in-tune brand.

Listen, learn, and adapt. In the Social Web, and in the real world of business, companies will earn the relationships, and the crowd-sourced brand, they deserve.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Twenty (20) Success Elements When Translating Your Web-site

Over the past 20 years of building successful Spanish language websites our team has put together key design and language elements to help you be success in building a Spanish language website.

1. Clear headlines giving a substantial reason to continue reading
2. Shorter paragraphs and clear bullet points
3. Use a quote to pique interest for videos
4. Maintain a minimum column design with more emphasis on the left side
5. Use influencer logo/name to increase credibility and interest (i.e., Univision, Shakira)
6. Use a more active tone in the copy and simplify terms
7. Accurate translation is not only about language – focus on clearly expressing a value proposition and offers that appeal to your ideal segment prospect
8. Increase relevance by having all pages, configurators and shopping cart in Spanish
9. Increase time spent on page by adding Spanish-language content summaries to the links
10. Have search box functionality in Spanish to simplify the browsing experience
11. Consolidate themes and categories to reduce the navigation bar size
12. Call to actions must be specific and translation must be clear
13. Remove any English frames so visitors can focus on the page objective
14. Translate logo tag line when possible
15. Inform users about the product characteristics
16. Test different calls to action (improve semantics)
17. Don’t use an online translation service (i.e.; Google, Prompt) use a professional agency or advertising translator
18. Clearly state the company’s value proposition in the welcome message
19. Simplify navigation structure
20. Quantify value or cost savings

Monday, March 16, 2009

Designing the Modern Agency

Once upon a time, the phrase "advertising agency" conjured up a very definite image -- one of smoked-filled rooms and mile-long conference tables, across which creative geniuses would rapid-fire pitches at one another in hopes of hitting on that one "big idea." It's the nostalgic scotch-soaked notion of the ad agency famously portrayed on the hit show "Mad Men."

But that's not the modern agency. In fact, most industry participants today would be hard-pressed to define what exactly the phrase "the modern agency" means. However, few would argue that the digital revolution has forever changed the marketing game. And it's little wonder that many of today's advertising agencies are going through an identity crisis.

Large traditional creative shops are rethinking their offerings, expanding into all things digital. Agency holding companies are restructuring to better leverage their digital resources. And all the while, new digitally focused agencies continue to spring onto the scene.

What Agency Model is working?
  1. The first model is one in which a client selects one lead entity -- at either the holding company or agency level -- and grants it the power to oversee all marketing efforts and partners.
  2. The second model is one in which the client itself assumes that leadership role.
  3. And the third model is one in which a client hires a slew of agencies and tells them to go collaborate.
Two of the models work, and one of them absolutely does not. The third model, is destined to fail -- and yet it's the model being used most often. And that's where the fighting comes in because there is no clear mission, it's imperative from a marketer's perspective to have one throat to choke at the end of the day.

Whether it's a specialized digital agency looking to broaden its client base or a traditional agency looking to expand its offerings into the interactive realm, few industry participants dispute that much of the future growth in marketing will come on the interactive side.

In spite of the lack of available digital talent, everyone I have talked to has an open head count and is hiring. The trick is making the agency side of the marketing business attractive to candidates with the needed digital expertise.

It's not all about recruiting new digital talent to the agency side of marketing. It's also about retraining industry veterans. We have people with 15 to 25 years in the business, and they are making a choice to change and adapt into this digital culture. Smart digital agencies are the ones that are embracing these people, involving them in the process, and training and educating them. They have a lot of intangible assets, and they bring a level of talent that some of the new digital folks just aren't going to pick up on the fly.

Agencies must also find a way to clearly convey their value in an increasingly cluttered marketplace. When it comes to agencies clients are getting tired of having to listen to so many voices.

Traditional agencies see the handwriting on the wall...that they're going to be out of business if they don't jump over to digital media and digital technology. Marketers today are less likely to simply hire a traditional agency and a digital agency and then tell them to play nice together. The lines are blurring, and so are agency distinctions.

It is about being relevant and not losing a seat at the table.