Designing a Business

With so much talk about “customer centricity” these days, it is great to see some real innovative thinking from Colin Raney at IDEO. Great stuff.

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Marketers Have a Couple of Things to Learn From Project Managers

Recently, in the context of an interview, I was asked about my project management skills and what I felt were the keys to success. In thinking about my experiences as a marketer and consultant helping companies develop social media strategies, improve their search and email marketing programs, or redesign their websites I have found two common themes noticeable in the projects that went well, but especially apparent in the projects that did not go well.

From my experiences, the keys to success are properly managing expectations and proactively mitigating risks. While these concepts may seem obvious and simple in the context of project management, I think many marketers could benefit from leveraging these concepts in a variety of ways throughout their marketing planning and execution processes.

Project management is first and foremost about clearly defining, communicating and hopefully exceeding expectations. While this burden is placed on the project manager, the fate of any project is often decided well before the project is kicked-off. Translated to marketing terms, defining expectations is about setting business relevant marketing objectives and the appropriate metrics to measure them before the campaign is launched. Secondly, communicating those expectations with the rest of the organization in words they understand. This means translating things like Engagement into terms that business owners can understand and care about. Finally, exceeding expectations is not only about the goals you defined within the organization but also the brand promise you communicated to consumers.

Project management is also about identifying potential pitfalls and proactively mitigating risk. This concept has become increasingly important with the rise of social media and the technologies that have allowed consumers to shift power away from institutions. Translated to marketing terms, identifying potential pitfalls can be best highlighted by Motrin’s “Wearing Your Baby” campaign where a few mommy bloggers blasted the brand resulting in an apology and abandonment of the campaign. Identifying this risk could have lead Motrin to create a plan where they reached out to any detractors and leveraged their passion to further connect the brand with moms. Finally, proactively mitigating risk by using listening tools from vendors like Nielsen BuzzMetrics and TNS Cymfony to help mine a variety of data sources real-time and extract insights to help shape your marketing strategy.

Is Green Marketing still worth the risk?

A recent article by Sarah Mahoney (FTC Slaps Kmart With ‘Fake Green’) highlights how the FTC, in its ongoing efforts to protect consumers from the increasingly sneaky “greenwashing” terms used by marketers, has charged Kmart Corp. with making “false and unsubstantiated claims” that its private-label paper products are biodegradable.

This charge however is splitting hairs according to Liz Gorman, VP of corporate responsibility for Cone Inc. Although the products actually are biodegradable if disposed properly, it’s only because of the way most people dispose of paper plates that they’ll never have a chance to.

And if the FTC doesn’t get you, the enviro bloggers are also watching. The Greenwashing Index, promoted by EnviroMedia Social Marketing in partnership with the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication, calls out offenders on greenwashingindex.com. And not to be outdone, Greenpeace’s StopGreenwash.org has been developed to confront deceptive greenwashing campaigns, engage companies in debate, and give activists and lawmakers the information and tools they need to confront corporate deception.

To make matters worse, according to the July 31, 2008 report “A CMO’s Guide To Corporate Social Responsibility” by Forrester Research, consumers are very skeptical of any claim. 77% of consumers agreed with the statement “Almost all companies are saying that they are environmentally friendly, and it’s hard to know who’s telling the truth” and 70% said: “I don’t always think companies are being genuine when they talk about how they help the environment and society.”

The takeaway is not that companies should stop trying to be environmentally conscious or pursuing “green” ventures (such as eStatements) that also make good business sense. If anything, the environmental push in the last decade has raised the minimum bar by which all companies must now operate.

The point is that marketers need to be very cautious about promoting their efforts, taking credit for its effects, or leveraging these activities to differentiate or market their brand. The “green marketing” first mover advantage is long gone and the risks now seem to outweigh the potential benefits.

Five Online Trends Marketers Should Focus On.

With almost half of 2009 and hopefully the worst of the economy behind us, its time to focus on the online trends that matter. Put your Facebook and Twitter strategy aside and focus on:

  • Interactivity: Organizations need to really internalize what it means to be interactive and leverage the specific strengths of interactive channels for all marketing programs and consumer touch points. Interactive marketers need to push best practices across the entire organization to ensure a positive experience for consumers changing behaviors and expectations.
  • Measurement: Consumers increasing cross-channel behavior will force marketers to improve their measurement capabilities. Consumers move across a variety of online and offline channels throughout their purchase process. In order to accurately determine the effectiveness of marketing spend, influence future investment or identify which programs to cut, measurement needs a cross-cannel upgrade.
  • Consolidation: With the proliferation of marketing channels, organizations have acquired a variety of separate vendor/agency relationships for their search, email, social and mobile marketing efforts. Marketers need to tear down the internal and external walls separating channels to reduce the number of profit centers and infighting, create a media neutral approach and improve cross-channel integration.
  • Governance: The talk in 2008 was that marketing’s needed to release control of their brands, that consumers now owned the brands and there was nothing you could do about it. It is exactly because of that shift in control that marketers need to better manage brand communications through the issuance of governance policies and procedures for employees and increased vigilance through brand monitoring tools and technologies.
  • Analytics: For years now marketers have been collecting data through CRM systems, web analytics platforms, experiential marketing campaigns, etc. Marketers now need to integrate disparate data sources from around the organization and enhance their analytical capabilities to help improve targeting, enhance consumer insights and promote a more comprehensive view of the customer.