(Almost) Open for Business

It has been awhile since my last post (which should just be the heading on all my posts), but big things are brewing at tuzag. On Monday, I’ll be sharing the details of our soft launch (public betas of our tools, new social media outlets, etc.). Until then, check out our new website!

To gear up, we’ve been using a new social media content curation/creation tool from a startup in the Albany, NY area called Rock The Deadline (check them out at rockthedeadline.com). It’s a pretty sweet tool for maintaining a consistent workflow across the team for social media posting.

Check back on Monday for a real update. In the meantime, give Rock The Deadline a whirl.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being Social

A key aspect of tuzag’s new website is social media connectivity. Brands absolutely must be easily accessible wherever their customers choose to engage. I’ve always counseled clients to take their social media presences seriously and tuzag is practicing what we preach.

File this under “Easier Said than Done”: establishing a social media presence from scratch is no small feat. Maintaining tuzag’s presence feels pretty Herculean now that I’m responsible for keeping everything fresh and differentiated on a regular basis. If you can afford to retain a PR team to take this on, consider it money extremely well spent.

What follows is a “warts and all” description of my recent travails. I’m a fairly intelligent guy, but stand here as a cautionary tale for not assuming creating business presences are as straightforward as building personal presences.

First up, not all social media venues make it easy to establish unique business presences. I’m still trying to decouple a couple of tuzag’s presences from my personal presences. Suggestion: pick a single browser for your business presences and keep it segregated from your personal accounts. Some of my trouble was cookie-related. Because I was logged in as me, certain pages (like Facebook) are tied to me. Starting clean would have definitely helped.

Next, pretty much every social media venue has its own size parameters for image uploads. I ended up creating different logo files for each venue. Usually, though, only after uploading a file with the expectation that it could be adjusted through the uploading tool, then seeing some garish, oddly cropped version appear live. Having no followers beyond friends and family is a plus in this particular instance. I also realized just how few visual assets tuzag has when trying to populate cover art. Stock photography will do for now, but moving forward I have to remember that content development involves images and video as well as copy.

Finally (that’s a poor word choice; never-ending is more apt), generating enough content to adequately populate all venues without simply cutting and pasting one thing everywhere is tough. I believe it’s important to tailor content for each venue. LinkedIn is more corporate-focused, whereas Facebook is more consumer-oriented. Twitter falls somewhere in between and I’m still trying to figure out just where Google+ nets out. I think we did OK for launch, but I am seriously concerned about being able to do right by tuzag’s followers on a regular basis.

So, an editorial calendar is Job #1. For me, it’s a grid that lists all of our presences (column headings), topics we want to cover over the next quarter by date (row headings) and key message points by topic and presence (cells). An accompanying project plan also takes into account time for engaging in conversations with visitors kind enough to leave comments. We’re hoping to provide content that provokes commentary; the best part of social media is the back-and-forth that follows a post.

At this point, tuzag is largely a one-person startup with intern support on the programming front, gracious friends helping with visual design and an advisory group for strategic counsel. My Quixotic confidence has propelled me through juggling management, marketing, fund-raising, product development and programming tasks. Maintaining a social media presence is the first time I’ve been forced to admit that the thing in front of me might be a windmill.

My advice: maintain your social media sanity by partnering with a reputable team who can translate your business and marketing strategies into a robust social media presence. It’s a mission critical endeavor that can completely swamp your boat without a solid plan and expert support.

Learners, Shoppers and Buyers

A few years back, I wrote a POV for one of my clients outlining some Shopper Marketing basics. In putting together the launch content for tuzag’s new website, it seemed like pulling some excerpts from that POV might be useful. I wrote this up as a blog post back then (the original is in Older Posts), but thought some minor updates were in order.

If you’re interested in pursuing this model for your brand, please contact the EMA Insight team at Eric Mower + Associates. They’ll take excellent care of you.

Excerpt #1: A Basic Integrated Marketing Flow

Each element in an effective integrated marketing communications campaign can be placed into the following hierarchy:

  • Awareness: tactics intended to promote the brand and reinforce recognition when it comes time to generate conversations, engage individuals, nurture potential customers and enhance customer relationships.
  • Lead Generation: tactics that cause potential customers to engage with us, moving from passive media (e.g., an ad) to active media (e.g., online, mobile, social, event tactics).
  • Engagement: active media tactics that allow us to get to know potential customers as individuals, so we can put the right facets of our brand in front of each individual as appropriate; engagement is also where we gain permission to begin nurturing each relationship.
  • Nurturing: follow-up tactics intended to keep prospects interacting with the brand throughout their consideration process; nurturing tactics must take advantage of data collected during engagement to be truly effective, whether the nurturing is taking place via marketing (e.g., email) or sales (e.g., sales call).
  • Transaction: tactics related to closing the deal, including in-store marketing, eCommerce shopping cart experiences and any touchpoint that makes completing the sale easy, efficient and rewarding for the customer.
  • Relationship Enhancement (aka, “CRM“): lead generation, engagement and nurturing tactics targeted at existing customers; these tactics must be aware of each customer’s history with the brand to be most effective.

Through appropriate insight development and strategic planning, a comprehensive impressions-to-revenue model can be developed and tracked to efficiently follow potential customers throughout their lifetime interactions with the brand.

Excerpt #2: Dave’s “Learner, Shopper, Buyer” Stump Speech

Think of lead generation as the leading edge of an integrated marketing communications system, then design tactics to create “connection” moments that drive inquiries to some kind of interactive experience. The first step in developing a brand friendship is making that connection and moving from a passive relationship to an active one. We recommend that clients create lead generation tactics that appeal to three distinct types of prospects: Learners, Shoppers and Buyers.

Learners are the folks who are thinking about making a purchase in the near future but are still trying to understand the solution landscape.

In fact, most of the respondents to an information-based offer, like a white paper or an instructional video, are probably learners. Sales qualification punts them – and gripes that marketing’s feeding them bad leads. They’re not bad leads; they’re just not ready to buy yet. However, they were intrigued enough by our offer to raise their hands, and eventually learners become shoppers.

Shoppers are getting ready to make a purchase and are looking for the best solution. Shoppers are the best audiences for case studies or virtual walkthroughs, since they understand the solution landscape and are beginning to get to know the players within their desired solution set.

Next we have Buyers. These are the responders who are ready to buy and are actively comparing the best alternatives. They’re different than shoppers. Shoppers are trying to position you relative to your competition. Buyers want your best foot forward and your best deal revealed.

So, the next time you’re considering a segmentation strategy, perhaps instead of (or in addition to) clustering based on demographic or environmental criteria, think about clustering your messaging strategies based on readiness to buy. Your potential customers will thank you.

Forrester Raises the Latest Sword to Slay the Mighty Marketing Funnel

This week, Forrester Research (for whom I have great admiration and respect; they employ some great thinkers) drove the latest dagger into the heart of that old marketing standby: the Funnel. I’ve always liked the Funnel, its a great shape for representing leakage throughout the buying cycle. Yes, it has little practical value in its traditional Sales and Marketing incarnation but I’ve leveraged it with relish over the years as a better metaphor for getting from mass marketing to micro marketing than, say, my favorite graphical representation of dwindling numbers introduced (to me, at least) by Edward Tufte: Napolean’s ill-fated winter excursion to Russia. Wicked cool, but a bit unwieldy for most marketing plans, so the Funnel served nicely as a substitute.

Into the fold come two publicly available introductions to Forrester’s recommended successor, from Nate Elliott in AdAge‘s CMO Strategy section and Corinne Munchbach’s Forrester blog post. Both are excellent reading and valuable food for thought. To me, though, they serve as a reinforcement of my notions of the Funnel as a 3-D shape instead of a 2-D one.

I’ve always thought of the Funnel as a spiral much like those donation kiosks where you drop in change and watch it spiral its way down toward the collection bin. The Forrester diagrams, in my Rorschach reading, are like looking through the top of the funnel at the spiral of interactions from a prospect’s first impression of your brand all the way to their loyal advocacy of it. The spiral introduces the notions of recursion and time, two very necessary components of any Customer Journey.

Which got me to thinking… Journeys are not cyclical, they have a beginning, a middle and an end. Our jobs as marketers are to generate a lot of beginnings and make the middles sufficiently interesting and valuable to prolong the inevitable and natural end. So, perhaps Forrester is presenting a diagram that’s really one revolution in the Funnel’s spiral. It’s up to the marketing strategists to coherently link the revolutions into a long-lasting Funnelicious spiral.

Milton Bradley Chutes and Ladders game board c...

Milton Bradley Chutes and Ladders game board c. 1952 showing good deeds and their rewards, and bad deeds and their consequences (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And, if we need a metaphor for that, try this on for size: Chutes and Ladders. You know you’ve played it. I think that the Chutes and Ladders game board might be an excellent Customer Journey map. Plot out all of the steps of your sales cycle and the prospect’s and customer’s buying and loyalty cycles as squares on the board. Then, identify all of the activities and behaviors that could lead someone down a chute (i.e., accelerating the buying cycle) or up a ladder (i.e., a hiccup in the process or temporary infatuation with a competitor’s product). While I still like my Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master Theory of Customer Behavior Mapping as a broader construct for predetermining the myriad attitudinal and behavioral states that brands must influence to win consideration, trial, preference, loyalty and advocacy, the Chutes and Ladders concept is decidedly less abstract and could become a very productive means of engaging the entire brand team in mapping out the appropriate messaging and tactics for each stage of the Journey.  When you’re done, you can roll the game board into a cone.  I bet you’ll see both a Funnel and all of the points the new Forrester model covers when you look inside. 🙂

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more

On January 1, I left a perfectly excellent executive position at Eric Mower + Associates to embark on my second startup. The first one, MicroMass Communications, was launched in 1994 based on some exciting academic work I was involved with at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. We were a pioneer in one-to-one marketing then and the company is still a leader in relationship marketing for the healthcare sector today.

My new venture is called tuzag and it represents the convergence of disparate passions pursued throughout my career. We are focused on solving two related challenges that, together, will completely disrupt your expectations of online commerce and entertainment.

The first challenge isn’t fundamentally different than we faced with MicroMass: creating a viable, scalable means of matching marketers and consumers in a way that helps consumers buy faster and establish lasting, loyal connections with brands. To that end, tuzag will focus on creating unique consumer purchase blueprints, a Genome for learning, shopping and buying behaviors if you will, that are addressable by marketers via individually tailored online display and video ads. 

Of course, mapping the Shopper Genome requires a laboratory of sufficient breadth and fidelity to ensure that consumers are willing to participate and that there are enough of them to attract marketers.  For that, we’ll take on a second massively hairy challenge. tuzag will be the first seamlessly integrated integrated TV network for the Social Age.

tuzag will offer content producers a way to easily create immersive content that links intuitively to eCommerce, social media and related online content. Consumers gain access to an engaging, interactive online entertainment and shopping experience woven directly into their social graphs in return for creating private, secure eHarmony-like profiles that provide marketers with a means of reaching the right consumers at the right time with individually tailored messages that accelerate the buying process. There are a lot of established companies and startups hovering around the connected/interactive/social TV space, but they’re all focused on attaching their idea to the existing Cable/Hollywood/Madison Ave. infrastructure. The right solution, I believe, requires complete disruption; incremental tweaks to an archaic model will water down great concepts until they’re ho-hum for the consumer and toothlessly subservient to the existing power structure.

So, sure, either of these challenges would be monumental in scope and mind-numbingly difficult on its own. Together, they represent the biggest rock I’ve attempted to push up and over a hill in my career. But I’m convinced they are symbiotic sides of the same coin and that tuzag’s best competitive advantage is precisely the difficulty of pulling this off. I enter this fray with my eyes open and the confidence that the past 30 years have adequately prepared me to bring tuzag to market with an exciting, universe-denting solution that delivers the next generation of personalized eCommerce and interactive entertainment in the very near future.

In the coming months, I’ll use this space to share the good, the bad and the ugly of turning the idea into an actual company (tuzag, inc. was born on January 7, 2013). Marketing stuff will live on our website, www.tuz.ag; join me here to share the travails of an interesting journey.

Whenever my life hits a new plot point and changes directions, I pull out my Robert Frost anthology and re-read “The Road Not Taken.” Please click through for the entire passage, but since this post’s title references Henry V’s pre-battle prep talk, it’s probably best to end with something a tad more pastoral…:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

 

There’s an app for that… quick, castrate it!

First, sorry for the gap between postings—it has been a busy winter.  I am hopeful that the ol’ work-life balance will tip a bit closer to center now that Spring has tentatively arrived in central New York.

Second, in the spirit of full disclosure, my blog topic is about an app that belongs to one of my agency’s clients.  I don’t work on the business and we had nothing to do with the app, but there is a connection so I’m laying it out now.

The app in question is the TWCable TV app for the iPad from Time Warner Cable.  This is one of those “well, duh” apps, brilliant for both its simplicity and functionality—a wireless, mobile household TV.  I can’t believe every cable/subscription TV carrier doesn’t have one of these.

For those of you outside the Time Warner service area or sadly lacking an iPad (accept no substitutes, BTW), here’s the deal:  click the app and you instantly have another TV.  In your bedroom, in the laundry room, in the bathroom, wherever you happen to be standing within reach of your WiFi.  Wicked cool.

But here’s the downside:  many of Time Warner’s channels have complained, so you only get a limited subset of your channel lineup.  The reasoning, as I understand it, is that the channels don’t get paid for our impromptu viewership.  Where’s Seth Meyers with a “Wow, Really?” SNL segment when you need him?

The single biggest reason for jumping headlong onto this bandwagon is exactly the concern the channels are voicing—free extra eyeballs.  It makes no sense.  This is great for advertisers.  Impressions they weren’t getting are suddenly begging for access.  I’ll argue that an iPad viewer is potentially a far more captive audience than a regular TV viewer.  The iPad is a much more intimate viewing experience.  You don’t have it on in the background; you have it on in your lap.  You’re less likely to get up and go do something else, because you’re probably already doing it.  In fact, there’s a huge opportunity to make the app aware of the commercial being shown so more of the iAd functionality could be built into the experience.

If embraced by the content providers, this is a potentially giant leap toward more interactive TV.  Since Day One, Apple has been touting the iPad as a new medium; here’s the perfect bridge between traditional TV and personal TV.  Awesome and exciting—and perhaps doomed because distributors can’t think beyond their traditional model for making a buck.  I can understand why the premium channels would have a quibble (and I’d be willing to pay a couple extra bucks a month to watch HBO on my deck while the steaks are grilling), but advertising-supported networks should be clamoring to promote this simple, brilliant extension of our TV viewing experience.

Or we can be content with getting past the latest pesky Angry Birds level while half-listening to Chopped in the background.

Grieving the old is necessary for embracing the new

Old habits die hard. As we begin training our agency to take full advantage of the new processes and tools we’re putting in place to meet our industry’s challenges in the new economy and the Social Age, I’m reminded of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross.  While our colleagues are supportive and most recognize the need for substantive change, Dr. Kübler-Ross’ five stages of grief are very applicable to our agency’s adoption process.

  1. Denial:  In certain circles, there have been whispers that this is just the latest of many attempts over the years to fix what’s either not broken or or not so broken as to need replacing.  To a certain extent, there’s a mild air of”humor them and this, too, shall pass.”
  2. Anger:  Now, that we’re signing everyone up for a series of training classes, we’re encountering pockets of push back.  “Why do I have to take these classes?”  “I’m fine with the new process, but it doesn’t apply to me….”  “What’s wrong with the way we do it now?”  As we move from theory to practice, it’s understandable that now folks are paying attention—and might not be as comfortable with the changes as they thought.
  3. Bargaining:  I suspect that once we get through the training, we’ll hear from a lot of folks looking for exceptions or suggesting that our new processes don’t or shouldn’t apply to them.  We all think our circumstances are unique, but they rarely are.  Generally, with a little tweaking, old ways can shift seamlessly into the new.
  4. Depression:  I fully expect some sadness to set in as the new process takes hold.  We have a lot of great people who are pretty used to doing things in the manner that works best for them.  However, if we’re going to maintain our edge moving forward, we absolutely have to make sure everyone—from our CEO to our newest assistant AE—able to confidently perform against the same sheet of music.
  5. Acceptance:  Eventually, I think everyone will accept and embrace our new approach.  We have a great agency loaded with great minds.  Although change is difficult (and not without its hiccups, missteps and in-line enhancements), it is absolutely necessary.  As we move through the process, folks will accept what we’re up to.

Then comes the hard part:  changing individual behaviors to engrain the new process as a new, agency-wide habit.